Tuesday 9 June 2015

Who's on holiday (9) and back home

We've finally made it home, about middday, after a gruelling slog to Dunkirk yesterday afternoon and spending the night in the ferry port car park (a regular thing, and good place to vehicle watch, not as noisy overnight as you'd think) catching an early 6.00 ferry, then once in the UK up the M2, round the M25, along the A12 to home. MrsJ has a weeks worth of washing to do and I have to arrange a caravan repair after damaging the electrical connection wire. Somehow it had dragged on the road and worn through the insulation, so I had to do a quick splicing job to get us home.

We had a great time with friends, plenty of sights to see, beautiful scenery, I tried out my schoolboy french, and that's it till next year.

There were some complaints about the travel arrangements!

Tom Who - I've heard of travelling steerage, but going by carrier bag is ridiculous.
Pat Who - At least Bill got the occassional trip in a pocket or camera bag               
               Bill Who - True, it is uncomfortable, but I heard the Biguns talking about us having our own
                                 caravan next time, so we may get lucky.
                Brigadier - I don't see what your all complaining about, as a soldier I've had some pretty                                         dicey accomodation in sticky situations, this is luxury.

And there we leave them. I do hope the Dr (all of him) enjoyed his trip away, and that you have enjoyed this slightly different view of our trip.
Back to normal from now on. .   

Monday 8 June 2015

Who's on holiday (8)

Our last day before the long drag home. A morning of rest before getting on our way. While the others are off to sample the delights of the little town, and find a post office, MrsJ and I take a car journey about 10 kilometres up the road to Meung-sur-Loire.This is another of the regions historic towns, this time from the 13th century, and, like the rest has a Chateau. This one is a little more extensive than the last one, and what restoration has been done is of a more recent (18th century) ethos.

Coming into the grounds the house has a typical style of the area, though once you get round to the entrance it appears more grand, even if you can see that there is of work on the roof (there is some evidence of this in the interior, with mould, crumbling plaster, etc) and a large garden.

In the garden was a small exhibition of art, where an artist had taken a famous painting and put at its side another, making a little story. For example, there was Van Gogh's bedroom,preceded by a picture of the same vane but this time the room was untidy. In between was a caption I could only translate as "I've tidied my room at last, mum". The one that may be of interest to military bloggers is this one, showing why Napoleon looked so miserable in the famous picture.

The Chateau was well laid out, with rooms followed in numerical order, and informative placards everywhere. It is the only house I've been in that had a room solely for storing bath tubs!, and a room (more an alcove) specially for powdering wigs. In one wing, for a limited time only, was a special exhibition by the artist Claude Brabant on the history of French (with offshoots) fashion, starting with Adam and Eve up to Victorian times. The gimick being that the models, all 200 of them, were all Barbie or Ken based. 

This case shows Albert and Victoria, With Napoleon the third below, and, just out of shot, Franz Joseph.

Bill Who was there, and here he is in front of the case containing Napoleon and his assorted ladies. Note that he has a cabinet all to himself on this subject!

Sunday 7 June 2015

Who's on holiday (7)

We're getting towards the end of the trip now. Another change of venue,travelling for the morning  to Beaugency, and another site on the edge of the river, with a view of the 11th century town bridge, 23 arches long it was an important crossing during the hundred years war. At the end of the bridge is the 11th century watchtower, now ruined and part of the Chateau, once home of Jean de Dunois a comrade of Joan of Arc.

The afternoon was spent in a walk across the bridge and exploring the town, finishing with a visit to the Chateau.

The Chateau is recently re-opened after a long restoration, and has a number of rooms decorated in the medieval style. The town also has a medieval clock tower and many old houses. I believe it was here that Eleanor of Aquitaine had her marriage to the French King, Louis the umpteenth, leaving her free to marry Henry the second. I never cease to be astonished that so much of the history in this area should be tied to that of my own country, even though I know we owned much of it in early days.

Of course, his nibs came along, and spent some time looking round the bedroom of Charles, Duc d'Orleans.

Tomorrow we start on our way back home, but not until the afternoon. So in the morning MrsJ and I will go a little further, to the next town (Meung-sur-Loire), where, because we visited the Chateau here we will get into that one at reduced price. 

Saturday 6 June 2015

Who's on holiday (6)

After a short stop,we're off to our next site at Beaugency, still on the Loire, but before we do the others in the party want to do their own things for the morning. Our Ausie couple want to go try some canoeing on the river (they run a similar business down under) while the other two couples want to do some more wine buying. MrsJ and I decide to stay around and walk along the river bank for a view of the Chateau of Chenonceau. One of the outstanding examples of its like, you'll find its picture used to illustrate many of the guides to the area. It's the one that has a large wing built on a bridge over the river. Naturally, Bill Who wanted to come with us.

The part over the river is one long corridor and was used as an indoor walk area. Here's a photo of the inside from a few years ago.

An interesting aspect of this building is that it is obviously unfinished, and was intended to reach the other bank. This can be seen by looking at the ends of the walls, where the mouldings break of half finished.

On our walk back Bill complained that his legs were tired and we stopped for a short rest.

Once everyone was back at camp we had a quick lunch then off again.Until tomorrow

Friday 5 June 2015

Who's on holiday (5)

This is a day for moving on to our next site. Rules mean we have to leave before lunch, but can't arrive at the next site until after lunch. French lunch hours are fairly long so we tend to visit somewhere in the morning them travel midday. This mornings trip was a chance discovery while reading the guidebook (Dorling-Kindersley Guide to Loire Valley) and let to a visit that interested all the party, something difficult to do when there are eight of you.

In this particular region there are a number of Troglodyte sites. Areas where people lived and worked in caves hollowed out from the soft stone. In some cases the houses are still occupied.

In this instance we went to a small village called Rochemenier, which looked nothing special from the roadside, but after dismounting and walking a short distance we came to the entrance to an amazing world.

The village consists of some 250 rooms excavated from the rock and making up around 40 farms. The families excavated a large hole to act as a courtyard from the sandstone and then dug rooms from the sides. As the family expanded more rooms were added. In the village we explored the oldest habitation was from the 13th century and it was still in use until the early 20th century. Everything was done in this 'quarry' apart from cultivation, which occurred on the roof. Livestock was brought down into the caves at night because of wolves, thieves, etc.

Later we travelled to our next destination, Le Moulin Fort, for a one night stop. Ostensibly this was to visit the fabulous Chateau of Cenonceau (of which, more tomorrow), but I'm told there are three good wine co-operatives in the area. Just after we'd arrived and set up, this vehicle arrived.

Carrying a German touring group of about 25 people, the bus is about 30 years old and comes from America. The travellers sit in the front half while the back half is sleeping cubicles across the width of the bus (each window visible is one cubicle), while the trailer at the back carries all the gear, including tables and chairs plus a load of bicycles. The chap in the red shirt is actually getting dinner ready and will be cooking it on the 'kitchen' where the flap is open.  

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Who's on holiday (4)

After a leisurely breakfast and stroll round the campsite (MrsJ and I like to look at the other vans around, and see how the owners set things up) the group took a couple of cars and went off on a wine tasting tour of 3 'caves'

First up, Veuve Amiot, a large winery with a big selection. The rest of the group spent some time here checking out the various wines, eventually leaving with quite a lot of boxes.

Pat Who - So, bill,  how does this 'degustation' buisiness work then?
Bill Who - People come into this wine makers with the intention of
buying wine, the staff let them taste a small amount of anything they
like the look of, and eventually they choose to buy the one they like.
Or not, if they prefer.  

After a lunchtime siesta some of us decided to walk up the river (alongside it, not in it, we hadn't drunk that much) to visit the chateau, which we heard had marvellous views from the roof.

Bill Who - It may be a short stroll for the big-uns, but it looks a long way for little legs.

This is a small chateau by local standards, but once in it has an interesting display on the history of the Loire being used as a transporter of goods by barge, (the chateau was, evidently, a toll collection centre), and, as promised, the view from the roof terraces (they were hardly ramparts) was spectacular, with Saumur Chateau visible on the skyline to the west.

A stroll round the old town and a little drink at a small bar in square, and it was back to the site for the evening.

Tuesday 2 June 2015

Who's on holiday (3)

Half way down a 5 to 6 hour slog, penultimate tail-end charlie of a convoy consisting of three caravans and a car, we stopped at an 'aire' (french version of a motorway services, though they don't all have fuel stations. These areas are easy to access and very clean and tidy) A little light lunch, then off again.

Pat Who - Is this what we're supposed to eat for lunch?                            
Bill Who - It looks quite tasty to me                                                          
Brigadier - It's certainly enough to keep us going for the rest of the trip   

Our stop for the next three nights is at Montsoreau, on the banks of the Loire just east of Saumur, which we visited in 2012. Our pitch is right on the river side, and it is only some 500 yards from the town centre. There's a small chateau there (as there is in every little town in this part of the world) and a few 'caves' for the wine lovers amongst us. Here I have to admit that I'm not one of them, as it ll seems to taste the same to me (a bit vinegary) I'd rather have a drop of stout.

This is the view from our front door for the next couple of days, and tomorrow we get down to the proper holiday..

Monday 1 June 2015

Who's on holiday (2)

Up early at the crack of dawn. Breakfast and pack away, then down to Dover for the 10.15 ferry to Calais. Goodbye to the White Cliffs, which are really a bit grey nowadays.

In the holding lines at Dover. The lady in shot is not MrsJ, just a rather bewildered sister-in-law.
Remembering to alter our watches to Continental time as we cross, it's a three hour haul dawn to our overnight stop at Lyons la Foret, 

Our site here is but a spit and a stride from the old town.Dating from the 11th century and an important centre at the time, Henry the 1st of England died here in 1135. Most of the houses were built in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the composer Ravel lived here for a while. We found a small bar and had a glass before going back to the site.
(Ravel lived in the large house down the street, on the right)

So it's dinner, share a bottle (or two) then a long 6 hour slog down French motorways tomorrow. I must admit they do them a lot better than we do, hardly any traffic and low toll costs. The fact that lorries are not allowed on the roads Sundays is a big bonus, though we do meet the odd one - usually a foreigner not aware.