We awoke to yet another glorious, sunny morning. Needless to say, we were sad to be leaving the gite which had been our home for the last three weeks. Settled up with our host, had to pay an additional 11 euros for electricity. We had a couple of cold days during the first week and during the second week, one of the electric heaters was inadvertantly left on over night. Oh well, it could have been worse.
With our car fully loaded and one last check around the gite, we set off, leaving Badailhac and travelling up through Vic sur Cere to Le Lioran. Here we entered the tunnel. On exit the sun had gone and the temperature , according to the car, was 8 deg C. Everywhere just looked chilly and grey.
We had a trouble free journey to Moulins. The temperature slowly rose and with the sunshine reappearing the day carried on as it had started. We had made good time and checked into our hotel, Le Clos de Bourgogne, early. We had a refreshing cuppa before going for a stroll through the old town.
With the sun setting we made our way back to the hotel where we made a couple of FaceTime calls back to the UK and family. This was the first time we had any WiFi in three weeks. It was so nice to hear and see our daughters and grand-daughters.
We had opted to eat at the hotel but what wasn’t made clear at check-in, was the fact that there was to be no menu choice. Apparently, on Mondays the hotels restaurant only caters for residents. I have pretty broad tastes when it comes to food. However, Gerry is a little more selective. As it happens, we needn’t have worried. The food was very nice. To start there was Pate En-Croute, followed by a Duo of Fish (Salmon and Monkfish?) in a white buttery sauce with vegetables. The dessert was a fruit crumble (Figs, Raspberries and Apple). An unusual ingredient, for us, in the crumble was Mint. It did seem to work but for me the one thing that was missing was the custard.
Our last day at the gite, before heading up through France to visit family in Achiete-le-Grande. Time to tie up a few loose ends.
On numerous occasions, when heading out to visit places of interest, we had passed a sign with the name “Calmejane”. We always referred to it as Call Me Jane. Never having been down that lane we decided to explore. Turns out that the sign post indicated the name of the family that lived at the end of the lane, a dead end or should I perhaps use the French cul-de-sac ?
Similarly, we had passed this field with donkeys. On this occasion we stopped to say hello. They were very friendly and curious. Sad to say they were expecting treats and we had none. They were quick to snort their disgust and soon lost interest in us. They were very cute.
Having disappointed the donkeys, by turning up without any treats, we decided to follow road past the donkey field. Just to see where it led. After a couple of kilometers, we found that it led to a small group of private houses. Another dead end, a cul-de-sac. There were some great views en-route though. Disappointed, we enjoyed the same views on the way back to the donkeys.
We then drove down to Vic-sur-Cere to get fuel and cash in preparation for our journey north, this being our last day at the gite.
We had cleaned and packed earlier, so we were basically killing time until we could go to a restaurant for an evening meal. Big mistake….
We should have found somewhere to eat at lunch time. Waiting until 19:00 before approaching our restaurant of choice was a huge fail. No only was the restaurant closed but the hotel, Hôtel Restaurant Beauséjour, seemed to be too !!! Our second choice, Casino de Vic Sur Cère, was open but there was a private function in full flow complete with live band. The restaurant itself was shut. Similarly, several other local restaurants were closed. The only viable choice seemed to be to travel into Aurillac, a thirty plus minute drive. Not far but neither of us really wanted to do that. So it was back to the gite.
In anticipation of our departure, we had run our food stocks down. We had bacon, eggs and cheese and bread. So our Sunday meal consisted of eggs and bacon on toasted french baguette. It was actually very good, but was the cheapest sunday meal and I didn’t even get a tip.
Just over two weeks ago I set off to France on vacation.
Every time I go away I make several promises to myself. I’m not going to overeat, I’m going to eat lots of salads, I’m going to lay off the bread and I’m going to get some exercise.
Of course I jettison most of those within about two nano-seconds of arrival. Salads are easy and I’ll always eat plenty of salad stuff, box number one ticked. The exercise one is sort of easy too since we are going sight-seeing and maybe swimming so that’s tick number two in the boxes. So that leaves the overeating and the bread.
As it happens I find that I actually pick less, no meals between meals if you see what I mean and when I am sightseeing i.e. busy then I don’t get hungry. So the overeating box is lightly ticked as I will go for the full three courses at the main meal and of course I’ve probably had some kind of breakfast.
Which leads us neatly to box number four.
How can one go to France and not eat bread ?
Every morning the ritual was to get up and head down to the nearest boulangerie, just three kilometers. The joy of walking into that shop with the fresh loaves displayed behind the counter and the smell, Wow !!
Getting the still warm loaf back to the gite, cup of tea or coffee and then slicing through that crust unleashing more fresh aromas. Slapping on the local charentaise butter and taste buds all jumping for joy.
I can taste it now.
Now, I failed this promise in a big way. Bread (toast) for breakfast, bread before and during meals. So many different styles of bread. Many times I started of the day full of bread. Full but never bloated.
So why is it that after just two slices of Hovis, I feel both full and bloated ?
I know the style of the bread is different and this Hovis stuff is effectively production line, factory bread. What do they put in it that has this bloating effect.
I am seriously thinking that I must take up bread making again even if I have to do it by hand. No Kenwood Chef and Dough Hook, No Kenwood Bread Maker.
Another day with an itinerary planned. Since we are in the Cognac region we felt it would be rude to ignore such a significant subject. So our task for the day was to visit the significant towns of the region, Cognac, Jarnac, Segonzac, Chateauneuf sur Charente & Rouillac.
So off we set, sun shining, for Cognac.
However, our entry to the town was a little hectic. Noisy roads and difficulty finding a route to the historic areas had soured our moods a bit so we decided not to stay.
You know what it is like when you don’t like the feel of a place. Can’t put your finger on quite what it is but you know you can’t stay. Perhaps if we had entered on a quieter road we would have stayed.
I know that we are doing Cognac a huge disservice and have probably missed a huge amount, which is why it has not been struck of our list of places to visit. Just not on this trip. So we headed out to the next place itemised on our personal itinerary, Jarnac.
The feel and pace of Jarnac is entirely different and we rapidly found a place to park, free, on the Quai Orangerie, near the Hine buildings. As it happens we were also very close to the Courvoisier buildings too.
Jarnac is equally proud to be the birthplace of François Mitterrand, one of France’s more recent presidents.
We walked alongside the river, past the boats moored with myriads of fish darting around just below the surface. We crossed the road towards the Courvoisier building before crossing the bridge and heading further along the river to a park.
Given the days temperature it was nice to get under the shade of the trees. A group of school children were enjoying some team sports while on the grass, while over in river shallows a group of lads were lobbing a ball around. They were joined by a lady and her dog who was soon lunging after the ball. A little further down on a small island two lads were fishing although I don’t think they really expected to catch anything with all the thrashing around in the water.
Alongside the park there are weirs and channels set up for kayak slalom racing.
The park itself is on an island and the paths around its perimeter give one a direct view into to some lovely gardens some of which have their own moorings or pergolas and barbecues.
After a delightful time in the park we headed back into Jarnac to get ourselves a drink. We sat and people watched while we had a couple of beers and nibbles at L’Alambic, Place Du Chateau. It was quite entertaining as opposite the bar there is a small car park with a Tabac off to one side. The comings and goings, the double and sometimes treble parking was exposing the dark side of some of the drivers who were dashing into the Tabac, we presumed, to get their lottery tickets.
After, we meandered through the streets window shopping, and made our way back to the car, passing the church and numerous architectural features some of which I have attached below…..
Once back at the car we rested in the shade and topped up with water. This was one of the hottest days of our holiday so far. Given the time, nearly 17:00, we had to replan our itinerary. Obviously we were not going to be able to visit and tour all the places on our list. So we decided to move on to Segonzac with a view to seeing what we could and maybe getting a meal.
Segonzac was only a short drive away and we were soon parked up a short way from the town square.
We would have been parked closer but a stupid woman, stopped her car directly in front of me in the entrance to the car park. Got out of her car and crossed the street. Leaving her car blocking the entrance to the car park.
The Hotel de Ville was very prettily decked out with many flower baskets.
The church was huge but nice and cool inside giving us some respite from the heat and the brightness of the sun.
We were beginning to realise that we were still too early for a meal in a restaurant and nothing else being available we decided to head on to Chateauneuf-sur-Charente.
Only a short journey and we were soon parked up and walking the streets hunting down a place to eat.
Unfortunately the only places open were doing fast food. The evening menu still an hour or two off. So, we headed back to the car having decided to aim back to the gite going via Rouillac which was on our original list of places to visit. I had also spotted a couple of signs indicating the existence of restaurants on the road out of town.
So we followed the signs and visited the restaurants…..you guessed it. Closed.
On to Rouillac and a quick motor round the streets which showed no sign of open eateries. We were getting concerned about the time. If we just headed home to the gite it would be too late to think about cooking. At our age late eating can play havoc with the digestive system and I wasn’t prepared to go without a proper meal. Snacks are OK but not really fulfilling.
Then I had a brilliant idea. Why don’t we use the SatNav to identify restaurants in the area. Sure enough it started to identify the ones that we had already visited and determined that they were closed. So we decided to hedge our bets a bit.
On previous visits to France and during our journey down to Barbezieres we had seen instances of a food chain “Buffalo Grill”. Usually near to other eateries such as Macdonald’s and close to retail parks. We thought they would probably serve food all day and almost be guaranteed to be open
So we asked TomTom to find us the nearest Buffalo Grill. It did what it was asked and we duly plumbed in the route and set off to the restaurant which was located in Chateaubernard just two miles from Cognac.
We had in fact passed through Chateaubernard on our way to Jarnac after we had jettisoned Cognac earlier in the day. Well what the hey.
We sat outside on the deck and had a nice meal courtesy of Buffalo Grill. I had a burger, medium rare, and my wife had a Rump Steak also medium rare. Very well presented and filling.
So we had circled Cognac and what seemed like most of the towns in the Cognac region. We had a great day even though it looked like France was determined to starve us out.
The gite was finally illuminated in our headlights around 22:30 after a lonely drive through the French countryside. I nearly squashed the lettuce, gifted by Didier, left by our front door some time earlier in the day. Of course I had to wash that straight away since we didn’t know what creepy crawlies had decided it was their birthday. We added it to the two other lettuces we had in the fridge, also courtesy of Didier.
So a cup of tea while we gentle ceased circling and thence to bed.
Yes indeed. Back to earth with a bump. Back to work, in the office. Its soggy wet outside. Raining hard and blowing a hooley.. Its only taken two days for the holiday shine to be tarnished.
Ce la vie !!!
We have been planning this for a while but it now seems like it is going to happen. Now that we have booked the channel crossing and the motel for our first nights stop.
So there we are. We have booked the gite, motel and shuttle time slot. I have even bought the little headlight converters required when you take a UK configured car over into la belle France.
Actually the amount of stuff you have to take with you in the car to meet the French motoring regs is growing year on year. When I first went you just needed a warning triangle and a first aid kit. Oh and you had to put deflecter strips on the headlights and paint them a delicate yellow-orange. Nowadays you must have the first aid kit, warning triangle, spare bulb set, reflective jackets (must be in reach without having to get out of the car), headlight conversion (don’t need yellowing). And from next month it will be law for you to carry a breathalyser. Nobody says you have to use it I suppose.
So where are we going ? We are off to Barbeziereswhich is a commune in the Charente department in southwestern France. From the link you can see that it has a huge population, 123 back in 2008, that is slap bang in the middle of nowhere. Hopefully this will be the perfect place to destress.
Leastways that is what my wife is hoping for. No phones, no internet etc. etc. etc.
Good news, the gite is situated right in the Cognac region. Plenty of distilleries to visit and of course sample. Just what I need. Not forgetting, hopefully, plenty of photo opportunities.
In case any of you are wondering how come I’m posting at 06:00 I’ll tell.
This damn cold, man flu or whatever “The Thing” is, it’s pushing me to the extreme.
I can’t lay down and sleep because when I do I cough. And when I cough I can’t sleep. So you see, it’s easier to get up and read or, as at the moment, blog.
“The Thing”, whatever I have, its been going on for three weeks now. Started with a few days of a mildly sore throat which eventually seem to turn into a cold but without the sneezing. Just when that started to fade away “The Thing” came back with a vengeance. Fresh sore throat, different from the first phase, and everything moved down onto my chest. Since then I have felt like shit.
Headaches, presumably caused by obstructed sinuses, temperature going up and down, eyes watering, nose constantly switching between bunged up to dripping like a leaky tap. Now I have the, previously absent, sneezing. Oh, and did I mention the coughing. The irritating dry cough that no medicine or liquid seems to touch. I have been coughing so long now that upper body from waist to chest feels like I’ve been used as a punch bag.
My wife is exasperated and who can blame her. The explosive coughing must be really irritating to listen to. So far she seems to have avoided “The Thing” although she has been coughing too ….. ?
Fingers crossed that is all she gets.
And today we should have been going to my great-granddaughters first birthday but of course we will stay away. Can’t have either her or mum going down with “The Thing”.