Sunday 12 September 2021

France day 18- le shuttle and a picnic in England

As we descended the stairs for breakfast we could smell croissants being heated up in the kitchen. A good start to the day. There was one other couple staying at La Pommeraie but they were having a later breakfast so we had the dining room to ourselves. In addition to a selection of homemade jams there were four local cheeses to sample. The cereal selection did not include Weetabix so Louise’s box was retrieved from the car. By 9:30 we had enjoyed a good breakfast, paid for the previous night’s bottle of wine and were setting off towards Calais. Kate had been requested to take us to an Intermache at Arques but we passed a smaller Carrefour Contact at Thérouanne on route so made our first stop of the day. It was small enough for Lyn to be able to walk round and we purchased some more wine and cake and biscuits to take home. We then continued to the Intermarche at where they had a better selection of Louise’s fruit concentrate, a cheap supply of facemasks  and Robert was able to purchase a crêpe pan. We had plenty of time to get to the Eurotunnel terminal so we avoided the péage and took the main road to Calais instead. We had hoped to find a small café enroute and had given up until Kate directed us past Merlin Eric, 2906 Rue Principale, 62185 Fréthun, 5 minutes from the terminal. They had a couple of small tables outside and we had a cake and drink. We will definitely stop there again if travelling back by Eurotunnel.

We arrived at the terminal just over an hour before our departure time. The check-in and customs were efficient without the delay we had experienced going . We were even put down for the shuttle that was 20 minutes earlier than the one we booked, which to our surprise we made.

On arriving in England it was time for lunch. We diverted off the M20 and eventually found in a picnic table near a children’s play area in Sellindge, Ashford. The last Brexton stop of the holiday.

We had long delays getting though the Dartford tunnel. Diverting off the motorway saved us a few minutes but we still had to queue for the crossing. We had one further stop at Birchanger Green services near Stanstead where it was noticeable only a small percentage of people were wearing masks.

We arrived back, unpacked the car and visited the Indian for our evening meal. This time eating inside rather than getting a take away.  In total, a round trip of 2020 miles.

If we had not had ‘Le Boat’ pre-booked, we would not have travelled to France. Having got there we were glad we did. The Covid precautions were far better than in the UK, with most of the population wearing masks and socially distancing. Using Airbnb’s for most of the accommodation meant we were able to limit the number of people we came into contact with. For most of the places where we ate out, we were able to sit outside and the one restaurant where we sat inside, everyone was socially distanced.  Would we travel again to France if the situation was the same? Yes, even if it meant having another lateral flow test before returning to the UK!

Saturday 11 September 2021

France day 17 : Long Drive , Brexton stops and closed roads

 We had an early start. It was going to be a long drive and was scheduled to take between 6 and 7 hours depending on the route selected. We decided to pay the 35 euro cleaning fee for the property. We left the property tidy but paying the cleaning fee meant there was need no need to vacuum and clean the bathrooms before we left. The Brompton was on the back of the car before 7:00am and we set off just after 8:30am. Our initial route was across country. We stopped in L'Isle-Jourdain for bread. Lyn came back from the boulangerie with a loaf and a cake of Fromage Blanc with a carbonised topping (cake of the region – they also do black bread). We stopped again to try and get a quiche for lunch. We failed, but did get a couple of cakes for later and Louise bought ham and juice from a small supermarket. Our route took us on the péage round Tours, past Le Mans and onto Rouen.  Robert drove until just after lunch and Lyn took over before Rouen. We followed Kates directions in Rouen and she directed us round he inner ring road.  In future we would be better following the signs for Calais. At Abbeville we turned off the dual carriageway and headed across country. Louise took over the diving for an hour and Robert drove the final stint to Westrehem.  We made good progress until we arrived at the village to find the road closed because of a car Rally.  We were only 1.5 km from our accommodation, but could not get there. We tried following a local up a minor track and got stuck in a long queue when approaching the village. When we finally got a good mobile phone signal we messaged the accommodation and fortunately Beatrice  replied straight away. Her husband was on the way to meet us. However we were on the minor track and did not know where we were. After a bit of reversing we turned around and went back to the road blockage sign. A French car was waiting. We followed it unsure if it was her husband, but it went in the right direction and turned into our night’s accommodation.

La Pommerie was an excellent choice and a brick built chateaux from the 19 century. The next problem was finding somewhere to eat. All the local restaurants were either closed or in a location where you could not get to them until the roads reopened.  Eventually a solution was found. We ordered takeaway burgers from a bar in the next village and the owner’s husband drove Robert to collect them in his car. The main road was closed and you had to navigate the minor tracks to get there. We bought a bottle of wine from Beatrice and then retired to watch Emma Raducanu in the French open final on Amazon prime on the laptop. A VPN was purchased but may not have been required. At the start there was a lot of issues with bandwidth and the pictures kept buffering but this eventually resolved itself (possibly when Louise stopped trying to watch below Deck Mediterranean on her laptop!). We enjoyed the match but the final game took around 10 minutes to complete as the buffering returned. After watching Emma lift the trophy we retired to bed.

Friday 10 September 2021

Day 16 - A bike ride , passenger locator form and a meal out.

The first job of the morning was to get a hard copy of our negative Covid certificate from the chemist. We had been emailed a digital copy but thought a hard copy could be useful. In the end it was not required. Before setting off we had tried updating our passenger locator forms but could not as it could only be done 48 hours prior to arriving in the UK. We would have to wait until the afternoon.

Robert and Lyn then set off on a bike ride whilst Louise caught up with a couple of episodes of ‘The Queen’ on Netflix.

The bike ride was rolling country side and the 27 mile route had around 1900 feet of ascent. We followed route 42C, a rough copy of which had been downloaded onto Roberts Garmin. After a couple of rides up and down the main street, we located the correct route out of the village. The rest of the route was well sign posted. We did not have time to stop for lunch at the popular restaurant in Esse, but it looks like somewhere for a future trip. The roads were wet in places but we were over halfway round before it started to rain. When it got heavier we shelter under a tree for 15 minutes before the rain abated and the blue sky returned. We were planning to stop for lunch but instead made do with the snacks we carried. We returned to the house just before 4:00pm. A quick visit to the ruined castle in the village followed. We parked at the bottom of the hill close to the no entry sign and walked or cycled up to the castle. Lyn needed a helping push on the very step sections, on the Brompton. There were good views of the surrounding countryside.

Returning from the castle it was time to complete our passenger locator form on the government website.  The internet access was excellent, but a poor phone signal meant we couldn’t get the verification code before the time to enter it had expired. We carried phones to the third floor of the house and after several attempts the verification codes were received, passenger locator forms completed and the forms uploaded to the Eurotunnel website.

For our evening meal we drove the short distance to Availles Limouzine and the Logis Hotel Châtellenie. We had booked a table when we could not get in the previous evening. An excellent 3 courses followed. (6 if you count the ‘amuse bouche’, pre-starter black pudding and sweets with the drinks that followed the meal).  Lyn and Robert had visited this restaurant two years ago on a recommendation from his uncle.

Thursday 9 September 2021

France Day 15 - Confolens , Covid Test and Flame cooked Pizza

It was only a short drive of around 1hour 30 minutes to our accommodation in Saint-Germain-de- Confolens. We started with a trip to the boulangerie, parking correctly in a single space. We then drove the short distance to Yviers to show Louise the church and the dead pigeon. The pigeon was still there but I can report it was disposed of by the end of our visit. We spotted a little bar on the previous day’s ride and intended to stop for a coffee before setting off. It was closed but a sign on the door said it was scheduled to open at 11:00am. We waited and had two coffees and a hot milk. The owner turned out to be English who had lived in France for 15 years and would not go back. The menu of the day looked good, but was only served from 12:00 and we had a Covid test booked in Comfolens at 15:00.  We had intended to stop for lunch on the way to Confolens, but the first picnic area we stopped at was too busy and the others we passed were too near the main road. Eventually we decided to locate the pharmacy then find somewhere for lunch in Confolens. After the pharmacy was located we stopped for lunch in a pleasant spot by the river. We returned to the pharmacy at 15:00 for our Covid test, only to find our appointments had been re-scheduled for 18:10, 18:20 and 18:30. We are not sure why it was changed and checked the times when booking the test from England.

After a wander around the town, crossing the old bridge, we stopped for a drink at a salon du thé on the far side of the river. Louise even managed to get a completely free slice of Lemon drizzle cake which we all shared. Robert and Lyn had a speciality tea, served in cast iron teapots, complete with an egg timer to get the correct strength brew! We could access our accommodation from 16:00 so drove the 10 km to the house, unpacked the car and returned for our Covid tests at 18:00. The test was carried out in a gazebo that had been erected outside the building. Robert guessed incorrectly as after he and Lyn had had their samples taken, he thought Louise was going to scream. Instead she just giggled. It wasn’t the pleasantest of experiences.

The plan was to get something to eat in Confolens, but nothing was open. In the end we drove to Availles-Limouzine, but the restaurant we wanted to go to was full. We returned to Saint-Germain-de- Confolens and decided to get pizza from the wood fired Pizza stand by the river instead. The rain was so hard that instead of sitting by the river, we decided to get it to take away. Robert had to return Louise’s ‘cheese less’ pizza as it had cheese on it. Robert and Lyn’s pizzas acquired an additional flame grilled taste whilst being kept warm in the oven.  In the end the pizzas were quite good but very filling.

Wednesday 8 September 2021

France Day 14- A short bike ride , a swim in the pool and a meal out

We needed to get some fresh bread so drove to the boulangère in Chalais before breakfast. It was then onto the Intermarche. We arrived before it opened but by the time the car was refilled, we only had to wait 5 minutes before the shutters were raised and we were let inside. Lyn stayed in the car whilst Robert and Louise divided the list.

The forecast for the day was thundery showers starting around midday. Various options for rides were considered and eventually a modified ‘route 3’ was selected. Robert had mapped the route previously and adapted the 48 mile route to a more sensible 22 miles. We drove to the start in Yviers and parked opposite the church we had visited on the previous day’s ride. The dead pigeon had been moved from the door way to the side of the church. The route was mapped out on the Garmin and once we had sorted out the correct direction to set off in, we followed the signs for route 3. Thunder was heard as we came though the village of Chez Thomas but we got to around 10 miles from the end before the rain started. The rain only lasted for 10 minutes. We stopped and put on cagoules but could have managed without. The temperature was a warm 22 degrees. The last 3 miles was a downhill run back to Yviers. The weather was overcast and the views not as pretty as the previous day. The countryside was rolling again. The 22 mile ride had over 1200 feet of ascent.

We returned to the house for a late lunch. The blog was updated and we had time for swim and shower before a Skype call with Lyn’s mother. The weather in Sheringham being hotter than where we are in France today.

We decided to eat out and drove the 12km to Aubeterre sur Dronne and had a meal in the Hostellerie du Périgord. We had aperitifs on the patio and the weather improved, so rather than going inside for the meal, we sat outside.  An excellent 3 courses followed. The seared tuna starter was very good, as were the main courses and desserts. Louise drove back and Kate selected a different route to get to the house including a couple of single-track roads.


France Day 13 – A morning bike ride and visit to Aubeterre-sur-Dronne

We collected a number of bike ride routes from the tourist information stall at the market in Chalais on Monday. Route 2 ran within a few miles of the house so we decided to follow it. The route was not available as a GPX download so Robert used Mapmyride to copy the route then upload it to his Garmin. Once we were on the route it was well signposted and the Garmin directions not required for most of the trip. The countryside was rolling ascents with none of the ascents being exceptionally steep. Lyn and Robert set off just at 9:30 taking advantage of the cool morning air and by the time they returned the temperature had risen to over 30 degrees. The route took in lots of small villages and had good views of the surrounding countryside. The only place where the Garmin was required was where the signs took us to the official start as we had missed the second sign off the roundabout. The ascent out of Chalais was the longest climb of the day and was hot in the sun. Having reached the plateaux, we deviated away from route 2 to get back to the house. The ride was just under 29 miles with around 1900 feet of ascent.

After lunch we drove the 12 km to the pretty village of to Aubeterre. The parking was at the top of the village but Lyn and Louise were dropped off outside the Subterranean church at Place de l’eglise Saint-Jean and Robert then cycled down the hill with the Brompton. 6 euros per person gained us entry and a sanitised audio guide. The Brompton was folded up and left by the ticket office.

The church had been carved out from the solid limestone in the 12th century on the instructions of a knight returning from the crusades. The 80 steps to the gallery gave us a good view of the church below.

After a visit to the Crypt that was only discovered when a truck demolished a wall when trying to turn round in 1961, it was time for an ice-cream. We then wandered up to the main square. We sat down at a outside table intending to buy a drink but the service was so slow we decided to skip the drink and return to the house for a swim. The evening meal was the beef brochettes we had purchased from the market on Monday. We sat outside again. The cloud cover restricted our star gazing so we went inside and tested the Skype connection with a quick call to Jim and Peg.



France Day 12– Chalais Market and Velo Vert

Monday is market day in Chalais. After breakfast we set off for the 6km drive from the house to the town. The main street was closed for the market but we found a space by the supermarket car park and walked / cycled round the market. Despite being outdoors everyone was wearing masks. We purchased vegetables for tea, beef skewers and some fresh salmon steaks, a fresh goats cheese as well as some presents to take back. Robert then when into the supermarket to stock up with other essentials. It had only reopened last week after a recent flood. Bread was purchased from the boulangère Yvonne recommended opposite Lidl. When we arrived, there was no one in the shop but by the time we left, customers were queuing outside, Robert even had a customer comment on his parking as he had taken up two spaces!

We returned to the house for lunch after which Robert and Lyn set off to cycle a section of the velo vert that runs from Clérac to Angouleme. It was a 40 minute drive to the start. It took a couple of attempts to locate the parking and the official start. The ride followed the route of a disused railway line. The majority of the route was shaded by trees with only a couple of short sections running on minor roads. Information boards told us about the flora, geology of the area and history on route.

We turned round after 13 miles at Baignes Sainte Ragdegondge, making a total ride of 26 miles. We were back at the house just after 6:00 in time for a tea, a shower and dip in the pool.

Our evening meal of Salmon cooked in foil was eaten at the table outside. As it got dark the ‘7 Up’ lights were put to use (bottle of 7 Up stood over the torch on a phone © C Fielding – Canal du Midi 2021) . It was a clear sky so we sat in the garden looking at the stars.