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.

 

 

Limousin, France – Day 1 & 2


Day 1

Consisted of an early start, 06:00, to drive up to the “chunnel” terminal at Folkestone. We made good time, with none of the anticipated delays on the M25. So much so that we were placed on an earlier crossing.
So, very soon we were underway, across the channel and plugging down the French autoroutes, heading for the B & B which was to be our bed for the night. Apart from a couple faux pas on my part, minor deviations, caused by my misinterpretation of the satnav instructions, the journey passed without incident. After approximately five hours motoring time punctuated by coffee, cake & pee breaks we arrived at Le Petit Nancay in Thenioux which is near Vierzon. Here we were given a warm welcome by Clement who greeted us with a big smile and showed us to our rooms.

Le Petit Nancay, Thenioux, France - Back view

Le Petit Nancay, Thenioux, France – Back view

This being our first evening in France, we asked Clement to recommend an eatery. He gave us several choices but pushed us to try a local establishment in the village.

Canal de Berry, Thenioux, France

Canal de Berry, Thenioux, France

Taking his advice we strolled alongside the river to the local Auberge de la Coquelle.

From the outside this establishment is not very inviting. With it’s tired plastic patio furniture scattered under the trees and grouped under an equally tired pergola, of the type that looks like an old frame tent with the sides removed. All were deserted.

Dubiously, we stepped forward and studied the menu board. Not a large number of choices, but interesting ones. Starters included Goats Cheese Salad, Veal Kidneys with Black Pudding and Poached Egg with Foie Gras in a creamy sauce. Mains included Pave of Rump Steak, Duck Breast, Cod in a white wine and tomato sauce and Chicken (coqulet).

While we were studying the board we were approached by, as it transpired, the owner. He informed us that they didn’t open for another forty minutes. However, he offered us drinks so we sat and the drinks duly arrived. Our host also talked us through the menu and the local nuances then left us to talk amongst ourselves while we enjoyed the warm evening and listened to the birds in an adjacent stand of bamboo.

An unexpected bonus was the arrival of a hot bowl of mussels to share. They were presented in a white sauce and were delicious.

After an apparently short time, during which our wine, beer, and the mussels, had all miraculously disappeared, we were invited into the restaurant and duly seated.

As usual, no matter how many times a menu is read nobody is ever ready to order. However, with some guidance from the owners wife, we managed to order our meal.

Three of our group ordered the poached egg with foie gras while I had the kidneys which were very tender with a beautiful flavour.

For the mains we had all selected different dishes. Cod, Duck, Veal and Beef, all agreed our selections were beautifully cooked. All the dishes were accompanied by green beans and a gratin of potatoes. One of our group has an intolerance to cooked cheese so the chef created a separate, cheese free, version. Good service.

This was followed, for me, by a selection of local cheeses. Most of these were covered in a black mould which was not, visually, very appetising but they were, nonetheless, very tasty.

When it came time to settle the bill, the bottom line was so reasonable I actually enquired if they had included our pre-drinks and mussels. We were assured that all was in order and so we headed back to our B&B and on to bed. A fitting end to a long day.

Day 2

After a light breakfast, which included a kind of potatoe based pizza with ham and the usual selection of breads and croissants, we set out to continue our journey south.

We were making such good time it was decided to make a detour for lunch. And so it was that we found ourselves in the centre of La Souterraine. After a brief meander we settled in a fairly busy restaurant for a relaxed lunch.

On our return to the car we plumbed the address of the gite into the satnav which showed we were just one hour away from our destination. I then phoned Mrs. Santoni, the owner of the gites local agent. She suggested that we were four hours away. I argued that we would be just one hour and we agreed that we would call when we arrived in La Porcherie.

And so we set off and were almost immediately caught up in a diversion due to roadworks which then meant we were heading north. The opposite direction to which we needed to travel. Worse still we ended up stationary on the autoroute with no exit in sight. This less than delightful interlude added an hour to our journey and we began to think that Mrs. Santoni knew more than she was letting on. Eventually we were able to get clear of the traffic jam and made good time to the gite where we called Mrs. Santoni and advised her of our arrival. She duly arrived and soon earned herself the title of “The Crazy French Lady”. With much bowing and hand shaking we were led into the gite and shown around. She seemed to obtain much humour from introducing the toilet as the “water closet”. Further delight was derived from pointing out, belatedly, that we, or rather I, should watch out for the low beams and door lintels throughout the building.

Chortling away to herself she wrote out the locations of the nearest supermarkets, boulangeries and boucherie. Also she advised us of a brocante at which she herself would be running a stall.

And then she was gone, we being left to move in and get a brew on.

Why do the french not have kettles ? Water boiled in a saucepan does not taste the same. At least this gite had a teapot, but only big enough for two. Our last gite had neither kettle or teapot.

After a cup of tea we decided this being Saturday, we had better obtain supplies. So we headed into Magnac-bourg where we had been assured we would find an Intermarche.

We did.

It was shut.

Thank god for modern day satnavs. We were soon heading back up the autoroute towards Limoges where we found a Carrefors. Suitably stocked up with provisions, beer, wine and, oh yes, some food, we were back on the road to La Porcherie. To rest after two pretty full on days.