Meandering South (actually west then south…)

Next morning – paying more heed to the stroppy lass imprisoned in our dashboard – we headed from Calais for Etretat. Why pray tell, I hear you both cry…

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Pretty like a picture

After meandering enjoyably through some wee villages – Mlle Sat Nav seems to like that sort of route as we do – we arrived and after some Google Maps prep the night before parked at the sea front. Etretat is very nice but be warned the parking meters are clearly designed for proper geniuses. We waited patiently unconcerned while married Americans were shown how it worked by a very understanding French couple. He wanted her “to give them a dollar” for helping! How hard can it be we thought? Only for the next person to have similar difficulties before being helped by a different patient French person. I’ve 5 years of further education and much more significantly S has put up with me for 17 years and it took us a while! Not only does it ask for your registration but I’m pretty sure we needed to input our favourite colour, height and Joan of Arcs date of birth squared to the nearest prime number… It wasn’t however pricey obviously as some form of reward for the Nobel Laureates who manage to get a wee ticket out the very testing machine. There is free parking out of town for people with the intellectual capacities of Stephens Fry and Hawking…

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Other side of the bay

Etretat is however iconically beautiful and as it was sunny well worth a visit for those who like Monet and his Impressionist ilk. I fear it is busier peak season but we were able to wander the streets unhindered by coach parties and paused to soak up the ambience eating frites and mayo – as you do.

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Better pic

Onwards we went leaving behind the queues of people wailing and gnashing their teeth at the parking meters. Seriously the other parking is the better option unless you feel particularly clever or have kidnapped a PhD. Pootling along towards Honfleur another painter’s haunt we had few cares in the world going over the Pont de Normande which is one then another whopping feat of engineering…

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From one bridge to the other

We arrived without problems at the Ibis Hotel hosting us for the night. After unloading our most valuables, which required two trips each stop, we fitted after a fashion our headlight adapter thingys. This would have taken less time if we were not still recovering from the gargantuan test of our intellectual capacities that was parking for two to three hours in Etretat.

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Only bit with the name … Not the best but avoided the bins!

S was given a cool poster advertising an art exhibition on in Honfleur around her date of birth by a very good friend of hers. We wandered the short distance into town and having found the place that hosted said exhibition dawdled around the harbour which is still lined with higgledy piggledy old buildings many of which are now bars and eateries. Pleasingly Honfleur retains the charm of the Impressionists daubings of the past even if the properties are now not as brightly coloured.

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Working harbour

 

Having found a place for our tea S checked her phone and discovered a missed call, said device rang at that moment and it was the animal couriers who were transporting our cat Mitzy. The woman told S that they were dropping off our wee poppet on the 16th not the 17th – which was not what we’d asked for nor paid them to do as we were not going to arrive ourselves until the 17th! We said we’d not be there to have her delivered foolishly thinking the date arranged was how their system would work. Sat as we were mid main course this was a very unpleasant surprise. I then spoke to the woman who lied about things clearly previously stated in e-mails and among other things threatened to not bother collecting Mitzy at all OR refund the significant amount of money we’d already paid the f@cktards. Despite her saying with no hint of irony whatsoever, “Just because you put the 17th on the Booking Form”! This being something which we’d it appeared very stupidly done before they confirmed the details and took our money. The woman was hilariously inept and accused me of being “rude and aggressive”, bless her. In that we were in a busy restaurant and I was surprisingly being both calm and measured in my comments, attracting no attention from the other diners. I fear the poor woman has had a very, very sheltered life. She wouldn’t like me at all if I had been being either of these things. I won’t name the company of Animal Couriers…

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Pretty

Our evening very much over shadowed we called the people we were booked to stay with from the 17th and they rather brilliantly came up with a few options to save the day and stop Mitzy being abandoned at the road side or left stuck in Polmont with a happy Debra and less so Gordon…

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It’s still art hereabouts

When we returned to the Hotel S needed a drink – something that despite being married to me is surprisingly a very rare occurrence. The next morning it had dawned on us that we could cut short our established and paid for travel plans to fit the whims and idiosyncrasies of the Animal Couriers dullards who no doubt consider themselves to operate in the service sector. This was agreed with our hosts and we – having no indication as to any arrival time – became resigned to our holiday plans being screwed up (to our cost) and an early morning start then high tailed drive to 87500 hoping to get there before our charming and blissfully ignorant of the shenanigans wee grey feline.

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Ironically named eaterie – The cat that fishes

Having addressed this further the next morning and gone back to the customer service ignoring Animal Couriers we set off towards Nantes…

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Are we there yet? 2018

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Another brick or two in the wall

We set off south on the 8th of October, the car heavily loaded and despite the efforts of Halfords – who’d redefined useless – a top box was safely in situ. Almost leaving behind a slipper having packed the top box in sideways rain and with house keys we thought we’d left behind… The first stops were Vindolandia, the Roman Army Museum and Hadrians Wall – all of which were very interesting and well worth the visit.

Our first night was in the Hilton at John Lennon aka Liverpool Airport as Susan had amassed enough hotel points for a free stay. Unlike a certain Hotel California* said Hilton is harder to get into than leave perched as it is atop a multi-storey car park… At the third attempt we managed to find our way to it and check in. Apart from being elusive it was fine and you can see a yellow submarine the significance of which no-one needed explained, honest. (As regards the * Ringo Starr of The Beatles is brother in law of Joe Walsh of The Eagles… You’re welcome!)

Next day getting used as we were to the sat nav – knowing the way where we used to live – the sheer joy of long stretches of 50mph limits were broken by the voice tersely shouting at us to do something or other. Smart Motorways are a brilliant bit of spin btw – using the hard shoulder as another lane and hoping for the best cannot go wrong… We used the toll bit of the M6 which was like a French road smooth surfaced, clean, empty and efficient but avoiding the civilisation and no doubt numerous delights of Birmingham.

Due to historic under investment and a stroppy cow telling us to drive through The Fens we arrived late at Jan and Keith’s. They had hosted us for the first six months of our previous French adventure and despite that were more than happy to see us. We had a lovely lunch and they detailed some of the differences they are getting used to going the other way.

Not Maureen

Not Maureen or is it???

We then went onto darkest Norfolk having a couple of fun days with Maureen and Keiran where we dealt with a couple of issues, sending back keys, requesting a screw in a shop – for my sunglasses – and sharing a picture from one of the museums of a person who looked very, very much like Maureen. On the last night we had a curry that sadly impacted three of us in one way or another…

Thus it was a tired, weaker and perhaps slimmer me that started the drive south not having risked breakfast. Susan took over as we weaved between many a lorry in the ferry terminal at Dover. Loads and loads of lorries, as there had been going both ways on the motorway through Kent. Thank goodness the UK would never do anything to jeopardise this vibrant, lucrative and clearly important trade.

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Cheerio

A storm had been approaching the UK and we were fearful it may be channelled up the Channel leading to a rough crossing. S was more worried than I was as I had little to lose! Anyway we rolled onto the roll on roll off and having checked the muster stations and taken a few pictures retired to the adult only lounge to avoid several coach loads of school kids. Before you get all excited the adult only lounge was not as exotic as it may appear unless you find pictures of boats and peace and quiet stimulating… If there had been a disco funk soundtrack we’d not have entered! This was probably a good thing as the boat wasn’t rocking much already and I was still in a weakened state. Having chunnelled our previous trips it was easy to see why this has been the main crossing point from Roman times as both sides were clearly in view much of the way.

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On our way

Arriving we didn’t need the stroppy lass to find the hotel. But berthing in a different place we used her to get us back to the hotel via a perfectly lovely but unnecessary trip up then down a normal or by UK standards great bit of motorway. The Calais Holiday Inn has been a regular stopping point and they now have chickens roaming the grounds which is cool. Striving a walk we set off for the nearish mall but turned around before some rather heavy rain had the wipers in overdrive and that would have drenched us. After enjoying the large supermarket – all should have a sushi bit with folk doing fresh stuff – a quiet evening was had before a sensible start the next day.

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Dafty!

 

More French stories… 2015

As the clock ticks down towards our return to Scotland I will flip through some of what we’ve been up to…

Evening market (SYlP one)

Evening market (SYlP one)

Before Chris returned after the cycling we three went along to a weekly Marche de Producteur in Segur le Chateau on the Monday night. It’s a Plus Beau Village and was absolutely mobbed – both Chris and S got veggie food – while I had to make do with half a duck breast… There were stalls around the large area of tables and bench seating as several hundred people ate, drank and listened to live music. There was a great relaxed atmosphere and really enjoyable tho Chris may have preferred a different play list music wise. We sat on the deck that night watching the sun go down gently and blethered the prefect end to a great evening. There had been a few stunning sun sets.

However I’m sure Chris enjoyed that more than the Vide Grenier on the Saturday at SYlP FC which we went to after I’d shown him the town – it was a medium sized market/car boot sale which was made all the better by some Three Musketeer type guys and gals who had a few sword fights and such.  I was able to have a wee chat with a few of the fitba regulars who were there – which was good.

We paused in Limoges so Chris could have a wee look at the place before he jetted off.

SYlP evening do...

SYlP evening do…

After Chris went S and I had a few days of pottering about – we went to the SYlP’s Marche de Producteur on a Thursday night. During July and August you could go to four or five a week, villages do a night each, which would be great but not good for your wasteline. The friendly chap who we’d spoken too at the Bastille Day event wandered over to say hello. Having ducked the time before I had several sausages and took advantage of the fact the guys from the football were running the bar…  Result!  That made it easier to get served…  I also discovered that SYlP FC had got a difficult draw in the first round of the Coupe de France facing a team from 4 divisions higher.  The goalie was concerned, the player coach also not hopeful and my efforts to gee them up fell on deaf ears with Philippe.

We had a few wee local trips and another splendid lunch in the Vice Versa in SYlP.

Oor view...

Oor view…

I had a wee time out of things – the details of which don’t need broadcast on here – but thanks to Susan, family and friends who provided support.  You know who you are!  Having had a range of experiences with the NHS the French system is rather better and its employees have a very different attitude which took some getting used to. Anyhoo we gently got going again all having been well.

There have been a few neighbours since then coming to spend a week here only to find a couple of Scottish folk who’d been here for ages. We’re probably hated…

Killer Queen!

Killer Queen!

Mitzy had been having fun – two mice arrived within a 20 minute period one night – the first was dead but the second much more alive.  She’s been quite an effective hunter here – much to Rose and Roy’s satisfaction – she did put a live mouse on the bed beside me which ran across my arm as it tried to escape. It was saved when I recovered… There have been too many mice/shrews to keep tally of, a small bird as well as a couple of lizards and a large frog/medium sized toad she brought in one dark night! One mouse jumped into her cat bed/cave thing which I quickly took outside and as I was shaking it to get the mouse out I had to try and explain my curious actions in French to a lovely couple from Nantes – I think they understood and spoke to me again the next day not looking like they thought I was mental…

She was out one night during heavy rain so after lots of attempts to find/entice her for an hour she was shut out. Next morning a damp cat entered the barely open door at about 67 miles an hour.

There have been a few days of rain which helped turn the area from yellowing back to green but thankfully the cat didn’t change colour despite having stayed out in the rain at least once…  (The view above is greener now)

There are a couple of goats along the road which shout a welcome to any passing pedestrians – raising a smile every time.

J & K & S

J & K & S

Visiting SYlP we tried out a new restaurant (pork & mushroom dish with rice) and had a wander about then went to see Jan and Keith (our first hosts) and had a good catch up with them in the sunshine at Keith’s Pool Bar. It was great fun catching up as their latest punters sat around the pool. We delayed the cats dinner which they made obvious but after tending to their demands the blethering continued.

The both wished us luck for our return which hadn’t been the purpose of the trip and made us feel a little sad. Due to the interweb they will not escape us that easily…

 

We went to the Truffles museum in Sorges which was interesting and could be a lucrative money making scheme… They have Perigord ones hereabouts (black ones with white veins). We fear however that Mitzy may sniff out more mice than exotic funghi no matter how much we tried to train her… She’s no team spirit that one!

We’d paused for a light lunch – duck free – in Excedieul and were asked directions by a French couple in a camper van. No doubt horrified to discover they asked other tourists they seemed pleased I knew the way to where they were going (Hautfort) and after I managed to provide pretty good directions they said “Thank you!” as they drove off.

That day we saw lots of fields of blooming sunflowers, as in sunflowers in bloom – not a sudden lapse into Cockney parlance – some of them are huge and fields full look pretty impressive…

Sunflowers!

Sunflowers!

One Saturday we went to Junhilac le Grand visiting the chateau and did the tour. It was interesting and had been owned by a few people then it was hinted that the original Junhilac family buy it back and do it up! It’s an impressive place and we enjoyed the trip but felt obliged to use a discount coupon we’d found just to make their generation worth while…

These pics are all the rage, I'm told...

These pics are all the rage, I’m told…

It was a holiday so many places were closed for Assumption Day, but we got a light lunch in SYlP – croque monsieuring and a veggie one for S.

 

A pal from Uni (in Dundee) had been in touch and they arranged to pause for a night in Limoges. We joined Aiden and Shauna (with Martin & Finlay) on the Sunday as they returned towards Belgium from a holiday further south. We had lunch in the Place de la Republic. Young Finlay is an expert on the latest Minions film and endeavoured with very little encouragement to detail it’s twists and turns to me.

Specialist subject - The Minions

Specialist subject – The Minions

It was quiet the day after a holiday but we wandered about the city centre a bit but rather to the lads disappointment failed to see any trolley buses. As compensation and purely to help re-raise spirits from this mild disappointment we stopped for ice creams! It was great catching up and a good time was had by all. S had a cafe gourmand – a wee coffee and three or four mini puddings – not that the delights of said weren’t trailed by a certain fellow diner…

Pompadour

Pompadour’s Chateau

We at last visited Pompadour chateau which was narrower than I thought it would be. Not that it’s four foot wide or anything but it wasn’t as imposing inside as out. It is steeped in equine history and the stables provide horses to the President of France presumably for ceremonial duties. It’s the place you can buy for 1e but needs 4,000,000e of work doing.

After we got to see a number of performing horses which was more entertaining than I thought it would be especially as they can be flighty beasts. The white Andalucían horse was pretty.

That night we headed to a do in Lubersac – Roy’s pal John was singing (he’s written a UK number 1 when that was difficult) and on arrival discovered that a bicycle race was going on. Interestingly the main road thru the village which heads for the motorway was closed as there was a funfair and the diversion took the traffic down the road to the finish of the race.  As there were a number of laps tabard wearing locals were carefully letting large lorries go between groups of riders!  Cycling is seen as pretty important over here.

After the race finished and the result clarified, there having been about half a wheel in it we wandered over to where John was waiting to do his first set as the locals gently appeared. Having dined at his place months ago and him seen us at the gite we had a blether for a while as the locals laid out the food for the evening and sauntered in and heading for the bar. Sadly there was little in the way of food options for S but she had some chips then sort of bullied me into trying the stuff on offer – various starters of cold meat and cheese then freshly cooked meat and chips… The things I do to keep her happy!  John was by now showing how talent was so much more linked to success in the old days before autotune and Popidol.

We’d heard there would be fireworks but hadn’t expected much. However we noticed flashes from that direction so watched from upstairs as quite a display was set off that we could almost see but could hear perfectly.

3 man break

3 man break

The next day the Tour de Limousin’s first stage finished in SYlP. Avoiding the route of the race lopping around the town another driver almost reversed into us trying to go down a side street. He seemed to think our being there was some sort of insult to his manhood – which would have been at risk if he’d hit us!

Speedy team cars

Speedy team cars

We sat outside the Mairie waiting for the riders to come thru the town before they went off on said loop – Jose was officiating somewhere and it being warm and sunny will have made that more of a task. Tho it wasn’t as hot as our Tour de France trip to Rodez it was very nice. That was something that we hadn’t really considered until an older woman a few metres away was caught as she keeled over and then efficiently if unceremoniously carried into the shade and plonked on the grass. The Pompiers arrived quickly and tended to her but she was pleasingly not that unwell.

PMU caravan car

PMU caravan car

There was a breakaway of three going up the hill with one chaser then the peleton.  Tommy Voekler was at the front and identifiable – I’m not stalking him honest.  The road up the hill and traffic calming meant a few team cars scrapped their fronts going more quickly in support of their riders.  This caused a mini cheer from the many watching each time it happened!

Olivier – the goalie from the football – said hello but I almost missed him doing so as we were waving at the same bloke from the Bastille Day thing and Marche de Producteurs.  He may be stalking us!

Team buses

Team buses

We got a good spot to watch the finish having had a look at the team buses and other stuff going on. To be honest it was rather larger and more impressive than I’d thought it would be, not the same as the Tour de France but what is! There was a commentator who was firing questions at the crowd then the caravan arrived – the PMU do the betting on the horse racing over here. There were freebies but we didn’t move for them. Popping off for a drink I bumped into Phillippe from the football and his son who is no-longer having to wear a fancy boot thing after injuring himself a few weeks ago.

Winner

Winner

The race was won with a sprint by Sonny Colbrelli and the rest of the field took a while to cross the line. Yes I saw Tommy V again! Then came the presentations which were numerous and lengthy. We could see the girls changing t-shirts for each new category (they had plain white tops on underneath) and the flowers were in a bucket to the side. The Europcar Team bus headed off sharpish but Tommy V needn’t have been concerned I’m not stalking him!

Jersey time

Jersey time

It turns out that Sonny went on to win the 4 stage event so in both Tours we saw both winners getting yellow jerseys which was pretty fortunate.

Told you!

Told you!

The chap on the left of the above pic is the gaffer of the local Intermarche – Jose knows him and introduced us one time.  Does that make me nearly a celebrity?

More soon!

2 days at the Tour de France 2015

On Thursday the 16th Chris arrived from Edinburgh. He’d survived the flights via Southampton and seemed pleased to find France warm and sunny. Due to his early flight and our trip the next day we took it easy heading for the hoose and watched the end of the stage of the Tour on TV and then had a quiet evening.

Tour de France!

Tour de France!

The next day we were up at 0600 and soon on our way efficiently heading for Rodez. (Rose had already kindly said she’d check on and feed Mitzy.) My purely subconscious attempt to leave my wallet behind was foiled when I realised and re-opened the gate and went back to get it… The day was developing into yet another hot and sunny one. We had established where the Tour de France stage to Rodez was finishing and via the computercleverness of the interweb had worked out where it was amending our initial plan of throwing ourselves at the mercy of the Tourist Information office. We paused in Figeaus for a drink and continued making good progress. We knew the way after our Milau trip – Chris was acclimatised to French roads when a car pulled out almost into us avoiding parts of a freshly blown out tyre from a lorry that had just stopped.

Chris

Chris

Seeing Winnebagos as we arrived in Rodez we swung up the hill past them, more by fluke than design we were at exactly the right place – I could have pretended it was on purpose but both S and C know me better than to believe that… Sure enough it was busy and between the modern buildings crowds of brightly clad cycling fans were amassing. Following the traffic around I took us off the main road in an effort to find somewhere to park, no easy task despite the finish of the race not being for scheduled for about another 5 hours! Here however years of practise trying to park prior to football matches kicked in and turning away from a diversion everyone else was following we parked and set off with bottles of water re-traced our steps.

Fin

Fin

The crowds were growing as was the excitement. We walked back along looking at all the things and stuff finding the finish and a big screen showing what was happening out on the road. Some were better organised than us an older French couple with picnic table, parasol, cutlery, crockery and lunch were noshing away about thirty yards past the finish line. Their prime spot up against the barriers was probably bagsied by them before the rest of us were out of bed! There was the podium and a few stands around the finish line, but a number of areas where non-corporate punters like us could get a good view. Some of the flats overlooking the area had banners on their balconies – a few supporting Alex

Geniez a local lad who rides in the FDJ team (aka Francais deux Jeux – the French lottery people).

Caravan

Caravan

Having scoped the area and spotting a couple of options for watching we sauntered off to find food for me, a veggie and a veggie not that keen on eggs. In France! However we were more than successful going into a creperie which like all the other places locally were doing a roaring trade. I had the menu de jour, a crepe with geziers (duck!), C selflessly had the cidre that came with mine he’s good like that. S and C also enjoyed their crepes and we relaxed a little in the relative cool of the restaurant watching more and more people arrive to be part of the world’s biggest sporting event…

Big screen action

Big screen action

Walking back around we were amazed to discover that the best place we’d spotted for watching was still free. Thus we took up position by a couple of large boulders that divided the in and out access to a modern blocks underground car park. When the time came we’d be able to get onto said rocks and have a good view of the finish from a couple of feet higher up than the rest of the crowd.  Sorted.

Maintaining our claim we went for wanders down the hill away from the finish behind another stand and along the barriers that were by now filling with people. A nice sponsor woman was giving away chicken wings which I took a couple of, mainly as a favour to her to avoid them going off in the heat. As time passed in the sun we kept drinking, topping up the sun tan lotion and took turns moving into the shade… The sun helpfully moved around so our spot was in shadow for a couple of hours which helped. The BBC said it was 38 degrees however a local paper said it hit 46! Despite numerous drinks none of us needed to find a loo…

Tommy V - Legend!

Tommy V – Legend!

The atmosphere was good and lots and lots of people arrived and took up places around us or moved on hopefully down the hill. The caravan of sponsors vehicles arrived, distributing freebies and in Vittels case spraying the crowd with water – which was much appreciated. The mainly young people involved in the caravan looked pretty pleased to have reached the finish in the conditions. By now the crowds at the barriers were six or seven people deep and with an hour to go all the best and even mediocre viewing positions had been snapped up. Haribo folk were trying to throw sweets up to people on 4th floor balconies with some success. Despite the heat three poor people were dressed in mascot costumes, a Haribo bear, a Credit Lyonnais Lion and a Skoda superhero type guy. How hot it was under their foam heads and outfits goodness only knows.

Yellow

Yellow = Froome

A couple of Brits had taken up position on the boulder behind ours. They were following the Tour into the Alps and had been to Alp D’Huez previously. As the anticipation grew Pompiers moved through the throng past us and removed a person who had clearly been affected by the heat. A few other the red ambulances seemed to be making similar trips. The big screen showed the countdown of the distance to the finish and a breakaway was caught as the PA told those of us who could follow the French what was happening. The cool shadow moved away from our rocks as the team buses went past.

Stage Winner – Greg Van Avermaet

As it got busier a chap clambered up to join S with me and C on the rocks. We were about 2 feet higher up and had a good view, S’s was snapping away with the camera as best she could. Then the riders arrived – I’d feared we’d not get a good view and all would whizz over the line in a bunch taking all of fourteen seconds. Thankfully from our vantage point we were able to see a BMC shirted rider out sprint the Green jersey wearing Peter Sagan to win the stage. Just behind him in 6th came the yellow jersey worn by Chris Froome. The BMC guy who took the win was the Belgian Greg Van Avermaet. We had a real advantage being higher up, S would have struggled to see anything at ground level – and I saw the veteran Frenchman Tommy Voekler who crossed the line in 93rd. It took Irishman Sam Bennett 21 minutes 37 seconds more to complete the stage than the winner by which time we’d moved seven or eight yards to our left where we had a good view of the podium and presentations. Out came Van Avermaet the stage winner then, Froome for the Yellow jersey, Sagan for the Green, Froome again for the King of the Mountains (spotty) one, then Quintana for the White jersey. In a decent day for the Belgians De Gendt was presented with the combatively award and then the Movistar team came out as they were leading that classification. The ceremony was accompanied by Sweden’s Eurovison winning tune without the words – in heat like that all the riders were Hero’s.

Green = Sagan

Green = Sagan

Having lost then refound Chris we toddled along seeing all the bars and one shop were heaving with hot and thirsty fans. Heading back to the car we watched as the team buses moved away with a no doubt tired cargo. S saw some riders already had their feet up. One of the buses was featured during the TV coverage one day and it had a shower on it!

The car was effing roasting – 42 degree’s – when we climbed somewhat unwillingly into it. Our remaining drinks in the boot were very hot but the ones in a cool bag were tepid and very welcome. The queue to get away from the finish unsurprisingly took a wee while but it was fine – we’d done very well and seen more than we’d hoped.

White = Quintana

White = Quintana

Despite our instructions which were not much use from our starting point – tho we did pass the AG2R and Lampre hotel – we eventually got on the right road to our place. After seeing at least fifteen Tour cars waiting to go thru a car wash – something we’d not have thought of happening if we’d not seen it. I’d not realised how good the AC was with the car having become cooler quite quickly, finding our hotel we opened the doors all reacting with surprise at how hot it still was despite it being after seven…

Hotel with Sisters

Hotel with Sisters

The hotel was I believed a former convent and is quite a striking building. To our surprise inside we met a couple of nuns! They helped us find the right person to get us in the rooms. The place obviously still has a few Sisters resident and gets a lot of pilgrimage trade being on the Compostela route – our visit and devotion was however to follow those en-routes to the Champs Elysees.

Hot cat

Hot cat

We went into the village of Saint-Come-d’Olt (another Plus Beau Village) and C and S had pizza’s while I had a ducky salad which we washed down with lots more fluids. We then promenaded around the village which was pretty and populated by several cats who looked more than vexed it was so warm despite it starting to get dark! Our lap ended with Madame patron re-uniting C with his hat which he’d left in the restaurant.

Back at the Hotel the rooms were simple and lacked a TV but each had a little Jesus. I failed to tune ours in so gave up and after cool showers we went to bed. I had opened our room door earlier to go give C our interweb dongle-doda and was startled by a ninja nun. Thankfully I didn’t swear.

Hose me Baby!

Hose me Baby!

The next morning we got up and set off. We paused to buy stuff for breakfast and headed off largely ignoring our planned route. I dropped bits of pain au chocolat on my khaki short but disaster was averted by a wee dance at the roadside to remove said crumbs. Weaving through the hills we passed a dam which held back turquoise water that looked absolutely stunning as passed heading south for our second stage. It was a nice day but thankfully cooler than the previous.

Breakaway!

Breakaway!

We met Tour traffic as we approached the small village of Bouloc with a couple of cars behind us. Parking at the roadside with others and going on to the main street the Tour would go down. We wandered up and down the road as officials, sponsors and team cars started going past as other spectators arrived. Taking up position in the village square we waited. The locals were enjoying the day with several parties going on in gardens as the population of the village temporarily tripled or more. The Sponsors Caravan went past and we amassed more free things from rather fresher looking youngsters who’d only been on the road for 40k’s or so… The Can Can girls and cyclists atop various floats looked much more vigorous. A free local paper showed us on the front page, among others, stood on our boulder vantage points. It was cooler but a squirt from the young Vittel woman was still a good thing.

Froome & Sky

Froome & Sky

Some of the locals went inside for a drink no-doubt keeping an eye on TV as the peleton approached. Others were tailgating. A car went past saying on a PA system that they were coming and flogging Tour stuff.

Third group

Third group

Then another car told us there was wee break and they would be with us soon – as we feared would be the thunder which we could just hear in the distance.

Lantern rouge

Lantern rouge

Before the dark cloud arrived it was preceded by the helicopters flying above the race then the Gendarme outriders were followed by the lead group, which included Sagan (in Green). Not far behind came a larger group, with Sky and Froome towards the front of it.  Again we spotted Europecars 129 Tommy Voekler as the third group went past followed by the long line of team cars and one chap who’d obviously had a problem of some sort who was trying to catch up through the traffic. He was no-doubt hoping to do so before they went up a wee hill just up the road.

 

Heading back to the car we set off looking for lunch knowing we’d been very lucky to see so much on both days. I’d feared it would be a bit rubbish for Chris who – though he likes Mitzy – had come over to see the Tour. If we’d barely seen anything through a crowd and then the bunch had steamed by in 4 seconds it would have not really been worth it. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and the thunder and rain arrived after we were nicely settled in the car. Getting lunch was not so easy our options were limited – a few places were shut up and one village was emblazoned with posters and homemade signs supporting the local rider Alex Geniez – who did a ballsy lone breakaway the next weekend. We stopped in a McD’s in Rodez for ease and as unlike the day before we needed the loo! The place was full of other Tour fans with their free hats and stuff.

Just above ...

Just above the word hier – in white with hats…

We travelled back past signs for Balsac (titter) and S took over the driving as tiredness no doubt affected by dehydration began to hit me – which makes me look a bit lame considering what the cyclists had been doing as I stood about…

27th June to 16th July 2015

Forgive the delay in updating – I’ve made sure you haven’t missed anything!

Sunset fae the garden

Sunset fae the garden

We are now ensconced with Roy and Rose in Paulliac which is between Pompador and Lubersac in the Correze. About 20k’s south east of Saint Yrieix la Perche. Mitzy was a bit confused as to where we were the first night and woke us up – she was obviously a bit freaked out by the new place and R & R’s four horses out the back. She has since settled in nicely and moved from lizards to mice which she regularly brings in for us to marvel at and deal with often at the most inopportune moments…

We had neighbours for the first few days a family had been staying supporting a lass who was part of the GB team at an event at Pompador’s equestrian facilities. Sadly her horse had a problem so she only got to take part in the first of three events. Roy and Rose live next but one and he is working on finishing off the gite between theirs and ours. He’s one of those skilled clever people who can do that sort of thing – he also plays for one of the local village sides B teams but would be the first to admit to no-longer being in his prime. Rose spends a bit of time each day tending to her four horses, one or sometimes two of which she rides in the field out the back. All this activity is observed by their three dogs.

Cool cat

Cool cat

S and I had a trip to Limoges for the Summer sales, we pottered about and S got three things for less than the most expensive items pre-reduction price. Rather to her satisfaction. We had a light lunch with me having a ducky salad cos of the heat, it was 35 degrees… It was hot last month, all month, mainly in the low thirties which we have got nicely used to but there have also been a few days where the temperature hit 40 plus. This neck of the woods was the hottest bit of France a few times being a deep red on the weather maps.

Accordingly we took it easy and S had a few cold baths due to the canicule (French for heatwave) while I perfected making sure upstairs was cool keeping blinds and windows shut when the sun was on them and open when it wasn’t. There is a period of the day when the sun seems to come in both the front and back roof windows which I fear breaks the laws of geography but I am not complaining. The cat found the coolest place she could and would disappear there for hours on end. Wandering around the field one lovely afternoon I was confused by a popping noise eventually realising it was the seed pods of a Broom bush bursting in the heat!

Yours for less than a quid!

Yours for less than a quid!

Not having moved far we know the small towns – Lubersac & Pompadour – well so don’t need to do much exploring. I have done a little bit, not much, of helping out Roy with his various works in my non-skilled way and we explored some local walks in the cooler evenings. There are goats along the way which are talkative to say the least and we’ve debated trying to update our ringtones with the outbursts of a Limousin goat! That however may not fit in so well when we get back on a early morning train or at the fitba.

 

The coverage of the Tour de France on French TV was extensive and helped prevent us getting sun stroke. Watching live was a good build up for our trip to see it for real. There were a few crashes that took out the man in yellow on consecutive days – the first being quite a pile up and how none of the riders hit a concrete lamp post that a couple of dozen of them careered towards at break neck speed is something I still fail to understand. They halted the race give the walking/cycling wounded a chance to finish the stage and get patched up overnight if they were up to it.

Racing

Giddy up!

One Sunday we went to racing at Pompador. We had a drink across from the chateau then paid our 6e each (which is less than a fiver at the moment) and went in. The Chateau is actually available for sale, Roy tells us for 1e! The purchase would depend on the buyer having an additional lump of cash of 4,000,000e minimum that is required to carry out the work needed on the rather impressive building. The rumour is that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt viewed it a few months back as their current chateau is a bit small for them! That’s no doubt one of the perils of international megastardom… How quickly one outgrows ones castles! Anyway no bid has been made by them or anyone else as far as we know.

Slightly worried winning jockey.  The sponsors seem to want to give him a prize...

Slightly worried winning jockey. The sponsors seem to want to give him a prize…

The racing was good. They mix up the styles and sort of races – flat, steeple chase and cross country which is cool. A couple of jockeys were unseated but all horses and riders were fine. Horseball was demonstrated between two of the races – it’s a sort of basketball/cavalry charge type thing – which involves no little skill on the part of both riders and horses.

Horseball!

Horseball!

Lots of people were in attendance who mainly stayed in the shade but it didn’t seem to have the toffs and non-toff atmosphere you get a racing in the UK. We watched the first three races and invested in the 4th winning 5.80e from a 4e stake. More than enough to buy the chateau but sadly not sufficient for its upkeep!

As regards trips we went to St Eyzies-de-Tayac another riverside village. En route we saw the aftermath of a crash with a car in a ditch on the wrong side of the road – clearly everyone was fine. That day we had a couple of close calls with dafties coming the other way whizzing along the middle of the road on blind bends… Always a joy.

We arrived in time for lunch and for some reason I had chicken and chips while S had an omelette. We then enjoyed the air conditioned National Pre-Histoire Museum not just because it was cool. It was also rather interesting and well laid out.  St Eyzies is a pretty village so had a wee wander around.

St

St Eyzies-deTayac

Then we headed off to our next stop, eventually finding Fort Maison de Reignac – a large house build into the cliffs. It’s very interesting wandering around a normal room to turn and realise that one wall is a rock face. The place was much more accessible than in the UK without the dreaded and limiting velvet ropes everywhere. It apparently could be defended by only fifteen men if attacked.

Cliff house

Cliff house

It also had an exhibition of torture paraphernalia which showed no lack of imagination or human ingenuity. Apparently the guillotine was in fact a Scottish invention… Hurray for the jocks! L There were many rather disturbing implements – did who know that a skilled practitioner could cut someone in half – starting at the groin and keep them alive, if upside down, for some time before they unsurprisingly succumbed? Noteworthy also was a large metal bull which was hollow into which you put the victim then light a large fire underneath it cooking the poor no-doubt screaming so-and-so inside. I’ll never think of those plastic cows that are still dotted about Edinburgh in the same way again.

On the way back we paused in St Leon sur Bezere – a Plus Beau village – for a drink. It’ a nice wee place but which we didn’t think was that special, a Beau but perhaps not a Plus Beau! Someone did well to get them that accolade… Going back went thru St Robert – another PBV – as w neared home it was rather more impressive.

Beau but Plus Beau?

Beau but Plus Beau?

We had a trip to SYlP and wandered around the Rue des Arts. What’s that I hear you both ask? A few shops have been opened up flogging three or more different local producers work – clothing, jewellery, painting, pottery, you name it it’s in one of the seven places. That’s well over twenty producers of things and stuff who all have an outlet and the opportunity to further establish themselves/make some money/be discovered… It’s to ensnare the visitors as July and August is holiday time en France and the roads are a little busier with Dutch cars and the streets occupied by many of the dreaded tourists! (Don’t worry I see the irony of that comment).   On that trip we bumped into Mike – from the last hoose – who’d no doubt thought he’d got rid of us!

We were invited to join Roy in Pompador – where they have a wee hoose – to play petanque with some other local Brits. Not that either of us were much good it has to be said. S & I lost then I was part of a 2:1 girls v boys win.

Massive tart!

Massive tart!

The next weekend we sought out a massive tart. No really, we’ve been here a while and seeing the fliers thought why not… A massive fruity tart at that. Insert Sid James laugh here if you wish otherwise behave! In Conzeze which a village about 7 or 8k’s along the road they hold an annual Fete de Framboise where in 1997 they made the world’s largest raspberry tart. It was authenticated and verified by the Guinness Book of Records people who no doubt had a sample. Anyway it was another hot day and we got there before this year’s version – rather a tame effort as you can see from the pictures – had been consumed in its entirety. Very nice it was too, sadly S found the portions a little large and I selflessly had to finish hers off for her.

There were also various stalls and mini-exhibitions, one being a blacksmith who was banging out his wares* using a rather swanky mobile forge to do a demonstration which was interesting.      * If anyone tittered at that you should be ashamed of yourself.

Nice portion

Nice portion

We went to SYlP for the Bastille Day bash which was excellent. Again we ended up chatting to complete strangers in French as we had stuff from the barbeque – they were down from Limoges having lived in SYlP until recently. It was a wide ranging blether and they brought up the comedic behaviour of the Greeks government which they found almost as amusing as the fact Andy Murray got married in a “jupe” which is a skirt. I assured them that a kilt and a “jupe” are very different things.

Flag

Flag

The Bastille Day do was like the St Jean de Feu one of the previous update but with about four times the number attending and a larger bar. We wandered about and had a blether with one guys from the football and exchanged a few pleasantries with a couple of other people we know slightly. As darkness fell and the accordion based band filled the marque’s dance floor the atmosphere remained relaxed and jovial. It was very busy with people all around the lac and all was good despite many a small child having consumed Bard de Papa’s (candyfloss) the size of their torsos!

Feu artifice

Feu artifice

We found a spot for the feu de artifice (fireworks) and as darkness fell the European anthem was played – as it is here quite regularly at large events. Nigel Farage wouldn’t approve so it must be a good thing. Then they raised the tricolour as the Marseillaise was played.

This was followed by the most impressive fireworks display either of us have ever seen. The only pic shows the setting with the railway viaduct behind. As well as being a great backdrop it was also used as part of the display despite the line still being in use. They were loud and fitted in with the musical accompaniment several times filling the sky with colour and light – making me think of the rather screwed up display in Oban when all the fireworks went off at once.

The next day we met with Jose and Joelle who had returned from a long trip to Portugal. He said the fireworks had lasted 23 minutes the night before, they had watched them from across the lac. We blethered in as close to French as we can manage for four hours, no really four, in Segur le Chateau. It was good to see them again.

Next will be details of our trip to see the Tour de France and some of the nearly 400 pictures we took!

Up to the 27th June… 2015

Since the last update we had visitations from Debra and Gordon (S’s sister & husband).  They seemed to enjoy their visit though I have been banned for documenting with pictures just how relaxed G was at times – he’s prone to a nap!

 

The night before they arrived I was walking to the chapel with the ever enthusiastic Archy and saw smoke coming from the neighbouring field.  Having established the single wire fence was electrified – the hard way – I went under and found that the only remaining bale in the field was afire.  Going back I spoke to Mike then returned with a bucket and the other trainee pompier third class (Archy).

Archy - mediocre pompier

Archy – mediocre pompier

Avoiding a second shock I carefully poured water onto the two smouldering areas from handily positioned water filled thing.  It was hard work but I made sure the smoking/steaming had well and truly stopped before wandering back ashy and slightly damp.  Archy having had a couple of drinks from my bucket seemed happier to check the surrounding area for other fires than take a turn with the extinguishing!

 

We arrived at the airport just as D & G’s plane touched down and headed back south to the wee hoose.  Showing them the lake and going along to the Chapel.

On Saturday we pottered about having dinner in Vice Versa in SYlP – I’d suggested going inside which was good as others scurried in as a thunder storm arrived.  I had the beef and after Gordon had a boudin blood sausage starter which he seemed to like.

On Sunday we went to Pompadour in search of an event, after coffee we realised it was in Beyssac.  Having scoured the area in and around the small village we could only presume it had been cancelled due to the fact it was raining.  Others seemed to also be searching fruitlessly…  In Scotland even less would happen if that was the rule!  We instead went for lunch in Pompadour where S had difficulties getting anything, the upshot seemed to be they didn’t do a meat free salad – despite the easy mechanics of making one and them being on the menu…  An English chef came out instead suggesting a filo pastry parcel dish without lardons.  The egg within wasn’t to her taste but I enjoyed helping her clear her plate after my duck dish.  She’d got a gin despite only ordering a tonic water so wasn’t that bothered.

We played cards a bit first a game we play then G taught us a game called Shithead.  Despite a limited understanding of the best tactics and the need for a healthy dose of good luck I won the first six games to my increasing embarrassment.  Who’d have thought I was such a shithead…

La Roque Gageac

La Roque Gageac

Out next excursion was a boat trip along part of the Dordogne river.  Arriving in La Roque Gageac we realised that it was actually worth seeing itself – one of Frances Plus Beau Villages.  Sandwiched between cliff and the river it’s rather beautiful and we wandered along pausing for lunch – the special was a salad with duck four different ways.  Four, count them smoked, pate, geziers and a confit!  C’est magnifique.  I think the others enjoyed theirs in the sunshine too I was somewhat distracted.  FOUR WAYS!  I did mention that didn’t I?

Duck & crane

Duck 4 ways!

The caves above the village had been populated for many millennia and there was a fall of rock killing three residents in the late 1950’s.  Some work is going on to shore it up via an ingenious crane hung from cables secured to the rock face and across the river.  Due to the south facing rock faces the place has a bit of a micro climate and we wandered between banana trees on our way for a fortifying ice-cream/sorbet before heading for the boat.  La Roque Gageac had been ravished by my old cousins the Vikings a thousand years or so ago.

Chateau

Chateau

Anyway, we got on a flat bottomed boat and meandered along with the river as various sights and chateau were pointed out.  The river was vital for trade throughout history despite being impassable much of the year.  Turning at a bridge looking up at Castelnaud Chateau, a section of said bridge was blown up the locals to delay the German re-enforcement of Normandy in June 1944.

Castelnaud

Castelnaud

We drove down the Chateau at Castelnaud – one of France’s most visited – due to it getting late and the surprisingly high cost didn’t go in for a closer look.  Making do instead, with the views from the petite Plus Beau village.  Heading back we spotted another good looking Chateau on another hilltop and diverted to try and get a pic of it as well.

After avoiding someone trying to reverse into us as we got cash by the time we’d got back D & G were used to the odd driving style of some other road users.  I need to hug the apex and not squeal with horror as someone hammers around the bend half over the white line appearing surprised at oncoming traffic.

 

We visited SYlP and pottered about the shops.  Francois in the Cave de Bacchaus will probably have realised that we take all our visitors to his place.  We are not yet however receiving any discounts/percentage…  We barbequed for tea which was good, I was ably assisted by Gordon as we tucked into various lovely meat things.

Cakes

Cakes

On the Wednesday we had a wander around a local park that has been various things including military manoeuvres/training.  Having loaded up with picnic type provisions and cakes we had a lovely walk about the grounds of a rather nice modern (1901) chateau.

More

More

The relaxed evening was slightly impacted by Mitzy bringing in a live mouse.  D, G & S scampered about trying to catch it and keep her away from it while I spotted for them from the mezzanine.

Artisan chocolate

Artisan chocolate

On the last day we took them to Brive, from where they were heading for Nice.  We ate in a place where we could get fancy burgers (Gordon’s favourite food group) and I felt obliged to have the one with duck on it!  Very nice.  They paid as it was our tenth anniversary.  We wandered around the town centre and visited the chocolate shop which had excelled itself and the all chocolate boar last time with Scratch from Ice Age.  (I am only in shot so you can both see how big it was).  It smells superb in there and ‘sadly’ Fran and Mike are now fans too.

Street decorations

Street decorations

After establishing that the train was their one and not the late previous one, after I made friends with a similarly confused woman, we waved them off.  They had a great time in Nice.

 

A quiet couple of days followed as we started thinking about our 20k move south.  We were left in charge of the four chickens – all of which survived my care and attention.

On the 21st if was the weekend of the Fete de la Music – where all across France there are free music events.  SYlP had five different places where stuff was going on and we went to three of them.  SYlP is a large village/small town and I’m constantly impressed by how much goes on here despite the small population.  On Place de la Nation local line dancers were baking gently in the sun and the drunken observers were dragged on stage by older women for the audience participation bits.  It was rather more fun than I would have thought and the atmosphere was really good.

The music school were doing jazz in one of the Salle’s and the kids who made up half the band were doing well.  Then onto the Place de la Marche, where I had a veal ciabatta and S had frites, there was a DJ and again the atmosphere was relaxed and convivial.

 

We had a quiet few days and got more spuds, mint and a lettuce from John and Jill next door.  We also drew up a list of what we want to do before we go, the clock is ticking after all, sniff.  We have grouped a few things together for ease of visiting.

Inspiring surroundings

Inspiring surroundings

On Wednesday we headed north to Fresselines where more Impressionists had hung out.  Daftly we realised that the museum was opening on weekdays in July missing it by a few days.  Wandering the village it was easy to see why Monet and his chums were inspired to remain there painting away in the sunshine…  After a rather good and cheap menu de jour with a cheese course (& wine) in a nicely painted salon.

We headed south and passing through Bourganeuf stopped at the Casade des Jarrauds.  Bourganeuf is a nice town but was surprisingly one of the first places on the planet to have electricity courtesy of a local chap and said waterfall.  By 1946 when the place was nationalised it had generated 1.46 million kilo hours (or similar) of power which was impressive in itself.

2 drips & many more!

2 drips & many more!

Heading for Mont Gargan a Maquis/Resistance stronghold we arrived in Peyrat le Chateau which we’d passed through before but not when they had filled the lake for the summer.  This will be done by blocking the small river rather than me, Archy and some buckets no doubt.  Anyway, we went to the Resistance museum where a truly charming, slim, tanned French lass showed us around.  A combination of my poor French and her little English worked well as we three chatted about the exhibits.  Several thousand canisters of supplies dropped by the Allies to the many hundreds of local fighters in the hills and forests.  Many of whom were living normal lives during the day and then off into the hills causing no end of havoc at night – despite the constant and very real threat of arrest, deportation to concentration camps or simply being shot.  Again my respect for those who played their part no matter how small continues to grow and grow.

Pausing for a drink in a place that happened to be run by Brits a patron mentioned what the Daily Mail would call the “hordes of immigrants” at Calais.  I bit my tongue choosing not to lambast people who move to other countries seeking a better life out numbered as we were by ex-pats…  Heading homeward we found the place we almost rented first and having had a good nose at it were both more than happy we instead inflicted ourselves on Jan and Keith at La Porcherie.  Their view may however be different!

 

Next was readying for the move.  A trip to the Citroen garage resulted in roof bars for the top box and a visit the next day saw them fitted.  All with only one word of English from the garage staff.  J  We noticed in the place a brake light had stopped working and that got changed for free – bonus.

The Limoges basketball team retained the French Championship – no mean feat – and a replica trophy is in the SYlP Intermarche as they sponsor them.  An American chap called Eugene Jetter III plays for them but prefers to be known as Pooh Jetter for some reason…  French sport does throw up some names that appeal to my infantile sense of humour.  Defender Rod Fanni may be leaving Olympique Marseille and the handball periodical called Handaction made me guffaw…

 

Having packed suitcases, boxes and bags we loaded up the car.  Mike and I had discussed our departure the next day before S pointed out it was Thursday not Friday.  He took the blow of another day of us without a flicker, good chap that he is.  On our last night we wondered down to the lake and heard the frog chorus.  It’s rather difficult to work out but there must be five or six different calls going at the same time, from high pitched to flatulent in nature.  On Saturday we set off – as we feared with most of our stuff – to the next place.  Arriving we were met by Rose and Roy then shuttled stuff into our new abode as Mitzy watched from the dreaded cat carrying box.  I popped into Lubersac for provisions as S started getting the place ship shape.

We returned to Biaugeas where Fran and Mike said lots of nice things about our time with them and invited us for dinner.  They asked if I’d be back to do the weeding and put the bins out!  We’ve been very lucky with both sets of hosts so far, we’ll see them again partly cos I forgot the key for the wee hoose but for a nosh – Fran says she does a mean quiche which Mike and I were lobbying should be accompanied by duck breast!  Archy had appeared to see us again, we’d popped around to have a chat with John and Jill the day before.

As we were near SYlP we headed along to the Lac for a Saint Jean event.  The origin of which we don’t know but it dawned on me I (John) may be flung onto the wood pile before it was lit!  Anyway buying food – saucisson in a bagette for me & chips for both – we sat down with drinks at one of the long tables.  The DJ was going and there was a real mix of people, some of whom we are beginning to recognise.  A few players from the fitba were there and I had a word with one.  A couple and their pal joined us on the table as their lad played football with his friends.  The ball they were using ended up in the lac and his mum wasn’t too impressed with him wading in to get it.  The other person’s man was working on the barbeque and appeared with free chips and saucisson which we were offered some of.  By then a few comments had been exchanged, initiated by me in my usual bumbling fashion.  We declined more main course but when the free pudding arrived politeness overtook us as S and I helped tidy away a rather nice bit of apple tart.  Sadly they had no contact working on the bar but despite my best efforts they didn’t let us buy them drinks.  We continued to have a few more words with them especially as the mother couldn’t get her glow stick bangle to stay on her wrist – the kids were scurrying about with multicoloured flashy light things as dusk fell.  Many adults were wearing/holding the aforementioned bendy glow sticks all of which were handed out free.

St Jean de Feu

St Jean de Feu

Rather to our surprise fireworks were set off at 2300 and the display was followed by the lighting of the wood pile which soon burnt brightly due to the hot dry weather of late.  Again it was a great event and despite the bar being open four hours and the numbers of people there, at no point was the atmosphere anything other than relaxed and civilised.

 

The next update will detail our new abode and our next set of mini-adventures…

Jeudi 11th June 2015

This times highlights would be best illustrated by a cartoon however I lack the knowledge of technical wizardry and thus the wherewithal to provide said.  So I’ll make do with what I can manage:

Ok I’ve given into formatting problems and changed it…

You two – What you been up to?                                           Me –  I’ll tell you!!

Crozant Chateau

Crozant Chateau

Our first trip since the last update was to Crozant a wee place at the very top of the Creuse.  (In New York years ago I confused a woman by pronouncing croissant correctly while she said it Cro-zant!)  Anyway we went from the south of the Haute Vienne to the north of the Creuse briefly dallying into the Indre.  S was interested to visit as a number of Impressionists had lived there inspired by the setting and as was the habit others visited too.  It was a very sociable period in art it appears.  The village sits on the Creuse and Sedelle rivers and unsurprisingly there was a Chateau build on the rocky outcrop above where they meet.

Massive palette!

Massive palette!

Up the hill is the nice wee village and we arrived as the market was shutting up for lunch.  Accordingly we had lunch, I Menu de Joured a nice wee salad with potato and little fishes and S had the same, not that was what was discussed so on finding a fish she stopped eating it.  (It’s the first time that has happened and wasn’t a plot between me and the charming waitress for me to get more salad!)  I then had pork which was rather good while S had a rustled up plate of veg type things (sans/without fish).  Pudding was coconut and strawberry sorbets with fruit salad and the best of the three courses – that would have been a time to plot getting S’s as the sorbet de maison were superb.

We then wandered around the village in the sunshine.  There’s a wee museum place which is only open on Satuday’s but there are pictures of pictures if you get the picture detailing where the orignials are and who done them.  There is also a massive palate too big even for my hands.

Pic pending!

The Pompiers had an Open Day in Saint Yrieix la Perche.  Pompiers are the combined Fire Brigade and Ambulance Service over here.  There were old fire engines, a demonstration of the search dogs and various other bits and bobs.  In Place de la Nation a rather broken looking Renault 5 was clambered into by a young Pompier and soon after a red ambulance arrived ‘stabilising’ him and then a larger red vehicle arrived also with its lights going and the guys on board cut the top off the car with the pneumatic cutters going through the metal easily.  The lad was removed on a stretcher.  The event was well attended and interesting, we bumped into Phillippe and his son from the fitba who we had a word with.

Another pic pending!

The next few days summer kicked in, not Scottish “sun’s oot, taps aff” summer but 30 degrees for five days on the bounce French summer.  I broke out my shorts as in wore them (not as in they exploded due to much duck being eaten or other more off colour reasons) and have gone from Peely-wally to Beige on the Scottish Tan Chart.  My arms are already getting Mocha which some gentleman’s outfitters refused to confuse with brown.

Mainly we pottered about around our wee rental, sitting in the shade.  Mitzy she still has the wee bit shaved fur from her injury so may wonder why part of her is cooler.  Archy took to staying out the sun during the day but popped around each evening to see if there was anything he could be wildly excited about – he always finds something to be cheery about.

I got my hair cut and S went to the hair dressers for the first time.  A nice English lass called Pip had been tending to her coiffure type requirements until now.

Pompadour

Pompadour

On Saturday we had an impromptu trip to Pompadour.  Our final rental is between there and Lubersac, we drove through L and onto P past the next hoose.  It was market day and an impressively huge shoe stall was attracting some attention.  Pompador is known for its equine bits and bobs having a Hippodrome (race track) and a centre for dressage and all that goes with it.  We wandered about and had a look at the track, it’s got a grass with jumps loop, a sandy flat horse/wee horse and cart racing loop and a cross country loop all in one.  Sitting nicely across the road from the chateau, helpfully there were a four horses being exercised so I got the camera out.

Dressage

Dressage

We then wandered over towards the other horsey bit where there is a wee show jumping arena.  Some well dressed riders were doing the trotting about moving sideways stuff so we watched that for a while.  Some of the women had an unusual riding position which they would enjoy rather more than any male counterpart who copied them…  I’m sure it’s all very technical but to the untrained observer (namely me) it looked a bit weird.

We lunched on a very generously proportioned sea food salad (salmon, cray fish & three large scallops) for me and a wild mushroom omelette for S.  We had ice cream for pudding neither of us opting for the brilliantly named Barde a Papa flavour (candy floss).  Having popped into the Tourist Information we’d been reminded that we were near le Pont Lasveyras where the museum was open on a Saturday. The small museum is on the site of a mill that sits in a beautiful spot by the Auvezere river. The winding tree lined road has been improved to a rough single lane and we arrived walking down towards the building. A couple of people were sitting outside in the sun and another fishing on the river. All we could hear was birdsong, the noise of the water going over the weir and rushing down the mill channel. It’s an idyllic spot to fish, bird watch or to doze gently with a book in the warmth of the sun.

Memorial

Memorial

The large metal notices detail what happened there on the 16th of February 1944.  Forty Maquis were living in the mill buildings.  The Maquis were full time Resistance fighters hiding out and causing problems for the Germans rather than the more part time activities hinted at by things like Allo Allo.  Avoiding the sentries and probably lead by two Frenchmen a large force of German troops attacked the mill.  The Maquis often had lots of weapons, old rifles, shotguns and revolvers the problem they tended to have, despite supply drops from the UK, was a lack of ammunition.  Outnumbered and facing gun and mortar fire the defenders fought until they had used their few hand grenades and ran out of ammo.  With no option they surrendered and were lined up outside the buildings, the cook who was wearing an apron was shot.  As was a man who’d been born with a deformed arm.  Divided into three groups one was used to carry the German’s kit back up to the road, the mill was inaccessible at the time.  The other two groups were shot in cold blood.  The ‘lucky ones’ who had shifted the stuff were deported to Concentration camps.  A small number of Maquis were able to mount a mini counter attack after the atrocity and the local Doctor was barred from going to help the injured despite more than ten attempts to do so during the battle.

Thirty four men died, twenty four of them shot in cold blood after the fighting ended.  Two were able to escape during the battle, one wounded.  Another was left for dead badly wounded being saved when the Doctor eventually got to the site.  Of the twelve deported only seven returned.  No doubt there were German losses during the attack and after but they are not recorded.

As was the way the word had got around that troops were in the area and at least one set of parents were trying to get to the Mill to warn those there, finding their son’s body later that day.

The information that surprised me was that most of the men were about twenty years old, one of the groups commanded by a twenty two year old, they were barely adults.

A local Gendarme organised the funerals on the 19th and an SS Colonel who arrived with a large number of German troops insisted only one mourner per victim be present. The Policeman, to his enormous credit, successfully argued that mothers and fathers were as one and relenting two mourners were allowed per body.  It’s a beautiful spot tainted forever by the daftness of man.

Archy!

Archy!

We had a few more days pottering about locally.  Archy often appears and gazes longingly at us or maybe Mitzy.  She however does her best to remain aloof as these pictures taken within seconds of each other show.

Mitzy

Mitzy ignoring a certain someone…

The local farmers have been working much harder than we have cutting hay, stirring it so it dries and baling it.  I watched a large bird carefully scrutinising a field as it was cut looking for a meal. Soaring for three minutes hardly beating its wings the clear blue sky it’s playground.  S’s quest to photograph one of these birds of prey sat on a bale continues fruitlessly – we see them doing that all the time when we are driving about…  We wandered out one afternoon camera in hand to see if we could get the shot as one of the fields sloping down from here was being baled.  To our amusement the farmer released a round bale from his bale-making trailer-thingy and it rolled off happily down the hill in a bid for freedom.  The farmer sprang from his tractor cab dashing off after it shouting and waving his arms – you couldn’t make it up.  It happened again as we watched trying not to laugh too obviously and again he sprang lithely out running after it, his shouts just audible on the breeze.

Moving errant bales!

Moving errant bales!

Our trip this week was to Angouleme which is 100 K’s west of Limoges.  We made good progress in the car, which is better for such trips and having had a neb via the interweb were aiming to go to the Gare (station) where there was parking.  Unfamiliar with the place we missed the best turn and arrived via a less direct route, helpfully the old part of town is up a hill which gave us something to aim at.  Next came the quest for somewhere to park, which was unsuccessful until we happened across the Gare where the area is being done up!  At last managing to park in a neatly proportioned multi storey – a disadvantage in a bigger car!

Never a truer word...

Never a truer word…

Visiting the Tourist Information to get our bearings we then had lunch, a plat de jour (chicken) for me and a veggie dish created for S.  The old town is surrounded by ramparts atop a hill over the Charante river we’d driven along some of them not really appreciating the view when failing to find a parking space!  We wandered about enjoying the artwork dotted about the town.  It is not uncommon for gable end’;s of building in cities to be painted as if they are actually more and there are some like that here too.  However Angouleme is the Capital of Cartoons and lives up to this title well with things that have no good reason for not being beautified being improved.

Leccy box

Leccy box

There are lots of other examples which we took pics of.  As S was taking photo’s outside the Museum and as I stood waiting a smartly dressed, slim young woman walked past.  S didn’t really notice but I was a little startled to see that the skirt of her beige two piece suit had alternating stripes of normal and see through fabric.  Thankfully she was hearing medium sized pale, silky pants which set off well what was visible of her buttocks!  This step in the world of fashion is yet to reach the Greggs in Muirhouse (thank goodness) and must lead to some intriguing tan lines…  The Museum was interesting and S was surprised to discover she didn’t have a pen in her handbag as she tried to note the name of an artist.  Thankfully we managed to remember it, Felix Ziem, I liked the Edouard May pics.

Not pointing out another woman honest

Not pointing out another woman honest

We decided to head for the Cartoon Museum and walked down the hill towards the river.  Lots of people whiz about urban areas on mopeds over here so it was no surprise to hear one whining up the road at the head of a line of traffic.  A young woman was making good progress up the hill into the wind and seeing us reacted.  This caught both our attentions as she looked down and moved her skirt which was blowing back revealing her fishnet tight covered thighs, thankfully the long strapped handbag was well positioned across her avoiding further exposure.

Doh!

Doh!

We paused for a drink then crossed the river going to the Cartoon Museum.  It was interesting and well laid out, the Moomins exhibition was sadly not open.  There was no mention of The Broons but Dan Dare did feature.  This is a field/genre that I know not a lot about but from the size of the museum shop and in other places it’s pretty huge with some.  Adult cartoon books numbering many hundreds, probably thousands were available at the Museum not just the Silver Surfer and Snoopy. A wide range of themes not just what I’d expect namely satire, super heroes and sci-fi, also historical, modern day and lots of others as well as manga ones that open the wrong way.  I suspect that some are for a male audience with scantily clad young women featuring on the covers, opening one – in the pursuit of learning – I was a little taken aback by the content and put it down again moving quickly on in an embarrassed British way!

Charlie

Charlie

Just after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, there was a Cartoon Conference no doubt in the same building that had a massive Police and Security presence…  😦

Another

Another

We wandered back towards the station and happened across more street art.  It really does liven up buildings and areas that could be an eyesore.  In fact it may be case that such works prevent re-development!

National Memorial

National Memorial

On the way home we stopped the Memorial de la Resistance, Necropole Nationale which you can’t fail to notice from the main road.  It’s unsurprisingly the largest of its kind.  Here lie about 2,000 people killed fighting with the Resistance in WWII.  It’s a striking place and I’m sorry but my pictures don’t do it justice.  I was a little surprised to see reference to a couple of German’s who found and died with a local group.  More surprising was the large number of headstones indicating that the occupant was a muslim.  A quick glance at the alphabetical list showed that 18 people buried on the site, nearly 1%, had the surname Mamadou.  Not what most would define as typically French name seventy plus years ago.

It is all too common for the history of WWII to be coloured only white, relegating the contributions of the hundreds of thousands who contributed to victory across/from across the globe.  I knew, for example, that the USA fought fascism with racially segregated units but am embarrassed to admit that I’d never realised that the diversity of the Resistance fighters would of course match the diversity of France.  Lesson learned you can both have that one for free.

Some of many...

Some of many…

In other news we saw our first tick!  It was having a wee walk on my naked leg but thankfully hadn’t settled down to make a meal of me.  We also had some very nice new potatoes with fresh mint that had the lowest number of food miles we’ll manage for a long time in that John gave us them having grown them just over the fence.  It rained yesterday and a bit the night before which will do the lawns no end of good, otherwise the weather continues to be generally superb, sorry.

Until next time…