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.

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