To High Wycombe and back!

 

Geishas!

Geishas!

We’d had a diagnosis that the Fiesta needed 3.108e worth of parts to make it better…  So having spent almost that on the car 60,000 miles ago, we decided that a new one was very necessary.  We’d limited our trips lately due to the problems with it and not fancying being stranded at a rue side somewhere.

Action was required especially as we have a few visitors coming soon.  Getting a new car was likely on our return anyway and our over saving before we came added to our under spending here (so far!) has meant getting a new car was a more a logistical challenge than a financial problem.  We looked at the options, I quite fancied a nice looking Mercedes Coupe that was for sale in town for 9.900e but someone didn’t think it was a good idea and it was a bit pricey…  Having a French car in the UK is complex requiring it to be re-registering and making sure the speedo had miles on it etc., so the best tactic was to get one in the UK.

After a few days of being mainly not called back by a large car group, (who may or may not rhyme with Tevans Callshaw), who’s processes were less than helpful for our position we tried again.  Waiting for phone calls at the end of the drive in the sun wasn’t an all bad thing but a bit boring for us if not for next doors enthusiastic dog Archie…  Redoubling our search and making just one call later we had secured first dibs on a 57 plate Citroen C4 in a much better deal from a place High Wycombe.  Thus we left another message to cancel our dealings with the place in Hemel Hempstead.  The two word place names beginning with H thing was pure fluke.

 

On Wednesday (22nd) we set off early hoping that the trusty old Fiesta LX would get us to Limoges ok and then on the 500k’s plus to the coast.  We’d booked a Chunnel trip on Thursday morning and were expected in HW that lunchtime, hopefully.  Our latest trip to Limoges had been in part to test the wee car on dual carriageways and it passed.  We headed north hoping to get as far as possible avoiding Paris where the traffic, even on the Peripheral motorway would test any automatic gearbox.  The main issue being from 1st to 2nd and sometimes dropping gears completely instead of going to 3rd!  Not the best situation for nose to tail stuff amongst Parisian commuters…

We got as far as Limoges listening intently to every noise from the engine and watching each gear change with trepidation.  Onto Orleans things went ok, so far so good we daren’t say, watching the K’s go by.  Setting off north westwards towards Chartres where we saw the Cathedral.  Then we continued heading up country for Beauvais again hitting the main road north.  Beauvais is called (Paris) by Ryan Air, it isn’t!

Eventually we caught sight of the seas – for the first time in ages – at Boulogne Sur Mer which it is.  Having en route spotted TGV’s, a house on a roundabout, a lion, a low flying military transport plane that we could have flagged down it need be and various new bits of France all without mechanical hitches/glitches/screw ups.

We at last reached Calais to much sighing of relief.  Full of glee we tried to find the Chunnel entrance and doing so feared we were beyond a point of no return 11 hours early!  A rapid lane change or four later we escaped via a small but not obvious exit road.  Checking into a Holiday Inn we paused long enough to establish that it had a bath in the en suite much to S’s joy.  We then went and ate at the large but rather nice food bit of a Mall type place and went to bed, after one of us had enjoyed a bath…

Next morning wanting to maintain our good luck we retraced our steps to the Chunnel and as we hoped were able to get an earlier crossing.  The novelty of being on a train, in a car, under the sea and probably beneath a boat or two is yet to wear off.  Phone signals down there are remarkably good – aren’t humans clever.

 

Arriving in Englandshire we paused at a motorway services and had a slightly over priced fried breakfast which we’d both missed a little – S being reminded how few people can cook a veggie sausage properly.  Then on to High Wycombe on roads that compared to the French ones are utter, utter p!sh.  Some in Scotland make claims that the infrastructure in the South East is much better than elsewhere in the UK cos of some nasty-London-bias myth.  The truth is far from that.  The M25, M26, M20 and M40 all make the Edinburgh bypass look luxurious, the road surfaces are in places dreadful and for us constantly worrying about noises or bumps from the wee car it was a disturbing run around the capital.  The folly of turning the M25’s cracked, patched and bumpy hard shoulder into another lane on the cheap is far, far beyond polite description…

Anyhoo we arrived and my seven plus hours spent nervously behind the wheel the day before had caught up with me.  The new car was fine, S did the test drive around High Wycombe (which has hills) and all the paperwork was completed.  We got a token amount for the Fiesta which was no surprise or issue but it had done its last 570 miles with us without any problems and served us well over all.  It can no doubt find its own way to Starks Park and Pilton tho if it does it’ll confuse whoever it ends up with!

Setting off we discovered an Andrew Lloyd Webber CD gift in the stereo – which could have been worse and better.  Fran our host had asked if we could swing by friends of theirs in Kent to collect a few valuables they’d been keeping for them.  Arriving we loaded the car and after a bit of too-ing and fro-ing we got most of the different sized and shaped items aboard with only some popping of bubble wrap.  All in a curious and probably comedic way for any watching locals in Faversham.  The process included me saying appropriately for the first time “Can someone grab the Spanish dancer”, it’s the sort of thing I’d say inappropriately all the time if I got the chance.  Having been offered the option to stay with Fran’s pals on our northward trip in September we toddled off towards Ashford and found our hotel.  The only incident of driving on the wrong side of the road occurred during this part of our travels – I won’t say which of us did it to spare her embarrassment.

The pub across the car park from the Hotel was having a curry night and we partook, another of the actually rather short list of things we miss.  My Korma was most un-Korma like but nice all the same, S’s was very good.

 

Next morning, being Friday, we were unable to get on an earlier Chunnel and had to spend a couple of hours in the shopping place which wasn’t half as good as Calais’ version.  We’d already stocked up on various items for the trip south, marmalade and peanut butter for Fran and Mike and among other things Shreddies for us!  (I will shamelessly accept the largess of the hoard of Granny’s who apparently knit them for a bit of PR – tho Nestle have in the past been baby milk formula pushing profiteering gits {I think I may have blown my chances there…})

Arriving in France again at two we had no hope – even on the better roads – of getting home that day we instead headed for Rouen.  We changed drivers at Services in the Somme which is an area to French people rather than a slaughter/battle for us Brits.  The new car is rather good, has 200cc’s more engine, two more doors, many torques, possibly a graphics equaliser and things but rather than get all Top Gear/UKIP I’ll leave it there.  Taking over we were photographed within 2K’s of my first proper turn behind the wheel.  A radar speed camera thing flashed at us, after never being done before we now await the result…  Hopefully they got my good side.

 

We arrived in Rouen without our usual level of research prior to a visit.  Normally we have hotels booked and its location and the centre ville well and truly Street-viewed.  Stopping we looked at options on S’s phone spotting a nearby Ibis with parking, result.  Heading for it in a one way system we found it but not the parking so having done a lap of the block went into a large, well lit and laid out underground car park which even had music playing in it.  There was a sign for a hotel by a lift and as we got to our room S realised it wasn’t the Ibis but another Hotel not that we were bothered.

Rouen's Clock & Catherdal

Rouen’s Clock & Catherdal

Rouen is known for a few things including Joan of Arc’s BBQ and Monet’s paintings of its Cathedral in the old town.  It was a port city on the Seine which is pretty large by the time it gets there.  We went and had a look at the Cathedral where some Armenians were gathering to remember the killing of their people – humans are not always clever…  The old town is rather pretty, has a large golden clock and oddly two wandering geishas which thankfully the Welsh rugby players on a stag do didn’t spot…

Scanning menus outside restaurants for a veggie option we spotted something S could have and realised inside it was rather a nice place – Restaurant Rouennais.  Being a bit nearer the sea I went for a fish (turbot) dish after a duck pate starter.  Only after ordering did I discover the place prided itself on its duck dishes.  What-a-mistake-a-to-make-a!  S enjoyed her food and mine was superb, possibly the best meal I’ve had since October and that’s saying something as I’ve not been doing too bad.

Tiredness obviously affected the camera...

Tiredness obviously affected the camera…

We slept well and breakfasted early then hit the road again.  As we were west of Paris we dog legged to Le Mans then onto Tours on our tour stopping there for lunch.  Arriving home we had enjoyed our southward trip much more than the less relaxed northward one.  Putting aside the Brits at a Toll who having failed to shove a 20e note into the slot of a card only machine then asked us to reverse into oncoming traffic as they tried to get their empty heads around how to pay…  Bloody tourists!

 

Fitba bit

Our neighbour – John – the owner of Archie the Border Terrior is retired but was a keen amateur footballer, cricketer and referee for many a year.  He’d mentioned when we chatted that he was interested in going to the next SYlP game.  As we got back on Saturday back of five I wandered around to say we could go along that evening making clear we no longer needed to take his car to avoid any problems!

John and I saw SYlP concede a very good goal from one of the Vignal Bastide wide men who hit the top corner from outside the box.  My former supporter colleague in goal was powerless to stop it as would have been almost any other keeper.  The game was good, the referee and two linesmen (for a change) kept it lively when they didn’t send off a visitor for taking down Ricardo the quick home striker who was about to run in on goal.  It was a clear red card offense but the referee bottled sending the guy off, giving just a yellow card.

The SYlP coach came on at half time and within two minutes curled a lovely free kick around the wall into the back of the net to equalise.  As time ticked on the third vital goal was not as high quality, a corner knocked home in a crowded six yard box by the coach who ran to half way in celebration (he’s not normally as keen to run far!)

SYlP won 2:1 and remain 2nd in the League with only three games left.  John enjoyed the match despite me pointing out it was one of the better ones I’ve seen.  His only previous game had been seeing a poor Coussac Bonneval side who failed to impress him.  John also said my French was good as I chatted feebly with Jose and occasionally shouted at the officials – not that I think it’s that good…                                                                                                                End of Fitba bit

 

Chilling!

Chilling!

Obviously we needed a few days to recover from our trip and took it easy for a while having a quiet week catching up on things.  I got a haircut and we pottered about a bit locally visiting another art exhibition in town – there are lots of these sort of things over here.  The kettle re-boiled three times at one point but it wasn’t some form of poltergeist or demonic possession but a thunderstorm nearby knocking the power on and off.   Mitzy didn’t enjoy its arrival, by that I mean the storm not S’s cup of tea.  Have I said someone wanted to move from their Council house cos thy said they had a poltergeist?  That’s a true story and led to a very short interview, before you both ask they didn’t get a move…

Riverside lunch

Riverside lunch

Last week we went to Lascaux II.  What’s that I hear you cry?  Does it have the girl in it from, oh, you know…  Was Bruce Willis in the first one?

Don’t worry I’ll explain.  At Lascaux, in the Dordogne back in the 1940’s four lads happened across some previously undiscovered caves when their dog fell down a hole under a fallen tree.  If they’d had a cat I’d have had nothing to say here.  Anyway the caves were very old and the cave paintings a relatively youthful 17,000 years old.  (Any old style religious types who think the world is only 6,000 years old or who don’t like false prophets won’t like this bit.  [It’ll serve them right it if it annoys them, they should go away and Google the word “Science”.  They may learn something]).

Where was I?  Oh yes, we went to an exact copy of much of the caves – hence Lascaux II.  Visitors had damaged the real thing by breathing and as a result of them not wiping their feet, so the original one had to be shut or lost forever.  In a rather clever bit of thinking it was decided to make an exact copy that human contact couldn’t break/destroy – it reminds me of a Simpson’s episode when Homer ends up in charge of Springfield’s refuse collection but if you don’t know the episode you’ll be off Googling “Why do folk think the world is 6,000 years old”.

The meticulously copied cave including 95% of the art done using the same methods and techniques is actually very impressive and well worth a visit.  The original was obviously much better than most could manage even now without having to do it by the light of deer fat candles halfway up a rickety wooden scaffold.

We’d already had lunch in the sun at the riverside in Montignac where the weekly market was winding down as we arrived.  It was a little busy with tourist type people, something which I think will only increase.  I ducked duck having a very nice omelette made all the more fun by the rarity of the lardons within it!

En route we’d visited the properly impressive Chateau Hautefort.  It was restored in the early 1960’s then had a rather vigorous fire in 1968 which was not what was planned and had to be done again.  The gardens and views however were unaffected and quite something as is the building itself.

Hautfort

Hautfort

We also popped around – with their knowledge – to see Jan and Keith.  Thankfully they helped us dispose of some lovely items from a patisserie as we had a good blether about what’s been happening at La Ribiere du Nord and we updated them on our travails and travels.

 

It is clear that most Brits out here are more than happy to discover that this pair of Scots aren’t nationalists – which is good cos I couldn’t defend the SNP’s plans (such that they are) if I tried.  Silly old me I remain fixated on facts, evidence and the realities of the world.

There have unsurprisingly been some political conversations of late and most are surprised and horrified in equal measure that £6.5 million of Euromillions winnings is being used to buy elections in Jockoland, £1+ per voter.  Having spent years on a Scottish party’s Executive and also on its Finance & Administration committee I know just how massive the impact that sort of cash would be on ANY party…

Who needs policies, plans and to answer questions about your crappy record in Government when you can have people shout down your opponents with fancy placards and whizz about in a shiny new helicopter?  It’s a very sad state of affairs.

It’s not easy for me to say this but I’d rather the £166 million pounds had gone to Dunfermline Athletic fans than someone so willing to devalue the democratic process.  If I suddenly had oodles of cash I’d put money into Raith Rovers, of course, but the bulk of any donations would be for cancer research and the provision of basics like food, water and education not for a moment thinking about lines on maps or flags.

 

The past weekend saw me go to two fitba matches and there’s another trip planned as we remain liberated by the knowledge we’ll get there and back without problems.

More about these escapades next time and updates on how the speed camera thing develops…  Develops… Boom, Boom!

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2 thoughts on “To High Wycombe and back!

  1. Hi John

    Good to read your latest ramblings and interesting to discover autombile issues have taken you across to the channel to the Shire counties. Trust you weren’t exposed to much of a dire general election campaign and aftermath. The outcome both north and south of the border certainly gives a stomping vindication of your decision to leave the country!
    Trust you’re both well and enjoying life.

    Derek

    Liked by 1 person

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