Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lost in France

My husband has a special quality. It has served us well through the 33 years we've been together. We're not unlike Jack Sprat & his wife.

I'm obsessive-compulsive which led to six or so years of panic disorder in my 30s, given the OCD/Type 1 diabetes special combo that I am, amongst other things.

Al is the opposite. Totally 'she'll be right'. In him, it's bordering on over-relaxed disorder. Usually his calm counteracts my anxiety. But not right now.

Because, right now, 1pm, I am sitting in a hot campervan. Sick. And stuck.

You may remember that in an instant of over-relaxed carelessness, Al lost our passports & cash in Vietnam? Well, today he has lost his keys. Not the van keys. Our Australian house key - no big deal. But also the key to the bike lock. No big deal?

Actually, it is. We'd taken my bike into a repair shop today to get an inner tube replaced. We parked the van & Al locked his bike onto the bike rack on the van. We always lock the bikes up. His is locked onto the outer rim of the rack. Mine generally sits on the inner rim.

So we have our coffee while we wait the half hour for the bike repair. Al decides to go to the supermarket while I stay at the bar-tabac drinking gallons of tea cos I'm not well. (I was outside, BTW. Not spreading my germs, I hope.)

And somehow, in all that, he loses the keys.

I returned to the bike shop, which was closing up for a two hour lunch break, and in faltering French - my language skills falter when I'm on the verge of tears - & with lots of miming, explained the dilemma.

The bike shop owner got it. He'll be back at 2pm with an angle-grinder or hacksaw. I hope.

Ironically, on our return from Vietnam in January, we had to take Al's bike to our Melbourne bike shop to get the D lock cut off. Because Al had lost his house & bike lock keys with the passports, cash & credit cards. His bike was locked on our porch.

Forty minutes still to wait. Least it's not so serious this time. We will look back & laugh - when I can bring myself to speak to Al again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

La rhume et la grippe en France. Farque alors!

Made one of my infrequent phone calls a couple of weeks ago to sister Reggie. She commented on how relaxed I sounded on my cycling holiday in France. Of note, she said, was the fact that I hadn't mentioned my diabetes at all. Well, I've still got it. Don't mention it much, just the rare blog. I know I should be a proud advocate of Type 1 D, but it gets on my nerves. Generally I play it down.

My diabetes has been our constant companion on this trip. Al carries juice packs on our long cycles. I've been hitting the carbs & taking more insulin during the rides; something I'm experimenting with as per Ginger Vieira's book. I've actually managed my blood glucose really well this way. We stop cycling after an hour. I check my bg., have some insulin, eat a croissant!! Lol. I'm in France. Have also had 'pain chocolat' - more or less a chocolate filled croissant-ish treat. I bolus for roughly half the carbs & 'roule' on. That's ride on. Bgs have almost invariably been normal & I don't think I've gained that much weight. If I have it's more likely due to fromage, pate and grands vins blancs sec.

So why am I going on about D now? Because I've got high bg that I'm constantly bolusing down, my throat hurts, nose & eyes are streaming. Yes I've got a cold. And I'm pissed off at getting it & I know exactly who gave it to me. I didn't get away quickly enough.

Al & I took refuge from the rain in the medieval town of Loche in a bar. Ordered our drinks. Sat down. No other customers. So far so good.

Then in came a paisley panted bespectacled American tourist with her emaciated blond friend. They ordered their drinks & got their novels out. Paisley pants sat with her back to me at the next table. As she settled to her book I heard her gurgling the mucous back in her nose, followed by some soggy tissued wet nose blowing. Sneezing.

'Oh-oh,' I said to Al. 'She's at the droplet infection stage!'

'Why do you always think you're going to get it?'

'I always do. Come on, let's go.' I knocked back 100ml of wine in one gulp & we wandered off to find somewhere less toxic to eat. (Btw we had crepes & they were disgusting clot cold abominations with which we toyed. The maitre d was all effusive & wanted to know if we'd enjoyed them. 'Pas mal - not bad,' I lied.)

Anyway I'm still cross with selfish snotty paisley pants. She should have read her book in her room rather than spreading her germs. Just in case there was someone around with a chronic illness who's now going to struggle with the complications of this cold & have to do extra blood tests all night, & for the next few days, to keep her bg under control in a bid to shorten the duration of the cold & avoid subsequent chest infection. Grrhhh!

I wrote a little note in French for the pharmacist & Al cycled off into the village - St Amand-Montrond - to get me some cold & flu tabs. I've isolated
myself to avoid spreading it. Wish frickin' paisley pants had done the same.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fête du Velo d'Anjou - cycling festival of Anjou

With no planning, & in complete ignorance, we somehow lined ourselves up for the rides of our lives. Our visit to Saumur, Pays de La Loire, coincided with the bike festival. Today, Sunday, the roads on each bank of La Loire have been closed to motorized vehicles & opened to cyclists. We had NO idea.

Yesterday we cycled towards Tours & found ourselves on what Al says was the best ride ever. We had the river, the vines, the flowers. And les troglos. We cycled along le parcours troglodytiqes - the 'way' of the rock-dwellers. These amazing homes/shops and so on are half-building half-burrowed into the rocks. Incredible. On top of all this, higher up stretching to the horizons, are vines, we discovered on another 'slightly hilly' cycling trail.

Thought it couldn't be better. We decided to stay another night & cycle in the other direction towards Angers.

This morning to our bemusement & delight, we discovered thousands of people en velos - on pushbikes. What was happening? We'd seen the posters everywhere yesterday. What's all this 'fête du velo'? Where's the fête? We knew there was some sort of expo on the banks if La Loire at Saumur. People were dressed in vintage retro style. Saw a few people carrying cycle wheels.

Last night our camping was full of cyclists of all persuasions. Still didn't twig.

Today has been supreme. Bikes everywhere & everything for the cyclist - food, wine, music, repair stations. I could even get croix rouge - red cross - assistance if I need it.

Everyone is out on his/her bike. Every type of person imaginable of every age. It's been so congenial. Even got in some decent French conversation with a couple with whom we - I - chatted on a pitstop.

Probably cycled 55k. But on flat car-free roads.

Best time yet.

Friday, June 22, 2012

There are three people in this relationship.

Always wondered how we'd go with a threesome. No. I'm lying. But there are three of us now, winging our way down southish in France. We picked up a passenger. Jane. At Leclerc Supermarche.

She's proved useful & paid her way already. I've handed the reins over to Jane & Al's happily acquiesced to her guidance. He doesn't question her directions; doesn't swear at her. Well, he ignored her wise counsel once but ended up listening to her once I'd insisted that we weren't going on toll roads or motorways.

I didn't quite trust her at first. Had my Michelin spread queasily on my knee, as usual. I followed the map as long as possible. That is until Jane & Al conspired. 'Go across the roundabout and take the third exit on your right' she said in her clipped English voice. I was no longer able to find the place names on my map. Had Jane dropped out for some reason we'd have been farqued. Al says not. Says he'd have driven to the next village & asked directions.

But Jane was wonderful. I dropped my shoulders & watched the luscious French countryside go by. Al swung the van down tiny lanes that we'd never have found without our savvy passenger.

She led us past a magnificent chateau - de Courgeres, I think. Only eight other people there enjoying the perch in the moat & the classical gardens. Jane led us there through the back of a church. Thought she was leading us up a one way street but we have to trust.

Had lunch in a restaurant strictly used by local people. A bell announced our arrival & every - every! - diner turned to unabashedly stare at us. We were seated, opposite each other, in the middle of a table for ten, who all stared & wondered.

Then the young waitress insisted on speaking to us in perfect English. 'Il faut practiquer - you have to practise,' she said. Not sure if I've conjugated that French subjunctive correctly. Turned out she'd lived and worked in Sheffield, UK.

We had four courses for 10 euro each. Wasn't photo-worthy but good enough fare, especially the cheese. And it came with a choice of red wine or cider. I went with the red and a litre bottle of table wine was plonked in front of us. We could have as much as we wanted. Same with the cheese.

The other thing about Jane is she doesn't mind being popped into the glove box while we're doing our tourist thing.

She may be just a voice in a box, but Al & I have talked freely to her all day; chided her when a lane's been too narrow; congratulated her for taking us around busy Le Mans so we didn't even notice its existence.

She got us successfully to this municipal camping in Sable sur Sarthes. It's a bit windy, but that's really not Jane's fault.

And to those of you who are sat nav/GPS savvy, apologies. As I've said before, I'm easily entertained.

And thanks to the Kiwis we met in Beaune for planting the idea. Think we'll be enjoying the roads even less travelled for the next three weeks.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mont St Michel & Falaise.

Al is climbing to the top of the cathedral on Mont St Michel because that's what he does. I've decided to forgo having a heart attack in the place of my French dreaming.

Has just got a bit noisy. Another massive tour group just passed through where I'm sitting. No cars on this little island but thick with tourists from all over the world. Bumper to bumper. You have to keep moving. And heaps of school kids on excursions, charging around like they own the place.

First heard about MSM in a high school French class. Something in a text book? I also remember the entertaining stories in my French class at Melbourne State College. Monsieur John Johnson told us stories of tourists parking at the base of the Mont. While they were sweating up the lanes and steps their cars were covered by the swiftly rising tide.

Despite the hundreds - thousands? - of tourists here today, most bused across the causeway, and despite the rampant tourism - every shop sells tourist tat, food and so on - this is the most incredible place I've seen over here. And that's saying something.

Al & I first came here in 1985. Neither of us recalls anything specifically touristique back then, just a line of campervans, like our combi, stretching towards MSM as far into the distance as we could see. We dropped a u-ey. Couldn't be bothered waiting.

Now all is for the tourist. Our van is parked perhaps 3 or 4 k away. We had to walk. Got a bum steer from the carpark attendant who told us we couldn't take our bikes. Could have saved my legs & avoided a hypo had we just taken them. Al is such a goody two shoes. He has to ask.

Tourism clearly rules. Brand new hotels & restaurants line the road up to the causeway. Monstrous carparks have been built; trees planted. Suppose it is 27 years since we were last here. Glad I saw it back then. Like I'm glad I snorkeled on the outer Great Barrier Reef off Port Douglas, Far North Queensland before the developers got there.

Anyway it's 7pm now, hence tense change. Back in France. It was a beautiful walk across the causeway watching MSM getting larger & more detailed as we approached.

Left MSM at 3pm and have been driving since. It's now 7 & we're back for our third visit in Falaise, Normandy. Right now I'm sitting on my fold out chair gazing up at the castle of William the Conqueror. Yes. That old. Can't believe we're here. Big relief to head to a place where we know we'll find a great camping. It's situated right at the base of the castle which looms atop a rocky outcrop. It's an astonishing vision. Like MSM & so much in France & Europe it makes me aware of my tiny part on the continuum. Need to drink some wine - a delicious Sauvignon from Le Touraine - to stop me getting all philosophical. Or sickly. One of those.

The camping at Falaise is quiet apart from birds twittering, and not much changed since 1985. Not a popular destination. Weird. Suits us.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Vannes, Gulf of Morbihan and the rest.

Well, here we are in rainy, cold Vannes on the Gulf of Morbihan. We've driven here today from Nantes. Had a brilliant pitstop in an historic village called La Roche de Bernard, just before you get to the Gulf. Goes way back to the 15th century and earlier. It's a seafaring sort of place. Lots of tortuous lanes winding up from the river. It was the place of a famous battle between the Royalists and the Republicans during the revolution. Now, at this time of year, not quite the 'high' season, it's a quaint, beautiful old place. Hard to believe people were beheaded in the village square where we had our grands cafes cremes..

We wandered around, as we do, getting wet despite our plastic bike jackets, because the weather here is...merde. Shit.

We've had two sumptuous meals today. Meals. Well three if you count the Special K and 'soja milk' we had for breakfast. Our staple. Supposed to mitigate against the fromages, pates, beers and vins blancs secs - dry white wine. (Okay, so I only managed one AFD but hey, that's better than nothing. Just.)

The first repast was a 0.35 euro baguette purchased at the Carrefours Supermarche. We filled it with some ham and a soft cheese and ate it in the van in the carpark outside Maccas. Rain was hammering against the sunroof as we ate. The sandwich was delicious.

The third gourmet experience was also in the van. Al fried up some garlic, onion and mushrooms in 'good' o-live oil, added tins of tuna, carrots and baby peas and there you go. Even better that he follows through by giving good dishwashing while I write my stupid blog..

We're staying right on an estuary here in the municipal camping Conleau in Vannes. We ventured out around the point before in our plastic ponchos and popped into a bar that had a great music mix. Bit sort of bossa nova and bass is all I can say. There was a Spanish rendition of Sting's Fragile in there, but that's all I know. Better than sitting in the van in the rain.

Anyway, I'm very easily entertained. Have already mentioned that I'm fascinated by how others 'ablute'. Had an interesting toilet experience at the local bar. Clearly there used to be four 'stalls' in this big room that now contains a urinal in one corner and the toilet bowl diagonally opposite in the other. The toilet facility has been modified to make it disabled friendly. Despite this being an old building everything in this 'bathroom' is state of the art automated including the lights. Don't sit too still too long or you're in pitch darkness. (Not that I did - didn't have my iPhone with me.) The flushing action on this low, seatless toilet was idiosyncratic, for want of a better word. After I'd pressed the button water was so slowly dispensed, filling the entire bowl to the rim, that I had a bit of a panic. Had I blocked the pipes?? I leaned down to push the button again, prompt a bit more action, but before I could the entire bowlful was sucked away down the u-bend, so swiftly I jumped. Well, I thought it was funny.

So despite the rain, I'm having a good time.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Culture shock or alcohol overload?

We're in Nantes, a huge city in France. We arrived yesterday just as the weather cleared and we sat in the bar at the camping, Al drinking his 1664 biere- beer - and me supping on one of the most delicious Chardonnays, from Bourgogne, that I've ever tasted. That makes about 6 weeks of solid drinking for me. Not good, even though I'm having yet another trip of a lifetime.

So today I was determined to go alcohol free. Lately it's been a case of trying to keep off alcohol until after 4.30 in the afternoon. But it's really hard to resist a bevy with one's duck confit.

The other day we stopped for lunch in a place called St Georges sur Loire on the way out of Angers - Angers brilliant BTW. The restaurant was called Hotel de Tetes Noires. That sounds a bit like hotel of the black heads but we didn't let that deter us. We'd visited the place a couple of days earlier in search of change in case we got stuck on the peage - tollway - again. It looked 'local' and friendly, hence our return visit.

We were ushered into a large old dining room. It was a bit tardis-like - bigger on the inside. The tables were all set for for fine dining with white napery. lots of glasses and cutlery. The walls were painted with old fox hunting scenes. The floor tiles were colourfully patterned and old.

The waitress remembered us from our Sunday visit looking for change. She was from New Caledonia, which seemed to make us kin. I didn't mind. Love it when people are prepared to chat and share a bit of their life story: how she misses NC and her son and daughter and grandson after six years of being in France. She screwed up her nose a little to tell us that she thought the French in France are not as friendly as those in her native NC.

Anyway, we ordered cuisse de canard confit - duck thigh cooked to perfection; the best duck confit I've eaten in my life. It was served with an assiette des legumes - assortment of vegetables. Yeah, big deal. But it was. Exquisitely prepared and arranged veges: a slice of a dense, tasty mushroom frittata, zucchini, potato, sweet potato, carrot, tomato. But each vegetable was carefully prepared. The sweet potato was a small breaded disk, the potato and zucchin stood to attention and each had a pureed delicious piped topping, as did the tomato. Slivers of apple were arranged around the plate with the duck leg in the middle of it all in a slightly sweet apple flavoured gravy. May sound odd but it was perfection. Couldn't believe it for 13 euros each. So good.

I started off writing about overdoing the alcohol, and I have overdone it. Haven't written my blog for a few days because I'm boring. Sleep, cycling, driving, the usual panic trying to drive through cities. 'Head for the Centre Ville! Left, left, left! Why did you go right?'

'Fuck, fucking, fuck!' Seriously. I've never heard Al swear so much. Well, not since we were here in 2010.

The trick with heading for the Centre Ville is that after you've driven three times around the roundabout you've usually figured out in which direction to head.

Have been totally overwhelmed by Nantes today. It's huge and busy; an incredible mix of medieval and ultramodern. Witness the mechanical elephant. Nantes, I think, is the birthplace of Jules Verne. My head is almost exploding trying to take in all the cathedrals and chateaux. I need to draw breath.

Cycling into the centre from the camping ground was terrifying, despite all the marked cycle paths. What a day to decide not to have any wine.

Think I'm at the culture shock stage of our tour because I'm too exhausted to try to speak in French. Yes, I've definitely had a bad French language day. Tongue-tied again, probably because I've been over-indulging for too many days, starting back with my dad dying over a month ago now.

Ah well. Better put the kettle on.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Angers, Pays du Loire. Or bust.

Sunday. Rain.  And it's set in according to my iPhone weather forecast.  Popped in to a Maccas for a cafe and wifi use to see whether we could manage a visit to my cousin, who lives in France.  Needed to check Google maps because her place wasn't listed in our Michelin guide.  Tant pis - too bad.  Seems she's 250 k south of where we are.  That's a big round trip when your days are numbered.  Next visit, it seems.  (And hi, Penny, BTW.  Was so good to hear from you.)

Instead we headed further west along the Loire valley to a place called Angers.  We're just winging it here in France.  We've no idea what we're cherching - searching - for.  Chateaux? Voies vertes - like our rail trails in Victoria - or veloroutes - shared bike/car trails along the Loire?  Found a good one yesterday.  50 k.  Brilliant.

Angers, according to the yellow patch on the map, is a big place.  Supposedly there's a 'camping' in the centre. We stop for a wonderful lunch in a place called Noyant.  (Duck confit cooked in cider with mushrooms, a ratatouille modge thing, asparagus cooked in butter and saute potatoes. Delish. All that was left on our plates were denuded duck thigh bones. Al finishes with a creme brulee. Excellent fare at a roadside pub.  Apologies for my tense swapping, BTW. Not enough battery to proof and edit! My excuse and I'm sticking with it.)

Then came the fun bit.  Besides the nasty weather we had immense trouble finding our camping at Angers, despite us having plotted it all out.  I'm talking serious map perusal and highlighting of appropriate roads.  Somehow, as we approached Angers, we were 'herded' onto the autoroute and then missed our turnoff to the camping.  I swear there was no turnoff!  We drove about 16 k beyond where we were supposed to be and decided to get off the autoroute and turn around; see if we'd have better luck going the other way.

Suddenly, we're at a totally unexpected toll booth.  We had been, unbeknown to us, on 'le peage' - the tollway.

"Quick, Al.  Get your credit card.'
'Fuck, fuck, fuck!' Fumble, fumble, fumble.

Al grabs his wallet out of the glove box. gets the card out, sticks it in the appropriate hole.  Reject. Invalid.  He tries another card.  Same result.  I quickly grab my card.  Uh-uh. I'm invalid too, it seems.  And we have no coins and the machine won't take notes.  If only Al hadn't been so concerned about leaving a ten percent tip at the restaurant.  Farque alors!

We pressed for assistance.  'Parlez vous Anglais?' I ask, knowing I won't be able to explain our dilemma in my crapue French.  'A leetle.'

We explain.  The disembodied voice tells us to insert our credit card again.  Same result.  And clearly she is not able to press the button to release the hapless travellers.  Instead, some music starts playing.  Seems she's hung up.

We're stuck. I grab a 20 euro note - our smallest currency - leap out of the van and accost the woman, who just happens to have a disconcerting wandering eye (no offence but she did) in the car behind.  I wave the note at her and she winds down her window an inch.  I explain the situation in the best French I can muster.  She checks her wallet but only has 15 euro in notes.  Tant pis.

I'm panicking.  An arm has emerged from the third car back and it's making an angry gesture.  I approach the second car back, my 20 euro held in front of me; prayer like.  The driver says he has no money but the passenger springs out, tells me he'll help and approaches the toll booth.

The 'remote controller' is no more help, despite the young gent's perfect French.  The fellow tries our cards again, but to no avail.  At least we know we weren't sticking it in the wrong way - which would be typical of us..  No matter.  Our young gallant darts back to his car and returns with the 2 euro 80 in coins and pays for us.  How lovely!  I tell him, like a lover, je t'adore - I adore you - using the inappropriate informal voice.  De rien, he says.  It's nothing.  And he wishes us a good day and we're through.

We have found our way back to Angers and have located the camping, which is 'a local place, for local people' for League of Gentlemen fans.  Don't know whether there's anything for us here.  But we're resolved to donning our plastic Vietnam ponchos and braving the rain tomorrow.  It seems it's here to stay for the foreseeable future and I don't want it to get in the way of us seeing France, the country of my dreaming.

But I'm wondering whether it might not have been a better option to head south in search of my first cousin.  Wonder what the weather's like there.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Onzain, Loire valley.

Spent last night at Chatres-sur-Cher. Sounds so simple, doesn't it?

We'd left Auxerre reasonably early that morning to visit Chablis. We parked at the Intermarche supermarket to stock up, then left the van in the carpark to cycle into the old town. Pretty, of course: narrow, winding stone walled lanes, all apparently built on top of one another. And then I thought, I'm pretty close to my neighbors back home, albeit in a weatherboard sort of way. Many of the lanes in Chablis won't even admit a small car. On your velo - bike- however, you can go anywhere.

Next drove to Vierzon, about 90k away. This was the closest biggish place to where Al had spotted, on the map & in the camping guide, what he thought would be an ideal camping, between the river Cher & its canal. But the place, Chatres-sur-Cher, wasn't on the map.

Well, getting to Vierzon wasn't a problem. Easy. When we arrived we found it was a sprawling suburban 'working class' sort of place. No indication of which way to go to find our 'ideal' camping.

We stopped in a Maccas. The young girl serving couldn't have been more obliging. She even drew a map with traffic lights and a 'hopital' to show us the way. If only I'd had her 'plan' - map - the right way up when I was giving Al directions.

Al was very kind.

Eventually we found the camp on the road to Tours & it was so ideal that it only cost 8 euros for the site & we could park anywhere cos there was only one other couple there. As an added bonus we'd found the only canal in France without a cycle/tow path so no rides there.

On the other hand, the washing machine was free & it was blowing such a gale that our washing dried within a couple of hours. Also had a bit of an opportunity to develop my French skills when the washing machine flooded. (Pardon Madame. Il y' a l'inundation dans les douches. Excuse me, madam. I've flooded the showers.) Struck up quite a rapport with the patron - boss - as we mopped the laundry floor.

Actually, that camp in the middle of nowhere was wonderful. Big river; sun on my back; no traffic noise. And the woman at reception was delighted - & surprised - to have customers. She spoke absolutely no English so my French got a good workout. Also got the showers & toilets to myself in the morning. Very cleansing.

Now, we're in the municipal camping in Onzain in the Loire valley. Got a bit shirty on the way here. We were searching for a four star camping as recommended by the guide book. Was like solving a goblin's riddle - or is it a troll? - trying to find the place. When we did, at the divorce stage, it was a veritable suburbia of tin cabins & indoor heated swimming pools. Despite the 90 minute search for the sodding place, it wasn't for us. We returned, through the vines and waving barley fields & tortuous villages, to the basic municipal on the Loire. And, btw, right on the cycling route along the Loire.

Hard to remain shitty when you've screamed with joy into the wind whipping through the Loire valley as you cross the bridge - walking your bike because otherwise you'd be swept off.

Tomorrow, a 46 k round trip along the flat between here - Onzain - and Blois. With chateaux to spare.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The trail is slightly hilly.

'Are you enjoying the free ride?' asks Al as we're whizzing down a hill at about 30kph.


I was actually. Poppies and other wild flowers and herbs along the sides of the paths, miles of vines stretching out into the distance. Is there a better view? Ancient stone walls along the lanes, beautiful little villages. Ahh. Too hard to find all the superlatives.

Sky a bit overcast with a few peeks of blue. Perfect temperature for cycling.

But the thing about that free ride? Well, you know. When you're doing a round trip along a veloroute - a cycle route that's shared with cars - you're going to pay for those free rides on the way back.

Forty-four k from Beaune to Santenay & back. But for me it felt like 100. And I've cycled 100 so I know. I'm puffing and panting up those hills. Meanwhile, my companion is cruising gently along. I've dropped down to granny gear and he's still in 3 & 4. Wanker.

However, can honestly say it's one of the most sensational rides of my life. Still buzzing from it now, post shower.

Did have a bit of a contretemps about half way through the ride. Encountered the witch of Santenay. Clearly a mad woman who lives to guard her driveway. We'd done this lovely ride and had reached the destination but we had the temerity to inadvertently park our bikes about a centimeter over this woman's driveway. Her place was next door to the restaurant at which we stopped for a bevy.

Well, she went off her face, screaming & gesticulating. More savage than a German Shepherd guarding another maison along the way.

I did a bit of sarky savage back. 'Oh, mon dieu! J'en suis tres, tres desolee!' complete with a few dramatic actions of my own.

But the woman wouldn't let up. I'd shifted the bikes but she felt she had to start beating her carpet on the wall in our general direction. Farque alors! I lapsed, to no avail, into un petit peu of Anglo-Saxon but it didn't work. Think she got the two fingers though.

Should have had a beware of the dog sign. But which one?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rainy day in Beaune, France

Started raining around 11 last night at the end of a hottish day - 26 degrees. Al & I had decided to stroll into the old town - our first night of doing other than cooking our own special veg modge with beer, wine & scrabble. (We didn't eat the scrabble tiles, btw.)

We stopped at a bar, of course, and were fortunate to meet 2 kiwi couples at the next table. They were travelling together through Europe. Very nice. Al & I threw ourselves upon them, as you do when you're starved of idiomatic conversation, except with each other. And over here, Kiwis & Aussies are kin. So good to swap stories and get recommendations of where to head next. They suggested Auxerre. Sounds like a plan.

We rescued our laundry before the thunder storm & deluge during the night. We'd strung a line from the van to the electricity box. However, we didn't have the foresight to wind the annex in. During the night it had crumpled under the weight of litres of rainwater. We shat ourselves a bit, thinking we'd wrecked it, but it was okay once the load was released. Phew. (Load of water, that is.)

Today we donned our daggy Vietnam plastic ponchos & wandered back into the old town for Sunday lunch. Very quiet on this wet day. Just a few gawping tourists. We decided to eat at a restaurant which seemed mostly patronized by French families rather than tourists.

Well, the wine was good. A 2010 dry white Savigny-de-Beaune. But the food? Merde. Al had a rare 'flank' of beef with frites. Wasn't a cut of meat I'd ever seen before. He ate it all. Probs cos his mum always made him finish his meal. I had boeuf Bourguignon with gratin des pommes de terre. Blerk. Very dark pool of baked on sauce with great lumps of cheap cuts of beef avec un peu de gristle. Overdone slightly charred on top potatoes which had spent several hours in a bain-marie.

Meh. What the hay? Cute skinny waiter reminded me of son, Pete, so we tipped him 5 euros anyway. He didn't cook the food.

Can't win them all.

Best food ever was a few days back at Hotel des Fischers in the village of Vougeot. The dining room was full of men, workers from the local vineyards I'd say. We had three courses for 13 euros each. The braised porc was the most lean, melt in the mouth sensation, with champignons & chunky frites. I finished with cheese - six different types were brought to the table &, like the greedy pig I am, I had a little of five of them. Don't think you're supposed to do that but who cares? All were soft, varied, piquant. Amazing.

Wish people would stop popping corks out of wine bottles all around the camping. Too tempting. Stuff it. I'm having one.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Beaune, Bourgogne, France

Takes my breath away.

Circumnavigated les remparts en velos. Slow ride took about half an hour. C. 14th wall. 'Moat' that's now part carpark part gardens. Incredible is the word that keeps coming to mind. Ancient stone walls several feet thick. Turrets, those 'slits' where arrows could be fired at the assaulting enemy. Name escapes me. All so hard to believe now. Drink it in. It's real. The French seem oblivious as they go about their lives, dressed so chic.

Was perusing the bricabrac at the Saturday market here in the centre ville de Beaune. Al was perusing the real-estate in a shop front.

'We could do it, Jules,' he said. 'Swap ours for one here.' I wandered over to the window & briefly, for an instant, entertained the idea. I LOVE this place. It suits me. That is, at the start of summer on a warm blue day on holiday. It's so engulfing. Feel like I'm absorbing richness through my pores. And that's before I get started on Chardonnay.

Not sure I'd manage winter, although the interior of the restaurant at which we had lunch - quiche Lorraine for Al, omelette aux champignons for me - looked very cosy. Suppose I'd sit inside.

I'm like my mother. Lachrymose. The tears come readily here & it's not cos I'm still in the wake of my dad's death, although that's still very present. It's thrown all this splendour into even more relief.

Al's just punctured the mood.

'Good example of why dogs shouldn't be brought into restaurants. It just pissed in the pot-plants.'