From :

Wagon. A cranky contary female / an ugly female. She\'s some wagon eh?

wagon. wagon - an awful woman. than one is such a wagon!

wagon. a woman thats a bitch. dat ones a right wagon.

Wagon. A cantankerous old woman.. Yer wan's some wagon, I asked her could I feed the seagulls and she lifted me out of it!

wagon. car or other mode of transport. i'll drive my waggon.

Wanderly Wagon. A much loved Irish children's TV program which ran from 1968 to 1982

Friday, 30 December 2011


Fionn had a complete meltdown tonight. I took him for his usual evening walk, a little curtailed to be sure bit still 3/4 of an hour brisk walking on a long lead, then took off to Rod 'n Gilla's for dinner with Roxy.

Came home to absolute chaos. Everything he  could reach had been trashed. Logs for the fire, all the plastic bags/cling film, the Christmas cake+plate, night lights, the floor was covered. Well he got thoroughly reprimanded, but I have made mental note to self, not to leave him on his own for extended periods, he is used to being in Bonnie's company when not out for walks, and being alone obviously doesn't suit him, of course.

OK I'm feeling guilty for pushing him too far, so from now on he goes everywhere with me I can take him, but did he have to trash the house to make himself heard.....I guess he did.


Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Full Story from Wagons part Deux

Weds 28th:
The crossing itself was fairly average – it got fairly rough once we left the shelter of the Irish Sea and entered the Channel where the currents wash in from the Atlantic.  However, we had the good sense to take our Stugeron tabs and eat early.  The shared bottle of wine on top of the Stugeron may not have been so sensible, though, as we both conked out in our cabin for three hours and missed the 7pm visiting slot with the dogs.  We had to wait until 10pm, but they seemed none the worse for our neglect, and steadfastly refused to pee.  There was way less pitch and roll down on the dog deck, so hopefully they were less bothered by it all than we are.
There was a very elderly beagle in the kennels too, who was quite distressed every time we visited – howling and panting heavily.  Every time I saw her, I counted our blessings that we did not bring Molly and silently thanked Granny again for offering to take her.

France Ahoy!
In the morning, we had entered calmer waters closer to the French shore, so we were not rolling around like drunken sailors as we went to visit the dogs.   This time Cookie finally pee’d, but Cinnamon continued to hold out.
We docked exactly on schedule and drove off the ferry at just about 11.20 French time, stopped on the way out of the Port to let the dogs relieve themselves and boy did Cinny find relief!  I thought she’d never stop!
Entering Cherbourg Harbour
The drive to Tours was very straightforward, traffic was not heavy and the roads are well sign-posted.  The biggest issue we’ve had has been with the new Road Atlas of France that we bought on the ferry – we discovered that it’s missing pages 115 – 129, which unfortunately includes the area around Tours where we are staying.  We’ll just have to rely on Nigel the SatNav to go us back on the Autoroute tomorrow, although I do prefer to have a map as well.
We’re staying in a gorgeous Hotel, chosen at random out of Anne’s very ancient and well-thumbed Logis Catalogue.  It’s called Le Moulin Fleuri, they’ve been very friendly and welcoming and the dinner menu looks amazing! Now to find out if they have WiFi….
Thurs 29th:
Unfortunately the answer to that WiFi questions was "sorry, no Madame," so there are two posts for the price of one today!

Massive fireplace in the dining room
The staff were really friendly and totally welcomed our hyper-terriers into the dining room.  They spent the duration of the meal staring out at everyone else from under our table – they were both tied to our chairs, of course, otherwise Cookie would have been swinging from the chandeliers!
Cookie trying to be good.
Well, part of her is still in bed!
Both the head chef and the head waiter have excellent English - head chef Michael Chaplin spent two years in Dromoland Castle, three miles from where I grew up!  As Anne mentioned, the hotel menu was fantastic…

George's lamb shanks
My duck main course

George went for the full four course option  (starter, fish course, meat course plus dessert) while I stuck to a more lady-like three courses – starter, meat course, and cheese.

The very impressive cheese board!
By the time we had finished our meal, we were fit for nothing more than collapsing into bed, with the intention of getting up and on the road early next morning.
A small oversight delayed us a little, though - we omitted to mention that we'd like to check out early, and the hotel was still unstaffed at 8am!  This gave me a chance to take some nice atmospheric photos of the hotel exterior, though :
The Mill pond at the rear of the hotel
The Mill race at the side of the hotel
A very nice lady turned up at about 8.20 - she had been delayed by icy roads - so we got going only thirty minutes late.
I have to say that the Hotel Moulin Fleuri was so nice that we are wondering can we manage to squeeze in a night there on our way home!  Le Big Trek as currently planned avoids Tours, but a small diversion might be possible!
The drive could not have gone better, we stopped every two hours to let the dogs out and swap driver and we got to Cereste in exactly ten and a half hours.  We drove through some beautiful countryside, especially around the Auvergne area, and the pass through the Monts du Forez.  I'd especially like to go back and spend some time in the latter area, as it seems fairly un-touristy - I found this site with nice photos of the area.
Anne very kindly whipped up some dinner for us when we arrived - braised guinea fowl with turnip and enormous sausages, plus local pates as a starter.  I had barely finished my meal when my eyes started to close.....

Slight Delay

The Greenlee Wanderly wagon + long suffering husband were delayed leaving Veigné this morning as they hadn't told the proprietors that they were leaving early, so the jeep and trailer were locked up in the hotel car park !

While we continue to live the La Vie Provençal
Roti d'agneau
This morning I spotted this little group walking up Cereste High Street

They were heading for the water fountain which unfortunately is empty in the winter and only recycled water in the summer. They were doing a circuit of the area, one pack horse one walker and one rider. Building up to a tour of France in the summer. The horses were wearing easyboots and they were very pleased with them, although they have lost them from time to time. I wish I'd had more time to talk to them but Polly is leaving today so we had to press on.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Wagons Deux lands

George and Martine, and the dogs arrived at Cherbourg this morning and have have now checked into their hotel near Tours, which is fantastic apparently, with a great menu and an amazing wine list, but no WIFI, so I am posting this for them!

"Plain sailing so far, dogs are being brilliant, refused to wee on boat just like fionn!! Biggest issue is new road atlas of France is missing 20 pages - including Tours where we stopped! Hotel le moulin fleuri is rustic but gorgeous, v friendly, welcoming to dogs, fab menu & massive wine list! Ahhhh. Have some pics to post too when I have Internet. Think I will photograph menu too just for Anne! We could be quite close to here on trek..."

So the other half of the Wanderly's is fine, hopefully will see them here late tomorrow, if they don't invest too heavily in the wine list tonight.

Looking forward to our first hack here in Provence.

My daughter leaves for Cork tomorrow, so we're off to Marseille airport after breakfast, she has a gig in Castlebar on Friday supporting the Fureys.

So yet more comings and goings !

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

More Wagons on the Way

With a houseful for Christmas, it was essential that we have as much packing as possible done on Christmas Eve.  So first of all, senior management had to affix the roof box :

It’s a long time since either of these guys could be called an engineer, but they seem to have done a reasonable job – hopefully it’ll still be attached when we get to Cereste!.

Then we loaded the jeep with everything bar ourselves, the dogs and our overnight bags, hitched up the trailer and left it parked beside the house for the duration of Christmas and St Stephen’s Day. 

It’s essential that we have space in the jeep for Anne and her gear, and similarly we can’t fill up the trailer, because it’s going to be full of horse on the way home.   I think we’ve done a good job, though, and it'll work out ok in April.

Cinnamon was occupying Anne’s space on the way to Rosslare, but I’m sure some sort of human/dog stacking arrangement can be made when necessary.

We had a lovely time over “the holidays” with extended family.  There was a big gang there to wave us off as we left apart from poor Granny Murphy, who is laid low with a bad cold.  Hope she gets well soon!

The journey to Rosslare went really smoothly, Cinny slept all the time except whenever we slowed down!  Cookie was in the dog crate because we didn’t fancy having her ricocheting around the car the whole way, and she also stayed asleep most of the way.  We had a brief stop to say hello/goodbye to the other Granny, who was pleased to see us and wished us well on our journey.

We arrived in Rosslare with plenty of time to dose ourselves with Stugeron and dose the dogs with Kalm-aid.  Then we settled them into their cage and um.... abandoned them.... we felt like the worst dog-parents ever....


Good news is that, thanks to my brother & sister, the onions are planted!  Hopefully they’ll be as successful as this year’s crop :

Note to self : grow smaller onions

So that’s just the unplanted broad beans to fell guilty about, then.

Here's hoping the rest of the journey goes as smoothly!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

New Things

The wind really got up here yesterday, the infamous Mistral, the horses weren't at all happy and were fractious when being fed, it was freezing with a big windchill factor. So I decided to leave their rugs on for the day. The temperature had gone from 16 degrees C on Friday to 3 degrees yesterday. I went up to see them again in the evening and gave them some baguette, Flurry was not impressed !

Flurry after baguette

Last night some of us decided to go to mass at 10pm, so of course Roxy came too, which didn't cause any where near as much fuss as the supermarket! And she found the pew in front of us was a great place to rest her head.

It was a lovely service with lots of children there, who carried the baby Jesus down to the crib

There was also a frenchman dressed as a shepherd, who sang a magnificent solo, I need to find out what the significance of the shepherd is in Provence, although I'm guessing it's the obvious. This is sheep country! When we came home Rod and Gilla had prepared 13 desserts, which is another local tradition, to be eaten after midight. The end to a lovely day.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Good Feet

No pictures today I'm afraid , just a quick update. Finally got a chance to check the horses feet and they are both in great nick. The dry weather seems to have toughened them both up a lot, and the sponginess has gone out of Gigi's feet completely. Flurry was already in better condition, and his feet are really hard now.

Fani needs to move them up out of the valley as they will poach the ground up once it gets a bit wetter, but it is difficult to find a good area, on the hillside amongst the trees is good for the ground, but not for horses with rugs on, so she said she will thing again about a good place to move them too.

Fani is going away for a few days so Christmas Lunch has had to be moved out to allow for rug changing, thanks to the cousins for being so accommodating !

Little Old Ladies

The trip is nearly upon us now, and I've been quite worried about two little old ladies.  This is one of them :

Jeepy will be 16 years old next year, with a little over 200,000km on the clock.  We’ve just had the timing belt replaced but there’s been something happening in the front left corner which causes it to creak and groan ominously.  She’s just back from the mechanic, minus the creak and with a new ball-joint in the front left, so hopefully she is fit to travel!

This is the other, and more worrying, little old lady.

Molly is fourteen years old and has aged noticeably in the last six months.  I’ve been worrying more and more about how she will cope with the ferry crossing, as she will have to go into a “kennel” in the hold – basically a cage, really.  If it’s anyway rough or cold I’m worried she will suffer needlessly. 

What are the options?  She can’t stay at home, Tansy's hours are erratic, to say the least.  Denis can’t take her, his apartment complex doesn’t allow pets.   Aideen can’t take her for the same reason.   Asking someone to call to our house at least once every single day for four months is a huge imposition, and I'm not comfortable doing it.  There is no way I will have her put to sleep just because we are going away, she is too well in herself at the moment to do that to her.  I had resigned myself to the fact that she would just have to endure the journey and that we would bring a comfy bed and old sleeping bag to try to keep her warm on the ferry. 

Last week, out of the blue, this little old lady came to the rescue!

My mum was having the same concerns and worries about Molly and spoke to me about it.  To make a long phone call short, she will take Molly home with her after Christmas and they will look after each other until we’re back.  My mother's biggest concern about taking her is whether she will be able to get in and out of the car by herself, as Mum is very arthitic and definitely won't be able to help her.  At the moment, Molly is learning how to use a ramp to get over this problem!

I am so relieved about this.  I will be heart-broken saying goodbye to Molly on Dec 27th, as I know there is a fair chance I won’t see her again, but this is the best solution for her.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Feeding Time

Went up to check and feed the horses this morning and they were all fine, getting on very well with the new comer.
Flurry getting excited about breakfast
Gigi just tucked in
Tomorrow I should have a bit more time to pamper them, wash their feet , and clean them, and brush out the tangles in the tails, but today I have to drive to Marseille to get my brother.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

It's all about the horses

Called up to the horses this morning and they were in great form, munching away on a mixture of hay and lucerne, and rugless. Fani has been taking their rugs off every morning and putting them back on in the evening, with beautiful sunny days they seem to be fine, so if Martine is OK with this I will keep to this routine.

Gigi's tail got a bit damaged somewhere along the way but I was expecting that, she loves to rub it !

While I was there Fani asked if I would mind another mare going in with our two, they all arrived at the same time and have been in adjacent paddocks, mutually grooming over the wire, so we put them together and everything was fine. Flurry had a bit of a canter and didn't seem tender footed at all, ditto Gigi but she did seem a bit stiff, but not too bad. Then Fani took a few people out on a hack and Gigi was very interested in that !

Roxy met Shrek, the local hound, and they played around for a bit until Roxy discovered the horse droppings and started tucking in !

It was great to see the horses so settled, the ground in the paddock has some top surface of mud on it, but it is probably a bit hard for them, but they seemed OK. I'll go up this evening and rug them up

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Enfin the Luberon

A much easier trip today although we had much further to go. Breakfast in the hotel and then loaded the dogs into the car, more yellow pills for Fionn, and off we went, with Polly driving and me navigating. At least the rain had stopped and there was even a bit of sunshine.
Burgundy in the snow
We had only been driving a couple of hours when we saw our first snow and very pretty it was too, and thankfully none on the roads! A few hours later and we came to the junction where the horses had exited the A7 to be collected my Nathalie.

Macon Turn off
Getting close to Avignon and we came up behind a small horse lorry that looked remarkably like Nathalie's, so I overtook it and peered into the cabin...did I recognize Nathalie from the photos David had sent us of them being unloaded? So I phoned her
"Are you on the A7 close to Avignon ?"
"I think I'm in front of you"
Lots of hilarious laughter, what an amazing coincidence...hang on a mo
"What's your registration?"

Well it wasn't Nathalie, but she had overtaken this lorry a short while ago, and was ahead of us, but we had to turn off at Avignon so never caught up with her.

So we turned off at the Avignon exit and were soon in Cereste, unloaded the car then dinner at my cousins' house and fell into bed.

Will head over to see the horses first thing in the morning, it's great to be here, and I can't wait for Martine to arrive so we can start working the horses.

South of Paris

We were delayed getting off the ferry as there was a car blocking the ramp, so left  the port at about 14:30 and headed for the first available grassy patch where Fionn finally let go and the hot air balloon deflated! More little yellow pills and we were on our way again, with Fionn gazing happily out the back window and Roxy dozing quietly.

What a drive , it rained heavily all the way from Cherbourg to the south of Paris ( Martine you were so right, take the Le Mans route!), on the outskirts of Paris we hit really heavy traffic, and in the dark with the heavy trucks driving was a nightmare, but thanks to Karen (the satnav) we made it to the hotel safely but very late at 9:20.

Earlier at around 5pm I had phoned the hotel to say we would be arriving late, "Madame Renshaw? we have no reservation for you".  Well I had the proof of the reservation with me, and fortunately they had a spare room. As the restaurant closed at 9:30 we dived straight in placed our orders and then sorted out the dogs.

Collapsed into bed around 11:30, with 2 very settled dogs both glad to be together again after the separation on the ferry.

I love French hotels they didn't even bat an eyelid at Fionn charging through reception on his way to his early morning stroll, took this lovely pic of the hotel, wow I thought , I hadn't realised it was so big.

Came around the corner and

As anyone will tell you I have a lousy sense of direction, the first picture is of course an office block! How will I ever navigate my horse back across France ? I'll have Martine!

Hoping to make Cereste today, should be about an 8 hour drive but after yesterday I'm not counting my chickens. More tomorrow

Monday, 19 December 2011

Somewhere between Rosslare and Cherbourg

Mmm that's interesting my computer is talking to me in some eastern european language, and I'm under time pressure , €5 for 30 minutes and it has to be continuous.
The view coming into Rosslare

The drive down went very smoothly and I got the news that the horses had arrived in Cereste while we were in the queue for the ferry which lighten my mood enormously and allowed me to enjoy a lovely dinner on the ship, with a couple of glasses of wine.

The ferry is lovely , and the dog accommodation is OK too, nice thick rubber mats in the kennels, visiting hours are very frequent and only one dog owner is allowed on the kennel deck at any one time, which makes handling Fionn very easy. He isn't great with strange dogs. But all he wants to do is get back to his car, he must have a bladder the size of an air balloon, because despite several visits to him he still refuses to pee. Roxy however is using the facilities without a problem Thank goodness for guide dog training !

It is an incredibly calm crossing which is just as well as I forgot the seasickness pills! So calm in fact that there are horses on the lorry deck, in their truck of course.

We dock in 3 hours time and hope to make it south of Paris this evening.

Can't work out how to upload the photos in this eastern European language, but will try later.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

An Arrival and a Departure

The horses have arrived safely at La Florentine in Céreste!

Huge, huge thanks to Paddy, the driver from George Mullins Transport, and Nathalie from Chevaux Express, who were both incredibly understanding about the two neurotic ould wagons who needed regular updates throughout the horses' two and a half day journey!

They left Dover at about midnight on Saturday, and hit the road in Calais at about 3am.  The journey time was expertly gauged by Paddy, and Nathalie was waiting for him at Mâcon.  She let Anne know as soon as she had the horses loaded and we both heaved a sigh of relief - we had each been running through all the possible disaster scenarios that could have caused the handover to go wrong.

Here they are arriving at La Florentine.  Photos are courtesy of David Regan, who very kindly went out and photographed their arrival for us.

Hello! Or should that be Bonjour?
GiGi looks on...
...while Flurry is unloaded

Then GiGi follows

Nice n steady...

Tied up to get their rugs on

That's Shrek the dog in the background

Hey, what's this?  I don't think this is my rug!
I'm guessing that Fani decided that the thicker rug was for the horse with evidence of a clip - a reasonable assumption!  They quickly spotted their mistake when they tried to squeeze GiGi into Flurry's rug!

Meanwhile, throughout all this, Anne was packing, leaving and being contact point for both drivers.  Me?  Um, I was heading to Thomond Park for a Heineken cup match - Munster v Llanelli Scarlets (Munster won - woohoo!)  
Polly drove all the way to Rosslare so that Anne was available for phone calls if necessary, but as far as I know, her interpreting skills weren't required.  Fionn, the neurotic traveller, dozed happily all the way, thanks to little yellow tablets.  

The last report I received was that Fionn was installed in the kennels, the forecast was for calm seas, Anne was totally chilled and herself and Polly were heading for dinner in the restaurant.  The only bad news was that the on-board wifi was down, which is why I'm doing this post.  

Looking forward to hearing from her tomorrow!