Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Serendipitous Fire Engines

We had arranged to meet friends this afternoon at One New Change, the big shopping centre behind St Paul's Cathedral.  But yesterday, when I was browsing the Internet, I came across this article.  I did a bit of further research, and found that there would be vintage fire engines displayed outside St Paul's Cathedral during the afternoon, and then there would be a procession leaving from Dowgate Fire Station in the early evening.  So I promptly contacted my friends and said look what's happening, and, indeed, when we got there, they were busy looking at the fire engines outside St Paul's.
We had a splendid time looking round, and talking to the firefighters, who were dressed in vintage uniforms.  Several other people were also dressed in 1940s fashions - one woman's legs were covered in tattoos, which we didn't think was actually very authentic, but still!  I was reminded that this was how fire engines were, in my youth, when I was a little girl visiting my grandmother in London - they rushed about with bells ringing, and huge wheels on the back for the ladders.
When we had all had enough, we wandered back to One New Change and took the lifts up to the sixth floor, where there is a roof garden and wonderful views over London, especially of St Paul's - the lifts are designed so you see nothing but it as you go up!

Then it was getting dark, so we came away and walked down towards Dowgate Fire Station, stopping for a cup of tea en route.  On our way, all the fire engines drove past us, to much waving, going back to the fire station where they were joined by others - all privately owned and immaculately maintained - until 6:05 pm, at which point an air-raid warning was sounded.  Sadly, this could only be a hand-cranked siren, as they were afraid that people would be scared of the real thing, what with terrorist alerts and so on, but when it finished, the fire-engines all drove off, bells ringing madly, followed - and we thought this a lovely touch - by a modern engine bringing up the rear.

So we came away and took a 133 bus back to Brixton and then a 37 up the road, and I cooked dinner for us all.  It was a lovely afternoon out.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Tea on Bury Hill

We were spending Christmas with my parents, now rather old and immobile (my father's word - he prefers it to "frail"), and, as we wanted to take the motor home out for a run anyway, we invited them to drive somewhere with us where we could have a cup of tea and look at the view.  My father suggested Bury Hill, a local landmark.

So we piled into the van and drove off.  My father sat in the front passenger seat, and my mother and I and the dog sat in the back.  First mistake was not having brought the dog's bed, as the poor dog found lying on the floor struck rather chill on his underneaths, and was reluctant to settle, but eventually he did, mostly on our feet.  The back seats are not exactly comfortable to drive - I expect the window seat is fine, although my mother said she couldn't see out of the front very well - but the side seat is difficult, as there is nowhere to brace yourself, and only the seatbelt keeps you from being flung into the stove when the Swan Whisperer takes a corner too fast!  However, I managed to stay put, and we arrived at Bury Hill only to find that they have moved the car park and you can't really see anything now!  And the Swan Whisperer discovered the hard way that the reversing sensors only actually work when the reverse gear is engaged, not when he is freewheeling - luckily, not much damage!

The Swan Whisperer took the dog for a walk, which took rather longer than he expected, and we had got bored and made the tea by the time he got back!  We had brought hot water in a Thermos, and then boiled it up in the kettle, plus teabags and milk, biscuits (a Christmas present from my middle niece, which are absolutely delicious) and Christmas cake.  So we drank that, and then, at my father's suggestion, took the scenic route home, although it was getting dark by now so we could see very little.  Then we had piled the used crockery into the sink, where it rattled all the way home, and the lid didn't fit securely so it fell off and hit both me and the dog, and spent the rest of the trip squashed on my foot underneath the dog!  Not exactly comfortable.....

But the parents enjoyed themselves, to the point where my mother has asked if "next time" we could take a picnic lunch and make a day of it.  Which we certainly can, only we will put some water in the van so we can use the loo, and also do the washing up! 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

2015 Christmas Trip, final day

It was cold this morning, although the rain had stopped!  We were glad for the heating in the van - the bathroom can get too hot if you aren't careful, but that's not bad when you're showering with as little water as possible. 

The Swan Whisperer went for a walk before breakfast, and then we set off.  We had heard that the queues going into France could be horrendous on the major roads, and wondered whether they might not have blocked off some of the more minor crossings, so decided to compromise and take a main-road crossing.  This meant driving through Belgium, and the Satnav took us mostly on country roads, which was lovely - we love French country roads, but don't often go on Belgian ones.  We stopped briefly in Ieper (Ypres) to see if we could see a bakery, but couldn't, so we moved on an d eventually had rather a late lunch in a services on the A25 in France. 

We were not held up at the border - some cars were being pulled over, but we were just waved through.  And, as I said, we stopped at the next services for lunch, and then drove over to Dunkerque where we got lost!  For some reason Google Maps insisted that the Auchan hypermarket was not where it in fact is, and it wasn't until we asked it for their petrol that it found the right place!  The Satnav never knows one supermarket from another, so it wasn't being much help, either.  Anyway, we got there in the end and did our shopping, and then got petrol, but what that Auchan doesn't sell is gas, and we needed to replace our "Cube" of Butagaz.  So we drove down to the one at Calais, which not only does sell it, but we could empty our grey water there, too, which was useful. 

And so to Eurotunnel, straight through, and a two-hour run home.  And now we have emptied it, and it will be taken home and put back into storage until the next time!

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

2015 Christmas Trip, Day 5

The weather was lovely this morning when we got up, and we went for a walk down to the river, and then back along the main shopping drag, stopping off at the supermarket to buy bread, milk, etc.
There is a car-ferry that crosses the Rhein between Königswinter and Bad Gödesberg, so of course we took that,
and drove through Bonn, which is fairly uninteresting, before heading out on the motorway towards the Ronquières Inclined Plane, where there is a car park giving specific permission for overnight parking (1 night). We thought it was very dull to go the same way as we came, which was out fault for not having planned the route ourselves (not that there really is much choice), so when the Satnav said it could save us 6 minutes we said yes please, but in fact it was only another motorway. We stopped at services at a place called Jülich for lunch, and should maybe have explored there, it looked quite interesting, but we drove on and it was quite a long way to here. And it is raining!  So we are parked up for the night next to the lift, which is quite noisy.
This holiday has been all about transport - the first night we parked up by the Strépy-Thieux lift, then we had two nights next to the barges and passenger ships on the Rhein, last night was all about the trains, and now it is all about the canal lift again.

Monday, 7 December 2015

2015 Christmas Trip, Day 4

We really had no plans for today, although the SW had vaguely talked of going to Aachen. But we didn't want any more Christmas Markets, and I said shall we go and look at Bonn. But before we got there, we decided to go to Königswinter, where I spent a few days with my school en route to the Passion Play at Oberammagau 45 years ago. The only thing I really remembered was that there was a little train that ran up the mountain to the Drachenfels, with a stop half-way up where there was a café and a little zoo and I first drank Perrier, and was - surprised - by it.  

Our first try ended up in the neighbouring village of Rhondorf, where we found a path that led up the mountain but no railway and, alas, I do not have my trekking poles with me. 
Google Maps, however, proved rather more capable than the Satnav, and when we got to Königswinter, we followed the signs to the motor home parking and found that we could park there free for up to 48 hours. So we decided to stay.

First port of call was to the Drachenfelsbahn, but, sadly, no trains on December weekdays, so we walked into the town and had lunch in an Italian restaurant, which was about the only thing open on a Monday. Then I suggested the SW might walk up the mountain - I remembered there had been a path beside the railway - so he went off to do that while I did some necessary shopping and then came back to the van which was very warm in the sun, so I opened all the windows to give it a thorough airing and enjoyed the warmth while I read and knitted a bit.

The SW came back saying he had had a fabulous walk over to Rhondorf and back, and now we are drinking tea and relaxing. We may or may not go for another walk later, but I doubt it. 

I also hope we sleep - we didn't realise quite how near the main railway line we are, with freight and passenger trains every few minutes. The Boy would love it. 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

2015 Christmas Trip, Day 3

Today is St Nicholas' Day, when children in many countries find little presents in their shoes given by the eponymous saint. We, however, are no longer children and our shoes contained nothing more exciting than our feet. 

We had directions to the Park & Ride, and found it at the second try (we went roaring past it the first time and had to turn round). Then we managed to buy an up-to-five-person day ticket with our hoarded coins once we were on the tram, only as nobody asked to see it, not once, I am not sure why we bothered! Still, we try to be honest.

The tram took us swiftly into Cologne, and we got off at the main station and explored the first of the Christmas Markets. I did buy some honey lip-balm, but that was all, although we enjoyed looking at the various stalls.
We then walked down to the Alter Market, where there was another market with since really quite good craft stalls, including a blacksmith. The Swan Whisperer bought me an olive wood risotto spoon as an oddment fur Christmas (at my request), and then we wandered down to the Heumarkt, and the third market. By this time I badly needed to sit down, so we went into a restaurant for lunch, which was a failure as the food - even the salad - was so salty you couldn't taste anything else. The beer was nice, though. The SW said his currywurst was nice, if salty.

After lunch, we looked at the very long and thin temporary ice rink, and the various stalls attached, and then took the tram up to the St Nicholas market at the Rudolfusplatz, where we has gluhwein, which was lovely. And looked at the "Christmas Avenue" across the road, which was dull.
The local public transport authority had been advertising that St Nicholas would be bringing little gifts to children during the afternoon and to look out for him on the trams and buses, and I am delighted to say we saw him as we waited for the tram to take us back to Neumarkt, although I couldn't get a photo. 

Then the market at the Neuplatz, where the SW bought me a skewer of chocolate-covered grapes, which were lovely. But what he wanted was some apfelstrudel, and the only market that sold that was the first one, by the Cathedral, so we went back there and bought him some.  They had some wonderful-looking cheesecake, too, but I was full.

By then we were Christmas Marketed out, and although there were at least two others in the city, we decided to give them a miss, and instead took a tour bus round the city, enjoying the comments of a farming couple from Derbyshire who sat next to us.  When that was over, it was dark and the shops were shutting. I  remember the days when shops in Germany firmly shut at lunchtime on Saturday and did not open again until Monday morning, but those appear to be long past, and everywhere was open and busy today.  We saw an old-fashioned tram several times, which I think was a Christmas Special, probably a charter or something you booked specially.

We caught a tram back to the P&R, and thence back to the camp site, where we are having a quiet evening after a lovely day.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

2015 Christmas Trip Day 2

Blissful to wake up in the van this morning and to have a shower in a warm bathroom.  What had been penitential in October was lovely in December!  Actually, it was lovely being able to read in bed last night without having to use a book light. The new lights are much better - I couldn't actually see to read with the old one. 

After breakfast I needed to stretch my legs, so walked up to the visitor centre, now sadly closed until April, across the canal, and down the other side to the bridge and so back to the van.
Lovely. Then fell asleep - Belgium is not the most beautiful of countries, especially on the motorway. We went past Courcelles, and I could only think of Walter Blythe, who was fictionally killed there. And on past  Aachen, where there was a bad hold-up. We thought this was at the border so refused the sat-nav's kind offer to take us a marginally quicker way, but in fact it turned out to be road works - the border between Belgium and Germany is as unremarkable as ever.

We arrived in Rodenkirch easily enough, although too early for Reception, so we had a late lunch and checked in once it had opened. Then, when we had parked up and plugged in the electricity, we set off to see what we could see.

Bus driver singularly unhelpful about buying tickets, but we worked out how in the end, and arrived at the tram station. Disaster! You needed to pay either with coins or with a contactless card, and we didn't have enough of the former, and foreign machines don't read British contactless cards.
So we came away, and decided to do a bit of shopping and to get plenty of change and try again tomorrow. We also walked back to the campsite, to save money - a very pleasant walk but my shoes weren't the best for walking and I was glad to get back to the van and enjoy a glass of wine while cooking supper. We are here for two nights, and as tomorrow is Sunday and the buses, as in the UK, are infrequent then, we will drive to the Park & Ride and get the tram from there. The Christmas Markets are all open on a Sunday; I expect they will be very crowded, but that is all part of the fun. Also, it is St Nicholas Day....

Friday, 4 December 2015

2015 Christmas Trip, Day 1

There is no point in having a motor home if you don't use it. And the Swan Whisperer has changed the batteries, and put LED lights in instead of the old incandescent or fluorescent ones, so we are a lot more comfortable and can have light and heat in the evenings. 

So for what will probably be our last trip of 2015, we have decided to go to the Christmas Markets in Cologne. We couldn't set off last night as I was speaking at an event at the British Library and didn't get home until after 9, so we got up early this morning and crossed at about 10:30 or thereabouts. It said ominously that there were "Perturbations du Service", but if there were, they did not affect us. 
Our first stop was at the Auchan near Dunkerque for food, and then we had lunch before setting off. We told the Satnav to take us to Aachen, reckoning we could change plans en route, and it said there were bad hold-ups crossing the border that way and took us round via Lille, instead, also slow, and queues to come back into France. But they didn't ask to see our passports or anything, just waved us through. 

I then fell asleep, after two bad nights not surprising, and when I woke up, the Swan Whisperer suggested we park up by the Strépy-Thieux canal lift, which we both love, so we did.  And had a cup of tea and knitted and read (I knitted, the Swan Whisperer didn't, I should clarify) until time for supper. So lovely not to have to go to bed and read by torchlight!  And I can charge my phone overnight, too.  The heater is very efficient, it is almost too hot!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Eleanor, final day

By the time Carrefour opened its doors at 09:00 this morning, we were standing outside ready for our final shop of the holiday, the big one that included wine and coffee, and would have included bread mix if they'd had any particularly nice ones (they didn't), and another helping of rognons sauce madère (so nice of the French to have servings of this in the meat section - I had never really explored the meat section of French supermarkets before this holiday, so didn't realise), and stuffed tomatoes for tonight's supper.... and so on.  And then to Eurotunnel, and, after a short delay, back to the UK.  Where it was peeing it down with rain - we were tempted to turn round and head straight back to France.  Especially when we got home and found the main circuit had tripped and our freezer had been out for days..... yuck. 

We have taken everything out of the motor home, but it needs a good clean, which it will get tomorrow before being taken down to its UK home on Friday.  And I want to explore a place near Chichester which is supposed to be very good for servicing and mending motor homes, as there are a few things we need to do if we are to take it to the Cologne Christmas markets, which we would like to.

Meanwhile, having gone to bed at about 09:00 for the last 3 weeks - that's 08:00 UK time, of course - I am having trouble keeping awake.  I will sort out pictures and so on tomorrow.....

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Eleanor, Day 20

And so the journey ends where it began, in the car park of Cité Europe. And tomorrow we will shop first thing and, assuming no delays in the tunnel, be home in time for a late lunch. 

We did not, however, retrace our steps much until we got to Abbeville. We drove to Rouen on the more sensible way, having learnt how to make the Satnav go the way we wanted it to.  We parked up in the designated camping-car parking, but it was rather a long way from the town centre, so we drove up and round it, and then on out to Dieppe, stopping en route for lunch in a supermarket car park. 

Then on to Eu, where William the Bastard got married, and so to Abbeville and the motorway.  We drove into Calais and stopped for a cup of tea where we could see the ferries go in and out, and then we said hello to the Bourgeois, as we always do (long story), and finally out here. I went and had a wander round the shops - there may have been some accidental buyage of a winter coat - and then back to the van for supper, and bed in a few minutes.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Eleanor, Day 19

So the penultimate night of our holiday finds us back at Les Andelys. The plan for today had been to drive to Giverny (no Eleanor connection, but just because), spend the night parked up there, and then visit Gisors tomorrow morning before heading back to the Calais area for the final night. However, for some reason we went straight to Gisors, and it seemed silly to go back on ourselves. So we didn't. After all, John's losing Château Gaillard to the French was pretty much the end of things, so it makes sense.

Gisors is lovely. The Castle is in ruins, but its grounds are now a public park, so you can have a good nose round and see the various towers that are still standing.

We had parked up about 5 minutes walk away, and had a quick cup of tea before heading on here.   Given that one car park was out of use as there was a funfair in it, and another was out of use for a market, we were rather pleased to have found a parking-space so near!

We had decided to eat out as it is so nearly the end of the holiday, and there was a very good restaurant only a few minutes' walk away from the camp site. A 4-course meal with wine for €12.50 per head is pretty good value, and it was a good meal, too. Am now stuffed!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Eleanor, Day 18

The antepenultimate night of our holiday finds us at Vouvray, where they make my favourite sparkling wine. And yes, we have has a tasting, and may have another in the morning if we're not away before they open.

Last night's parking, in Niort, was super. We were supposed to pay €7.70 for it, and would gladly have done so, as it included electricity as well as services, but nobody came and asked us for it. They are supposed to send people round, but.....

We came upon a supermarket that was open - unusually, as it turned out, because there was a half-marathon in the town, though quite why that meant it had to open I'm not sure. But I was glad it did, as it meant I could spend €0.86 on a baguette for lunch and a bottle of water. And the good citizens of Niort certainly appreciated it!  Very busy, it was.

Then we drove on N roads as far as Poitiers, and then on the motorway to Tours, where we parked up near the hotel we'd stayed at during the Coupe des Druides a couple of years ago. We had quite a pleasant walk, sad to see that a restaurant where we had enjoyed a meal was in the process of changing hands, but another one was still there and flourishing.

The Cathedral was a bit far away, though, so we went back to the van and headed off to Amboise, going on the South back of the Loire, which may have been a mistake as the best view of the Castle was as we were driving away, having investigated the aire, which was a bust as it wanted about €24 for the night, and for that price we'd want WiFi, at the very least.

So we drove on to Vouvray, and found the aire quite passable (free, but you pay for services, fair enough), and have parked up here. The wine merchants are all open on Sundays, so we bought half a dozen bottles of a nice one for my father for Christmas.  We should have bought some for us.... Maybe we will....

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Eleanor, Day 17

I an hating the fact that the holiday is so nearly over!  On the other hand, I am tired now, and in fact slept all afternoon instead of walking round Niort or getting on with my knitting.

We were slow leaving Saintes this morning, as we had a walk around the "Abbaye des Dames" complex, and enjoyed looking at the church.

The rest of it is now conference rooms and private housing, I believe. Then we shopped, which brought home to us how nearly over this holiday is - only 4 more nights.  Mind you, I shan't miss the very cold mornings, although it was a good 10° warmer this morning than the previous day.

We are parked in a dedicated motorhome aire tonight, with electricity. There is a fee, but we don't know who to pay. I assume that someone will come round and ask sooner or later....

Friday, 16 October 2015

Eleanor, Day 16

Cold, cold, cold! That was us this morning. It really took me until lunch time to thaw out. Tonight I am sleeping in my warm socks, the ones I wear when I have Vick on my feet. And a cardigan. The SW is fairly ok as he has warm PJs, but I don't like pyjamas and need/like a clean nightie every 2-3 days.....

By the time we had thawed out, we had left Angoulême and driven to Cognac, half way between Angoulême and Saintes, which was today's goal. Cognac is a bit after our period, but we nevertheless enjoyed walking round the old town and, because there is free parking over lunch, we were able to have lunch there, too. 

Then we drove on to Saintes, and found the camping-car park, which costs €5 but very quiet. A bit of traffic noise, but I won't hear that when I'm asleep.  But the hose on the shower had perished so we had to go and find a new one, and the ones in camping-cars are not standard size. But there was a specialist shop, so we were able to get a new one, and a washer to fit, and now the pump no longer strains and the shower doesn't drip. 

Then back to the camping-place, and a ready-meal for supper. And wine. And I have nearly finished the small garment I am knitting for a future great-nephew.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Eleanor, Day 15

We woke this morning to rain in Arès, but by after breakfast it had passed. Chores today included, as well as shopping and the usual drain, flush and refill, buying and refilling oil for the van.
Because we were about 50km the wrong side of Bordeaux, it was a long drive to Angoulème, and we ended up stopping for lunch at a lay-by en route. I had bought a "pain d'Aquitaine", just because, and very good it was, too. 

We arrived in Angoulème in the early afternoon, and were lucky enough to find a parking space and got out to explore, just as the heavens opened. But we found various sites associated with our period, including a church in a street named for the Taillefer (? Can't remember how you spell it!) family, who were the family of none other than the eponymous Isabelle of Angoulème, wife of John Lackland and thus one of my forebears!

And we had, of course, already seen her effigy in Fontévraud. So that was good. Most of the other stuff we saw was more modern, although the market hall is on the site of the castle that Eleanor would have known, so we saw where it was. 

We were running out of time by then, plus we were cold, so we went back to the van and drove down to the car park where we are spending the night, and had a cup of tea. Then the SW went off to walk round the ramparts, and I visited the nearby comic strip museum, which was not very good as the layout of the exhibits and the understandable lack of light made it difficult to see. It ought to have been fascinating, but was rather headachy.

Then back and read and knitted for a bit until supper, and now reading in bed, wrapped in my rug. The van warms up very fast, but gets cold even faster!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Eleanor, Day 14

We are 2/3 of the way through this holiday, which is very, very sad. We are both enjoying it so much, although there was too much driving today, and too much squabbling over where the sat-nav wanted to take us (well, why didn't he check it himself if he wanted to go a specific way?).

We knew this morning that Bordeaux is not a friendly city to camping-cars, but we thought we'd go there anyway and hope for the best. As it was, we were able to drive round bits of the city and I think we caught a glimpse of the Castle and the Cathedral. Then we drove on down the coast right down to Cap-Ferrat,
and then back up here to this camp site which the Swan Whisperer chose, and is really not very nice, too touristy, even though it is the end of the season. But it will do, although its WiFi doesn't work, and the launderette is taking two lots of drying to be done. I had to go and knock on the door of the nearest camping-car and beg for change!  And acorns keep falling on the roof, which is a bit disconcerting.

It was bitter cold this morning, and it is not nice trying to dress in a freezing cold van!  We did turn the heating on after the SW's shower, and I think maybe in the morning we'll see if we can have both heating and hot water!  And I might go for a hot bottle tonight, although it's still warm after cooking dinner.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Eleanor, Day 13

Today was cold, and overcast, and cold!  And did I say it was cold?  We set off late as the SW had been trying to change a washer on a tap in the shower, I think successfully. 

We discovered that Moissac, a town where I had spent a very happy holiday with a French exchange when I was a girl, was not too far out of our way, so we decided to go there. We hadn't been able to get water in wherever it was we spent the night outside Cahors, so we asked the sat-nav to take us to the services in Moissac, which it duly did, and we topped up with water. Then we drove into the town, parked, and had a walk round, enjoying the Abbey church, where I remember attending an Easter vigil as a16-year-old.

We decided to eat lunch by the Tarn, and drove to a car park there.
It was cold, so I turned on the heater, forgetting that we needed the gas to be switched on before it would work. And the water pump started to make very odd noises - and on investigation, the bung was not there!  Madpanicarrgh!! while we threw the lunch things into the fridge again and dashed back to the services where luckily it was where we had left it! Phew!

So back to the Tarn for lunch, and then we drove on to Agen, but we found the Satnav's idea of the town centre wasn't anybody else's. We decided to go and find where we were going to spend the night, but neither of the places we found was very nice, just services. We stopped at one for a cup of tea and a rest, but then drove back into town and have parked up by the canal, unfortunately on a rather main road, so not very quiet. We are not the only camping-car parked here, though!

The Swan Whisperer went exploring and found the way into the town centre, so we walked in and found a lovely brasserie at the station, very much not a station buffet, all 1930s decor. Delicious menus at €19.90 each (C £15), including the eponymous prunes!  At least, mine did. And we treated ourselves to coffee and/or an infusion, in my case (verveine), and so back to the van and bed. We really must get up early tomorrow, though - the trouble with being here, due south of the UK, is that it isn't really light until 8:30 am, so we are not really getting up until then. But I have set an alarm for tomorrow!

Monday, 12 October 2015

Eleanor, Day 12

Once again, we finish the day not where we had intended to be.
But to begin at the beginning. We set off from the campsite near Rocamadour to visit the town this morning, and found that we could actually have parked up overnight outside the Château, buy there were no services and, of course, no WiFi. But also probably no flies!  We seemed to have picked up an awful lot overnight, and although I bought a tin of Raid, it didn't seem to make much difference.

I had never heard of Rocamadour before starting to plan this trip, which just goes to show how ignorant I am, as it was heaving with tourists, far more than any of the other places we've been. Even Fontévraud was quiet - none of the school groups you would have got in the UK. Here there was at least one school party, and a coach-load of English and one of Japanese tourists. I couldn't take photos in any of the chapels, they were too rammed. 

We went on to the ramparts of the Château, which were a bit high for my taste, but I did manage some good photos.
Then we took the funicular down to the chapel level,

and when we had explored there we took the stairs down to the Cité, as they call it, which was basically a tourist drag and reminded us very much of Mont-St-Michel.  The same sort of very step and narrow streets, lined with what my mother calls "Do-the-tourist" shops.

I went back up in the lift, which really was a lift, and rather expensive, and the SW walked up, but I noticed he was breathing heavily when he arrived, which he tried to disguise. We both took the funicular back up to the car park!

The next stop was a town called Gramat, where we managed to get an adapter for the gas, and it is working now, so we have plenty to do us for the rest of the holiday. The SW thinks we have more gas in the first bottle than he thought we had, so I jolly well had a hot shower and an egg this morning!
We then headed to Cahors, but it was a bust, as the first parking we tried was in a supermarket car park, and really rather nasty, not like the one in Falaise, and the second was full and over-full. And the streets were too narrow for comfortable driving, and we couldn't see where any of the sights were. So we looked on the app and have found this car park in a random village somewhere, by a medical centre and, I believe, a sports centre.   And I am going to cook pork chops with an onion, mushroom and cream sauce, with courgettes and probably rice, but maybe pasta or potatoes, washed down with a local red wine! Yum, I hope. For pudding, we have discovered that Andros do fruit purees with cream on the top, which are lovely and we have been eating them all holiday. You can't get them in the UK, or rather I've not seen them there, and am profiting!

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Eleanor, Day 11

Sunday again, and we were due to head south to Rocamadour, where Eleanor and Henry had been on pilgrimage. From the atlas, it was going to be a dull old drive, motorway all the way.  But by going a few miles out of our way, we could drive down through the Limousin and end up at the Dordogne, so that is what we did. A very lovely drive, past woods and pastures, lots of the eponymous cattle, rivers and lakes and pretty little towns. And so to Beaulieu sur Dordogne, which was lovely!

We walked round the town and watched the world go by on the river for a bit, and then drive on, now leaving Limousin for Midi-Pyrenées, and Corrèze for Lot.  We haven't quite got to Rocamadour, as this campsite is on the near side of it, but will tomorrow.  Meanwhile, free WiFi! I have gone back and uploaded a couple of pictures on to each blog entry, and of course all of them, to date, are now on Facebook.  

This campsite would be very nice if it wasn't for the flies!

Eleanor, Day 10

So after posting Friday's update, we returned to Nouaillé-Malpertuis to find the car park, which we had left empty, absolutely full! Luckily there was one space left, which we grabbed and went to bed. When we woke up, it was empty again, but that didn't last long, as it soon filled up again, this time for a funeral in the church next door, which is in the grounds of a former Abbey, and rather lovely.  We couldn't go inside, of course, because of the funeral, but we had a good walk round the grounds - now the Mairie and private housing.

Then we set off for Limoges. It was the loveliest drive through wonderful countryside, very autumnal. Even nicer once we'd stopped to shed a few layers - mornings here are very cold, but it soon warms up.
We liked Limoges, too. It felt as though we were quite in the South of France, although of course we aren't. A lovely Cathedral, pleasant Old Town, and delicious ham and butter sandwich!
We moved on to this little town on the outskirts of Limoges to spend the night, but discovered we have an adapter missing from the new gas thing. We think we can get, or contrive, one, but not on a Saturday night - we must have driven 20 miles round the various hypermarkets, looking! I was not impressed. Anyway, we got back here and there was enough gas to cook supper, although we are not having showers this morning, just in case.....
Then, when we got back to the car park, it was as bright as day with a floodlit football match going on!  They turned the floodlights and the car park lights off at about 22:30, so that was all right - but they came on again at 06:00, waking me out of a sound sleep!  Oh well, I soon dozed off again.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Eleanor, day 9

Today was Poitiers, which we thought was going to be a bust, as we couldn't find anywhere to park, but then we did and had a lovely walk through the city centre to see the palace (now law courts) and the churches associated with the Plantagenets.
Then lunch, then we drive down to a place called Nouaillé-Malpertuis where we are going to spend the night. The SW went for a walk, while I read, and then we drove back nearly to Poitiers to have dinner in a Buffalo Grill to take advantage of the free WiFi and upload photos.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Eleanor, day 8

Today we visited both Fontévraud Abbey and the Forteresse de Chinon. It is both possible and easy to do them both in one day, but I'd strongly suggest, if you do, doing then the other way round, as Fontévraud is marvellous and Chinon rather disappointing.
Instead of playing up the really fabulous architecture and telling us about the buildings and so on, they have a series of very dull films inside, about the various royals who lived there and only a very little about the building, and outside they have decided that King Arthur had links with the place so it is all about the Knights of the Round Table. As if! Everybody knows that was Winchester, where Alfred still waits to drop his sword in shock when a virgin walks by! And the Round Table is there and visible to all! Chinon, forsooth!
So we came away and went to the supermarket before coming to this camp site. We really didn't feel we had learnt anything from our visit, except perhaps that Joan of Arc came here, but that was all.
But Fontévraud, by contrast, was totally magical. The huge church, with the effigies of three of my many-times-great grandparents and Richard the Lionheart. 
The cloisters, the refectory, the dormitories... Many of the areas are used for concerts and so on, it's very well used. One cloister is used for conferences, and I think there was one going on.

What we hadn't known was that it had been, until 1963, a maximum security prison, and there was a lot about that, too.  One exhibition compared and contrasted the lives of the nuns and the prisoners. It was brilliant. And some pictures showed you what the area had been like when it was a prison, and how it had been restored. Fascinating. Definitively "worth the journey", as the guidebooks say, whereas Chinon, despite having been the seat of English government for the best part of a century, simply isn't.  One star - " interesting " at most.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Eleanor, Day 7

Gosh, is it really nearly a week since we set off - and in two weeks we will be home! But for now we are thoroughly enjoying ourselves, even if the gas igniter on the fridge has stopped. Oh well.
We were on electricity this morning, and had out showers on site - lovely and powerful. Then we went to the other side of the village to see our friends Josiane and Claude, whom we hadn't seen for far too long. After a lovely time with them, we headed on, firstly to the little supermarket in the village and then down the Loire to Saumur.
Of course, typical, most of the road that actually went beside the Loire was closed for road works, and we had to go inland a bit, but it was still a nice drive. We discovered, as we came into Saumur, that we needed diesel, and decided to buy more gas at the same time. The woman in the caisse couldn't have been more helpful, I don't know why people think the French aren't! So we have another big bottle of gas - now if only we could get the fridge to light....
We parked up by the Château de Saumur and had lunch, and then paid to go into the château.

There was a guide who told us all about its history and how Philippe Auguste stole it for France..... And then we went in and it was mostly a museum with furniture and so on. There was also a horse museum on site, and we looked at that - Saumur appears to be a major equestrian centre.
After a drink in the café, we came away and drove to Brézé to have a quick look at the château there, and so on to Fontévraud where we will spend the night and visit the Abbey tomorrow.