Vacances en France – 2018 – Conques


During our earlier foray to Entraygues-sur-Truyere, whilst stood on the dam watching an otter fishing, I had bumped into a pair of cyclists. British as it happens. We had a chat and about each others holiday destinations etc. During this conversation I had mentioned the light show we had witnessed at Chartres. In response they mentioned visiting Conques and the Abbey, that the town was doing something similar every night until the end of September.

I had filed this piece of information away, as a possible target destination for when our friends joined us. Unfortunately, time and a brief spell of tummy upset conspired against us before it was time for them to head back to dear old Blighty.

So Gerry and I decided we would head off to Conques on our own. The plan was to leave late, spend the afternoon doing that touristy thing, then have an evening meal in Conques before enjoying the light show.

It was, yet another, glorious day and we were soon wending our way through the French countryside. Every turn in the road seems to open up another grand view. At times we would appear to be on top of the world with huge panoramas. At others we would be looking down at small towns or villages, dwarfed by the high tree lined sides of gorges.

Soon we were crossing the border, leaving the Cantal, entering the Aveyron. No passport control, just drive on through. Approximately five kilometers from Conques, we stopped for a beer at Chez Marie in the pretty village of Grand Varbres.

After exploring Grand-Varbres we continued on to Conques.


Conques, listed as one of the most beautiful villages of France, is about 30 kilometres east of Figeac and 35 kilometres north of Rodez, in the Aveyron department in the Massif Central. Conques sits on the edge of the gorge of the River Dourdou, in a beautiful setting surrounded by mountains and forests. The approach from the south is along an especially attractive stretch of river.

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Joe Public are not allowed to drive or park inside the town of Conques. There is public parking, for a small fee, just outside the entrance to the town. A gently inclined pathway then takes you up to the centre of town.

That gentle entry is a bit of a con, as deviating to either side results in encounters with steep steps and pathways, all designed to give one a bit of a cardiac workout.

We spent a couple of hours exploring, taking in the quaint streets and houses, as well as the Abbey itself.

It wasn’t long before it was time for another beer. We found a bar and were soon sat, basking in the sunshine, with a glorious view of the Abbey’s twin towers.

At 19:00 we took ourselves off to the restaurant, where previously I had booked a table. We were soon seated at a table on the terrace with a prime view looking down over Conques.

Conques – Where we had our evening meal

The food was superb, a starter which comprised a mixed platter of charcuterie and fromages. Followed by a delicious tender steak with vegetables served in baskets (Yorkshire puds) and aligoo. Then it was time to head out to the Abbey.

Part of the evenings entertainment was a monk explaining the history behind the tympanum. We sat and listened but, as it was only in French, we had no understanding. So the evident humour was lost on us, but not on the rest of the crowd. Similarly, we were not able to make the appropriate responses when prompted by the monk. Still it was an interesting experience.

As for the light show, well we opted not to stay. Gerry was already wilting and I still had over an hours drive back to the gite.

Conques – Abbey Illuminations

It was ten o’clock gone when we left Conques, and with tens of hairpin bends to contend with in the darkness, it made for a fairly intense journey home.

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.

 

 

Vacances en France – 2018 – Wimereux


Just over a month ago we set off on holiday. And so it was that we found ourselves en-route to Badailhac in the Cantal region of France. We had rented a gite for three weeks and the intent was to spend our time exploring the countryside and sampling the local cuisine.

Although it is possible to drive down in one go, we prefer to take the leisurely route and were stopping over night at Wimereux, Chartres and La Souterraine.

Setting off, we had a trouble-free journey from home to the Eurotunnel Shuttle terminal at Folkestone. So good was our journey that we were offered a place on the 12:36 departure, almost an hour earlier than our original booking.

It was of course too good to be true. We headed towards the shuttle, arrived at the UK checkpoint and ground to a halt. The UK checkpoint was running four lanes but the French passport control were only running two.

We sat there twiddling our thumbs for some time before starting to creep up to the French booths. Then we were through, having missed the the 12:36.

Imagine what it will be like when BREXIT kicks in and us Brits are no longer considere EUropeans.

Never mind it was a nice sunny day. Nothing I like more than sitting in a queue, knowing you have thirty minutes to wait, and the twat in the car in the next lane to you is sitting there being really eco-friendly with his engine running. I don’t know, but I’m guessing that VW forgot to install an off switch in their Scirocco models. Not just that but his windows are down, just like mine, and he decides to treat everyone to some bangra dub gangsta rap crap.

Just to add to the irritation, approaching our new departure time, the passenger from the Scirocco buggers off to the toilets. Then it’s ” gentlemen start your engines” and lane after lane of cars head for the train. All except for the one next to us, which has to go before ours. They can’t move because Mr Sciroccos mate hasn’t come back.

Things had just started to look like the January sales at Harrods, with cars crossing lanes to get past the offending vehicle, when the missing passenger returns. Then they were off and, eventually, so were we.

Loading onto a shuttle always seems, to me, to be highly efficient. Before long we had been swallowed into the belly of the shuttle. It does seem like you are driving halfway to France, so long is the train. Quickly we were all loaded, engine off, hand brake on, gear stick in first and within minutes moving away from Folkestone and heading under the sea.

Just 35 minutes later our shuttle burst into the sunlight and we were in Calais, France. Once the train has stopped the efficiency continued with every vehicle regurgitated from the shuttles belly, out onto the French roads. There are no checkpoints, it’s a controlled sprint for the autoroutes, all aimed to clear you from the area as quickly as possible.

Then we really felt like our holiday had begun. Driving on the wrong side of the road, frantically trying to convert kilometre speed limits into miles per hour. (The kilometre markings on my speedo are too small for me to read whilst on the move).

The satnag did a grand job and got us to the B&B with no errors. However, we were too early to check in so we headed down to the seaside town of Wimereux.

What a pretty place …

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Wimereux – Apartments and Beach Huts

Some of the folks, outside these beach huts, obviously had a passion for the sun. Just an observation based on the deep tan they were sporting.

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Wimereux – Beautiful Seaside Town

Lots of folks were promenading or just sitting, absorbing the suns rays. I don’t know what the sea water temperature was. But given the weather this summer I am guessing that it would be quite warm. Many people were happily swimming about.

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Wimereux – French style with an Egyptian flavour

According to Wikipedia ……

The seaside development was started during the Second Empire, resulting in a remarkable architectural ensemble of houses and buildings typical of the Belle Époque, which are still very well maintained to this day.

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Wimereux – St Louis

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Wimereux – Needs some TLC

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Wimereux – Hotel L’Atlantic

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Wimereux – Beach Huts

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Wimereux – Colourful buildings

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Wimereux – Colourful and ornate

While in Wimereux we had a spot of lunch at Brasserie Les Oyats.  Situated right on the promenade, we had a substantial lunch with views along the seafront and out to sea.

After a gentle stroll along the prom, enjoying the sunshine and the fresh sea air, we decided to head back to the B&B to check in.

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The satnag got us there in no time and we introduced ourselves to our host who showed us to our accommodation. We were gobsmacked. We had been expecting a room with en-suite.

What we actually got was a small, one bedroom cottage. All that was missing was a kitchen. We had our own front door and even had our own terrace with sun loungers , accessed through the back door.

Once we were installed, we made tea and sat out on the terrace which was benefitting from the clear skies and sunshine. Across the terrace there is an orchard and from under the trees came a flock of chickens, coming to investigate the strangers.

The cockerel kept his distance, but kept a watchful eye while the hens came in search of food around our deck chairs. One, a plump white hen, even followed me when I took a stroll across the grass to take a look out over the fields.

I jokingly said I would steal her to take to our gite, a kind of chicken dinner carry-out.

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It was nice to be relaxing after our earlier drive.