Vacances en France – 2018 – Arrival


After the dampness we encountered at Entraygues on Wednesday, Thursday started really wet and soggy. Even the cattle were looking a bit depressed by the damp.
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The altitude of the gite meant that we were truly up in the clouds, with visibility changing from just a few metres, up to a kilometre and back down again. And all in the space of a few minutes.
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Given the inclement weather and with friends flying in on Friday, we thought we would take the opportunity to do a proper shop for supplies. So, we decided to head into Aurillac, and find a large supermarket.

Shopping is definitely not my thing, but I struggled manfully round the local Intermarché , the trolley laden down with essentials such as Prosecco, Beer, Fromage and assorted Charcuterie. We did also get some salad stuff and veggies as well as some coffee mugs.

You might ask why we were buying items that should have been provided as part of our rental. And you would be right, there are cups supplied. However, the ones provided were of the Pyrex glass variety and not very big. I think the French like to start their day with strong coffee, served in small quantities. Being British, we like a nice big mug of tea to start the day.

Two weeks later, when we left the gite, we donated the “large” mugs for the use of future residents.

Friday dawned, and the weather had done a 180 and the sun was shining again. A beautiful day, just perfect to welcome our imminent visitors. We had a slow start to the day, before clambering into the car and heading up to Aéroport de Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne at Aulnat.

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Massiac – Chapelle Sainte-Madeleine

The run up to the airport took about two hours and we arrived early.

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Aéroport de Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne – What a fabulous monument to flying.

The preceding photo shows a memorial for the Breguet Bre.4   From Wikipedia ….

The Breguet Bre.4, also known variously as the Type IVand BUM, was a French biplane bomber of World War I. A fighter version of it was also produced as the BUC and BLC; some of these saw service with the British Royal Navy, which called them ‘the Breguet ‘de Chasse.

We made good use of the extra time by making use of the airports free WiFi. The alleged WiFi at the gite is actually non-existent, which is why I am making these posts after our holiday has passed. Lack of WiFi also meant that we could not download Kindle books or synchronise our phones and tablets. Mobile phone signals were also virtually non existent. My phone would register full signal strength, cycle through “E”, “3G” and “4G” to no signal. All within the space of a few seconds. So use of mobile data was pretty much a non-event.

Needless to say our friends flight was delayed, then the baggage was also delayed, eventually making an appearance on the carousel.  We loaded up the car and headed back south towards the gite. Lunch was mentioned and we made a small detour having seen a Buffalo Grill alongside the motorway. Unfortunately, our human navigation skills, further confounded by the satnag, led us round in circles and back onto the motorway, just as we saw the entrance to the eatery. We decided not to deviate again and carried on our way to the gite.

This did not deter us from playing tourist and stopping to take in the views.


We were soon at the gite and relaxing with a glorious cup of cha. Once again enjoying the long view from the lawn. Then, while our friends unpacked, we prepared our evening meal.

A long day for all was brought to an end puntuated witha glass of something alcoholic.

Vacances en France – 2018 – La Calsade 2


 

Tuesday, the 5th day of our holiday, and we decided to have a slow day with absolutely no driving. Gerry laundered our four days worth of travel clothing and hung it out on the line. The fabulous, sunny weather and a gentle breeze made short work drying our stuff.

While the laundry was drying Gerry was making the most of the sun, soaking up the rays. Laying in the sun, sizzling, is not really my thing. I prefer to get my tan whilst on the move. So, I took myself off to wander the lanes around the gite and check out the views.

Immediately next door, is a building suitable for turning into another gite …

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A doer upper, perhaps a candidate for a second gite.

La Calsade, as well as being the home to a dairy herd, they are also producers of the very tasty Cantal and Salers cheeses.

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GAEC stands for Groupement Agricole d’Exploitation en Commun (Agricultural Farming Association). The fromagerie, next door to our gite, is on the regional cheese tour and there were several tour coaches during our stay. Given the steep and winding nature of the access roads to this place, I give the coach drivers top marks for negotiating the many hairpin bends.

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Another building ripe for development as a gite.

This building would have near 360 degree views and, in my opinion, was another contender for conversion to a gite.

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Another view of a building ripe for development as a gite.

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A typical Cantal view

La Calsade and the village of Badailhac are about 1000 metres above sea level, hence the spectacular views.

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Winter feed for the cattle

I came across stacks of these all around the farm. Being enclosed in black plastic one can only imagine the temperature inside. I can tell you that, based on the aroma emanating from them, they probably contain silage. Many of the fields close by were growing maize which I know is used to make silage.

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Nature vs Machine

I don’t know how long this machine had been standing but nature was making a good go at reclaiming the land on which it stood.

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Another Cantal View

My wanderings had taken me around behind the main part of the farm …

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The back-side of La Calsade

… the buildings look much larger from this angle. From our gite, seen end on, they appear smaller.

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The trail back to the gite and an ice cold beer

Eventually, my thirst got the better of me. I could hear the bottles of Leffe beer calling my name from the refrigerator.
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So I retraced my steps, rejoined Gerry, and we enjoyed a bottle or two of that ice-cold Nectar while we sat in the late afternoon sunshine and watched the evening parade of cattle heading in for milking.

Vacances en France – 2018 – La Calsade


On day four of our holiday in France, our stay at Maison Volière was completed by a very nice breakfast, supplemented with fresh fruit from Ian and Anthony’s own fruit trees. Packed and once again on the road, our journey south from La Souterraine was, trouble-free. Apparently, there were no other Brits on the road, leastways, none that we observed. And, after three hours or so, we arrived in Aurillac.

About Aurillac ….. from www.france-voyage.com

The former capital of Haute-Auvergne, Aurillac‘s origins date back to Gallo-Roman times and the town nestles at the foot of the Mounts of Cantal, on the banks of the Jordanne. This small Cantal river brings a very special charm to the town, especially in the Pont Rouge area, where you can enjoy a lovely view of the picturesque old houses by the water.

The thousand-year-old town of Aurillac boasts a rich architectural heritage. There is a historical circuit which you can follow to see the old town’s attractions: the Abbey Church of St. Gerald, the remains of an old Benedictine abbey, the Romanesque façade of the Abbey Hospital of St. Gerald with its arcades and small columns, the Renaissance-style Consuls’ Mansion, featuring mullioned windows and sculptures, Aurinques Chapel, built during the reign of Henry IV in the 16th century, or the famous Place du Square, an ideal place to take a stroll and unwind, can all be admired along the way.

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Aurillac – Looks like a student rag week attack on this statue.

Aurillac is the biggest town near to our gite and so it was here that we intended to have a spot of lunch, and also obtain some basic grocery supplies before heading on to the gite. After parking, in an underground car park, we strolled around the central area that is Place du Square. Eventually settling in at Le Milk, Bar / Brasserie, for a little liquid refreshment and a bite to eat.

It seems that it was the start of the college term and there seemed to be many students and their parents shuffling along the street, loaded down with books and bits of furniture. Presumably moving into their new lodgings for the duration. Hopefully a  stylish apartment and not some grotty garret.

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Aurillac – The French Capital of Umbrellas

From Wikipedia …..

Historic French capital of umbrellas with half of French production – 250,000 units in 1999 – and provides 100 jobs. After declining for several decades at the end of the 20th century, Aurillac umbrella producers decided to join their forces and created the Economic Interest Group, or GIE in 1997. They then launched their products under a single label, L’aurillac Parapluie (The Aurillac Umbrella).

We had a pleasant lunch at Le Milk and, suitably refueled, we headed out to forage for food. Locating a small eight till late style convenience store, we stocked up on the basics for the start of our three-week stay.

Supplies purchased we set of in search of Badailhac and our gite. The satnag did it’s stuff and we were soon climbing the steep serpentine roads up to Badailhac. Gerry came to consider this road, and several others, to be similar to a white knuckle ride at a theme park. Anyway the satnag directed us up, and ever upwards to and thru Badailhac, on to La Calsade.

Parking up on the driveway of our home for the next three weeks, our real adventure began.

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Gite – La Calsade, Badailhac, France

Firstly we had to locate our host. I rang her and determined that she was at the fromagerie, next door. I met her, introduced myself, and soon realised that communication was going to be a challenge. She had no English and my command of the French language is anything but conversational. I believe the correct term is “fractured and bastardised”.

Somehow we muddled along, as she showed us our new accommodations. Taking us to each room, showing us how the cooker worked, where the BBQ and sun loungers were kept and so forth. We went through the readings on the utility meter and then she was gone, and we were left to our own devices. The next hour or so was spent unpacking, finding homes for all of our gear and newly acquired groceries.

And then it was time to sit down with a nice cup of tea and relax in the sunshine and admire the near 180 degree view.

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La Calsade – The Long View

What really helped was the knowledge that we could truly relax, knowing that we didn’t have to get up in the morning and spend another day driving. Although our daily driving rate was quite light, we had covered around 900km (550 miles) over 4 days.

Gerry was a little down when we first arrived. She thought that the gite was a bit dark inside. This was in part due to the thickness of the walls and comparative small size of the windows. The interior lighting was also not brilliant. In addition we hadn’t spotted the washing machine. It did, however, put in an appearance. It was lurking in corner of  the bathroom (upstairs), not visible to us on our original tour. We should have guessed as this is not the first time we have encountered a washing machine in a bathroom.

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Still, sitting outside, relaxing, admiring the view we were treated to what was to become the daily ritual. The gite, being on a working dairy farm, was ideally placed to observe the grand parade of cattle. Walking pretty much single file, the herd of just under fifty, were followed by the farmer on his quad bike and escorted by his black dog.

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Sitting with our cup of tea, we came to the conclusion that life doesn’t get much better than this.

 

 

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 – 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.