Sit Rep!

The Facebook page broke 110 likes earlier today and this month the Blog has already had over 300 views – meaning the stats page has had to alter its columns!  🙂
Visitors have gone up and the surprising number of people in Germany, (we know no-one there [perhaps Mitzy does {she’s a rescue cat so you never know…}]), have been eclipsed by those from the UK and around the world.
You are all very lovely people and frankly just a touch better looking than you think you are.

Situation Report
On Wednesday the 21st of November we at last signed to complete the purchase of for our house. The process had dragged on rather due to issues out with our control that no-one we spoke to had ever heard of! However, over three weeks later than planned it was completed…
On the 22nd our furniture, my 1,000+ Rovers programs and our other underwear, clothes, etc., – not necessarily in that order of importance – arrived from Broxburn. Guardian Removals and Storage being great again.
We had to seek and move to other accommodation, more because of the delay than any issues with the lovely Kay and Paul. I’ve already detailed our brief but exciting car problem. Our temporary abode is cool but has had problems with the hot water system which continued despite the very best efforts of our new and rather nice hosts.
Tonight – the 27th – we will be properly in our new house and Mitzy will be adjusting to another new abode but at least this one will be filled with familiar things.

Web access will be limited in the short-term, but more Ramblings will appear so don’t touch that dial!

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What’s been going on?

Due to hoose delays and accompanying niggles we had more time to kill while waiting to get started on our new life en France.  Susan returned from up north in her stealth car and we lunched in Limoges at a place we’ve frequented a few times.  She was tired from a long six hour drive and had wisely broken the journey spending a night in La Roche sur Yon which made it more manageable.  Mitzy and I had been very brave surviving her absence.  That evening – without me Limoges FC won a French Cup game meaning they would be likely to face a larger side in the next round.

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S was tickled by this on her trip

We wandered about around where we were living in some lovely weather and had a successful trip to Brive, in part to see what large retailers they had with a bit of pottering and a nice lunch.  The plat de jour more than did the job for me.

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Much Mustard in Brive

We had been hanging out a bit in the laundrette in SYlP which is handily placed by a good bakers and doing a bit of research regarding stuff we’ll need.  That and me getting back into the swing of a wood burner took up a little time practise made better as one day it tried to sleet!  How very dare it…  Otherwise, however the weather had been rather good, dry and always rather warmer than we are used to in November.  The prisoner of stable block H had a wee trip outside most days on a rather fetching lead, something she got more used to.  No pictures will be displayed as she is less than happy with the process.

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We had a wee drive into the Dordogne visiting Exideuil and Thiviers.  We had a snack in the former and S started saying that her pain au chocolat had three, I repeat THREE, bits of chocolate in it as I was realising mine only had one, I REPEAT ONE!  I was cruelly robbed of chocolaty goodness, what a pain…

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Exideuil

On the 5th as Mitzy pottered about on her lead we heard sirens – which is very rare.  They stopped and soon re-started.  It turned out a truck climbing the hill had hit a van on the wiggly bit of road between Le Chalard and SYlP.  Sadly the driver of the van was killed.  Seeing the damage to the crash barrier and the pictures on the local papers website the poor guy didn’t stand a chance.  The lorry driver screwed up badly, was clearly going too fast and was well onto the other side of the road.  He was arrested.  I had always taken that bit of road carefully but a few continue to whizz past us on it ignoring the floral tributes for reasons best known to themselves.

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SYlP’s lac

The annual Chocolate and Madeline event was visited by us again – Madelines are a produced by quite a number of local shops and a couple of factories around SYlP.  The event has them showing their wares and giving out freebies as well as letting people buy some.  We got a few and left with a reasonable number of extra ones too.  Kay and Paul helped us get rid of them.  🙂

Good stuff eh?  Nosh can be made to look good!

Next we had a trip to Limoges, again with the intention of scouting retailers.  It was a showery and on the way up the wind screen wipers were a little ponderous.  In Limoges itself, during a particularly heavy shower they packed up completely!  This made a short drive in traffic to a place we could stop hair raising to say the very least.  We had lunch as places would be shut for said and were disappointed to discover that they were still next to useless as we drove a short distance to the nearest, small, Renault place.  They couldn’t help us…

So we had to get to another place further away with a comedically random occasional semi-sweep from the sodding wipers.  Normally when conditions are bad everyone has the same problem and drive accordingly – being the only car which had an issue was not an experience to relish.  However, arriving safely and discovering that our French wasn’t enough to detail the issue the large Dealership got a mechanic who spoke some English to establish the problem.  They tended to it while we went to a nearby shopping centre.  During which time we had details of the trivial reason – on the part of the seller – for the house purchase delay confirmed…  The wiper motor was knackered due to a blocked drain flooding the area it sits in – this was something that we had raised twice with UK garages and it had apparently been addressed tho we had always been suspicious that it hadn’t…  Another failing of others not us.

The French garage were however very good and we were able to drive home safely on what overall wasn’t the best of days.

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After a few more days of pottering we decided to have a road trip.  Mlle Sat Nav had been silent for a while so we had her guide us to Saint Emilion – known to those who pay a little more for a bottle of red than average.  Having been before when based in Bordeaux we relished the prospect of another visit.  Surrounded by tens of thousands of lines of vines we meandered almost on purpose between them to it through little roads. 

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It’s a great wee place, tho may be best avoided by a recovering alcoholic.

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The windows of he underground church

It’s a lovely wee village and despite being off season was open and reasonably busy.  There is an underground church which is a must for any visitor and though pictures aren’t allowed is incredible.  We had lunch and I had duck which was rather good.

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We had a wander around the lac at Ladignac Le Long which was lovely, ignoring a lone yoga doer thrusting skywards in the public building.  She didn’t see us – she had headphones on – but we were a little taken aback by her vigour!  Most of the municipal lakes have fishing some of the year and often have facilities for general use.  For example you can see I set a new personal climbing record of just over six feet.

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Man of action?  Ignore the socks!

As Autumn’s leaves fell Kay and Paul pointed out this whopping hornets nest on their land.  There are some huge ones visible around here!

Back at the ranch I tried popping Mitzy on a tree branch so she could better look around – she didn’t like that at all and jumped down legging it towards the gite.  I was of course forced not only to keep hold of her lead but to follow the fast little bugger for fear of her running away and getting lost.  Susan helped brilliantly with this incident by nearly wetting herself laughing at me…

Above is our new view.  That’s brought things a bit more up to date.  Though there are more stories to share including my quest to get to a Coupe de France match in Limoges.  Oh and tales of buying a house!

5 grounds, 4 games and 13 goals… Football Special

Due to S’s pending travels and our earlier arrival in the Haute Vienne I went to my first French match on the 20th of October, Limoges FC against Poitiers in the National 3. LFC were relegated due to off field problems last season from the National 2. I saw them twice last time we were over and monitored them prior and since. Getting there in plenty time to purchase traditional fayre I saw Alain of the Supporters Club who welcomed me warmly giving me my Membership card, he got a Raith Rovers keyring in return. I accompanied him to the wee area where they are trying to cultivate a bit of noise and was introduced to a number of people. All of them had names which ones was a mystery especially as he introduced someone else later using the wrong name to the amusement of the rest of us.

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Sausage, roll, mayonnaise & Coke

There has been a change of squad since last season so no familiar faces from my previous visits. Limoges have been doing ok, conceding few but not scoring many and drawn most of their League games but had progressed in the French Cup which I had hoped they would remain in for me to see. I recognised that their other keeper was playing and was surprised to see a youngster who’d been signed recently starting.

Any first game is about trying to see how a side operate and get an idea about the players. In what ended up being a 0:0 draw I learnt the following. The back-up keeper Cornet made a couple of very decent saves late on, the new youngster Faucher is very decent and playing out from the back is the norm – I ain’t knocking it the French seem not bad at fitba as this summer again proved… The home side couldn’t quite create an opportunity up front but looked reasonably solid across the middle and at the back. I also discovered that I default to French at St Lazare the LFC ground for the basics, allez, bonne, etc.. I was also reminded that French supporters expect to be stirred by the play on the pitch so I already knew that my efforts to encourage are often largely solos!
Limoges FC 0, Poitiers 0 – National 3 – French 5th Tier

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Goaless but entertaining

Next as S was away I went to an U16 game Limousin v the Dordogne in Lubersac.  Due to an error in the publicity I arrived in plenty of time for the 2.30 kick off. So much so I was the first person there other than the chap opening the bar and I was pleased to see some players arrive five minutes later. The game kicked off at 3.00 or rather 3.10… By which time I was concerned about the hot sun and had wandered around the pitch watching the youngsters warming up, which they did themselves rather than being instructed by a coach. Three mini-buses had brought guys from the Haute Vienne, Correze and Creuse while the visitors arrived on a coach.

Also I had been approached by one of the coaches – there weren’t more than a dozen fans – who seemed not to fancy the chances of his Limousin side. The players including the visitors right back who looked about 12 were pretty good. A wee lad like him in Scotland would have been dropped/kicked out the game by U16 level but there was no sign of that here. There was lots of playing out from the back and at half time it was 1:1 with the Dordogne side getting a goal back just before the half. Both number 6’s looked good, the visiting one in green was polished and skilful but only passed backwards – he reminded me a lot of Jean Philippe Javary but without the streak of mental genius – whereas the home lad in blue was much more tenacious and direct.

At the half I asked the Limousin coach if their keeper had a hat. He didn’t but wasn’t bothered it appeared at the prospect of playing facing the sun in the second half. Both the coach and I thought he should be more concerned. The home lads continued to do well and scored before being pegged back. Then a sub who’d shown good touches scored the goal of the game running through the middle and jinking past a defender before firing the ball in the top corner from the edge of the box. That more than justified my 4e total expenditure on drinks! As time ran down the greens scored two goals in the last four minutes one of which the Limousin keeper may have been better able to prevent … if he’d had a hat. The defeat I think was a little harsh on the Limousin side who despite being the underdogs matched the visitors throughout.

Limousin U16 4, Dordogne U16 3

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JPJ-alike by keeper

During our previous time here, I was a Saint Yrieix la Perche FC regular as they won promotion in the Haute Vienne pyramid – details of which are found in the older updates. Anyway, SYlP FC have struggled of late and having worked with AS Ladignac Le Long on the Youth side of things have sort of merged with them. Thus on a Saturday the 3rd I set off towards Ladignac to see them play and realised – cos I’m stupid – that they would be playing at the SYlP ground which is rather better than the AS L facility. As SYlP came into view I could see the glow up the hill of the lights and arriving a couple of minutes in joined a few dozen fans to watch the game against Chateauneuf Neuvic B.

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Back at my old stomping ground

AS L were clearly the better side and looked much more of a threat against the visitors who had a guy my age up front. He was more mobile than me and clearly had a bit experience using his dwindling physical abilities to their maximum. There were few familiar faces in the crowd – a couple of guys I recognised who used to play for SYlP – and I edged towards the bar as the half wound down. A half in which AS L had done everything except score. Being first in the bar I was greeted by a surprised Phillipe who I’d got to know a little during our previous stay. He was behind the bar and is currently the President of SYlP FC mainly it seems for administrative purposes. We had a quick chat before others arrived for a drink and to warm up from what was for them a cool evening.

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You can win with Grandads!

The second half brought more control of the game by AS L who made the visiting keeper make save after save. The home custodian had nothing to do and was helpless when a rare cross was deflected to the feet of the erm experienced striker six yards out. He put it in turning away more with a look of surprise on his face than joy. AS L pushed on the last 20 minutes was one way traffic during which the home keeper made a few decent saves and one absolutely brilliant one leaping to his left to touch a vicious strike just over. The visitor’s lone front man was replaced by a guy who was a few years older and did very little. The visitors who were in the bottom three of the league hung on and were very chuffed at the final whistle.
AS Ladignac 0, Chateauneuf Neuvic B 1 – Haute Vienne Departmental 3 – Poule C – 3rd Tier in Haute Vienne

The following Sunday the 11th – as were killing time waiting for the house stuff to move on – I drove to Bosmie L’Anguille using Mlle Sat Nav. I arrived in time for the 3 o’clock kick off but couldn’t find the ground! Eventually having consulted an old-fashioned roadside map I arrived a few minutes into the game. AS L had it appeared at first no fans other than a random Scottish bloke but as the game wore on it became clear that a wee group of young women had also travelled at least one of them to watch their boyfriend face Bosmie Charroux.

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The open end of the building is the bar/aid station

AS L’s 11 opened the scoring after a shot from the number 8 hit the bar. The AS L number 9 almost doubled the lead in acrobatic fashion at the far post but got it all wrong and it remained 0:1 at the half. In the first period I was flummoxed to see the ref produce a white card which meant 9 had to go sit on the bench for 10 minutes as punishment for dissent.

At half time the home goalie – who made me look like an athlete – did not join his team mates in the changing room instead he was in the bar area having his upper thigh strapped chatting to the locals! The big lad in goals for the home side was not mobile to start with and was a spectator when AS L’s number 7 got onto a through ball and chipped him. AS L continued to look more dangerous and but the home side’s best player hit the bar with a lovely curled free kick before the hosts got a goal back.

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Allez le bleu et noir

I was again defaulting to French for the basic stuff but good a funny look of another visiting fan when I said perfectly reasonably “Good ball!” AS L’s 11 scored with a splendid dipping volley from outside the box before the blue and black number 10 – fresh from a wee seat on the bench prompted by a white card – played a great defence splitting pass from inside his own half. The AS L number 8 ran onto it, controlled it nicely before slotting the ball home in the last action of the match.

davBosmie-Charroux 1, AS Ladignac 4 – Haute Vienne Departmental 3 – Poule C
The result took AS L up the 3rd place in the 12 team league.

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View of Limoges from the car park

Mustard of the Night and Fannys beware!

On one of our trips into SYlP after we parked we saw a chap reversing a wee digger so he could put it on the trailer of a works lorry. He did this slowly and purposefully but with a little less care than he should gently reversed his sturdy charge into the back of a parked van. A bloke was perfectly innocently eating his lunch in said works van when it was rudely but not very roughly taken from behind! He got out as did two other chaps from the lorry. Having seen it happen at almost slow-motion pace we paused to see what would develop. I feared that three people to one could be an issue and wandered over to make clear – in my best attempt at French – that we’d seen what had happened and could help if needed. Pleasingly the matter was being dealt with in a very relaxed and laidback fashion so our assistance was not required.

IMG_20181024_115912.jpgOn we went with our main task which was to find and purchase Walnut mustard – a special request of my Dad and Stepmother – in the Cave de Bacchus. It’s a very cool wine and for want of a better term fancy food and stuff shop run by a chap who played for SYlP FC when I used to go watch them. S stepped in to assist when I asked if they had “Mutard de nuit?” not “Mutard de noix?” The young shop assistant was no doubt confused as to what the hell Mustard of the Night was or could be!

In an effort to help S recover from laughing at me we stopped for a drink at The Joker café which still serves the best coffee in her view. Having just managed to pass on the regards of Jan and Keith to madam patron her initial blank look pleasingly changed to one of understanding. Wandering on we were waylaid by Kim half of our hosts from our viewing trip in late June, who now run J & K’s old place. We chatted catching up and she recounted her busy summer then we explained that as they didn’t allow pets we weren’t with them again this time.

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A winding path

On our next wander we nearly walked to the Dordogne, not that we knew it at the time… Having checked out the church in Le Chalard as featured pictorially last time we wandered down hill to the mill. The watermill, now a home, used the Isle river to turn it’s wheel and such which I had suspected but checked after. While doing so I discovered that here the water way marks the boundary between the Haute Vienne and the Dordogne. Despite SYlP being further south and our new abode a little further south again they are in the HV not the more expensive D. The Isle river meanders on south westish getting bigger and bigger before joining the Dordogne river at Libourne which is a good hundred and eighty k’s by road from here.  (Which makes it more than several  times longer than the River Forth at 29m/47k – you’re welcome).  The Dordogne then joins the mighty Gironne, (the big one on all the maps of France that goes thru Bordeaux). The older of the two readers may remember the Isle goes past where we spent our first six months in 2014/15 where it is only a few feet wide.

On the way back the peace and serenity was broken by a sound as if from the gates of hell itself. A screeching wail that rang out across the idyll came from a donkey that had a decent set of lungs on it as well the ability to project brilliantly from its diaphragm. As we were slogging back up the hill I was able to hide a little the surprise I got even if S couldn’t hide hers. The beasts mission accomplished of scaring the heck out of wandering folk it returned to silence, the git!

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Familiar as we are with all the local supermarkets, the large and small Intermarche, the Hyper Casino, Super U and Netto we are checking out what provides our favourite items most reasonably. On one such trip to Intermarche I enquired as to the availability of application details for a loyalty card then realised we didn’t yet have an address. Having confused the woman a little I drew the conversation to a close only for her a minute later to come scampering after us to see if I had paid for the bottle of diet cola I had had under my arm. I am many things but a criminal I am not… If however I were to begin down the road to criminality I’d start with the full fat and sugar stuff. I ain’t going to the big house for no diet pish!

With no indication of progress on the house buying front we continued to get into a bit of a routine until Wednesday the 24th when we went to Limoges Airport. There S picked up a stealth hire car for the drive north. She was off to Brittainy for a few days to learn about what she will be doing with Prestige Property Services assisting them with the Gite/Holiday reservation side of things. The process of getting the car was pretty simple after the place opened following lunch. In the small airport building were an exhibition of rather good cartoons – France is big on such things so you can enjoy some of them can be understood internationally…

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The nice woman told us the hybrid hire car was very quiet. Being a hybrid quiet was not the word, silent or more accurately less than silent in a completely decibel free or even negative way… S being a bit of an executive type has much more experience of hire cars and such than boring old me, but we were both convinced that we couldn’t get the effing thing going! As there was room in front of the car my absolutely last straw suggestion of, “See if it moves…” was a forlorn cry. When it did it was met with surprise and relief from both of us. Significantly happier S headed off for quite six hour drive north, remember France is really rather big, while went back to ours. There are no pics of this episode tho anyone wandering by would have found our feeble efforts very amusing viewing…

S however arrived safely and no doubt silently. Mitzy seemed to handle being stuck with me and having a fifty percent reduction in available laps pretty well. While S was away I went to an old haunt of ours Lubersac for fitba courtesy of posters we saw on the Sunday – again see the other post. I did so after having lunched in Cro’k Food who had been teasing me via Facebook for months with their glorious burger creations – they are as I hoped as good as they look tho the sample size is so far small I will endeavour to visit again for your not my own good. Why anyone would go to McDonalds when they are in the town goodness only knows. As regards the rest of the day suffice to say I – who have been sun burnt about three times in my life – was genuinely concerned that I was going to be peeling for a fourth time. My wandering into the shade at half time and ample moisturising when I got home both did the job as thankfully I only added to my October tan. October and tan are two words I have rarely used together until now…

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I had begun watching a bit of Petanque – aka boules – on French TV and it was the European Championships. The UK appeared to be un-represented, but will no doubt win it all after Brexit just cos… Anyway, I’d happened across a very tight and exciting quarter final between France and Switzerland in the three a side version. The French girls won even though one of them, Daisy missed a couple of key shots. I the next day found the same Triplette – trio – beating Italy with Charlotte – who can knock away an opposition ball with disturbing accuracy – and Anna – who despite being young will soon have more titles than Steve Redgrave – both doing well. Daisy again seemed to feel the pressure of playing alongside two such well established players. I ended up seeing the Final which France won 13-0, pleasingly with Daisy making the winning throw before dissolving into tears. A clean sheet win in Petanque is called a Fanny. Traditionally, (I’ve double & triple checked this), if you get beaten 13-0 you must kiss a girl called Fanny on the bottom! I know that’s why I triple checked.  Don’t check this on a work PC!

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A Fanny

Accordingly, Petanque/Boule clubs often have a little statuette or similar rather than a lass of said name poised and available in case of a white wash or drubbing. I had wondered about having a go at the sport myself having had a few games in Pompadour during our long stay. This does make me wonder if it’s a good idea or not … I will not reveal yet which way this little gem of trivia is swaying my thoughts. There are clearly pro’s and con’s.

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A more subtle Fanny

The name Fanny is not uncommon in France and I was amused that a French judo star was featured in the local paper the very next day who luxuriates in the name Fanny Posvite. I am positive if I lost a match heavily I’d be leaving that Fanny and her bottom well alone.

Tune in next time to see if S comes back – #spoileralert she does – and what else we’ve been doing… :-)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bits, bobs and double daring do! Settling in in 87500

Experience has taught us that when heading over to stay with or near Brit hosts it is important to ask if there is anything they crave from the UK. We arrived in the hamlet of Gondandeix with tins of Heinz Tomato Soup. This is not a hint to potential visitors… Well it wasn’t intended to be but now I think about it feel free to ask if ever heading our way!
Anyway, with Mitzy recovering from her journey and us a day earlier in situ in 87500 – which is the French post code for hereabouts – we unpacked further and began the process of waiting for confirmation of the date for the purchase of our new French abode, anticipating it would be early November at the latest. On our first full day we drove past to check the hoose was still in one piece which pleasingly it was.

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Autumn market

 

In the mean time we were to be Chez Kay and Paul in a converted stable. It does the job rather splendidly and gave me the opportunity to get back into the swing of tending to a wood burner not that this was a prime consideration in mid-October. We have French TV so are missing … frankly nothing much that we watched in the UK. It gives us the opportunity to try and polish up our French a bit and watch some stuff we wouldn’t normally. It also means we can see what Jonny Hallyday, Jenifer, Trois Café Gourmands and the rather splendid Fatal Bazooka look like from their videos. I am yet to knock any sense into myself in the upstairs portions of our wee hoose on the angled ceilings, S has not yet had a problem for height related reasons. Mitzy settled in rapidly, enjoying sitting making faces at the many birds that like to welcome the dawn in the trees outside. She was not at this stage not bothered about not being allowed out but we wondered how long that would last for our wee prisoner of stable block H, (pronounced ach here).

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S before we escaped the sun

Knowing this neck of the woods as we do we were quickly back into the swing of going to the shops and getting what we needed. There have been a couple of changes in shops since we were in Saint Yrieix la Perche for eleven months with a cheese shop opening and the arrival of a McDonalds which we haven’t yet got around to visiting. We did however over the first few days visit a few of the café’s so S could re-establish which had the best coffee and had lunch in the Vice Versa her fave. Posters at the roadside told of a Marche de Producteurs D’Automne on Saturday the 20th. Celebrating local produce like the apples and white chestnuts produced in the area. Not wanting to miss out on the first event since our arrival we toddled along on a glorious day with the temperature in the low to mid-twenties. So sunny was it that we after our initial lap of the stalls we nabbed a place at a long table under cover where an old couple were settling down for the afternoon. Like professionals they were equipped with picnic plates, cutlery and their medication required to taken before food. I got a sausage and just missed out on the last of very few bits of veggie pizza. Thus plan B was enacted for S’s lunch and after the chef who apparently features on local TV assured me the chestnut soup was veggie I was unable to have some lardons (wee thick slices like bacon) added to his offering. We both like chestnut soup it turns out tho I doubt that the addition of lovely lardons would have done anything but improve it for me…

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Charity Apple

It was interesting seeing a few faces we recognised from events we’d been to in the past and we had another wander around. During which we learnt that the Limousin has thirty-six (36!) different apple species. That theme continued with some rather elaborately decorated larger than life versions which were later auctioned for charity. We declined the opportunity to dive in as it were to the large crates full of several different varieties of pommes to take away with us. We did however get a bottle of very freshly pressed apple juice – like within half an hour tops – that Greek Gods may have scorned nectar in favour of.

That evening – as I knew I would be busy the next Saturday – I headed off up the D704 to see Limoges FC in action. See the specific footie update for all the details, or dinnae it’s up to you! We went to Pompadour after a wee drive as we refamiliarized ourselves with the area on the Sunday having a wee drink at Le Ramparts café across from the Chateau on another lovely day.

 

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Le Chalard church

A couple of days later we walked into Le Chalard – the nearest village – along a path which was blocked by a fallen tree. Thus, we had to get all SAS style in our crawling under the one strand electric fence to continue. Ooohh the danger and daring do I hear you cry! As we dawdled up the hill through the village we were a little surprised to see a hardback graphic novel on the roadside. I propped it up against a wall so it would be more obvious to who-ever we thought must have dropped it.

A little further on we saw another then in the wee square on the steps was a third, Biggles Le Vol du Walkenstein in which he was in Scotland. Having been a fan of Biggles in my yoof – before I knew what racism and misogyny were – I flicked through it following the plot and not being massively surprised that the good guys, Biggles, Algy and Ginger saved the day. Oddly Ginger in the French version is not the character with ginger hair… The rest of our wander back to Gondandeix required much less pluck and adventurousness.

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Biggles book!

We knew from our previous stay that perhaps in honour of our friend Jan’s birthday, who we’d visited on the way south, cranes aka Grues migrate over in large numbers. Being a decent size and vocal – I suppose like your lowly scribe – they are often heard before they come into view. Their honk like calls prompt looks skyward as the latest flock go over in a large V formation.

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Migrating cranes

If you are lucky, as we were with the first lot this year, they have a bit of a blether to each other and circle to get their bearings and then re-form into a group before departing for northern France and it turns out on to Poland. We were stood in the garden having spotted them when Kay our hostess came out to see them too. She is a fan and was pleased to hear we shared her interest. The cries from above punctuated the next ten days or so and S got this rather good pic on one of our wanders despite not really being able to see them properly. There are just over ninety in this V but we have seen groups of two and three times this size this year. It’s a very, very cool thing.

La Rochelle and on to Le Chalard

The drive from Nantes to La Rochelle was shorter and less roasty. We arrived early – thanks to Mlle Sat Nav – and rather than dwell too long checked into our hotel and set off for a wander. Having of course one less day than planned due to Animal Courier daftness.
It was a nice day a little over cast but pleasantly warm for north Europeans like us. Having pottered about the harbour area we sought nosh. I ordered moulles et frites and S a veggie omelette. The area was reasonably busy and we soaked up the atmosphere which included a shabby chic chap dozing on a bench with neither us nor him having a care in the world. Our food arrived and S’s omelette looked good having as it did lots of obvious lardons, this was not quite as veggie as requested so another was rustled up quick sharp. I meanwhile had a frankly massive portion of mussels and reasonable sized accompaniment of chips. Due to the sheer size of my mollusc mound I began, with S’s permission. They were rather fab and as I ploughed through them I discovered a couple of innocent bystanders namely tiny little crabs that had been living in a couple of my lunch! They had however ended up meeting the same fate as their larger hosts, except I didn’t eat them. By the time my first bowl of empty shells had been removed – two were provided – S was tucking into a fresh omelette and to our amusement the dozing gentleman had moved in the neighbouring eaterie and was tucking into an ice cream with gusto.

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La Rochelle

Suitably refuelled we set off for a wander around the walls and two famous towers that protected the port from foreign invaders. Despite it being off season there were lots of visitors but not enough to be an issue. The towers that mark the entrance to the harbour are interesting and there are also two light houses. One of which is rather away from the quayside but if out to sea you line them up you’ll come into the harbour without any problems – which struck me as clever. Tho I’m easily impressed.

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Famous towers

There was no hiding of the fact that for quite a period of it’s history La Rochelle was rather vigorous in the then very fashionable Slave Trade… Something many other places are not quite so willing to mention and in fact often do their very best to hide – as recent news about Glasgow proves.

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Quayside

After a quiet night we discovered that our hotel had a view of TGV or similar trains that had just left the nearby station. S isn’t yet missing her daily commute on Scotrail – that feeling appears to be delayed! The Bay of Biscay which is what boats setting sail from La Rochelle faced for centuries can be a bit dodgy weather wise. It rained the next day as if to illustrate that fact and so I could throw in that educational titbit. Anyway, that didn’t bother us as we were going underground!

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Old and new

During WWII there were submarines based in La Rochelle and the group they were from had a black cat as their emblem. The U boats were based in a massively reinforced concrete bunkers which attracted the attention of both the UK and US air forces – which of course lead to civilian as well as military casualties. The U boat crews were based in a Hotel Etranger – fans of Bergerac will know that means foreigners. Below that building remains a bunker which is now a museum. It is rather interesting for example the Mayor of La Rochelle on the day it was occupied had a German Lieutenant go to the Mairie (town house) and order him to take down the French flag and replace it with a Swastika one. The man in his seventies refused to take such an order from a low-ranking officer and told him to go get someone more senior! That was the first resistance in the city and the Mayor a few years later was to pay for his continued involvement in such things with his life. The German U boat crews and colleagues were pretty successful early on but tactical and technological advances by the Allies meant that the average life expectancy of U boat crewmen was only about three months and in total upwards of three quarters of them were killed.

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Gratuitous Bergerac picture

The bunker was interesting and a little surprisingly had a well decorated bar – much of which was still visible. A couple of women had left the employment of a department store in Germany to do interior design for the U boat crews, decorating the bar and no doubt parts of the Hotel above as well. They were paid by the Kreigsmarine – the German Navy – to do so. Even when after D-Day the remaining U boat units left France going to Norway they were deemed important enough to go with them. At the end of the War the Allies then asked the same women to decorate their accommodation! Doing painting and interior design for both sides… How oddly curious.
Emerging above ground it had continued to rain which was ironic as there seemed to be a theme of pink umbrella’s across the city, none of which we nicked. We went to a pizza place called Rigoletto on rue Chef de Ville, a street or two from the harbour. I mention it as the pizza’s were very, very good. The tomato sauce on them was much richer than you normally get. Consider it recommended! As we had an early start the next day … we had a quiet evening packing and similar. Not before a nice woman stopped to ask us directions, something that rarely happened in the UK but seems to happen to me all the time in France…

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Pretty town

 

Next morning we checked out a day and a bit early to rendezvous with our travelling cat. It was dark and we stopped for petrol. As I finished filling up a guy was struggling to get his car to the pump. After I’d paid he was still having difficulty so with my mediocre French and some pointing I helped shove it forward. Unhindered by such problems we pootled towards 87500.

Not having any idea when Mitzy was arriving we kept on going pausing only when necessary. We knew the Animal Couriers knew S couldn’t access ansaphone messages on her mobile so wouldn’t call her and leave a message. It turns out that they did do that but our expectations of them were so low that was no surprise… We paused only when we had to stopping in La Rochefoucauld for frankly rather obvious reasons. It had a nice chateau which has been added to and worked on since they first broke ground back in 980!

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Chateau!

We arrived in Le Chalard or rather Gondandeix where Kay and Paul – our short-term hosts – had not already welcomed Mitzy. We took some stuff out the car and as M had still not arrived were able to whiz into Saint Yrieix la Perche to grab a scratch post having got a litter tray, etc, during our previous stop. Returning we were able to get more out the car and settle down to wait for the bundle of fur and occasional attitude that is our cat. Unhearalded and without notice a van appeared and Kay told us we had a visitor. Mitzy seem pleased to be removed from said van and relatively soon was settled down on S’s lap. She seemed fine and was blissfully unaware of the shambles that had gone along with her travels and the impact Animal Couriers had on not just S and I but the innocent bystanders that were Kay and Paul.

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Then there were three…

Nantes

Despite it being October the drive was hot, not just hot but very hot, 25 degrees hot. That’s needing to stop for a medicinal ice lolly hot. It also meant we got the hang of our cars air con something rarely used in central Scotland. The long drive was otherwise fine as we became more accustomed to a road network and infrastructure that works, is thought through and properly funded – if only the UK tried say any one of those things.
On the way well accustomed to the roads and driving on the other side tho we were, Mlle Sat Nav still caused cries of alarm when she bluntly blurted out instructions. Arriving at an Ibis Style – I can fake stylish for but a night – we did out two trips in and wondered at the room being hot. The air conditioning did nothing – it transpired that unsurprisingly the dual function units had switched to heating not AC the week before. Which is very reasonable considering it was mid October but I fear not factoring in what we’ve sadly done to our planet.

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Poster from last post

Off we toddled again having looked via Google Maps towards the tram line to head for the Ile de Machines. The stops ticket machine was not working so we set off on foot which was good after a long drive. Foiled in our initial route we wandered towards where S’s phone said our destination was marvelling at heading for a hundred moped drivers wearing pink capes and honking their high pitched horns as they noisily if not to rapidly went by. It was a charity event of some kind and they lapped us as we went what turned out to be the longer route to where we were going. It being a Saturday night the bars lined along the edge of the old dock buildings were busy not just with Nantes young and vigorous but families and older folk too.

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Big ennit!

Heading back on ourselves we found details of the famous mechanical Elephant which can carry up to fifty people on it’s back. I tried to get S’s attention as she looked at the information board and at the third attempt got her to take a couple of steps to the side where she could see the real thing!

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Told you…

It being late in the day the massive machine was parking up for the night but we saw it reverse into it’s resting place. It is quite a thing and difficult to describe or grasp in either written form or by photograph.

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I mean, really…  Wow!

They have a number of other mechanical creatures that look like a cross between Dr Who and Star Wars characters. The ingenuity of them all is quite something as must be the skills of those who create the beasts/creatures/robots…

Into the city centre we wandered in search of nosh. I had – wait for it – a duck salad which was rather lovely while S had a salad without duck… Heading back a lovely little kid was hanging about beside the ticket machine to his well turned out head scarf wearing mother’s annoyance… Having got us our tickets, the wee lad scored 20 cents, as did his brother – fair’s fair. A hoodlum may have just been created but we doubt it very much. We got the tram back to the hotel and retired to our warm room but slept fine with the window open. We liked Nantes from the brief time we spent there.

Between Nantes and out curtailed time in La Rochelle we enjoyed more October like weather – or nice August Scottish weather. Near Cognac we saw this, which for me took the edge of the finesse and romance of the product…

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Brandy Brand