Photos from Le Pont du Gard

Approaching Le Pont du Gard from the Rive Gauche (Left Bank)

We went back to the Post du Gard last Saturday and I got loads of pictures. It really is a beautiful peaceful place, in spite of all the people visiting. We arrived a little before opening time – 9.30am. The sun was shining but it wasn’t too hot. We have become experts at working out the best time of the day to do things in order to remain cool.

Pont du Gard with humans for scale

Early morning – 8am – for walking outside, but you have to get back inside before 11.30am. Mid morning for walking or sitting inside – if it’s air-conditioned or there’s a little breeze through the window. Mid-day for driving with the windows down.

Looking up at the second row arches

Mid afternoon – find shade or keep driving with the windows even further down. Late afternoon – poor you, just suck it up. Late evening for walking, in general you’ll feel better if you get a walk in now, I promise. Night time for sleeping as best you can with the windows open near a source of breeze, sea breeze is the best.

Looking down at the river Gardon from the Pont du Gard

Anyways we were there at the perfect time of the morning in this beautiful place. First stop, we went to see the museum and the best video presentation I’ve ever seen at a tourist site. Seriously. Just enough information, given in a way I could understand. Plus the photography was superb.

View from the very top and more tiny humans

I always find it very difficult to grasp big numbers when I hear them. For example, the Post du Gard is 50 meters high but really, how high is that? Well in the video they had different items pictured beside the Pont like 16 elephants standing on top of each other to help show how tall that really is. Good, right?

This door is at the very top of the Pont and leads to the water channel but it is only accessible on a special guided tour

And they had cartoon planes standing one behind the other on the top level of the Pont. I love how creatively helpful that is.

Apprentice stone masons used to chisel their names on the stones. Can you see 1905?
Doesn’t this look like a pint of Guinness? It’s a picture of a picture of the inside of the water channel. The bulges on either side are limestone deposits left by the running water. The aqueduct was in use for 600 years.

You’ll have to go there and visit the cinema in the museum to see all the other creative things they did to help explain this amazing monument. I just love it.

Last day in Portugal, sniff, sniff

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(There’s a steep walk from the parking)

We found another wall. In the town of Bragança in the north-east corner of Portugal. The town provides free overnight motorhome parking just under the castle walls. Unfortunately, the castle was closed on Monday but I went to see the walls, they’re open all the time.

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(Can you see the road sign? Cars go through this gate in both directions!)

They can’t close the walls because there are houses in there, people are still living within the walls. It reminded me of Carcassonne in southern France. Except for the crowds. And the number of shops. It’s what I wished for in Carcassonne – peace and quiet.

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(This is too high! Too high!)

Remember my new rule about climbing city walls? A railing is required. I forgot. Somehow these walls lulled me into a false sense of security and again I found myself very high up without a railing… I started off at a low section with only four steps – no problem. By the time I was looking down over the houses I was thinking of ringing Denis. Instead I turned around very slowly and kept looking up until I was back where I started on the ground in front of the four steps.

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(The views were nice though)

Later that evening we went to dinner at a restaurant inside the walls. I booked it after I climbed backwards down the four steps. It got great reviews in the parkings app and as this was our last night in Portugal we were celebrating. Or maybe commiserating. Anyway, we arrived at 7.31pm. one minute after opening. There was a young couple already seated (must have been waiting outside) and we waited while the waiter explained the menu to them. Then he came over and directed us to the table right next to them… There was no one else in the restaurant and the four of us were as close as family. The waiter went back to explaining and Denis and I partook of the up and down eyebrow thing you do in such situations.

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(This gate is only one way…)

After the waiter left them they were speaking in one of the languages we don’t speak (i.e. any other language that’s not English) so we wouldn’t be able to understand them and they wouldn’t be able to understand us, grand. The waiter arrived with us and explained the menu and as we were deciding I overheard our neighbour say they were on bicycles. In English. Right so they will understand us… more eyebrows. But hang on.

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(View of new part of town from inside the walls)

I have a secret talent. It turns out that even though I can’t speak another language I am very good at identifying languages. Go me. I identified they were speaking German to each other or it could have been Dutch or maybe Flemish? It didn’t matter this meant they had cycled from Germany (or Holland or Belgium.) I was now more interested in them than I was in Denis so I ignored his eyebrows and the first chance I got I turned my head a little and said, did you say you were travelling by bicycle?

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(The easy bit that tempted me)

That was it. We talked all night, like family – on a good day. The language was German but they both speak English. They’d been travelling 100km a day, by bicycle! They had travelled all over Portugal and then down to Morocco and this was their last day in Portugal too. They’d been to Lisbon and Serpa as well, remember Serpa? She’s a language teacher. When her secondary school teacher told her French was the hardest language she decided to study that first! I can’t remember how many languages she has but it’s her full-time job, well except when they can negotiate holidays like this six-week trip. She explained why I have such difficulty with languages (I’ll tell you later.) He was born in East Germany and was 11 when the wall came down. The biggest impact for him was his heroes from comics and television disappeared overnight to be replaced by our heroes… that made me sad. He also missed their sweets. They were really inspiring and such a gift for our last night. Before we left we all thanked the waiter for seating us together and he nodded knowingly. He’s French, they know stuff.

Oh and the reason I have difficult with languages? It takes time to learn and I give up too soon. Mairead.

Spending time with Vera…

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(Notice the colour for the houses here is white and grey)

I hear there’s more bad weather on it’s way to you. So I won’t mention that it’s been a lovely day here and I’m outside as I write watching the sun go down. There may be rain here tomorrow, may be. Although I was in the tourist office today and the poster was saying that Serpa gets more than 3000 hours of sunshine a year… In one year? Every year? Yes. Yes. It’s going to be very hard to leave now.

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(Look an angel on top of the spire)

I had a great day in other ways too. You’ll remember the day I interviewed the young man about a week ago? Well since then I’ve been a little bit confused about what to do with my interviews. I keep forgetting they’re still gestating and I wake up in a cold sweat thinking I should be feeding them… if you know what I mean. So today I had a talk to myself and went back to meet the parallel universe me, she wasn’t free so I met someone else.

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(I like number 26)

I decided to fit in a few pictures of the castle first, then on my way back I spotted a shop called Serpa Lovers. I didn’t know what kind of shop it was but it looked very inviting so I went in. There was a lady behind the counter and all I can say is my Portuguese must be improving because after I said Ola (Hello) and Bom Dia (Good morning. Yes I know… it was afternoon!) she started talking to me in Portuguese. She reverted to English when she saw my face.

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(They love Serpa… and so do I)

Serpa Lovers is her shop and it supports local produce like the cheese, olive oil, wine, crafts, art and activities. (When I looked at the website there’s loads of other stuff, like music lessons, romantic dinners, hot air ballooning, walking tours, tile painting… Their website has an English translation) I had missed lunch and she said she could make me some tapas. Tapas is my new favourite word so… of course I had tapas. The local cheese had been calling to me for a couple of days now so that’s what I choose and it was lovely. Also, there was herbal tea, not tea bag herbs but dried-and-still-looks-like-herbs herbal tea. I didn’t know which one I wanted so the lady (later I discovered her name is Vera) let me smell all the herbal tea containers and I choose a mix of three, mint, verbena and anise. It was lovely.

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(I do love the weathered effect)

Then halfway through my sandwich her two sons arrived. How did I know who they were? Sometimes language doesn’t get in the way and you just understand. Not the details but the gist of a scenario. Anyway, somehow we got talking after they left, Vera and I. It turns out she and her husband and the boys used to live in Lisboa. I was thinking, “brave woman to move to a new town with young children” but she talked about the hectic lifestyle, the expensive private school and something being missing so I started to lean in for a story. I wasn’t recording but some words stuck in my head, “the children were growing up between the hours of 8am and 7pm and that’s when they were in school.”

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(Here’s Vera (on the left) she was smiling all the time not just in the photo! That’s her friend on the right (forgot to ask her friend’s name!) And that’s Serpa Lovers. Look at the cute lampshade!)

An opportunity came up here in this place, Serpa, to do interesting work and also to start a business, so they moved but first they asked their then ten-year-old son’s opinion. And he replied with a question, “will this mean we four will spend more time together?” And that’s when tears came to my eyes because that was such a beautiful, wise thing for a child to ask. Of course the answer was YES from the parents and YES from the wise old soul. And although they work very hard they do spend more time together because they now live in this beautiful town where life is lived at a slower pace. Their children spend less time being driven places or collected from places, they walk to friends houses, they walk to school. At the end of the story both of us had tears in our eyes and I’m welling up again now.

Imagine living in a world where the most important thing is your presence. Mairead.

View from the Bed

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(Having a go at grape picking)

You know how when you’re buying a house you’re supposed to check out where the sun rises and sets in relation to your garden? Well, we only ever bought one house and we’ve lived in it for nearly 28 years and all those years ago we forgot to check the sun… On this trip, at each new campsite, we get an opportunity to check the sun and every time we forget. Turns out it doesn’t matter, it didn’t matter for our house and it doesn’t matter here, wherever we park Ruby we find something interesting, even if it’s not the position of the sun.

On our first morning in France we opened the blinds as we lay in bed and were greeted by huge old oak trees against a blue sky. Denis got up to collect breakfast but I couldn’t move, it was so beautiful. Ordinary, after all they’re just trees but beautiful nevertheless. Tonight we have a view of a lake and a hill beyond, we won’t be able to see it tomorrow morning from the bed unless we sit up, but I think that’ll be okay.

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(The lake beside our campsite)

While I was unfolding the table earlier I spotted some interesting new arrivals setting up nearer the lake. (One of the surprise bonuses of a campsite is the never-ending opportunities to see other people organise themselves – it’s like looking over their garden wall.) The lady looked quite frail and the man was walking with the aid of two walking sticks. I could be way out but I’m guessing they are in their eighties. I realised I had seen them earlier when I was queuing at reception.

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(I really, really like this idea)

The campsite owner saw that they needed to be near the toilet/shower blocks but he had no available pitch. He said, “No worries, I have an idea for tonight and I will find you the perfect pitch tomorrow!” He said this in English as the couple spoke English and then he put them in the playground! His thoughtfulness gave me a warm glow and meant I could almost forgive him the €1 a day charge for the (not very good) wi-fi – almost.

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(Cute old-fashioned sign – I think it means no cars or motorbikes past this point)

Anyway, I now realise I have a view of the playground and the couple… and I am inspired. The man is setting up their connection to the electricity and the connections must not be working as he’s having to wander from one to the next, all the time moving with the aid of his walking frame. I am on the edge of my seat trying not to run down the 150 meters to his caravan to help when another camper arrives and finds a working connection. I am inspired by this couple because there are many times I am reminded that life is short, but this couple remind me that life can be short and yet be filled to the brim for every moment until the very last breath.

From my perch over the river in Limousin, Mairead.

Show Time

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(This is me crafting last year in Canada)

It’s that time again – Knitting and Stitching Show time! I’m very excited. Tomorrow I will be in a big room with thousands of noisy people milling around and getting in my way. Oh, ok that’s not the bit I’m excited about. I’m excited about the bit with the beautiful art and crafts hanging on the walls. And the experts doing demonstration of things I could potentially do. And the classes where you make nice things with a helpful teacher. And I’m very excited about the all the craft supplies you could want in one place

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(And in Greystones)

I’ve been going to this show with my mother-in-law (hello Eilish!) for a few years now and we really enjoy ourselves. When we get home we lay out the results of any classes we’ve done, along with our purchases for Denis to admire. And he does a pretty good job of pretending he’s interested. In my pile there’s usually a few books, the kind that inspire you to try something new. So over the years I have a large collection of inspiring craft books. They are beautiful and when I bought them I was very inspired.

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(And again)

But there’s a problem… I never actually made anything.

Well that’s not entirely true, I started to make lots of things. But when they weren’t that good, I stopped. It’s better to stop and try something else, right? So I tried the next thing and the next thing but I was always unsatisfied with the outcome. And after a few weeks I stopped setting time aside to make… anything. I ignored the inspiration from the beautiful books and went back to filling my time with should do and have to do stuff.


(And again…. this past year has been a craft heaven)

This year it’s different! Not the buying the books bit – I’m still buying the books. The difference is I use the books and I set aside time to make the things I am inspired to make. And I let go of getting it right first time… or even second time… or… well, I just keep practicing.

Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime but he kept painting. Mairead.

Pensive on a rainy Monday


(Photo I took of Glendalough round tower last weekend)

The weekend before we left Ireland I was down in Glendalough at a family gathering. Sixty-five cousins (four generations) from my Dad’s side of the family came together on a Saturday morning to walk in the hills and share a meal. My Dad had three brothers and the organising committee was made up of one member from each of the four brother’s families. I was my family’s representative. It was a very easy committee to be on, everything seemed to slot into place.


(It’s raining today…)

I think that’s due to my cousin Charlie. He was the one who had the idea for a gathering and so we made him the president (chairman was too ordinary.) He was exceedingly good at his job and exceedingly good at delegating. He’d say “Now, I want you to do that, but only if it’s okay with you, now tell me if it’s a problem, but you’d be great, you’re exactly the right person for it.” Apart from not being able to get a word in edgeways, who could refuse him? None of us did. It wasn’t until the Sunday morning at breakfast that I found out his wife, and not he, had been answering all the numerous emails from the other members of the committee over the past few months.


(…so I’m looking out at the pretty raindrops… )

Charlie got an idea into his head all those months ago and he did what was necessary to make it happen. He didn’t do everything. He did what he was good at and he asked for help with the rest. It worked. We sat around tables in the hotel in Glendalough and reminisced about our childhoods, about parents and grandparents who were not there, about cousins who could not attend. We had a great time. We said “This was a great idea.” I’m glad Charlie had an idea in his head and I’m really glad he shared his idea with the rest of us. I think it takes courage to share your ideas.


(…and working away inside)

The sun has come out now so I’m off to sit in the garden, Mairead.

Art Works – Caravaggio.

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(Clare street looking onto Merrion Square – notice the perspective!)

I saw a documentary on Friday in class about Caravaggio (1573 – 1610), his full name is Michelangelo da Caravaggio. Poor guy, he had a difficult life, one of his parents died when he was five and the other when he was eighteen. He was also literally poor and lived in the poor part of town. Unfortunately he was also easily offended and regularly got into fights, once killing a man in a duel. Paradoxically he was also very religious, taking the bible stories very seriously and wanting to bring them to life in a truthful and lifelike way. At the time this was not the accepted practice. Art was nice and paintings of the saints were pretty. Caravaggio changed that.

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(The Virgin and Child (1440), Paolo Uccello, you can take a no-flash picture of this one – notice the baby’s feet are out of the frame)

He used ordinary people, those he met in the taverns as his models. Once when he painted the Death of the Virgin for a convent, the nuns returned his finished painting as it was too realistic – she looked dead! Of course it probably didn’t help that the model was dead, and when she was alive she worked as a prostitute…. He was very offended by the nun’s action. Another painting, Doubting Thomas shows Thomas’ finger going into a realistic looking deep cut under Jesus’ rib cage – not pretty.

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(Postcard of Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ (1602) – four hundred and ten years old. Not the postcard…)

He was thirty-seven when he died, in mysterious circumstances. His behaviour (the fights) may have been caused by the lead in the paint he used or maybe he was just sensitive… On Saturday I went into the National Gallery in Dublin to see his The Taking of Christ, no pictures allowed but I got a postcard.The first time I saw this painting I was struck by the shiny armour of the soldier, it was only on a subsequent visit that I realised the illusion of shine was created by paint and a very talented (if tormented) painter.

You don’t have to be happy to create art… or buttons… or crochet…. or stories… or cakes… or….  Mairead.