Day 2 – Saturday 16th June.
For some unknown reason I was awake at 05:30 on Saturday morning. Once again I sat and watched the ships out on the channel. The weather looked good, bright and clear if a bit blowy. Later we were to be informed by the hotel manager that there had been a heavy rainstorm during the night. Neither of us had heard a thing.
After a pleasant breakfast of coffee, orange juice and mixed bakery items we ended our brief sojourn in Sangatte and set off for Barbezieres.
I won’t bore you with a blow by blow account of our 12 hour journey. The 12 hours includes stops for leg stretching, pee breaks, lunch and fuel. As we opted not to pay the French autoroute tolls, which could have added at least 50 pounds sterling to the cost of this trip. One way. We had to endure innumerable roundabouts and of course the inherent traffic due to having to traverse many towns and villages that the autoroutes avoid. However, the journey was quite pleasant overall. The only hold ups being in Tours, due to some roads being closed causing traffic to be diverted and Poitier which was just very very busy. Most towns were much quieter than the average British town especially for a Saturday.
Another, minor, inconvenience was pulling into a service station for fuel. The first pump was not responding so I moved the car to the next pump only to find it wasn’t responding either. There were no indications that anything was wrong but it transpired that they had run out of diesel. So, we saddled up and carried on down the road, stopping at the next service station.
After Poitier our route became more rural. We were getting close to our destination which, being in the middle of nowhere, can only be reached by traversing many country roads and equally small villages.
When we arrived in the village our next challenge presented itself. Once again the satnav had proved unworthy. It did not recognise the address for the gite. Once again fortune was smiling down on us and as we entered the village I spotted the name plate for the road on the wall above. This was the road for our gite. All we had to do was decide to turn left or right. I chose right and again fortune smiled. As we crawled along the road looking left and right for the gite, I saw this guy just off the road. He looked back with a quizzical expression and stepped into the road behind us. I stopped the car and got out. This was in fact our host. We had arrived.
He led us round to the gite and gave us quite an extraordinary welcome.
First there was a “welcome” pack containing many products of the region which included a bottle of Merlot, a bottle of Cognac, a bottle of Pineau, a small loaf and tubs of pate and cheese.
Secondly, as it was his partners birthday, there was to be a party. To be attended by family and friends from the village, and we were invited. To say that we were trepidatious would be an understatement. Neither of us has any conversational French. I have enough words to order beer and wine with a smattering of other food related words but I have little understanding when confronted with language when presented at speed. On top of this we had just completed 12 hours on the road. What we both wanted more than anything was to lay down and stretch out. Not wanting to be party poopers, we splashed some water and joined the fray.
Needless to say the natives were friendly. We probably over monopolised our host’s time as translater but the food and drink were good and we stayed for an hour or two, before taking our leave and heading to bed, where we discovered that there were no sheets or pillowcases.