Saturday, 30 July 2016

Beautiful Blue

We visited my dad today. He's moved from Waterford, so no more Waterford photos...
The hospital he is in now has a community garden beside it, maintained by volunteers. It has a hen run with a couple of ducks and several hens (and a couple of tiny chickens today, too), which apparently he really enjoys visiting so we spent most of our visit this afternoon sitting there. C went to investigate the small greenhouse (really a section of polytunnel) and came back telling me he had seen the most beautiful butterfly. There are several ceramic sculptures in the garden, and initially he thought the butterfly too was a piece of art - until it moved. I went off to look, and at first I only saw it with the wings closed - which was indeed very beautiful. It's a small butterfly - not much bigger than the top joint of my thumb when the wings are folded closed.
And then it opened them to reveal the most beautiful  blue. It's a (not very common) Common Blue.
Unfortunately I had left my camera in the car, and had to make do with my phone, so the quality isn't great.
The foliage is fennel, I'm not quite sure what the flower was...

Friday, 29 July 2016

France - part 4

On our way to find a good sandy beach we drove through Biscarrosse town, and spotted this hydroplane on the first roundabout as we approached the town. So the next time we drove through, I had the camera out and ready...

As well as the oil - and tourism, Biscarosse was also home to a big seaplane base and a lot of early hydroplane building and development, so on the one cloudy day, we spent the afternoon in the Musée de l'Hydraviation. They had a big barn-like building with some original and replica seaplanes, and then the main part of the museum was housed in a separate building. One room showed the development of the cockpit over the years - from the very early planes right through to Concorde.

The work and craftsmanship in the older planes was beautiful to see - wonderfully grained wood, brass. They must have been so heavy before all the lighter alloys came along.

It's hard to imagine that the seating in a plane ever looked like this! 

Before visiting the museum, we had gone to the Dune de Pyla (or Pilat) - the highest sand dune in Europe. We visited last year too, but the heat was so intense that it was not much fun. This time, on the coolest day of our time here it was much more enjoyable. We were not only able to climb easily to the first peak, but we walked quite some distance along it too.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

France - part 3

From the Marais, we headed down south to Gastes on Lake Biscarrosse, about an hour south of Bordeaux and on the coast. This was planned to be a few lazy days of just enjoying sand and sunshine...
Biscarosse is France's second largest lake, and holds their largest oil reserves - which I didn't know, and it was quite a surprise to see all the little oil rigs scattered around. It was, however, very pleasant to swim in (I prefer the sea any day, though), and a sandy beach 5 minutes walk from our tent was great. We did also head to one of the Atlantic coast beaches; too much surf for any serious swimming but great fun.

Sunsets over the lake...

And evening light - with a wagtail

We were off to one side of the campsite - it was mostly chalets and cabins and where we were, there were pitches for tents and campers. Maybe there's not much demand for them - it looked as if there was a whole row beyond us which was being let go wild, and beyond that again was a little forested area which I walked through and came across this, gently rusting away.

These two photos were actually taken on the last morning, but I'm going to slot them in here...the tent is looking slightly the worse for two nights of heavy thunderstorms - but we had sprayed it with waterproof spray after getting it set up, and it stood up to the heavy rain. At this stage the kitchen had been taken down, we were packing ready to go - and thankful for the picnic bench (hidden behind the car) which we were able to put all our stuff on rather than the wet ground. We had bought an expensive 5-day cool box. It never did actually hold the ice blocks for more than a day, but even in temperatures around 40°C (over 100°F), the butter was sometimes almost too firm to spread, and we were able to chill our cider very nicely - so it was a worthwhile investment. Behind the tent you can see the above-mentioned chalets (there was a small ditch between us, and from the sound of it I'm pretty sure some frogs lived in there), and the second photo is looking to our left up towards the wooded part of the site.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Snowy Egrets

We saw lots and lots of egrets - great, little and cattle - when we visited the Camargue in southern France. But I'll save those photos till I get that far in my holiday photo editing and posting.

On another of our outings, we visited Rousillon in the Vaucluse, and walked along the trail through an old ochre quarry. I used some Christmas gift money to buy some beautiful pigments. Since it was impossible to choose between the great range of earth tones and the wonderful bright vivid colours, I ended up treating myself to one of the larger sets.

And these are what I used to colour my Art Neko offering for this week:



I stamped the Shoson Five Snowy Egrets with wee calligraphy on watercolour paper, added a little colour to the beaks with pencils and then watercoloured the background.
I recently came across this spatter mesh from way back, and thought it would pick up perfectly on the snowy scene - so I simply added it to a black base, edged the base with a silver pen and edged the mesh with Liquid Pearls. To finish I added a button and silver cording.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

France - part 2

On our second day, we hired a boat for a few hours. It was hard to take photos, so mostly we took memories - the coypu, a little wild deer, the small overgrown channels and the larger more open canal where we managed to get a good rowing rhythm going. When we had our guided trip, the guide used the traditional pole, more like a punt. And the traditional boats are quite like a punt too - very shallow bottomed. Originally they were used a lot for transporting cattle from one field to another, so they have a flat front where the animals could step on and off easily, and a curved stern. We just had paddles - and since we're more used to rows with rowlocks, it was a learning curve. But as a totally relaxing way of starting the holidays, it's hard to imagine anything better.

Our tent, seen as we rowed past

We brought a picnic lunch and tied the boat to one of the trees along the canal

Embarkation point on the camp-site, where we hired the boat

On the second evening we thought we'd go for another walk, along the canal starting at the bridge (photo in previous post). On the map, it looked shorter than the walk we did the first night, so we were hoping to get back reasonably early. It rained a little bit, and then brightened up. But we felt that the sketch map we were using was most definitely not drawn to scale. At the end, we were walking pretty much as fast as we could in order to get back before the on-site restaurant closed. Checking the route out on Google Maps afterwards, what we were expecting to have been about a 3 1/2 to 4 mile walk turned out to be well over 5 miles. But - we enjoyed the scenery and we got back in time to get something to eat. Away from the canals and channels it is very heavily agricultural, with field after field of wheat and other crops, and plenty of birds of prey soaring overhead.

the church in St-Hilaire-La-Palud

Friday, 22 July 2016

France Part 1

As usual, the weather when we left Cork wasn't great, so I only took a few photos as we sailed past Cobh before we retired to our cabin, I think that last year it was too miserable to even stay on deck that long, because I certainly don't remember the Titanic Memorial, and it must have been there.

Our first stay was in the Marais Poitevin, near Saint-Hilaire-la-Palud. The Marais Poitevin is known as La Venise Verte - the Green Venice. A quick look at this map, and you will see why - there are more waterways than roads.

A few years ago we had taken a guided boat trip along some of the canals/channels, and had always wanted to come back and hire a boat ourselves; this seemed like a good opportunity as it was about halfway down from the ferry to our first longer stop in the sunny south. The weather had, apparently, been unseasonably wet and cold - but our little tent is quick to set up and for a two-night stay we weren't doing more than pitching the tent and setting up the cooker. We were camped right beside one of the smaller channels.  We had a lovely walk along one of the signposted trails on our first evening.