Sunday, 31 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 31 March

We had to set the alarm for 06:30 this morning , so nice when the clocks had gone forward!  But we needed to be ready to get away by 08:00 to get to St Michael's in time for the 09:00 service.

We made it, though - the campsite "navette", or shuttle bus, doesn't start until 08:30 (it's a bit of a ripoff compared to public transport anyway!) But there is a public bus only a few minutes' walk from the campsite and I had some  tickets so we were able to get up to Porte Maillot metro station and buy our Mobilis, or day tickets. Then it was a quick run to Concorde on Line 1, which now has PEDs, very smart, and a short walk to Church.

After the service which was excellent and not a mention of Mothering Sunday, we walked up to the Opéra
and then got a bus  down to the river. I had said I would love to take a bateau-mouche on the Seine, something that when I lived in Paris I only ever did when there were visitors to show round.
When we went down to the quayside, though, we found something even better, a Batobus
that goes round and round between the Eiffel Tower and the Jardin des Plantes. It cost €17, but tickets were valid all day and you could get on and off as you pleased.  So we got on that as far as the Eiffel Tower
, and then got a bus to the Etoile for a very silly reason: I wanted to see whether Line 6 still did a rather tight loop there, letting passengers off on one side before allowing them on on the other. It does, and the eastbound trains still sit at Kléber, which functions as the terminus.
We stayed on Line 6, enjoying the lovely view over the Seine up to the Sacré-Coeur, until we got to Montparnasse-Bienvenue, get we got off to get something to eat. We both fancied crêpes, and Google took us to a nearby street where there was a choice of several, and we had a lovely lunch including a bottle of cider.

After lunch we caught another bus back to the river, and then got on the Batobus again back to the Louvre. I was flagging badly by then, so we decided to call it a day and head back to the motor home. We ended up getting the metro at Franklin Roosevelt Station (we got a bus most of the way there), then got the métro to Porte d'Auteuil and another bus back to the camp site which dropped us slightly nearer than this morning's bus. And A Nice Cup Of Tea and a couple of paracetamol! I am beyond exhausted.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 30 March

Today sort of turned out to be a rest day, not intentionally. It being Saturday, it was parkrun day, this week at Fontainebleau (he ran 21'59", very pleased with himself, thank you for asking), and after he had showered, dressed and had more to eat, he decided he had to rewire the broken wing mirror if it was to last until we can get it to Lancing Commercial at the end of the week. By the time he had done that, it was already 12:30, so I sent him to buy bread and we had lunch when he got back.

I, meanwhile, had pottered round taking photographs of the very beautiful Palace and grounds, and both of us read for ages, too. But eventually it was time to move on. First port of call, inevitably on a Saturday, was a supermarket to stock up for the weekend - although more and more are open on Sunday mornings, we won't be able to shop tomorrow. 

And so to Paris and the campsite here, which seems very nice. We decided we were too tired to go into town tonight, so our wedding anniversary meal is an extremely nice cheeseburger in the campsite restaurant.
Washed down with a bottle of rosé, as the waiter pointed out a bottle - 750 ml - was only €1 dearer than the 500ml pichet so much better value for money.

Friday, 29 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 29 March

No need to shop today, although I'd have liked some radishes but wasn't going to go to a supermarket specially. So while the SW went for a walk, I went to the nearest boulangerie to get bread for lunch.
Then came back and we decided to drive across country to Fontainebleau, going rather out of our way so I could see the Aérotrain track, something that I find pleasing! It impressed me when I first saw it in the 1970s, when it was a real possibility, and it still impresses me today even though it has long been superseded by the TVG network.

Once we had seen that, it was time for lunch but the trouble with cross-country French roads is that there is nowhere to stop!  And the villages were too small to have supermarkets whose car parks we could borrow. However, we decided to drive into one village we would otherwise have skirted to see if we could park by its church, and found it had a cemetery with a tiny parking attached, so had a lovely, peaceful lunch. 

Then on... And arrived in Fontainebleau about 4:00, in Nice tune for a cup of tea before the SW went to explore. Me, I'm saving myself for the weekend in Paris!

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 28 March

Well, today didn't really turn out as planned, either. The Swan Whisperer said he really didn't like the sound of the brakes and we probably needed new brake pads, so our first port of call was the local NorAuto. However, they told us they only do cars and we would need to go to the Euromaster. Which we duly did, and they were so nice. They agreed we needed new brake pads as a matter of urgency, but they didn't have them in stock. However, please come back at 3:00 and they would have them.
So we went and found a supermarket and I got ready meals for supper, and a couple of new bras (I am gradually replacing my elderly, greying ones, and these were such a good price it would have been rude not to, really). Then we found a nice place to park up by a river, and had lunch and I had a nap while the SW went for a walk and at 3:00 we reported back to the Euromaster. 

Five minutes after he started work, the mechanic appeared and said we mustn't drive another inch on those tyres, they were down to the bare metal! And when the SW had a look, he had to agree that they were. So we agreed to buy and have fitted two new tyres in addition to the brake pads. 

And there the matter rested for the next 90 minutes or so while we sat in the waiting room and read, and noticed that the mechanic had disappeared. It turned out later that the wing pads had been sent, so he had to go and fetch the right ones, wasn't that nice of him! Especially as they charged us no more for labour than originally quoted, and were most apologetic about the delay. 

Our drive today had never been going to be very long, but as it was already 5:00 pm, we went up the (free) A20, long and boring, but we got there in the end. Nice aire, plenty of space and easy to find.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 27 March

Today we started out in Montigny. The SW went for a run, and after breakfast we brought the motor home up into the town and had a very pleasant walk round. It was market day, so I bought a large beef tomato for tonight's supper, and in an artisan bakery we bought quiches and patisserie for lunch.
The SW wanted to see Lascaux, so we drove out there and he went off to explore only to find it was closed until 6 April! You can't go into the original caves, of course, but there is a replica. So he was most disappointed. I don't do caves, at all, and had stayed in the van.

After coffee we set off, stopping once for lunch, and then again to get gas; then we drove on to this very nice aire in Saint-Priest-Taurion, where we stayed on our first tour, about 3 1/2 years ago now.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 26 March

After breakfast this morning, we visited the Prune Museum, which was quite interesting, showing how the drying and preserving of prunes had evolved from simply shoving them into your bread oven to today's drying tunnels. More interesting, I found, was the video showing how it is done today. After this there was a tasting session, although I was mindful of Boy Too's dictum that eating more than two prunes a day could make you uncomfortable! I bought some prunes, and some prune-based spreads, in the shop, and then it was time for coffee after the rather sweet prunes dipped in chocolate we had been eating.

Then en route. Our first port of call was a services where we could finally empty the loo and the grey, and then a big supermarket where I did a shopping and then we had lunch. Then we drove across country to this very pretty little town called Montignac, where the aire is lovely, all provided including electricity for only €8 per night. We have had a cup of tea and the SW has gone for a walk.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 25 March

The Swan Whisperer went for a run this morning, so I didn't hurry out of bed and it was gone 10 when we eventually strolled along the road and over to the funicular, which took us up to the historic part of Pau. We had  a delightful walk round the castle area and then back towards the centre of the town, including a Monoprix where we did a small shopping, including 2 bottles of my favourite shower gel! I was quite surprised to find we were back at the funicular, as I'd quite thought we had gone  a block further over.

The Swan Whisperer had coffee and a muffin (why, when he can have one at home any day?) in the station café, and then it was time to move on. We stopped for lunch, and again for the SW to buy new shoes as his were showing signs of imminent demise, and once where we hoped there were services, but they were out of use. We are fine for water, and can fill up here if we need to, but emptying is rapidly becoming a bit of an issue.

"Here" is a very pleasant spot which is an active plum growers and a museum and shop selling prunes and prune products. We were too late for the museum but plan to go in the morning, and I shall buy some prunes and also some prune and hazelnut spread which was yummy - I had a taste!

Then the SW went for a walk while I got supper ready and we had a glass of wine from Mas Alart which was gorgeous and went well with our butternut, mushroom and leek risotto!

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 24 March

Today is Sunday, and we decided to spend it in the city of Pau, and attend public worship at St Andrew's English church there. So we got up at a fairly respectable hour and arrived in Pau in good time to be able to park up outside the church.

It was a lovely service and the church was full, largely because a couple had decided to renew their marriage vows on their 10th wedding anniversary, so of course family and friends had come to wish them well. The church is very splendid, full-on Oxford Movement with frescoes all round the Communion table, and virulent stained-glass windows! Current churchmanship is fairly middle-of-the-road, though. We are made very welcome, and were happy to share in refreshments for a while after the service.

We went for a short walk round the town, but I discovered I was very tired and really in need of a rest day, so we brought the van down to the aire in the lower town, and although the SW had been exploring, I have had a quiet afternoon dozing and reading. I shall want to explore a bit tomorrow, though, before we begin to head north.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 23 March

This being Saturday, there was a parkrun and today the Swan Whisperer did the parkrun de la Ramée, which he thoroughly enjoyed and was pleased with his time of 22.05 and 78.11% of his age range.
Mind you, by the time he got back from that and had a shower and some more to eat (he had had some coffee and a flapjack - oh, excuse me, a vegan flapjack - while at the run) it was getting quite late. 

Or first port of call was at an E Leclerc at a place called Roques, which was absolutely enormous, and also had a motorhome aire with services, so the SW did that while I shopped. No queue, but the checkout person said it got quiet around noon on Saturdays. 

We decided we had had enough minor roads and set off down the motorway, stopping at a gare du péage to have lunch, after which I went sound asleep and didn't stir until we reached the outskirts of Lourdes. We found the parking place very easily, and after a cup of tea we both got our second winds and walked into the town and up to the grotto and back. 

I got some of the holy water and bought some little bottles to put it in - don't know if anybody would like some, but if you would and if I'm likely to see you within the next month, please let me know.

Friday, 22 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 22 March

Although we  are not really planning to leave the Pyrenees until Monday, we have gone quite a long way (the Swan Whisperer says 30 miles, but I think it's a lot more) out of our way to the outskirts of Toulouse so he can do a parkrun tomorrow. There are only 8 parkruns in France, so he has to do 3 of them this holiday!

We said goodbye to our hosts and stocked up on water - she told us it was rather hard, because of the chalky soil, but I grew up on the South Downs so am well used to it!

Then we drove to a supermarket on the outskirts of Perpignan - I am always surprised to discover that it is a real place - and I shopped while the SW got diesel. I was not impressed because the Carrefour had a Scan'n'Shop, but my card didn't work and the man told me it was because they had their own special programming and you had to be registered at that particular branch as it was the only one to have that particular kind. And then I forgot to present my card at the till.... Oh well. Tomorrow's shopping will be an E Leclerc.... 

Then followed a horrendously long drive on minor roads to this place Tournefeuille. The SW has gone for a walk to see where he needs to report in the morning and I am hoping this park doesn't close at night so they will move us on, but I don't think it does. And the SW says we can use the motorway tomorrow - after two very long days on often very minor roads I am fed up of them!

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 21 March

So today we completed the southbound bisection and reached the Mediterranean, where we had lunch!

But before then, it was another extremely cold morning, and we were glad of the van's heating system while we were getting up. And when we walked into the village to get bread, we wore coats on top of jerseys! 

Coming back, we stopped off at the lake near which we had parked, and there was a swan who looked a bit aggressive. I don't know whether he had a mate brooding somewhere, though I doubt it as there was another swan on another part of the lake and you wouldn't get two pairs on the same stretch of water. I told the SW to talk to it and took a picture of him doing so!

When we did set off, it was another lovely drive through places that were so stereotypically Southern France as to be almost silly. It is wine country, and every other signpost was Clos This, Domaine de That, Mas the Other and even the occasional  Chateau Sky-Blue-Pink. 

Spring is definitely here, with green leaves on the trees and swallows flying about. And then - there was the Med in all its turquoise glory! We stopped for lunch in a scenic area, and then, because we were early, the SW drove us down to Port-Vendres, which was quite pretty, but I had had enough, as by then it was warm enough for bare sleeves and open windows. I did suggest we took a quick run into Spain to get cheap diesel, but himself thought not. 

Anyway we ended up at Mas Alart, where we have been twice before, and we bought a dozen bottles of their lovely wine. The SW went for a walk, and soon I shall cook supper. Risotto tonight, I think.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 20 March

It's getting to the stage of the holiday where neither of us is quite sure what the date is, or what day it is! But today was All About Millau, really. Or, perhaps, all about the A75, quite the nicest motorway I know.

We were up at a reasonable hour, despite the fact that it was bitterly cold and frosty (but the van warms up fast), and when the supermarket opened I went  in and did a shopping, and then we moved on. It was a lovely drive down the A75.

Our first stop was at an aire called Garabit-Viaduc Eiffel, which has a lovely view over the viaduct. I had caught a glimpse of it once before, and I think it was featured on Impossible Railways of one of those, but this was the first time I'd seen it properly.  
Then we drove in to Millau and stopped in the aire there. The SW went up to the belvedere, and then looked round the exhibits, but we've seen them before. I hope we could have lunch in the gourmet café there, but it was closed for the winter, so we just had our usual lunch. Then we headed on, mostly cross-country this time, through some truly spectacular scenery, until reached this little town called Lunas, where we are parked up. A very nice aire, and the village itself reminds us both of Pont-en-Royans, though  without the suspended houses.

The SW went for a walk, and now I am cooking supper, which is nearly ready. It has been lovely and warm, but will be frosty overnight again. I'm glad our beds are so warm and snug.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 19 March

Not a good day! Started off fine - we got a tram into town and had a very pleasant walk round, including a visit to the Cathedral, and then a cup of coffee in a random cafe which had free WiFi so we downloaded updates to all our apps, and then we got cash out of a bank nearby and walked back to the tram stop.

There was an ominous sign saying "Service Terminé", and a notice saying the parent  company was having industrial action. We did not know when or whether the service would resume so there was nothing for it but to walk back to the motor home. It was less than 2 miles, but an awful lot of uphill and I am still hopeless at walking uphill, so it took ages. We saw the demo en route, but by the time we got there the service was beginning to start up again! 

So we had lunch and then set off to drive to a place called Laguiolles, I think, but half-way there, at a town called St-Flour, we saw a sign for a supermarket and the SW remembered we needed gas. We missed the turnoff, and pulled up on the wrong side of the road so I could programme the detour into the Sat-nav, but when the SW pulled the van across the road to turn round in a private car park opposite, there was an ominous crunch, and someone had run into us! Fortunately minimal damage - a tiny dent and some scratches for us and similar for him, but of course exchanging details etc took ages, and then the SW had to ring up our insurance to report it, so what with one thing and another it was getting to late to go on. Plus it was a France Passion place and neither of us felt like being sociable, which you have to be there. So I looked on Park4Night, and lo and behold, the first place that came up was this very supermarket car park! So I bought a rather extravagant meal (kidneys, Aligot, spinach, peas and a patisserie) and some whisky, which I was badly needing by then, and we battened down the hatches and are here for the night. Very useful for shopping again in the morning!

Monday, 18 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 18 March

The Swan Whisperer went for a run this morning, and after breakfast I walked over to the Lidl which was about as far away as at home and did a shopping. I was annoyed because they had some interesting-looking yogurts but only in packs of 12, which a) we don't have room for in the fridge and b) what if we didn't like them? And they didn't have the Nurenberg sausages that they've stopped doing at home, either! But I got some choucroute garni for tonight's supper, and one of two other things we needed.

We spent the rest of the morning looking for water - the first two places we tried were a bust, but third time proved lucky. Then we drove across country to Clermont-Ferrand, stopping for lunch in a village called Culan. It was a lovely drive, but I had slept badly the previous night and napped quite a lot of the way.

Now we are parked up in the University car park and in the morning will get a tram into CF and have a nice walk round there.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 17 March

It rained in the night, but the wind had dropped so it was very comforting just to lie there and listen to it. By the time we got up, it had cleared up, although the day remained showery, with hail at times. But before we got up, we heard a cuckoo!

We drove across country to the town of Beaugency, where we parked beside the Loire and had lunch, and then went for a short walk around the town.

Then we drove on to Bourges, which I believe is in the centre of France. We have been here before, but they have moved the aire to the outskirts of town, not nearly so convenient, although I believe there is a shuttle-bus. We are not sure whether the water is working at the services, although I believe the emptying is. But we need water....

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 16 March

The alarm went this morning at 06:15 French time, 05:15 UK time. Horribly early, but at least I didn't have to get dressed, just wrapped up in my dressing-gown and a rug. The Swan Whisperer put on his running kit and we drove the 75 minutes or so to Rouen, where a parkrun was to happen. We were able to park almost at the start of the run, and the Swan Whisperer went off to do that while I showered, dressed and got breakfast. Which didn't happen until after 10, by the time the SW had finished running, showered, dressed and fielded phone calls about the whereabouts of Church keys. So it was quite late by the time we set off again, but then as we had already done the first half of the day's drive, it didn't matter.

First port of call was a hypermarket. I was wandering around, desperately wishing I'd taken a trolley as my basket was horribly heavy and giving me backache when the SW rang up to say he had been inspecting a wheel and bumped his head on the wing mirror which had broken. There was a NordAuto there, which wasn't able to help, but such have him the name of a Fiat commercial place which probably could. However, was now closed until Monday. As we didn't really fancy spending the weekend in the car park of the commercial centre, the SW decided to try to jury-rig repairs so we could get somewhere rather nicer. In fact when he had finished, he said it was decide enough that we could go on anyway although it did work loose when he tried to adjust it but he tied it up again and has reinforced it with duct tape.

While this was happening, I lay on the bed reading and enjoying the sunshine, as the sun had come out and it was lovely and warm.

So eventually we drove on to our planned stopping-place at Evreux, but when we got there it was rather in the middle of nowhere and expensive too. And as it is a long drive to Bourges tomorrow, a bit of detective work found us this rather nice car-park outside a cemetery in a place called Abondant. And so we have stopped for the night, and the SW has done an explore, and now it is dark again and he is getting supper - Saturday sausages, but with bread and mushrooms and spinach...

Friday, 15 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 15 March

If you look at a map of France, it is shaped more or less like a hexagon, and when I looked at our route on Google Maps, I notice it tidily bisects it, from Calais in the north to Saleilles, near Perpignan, in the south. We will be coming back a slightly different way, of course but still bisecting it!

Today, however, we have only come as far as the Baie de Somme, having crossed at 17:51 UK time. Its now nearly 21:30 French time, very windy, and we are having a meal before an early night. I am wondering whether I should have packed my warm pyjamas rather than my nighties, but bed is very warm once you are in it. And it won't be long before I am!