EEC 5, 14th March 2005

After the chateaux (for non French speakers, that's the plural of chateau) I realised I was heading in the direction of Jean Donnet who lives near Uzes. So I phoned and we arranged to meet for a drink. Jean has been a balloon pilot for more than 25 years. Jean is great and I was looking forward to meeting him again, but I would like to have met his father. A lovely story I heard, not from Jean, was that during the war his father, a General in the Belgian army, stole a German war plane and flew it to Scotland where he had some trouble convincing the authorities which side he was on. Later, the General took up ballooning...............

I was driving through the Rhone Valley. Lots of vineyards there, and this what they look like in winter.

If you fly in a wine area, as Jean does, you do not land in vineyards. Vines takes years to reach maturity, farmers do not take kindly to even one vine being damaged. I passed by the village of Chateauneuf du Pape. By accident actually, I had taken a wrong turning. But the view from the ruined chateau was stunning. This is the village, with vineyards beyond.

All the brownish coloured fields are vineyards. The next village had a restored chateau.

I met Jean and his girl friend Marie, she also is a balloon pilot. We had a great curry at their house, I was fascinated with a book Jean has just made. He has taken the best photographs he has made over the last 15 years in the region, and put them in a book. Around 200 photographs I guess, beautiful, beautiful photos. It's a beautiful book. Mostly photos taken from his balloon, sometimes with historical notes about the subject, sometimes with another balloon in view, sometimes just photos. When I've got somewhere to keep it I'd like to buy that book.

I parked for the night on a car park in Uzes. It seems that it is generally allowed in France for camping cars to stay on regular, free, car parks, unless specifically prohibited. The town with the chateau above had sign prohibiting the overnight parking of caravans and camping cars, so I certainly did not do any shopping in that town!

I did go shopping in Uzes though. It was Saturday, market day.

I bought 6 oysters then I went back and bought 6 more. I haven't eaten oysters since the day before yesterday and I like oysters. I also like mussels, moules mariniere, they are for dinner tonight. Which reminds me, I'll have to stop writing soon, I'm getting peckish. I've only had a taster, some olives Provencial style, bought from the market. I've got Brie, a super variety of French cheese, to finish. Together with baguette, oh, delicious, this French bread!

I also bought myself a small garden in the market. I love daffodils, I could not resist this miniature variety in a pot. The wire you can see, surprisingly, holds the pot in place.

So far they are getting a lot of TLC, being watered twice a day. Hey, it's 8.30, dinner time. Gotta go.

So where was I? I don't even remember the place now.

Oh yes, it was where I sent that addendum photo from. Lovely view over the river. Nice town. Anduze. You might have noticed. These reports miss bits, then go back and fill them in later.

Only problem in Anduze, my computer crashed, again, and seemingly took part of my wireless connection driver files with it. I spent all the afternoon reinstalling my wireless card. It didn't want to uninstall properly because the driver file had been damaged, and when I tried to reinstall, it crashed. After spending most of the day on it, uninstalling, rebooting, installing, rebooting, then rebooting again just to be sure, then starting the whole process over again, and again, because there was still an error, I got the system working again, and was able to send out the EEC 4 addendum.

It was a lovely day, sun shining, lots of people were doing walkabouts, sitting in street cafes, lovely views, and I was fighting a computer!

Of course, some people thought it was just too much. ( I reckon I could win an award with this photo.)

I drove on, visited yet more super villages, climbed high, and found one village had made a visitor parking. So I parked. It was new, and I wanted to give them a visitor. And I had a super view in the morning.

How about that!

Later, this was rather a nice town.

Tom Donnelly keeps asking for pictures of waterfalls. Here's another one, fisherman thrown in as a bonus.

I parked alongside the river, a little further upstream, in a picnic area. One advantage of travelling in the winter is that there are very few people out in their camping cars. I'm actually surprised how many there are though, I'll often see a dozen or more in a day, touring, and a couple of times another camping car has joined me in my overnight parking.

It's tough though living as a traveler, look at my limited living space.

The white table top type shelf on the right would have matched the not unpleasant imitation wood decor in the rest of the van, but white was the best the supplier could do. I get in and out through the side door behind the white shelf, which sits on the partly open top drawers of the two opposing chests of drawers. There are stops at the end of the shelf, to stop me inadvertently closing one of the drawers and losing my dinner! I can't access directly from the front, not without some pretty acrobatic contortions, it's a forward control van, the engine sits under the 3 front seats which apart from a high 6" wide gap stretch right across the van.

From my seat in the back I can access most of the things I need for cooking etc. Handy really, since the van is only 4'6" (130 cms) high and I'm a bit taller than that. At the back of the van are two more chests of drawers side by side, my bed base resting on one of these and one of the front pair, the space underneath I use for storage boxes.

The bed base is actually a door, which happened to be exactly the right width for the base units. When I was working I bought almost 200 doors like this, slightly damaged on one side they cost around $1 each and made into extremely cheap shelving units. This door for some reason was still lying around. The metal bar running across the unit at the front is a device I slide into place to stop the drawers opening when I am driving.

On the left is a cupboard. I still have to get a proper hotplate and a refrigerator, I haven't yet decided if I need a fitted hand basin. These would go on he left of the picture above, this side of the cupboard.

Best regards

David Barker

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