Wednesday, 15 July 2009

St. Reverend Boule club and Fireworks!

7th to 12th July
As we approached Oiron the mobile rang and Kaye asked if we were actually coming, just then we came around the corner and there she was waving to us. Joan got out and I drove around the corner to the car park for the chateau where, this being France we were able to park overnight and slept very well indeed. Before this we were shown around Kaye & Phil’s house and were amazed at the work she had already done. I say she had done because Phil is in England during term time as he is a teacher and his income helps them to afford the work they have to do. They have taken on a similar task to Julie & Khaled and as with them we are amazed at how much they have had to do to make their house habitable. Their intention eventually is to have B&B guests but it has not happened as soon as they had initially hoped. As with all such ventures it is really hard work but Kaye is doing a fantastic job and turning her hand to major tasks like plastering/painting/cementing etc.

This being her first such venture she has made some mistakes she openly admits, and some of them have been costly. Also they have some severe restrictions as to what they can do as the Chateau has control over what is done in the area, for instance they had to have special windows made to conform to the local laws, she has even had to build a cover for her caravan as it must not be visible from the air! From what she says one of the biggest disappointments she has had is that she has been ripped off by English builders, but on the other hand has found the French to be very helpful indeed and now only employs them for major jobs.

After we had had the grand tour we all went into the huge garden which will be another mammoth task. Phil is not the most handy of chaps but is quite good at taking instruction and doing the heavy work so that suits Kaye. As with all such projects they will eventually emerge into the light and all will be well but it will take a lot of hard work and a lot of give and take from both of them. We took Kaye for lunch and had a really good meal at another village nearby that she knows. We returned to meet a couple of really good friends of theirs and enjoyed an evening meal with them, although neither of us was hungry after the meal this afternoon.

On Thursday morning after breakfast we went and said goodbye to Kaye and told her if she felt like a break to come over for the weekend to where we were going, St. Reverend where we all met last year. We then headed off to meet Ron & Sandra there and on our arrival were immediately recognised by Herve & Christina the couple who run it who made us very welcome. Soon afterwards our good friends Ron & Sandra arrived and said come and have lunch with us it’s all ready, which was a very nice surprise. Over lunch they told us about the other members of the “Boule club 2008” who we had not managed to contact, and we all expressed our admiration for the work Kaye was doing. It is a shame our Belgian friends Agide and Simone are not here.

Friday morning Ron & Sandra arranged to take us to the market in town, which turned out to be a very expensive trip. As we wandered around we decided to take advantage of Ron’s knowledge of French and buy some cheese. The problem is that neither of us particularly likes sheep or goat’s cheese and we prefer hard cheese not soft. Ron was quite happy to oblige and we approached a cheese stall where after his enquiry the stall holder pointed out the cows cheeses. She was only too happy to give us all a sample and we all agreed it was a very nice cheese. Ron & Sandra bought some and Joan & I also added a piece of another one. When we paid for it we were astounded, we had paid €20.80 (about £19.50) for a couple of fairly small bits of cheese! We are not sure whether to frame it or eat it, but it has been a standing joke with all of us ever since. We later saw the same cheese in the supermarket for under half the price per kilo.

Having spent another very pleasant day together we were delighted when Kaye arrived with Cobbles her little kitten and a tent to spend a few days relaxing with us. She put her tent up on our pitch which had plenty of room and they only charged us €2 a night for an extra person which was very good. The following day we had another surprise courtesy of Ron who drove us to the seaside which was only just around the corner. We had not realised all last year just how close we had been!

On our return to the van, somewhat later than any of us intended the small one disappeared inside and produced a meal for all five of us in less than an hour, amazing woman. The following morning it poured with rain and we really thought it would be a wash out but it stopped around 11 o’clock and we all went off again to St Gilles, intending another walk along the beach. As we approached, the traffic seemed very heavy and we discovered why, oh boy, another market! The ladies were delighted and we parked and walked around it but managed to avoid the cheese stall thank God. That evening Ron and Sandra had us all around for a superb barbeque and I said to Joan if we don’t stop eating soon we will need new clothes!
As planned Monday morning we said goodbye to Sandra, Ron & Kaye and headed off to the supermarket for supplies. Good grief, what’s going on, not another market surely? It was wall to wall traffic and everywhere seemed to be full of people and cars. Fortunately there are 3 dedicated motorhome bays and we managed to get one. Still none the wiser we got our few bits and left asap, and headed for an aire about 150 miles away. When we arrived it was as we had been told, in a perfect spot near a marina, but it was packed. Joan quickly found another one about 18 miles further on which when we arrived at the co-ordinates appeared non-existent as even the locals could not tell us where it was. Still we had to find a place for the night and it was still fairly early so Joan plotted another one and as we started towards it she suddenly checked the map again and said oops! turn here and go to the one at Rohan as it is on our planned route. This proved to be a really good move.

When we arrived it was a lovely little spot at the side of a canal overlooking a marina with a few narrow boats in it, perfect. It was still only 6.30pm so plenty of time for a stroll into town and possibly spot a place for dinner, no chance. Having returned to cook our own dinner we noticed some chaps unloading a couple of enormous speakers across the other side of the canal. Oh dear said Joan too late to move on now. Around 9.30pm we saw loads of families gathering on the opposite bank of the river which ran alongside the canal. Next somebody put on some noise which I understand is called music by today’s generation? It was I should add a really nice night and warm, then suddenly it started to rain. Well that will probably spoil it for them I said, they will have to pack up now. As we were about to close our curtains for the night the bloomin sky lit up with colour and noise.

We then witnessed the biggest and most beautiful firework display I have ever seen up close, I say up close because if we had been that close in England we would have been moved back!! Some of these explosions shook the van and the ground. By now of course we were outside enjoying the spectacle and praying that the embers that were dropping were actually out by the time they hit the van! Amazing! The end was greeted by cheers from the crowd and we think the music continued for a bit but we both zonked out after another wonderful experience.

We awoke at 8.30am and were on the road by 9.10am. After a pretty uneventful trip we got here (Cerisy la Foret) on a very quiet little free aire set next to a field full of modern sculptures at lunchtime. As we drove I said to Joan, you know I think all the fireworks etc be because it’s Bastille day, but I thought it was an even numbered day? If anybody rings ask them and true enough when Jacq rang she said, well it’s actually today the 14th, but we are sure that explains the fireworks and all the crowds buying food.

Sorry no precis this time.

Lots of love
Joan & Bryan xxxx

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Animals, a beach, booze, an enormous fish and help I’m lost!

29th June to 7th July

Précis for those with little time=
Saw Julie, Khaled & Hannah off, met return flight, safely returned the animals and enjoyed lots of good food, drink and fellowship. Met Khaled’s oldest friend and new wife, very nice. Saw old towns, took pictures. Carried on to seaside resort, lay on beach, met new friends. Broke camping club noise rule, enjoyed meal out. Got lost in France and worse, lost small one. Visited Millau Bridge again another €11.50

Worrying about image as everybody giving us drinks, and now food?! XX

The full story for our loyal fans.
I have just realised that nowhere have I mentioned Julie’s departure or for that matter Khaled’s, suffice to say they both caught their respective planes on time. Also we should have mentioned that their good friends Arfan and his new wife Annamarie who were expected to call in after they had been to Barcelona suddenly arrived on Friday. This was not a problem as they were expected, and their room was ready for them. The only problem was we were not sure if they would like the food we had prepared but we need not have worried, they are a lovely couple and just sort of joined in with us. They left on Monday morning to visit Barcelona and returned Tuesday night late.

On Monday we visited another of Julies recommendations, a small village called Minerve which is an ancient Cathar stronghold. When you arrive you are directed all around it and appear to be going out into the country. Then you arrive at a car park which is but a short walk downhill to the town. It is constructed on an outcrop of rock with a deep gorge on both sides that eventually meet so it must have been almost impregnable in the old days. Sadly it is overrun with “art shops” and I said to Joan ‘baa’ as we could see them looking at us as we walked in ready to be shorn! Still we had a very nice visit and enjoyed a mid-day Pizza and a drink then returned home. Wow! Sam, assisted by his lovely girlfriend Yolene, is cooking dinner, a very delicious spag bol. It was not until the next day we discovered he had used enough meat for about 6 people. Still as he is about to become a student he will rapidly learn I am sure.

Tuesday is a funny one, Julie and Co return and relieve us of our duties. In a way we will miss doing them, but at least all the animals are still here and appear to be healthy. As Julie phoned and expressed concern about all the luggage they had, I asked Arfan and Annamarie to join us on the airport run and of course they were only too happy to agree.

Khaled, Julie and Hannah have had a really good time but are really knackered as every moment has been filled, which is as it should be. So I did the animals for the last time, and cooked a Thai curry for them all, which they seemed to thoroughly enjoy. We were going to leave Thursday but were persuaded to stay for lunch. Khaled and Arfan did a great barbecue which we ate out in the garden in a special shed originally constructed for Pablo the donkey. It rained for the first time since we’d arrived but we were fairly sheltered although Khaled needs to attend to the roof to cover all the holes! By the time we’d finished lunch and had a few drinks we decided to leave on Friday. Arfan said he was really pleased as he had been saying he wanted to cook us a meal because he felt embarrassed that we’d cooked for them. They always said we will help you cook, and did make us an accompaniment one day, so Thursday we offered to help and were told to relax. He made us all a lovely Syrian meal which we ate outside on the upstairs decking. It was a very pleasant evening indeed and a perfect end to our stay. As always tearing ourselves away from chez Shbib was very difficult and they don’t make it any easier to leave. They did however express their thanks for our looking after everything while they were away but we both agreed it had been very enjoyable indeed.

So what next, well we had intended to go along to St.Tropez and spend some time just lying on the beach. However when we stopped to look at all we had to do with the remaining time we had, we realised it was not such a good plan. We really wanted some beach time so we went to Vias Plage which is not very far from Julie and Khaled’s but was almost right on the beach. Some people would not like it at all as it was a bit like Blackpool but it was just right at the time for us. With temperatures always in and around the mid 30’s and a very short walk to the beach we allowed ourselves to just chill. On the first day when we arrived we were asked to leave the van and go and pick a pitch, so as I was blocking the entry I moved the van forward and over a bit. Some Dutch people we were preventing from entering pulled in. We picked a very nice spot and went back to register it and get the van. As I drove up the Dutch were in the process of nicking it, it really was a good spot, and they got very uppity when I told them it was mine. But having watched me move my van to let them in the wife accused me of arriving after them! Silly cow.

The Frenchman opposite helped me find the electricity point and after that he and his wife were very friendly. That evening when he was leaving with a huge fishing rod I managed to refrain from saying, going fishing?, and just kept to 'Bon chance’ The next day he came over and showed us some pictures of him with an enormous fish. We were genuinely impressed and made all the right noises. That night after dinner he brought over some homemade Calvados from 1986 and we both slept like logs even though it was soo hot.

Later that night we were wandering around the site and met an English couple called Rod & Diane who insisted on us having a drink with them, we sat and chatted for several hours. It was nice to chat in English without having to work out what to say first, although I think our French is a little improved. The following night we invited them for a return drink and had another good night especially as when Joan mentioned something about her 60th birthday they were shocked. They said they had tried to guess her age and had decided 53 or 54. (NO, Joan says it wasn’t because they were drunk) Again our French pal came over with some homemade grappa from 1983 made from grapevines. I got him to show Rod & Dianne the pictures of his catch and he told us all nine people sitting around his table had had a meal from it! Sadly we blotted our copy books and stayed up until one o’clock chatting! Somebody suddenly said shush and we realised our mistake. There is a very loud disco until about 12pm and we should have stopped then. The next morning we worked out an apology, wrote it down in French and went to all our neighbours who all laughed and said it was not a problem at all.

The next morning started as always with bright sunshine then all of a sudden a huge downpour started and it looked as though that was it for the beach. Fortunately as Rod had said, it cleared up and we got several hours in the warm Med. Rod and Diane told us about a fish restaurant just outside the campsite where the food was really good so that evening we got ourselves all tarted up to go out. Joan looked stunning and I of course was my usual suave self. We enjoyed a very pleasant 3 course meal with a nice bottle of wine, lovely, thanks you two.

We still don’t know who shushed us but we were glad we had apologised. I am not sure that the French was quite right because they looked very hard at it before they understood what we wanted to say. Still when we left the next day they came out, all smiles and said bon-voyage to us, nice people. Rod and Diane also came round to say goodbye, little did they know!

What happened next could only happen to me! As we left we wanted to get our Monday paper with Saturday’s crossword answers plus a baguette. So as we approached the shop Joan jumped out and I continued to the next roundabout to return and pick her up, easy, NOT! Having nipped off the slip road to go underneath and return the other side I found myself on a dual carriage way. I had to travel some way before I could return the other side. Now as I have said before, Joan and her sat-nav tell me where to go so I could not remember where we had been, something plage. I know I thought, I’ll ring her. No reply. Her bloody phones not on, again! Then another bright idea, we always put the site number on our calendar so we can remember it later. I frantically searched for a possible stopping point only to end up at a place called Agde which is a bloomin port with a huge boat. I must have been miles off course as the biggest thing I’ve seen in the last week is a pedalo. By now I am really worried that Joan will think I have had an accident, and I still don’t know where I am. Lost in France! I’ve got this vision of her standing at the roundabout bottom lip trembling thinking I’ve gone off with her hairdryer and lipstick!

Finally able to stop, now what? Oh of course, silly arse, the co-ordinates will be in the sat-nav. Grab it, turn it on, oh God she’s cleared it! I get out of my seat to run back for the calendar and fall over her bag with, yes you guessed, her phone in it. On finding the calendar, Oh joy of joys she has not filled it in. Ok calm, we stayed at a campsite called Napoleon camping, so just look in the book and it will be easy. IT’S NOT THERE, but I slept there for the last few nights? Later I learn it is called that but the address is different. Suddenly my phone rings, after waiting half an hour Joan has gone back to find our friends Rod and Diane and borrowed their mobile phone.

Where are you? She says.
I wish I bloody knew I say but more to the point where are you?
I am at Vias Plage, just put it into the sat-nav pet.
Well I tried, I said, but the sat-nav will not let me in, so I threw it. Oh wow, just seen a signpost for Vias Plage, be with you very soon.

As I finally pulled up bless them, Rod and Diane had walked back with Joan and were standing at the roundabout with her. Rod knows exactly what I have done as he’s done it too. We thanked them and Joan jumped back in, grabbed her handbag and sat-nav, the blasted thing promptly worked and we were off again, phew! I had managed to do 22.5 miles and we left an hour later than planned.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful until we got to the Millau bridge. We had been over it on our way south but the weather was not good and Joan’s pictures left a lot to be desired. This time we went into the specially provided rest area and observation point which had fantastic views of the bridge and surrounding countryside. This was ideal as we had lunch there and climbed up to get some good pictures as well, hopefully they are ok. Finally after a 202 mile day we arrived at our campsite only to be confronted by what looked like a vertical drop down to a riverside. I really didn’t fancy it but Joan felt it was alright so down we went, which was ok but my worry was that we would have trouble getting back up tomorrow.

The site was very nice and we had our pick of spots so we chose one near the loos next to a French couple with a lovely dog which I made a fuss of. Imagine our faces when as Joan was about to put our meal out, the gentleman appeared at our door all smiles with 2 of the biggest barbecued sausages I’ve ever seen on metal rods in his hand, so kind. They were actually delicious and we made all the right noises. Plus when I was washing up I said how good they were to his wife who was delighted. I later gave the dog two biscuits, not a bad exchange really.

This morning Tuesday 7th I awoke to a bleary eyed Joan, she has been awake since 4am worrying if we will be able to get up the hill! In the event the van was up and out no trouble at all, but I must admit I had been a little concerned. Tonight we are on an ‘aire de repos’ with free electricity, a toilet and water laid on. Tomorrow we are looking forward to seeing our friend Kaye from last year who has or is opening a B&B in a small village about 50 miles further on.

Well it’s a long one but hopefully you have enjoyed it, we did.
Lots of love
Joan & Bryan xxxx