Photos of our first trip to UK and Europe 1970

Amanda was 2 yrs old when We spent a year in London on Calvins Exchange. I purchased a large old floor loom within a week of arriving and managed to continue my interest in textiles, weaving woolen fabrics, designing and making ponchos which were sold to University Students in Cambridge. Floor rugs, double corduroy , flat weave, tweeds and Curtains.

We purchased a campervan very quickly and travelled throughout UK and Europe during the school holidays.

We were also fortunate to be invited to a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace and as well to a small reception at Lancaster House to meet and chat with Princess Margaret


A fantastic year

Amanda’s third birthday in Austria
On board the Ellinis

Our trusty campervan
Kings Court where we lived overlooking Kelsey Park in Beckenham London
Former photo Christmas Day 1970
This photo in Rome , my skirt to short for the Vatican

Helping NZ economy

See your own country, buy local. So here we are staying at Russell in the Bay of Islands , enjoying the comfort of a lovely suite at the historic Duke of Marlborough Hotel

The Old Store and buildings at Ker Keri Inlet
Wonderful Lichen fence at Waimate North
Waimate North Mission House beside the Church
Whangārei Basin on the way North. Our usual stop for lunch

Of course it had already gone home to all school children to their parents . It wouldn’t worry me but I have to put up with scandalous comments on past and present National Party people .

There is good in all parties for goodness sake


We can never forget, gone in the earthquakes , this is a very early photo before 1956. To the right the Stables, grooms quarters and the cottage .

Photo taken from the croquet lawn

Wet Monday morning after lockdown

A bit of bling to cheer us up . French market linen trousers and a cheap French Camayeu cotton top . Thinking of France as I would normally at this time of the year . Getting excited , now gettingng/ excited about visiting Raglan🤣

Mother’s Day 2020

Social distancing observed

Mother 1911
Guess who came for a long lunch, down in our other apartment ?! Who was a lucky mummy ?

Our first drinks session during Covid 19 lockdown with our lovely neighbours across the foyer Raewyn and Tony . We commiserated with one another on our usual travel plans for winter being suspended this year. Raewyn and Tony usually on their yacht in the Mediterranean , and we enjoying Europe , mainly our special village Mirabel aux Baronies in Provence France . Social distancing was observed .

Morning walks during Covid 19 Lockdown

We are so lucky living in Springcombe Rd St Heliers. Our apartment overlooks the Auckland Harbour and takes in a full view from the Harbour Bridge to the entry to the Harbour

Our morning walk takes us along the sea front down to St Heliers village giving us spectacular views to he downtown and Sky Tower

Entranceway garden
Down in the garden and our developing orchard
The new pathway being built by Calvin and Tony leading to our vege gardens and orchard

Strange times

Calvin has his gardening and likes pottering about in the garden,vacuuming , and I must add he has become very proficient at that and selecting our wine for our evening drink. I have my exercises, knitting , cooking ,bloody dusting, washing etc . We both enjoy reading and spend a few hours a day reading , researching interestng facts and watch a bit if TV. Of course we have our daily walk along the waterfront where everyone is very friendly and give us a wide berth, I like to think it’s my white hair, Calvin says it’s because I don’t walk in a straight line !!! Social distancing is very strange .

Been gardening
Callum’s new socks for with his motorcycle boots

Social Distancing

Our great friend Alan came around to drop off some books for Calvin.

We met him downstairs with a bottle of wine and glasses and managed a social distancing drink and exchange of reading material. We love these interludes of different friends t converse with . Watch this space for the apartment foyer drinks tomorrow from one doorway to the next, own drinks and nibbles and 2 metres apart


Strange Easter, no chocolate marshmallow Easter eggs this year. Somehow I forgot to purchase before the lockdown . Used to buy dozens of packs for everyone including those in Australia but “oldies” haven’t been allowed to go to the supermarket for about three weeks, just wait til next year 👍💃🕺

I did make Easter Buns today as you will see , taste amazing , not good for our weight haha

I spoke too soon, we had a lovely visitation from Phoebe, Callum and family with a gift of ‘Easter Eggs’ fantastic. Much enjoyed by Moi . Always so lovely to see the family even if they must stand one side of the fence and us on the other


Calvins early morning walks and his photography, stunning photos in the mist of around St Heliers and our abode in particular.

Family meeting

A phone call from Callum, the family were in a walk past our home, we gathered up some treats and waited on our side of the fence with anticipation , Namaste Namaste Namaste so lovely seeing them all in these strange days

Day one

Today we had social distancing and dialogue between our neighbours across the passage who are usually on their yacht in the Mediterranean at this stage. Our bench In The front garden was the accidental meeting point all keeping 2 metres between us so voices were a little raised as dare I say we all suffer from some degree with an aging deafness. Shortly we were joined by a lovely Italian lady who from the other side of the fence entertained us with arias from Verdi and wonderful reminiscing of Bologna where her children still reside. I managed to capture her singing on my iPhone Pia is her name .

Social distancing whilst Pia sings to us

Thoughts During Covid 19 Lockdown.

This evening we go into self isolation lockdown. For us this happened a few days ago when Amy’s school had a positive case of Covid19 .

Fortunately we had started FaceTiming rather than Granny’s for Sunday night dinner even though family live just around the corner.

Our son Callum has forbidden us to go to the supermarket, he says he will do any shopping required, he is very conscious of our ages ( we tend to forget) and last evening told us he didn’t want us to die. Can’t say we want that either as we still have a lot of things to do and countries to visit.

I am worried about Amanda in Melbourne Manager of a very large Salvos Store in St Kilda. she is in contact with so many people each day, some in such unfortunate circumstances ,these are the ones who continue to come in the doors and linger. She is so caring and giving and created such a welcoming atmosphere, you can’t blame them. However with COVID19 in the air the contact is of of great concern to us.

Around the corner Phoebe is working from home as well as home schooling three lovely grandchildren . She is so well organised with the family .

Callum is working in the spare bedroom as his office( this is commonly called the stayingroom) and is a delightfully large space above the garage complete with sitting area, desk and ensuite so his business is well sorted from a home base.

We continue to walk each day around a few blocks, hills and flat areas, mostly beside the sea, around above Ladies Bay down towards our village of St Heliers and back up through residential areas. It’s so lovely especially in this slightly cooler autumn weather.

The garden takes up a small amount of time, that is my vege garden which is very small but high producing . Aubergene are flourishing, sprouting broccoli coming on stream, bok choy, silverbeet, rhubarb .

The fruit trees we fought to put in ( likewise our vege gardens) are also looking well, we will have a harvest of apples this year, masses of lemons,limes feijoas, next year hopefully plums and figs. Calvin organised the fruit trees and also the gardeners who keep the rest of the grounds ship-shape. Calvin also manages the flower gardens doing most of the work in them, buying and planting. The grounds have improved so much over the past 4 years .

Power is off for most of today to add to the mix haha, however we are lucky. Another thing is we are used to working and living together having been in quite isolated country areas for so many years firstly Calvin teaching then bringing up the children on our Sheeprun, later developing lovely Hambledon back into a stately home and then sharing it with travelers as a special BnB . Where we were the hosts and often the housemaids and always the cook etc. oh what fun we had , the few staff we had at times so colourful in their characters, it was one glorious ride for 16 years.

Then the earthquakes that changed our lives , I probably wrote on them earlier, I digress

Corona Virus , quiet time to reflect on life!

Our days are not much different to usual, though I keep thinking of activities I would like to do but am restricted with carrying out, that’s life haha.

We enjoyed showers of rain yesterday so our walking was limited hence the pasta making and for me making ricotta something I had been meaning to try for sometime . In between times I downloaded far too many books from the library . Listened and looked at the news far too often .

Calvin’s Pasta the extra frozen for another meal, another day

Covid-19. Making Ricotta , Calvin made the pasta for the Lasagne,

Sunday night Pizza

Family outing after a great night out the day before at Di and Wayne’s

Di and Wayne’s with Lorraine from France and Moi
Pizza night at our local

Ladies Bay, 5 minutes walk from home. So tranquil first thing in the morning

Opera in Glover Park

A beautiful evening,!sitting on Phoebe and Callum’s verandah overlooking Glover Park entertainment. On comfortable seats, elevated and in the shade with a glass of champagne in hand and great company , including Snuffles the cat

2020 started with a bang.

Our 55th wedding anniversary Angus Our only grandson turned 8 yrs, our second granddaughter Frances in Melbourne Australia turned 18 and off to University this year. Sister Ellen into her third year at university . Back home and living around the corner( how lucky can you be) Amelia starts Secondary School and is 13 yrs her sister Olivia leading the littlest at 11 yrs.

Callum and family are away camping at the top of Northland for a week and grandad Calvin walks around to feed Snuffles the cat each day.

We have a busy few weeks coming up with Calvin having tests and diagnosis. Then in mid March we fly to visit the rest of the family in Melbourne .

Yacht racing viewed out the double doors last weekend of the World Championship Races of the 49ers


A wonderful birthday , lots of fun and laughs in Melbourne. Spoilt rotten , Thankyou delicious family

my nor western Nigerian wallhanging ,foundation made with 4 ” strips of handwoven hessian sewn together then scene painted. Trialing positions for it to hang !!!!

CDG Airport

I love the new clourful seats at CDG at the loading gates, why not make us feel happy as are loaded on the aircraft.

flying Cathay Pacific, always enjoyable for long haul flights

Vagenende Brasserie

Located n a building built in 1878 is in the original Belle Époque Style with beveled mirrors and wooden marquetry, Art Nouveau light fittings and a most incredible atmosphere. The food matched the surroundings with its deliciousness , so much so we will return this evening for our last meal in Paris this visit

Abbaye Saint Germain des Prés

About 50 metres from our hotel and opposite Les Deux Magots is one of the oldest Abbaye’s in Paris. From 6 th century , extended in 1150 and currently under renovation. A very spiritual atmospheric place of worship, and so very beautiful

Sunday in Paris

So busy, full of tourists in the shoulder season , we walked along Boulevard St Germaine , literally hundreds of young skateboarders en masse in the cycleway, a continuous stream. Crowded footpaths leading to Notre Dame to inspect the restoration underway of the gorgeous, powerful building of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Parks full of pigeons and exhausted tourists taking time out , us amongst them .

Saturday we witnessed the police enmasse sirens blazing rushing to quell demonstrations. The procession of police started with hundreds of police motorbikes with pillions and riot gear racing down St Germain, then the blue vans , white vans, police cars followed again by the ” paddy wagons” , the locals in The cafe didn’t bother to even look up. Calv and I were mesmerized with the noise , sirens, racing vehicles eyes nearly popping out, happening so quickly I didn’t have time to photograph , evidently 10,000 officers it’s a lot .

So life continues in glorious , magical Paris

Deux Magots and pets come in for dinner as well

Paris today

I was so fortunate in being invited into. “Ines de la Fressange design studio ” in her shop at St Germaine. I admire her , firstly from years ago as a top French model and latterly as a designer in her own right. She designs clothes, and a wide range of accessories including* suitcases, homewares and including my glass frames purchased a year ago in Paris.

breakfast in Paris , it’s been a hard night for some !

Paris !

Paris oh Paris how we love thee, city of romance, beautiful design, the Parisian chic in dress both woman and men.

I love the buzz. First experienced in 1970 with a lovely young daughter of 2 years, a camper van and an adventurous spirit. Camping at the Blois de Boulogne in a camper van , traveling from UK around Europe , very green NZers.

Then again with said daughter now 17 lovely Amanda and dearest son Callum a teenager in 1985, same camp , same Paris a tent that time, many adventures before even leaving* Paris for 5 months camping around Europe.

now back again for the umpteeth time just ‘Jo and Calv’ the old hippies as sometimes referred to by our daughter and son A great bistro like no other Relaxed, comfortable , great ambience , welcome and food.

Chablis again “Convoi Exceptional”

Oh I love big machinery and exceptional loads being carried by trucks , tractors or as in india cars.

Today was no exception , we had a Convoi Exceptional with all the flashing. lights for and aft thundering along* the roadway taking up both sides of the white line, sometimes at speeds up to 70 kmp ( downhill) . Then this morning in Chablis the grape pickers and tra8lers for the grapes all ripping through the town, a great sense of purpose and excitement for moi out to the hectares and hectares of grapes. The forecast is good until Sunday then rain is n the way so grapes need to be in . A few photos of Chablis as well.

Tomorrow Paris and St Germain oo lala

Our lunch was our main meal of the day , for evening we enjoyed some local wine , cheeses, sardines , crusty bread and fruit ,sitting out on the terrace watching the grape harvesters going home , deposit grapes and returning to the fields, life is good

Chablis Clothide Davenne Vineyard

A long drive from Mirabel on Sunday and 500 Kms. We left Jos and friends with mixed feelings, and a reservation to be return next year . Calvin deposited more wine into Michels Wine cellar , we tidied up the apartment and drove off. Enjoyed a picnic lunch the otherseide of Lyon at an attractive off motorway Aire, my bacon and egg pie went down well then back into the car for the rest of the journey, our other sustenance chocolate biscuits demolished on the way.

We arrived in Préhy, Chablis late afternoon to a cute small apartment on the vineyard.

Some Photos of touring around yesterday , driving to Auxerre etc.

Nyons Brocante this morning

No we weren’t going , we would watch the grape harvesting instead haha. Of course the pull was there so after Calvin accosting the driver of the grape harvester and speaking to him in his’french’ like speaking slowly in English , they did seem to communicate so full marks to both men

Calvin reminded me we still had time to attend said Brocante so a slight detour and we were there. A convenient park right in the middle of the town , browsing , browsing, then I spied them, antique Meissen fruit plates, all hand painted gorgeous , a set of six in perfect condition., at a perfect negotiated price !

Grape Harvest has started at Mirabel aux Baronnies

For the last few autumnal mornings, we have been awakened about 5.30 am by the steady throb of large machinery, the grape harvest is underway and the Picking machines are rollng.. the nights are so much cooler now and the days dry and warm, perfect they say for a Bonanza vendage .

our bedroom at Mirabel,looking relatively tidy!

Calvin keeping his naughty fingers still , just anticipating

It’s fast approaching that time again !

Last dinner party for the season tonight , preparations well underway table set by you know who, he is very helpful but sometimes one just wants to dream, and plan, and create as you go along, well that’s my way of catering for a dinner party , doing it with love . I have the time now , makes such a difference,

Driving back from the Malaucene Market this morning we passed the second grapepicker on the road, harvest time is just around the corner , I would like to be here for that, perhaps next year.

Last Vide Grenier in the village we will be attending this year.

Great fun walkng down to the tennis court , a huge number of stands this time, winter clothing out , mind it was a cool 19c with a cold wind blowing in big gusts, knocking exhibits flying at times. Good catering going on with chips and sausages cooking, the staple fair at these gatherings, plus of course wine by the glass , plenty of tables and chairs for when browsing became too much .

My ecclesiastical theme of buying continued with the purchase of a white lace communion shawl , plus a sauce boat with the sauce pouring inside from the bottom a very civilized idea . I may christen it on Wednesday when we host our final dinner party for this season .

Mine host Rached in blue and the lovely Linda also in blue plus Calvin haha , in case you thought he was overdoing the drinks, he is holding my champers glass as well as his own😂🥂

Friends and a BBQ

The weather is changing as autumn officially arrives. The days suddenly appear to be so much shorter , sun rise 8 am and cooler in the daytime and low 20s and 13c overnight . Energy has returned to the body. So much so I fell over the other day , my nose hit the dust on fortunately a deserted street. 😱I got myself up, dusted myself down , discovered nothing was broken just bruises wrist, knee ankle hip haha. 😂Three days later and I am good as new, albeit a bit discolored 👏

Getting back to the subject of the village bbq in friends Linda and Rached’s lovely garden last evening. There were about 20 people, fortunately quite a few spoke Nakisha and we had the most glorious of times . Rached is the most wonderful cook of Middle Eastern dishes and he excelled himself with choices for his guests. All washed down with excellent wines fine choices. So my contacts list grew with new friends numbers and I think our last week here will be a very social one.



Sunday’s Vide Grenier and my religious experience, purchasing three old rosaries red,black and white, a religious icon and two scarves. Sunday’s in NZ will seem quite quiet after this

I am not sure who the man is walking beside me, only noticed him in the photo 😂

Brantes,mountain village under Mt Ventoux

It’s been years since we visited Brantes . The steepness of the Stone alleyways and stepped streets kept us away during my disability problems.

However, yesterday Saturday was the day for the return visit . We started the day with breakfast at Faucon Bakery, another small hilltop village on the way . Delicious breads and pastries and the best panne chocolate on this trip. I ate so much for breakfast all I required at lunchtime was a glass of water ?!

Orange. World Heritage site of historic archway Arc deTriomphe

Thursday we decided a trip to Orange was well overdue, the morning was cooler but threats of 33c in the afternoon had us heading off in good time.

We found our usual carpark by the Ancient Archway and walked a few hundred metres into the cobbled streets of the town . We found surprise surprise it was Market Day after no previous indications of heavy traffic or pedestrians heading in the same direction.

Today in Carpentras

Being Monday the retail area was closed, however it made for pleasant browsing without the crowds and time to take photographs

missing my lovely Auckland family lots, see them the end of September xxxx

missing my lovely Melbourne family , see them in October xxxx


Vultures live above Rémuzat in the high cliffs above the town. We visit most years and this year was no exception . We view the video In The visitor information msometimes we are lucky enough to see them swooping about off he high hills it’s all very exciting.

Mirabel aux Baronnies

I must tell you more of our ancient hilltop village of 1560. persons. For a village of this size we have 2 Boulangeries both of whom sometimes decide to close on the same day , inciting the mainly male inhabitants to violence to any vehicles or anyone out of the ordinary passing by said closed boulangerie, like striking the car with a walking stick out of frustration. Happened to us haha . We also are fortunate in having a small supermarket , and shortly a new Boucherie. Plus I almost forgot a Tabac so everything for gentle living is covered .

The rolling hills, views of Mt Ventoux. The village church bells which conveniently stop ringing at 10 pm and start again at 7am, grape vines. Caves. Vintners !!

We do have 2 bars One only opens at 5 pm the other opposite ( main road divides) most of the day also serves food in a cafe style , a Brocante ,2 art galleries, a visitor information, coiffure , real estate agents. And wait for it….,,,drum roll …….chemist,doctors who make house calls (2) physio, dentist , etc etc Marie Pretty amazing considering we have two major towns either side no more than 10 km either way ,

my kitchen at Mirabel aux Baronnies and the rooms off it. Food preparation and entertaining the order of the day


A wonderful day trip to Venasque only 75 mins drive away. A very ancient hilltop village noted amongst he most beautiful in France . The Baptistry dates back to the 9th century , a lot of thevillage the 12 th. Huge vistas , even the cemetery those RIP with a tremendous view .

Halfway through our stay at Mirabel aux Baronnies

Each day we set off to explore the villages and landscape around our ‘idyll’ , sometimes taking in a market , other times finding a new restaurant or cafe supplying the most delicious food. Yesterday was a food day, I felt a bit below parr first thing so after longer than usual in bed catching up on social media and friends and family,it’s emails we decided to set off for lunch st La Post in a very picturesque village called Entracheaux . We have tried to lunch there several times, usually find g it closed in the days we have chosen. This time it was open and though arrived early like before midday ( unheard of for French lunches) it was fully booked , so turned away yet again, Second choice was Cafe Bleu out in the countryside which hasn’t gas the menu Du Jour no other choices but usually pretty yummy. You guessed it it was closed as well. Back n the trusty Peugeot ably driven on the wrong side of the road by my man , thinking well perhaps, fresh baguette cheese, tomatoes etc back home may not be so bad after all. I was not going to give up so looked up restaurants on the way home manly in Vaison-la-Romaine and bingo , in the Vieux Vaison-la-Romaine high on the hillside was a highly recommended restaurant D’O. Zoom zoom found up a usual steep narrow cobbled street , culinary paradise , cuisine to die for, staff so welcoming , views amazing , Avery pleasant 2 hours enjoyed . So good in fact we made a reservation to take our darling landlord Jos there for a treat next week.

Festival fun Day in Mirabel aux Baronnies

Thursday of all days the town was a buzz with people setting up Vide Grenier Stalls, wine tasting tents , temporary food stalls n the market square and through the wind g pathways and alleyways in the village , seasoned locals were knocking back glasses of wine from 9 am.

We cut a leisurely path around up and down viewing the goods, treasures and junk for about three hours. Enjoying the brass band, the parade of local dignitaries and the Vintners. .

Vide Grenier at Nyons

On a very hot Saturday morning we ventured out to a Vide Grenier held at nearby Nyons, famous for its Olives and Lavender.

I dutifully persevered and went through each stall thoroughly in spite of the heat and crowds. Lovely things amongst the junk and debris from everyday life. My neck scarf is a delight and the purchase of lovely old handkerchiefs(never used)9 for 3 euros. Fun had by all

Market at Malaucene

First market of the season, arrived home pooped after he hot morning marching around the market making purchase decisions.

So here I am in my first purchases requiring quiet time in our ‘Cool Room’!

More on Mirabel aux Baronnies

View from my bed of our terrace where we enjoy breakfast each morning of croissants, panne chocolate from the little old bakery down the narrow cobbled street.

Our cool room. Most houses in Provence have a ‘cool’ room to escape the heat of the day, this is ours, a visual feast for the senses !

The views are magnificent we feel truly blessed to spend a few weeks here each year , entertaining friends to hilarious soirées, dinner parties, and in turn being entertained back , oh what fun.

Mirabel aux Baronnies

We have a relationship with our lovely landlord Jos spanning 22 yrs. We miss Jan his partner of many many years but we celebrate his life and the continuation of Jos as our landlord with great relish.

Many a great hilarious dinner party we have hosted in one of their fabulous apartments in their 400 yr old village house over the years .

Fredericks. Hotel D’Alibert. Caunes-Minervois

A lovely road trip from Bergerac to here today, through pouring rain and sunshine. Temperatures have dropped and it’s now a very pleasant evening and we are finally settled in. On arrival as usual here the neighbours are involved with the hunting of Fredericks to open the Hotel so guests can check in. Windows above open and heads pop out , passers by in the street all become involved though we don’t ask for help, we don’t mind waiting, what else would we be doing. You can see how narrow the streets are to drive to the Hotel, plenty of curves and mind the paintwork.

The interior has been renovated beautifully as you will see in further posts, modern artworks and sculptures , medieval cloisters its a feast for the eyes.

unbelievably hot 41c Wednesday 41c Thursday cooler tomorrow Friday. Calvin’s birthday .

round and about in central Bergerac this morning only 35c yet, due to hit 41c later


A leisurely trip after quite an early start in the cool of the morning. Our drive on the green roads took us winding through ancient villages past the acres of freshly mown hay , Chateau’s on hilltops and 5he vibrant green of the tree lined roads down to Vereillac for lunch. By this time the temperature had heated up to about 41c so finding a lovely cool courtyard to relax and enjoy our Plat du Jour was very welcome. Of course a pichet Of Rose accompanied said lunch and then a wake up of caffeine and we were ready to hit the road again.

Our hotel chosen n great haste yesterday when I found I was two days out with our reservation in Poitiers , has proved to be quite a find. Situated in the middle of Bergerac Shopping Centre , close to the river and has the added advantage of a Swimming Pool.

Day Trip to La Rochelle

Great day out only 36c today supposedly 42c tomorrow haha. We eventually found the yachts at the old port, navigational errors there ! Had a very enjoyable lunch overlooking one of the Harbour with Super Yachts, then an amble around to another small Harbour, more , more yachts on our way back to where our cars were parked. We just happened to go past a very small market and a very lovely handmade African bag popped out to seduce me,,,,

Our beautiful daughter Amanda managing St Kilda Salvos Store and wearing my ‘ding ding ‘ maxi coat from our year in London 1970.

Still at Abbaye de Fontevraud

The original kitchen from 1100 presently under restoration. The gardens now restored and providing the restaurant with their produce . The house of the Abbess and other views……

Eleanor of Aquitaine

e inherited a vast chunk of France, embarked on a Crusade, married an English king and bore no fewer than ten children. Alison Hughes reveals the celebrated queen consort and her links to the town of Poitiers.

Eleanor of Aquitaine is one of the most intriguing and beguiling women that history has yielded. Her pedigree as a ‘lady’ is indisputable – at the age of 15, when she inherited the extensive Duchy of Aquitaine, she became the most eligible bride in the western world. Within three months of her father’s death she became Queen Consort of France and would later marry Henry II of England. Wife to two Kings and mother to two more (Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland) she has often been described as ‘the power behind the throne’, but in reality she had power in her own right through her inheritance.

In Eleanor’s time, Aquitaine was a vast territory stretching from the Loire down to the south coast, and was the richest and largest province of France; by comparison the ‘domaine royal’ consisted only of the area around Paris, Bourges and Sens. When Eleanor’s father bequeathed his lands, a clause stated that they would not become the property of France until Eleanor’s son became king. Ironically, this only happened after Eleanor had married Henry II and so Aquitaine came under the jurisdiction of England rather than France. These bare historical facts are the background to Eleanor’s early days but it is her personality and character that helped create the quite extraordinary life that she lived.

There are no precise records of the date or place of her birth, but we do know that she died at the great age of 82 in 1204, outliving both husbands and eight of her ten children. Born into a glittering court renowned across Europe – her grandfather Guillaume IX Duke of Aquitaine was dubbed ‘The Troubadour’ and her father was a lover of the arts – Eleanor was brought up surrounded by music and literature, enjoying chess and backgammon and playing the harp. She was also an accomplished rider who loved hunting and hawking.

In stark contrast to Louis, her first husband (who was originally destined for the church), she was high-spirited, extrovert and from the exuberant south; he was serious and from the more austere north. It’s no surprise then that the marriage was not a great success on many levels. Early on, Louis was enchanted with his new bride and indulged her desire to liven up his court with new fashions and furnishings, but after a decade in which only two daughters had been produced, both were looking for a reason to separate. The failure to  produce a son seemed the perfect excuse for an annulment on the grounds of consanguinity. The fact that Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet, to whom she was even more closely related, just eight weeks after the annulment, has given rise to many a rumour. What we do know is that Eleanor and Henry’s union did not lack passion – their life together was to be turbulent and eventful.

s Louis’s Queen, Eleanor had already had a taste for adventure when she took part in the Second Crusade to the Holy Land, at the head of her own soldiers from Aquitaine (which provides some insight into her character and the loyalty of her people). During this crusade Eleanor sojourned with her young uncle, Raymond of Antioch, with whom she had spent much of her early life in Poitiers. An illicit affair was rumoured which did nothing to improve the state of the marriage.

The facts of Eleanor’s life are as compelling as the stories that swirl around her. After the annulment, on her way home to Poitiers, she narrowly avoided being abducted by two other prospective suitors – Theobald V, Count of Blois, and Geoffrey, Count of Nantes – who intended to force a marriage and claim her lands. She sent word straight away for Henry to come and they were married in May 1152. Two years later Henry was proclaimed King of England and Eleanor was a Queen consort once again, but now of a much larger kingdom.

The first years of their marriage were spent in Poitiers and it was here that their first son, William, was born in 1153. This period was probably the beginnings of the renowned ‘Court of Love’ where romantic disputes were settled and the ideals of chivalry were upheld.

The next 15 years of Eleanor’s life were split between England, Normandy and her beloved Aquitaine. During this time she produced another seven children, acted as regent when Henry was away from England and played an active part in political negotiations. But by the early 1170s, cracks had begun to appear in the marriage – Henry had always had a roving eye, but now he was hopelessly in love with the ‘fair Rosamund’. Eleanor, distraught at the affair and annoyed at Henry’s reluctance to delegate lands or power to his sons, encouraged Henry the younger, Richard and Geoffrey to rebel against their father. The revolt failed and resulted in Eleanor being imprisoned in England until Henry’s death in 1189.

n her release, Eleanor reprised her political activities, personally taking Princess Berengaria (Richard’s betrothed) to her favourite son, who was en route to the Holy Land, and later negotiating the ransom for his release when he was captured by Duke Leopold in Austria. Even after Richard’s death, at the age of 78, she went on a mission to select one of the Spanish princesses to be the bride of the future Louis VIII. This might have been an adventure too many for Eleanor, with an ambush on one leg of the journey and the assassination of her bodyguard on the way home, but she did have one more foray into the world in defence of John’s inheritance before becoming a full member of the community at Fontevraud. She had made her base here a few years earlier, but now she took the veil and lived out her few remaining years in peace and tranquillity.

She lies peacefully next to Henry, with her favourite son Richard close by, her effigy adorned with jewellery and portrayed holding an open book. The woman who was described as ‘more than beautiful’ and ‘one meet to crown the state of any king’ was even more than this in life – fearless, passionate and clever, her legacy lives on in legend and fact and her complex character still intrigues us today.

I am looking for a family likeness haha, is she really my 23 rd great grandmother !!!