Spain 2016

It was a birthday celebration for Leila and her mother, so they rented a castle in Spain, as one would, and invited some friends. Yes, we accepted.

The drive through the Pyrenees was spectacular.


GPS presented some challenges for each new arrival. The road to the Castell de Llaes is evidently regarded as unpaved. It’s on a hill, of course, and here is our first view.

Castell de Llaes

It’s a rather steep approach. Ingrid is already uphill from the parking space and up the first switchback. Don and Mary have the last switchback ahead.

Ingrid approach

Fortunately, we didn’t have to carry our bags thanks to Leila who was running the gondola.


We spent lots of time cooking, eating, and drinking. Here is part of the crew having aperitifs on the terrace. Mary, Jane, Leila, Richard, Ingrid, Brian, Tony, Roger, Glenys . . .

aperosand Don


Tony:Jane:shrimpJane's tartes

Tony and Jane preparing shrimp.

And then Jane made tarts.


Peruvian friends arrived and cooked an amazing Peruvian lunch

Peruvian lunch

Eventually, we ventured out to see the sights

the devil

wine shop and replenish supplies at our favorite wine shop. An exceptional Rioja at 1.60 euros per liter. Bring your own container. We do wish they had a branch in Sebastopol!

marketfruits and vegetables


some fish

after market

Lunch, shopping, sight-seeing and we are heading back to the castle

in time for dinner.

Our host joined us


Richard Henrik

Richard appeared pleased when his girlfriend arrived.

But apparently Henrik didn’t like their matching shirts. He was usually more cheerful.

Evenings found us watching the weather with Richard taking fabulous sky photos.


I hope the birthday girls had as good a time as we did.


Glenys:TonyThanks Leila. I wish we could add the soundtrack of Caroline singing in the chapel and the tinkle of the sheep bells.

Escallonia, part 1

The pool was installed before we bought the house. There was an enormous hedge of escallonia on two sides, for privacy and a windbreak, presumably.

Aging Escallonia

The prior owners pruned the escallonia by laying plywood on top of the 12 foot high hedge and pruning side to side and back and forth over its 50 foot length. Do not try this at home. Recently (circa 2013) sections of escallonia were dying. We declared it unsalvageable and, with help from Graton day laborers and a friend, removal started, roots were dug out, wood was chipped and earth re-leveled.

hedge removal

The hedge had been so thick that we didn’t know there was a wooden fence in the middle (nor corrugated plastic under the roots). The oldest plants were closest to the pool and branches had layered to form a second row on the other side of the fence. We decided to save the newer section. It didn’t look too promising, but perhaps it would be faster than establishing new plants.

half a hedge, or less

We covered the bare earth with rice straw for the winter while we thought about landscaping. The poles are potential Italian cypress.

pool with poles

Along with the vertical spikes of Italian cypress, we decided that balls were a theme: balls of boxwood, mounds of euphorbia characias, tufts of festuca, clumps of sedum ‘autumn joy’, and a sculptural sphere.


It all came together when the rocks were added, but that story is told in another post. The escallonia is healthy again. The euphorbia are the stars of spring, the boxwood structures summer and winter, the sedums brighten autumn. . .

Aerial of spheres

and we are content with the rhythm of the four seasons.

France 2016

We took the overnight ferry from Plymouth England to Roscoff France then a taxi from the port to the train station. Surprise! The train station was locked. It was a small station and only opened when a train was expected. So we walked around and waited and read the notices on the doors including the one that said in effect: Due to the train strike, the only service today will be an afternoon train. Ouch! We would miss our connection to Paris. I had already chatted with a British couple from the ferry who were taking a walk around Roscoff. They were returning to their car and I asked “Would you be going to Morlaix?” Response: “Could do.” They squeezed us and our big bags into the car and delivered us to Morlaix where we caught our connection. Relying on the generosity of strangers often works.

It was a rainy week without good photographs. This one looks bright:

Parisian chickens

We stayed at La Villa des Artistes in Montparnasse, eating at Wadja across the street, wandering into a Celtic street festival, strolling through the Luxembourg gardens and the Jardin des Plantes, the Tuileries, the Pantheon to see Foucault’s pendulum and the tombs of the great thinkers, the Bois de Boulogne and Frank Gehry’s new building . . .

Gehry's Vuitton

The train took us to Cahors and a rental car, then to stay with our friend Ann.


Puy l’Eveque was looking charming in spite of gray weather.

Puy l'Eveque


A pleasant week in the Lot then on to Biarritz during a roaring 20’s festival, and Bayonne, Hendaye, Espelette



Next stop will be Spain.