Vacances en France – 2018 – La Souterraine


We had a beautiful breakfast in a very elegant dining room. No mention was made of the cats shenanigans during the night. In fact it was  nowhere to be seen. Well not until we were ready to leave. Then it appeared to cry its farewells on the front step.

Having loaded our stuff into the car we set of again, heading south. Our destination this time was La Souterraine, which was to be our last stop, before completing our journey to Aurillac and our gite at La Calsade, Badailhac.

As we were cruising along we commented on how few foreign cars we were seeing. More to the point, how few british cars. For obvious reasons on Friday when we crossed the channel, nearly all the cars were British. On Saturday that had significantly reduced to just a few Brits interspersed with Belgian and Dutch but mainly French. Here we were on Sunday morning and we felt we were the only foreign vehicle heading south. Occasionally, we would see a Dutch motor home, but it was very apparent that we were going to be in the minority for most of our holiday and that’s just the way we like it.

A little bit about La Souterraine …..

Stopping point on the Way of St James (Santiago de Compostela pilgrim route), the medieval town of La Souterraine has a rich history and boasts a beautiful heritage, with its granite church, its fortifications and its old houses.

Built from the 11th to the 13th century by the monks of the abbey Saint-Martial de Limoges, the Notre-Dame church combines both Romanesque and Gothic styles. Its crypt, a former Gallo-Roman churchyard, can be visited in July and August.

Once again our journey was trouble-free, that is until we tried to find our lodgings. Entering La Souterraine and approaching a roundabout, the satnag clearly told us to take the 3rd exit and then, almost immediately, hang a right. We were looking for house number 23 but the house numbers on this road, a cul-de-sac, only went up to 10.

Rather than spend time trying to unravel the satnag foibles we headed into the town centre for lunch and parked up in the car park by the church in the centre of town. As with our previous visit to this town, it appeared to be shut. We had previously visited, whilst en-route to La Porcerie where we had rented a gite five or six years ago.

So we headed up to the restaurant where we had lunch on that previous occasion, La Gondole sur le Toit. Thankfully it was open and still serving. Soon we were seated, our meal ordered and a nice beverage delivered.

La Gondole sur le Toit - La Souterraine

La Gondole sur le Toit – La Souterraine

While waiting for our meal we checked out the B&B address on Google Maps, which confirmed that the house should be in the vicinity of where the satnag took us. We decided to enjoy our meal and then drive very slowly back to see if we could spot the navigational error.

And spot it we did. There appears to be a duplicate road, behind the one that our satnag directed us too. Once, spotted, we very quickly found the B&B, Maison Volière.

What a treasure it is. Built in 1877, the Maison Volière  is perfectly placed, being just a ten minute walk from the town centre. But, remaining quite an oasis, hidden in the trees as it is. Our hosts Anthony and Ian (Mancunians) made us very welcome. Nothing was too much trouble for these guys. Our room (suite) was very spacious and the en-suite was equally huge.

It was Anthony who later informed us that La Gondole is the only restaurant open on a Sunday in La Souterraine, at lunchtime, or in the evening.

Needless to say, after our drive down from Chartres, a delicious lunch and a tour round La Souterraine we were ready for our bed, which was very comfortable.

Vacances en France – 2018 – Chartres


After a good night’s sleep we were served breakfast in our delightful Wimereux Cottage. Breakfast comprised the usual continental selection of fresh breads, conserves, yoghurt, cheeses and ham. Especially tasty were the boiled eggs, soft, from the hens that had introduced themselves the previous evening.

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Suitably refreshed, refueled and the bill settled, we reloaded the car and were soon on our way.

This next stage of our journey was to take us to Chartres. The journey was pretty much trouble-free and as I had scheduled our stops at around the three to three and a half hour mark we were soon entering Chartres. As we neared the city the grand bulk of the cathedral was silhouetted against the skyline, acting as a beacon, confirming that we were on track.

As we drove around looking for somewhere to stop, we became aware that the city centre was very busy. All along the pavements there were white kiosks. But instead of selling goods they appeared to be promoting leisure activities. There was some kind of job/leisure activities festival underway and they were promoting everything from local choirs through rock climbing and kayaking. There was even a stage where local musicians and dance schools were demonstrating their skills. All of this activity meant that there were no casual parking spaces available. We did eventually get parked up, in a permit only bay as we later found out. Luckily we were not discovered.

 

Anyhow, walking back to the centre took us right past our next accommodations. For the moment though we carried on, in search of an eatery. We were soon seated, outside in the sunshine, at an Italian restaurant. I know, we should have been eating French, but we were pushing the lunchtime kitchen clock to its limits. I think we were the last customers to get a lunchtime meal.

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Chartres – A Refreshing Beer

The food was good and we enjoyed a little people watching while sipping our beer. After lunch we went for a wander around the streets, window shopping as well as admiring the, sometimes, quirky artworks along the way.

Then it was time to go check out the lodgings. From the outside the house was very grand, although, architecturally, it did resemble the “Munsters” house.

Having introduced ourselves to our new host, Anne, we were shown to our room on the second floor. Quirky would be one way to describe it. I don’t think that there was a square corner anywhere. Our en-suite was tucked away behind a wooden, tongue and groove, partition. In here was also some hanging space for clothes. The enclosed toilet was wedged between a wall and the end of the shower.

Still we were only staying the one night.

The good news was, with parking spaces being at a premium, Anne had a parking space for us, at an address just about fifty metres along the road. This was good, since we would be leaving most of our belongings locked inside the car, not hauing them up to our room. So we retrieved our car, parked up, unloaded our overnight bags and once installed in our room, took a short rest. I tried but couldn’t quite make it into naps-ville.

Another gem, that Anne had imparted, was the fact that we had arrived during the annual Chartres Festival of Light, a Son et Lumiere. Apparently, many buildings are lit and there is a light trail one can follow for a couple of kilometers. Most importantly, Chartres Cathedral takes a starring role. The performance was due to commence at around nine, as darkness descended.

We arrived at the Cathedral early and bagged ourselves a handy granite block to sit on. The show got underway and boy was it worth it. It only ran for about fifteen to twenty minutes, but was beautiful, with a musical soundtrack as well as a short history lesson given in both French and English. Had we felt inclined we could have sat through it again.

But we moved on and found that a different light show was being projected onto the side of the cathedral. Ideal for those eating in the nearby restaurants. Having watched that for a while we moved on, in search of supper.

Supper turned out to be a savoury crepè filled with ham, cheese and a fried egg. Apparently it should also have contained potato, but the proprieter had run out of pomme de terre. Regardless, it hit the spot, washed down with a cup of tea. As we walked back to our digs we encountered a couple more illuminations although we didn’t feel we had the energy to search out all of the city’s illuminations on offer and were soon “home” at the B&B.

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Chartres – Marche aux Legumes (Vegetable Market)

Entry to the B&B is via a code locked gate and then a code locked front door. As we entered the code for the front door we were intercepted by a very vocal cat. As soon as the door opened, the cat bolted inside and trotted up the stairs to the first floor. As we ascended we found the cat, crying at the door to Anne’s quarters. We carried on to our room on the next floor and were soon stretched out in bed.

Well we soon regretted letting that bloody cat in through the door, not that we had much choice. It cried and cried. Not getting any response from Anne, the bloody thing came upstairs and yowled outside our door. And then, not getting any response from us, it threw itself at the door. That gave us quite a start. The yowling continued for a while until it took itself downstairs again. Unfortunately, I had to get up and use the toilet. As soon as I hit the flush, that bloody cat started up again. Surprisingly, all the ruckous the cat was creating did not rouse the other residents on our floor. Nor did it rouse Anne or her family.

Needless to say our night was punctuated with cries throughout the wee small hours.