Saturday, 28 August 2010

Une semaine en France

Here we are, home again, after a really lovely time in France. Good friends, good food, good wine, not such good weather (but certainly warmer than in Scotland), and I came back feeling quite rested. Sadly it has already gone by the board as I've realised all the stuff that needs to get done and I'm tired just thinking about it!

A quick resume:

After a disastrous start after picking up our hire car, which entailed negotiating a very long queue at Europcar, getting out of Charles de Gaulle - a trial in itself - and travelling 10k down the road to find a warning light flickering away at us, so we had to find somewhere to turn - another trial - head back to the airport and stand in another queue. But after a bit of cajoling we got an upgrade to an automatic which was a whole lot more comfortable and easier to drive, but more importantly it didn't have any faults, and we once again headed out towards Normandy.

We discovered that pretty much the whole of Normandy was on holiday until 29th August and so the hotel we wanted to stay at in Mortagne-au-Perche, which looked very good and had a great write up in the Rough Guide, was closed, so we headed down the road to Alencon where we ended up in a bit of a dive. Still on a scout around the town (for the restaurant recommended in the Guide which was closed!) we found a rather nice Pizza place. Although not in the Guide this turned out to be a real find. Not only good food, but we got picked up by a charming French couple, Christine and Eric, who were sitting on the table next to us and insisted on giving us a guided tour after dinner, which proved utterly fascinating.

The rest of our days were spent in Sara and Krzysztof's idyllic farmhouse, with their 3 great danes (one just a 9 month puppy), 2 donkeys, 1 pony, 2 cats, umpteen chickens and guinea pigs and a few giant spiders to add into the mix. A couple of other friends were there when we arrived and it was really fun to spend time going over our teen years and reliving the past.

We did a few trips out to the countryside: one to a village fete, which was a bit like a mini agricultural show in Scotland, complete with a welcoming straw castle.

And one rather fascinating one to Camembert, which is a tiny village of maybe 5 houses, and two farms supplying the cheese for the world.

Apart from that we walked the dogs in the glorious forest nearby

and drove around looking at the sights when we weren't eating or feeding animals.

Our last full day we said goodbye and wended our way to the Normandy Beaches, which were a very moving and emotional experience. And then our final destination, Compeigne, which took hours to get to, partly because we hadn't realised just how far it was and also, to add to the mix, a storm descended complete with thunder and lightening, and the traffic round Rouen was a nightmare, but it left us with just an hour's drive to the airport on Friday. And of course because we'd negotiated the airport a couple of times at the start we managed to get the car back in record time.

We didn't bring a whole lot back with us, just some cheap flexi bakeware (don't ask), some garlic in a grinder, some spicy couscous, and my piece de resistance - a rather tacky glass bottle in the shape of a horse which contains apple brandy (!)

And that folks, as they say, is that. Holiday over. Back to normality!

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