Place de l'église, Champagny-sous-Uxelles, Southern Burgundy, France.

Events : Visitors : Family & Travels

OR (with apologies to a certain well known author) 

A year in Southern Burgundy

As always we try to list the visitors to us as well as our own travels during the past year. We also note other village related events especially when we have pictures to put on view. 

Our own travels continued to be restricted during 2018 for various reasons.


A view of South East England.


Having not visited mainland UK for some 18 months, as we emerged from the foggy Dover Straights on a May afternoon to encounter huge volumes of traffic and trucks backed up for miles along the motorway, we assumed that this was due to the weather. Of course the south east of England is densely populated, apparently this level of congestion is now normal by day and night. It has much to do with housing location and the daily commute to work, usually by car, because public transport in England is expensive and pretty poor. There were severe problems on the British railway system, brought on by bad management attempting to squeeze more trains onto old Victorian infrastructure. The state of some of the roads is legendary. However, to be fair, work was being carried out on many of them, but this itself was contributing to the traffic chaos.


We have long been critical of British infrastructure, building new runways and high speed trains will not resolve the core problems with transport, communications and all the other services, policing, education, health and social care which have been ignored by successive governments. Everything has been staved of cash since the austerities imposed in 2008, and it really shows now!


We keep abreast of most things British through family, friends and television, but its not until you actually visit that you get a feeling about the state of a country. To us, visiting the UK has always like time warp, perhaps being away for longer than usual, this year we were even more aware of something we can only describe as “an atmosphere” a population ill at ease with itself and its leaders. Its easy to see how influential people can promote their beliefs with a chunk of money and a red bus!


As we start to update our web pages its December 2018 and Prime Minister May is trying to push her deal with the EU through Parliament. Inevitably, its a compromise which pleases no one. If approved, which looks unlikely, it will probably be the least damaging option for the British economy but even some politicians are finally realising that the “best possible deal”between the UK and EU is the one they intend to consign to the shredder in March 2019. Just as we predicted its a complete mess and embarrassing to be British. Surely we will be revising this note before long!


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The Findlays; Rob, Jacob, Fiona and Pamela.

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Jacob is into dinosaures so we spent a couple of days in the Jura area together. Dinosaure footprints in the mountains!

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September in Italy:

We drove down to Assisi to join a group which was organised from the UK. So we were able to park the car and see the sights of Assisi and Sienna (picture above) by bus. Still a lot of walking but worth it. As our drive south took us close to Milan for overnight stops, we were able to spend an evening with Liz and Paolo and visit the 'Museo Storico Alfa Romeo'

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Family visitors were Babsi and Jason with the boys were with us ocer Christmas 2017 while Pamela, Rob,  Fiona and Jacob stayed with us in August.


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Jason, Sebastien, Eliot and Babsi enjoy a Christmas- Eve session in the Hot Tub.


Its not easy thinking green!!!!!!!!!!!

If it were not for the UK government and the British media being so embroiled in negotiations with the EU, infrastructure and the environment would be further up the political agenda. For the rest of the world environmental matters were on everyone's mind in 2018. 

Travelling around Europe we can all find areas, not necessarily in the cities, of bad pollution. Our VW Tiguan was still a good car but we felt let down by the manufactures over the emission cheating scandal and this prompted us to consider replacing it earlier than we normally would. We are fortunate in being able to make such choices while many people have to accept the costs and restrictions of running older vehicles.

We are told that the future is electric. It may be, but the technology is not quite there while cost and range is still an issue for us. Electric vehicles need to carry an array of cables to cope with the variety different charging points across Europe and one must be aware of different ways of paying for your electricity. With luck you could use your bank or credit card otherwise you will be obliged to buy a charge point card from the local town hall or tourist office so its essential to plan your arrival during opening hours!


It is becoming increasingly possible to do long trips with electric cars but you usually have to plan extra stops, which would offset any fuel cost savings. However, if we were in a position to run a second car, we would surely consider a small electric one for local trips, but our one and only vehicle has to cope with thousand-plus kilometre trips across Europe as well as visits to the local baker or chemist.


The technology exists for cleaner diesel engines but “dieselgate” has put paid to further developments with governments announcing future bans on combustion engines and imposing higher taxes carbon fuels. Ironically the demise of the diesel engine has sent car buyers scurrying back to petrol but only five years ago most governments were promoting diesel because of its lower emissions. In the UK it is suggested that a return to petrol and problems with public transport have contributed to increased CO2 levels in several major cities while in France “environmental fuel taxes” are causing political unrest.


Environmentalists blame firstly cars then industry for pollution. There is surely pressure to clean-up industry but car owners get all the bad press. We should talk about vehicles in general when most of the transportation industry, land, air and sea, is reliant on carbon based fuels. We all want food and goods in the shops and have to travel for work, or perhaps for little pleasure or holiday trip so we are ALL responsable. In France we all try to buy local seasonal produce. Its diferent in the UK which expects foods to be shiped in all year round.


We are now being told that we will no longer need to buy our own cars and that electric robot cars will be at our disposal in every town and village! Really? Just can’t see this working in rural France.

We should consider the whole life impact of our vehicles, from manufacture to final disposal and of course how the electricity they use is generated and stored impacts this whole life cost. The hiybrid vehicle begins to fail here and the pure electric cars may not be as pollution free as we think. For example, dose the full environmental impact of wind farms really make sense and why have governments stopped promoting solar energy?

Our July 1 party 2018

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Now we have another environmental hazard. The poor old cow. To put it mildly cows burp too much! Apparently we must give up eating beef or preferably become vegan. As a family we have never been big meat eaters and have often wondered why we need animals to convert grass and things we can’t eat into the proteins we can enjoy. Surely this process could be done in a factory with a roof full of solar panels and the fields could be converted into wind farms!

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Heidi and John Holland stayed with us while touring France in their VW Camper. Our winter logs arrived so thanks for helping stack them. We will soon be prevented from burning wood for heating anyway!



So for now at least, like other motorists, we were being led back to petrol engines when we explored the car market earlier this year, only to be thwarted by the French tax system and the threats of higher fuel costs.

Diesel comes out top.


Alfa Romeo had been developing the Stelvio which finally hit the European marked late in 2016. Much research and a spread-sheet or two convinced us that the Alfa was a real contender as a SUV in its diesel form. In the performance mode its 0 to 100kph is only a fraction slower than our much loved old petrol Alfa 156 GTA. 

We enjoyed our 2000km round trip to Italy in September in comfort and economy 5.8ltr/100km (49 mpg). This performance is attributed to lightweight construction and a modern diesel motor. The plus point was that the Alfa Romeo assembly plant at Cassino is also one of the most modern eco-friendly plants in Europe. 


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  Alfa Romeo Stelvio (in right colour)