Tuesday, June 30, 2009

She'll be coming round the mountain, time & time again!

From our little apartment today we set off to explore further up valley in which Les Choseaux (our settlement within the hamlet of Manigod) is situated. You travel along a winding narrow road that hugs the mountainside - but without any sort of a safety rail at all! You can't go too far before every side road ends at a farmhouse. It is surprising to see so many little clumps of homes in such challenging territory - the hillsides are very steep and you need to cut into them for a flat spot before you can do anything. There are lots of goats keeping the summer grass to a manageable level while the cows are away up the summer pastures. And they all want to have a chat!
Many of the farms here sell their dairy products direct to the public - like the creamiest butter and the most wonderful cows and goats milk cheeses. We have found a cheese called Reblochon that is wonderful. A washed rind soft cheese that has the silkiest texture and a taste heading towards a castello.

So, not being able to go any further along these roads, we head down the mountain into Thônes. Compared to Manigod, Thônes is a thriving metropolis! In reality, it is a town with a population of 5,500, tucked away next to its 17th century church tower and dominated by the peaks of la Tournette (2351 m) and Lachat (2024 m). From here it is very easy to access the alpine villages and resorts and the lakes of Annecy and du Bourget. We are getting low on fuel and despite there being a number of petrol stations in town, none of them are manned (aghh - the dreaded lunch hour) and they are operating on an automatic system that will not accept any of our bank / credit cards. So we head up mountain hoping to get fuel at
La Clusaz.

Now I will admit that mountains have always had a magnetic draw for me. Don't ask me how we ended up in Maryborough - one of the flatest towns on the Queensland coast! So I am constantly making little moaning noises (or so Michael tells me!) It is so much an Oh. God. trip. The views are amazing and I just love looking at the evidence of the earth alive with lots of fault lines and folded or upthrust rocks, with landslips and waterfalls. (Yeah, get over it - I'm a geographer and proud of it). We are up near the top of the tree line and the bottom of the snow line.

La Clusaz, like the whole area, offers an amazing array of sports - both in the winter time and in summer. There are more than 90 kms of well graded walking paths up in the mountains. As well as walking (think cross-country or long distance here) there is mountain biking, climbing, via ferrata, paragliding and canyoning - all up in the mountains. Down in town there is pentaque, roller blading, cycling, ice skating and the some. And in the winter there is every kind of skiing, sledding, snow-shoeing, snowboarding etc.

La Clusaz is in every way a resort town. It offers a multitude of accommodation from luxury resorts through to tiny little flats in large buildings right near the chairlifts - all designed to cater for the enthusiast who spends all their day on the mountain (and probably half the night as well!!) It has an alpine aspect with accommodation and retailers crammed together in tight little streets that start up the hillsides - but dont go too far thanks to the incredibly steep slopes. It's from here that we take la telecabine de Beauregard. That is the Cabin Chair up to the Beauregard Plateau in the Avaris range. In the car in front of ours, three BMX mountain bikers set out with their bikes.

Unfortunately for us, the perspex windows of the chairlift are badly scratched - due I'm sure, to all that sporting equipment that gets hauled up the mountain each year. The photos therefore show much of this. This chair lift is even hairer than the one up the Great Wall of China outside Beijing! At times, as are going up almost vertically - I kid you not, the slope is about 80% (not that I am letting go to actually measure anything!) The trip lasts about 10 minutes and due to the fact that many people have to get gear as well as themselves off, it moves quite slowly - which was great for me! We have brought sandwiches with us (Jambon and Reblochon) and sit just outside the chair lift terminal eating.

I am amazed by the mountain bikers! All geared up, they race off down the mountain at breakneck speeds - jumping over jumps and off ramps. The route is delineated by orange tape and I imagine that they change the route fairly often as the damage to the ground is pretty intense and this is, after all, fragile alpine country. And this is not a child's sport, nor one for the feint hearted. Most of the riders we see today are young men in their early to mid twenties. Ah, all that testosterone!

And there are lots of walkers of all ages, sizes and nationalities. Many bring with them their walking poles - something we didn't think of in our hurry to get mountainside - and mine are enjoying their siesta in the car! I see a summer school with about 20 little 5 or 6 year olds in tow off in the distance. What a great way to keep fit. Up here at 1640 m the air is a little thinner and you work harder. Michael takes the opportunity to walk part of one of the paths - but the gravel is too loose for me to risk it without my poles.

And the scenery is magnificent. You can see for kilometres in every direction - across mountains and valleys, down on villages that look so tiny that even ants would be too big for the little houses from up here! I watch in wonder, the nursery that is breeding clouds all the time we are up here. Mother nature - ain't she just the greatest!
Click this link to see live web shots of the Chair lift up to and the area of the Beauregard Plateau.

And like all good things, it comes time to descend from our heaven bound spot up with the clouds and go back to the real world. As we leave we are still looking for fuel - but as it is just after 4 pm (still bright sunshine and now about 31 degrees) we are sure we should be able to find a fuel station open. And on the lower side of La Clusaz we do. Although the pumps are automatique, the door to the station is open. Obviously the attendant gets questioned frequently. As soon as Michael walked in and asked whether she spoke English, the answers came quickly yes, and yes you can pay in here! I am happy now - I really feel quite nervous driving on mountainous back roads with very little settlements and only about 10 litres of fuel left! Even though the distances are not great, the car works extra hard on the grades and turns. We are ready to head for Manigod, but there is still so much to see on the way. Of course, not the direct route for us!!!!

We know that Mont Blanc is just a spit away and we have had tantalising glimpses through the growing cloud cover all afternoon. We head towards Ugine up and over Col des Avarines (Avarines Pass). The road climbs higher and higher to the pass at 1486m. We see a caravan, all on its lonesome a couple of hundred metres higher up the slopes still and wonder what the ??? When we get the binoculars out we see a herd of sheep - talk about the modern day shepherd! You could not see the sheep with the naked eye and you might have trouble even on the photo. A little further along, at the summit there is a small chapel built in 1867 to Saint Anne, Protector of Voyagers - modelled on the dome topped churches in the towns around here and very nicely kept. And I would say that the climbers high up on the rocky ridges high above us would have done well to have visited before they left. The climb just to get to the cliffs is grueling and with our binoculars we can't even see them, but when we stop for coffee, the waiter has a more powerful set that shows them as tiny specks, taking on the monster. And still Mont Blanc hides from us, as though shy.

Once over we top, we travel through a continuous series of hairpen bends (switchbacks) and a number of tunnels, dropping thousands of metres very quickly - almost straight down and sometimes straight through the mountains! Not only are my eyes weary from the sights, my ears are hurting from the repeated adjustments to the change in air pressure. The price of experiencing this awe-inspiring area!

We are now back on the valley floor travelling through small towns and lots of hamlets. Life is busy now - real busy. There is hay to be gathered before the rain predicted for later in the week arrives. The array of machinery that is used is fascinating. Firstly they cut the hay and let it sit on the ground for a few days to dry. Then they use a large mechanical rake that lays it in long lines. Then comes the baler that picks up the hay as it travels the lines, every once is a while pushing out a rectangular squat bundle, or the larger ones throw aside the huge rolled bales. Of course, not all farmers use this machinery and on the smaller plots, you can still see the farming family working together with pitchforks to gather the precious feed for winter.

From Ugine we head for Annecy and Lac Annecy. We skirted around the edge as we came into the area on Sunday, so this is a good opportunity to go have a look. It is getting quite late now. Even though the distances are so short, the roads and steep inclines mean that our average speed is somewhere about 45 kms per hour. But who is hurrying? Not us! Can't say the same thing for the locals who drive taking the most amazing risks on the mountain roads, overtaking on a whim and speeding into corners, at times narrowly missing collisions with us as they hurtle homewards! Yep, you need nerves of steel in this part of France.

Annecy is the capital of the Haute-Savoie department in the Rhône Alps region with a population close to 80,000. It is a busy regional city that surrounds the shore of the lake. The water seems to direct much of the life here and everywhere we look we see people enjoying the panoramic setting. They have the best of all worlds - the backdrop of the mountains of the Massif des Bauges ranges down to their settlements that sit nestled at their base, hugging the shore of the amazingly milky turquoise waters of the lake. We take the opportunity to stop at a larger supermarket and collect provisions for the rest of the week - lots of cheese included! They have such a delicious and affordable range on offer. And some delicious fruit. Michael manages to get figs for €3.95 per kg (that equates to less than $7 a kilo!). And a better range of meat than we can get locally. And veges. LOTS of veges!

As we leave Annecy we are considering if there is time in the balance of the week to come back and have a walk around. We'll see. Its now after 6 pm and the local population, home from work, have hurried to the parks around the waters edge where they can enjoy the sun for a few hours. We need to remind ourselves that for a large part of the year this area gets very short days, many of them snowed in, so we mustn't begrudge them their short but ever so pleasant summer! Local buses around here are driven by more females than males and a lot of them are surprisingly young. The first time I saw one I thought wow! but the more buses I see, the more women drivers I also see. I guess they are gentler on the buses and on the passengers!

We reach Les Choseaux just before 7 pm. Still light, warm and humid. Happy with all we have seen today and the experience of the mountains.

The changing colours of the day

Monday 29 June 2009

Gosh, not having access to the net is driving me crazy. Not only can I not publish the blog, we are trying to get in touch with Steph to let her know that we are heading closer to her and Felix and try to arrange a weekend with them somewhere.

This morning dawns bright and clear in true mountain style for this time of the year. As the early morning cloud burns away in the sunshine you can hear the melodious bells from the few cows that are still in the valley. Mike tells us that most of the cattle have already been moved to the summer pastures higher up the slopes.

I got up at 6:30 am and got a few amazing photos and then went back to bed, getting up again at 8:30 am for another couple of pics. Michael however slept until just after 10 am. We have planned a day of nothing! After the drive of yesterday, I am happy not to get anywhere near the car today! The sun on the patio is like a warm jumper just waiting to be put around your shoulders. Sarum beckons, and the sun. I will look like a bronzed Aussie in time for summer when we get back!Breakfast (ha ha, more like brunch!) is late and light – nothing heavy, nothing cooked. Muesli and fresh apricots and cherries. And a cup of peppermint tea.

The local population are busy with the construction and renovation of the local chalets. We even get to observe the Doppler affect up close. A couple of hundred metres away there are some workers putting a roof on a new chalet. We watch the hammer fall and hit the timber and a second or two later, we hear the knock on the wood – echoed against the hills. How cool! Oh, we think that we must make the local population honorary Aussies – all day they do the famous Australian salute – the flies and mozzies are thick. Guess the flies because of the cows, and the mozzies because it is moist and warm!

Mid afternoon I take the opportunity to put my feet up and my head down. Ahh the bliss of an afternoon nap – a yiayia nap! Michael heads in to Manigod to try to get some provisions for dinner. The only place he finds open is the tourist office and at least he is able to get some information on the local area including on the walks in the area. Manigod is one of four small villages in Le Massif des Aravis, les montagnes du lac d’Annecy. (The Aravis Mountains, the alps by Lake Annecy). The others are La Clusaz, Le Grand Bornand and Saint-Jean de Sixt. And from here, well, a little further around, you can even see Mont Blanc! So we will plan the week to take in at least one walk – albeit one of the easy ones. Michael can do one of the harder ones on his own!

The store is closed as per all the rest of France – but here it is until 4pm! We will go down to Thônes tomorrow for more provisions – especially some more vegetables. And although Thônes is only 10kms down the mountain, it will most probably take us most of the day to get there!
Exploring time coming up.

And still no net connection – forced rest (with a grimace).Stir fried veal for dinner tonight followed by toasted fresh bread and honey –yum. We have finished dinner and cleaned up (well Michael did) by 8:15 pm – the earliest in about 4 months!! And the night is starting to show its colours. The sky has gone from that pale blue at the end of the day, to one cloud streaked and pink tinged. Then we get the yellows and purples. And finally the blue deepens shade by shade and the half moon picks up the last rays of the sun, building to a pearl shine high above the peaks. And in the last light of the day, the vapour trails form the planes soaring kilometres above us have the final bit of light on the closing in night.

Martignac (1,322 ft) to Manigod (3,356 ft)

Sunday 28 June 2009

Today is a day for driving. No matter which route we take. The shortest route is 588 kms through Tulle, Ussel, Clermont-Ferrand, Saint Ettiene, the outskirts of Lyon, Chambery and Annecy on motorways nearly all the way. This route would take us 5:54 hours. But why do it the easy (read boring) way when you can opt for a longer day! So I use Kate to plan an itinerary that takes us through some amazing country and past some stunning sights. Our route now avoids the motorways and meanders through the French countryside through the provinces of Aquitaine, Auvergne and across to the eastern side of the Rhône Alps.

We travel a total of 1,083 kms through Lanobre, Issoire, Givors, Nances and Aix-de-Bain before reaching our final destination high in the French Alps at Manigod (near Thônes). This route takes us exactly 10 hours with a few quick stops. But what a trip – definitely an ‘Oh. Wow. Oh wow. Oh wow’ kind of day.

We had not long left Montignac heading east where we start to see the advertisements for McDonalds everywhere – it has been bliss not seeing this trashy stuff for so long. Many European towns and cities limit their advertising to billboards on the side of buildings and hoarding signage just the same size as any local retailer and quite a few of them say no to those garish illuminated signs that we in Australia can’t seem to resist. But as we get further east, there is a regression into the type of advertising that we more usually see at home – guess the pull of the tourist dollar is too much to resist. Anyway, enough of that crap.

We are up the earliest we have been for ages – the hotel normally serves breakfast on a Sunday from 8:30 am but we have arranged with them to leave ours out so we can eat at 6:30 am. We are on the road about 7:20 am with almost no other traffic. We get to Larche (the next town to Montignac) with the early morning sun bright and intense. Crossing the River Vézère, the view to the Mairie (council administration) is just a picture that begs to be taken. But we need to keep moving today, so we need to restrict most of our photography to photos taken from the moving car – thank God the Nikon is going OK!

Rural France is busy and productive at this time of the year. Crops are well growing, with lots of corn and sunflowers, carnations and roses, maize and millet. The hay has had a first cutting and huge rolled bales bask in the sun, slowly drying – some are netted, some strapped. As we get further east, the sunflowers are more mature and they follow us, turning their faces to keep warm. They are so cheerful and bright. And amidst this patchwork of greens and yellows, dotted with little bits of floral bright we see chateau after chateau after chateau. These are the equivalent of the English baronial castles. Some loudly dominate their landscape while others are more reserved, and quietly but with determination rule their vassal areas. Towns are centred around the Mairie and the local church (whose steeple can usually be seen for long distances). Streets are narrow without footpaths. Houses open their doors directly to the street. Town squares are large with the local restaurant / tabac / bar facing onto the shared area and occasionally men sitting, smoking and talking.

We are first heading for Lac de Bord les Orgues on which Château de Val sits. About now we are down to 20 litres of fuel and I am feeling that we need to make sure we have a fuller tank as we are travelling in very rural areas where on a Sunday, we might not find too many petrol stations open. So we pull in to a small one in Lanobre where Michael and the owner speak in smiles and hand gestures as they do not share a common language. Amazing how far ‘Bonjour’ and a smile will get you! No problem, we get our tank filled. And as Michael is paying, a small van screeches to a halt at the edge of the petrol station and the horn toots far louder than I thought possible. A lady gets out and opens the rear door and people in nearby houses come hurrying. Ah, it is the mobile Boulangerie / patisserie! This is a settlement that is spread out a little and I guess too far for most people to walk to get their daily bread. I am sure I have spoken about the French love affair with fresh crusty bread and as they do not add preservatives to their bread, you buy it at least once, often twice a day. These are small long loaves – not like the sweet, soft square, pre-cut loaves we get at home. Michael buys a half bagette that resembles an ear of wheat and two chocolate croissants (pain de chocolat) for our lunch later.

So we head for the lake, passing the locals waiting on the edge of the street for the boulangerie / patisserie to arrive! The road leaves the town and we drive down steep slopes through very heavily woods. And there, all of a sudden, off to our left, shining in the early morning light is the chateau. Now, as chateaux go, this one is no more or less stunning than many we have seen, BUT, the location with it sitting on a promontory into the lake, absolutely takes your breath away. This is a postcard place. Though by far the funniest thing we see here is the sign pointing to ‘La Plage’ – the beach, set out with paddle boats, kayaks and deck chairs – all in neat rows on the white sand – hundreds of miles from any coast!

Chateau seen, we retrace our route back through Lanobre and head again east. Continuing to alternate between open plains full of promising crops, or providing rich pickings for the multitude of cows herded into comparatively small paddocks and away from the precious winter hay. For a part of the day we are following the Tourist Cheese Route but it is a Sunday still early in the summer season and nothing is open. As the day lengthens the landscape is changing and we are coming into much more mountainous terrain up and down increasing slopes and round and round narrowing winding roads. We are now in timber country and every so often we see huge logs piled by the roadside awaiting collection. We also pass a number of timber mills – actually, passing them is the wrong expression – we seem to drive through the centre of a number of them!

We cross the Loire River, getting our first glimpse of the icy blue/green colour of the high mountain rivers and lakes – rich in oxygen carried in the snow melt. This area of the world is big on sports and today is no different. We have to detour around a number of events – the first a moto-cross race. We come across a staging point where the only part of the riders or bikes that resembles anything clean are the rider’s faces – and I am sure this is only because they are wearing full helmets. They are covered in mud, from the tip of their heads to the bottom of their wheels! Later, one of the competitors hurtles out of the woods on our right and dashes across the road to rejoin the competition path. It all happened so fast we might have imagined it!
And the cities of France are filled with flowers at the moment - in many places every street light post has a basket of flowers cascading in colour as well as baskets on bridges and public buildings - a real picture!

Later on, we are diverted on a very circuitous route through Aix-des-Bains as there is the equivalent of a marathon on, with racing cyclists additional to the multitudes of people enjoying the early summer sun on Lac de Bourget. Poor Kate struggles, busy re-planning the route each time I take a turn following the diversions. She does catch up – isn’t technology amazing. At times there are up to 14 satellites involved in calibrating our position, our destination and the route between the two. I have to laugh as occasionally we get a message that tells us “There is another route that is 8 minutes faster. Do you want to take it?” As if!!

We arrive at Chalet Bois Pic on Les Choseaux in Manigod exactly ten hours after we set out. Chris and Mike Woodcock welcome us warmly – with a son at Homebush Bay in Sydney they are no strangers to Aussies. We chat and Chris tells us of her skiing accident in March this year that has seen a couple of major operations on her leg with another to go in September and we relate our trip thus far over a rosé on the balcony of the chalet. Our snug little apartment is attached to the rear of the chalet with the most amazing view down the valley. It is one room with kitchenette and bathroom attached. The room opens on to a small sunny patio and inside there is a double sofa bed, double bunks, a table and chairs with a comfy chair, TV and Video player and a compact CD player. Cosy and comfy.

We went down to the village to the store for provisions and got pork, potatoes, carrots and zucchini for dinner which Michael cooks. I stand on the patio and watch the sun reluctantly slip behind the hills as the last rays cast their pink blush on the peaks of the across the valley. And higher on our slope, the first of the evening clouds, small and alone, drifts noiselessly towards the valley floor.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Moving on from Blaye

It is time to move on. The week at Villa St Simon with Les (the crazy South African) has been great, but we have been going non-stop almost all week. Neither of us slept very well - probably because we knew we had to get going earlier this morning. We had hoped to hit the road about 9 - ha ha ha, we got to breakfast after 8 and by the time we drove off it was nearly 10. But we did get Les to show us his current project - he is renovating another building across the street to make self catering units available. He hopes to have it ready to go for summer 2010.

Lesley and Rob (the newly graduated and the newly passed exam youngsters who are studying in Cardiff, Wales [she is Canadian, he German]) are leaving as well and as they have been there much of the week, the farewell is a little longer.
It really was great to have some more time with Les - you are an amazing host mon and few would leave Villa St Simon without agreeing with me.

So off we set. I have set Kate to avoid the motorways so we are seeing rural France right at the grass roots. And by doing it this way, it is easy to duck down a side road if something takes our eye - which we do a few times today. Mind you, we still encounter the trucks - we have not seen this many since we left Spain!
Rural France offers wonderful examples of architecture over the years and today we are treated as we have been over the last week (and to a lesser extent during our last visit). The most stunning example today is the Chateau Hautefort – we don’t have time to go find it, but from a distance it is amazing! We also make a quick detour to Chateau d'Excideuil now an art gallery - we have not seen many of these English style fortified castles so far.

We are still travelling towards Lascaux when we see signs to the Villars Grotte. As it is only 7 kms off our route, we go down for a look, but bugger, it is lunchtime and the information centre/ticket sales for the grotte won’t be open for another hour (it is now 1 pm), so after a quick toilet stop, we push on.

The worst thing about our next visit is that we can’t bring you any photos. Lascaux II – the site of Cro-Magnon cave paintings is just outside Montignac. Now, picture in your mind’s eye, every cave drawing you have ever seen in a book or on TV. Now, throw that puny little image with its stick figures out – cos the real thing ain’t nothing like that! At Lascaux there is the greatest concentration of cave paintings anywhere in Europe. When the cave man had returned from the hunt, gazelle draped over his well muscled shoulders, and dragged his woman by her hair to the fire pit to prepare it for him; he laid down his club and with his mates, went in to the cave to hang out, and to express his artistic flair.

The paintings are huge and prolific and detailed and complex. I guess there are a number of things that hit your senses when you first walk in – firstly the volume of paintings, second the size of the painted area and of the individual paintings and then later, much later, you realise that they are only high on the walls and on the ceiling of the cave.

Our guide, a Frenchman speaking a heavily American accented English, gives us a wonderful insight into the world of these painters. As the colours they used are minerals, which you cannot date evidently, no one can be certain as to the age of the paintings. BUT they have dated candle holders and wicks, remnants of scaffolding, brush twigs and carved bones from the cave to 15,000 BC. (So this makes this cave the oldest evidence of human activity we have seen to date – only by 10,000 years!) The cave was discovered in the 1940s by a local teenager searching for his dog who fell down a hole. So for 14,956 years, the caves were undisturbed.

When the site was explored, they found more than 400 rocks that had been worn into candle holders, some still containing the rendered fat set with juniper wicks (juniper is one of the few timbers that burns without producing any smoke). They also found remnants of a scaffolding system. Cro-Magnon man was as tall as we are, but these paintings are out of the reach of anyone standing on the ground. They used five colours black (manganese dioxide), red (iron ore) yellow and brown (ochre) and white (clay). There are remains of ground powders, styli and stumps of ores. There was also a small amount of colour stained moss, indicating that they used a variety of techniques including sponging, outlining, spitting the mixed colour from their mouths as well as drawing.

And so to the paintings. They are all of single or grouped animals – cows, bison, horses, a variety of deer, one human figure and some felines. They are unbelievably realistic with depth and perspective being demonstrated by using the contours of the rocks and varying levels of darkness in the colours. They are life-like. When you look at the paintings, there is no way you can mistake what the subject is. Some are fully coloured, others partly, some are outlines with markings. There are repeated borders of horses or ponies, there is a bull (notable by having genitalia provided) with a number of cows. There are horses standing, nostrils flared, and others walking, trotting or at full gallop. There are deer with intricate (and slightly exaggerated) antlers. This is the veritable Sistine Chapel of cave paintings – figuratively and quite literally.

All in all we see more than 200 figures. Some are painted within other figures, others in front of or behind other paintings, and others standing lone and proud. The largest bison in the Bull Cave measures 8½ feet long from nosed to tail (that is almost 3 metres) and the largest cow is just 8 feet. The smallest pony is about 2 foot square. And they are all perfectly proportioned. See what I mean about throwing away old and erroneous thoughts. There is absolutely nothing small or insignificant about these works of art. And all of this was done by candle light! There is even one horse whose front is on a back wall and the rear is on the wall in front of it, separated by a cave tunnel!

There are also an abundance of symbols that no one has been able to decipher. Some are found at the beginning of a painted area, others at the end and some in all three areas. So much for the grunt!

In order to preserve the paintings, you do not go in to the actual cave, but rather an exact replica of it, contour for contour, bump for bump, rocky outcrop for rocky outcrop. And the paintings we see are exact replicas made using the same pigments and techniques. From the time of the discovery until they were permanently closed in the 1980s, a number of fungal diseases transported on the shoes or persons of visitors have attacked the real paintings. So, they survived for almost 15,000 years in pristine condition and when modern man bowled on in, came in his hordes and then arrogantly fitted air-conditioning, the paintings gave up their beauty to black spot and white spot diseases. Microbiologists are trying to cure them – particularly the white spot as presently the only way to remove it is to scrape it which also takes off the paint. There is a small museum attached with some of the artefacts found and a good explanation of the geology and the life of Cro-Magnon man as well as impressions of how they think that the paintings were done based on the items found.

It was a humbling and totally enlightening visit.

Dinner tonight at Hotel La Lascaux is amazing. They specialise in using regional produce and the results really show this to perfection. We eat at 7:30 pm (hey, it is now 10:40 pm and I just realise it is fully dark - amazing how much longer it stays light on the coast) as follows:
Foie gras de canard entier au naturel fait maison (Homemade duck foie gras natural) Michael
Coustillant de chevre chaud sur tomates confit (In wafer goat cheese with hot tomato confit) Maria
Cuisse de canard confite, pommes de terre salardaise (Leg of duck confit, potatoes and salad) Michael
Fillet mignon de porc au fair caramelise a sauce soja (Fillet mignon of pork with a caramelized soy sauce) Maria
Glaces Indochine et Framboises (Indochina [lychee, jasmine, mango, strawberry] and Raspberry sorbet) Michael
Creme brulee (no need to explain!) Maria

The food is f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s! Heaven help the french chef we might find who cannot match the wonderful food we are having!!!