Wednesday 3 October 2012

Escapades Francaises

The date is Friday 14 September. The British media is in a frenzy over topless photographs of out future queen that have been published in a French magazine and ten days ago three tourists from the UK were found shot dead near Lake Annecy in the French Alps. I am wondering what the France  of President Hollande will be like. Will we be safe and anonymous?

Two days later we drove to Portsmouth on the south coast. The hotel that we normally book for the night before our ferry crossing was full. So we had booked a nearby alternative, which was dowdy, depressing and musty smelling. The quiet room that we had requested had equipment running outside, that we did not notice until we went to bed and the curtains did not fit the window. I eventually fell asleep about 12.30 after stuffing ear plugs into my ears. We were booked on the 9 am ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg. For the first time in six years, security stopped and searched our car. This involved looking under the bonnet, which husband did not know how to open, as he has only had the car a few weeks and looking under the car with mirrors. As the car is new to us I did wonder if anything had been planted on it, but they found nothing. The crossing was uneventful and we arrived in a grey and cloudy Cherbourg from, for a change, a sunny Portsmouth. That evening we stayed in an hotel, in the sleepy little town of Saulges near Le Mans, that we had previously stayed in and liked. Everything was fine until 7 am on Tuesday morning, which to us, on our first day in France, was 6 am, when we were awoken by loud French voices which went on non stop for two hours. Do the French ever stop talking? Why do they use ten words when on will do? It was not the ideal start to our holiday.

Later that morning we set off into the Loire Valley heading for Tours. We stopped for lunch at Angers, famous for its' timber framed houses. The best of which is Maison d'Adam - pictured below.

As we sat down for lunch at a pavement cafe, I started to sneeze and continued to do so for the next 24 hours – a French cold maybe? From Anger we went to Saumur then on to Tours. But before we arrived there, husband had wanted to fill up the car with fuel. However, the fuel pump twice refused his credit card and he decided not to try a third time. By the time that we arrived in Tours, in the rush hour, the car’s dashboard display showed that we were on ‘reserve fuel’ whatever that meant. As a result of work to install a tramway, the centre of Tours was a sea of white and orange barriers.

There was nowhere to park outside our hotel except in a bus stop which husband did, leaving me  in the car while he went to the hotel to ask for directions to their garage. He had just gone when a gendarme knocked on the car window. I knew perfectly well what the problem was but pretended not to understand, reasoning that it was better to say nothing than, in the heat of the moment, select the wrong French words. I was in the passenger seat. They asked for my driving licence. I replied that I was not driving and pointed to the empty driving seat. By the time that husband returned a second gendarme was about to write a parking ticket. Husband quickly got into the car and we drove off. I have never been so glad to see the inside of a hotel bedroom. The alternative could have been a cell in Tours goal.

The following day was less eventful and was spent sight seeing in Tours, a cathedral and university city on the River Loire.

The next morning found us on the road to Chinon, after enjoying a bottle of Chinon vin rouge the previous evening. We were off to buy some at a vineyard. Chinon is a small old town with some lovely old buildings

and it was market day which is something that I always enjoy browsing. This was not without incident as an old lady tried to trip husband up with her shopping bag on wheels. Luckily she did not succeed.

In the afternoon we went to see the chateau at Cheverny stopping en route at Vouvray.

Cheverny is  a small privately owned chateau in which the current owner's family still live, but we did not see their apartments. Despite the splendour of the place, life before the days of electricity and running water etc. must have been uncomfortable. The above photograph is of the rear of the chateau which looks pretty much the same as the front. Flash photography was not allowed inside the chateau.

The next morning found us heading south to Bordeaux. A drive which was scheduled to take us around four hours on the toll road. Early afternoon we stopped at St.Emilion to stretch our legs and buy some wine. The heat hit us as we got out of the car. It was about 15C when we left Tours. Now the temperature had climbed to about 30C. Then it was back into the car and fight with Bordeaux's Friday afternoon traffic. That evening we had a pleasant meal at a pavement cafe. When we came to pay once gain husband's credit card was refused by the card machine. So I offered the waitress my credit card. She scrutinised it as if we were a pair of criminals. Anyway it worked.

We spent Saturday sight seeing. The residents of Bordeaux are not early risers and it was lunchtime before the streets became busy. Bordeaux's architecture is magnificent and really reminded me of the English city of Bath. Here is the Grand Theatre or Opera House which is reminiscent of Bath's Roman Baths with the figures at roof level. I do not have time here to do justice to Bordeaux and all of its sights and one day was certainly not enough time to take it all in.

Sunday we had ear marked to drive up into the vineyards to the west of Bordeaux, which produce some of the areas most celebrated wines. It was a fine and sunny day but being Sunday nothing much was open. So our plans to visit a vineyard were thawted. However, we did manage to take some photographs of the vineyards

and the grapes.

Back in Bordeaux on Sunday afternoon we joined the locals promenading by the River Garonne and took our lives into our hands amongst the cyclists, scooters, roller bladers and skate boarders. Or those that were simply walking on the water.

Later, showered and changed for the evening we decided to take the healthy option and walk down the four flights of stairs from our room to the ground floor. Husband was in front of me. After three and a half flights he lost his footing and rolled down the last flight of stairs. Luckily the stairs were wide and shallow and he was picked up at the bottom by an elderly English lady and the hotel's English/American receptionist with nothing more than a bruised forehead and scrubbed knuckles. He got little sympathy from me. This accident happened because he was looking at his mobile phone as he walked down the stairs. I think that watching it happen shook me up more than it did him.

The next morning as we were about to leave Bordeaux husband had a text and a phone call, on his mobile phone, from Brittany Ferries to say that our ferry crossing from Cherbourg to Portsmouth, the following day had been cancelled, due to industrial action by the ferry staff. Our ticket could be used on the P&O Calais to Dover crossing and any extra cost incurred could be claimed back from Brittany Ferries. Calais is a much longer drive than Cherbourg and we had an hotel booked in Portsmouth for the evening of the crossing, which we needed to cancel. That was the easy part. Then we had to find somewhere to stay for the night near Dover. How did we manage before the days of mobile phones, tablet computers and satellite navigation systems?

The ferry crossing from Calais to Dover was choppy but only one and a half hours as opposed to the three hours from Cherbourg to Dover and we were soon back in a very wet and windy England. That night we were kept awake by a thunder storm and the following day we had a very wet drive home. As  turned into the road at our end of the village we were met by a 'road closed due to flooding' sign meaning that we had to take a detour around the village to reach the cottage. It was good to be home. Once again the UK media are in a frenzy over an male English school teacher who has run off to France with a young female pupil from his school.

I must apologise to any bloggers based in France for not making contact. We unintentionally gave ourselves a very tight schedule with no room for flexibility.


Rob-bear said...

To say your trip was bizarre is, I think, and understatement. Quelle domage! I'm glad you survived. I also trust your cottage was not flooded.

Jennytc said...

Well, in spite of all your misfortunes, I'm still envious (I think!)I love the Loire valley and I learned to swim in the Garonne, where it runs through Marmande, though now, the beach there is no longer accessible. Happy days!

cheshire wife said...

Steve - thank you for visiting.

Rob - there was more, but I thought that there was a limit to what people would be interested in.

Jennyta - at Bordeaux the Garonne looks to be too fast flowing for swimming.

the fly in the web said...

Well that was a curate's egg of a holiday!
I hadn't been to Bordeaux for years so it was good to get a glimpse of it again...whereas the Loire Valley was my stamping ground.

I remember the chaos when the tram was goingin at my hearty sympathy with what you suffered in Tours!

Diane said...

Hmmm you almost drove past our doorstep! I hope that you did enjoy the trip despite all the problems. Take care Diane

GaynorB said...

Ours too! Alas we were in the UK working to pay for our French bolt hole. Hope that overall you had a relaxing holiday.

Gill - That British Woman said...

well you can't say it was boring!!! Enjoyed looking at your photos also.

Gill in Canada

Akelamalu said...

Well that was an eventful trip! Love the photos and I enjoyed reading about your exploits. :)

Leon Sims said...

Time you just sold the house and stayed in France CW. So many of our blogger friends have.
Enjoyed your chaos.
Leon and Sue in OZ

cheshire wife said...

fly - I think that you have hit the nail on the head!

Food,Fun & Life - will try to be more organised next time.

Gaynor - there is a price for everything.

Gill - it could have been more relaxing.

Akelamalu - would have settled for something less eventful.

Leon and Sue -France is fine for holidays but we do not want to live there.

Maggie May said...

The photos arte really lovely. Sorry that a few things went wrong on that holiday though. I trust you are well settled back in dear old Blighty enjoying the rain! (Well, we had a bit of a respite of it today when the sun did shine in a watery kind of way.)
You will have lots of memories of that holiday, I'm sure.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

cheshire wife said...

MM - memories yes, but you soon forget that you have had a holiday.

Jenny Woolf said...

Sorry to hear that the holiday was anything but relaxing. It is particularly frustrating when you think how much money has been spent, and it is less than perfect. Still you saw some good things and it helped you appreciate being home!

cheshire wife said...

It was a change and we did learn from some of our experiences.