Note Number 56…All about our Trip to France…

I’ve recently spent two weeks in France with The Man, where I’d hoped to cycle along the banks of the Loire, picnic in the sun with a glass of Rosé from Provence. Relax and enjoy the flowing of the river, the afternoon sun and listen to him read poetry lovingly in my ear. Well, the weather put paid to all that. Torrential rain and heavy low cloud, mist and showers followed us from Cherbourg to Biarritz, here, they said the weather had been bad for several months! It was hard to believe. I did manage to get on the bike a few times and twice with The Man, so all was not lost but what a disappointment. This blog post has been a long time coming and I’ve got no man here to check for mistakes. He’ll read it later and no doubt be emailing comments or writing them in the comments section below. We can’t all be perfect though can we? (I fear some of the French spelling could be suspect). Anyway, take it or leave it, I won’t be offended.

first ride out Biarritz

First Time Out on the bikes – Biarritz (nice château in the background – our home for two nights – see photos below)

We did stay in some beautiful hotels and some not so good but the accommodation, on the whole, ranged from comfortable to luxurious and as you’ll see by the photos it didn’t rain ALL the time.

We travelled from, Cherbourg to Vannes, then on to La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Biarritz, Burgairalles, Vaison-La- Romaine, where The Man cycled up Mont Ventoux three times from three different start points on three consecutive days — Chapeau! (that’s what they say in the cycling world apparently). After Provence, we headed to Bourges, Saumur and finally St Malo where I left him in the drizzle and mist to cycle his way back down through France to Nice. (Mad or what?) I drove back on my own to Cherbourg where I caught the 18.30 ferry to Poole and home to Dorset before midnight.

I’ve picked a few photos from each place and given a little narrative to accompany some of them. We had great food, wonderful wine, visited many interesting little towns and loved it all — in between the rain. Enjoy.

The Streets of Vannes — our first stop. Nice hotel with plenty of parking. A galette for supper, quick breakfast the next morning and back on the road.

La Rochelle — Lovely, I enjoyed this town and the evening stayed fine for us. We managed somehow to eat lunch and dinner which we don’t often do but both were most enjoyable. But with only a one night stop there wasn’t enough time to really explore.

 

Bordeaux. Stunning Cathedral and the Buildings of the City are uniform in colour and architecture.  I found it a little overwhelming, so many people. No parking at our hotel and we had to park the car in an underground car-park and walk. Which, is okay but not ideal. Things were a little tense in the car with me driving and Geoff navigating via the satnav and google maps but we made it without coming to blows. We had a good walk round in the evening but I was happy to leave and move on in the morning.

Beautiful Biarritz

It was very wet on arrival at this gorgeous hotel, we were early and our room wasn’t ready but they welcomed us into the house and we sat in the sitting room to have a snack. I took the opportunity to drink a glass of rosé and tried hard not to be too miserable about the weather. We drove into Biarritz for supper but as it was a wet evening we didn’t spend any time looking around. Another time perhaps. I did like the place.

The Hotel Chateau de Clare de Lune Click to view

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Biarritz Bike Ride

We cycled from our hotel to Anglet and then along the coast to Bidart and back to the hotel. Negotiating some pretty steep hills to get us up from the beach and onto the higher coastal road. Thank goodness for my battery.  I don’t know how Geoff does it, must be in the thighs.

We stayed in a small town called Brugairolles whilst visiting friends who have a house in Cailhau, both villages are close to Carcassone, but we didn’t visit this time as we’d not been impressed on our last visit. The landlady at the B&B was very sweet and couldn’t do enough for us, but she was unable to give us a key and waited up for us to come home. We were very late the first night and felt like naughty boarding school children when she opened the door to let us in!

Mont Ventoux

It’s all about The Man and why not? I was very proud of him cycling three times up this amazing mountain which features frequently in the Tour de France. It’s 21k (approximately) of cycling uphill and then zooming down the other side. At the top, it can be cold, 9deg on one day when it was 25deg at the bottom. He set out to do it and he achieved it. Well done Geoff! I only drove up once and that was enough. The other two occasions I met him at the bottom.

While Geoff cycled I explored the area around Mont Ventoux visiting the towns of Sault and Malaućene.

Sault — a lovely town in the centre of the lavender growing area. We were a bit too early in the year to get the whole experience but I would like to go back when the fields are in full bloom. July/August I think.

Main Street on a Saturday in Malaućene. . .I bought some local strawberries from smiley man and then thought the lady at the other stall might be a bit upset (didn’t want to mess with her) so I bought cherries too.

Aurel Village - lovely

On my way back to collect Geoff I passed through Aurel a delightful hamlet

washing

I also visited the launderette !!!

As a treat we stayed in Le Beffroi in Vaison-La-Romaine for our last night in Provence – it was beautiful, check it out here.

Onwards — to the Centre of France and Bourges…long drive but worth it.

Hotel de Panette Probably one of our favourite hotels. Lovingly restored and they’re still working on it. Click here to take a look at their website.

The photo below is the main door to the hotel and their next project is to restore it to its former glory — you can make a financial contribution if you like 🙂

door to hotel

More of Bourges — click on a photo to see caption

laundrette again

Oh…and I went to the launderette again…

Our last proper stop-over was Saumur and I loved it. The sun shone (a bit) I went for a bike ride to find the Cadre Noir de Saumur (it’s all about horses) and we went for the longed-for cycle ride along the Loire Valley for 36k. Great apart from where the river had flooded the cycle path and it turned into a kind of obstacle course with The Man carrying the bikes up the thirty-nine steps (with a little help from me when it was my bike).

Our Bike Ride along the Loire

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My visit to the Cadre Noir de Saumur is worthy of a blog of its own but I’ll just leave you with these few photos. I spent a wonderful hour and a half looking around. It’s the National Riding School of France and the students, masters, grooms, helpers, in fact, all of the members of this unique school seem to be genuine horse loving people. The horses live a life of hard work and pleasurable relaxation. They have every facility that any equine could need. Then, at the end of their working life, they’re sold on for only around 1000 euro but they must go to a good home where they will have an easy retirement. They check every year to be sure they are being well cared for. Ahh… isn’t that lovely?

Saumur Hotel Château Bouvet Ladubay and a few shots of Saumur

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And finally, St Malo where we stayed in the old town. A wonderful example of a fortified city. The satnav refused to find the road where our hotel was situated and as we wound our way through the narrow one-way streets it was easy to see why. Rabbit warren doesn’t even come close.  The evening we arrived the weather was not too bad but the morning when Geoff set off on his bike ride was cloudy, misty, dull and disappointing. What a shame.

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I said goodbye to The Man and sent him on his way. I drove to Mont St Michel but the carparks were enormous, full and a queue a kilometre long so I began to wind my way towards Cherbourg and stopped on the way to admire the windmill and view the mount in the mist in the distance.

bye bye GB and lads

BYE BYE, YOU MAD LOT! St Malo to Nice June 2018 

Mont St Michel and the Little Windmill 

coming home

Land Ho! Dorset Here I come…

I took so many photos it was hard to choose which ones to upload and even harder to edit and in the end, I confused myself. So If you see one that is in the wrong place just keep it to yourself and bear with me. Bye for now.

Note Number 55…If you can’t beat ’em Join ’em…

bikers

The Man and I in a few years time…

I have succumbed, I have given in, it was not my intention EVER to say yes but I have…and now, I am the proud owner of a bicycle … it is an E-bike which means it has a battery and can help me up the hills. Without this I would definitely not have said yes. Since we relocated to the UK from Italy, a couple of years ago, The Man has been cycling mad. This year he has planned many long, day rides (100 – 200k) and a big ride from St Malo to Nice in June (fifteen days I think) We are leaving on the ferry from Poole at the end of May, driving around France staying one, two, three nights here there and everywhere and he plans to ride almost every morning to keep up the fitness before the big ride. I’m going to abandon him and leave him to cycle across France and I’ll collect him from Bristol airport a couple of weeks later. I don’t think I’ll be attempting anything too adventurous on my bicycle, but you never know.

Jpeg waiting

‘When we’re in France you can walk the dog and I’ll ride the bike, I’ll be back by lunchtime and then we can do whatever you like,’ he said.

I wasn’t so sure about this arrangement and the dog didn’t look too happy about it either. I could tell what she was thinking.

‘I don’t mind being in the car for a few days then stopping in one place for a month where I can lay in the sun and chill. But, stop, start, stop, start every other day and only putting my paws on terra firma for a maximum of three days in one place does not sound like fun for me.’

dog thinking

Jpeg…’thinking’ 

 

I took her advice and booked her into the kennels for 19 days — not sure that was quite what she had in mind.

kennels

I’ve been out on my bike several times and I love it. I’m not hooked (yet) and I’m not out there trying to win any Strava segments or be Queen of the Dorset hills, but I’m happy to pedal along and zap up the power when I need it. The battery only works if you pedal, so you can never just sit there and do nothing, unless you’re going downhill of course. I’ve been shopping a couple of times and have to carry stuff home in a back pack — but, not for long, the panniers have been ordered. Not exactly the same as the ones below as mine will be blue.

bike panniers

 

I cannot wait to get to France and cycle along the Loire Valley, stop in a beautiful place and wait for The Man to join me (as I can get up the hills faster than him) for a picnic, which I will have transported.  I will lay back on the grass, snooze a bit and be inspired to write — I hope.

The dog, may not get off so lightly. I’m investigating the ‘harness and lead’ for bike riders so she can run along beside me. She doesn’t know what she’s in for!

 

My bike is a Volt Pulse LS Step Through E-bike from Volt bikes at London Bridge. I think I got the last one! LOVE IT.

Note Number 54. . .A Month to Catch Up

I knew it had been a while since I posted but could not believe it was the beginning of March, when we had all that ice and snow, that I last updated my blog. Well, it would be thoroughly boring to take you through the four weeks with a day blow by blow account so I’ll precis the 2nd March to the 30th and we’ll go into detail for the last couple of days.

Most of March was spent avoiding the rain, snow and ice, walking the dog in a sodden field or delivering The Man to outlying places in Dorset so that he could cycle back. Sunday 25th he fought his way from Wareham to Axminster via Poole and Weymouth and back to Wareham, 206 kilometres to be exact. Why? I have no idea but I was proud of him even though he was completely wrecked when I collected him at 8.45pm after 13 hours on the road, (including a couple of breaks.)

I have been writing plenty. My fingers are worn down as are the computer keys but it may be to no avail. I’ve performed my poem Waiting at Apothecary Words in Bridport and I entered the Flash Fiction Slam at Bridport Arts Centre — I wasn’t placed but it’s the taking part that counts. A friend of mine won the people’s vote, so that was enough for me.

Now for the Easter Weekend: We drove up from Dorset on Friday — the traffic going our way was not too bad but the poor holiday punters travelling west, were in slow, sometimes stationary traffic. The rain, however still poured on we poor travellers, whichever direction we were taking.

longdays

Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville 

Friday evening I had booked tickets for A Long Days Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill. I knew that it would be a long production and I should have paid more for the seats. The leg room in the Wyndham’s Theatre Grand Circle was akin to a Ryanair aeroplane. But, the play was excellent and the three-and-a-half hours fairly flew by. Lesley Manville as the morphine-adicted Mary was superb and Jeremy Irons played her actor husband whose penny pinching ways contribute to the angst and emotional turmoil of the family. You can read a review of the prodution here  . I was in awe of the sheer volume of diaglogue and on the one hand I was inspired to rush home and write a play, but, on the other hand I acknowledged the certain fact that I would never be able to produce such an eloquent piece of work.

title

Saturday we visited The Foundling Museum, I had wanted to go there since I saw in mentioned on the BBC programme Stitch in Time  when they had talked about mothers leaving a swatch of material with their baby when left at the Foundling Hospital. This little token would enable the mother to be reunited with their child in the future should they be in a position to do so.  The museum gives an insight to the lives of babies and children from 1739 – 1936 who were either abandoned in the streets or handed in to the hospital to be cared for. Now the hospital is now run in the form of the children’s charity Corum. Captain Thomas Corum was the founder of the hospital back in 1739. As is usual with these museums it has stirred in me a need to find out more about the stories of the children who were left here. It is heart wrenching to read the book of billets, (of which there are many) each billet is the admission slip for a foundling and they make sorry reading, just a number, date, age (if known), a few bare facts, a token, if there is one, attached to the page. I need to read more about it and will be searching for books to give me more information.

 

The association has a strong connection to The Arts, music, art, literature etc., with many well-known artists, writers and musicians donating their work to the foundling hospital to be used as a means of generating money and interest. Handel was a particularly ardent fan of the hospital and not only did he leave them a substantial sum of money on his death he also left the manuscript of the Messiah and all rights to it.

There are several displays in the museums and I was particularly drawn to Labelled,  A display exploring young people’s experiences of being labelled as a ‘child in care’. These were portrayed by means of a name tape in a child’s shirt with derogatory and hurtful comments made by bullies, teachers and others in charge.  Clever idea.  I was also intrigues by, Mead’s Mysterious Medicines created by some children from Great Ormond Street Hospital. You can read a little about these and the other installations here.

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In the basement of the museum was an exhibition of the poetry book The Lost Words I was particularly interested in this because I bought the book at Christmas, but I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read it through properly yet, I will now though. What inspirational poems and illustrations. If you can get to the exhibition then you won’t be disappointed. If you can’t, then just buy the book. It’s beautiful.

the lost words

Last night we ate Vietnamese food at the Cây-Tre in Soho. Buzzing atmosphere and fab food. Loved it! We finished our evening back at our London base with a game of Cribbage…The Man won. How very annoying. I’ll get him this evening though!

Vietnamese

One of many dishes of Vietnamese food savoured on Saturday night. 

Note Number 53…Feed the Birds…It’s all About the Snow…And Ice…

Fed up with twitter, Facebook and Instagram with nothing but #snow #ice #weather? Me too. But…I had to jump on the bandwagon.

frozen field

I took the dog in the field this morning but it was like a frozen lake…she could only slip about even though she was trying to run. In the end she walked in my footprints. 

Here she is on the left paws on top of the snow then in my footprints…poor doggy 

‘Feed the birds!’ everyone is shouting. So I thought I should. I purchased a couple of fat bird balls (no rude comments please) in the farm shop yesterday morning and gallantly stepped out of my doorway this morning to place one on the garden table. I didn’t even get further than a metre, down I went, falling on my back into the icy snow, banging my head on the stone doorstep. What an idiot! But how wonderful to live in this little hamlet in Dorset. I phoned the neighbour, only because I thought I should tell someone what had happened in case I passed out. Not only did one neighbour come round the others came too, when they heard the news. I hope the bloody birds eat the f*****g food. Not seen a solitary one go for it yet. Perhaps I should have served coffee too?

feed the birds

Cartoon thanks to Seppo Leinonen Sepponet

 

 

 

 

Note Number 52…Waiting…

 

 

Here is a little poem I put together while I was walking the dog and waiting for her to finish looking into the distance at. . . nothing. It made me think about how much of my life I spend waiting for someone or something. When you’ve read this you can add your own ‘waiting for…’ in the comments.

 

I’m always waiting
waiting for the dog
waiting for the kettle to boil
for the washing machine to finish, for a cake to bake
how much time do I spend waiting?
waiting for the bathroom to be free
waiting for my money to get to the bank
I’ve always waited for that, first birthday gifts, then salary, now pension
I’ve never waited at the altar
even though I’ve been married three times
I’ve waited in the courtroom for a divorce

waiting at the cemetery to watch a burial
waiting to spread the ashes of a loved one
stood, waiting in line to buy a stamp
waited for people to come through the barrier
at the airport or the station
waited for a taxi to come along

Waiting, always waiting
I’m always waiting for my turn,
at the shops, at the doctor’s, at the poetry evening,
at a dance competition when I was younger
for my husband to come back from a bike ride now
I’ve waited to be served, with tea, coffee, cold drink
wine, water, snacks, food
waiting for a letter to come
waiting for an email to tell me good news
waiting for my next birthday
waiting at a junction

waiting for a baby to be born, waiting for a relative to die
we’re born waiting.
pausing, postponing, lingering, hanging around, marking time,
killing time when we should be living time
but
we’re waiting

waiting. . .

always waiting

 

 

Ninette Hartley © February 2018

waiting for computer

This is The Man…every day! 

 

 

Note Number 51…Guest Blog from The Man…

The Man needs no introduction…read this, it’s from his Strava ride notes…I think he should be a bike blogger don’t you?

Grand Balon

You’ve got the bloody thing taking up space in the spare bedroom, it’s raining, why aren’t you on it?

ahhh ma cherie I murmured, that same thought crossed my mind not a nanosecond ago, but I am of course most grateful for your kind words of encouragement …

with a patently false, devil may care expression attached to the bon visage, I creaked my way up the stairs and proceeded to get it on!

But before you get on it, you need, a bottle, a towel, your expensive shoes with the pro cleats, 2 new batteries for the Garmin Vectors (shoulda changed them last time) the laptop, two boxes to stand the laptop on, the bedside cabinet, and the wifi booster thing.

Suitably armed, climb aboard and get on with it – well not quite yet because the reason that you aren’t getting any resistance even in the big gear, is that you didn’t clip the wheel to the flywheel before you started, so, climb off do that, get back on and pedal … Oh shit I forgot to start the f***ing video of the German chap riding Liege B Liege with his mates, in the rain, last year, so I have to hang out over the handlebars holding on with one hand and attempt to fire up the laptop with the other, find Favourites, click on the vid, sit back down and …. Christ! I think I might have twisted my knee doing that …..

and so it went on – but I did eventually get in the zone and managed to crank out an hour’s worth at 30kph, so that’s only just over 200km of the LBL still do do AND IT’S BLOODY HILLY by the look of the video, yer man on screen was pedalling single figure kph for lots of it and the profile is very jagged – hmmm – better think seriously about the lardshedding eh!

Perhaps not today though as one of LBN’s exquisite Thai green curries is on the lunch menu …

 

 

Note Number 50…It’s Always Easier for Men…

Apologies in advance for embarrassing any members of my family with this little post and if you don’t like discussing anything of a delicate nature then don’t read on.

beautiful day

Generally the roads around here are lined with impassable hedges…hmmm

I don’t wish to stir up the gender equality debate, but I’m sorry, it’s a FACT — no fake news on this blog — a man can take a pee in several other places rather than a loo, far more easily than a woman can — and what’s more, it’s accepted.

The pee debate for me began when a male friend of mine (who shall be nameless but lives in Burton Bradstock) posted on Facebook about seeing two woman on a country road squatting down, baring their backsides, to pee on the side of the road.  They were, I told him, obviously desperate and he had no idea how difficult it can be sometimes, for a woman to find anywhere to ‘go’. I told him that, when I was out walking the dog, I often found it impossible to find a place where I could hide away and not to be spotted, where there would be enough room etc. If I were a man it would be so much easier. No, stinging nettles to worry about, no panic about snakes, rodents or other small wildlife, that might be lurking in the long undergrowth etc., etc., His sister was with us at the time of this discussion (she shall also be nameless, but lives in North Devon) joined in the conversation and with great gusto said, ‘Oh but you must get a Shewee!’

‘A what?’

‘It’s a gadget that you can use to have a wee like a man.’

Well, I thought, I must get one of those. So duly got on to Amazon and ordered one with a carrying box. The first time I used it, it wasn’t too bad, but it did feel very weird and there was some leakage. Also it was quite bulky to carry in my bum bag. I discussed this whole thing with another friend, (who will also be nameless but comes from Bristol). She thought it a brilliant idea for camping, walking the dog and using some unsavoury public lavatories. She of course, because she’s like that, bought a more superior one called a Whizz Freedom. It was pliable and small and comes with a discreet carrying bag rather like a pencil-case.

‘I must have one of those!’ I declared. Quickly ordered on and then I took it out on my next long dog walk.  

DISASTER!! I should have practiced with it first as I found it so pliable it wasn’t effective enough and I ended up with wet knickers and wet trousers and I was only half way round my walk! I might as well have just wet my pants! Lesson learnt, I went back to the Shewee so that I could practice with the Whizz Freedom at home.

Alas and alack…today, whilst out on my 6k walk, I inevitably needed to pee after 3k, so I went into my usual hidey-hole, which is through a gate and round the corner a little bit. I stuck my walking stick through the handle of the dog lead, so she was ‘tethered’ so to speak and prepared to pee. A few feet away on the road I had just stepped away from, a woman walked past with a dog that barked at Jpeg, who duly barked back and pulled on her lead threatening to escape! I was interrupted at the most awkward time and yet again had to walk home with my dog walking trousers soggy. I think I’m going to give up and just squat in the corner of the field and hope that the man from Burton Bradstock isn’t lurking somewhere close or out in his car disguised as a driving school instructor!

Jpeg Tethered

Jpeg, patiently waiting whilst tethered, it didn’t last…