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Fun with Fun Cars in Perreux, Roannais!

July in the Roannais was a very hot and sunny time this year, and there was plenty of fun to be had, too.

Especially with the yearly ‘Fun Car’ event in Perreux. ‘Petrol head’ excitement amongst the roaring engines, grating gears, diesel fumes and smoke!

All part of the spectacular day on a farm in the countryside near the medieval village of Perruex in the Roannais, Rhône-Alpes. The battered and basic ‘fun’ or ‘stock’ cars, as they are called, came in all colours, shapes, and sizes. There was certainly plenty of action and drama!

The Roannais to Salvador Dali’s Country by Brian Franklin

It does not take long from the Roannais, in the Rhône-Alpes (and our base near the medieval village of Perreux) to enter the original and surreal world of Salvador Dali.

A delightful stop-over in Carcassonne, and then onward (or, I should say, downward) towards Barcelona. Conveniently enroute with just a slight, but pleasant detour, and you are in Figueres, Dali’s birthplace, hometown, and the impressive grand homage and dedication to his life and art in the incredible form of the surrealistically magnificent Dali Theatre Musée. An absolute ‘must-see’ if you are travelling in the vicinity. Truly remarkable !!

Just a few kilometres further on, and a careful drive over some exceptionally impressive, rocky, and stunningly beautiful hillsides (reminiscent of some of the landscapes in Dali’s famous paintings), you eventually wind down to the simple white buildings and seascape of Cadaqués – the sleepy fishing village and house (Casa Dali) where Dali and his wife, Gala, spent most of their time together (almost 60 years !), and where he conceived, created and produced most of his renowned works. The house is fascinating and bizarre, of course, and in a beautiful setting overlooking the bay, and with beautiful gardens.

But first, Figueres and the magnificent Dali Theatre-Musée.

The Dalí Theatre-Museum is, without doubt, one of the historical milestones that has left the greatest mark on the character of Figueres.  It is situated in the old municipal theatre, and has become one of the main cultural places to see in the city.

Designed by Dali, himself, it holds an important exhibition, which, through numerous works, allows you to take a trip through his life and artistic career –  the man considered a master of Surrealism. The site was extended with the Torre Galatea, where the artistic genius died.

Another two museums complete Figueres’ wide cultural offer: the Catalan Toy Museum, which exhibits an interesting collection of toys from different periods and the Empordà Museum, where you can penetrate the history and art of the county.

All this will contribute to uncovering a town with a deep Catalan nature, as demonstrated by its being the home of the sardana, the typical Catalan dance.

The excellent location of Figueres enables you to make interesting trips throughout the county.

On the coast are picturesque places like Colera, a seaside village which has beautiful beaches like Garvet and Els Morts; Llançà, with a lively marina; Cadaqués, home of the Salvador Dalí House-Museum, and Port de la Selva, where the Romanesque monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes is located.

To the south of Cap de Creus is Roses, which preserves remains of the ancient Greek colony of Rhode, and Castelló d’Empuries, where the church of Santa María (10th C.) is outstanding.

This part of the Costa Brava has large protected areas. In the Gulf of Roses is the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà Natural Park, an important ecological reserve and refuge for water birds. For its part, the Cap de Creus Natural Park is an excellent place from a natural point of view and a clear example of the appearance of the Costa Brava.

The cuisine of Figueres combines raw materials from the sea and the mountains. From the nearby coast come fish, which are served boiled, baked, grilled or in sauce. Other recipes, like chicken or rabbit with spiny lobster and beef with vegetables, wild mushrooms or fruits, are also typical. To accompany these, you can choose any of the excellent wines and cavas labelled under the Ampurdán-Costa Brava Denomination of Origin.

Cadaques and Casa Dali

It was cactus hot when we reached Cadaques, after an incredible winding drive up an over the craggy hillside of multi-coloured rocks and olives growing out of the burnt earth. This was certainly Dali’s country. You could feel the presence of the man. Memories of his desolate and paranoic-surrealistic landscapes flooded into my brain. I was in Dali’s realm, at last!

At the head of Cadaqués bay rises the network of narrow cobbled streets and white houses making up the old town.

Above the outline of the town, the image of the church of Santa María, a carefully restored church with a white façade, stands out, housing a magnificent Baroque style reredos. Modernist architecture, for its part, has left its distinctive imprint on some of the most notable buildings in the town, like the Casa Serinyena.

During the first decades of the 20th century, the town became an important European cultural centre. Many leading artists, like Picasso, Chagall and Klein, found their particular source of inspiration in this beautiful corner of the province of Gerona.

However, it was Salvador Dalí who gave Cadaqués international fame. The artistic genius spent long periods here during his childhood as well as establishing his home there.

His house-musuem, beside Port Lligat bay, to the north of the town, enables you to get to know part of the extensive work of this master of Surrealism.

The wide cultural offerance of Cadaqués ranges from its many museums and art galleries, like the Municipal Art Museum, which exhibits works by artists who maintained close links with Cadaqués, or the Perrot-Moore Museum, which brings together works of European graphic art, without forgetting the now traditional International Music Festival, which is held annually in the church of Santa María.

There is no doubt that in the very early days of Dali’s life the little fishing village of Cadaques was incredibly remote (it still is, in some sense) and a very small, traditional, isolated place. Dali and his wife Gala lived here together for over 50 years. Now it is still white buildings and pleasant, despite more tourism.

Their house, made up of a series fishing huts, renovated and converted over a number of years, is also surprisingly very simple, but stunning, and although there is a typical Daliesque quirkiness to the place it also has a very homely ‘feel’, and a woman’s ‘touch’ is ever-present.

There is plenty to feast the eyes, and a permeating playfulness which is pure Dali in most of the rooms. The gardens and swimming pool areas have a definite surrealistic personality, and Dali’s presence can really be felt everywhere.

It is a wonderful place, and reflects their long marital relationship – Dali and his muse, Gala. It was a privilege to enter their personal domain, and, to be fair, somewhat of an intrusion. But I loved it all ! Particularly his studio with his multitude of objects, artist’s paraphernalia, paint brushes, and where one of his last unfinished paintings still sits on his easel. His chair in position, as he always preferred painting sitting down. A poignant reminder of his ongoing creativity, but also his, and our own, mortality.

Probably not suited to everyone, but I certainly recommend a visit. The whole area has a wholesomeness about it, and, of course, if you are into Dali you are definitely enjoying and experiencing his own beloved landscape, rocks, sea, and Spanish traditionalism.


The Pure Art Gallery


The Roannais to Medieval Carcassonne! by Brian Franklin

The Roannais has an enviable central location in France which enables pretty reasonable, and easy access to many other parts of Europe – particularly  Southern and South West of France, Northern Spain, Pyrenees and the North Eastern coast, and Northern Italy, including the French and Italian Alps.

Excellent autoroute networks throughout the above regions make driving holidays very easy and convenient, and, of course, there are lots of interesting places to visit and stop-over for the night to break the journey.

On our route to Carcassonne you also get the chance to cross the absolutely breathtaking Pont Millau, the new suspension bridge designed by British architect, Norman Foster, and built by the same company which constructed the Eiffel Tower.  Successful Anglo-French co-operation at its very best !

So, from the Roannais in the Rhône-Alpes the beautiful Medieval city of Carcassonne is less than 4 hours drive away. The autoroute is excellent.

Our holiday voyage was part of  a 6-day break which we made enroute to the vibrant city of Barcelona, and which included a stop-over in Figueres to visit the brilliant Dali Theatre-Museum, and a day trip to Salavador Dali’s house in the old fishing village of Cadaqués. A great experience.

So more to come on all this in my next series of blogs.

Meanwhile, our first visit (it will not be our last !) to Carcassonne was absolute magic. The ancient fortified city and castle of Carcassonne is stunning. Luckily the normally huge numbers of tourists were at a minimum when we arrived, so we were able to walk around with ease, and take in all the medieval wonders. Full of traditional, old French character, and incredible buildings and architecture.

Carcassonne is a fortified French town in the Aude department of France.
It is separated into the fortified Cité de Carcassonne and the more expansive lower city, and main township. The folk etymology – involving a châtelaine named Carcas, a ruse ending a siege and the joyous ringing of bells (“Carcas sona”) – though memorialized in a neo-Gothic sculpture of Madame Carcas on a column near the Narbonne Gate, is of modern invention. The fortress, which was thoroughly restored in 1853 by the theorist and architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997.

There is obviously so much about the ancient history of Carcassonne which is interesting, so if you google ‘Carcassonne’, you’ll be sure to find it !

We spent the whole day there, strolling around the narrow, medieval streets of the ancient city, visiting the amazing castle, and walking along its fortified ramparts with stunning panoramic views across the lower township and countryside.

Afterward we discovered a superb restaurant for lunch, with a table situated in dappled sunlight under ancient olive trees, set in medieval surroundings oozing age-old history. A perfect time. A beautiful place !

Next stop : Salvador Dali’s Country – His Theatre-Musée in Figueres, and his house in Cadaqués. So look out for our blog enroute to Barcelona !


Part 7: Our Man from the Roannais in the Lake District by Brian Franklin

In our latest part of ‘Our Man from the Roannais in England’ series we reach new heights of adventure and discovery in the marvellous Lake District.

Jean-Marc is treated to a traditional ‘fish n’ chips’ supper, and continues to consume even greater quantities of traditional English ale with great enthusiasm ( Well, you need to after all the rambling about we were doing !)

To set the scene a little, The Lake District, also known as The Lakes or Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous for its lakes and its mountains (or fells), and its associations with the early 19th century poetry and writings of William Wordsworth and the Lake Poets, along with the famous children’s story-book writer, Beatrix Potter.

The central, and most visited, part of the area is contained in the Lake District National Park, the largest of fifteen National Parks in the United Kingdom. It lies entirely within Cumbria, and is one of England’s few mountainous regions. All the land in England higher than three thousand feet above sea level lies within the National Park, including Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. It also contains the deepest and longest lakes in England.

You can walk, cycle and splash about in the beautiful Lake District to your heart’s content. With more than 3,500 kilometres of rights of way and 12 of the largest lakes in England, there’s something for everyone! And we certainly did a lot of walking and climbing over the 3 days we were there.

We were based in Bowness-on-Windermere in a traditional, and somewhat qaint guesthouse called ‘Blenheim Lodge’. Comfortable and welcoming with a good hearty English breakfast every morning – you can’t beat it!

The aim here, of course, apart from enjoying the Lake district in its own right, was to explore some of its walks, and mountain scenery. And for me, it was an exceptional experience eyond the normal family visit to the region, and normally heavily visited touristic parts. I also wanted to show Jean-Marc another face of England – its rugged beauty amongst the lakes, valley’s, and mountains. He had always wanted to visit The Lake District, and go walking there – this is exactly what we did! He was a very, very happy man!

You cannot go walking on the fells of The Lake District without some recourse to ‘Wainwright’

Alfred (“A.W.”) Wainwright MBE (17 January 1907 – 20 January 1991) was a British fellwalker, guidebook author and illustrator. His seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, published between 1955 and 1966 and consisting entirely of reproductions of his hand-written manuscript, has become the standard reference work to 214 of the fells of the English Lake District. Among his 40-odd other books is the first guide to the Coast to Coast Walk, a 192-mile long-distance footpath devised by Wainwright which remains popular today.

On one of our  gloriously sunny days Jean-Marc and I reached new pinnacles of personal achievement, and followed “A.W.” up to the top of Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain at 3,210 ft (978 m)

There is no doubt that this part of our trip around England was the most awe-inspiring, and the stunning countryside and sunshine combined made the ‘outdoor’ experience one to remember forever. It certainly could not have been a better time for Jean-Marc to visit the natural wonders of this beautiful part of England.

Our experience was made even more enjoyable, because we also met up with my good friend, John Clough, another artist and lover of country walks.

We met up enroute and John stayed with us for a couple of days, and we had a great time together.

Our ramblings on the local country paths, through woodland, and over fells included a great journey around Grasmere, and a delightful walk around Coniston from Tarn Howes.

On our last day, Jean-Marc and I had decided to be even more adventurous, and go for the ‘Big One’. We aimed to climb the infamous Scafell Pike. In my view, a virtually life-changing experience ! The weather was perfect with clear blue sky, no wind, and we both felt energised after our previous walking expeditions – we were certainly ‘Up’ for it !

After a long, breathtaking, and somewhat scary drive over the Wrynose pass to our ‘base-camp’ at the seemingly massive and brooding mountain slopes of Scafell, we eventually started our ascent. We were guided by Wainright, along with a little help from some other climbers that we had befriended. Our ascent was from Wasdale Head, and we took the steep route through the Mickledore gap. It was a long, arduous, and very hot climb. There were several times when I thought we had taken on more than we could hack. However, the idea of achieving such a special climb to the top of the highest mountain in England kept us going, and the views around us, and the valleys below were absolutely mind-boggling. When we hit the snow-filled gullies and slopes higher up we felt like real mountaineers even though it wasn’t the Alps or Himalayas.

We certainly had to climb and scramble over this lump of Lakeland granite to get to its pinnacle, and the sense of achievement was remarkable – we felt like little heroes! We thoroughly deserved the picnic we had at the top. The descent was certainly no ‘picnic’ though, and in its own way was almost as difficult as going up. By the time we eventually got back to Bowness again we definitely needed a couple of well-deserved pints of real ale. Wow! What a day!! What a trip !

Part 8 :  The final part of  ‘Our Man from the Roannais in England’ series (I hear gasps of relief !) will follow shortly. This time a visit to Liverpool – the home of the Beatles!