February 2006 Gibraltar Spain

Gibraltar and a picture of John, he's the one on the right with ape on his shoulder.

The Rock is world famous as being home to Europe's' only wild monkeys-the highly intelligent and often aggressive Rhesus Macaque, thank goodness, he was friendly. The bay is also home to the highest concentration of Dolphins in the Med and the upper rock is an important nature reserve. I was really pleased with these photographs I took. We had a vision from school in mind of Gibraltar, it was not how we had pictured it to be.

Gibraltar is situated on the tip of the Iberian Peninsula in Southern Spain. It has been British territory for 300 years, un like Britain, it benefits from the inviting Mediterranean climate. It felt like being home in England,(many years ago) pub's, fish & chips, all English speaking, it's not a place we would want to re-visit, except as a stop over. We did enjoy the full history tour with a guide, learning the history, especially seeing inside the caves, and tunnel's, also the spectacular views of Spain, Gibraltar and the coast of Africa. The growing man made coast line, by builders is also very interesting to see around the rock. We enjoyed the cable car experience to the top, it was such a clear day..you could see the planes landing and talking off...

Airport of Gibraltar and Spanish coast line, you drive across the runway to cross the border.

We enjoyed our visit, also the duty free shopping. We were stopped at the border on our return, the boot was inspected. Lucky enough we were not held up by planes landing or taking off, many flights in a day, often holding up the traffic. Time to be heading on our way. It was a long drive back over 1,600 kilometres

The drive back through Costa del Sol was most enjoyable, we stopped off for a wonderful lunch, in a hotel, joined later by 60 or so truck drivers, (they know were to eat), we had a five course meal for 10 euros it was good, did they know it was John's birthday!. What a deal.

John's birthday went well... especially in the sunshine.

We thought the village of Calahonda and views special, we stopped here again on the way home, good to walk off that huge lunch too.

We stopped over night at Mick & Pam's apartment again in Gran Alicante. (Thanks to you both). Enjoyed a good steak meal and rest, before we set off for last leg of the drive.

We arrived back to the French border, and noticed snow on the ground, burr we thought shall we go back! All was well with the Moet. Once we had lit the fire. John sat and enjoyed a brandy, well deserved too, he did most of the driving home, sipped his drink and opened up his birthday cards and presents, nice to be home we thought.

I decided to book on an arts course here in France 9-5 for two weeks and give us both some space. We have been together 24x7 for well over two years and we are used to time away from each other, (even if it was work). Time we had some space again, an opportunity presented it's self on our return from Spain. Sheila on boat Chatelaine had started on an art course while we were away. I asked if she would mind if I joined her, after my sisters visit, Sheila thought it was a good excuse for her to do an extra week. I booked myself 10 days tuition with www.artinswfrance.com (if you wish to take a look at Brian's site) or are interested in Art, or just Bed & Breakfast.

First flight, Liverpool to Carcassonne... reporters... interviews, we were in the local news again.

My Liverpool accent must still be strong, hello said a reporter... do you know you are the first visitor from Liverpool, no I said, we live here in Carcassonne, (wow yes we do), but my sister has just arrived on this flight, reporter was so excited for Carcassonne, they even took photos of the bags... It was Valentines celebrations weekend for us. We visited castles, churches, wonderful villages, looked at boats for sale, houses for sale... Drinking coffee, beer (yes I had one)... meals out, meal's in... lots of chatting, walking, shopping too. We crammed much into our five days together. Tommy talked us through a flight lesson he had before arriving... wow we thought. Romance in the air.

Good Oysters from one of the Etang bays... delightful we thought, John excluded this tasting...

An amazing food journey this month, trying many different dishes, in different countries too, perfection we thought as we explored with our eyes and palate during my sisters visit. We were invited out to a most magical French cottage for Sunday lunch in the middle of the vine growing area... thanks to our New Zealand boating friends, (they are dog & house sitting for 6 weeks). Eight of us sat outside basking in the Feb sunshine on the huge patio, overlooking, the valley and vines, just enjoying wonderful hospitality, and swapping stories from around the world. Sharon & Tommy... found France to be delightful, enjoying the warmth of the sun (not the wind that joined us at times) and enjoyed the company of people we introduced them to.

Hard work in the Kitchen produced a feast of a meal for us all, perfect weather for outside lunch.

I thoroughly enjoyed my cookery lesson's in the kitchen from Yvonne and Raewin. A stroll through the vine country side, with the pets (including husbands), before desert and coffee. Lunch extended from 11.30 to 5.30 magical days added to our calendar this month. The weather is beginning to warm up.

Snow photo's and cars floating in streams of water around this area where a sight to see, as Yonne showed us photos in the local Carcassonne news paper, worse weather for 100 years... we had no idea all this had happened when we were in Spain. Much damage also to canal du Midi. this has caused many problems for people waiting to leave this month.

I love this profile shot of Tom & John, during a meal and music concert for 330 people, so engrossed.....

We enjoyed a French dinner & music evening for charity... joining up with friends from the marina we booked a table for 10. the music was both good and bad... some good local talent, and some very good artists indeed, a good atmosphere in the huge Carcassonne Dome. A huge event that was planned very well indeed, dancing just got started as we left at 12.30 am. Food for 330 served hot, even the pudding. But the room got cold, also no bar for the boys beer, we were ready to leave. We also enjoyed visits out in the car, a favourite village of mine is Mirepoix, picture post card, also a painters dream. Wonderful crystal shops, Sharon & I discovered, also good market Monday's.

Mirepoix a short drive from Carcassonne... wonderful village, visiting several times now.

I should of started my painting course, after Sharon & Tommy departed, but it was not meant to be. I started with gastric flu during the night, ill for 5 days, had to call the local doctor to the boat after three days. Once on the correct medication, I was soon on the mend. Poor Sharon also took the bug home with her, not sure who gave whom the bug, or if it was some thing we eat. Cant keep me down for long

One Sheila's wonderful painting's also the art studio & home of Brian & Sue

Rescheduled my tuition dates for Feb & March, since Michael our son was joining us for a week. I did not want to be in the class room for all of Mikes visit. We both enjoyed a full week together and Sheila finished her third week. Art in the class room, art on a plate for lunch from Sue. I enjoyed all aspects of the week. Visiting villages for pencil drawing's (sometimes it was very cold), enjoyed exploring new medium's, including, charcoal drawing, pastel, water colours and hopefully much more to come, the week went so fast. John took over the cooking on the boat (his idea), it was a pleasure to come home to meal's all planned, and very well cooked, I thoroughly enjoyed being spoilt. We both enjoyed our own space and enjoyed swapping stories of our day on my return each night.

My first attempt at flower painting in the art studio and lunch always French & home made

Michael's arrival... John's cooking continued, what a turn up, we are both exploring new area's.

Michael brought along his latest music Cd he recently produced, really good music. We were all dancing about on the boat. John & Mike enjoyed some time together while I painted away for the final day of my first week at art.

Mike produced a painting of Mirepoix after a visit, he became an artists not just in his music... It's amazing how many artists live on boats here in Carcassonne. much talk of art, many paintings produced. We had hoped to go for a cruise with Mike, but the bad weather last month, caused damaged to the canal, so Canal du Midi is now closed till 25th March. We decided to tour France & Spain by car instead.

Roller coaster ride of the Costa Brava, Spain.

We toured the Costa Brava, arriving to a colourful & noisy festival in Roses. The replica blunderbuss guns were so loud we decided to move on after a coffee on the beach, our ears felt sore, I felt like I was being shot... We thoroughly enjoyed the roller coaster ride of the cliffs and wonderful mountains along this very scenic coast, as seen here at sunset. Mike & I took many wonderful photos. Some of the memorable Ports we visited included Roses, Vendres, Banyuls, Cadques. Also the village were Salvador Dali lived, sadly the museum was closed, but we will re-visit here again.

Carnaval De Roses - Roses, Costa Brava to finish off this special month

We enjoyed all our car journeys, (with GPS "Fiona" help) we had reasonable weather too for our visitors, considering all the snow and blizzard's back home right now, friend Renata in Dover kept us in formed of weather back home. It was nice to share some sunshine and special places with our visitors this month. What a busy month it has been for us can't show all we have done, many special days, picnics and wonderful miles traveled, we hope you enjoy traveling with us. This winter has come and gone in the blink of an eye again. A lot more sunshine hours in a day but South France was not as warm as we had hoped.