15 April 2010

French fancy part 1

Now autumn is usually a time we earmark for a couple of weeks’ cruising so what happened to keep us in absentia last year? Well, we got, not exactly a better offer but certainly an offer we would have been foolish to turn down. It was turning into a very ordinary Thursday afternoon when I got an unexpected call from a business acquaintance that went something like this…’Now you know my parents have a holiday villa down in the south of France that we rent out…well, we need some copy for our website and we were wondering whether you’d like to fly down for a long weekend to see the place for yourself, all expenses paid, in return for writing a few words?’ Now normal people would have proffered one of three answers:

1) Yes

2) The suitcase is packed, when do you want me?

3) You have to ask? Are you mad?

But with five dogs in tow you can’t be normal and you have to answer, ‘That’s really kind but Ryanair don’t allow dogs on board, at least not as passengers, so flying’s out – but we could come by motorhome.’ Now anyone with a basic grasp of French geography will know that the department we were aiming for, the Ardeche, doesn’t make a long weekend particularly feasible, not unless you’d like to be driving for the duration, so I grabbed a pen and paper and set about making one of my PLANS. Readers with long memories will know that I do love a plan – they don’t always come together, indeed change wholesale more often that not, but there is no greater thrill than the prospect of pulling everything together. One look at the calendar and the germ of an idea quickly took root….travel down to the Ardeche over the weekend, stay for a couple of days fulfilling my brief at the villa, move onto a campsite locally for the rest of the week, then use the following weekend to mosey back halfway and find a campsite for the whole week before returning to the UK on the final weekend of the fortnight. We knew the villa had wi-fi and we had sorted out special overseas data rates on our dongles to prevent the heart-attack bills (those ones that look normal on the outside but inside seem to have a printing mistake in that the total’s got four figures instead of two), so we could continue the illusion of work while we took the office on a continental excursion.

For the second week, we rather fancied making a return trip to Annecy with its glorious old town and quite breathtaking lake. We had been there very early on in our relationship but for some reason lost to me now my mother had tagged along too. And you know how Picasso had his Blue period? Well, at the time mother was going through her Foul period, which lasted up until…well, last year probably…so it perhaps wasn’t the most comfortable of experiences all told. But the town and surrounds had left their mark, much as the maternal barbs had all those years ago…It would be good to go back and see it again, just the two of us. I found a likely campsite too, though I opted not to book but to take a chance they’d have space – plans could always change…But they started off okay and that’s how we found ourselves at Maidstone Services at midnight, doing a caffeine raid on Costa to ensure we didn’t get tempted to just close those tiredly eyes for a few minutes…a few minutes can’t hu-…zzzz zzzz…cue some bollocky bollock swearing when we woke up all of a fluster, some more when we realized that we’d let our coffee cups tiddle on us, and even more when we realized the motorhome clock was still on French time from our last trip…panic over, we were still on schedule.

Basically, the rough outline was to travel across via Eurotunnel on Thursday night/ Friday morning, travel down through Normandy on Friday for a quick D-Day beach inspection on Saturday morning before cutting across on the diagonal, pitstopping in the Loire Saturday night (the dogs gave the chateau de Cheverny and its avenues of lime trees ten out of ten - with a tree every ten paces they were in leg-cocking heaven) and finally pitching up at Aubenas (our rendezvous point) on Sunday evening. Now admittedly France is not as bad as Texas (where you drive all morning but the scenery in front of you doesn’t change an inch) but it is still quite a big place and if you use RN and back roads, well, it does take time to get places. Obviously it takes more time if you stop every hour to fire up your Bialetti Moka Express to feed your coffee addiction, but at least by the time we’d percolated, Arthur had peed for England and kept his end up. Good boy.

So it's fair to say that both Saturday and Sunday had their longeur…and perhaps it was not surprising that by the time we nudged ourselves into a busy little aire on Sunday evening, we were a little tired and drained. It hadn’t helped that I had made the executive decision to go through Puy le Valences rather than round it, reasoning that nothing much happens in French towns on a Sunday afternoon…okay, so how was I to know that there was a medieval pageant going on that had brought the whole place to a standstill? It was gridlock and worse, the big streets that we’d banked on using were blocked off and we were diverted down little streets, packed with cars and people and oh god, I just can’t look…Somehow we emerged unscathed but the strain had taken its toll. How else can I explain A’s complete sense of humour failure over the cassette toilet incident? To be continued…

1 comment:

Lesley NB Caxton said...

Thank God you are back...and with a vengence dear girl!!!
Now you were saying about an incident with a cassette....