Week 496.

Sunday, 24th June, 2018

Up early on a warm and sunny morning. Wonderful breakfast and then packed up for leaving. Out by 9.15 am and on the road to Orleans. The only problems was that, although 95% of the route was on open, clear, wonderfully flat and well maintained carraigeway, 5% involved the Paris Ringroad. We have a Garmin sat.nav. installed in our car. It is a replacement for the proprietary, Honda instrument we are used to and Garmin is absolutely dreadful. It sends us weird and less than wonderful ways that send my wife mad. Sometimes, it just loses all sense of direction at all and sits statically as I flail around the roads.

Today, as I entered the outskirts of Paris, the sat.nav. decided to both send us off the ringroad and through the centre of Paris and, when we got there and shouted at it, the sat.nav. decided to freeze altogether. As a result, we got to revisit so many of the capital’s attractions – the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elyse, etc. – at least twice before we worked out our own salvation having lost a great deal of nervous perspiration

Eventually, of course, the motorway route out presented itself and calm was restored. If anything, the drive was too quiet and beautiful. The effect was quite soporific although my wife doesn’t allow moods like that. We were certainly jolted back to reality as we negotiated the one way system of Orleans as we searched for our hotel but, once there, like giving birth (I’m told), all labour pains are forgotten. The hotel, a 4* Mercure on the banks of the Loire, is delightful. We have an excellent room with a large TV on which England score 6 goals.

View from our hotel room over the banks of the Loire.

Orleans is a lovely place to see. I didn’t realise that it was France’s second city after Paris for a long time. It was considered so important that it was heavily bombed by the Germans and had to be largely rebuilt. Many old buildings still remain and are worked in to the city’s fabric. The cathedral which is the same size as the Notre Dame is a magnificent structure that dominates the skyline. We certainly enjoyed our walk down the river bank and back through the old streets.

Old Orleans

A bottle of wine, some Brie cheese and cherry tomatoes and we felt very relaxed. All our good intentions of swimming and using the gym went out of the window and I settled for watching an excellent Columbia thrash an aggressive and poor Poland. Went to bed tired but happy.

Monday, 25th June, 2018

Lovely drive after breakfast round the pool in Orleans. Just 4hrs to Bergerac and shopping at Intermarche Hypermarket and then on to our gite in Saint-Sauveur. Boiling hot at 31C/88F with such strong sun. We unpacked and made a meal while watching Russia lose.  New places always make one tired and the complimentary red wine emphasised that. Tomorrow we will explore the vicinity.

Got the priorities right!

We have met our hosts. The owner is from Warrington and worked in  ….  Oldham. Unbelievable coincidence.

Tuesday, 26th June, 2018

A day which started hot and just got hotter. There was no movement of air as a strong sun beat down from peerless skies. We thought we would go down and explore the local village – St. Sauveur – first thing this morning. It didn’t take us long because there is virtually nothing there. A few houses, a church, a very old infants school, a boulangerie, a boucherie and a carpark with half a dozen locals crowding round three vans selling vegetables, wine and fish. We were told that they spend every Tuesday morning in this carpark and, today, we had struck lucky. We really had.

For the past three or so months in UK, we have been unable to source fresh, swordfish steaks which we both love. As soon as we approached the poissonnerie, we spotted huge  steaks of very fresh swordfish at an excellent price. That had to be our meal for the day. We had packed our ‘second best griddle’ for coming away and it was put to good use as we cooked our fish out in the baking sun. It was strange but it continued to get hotter as the day matured and topped 32C/90F at 9.00 pm this evening. We decided that lots of time swimming in the pool would be a good idea and that was our major exercise for the day.

Wednesday, 27th June, 2018

Up early on a very hot morning. Liquid breakfast – orange juice and tea – and then out to the city of Bergerac which is about 10 mins drive away. We had checked car parks and post codes for the sat. Nav.. Nothing is left to chance. The parking is on the banks of the River Dordogne but, by the time we got there it was full. We searched, drove further out and managed to squeeze in a roadside spot. Walking back along the river side towards the old town, I took this classic, cliché shot of the bridge over the river.

We walked on into the old town and the covered market. We actually managed to buy large bunches of fresh Dill and Tarragon which cannot be found in the supermarkets. Outdoor market stalls were scattered all around the old quarter and, in spite of the strong sun and infernal heat of 32C/90F, we stayed all morning.

Drove ‘home’ in time to watch Prime Minister’s Questions at 1.00 (CET) and then go for an arduous but delicious swim in the pool. Pauline had marinated chicken boneless thighs with garlic, lemon and tarragon and she griddled it outside to be eaten with salad. I then settled down to glory in the thrashing of Germany. What a good day.

Thursday, 28th June, 2018

Up early on this hot and sultry day. We drove about 15 miles to the old, Bastide town of Eymet. A sleepy, rather decaying little place of medieval buildings and narrow, hot streets, Eymet was preparing for market day with stalls sprawling right across the central square and out into the side streets.

We arrived before 9.00 am and stayed until around mid day before driving on to the supermarket to do a shop and back home to cook Cod Provençal which we ate with griddled cauliflower. Later we did a long – around 50 mins – swim and another walk up towards the local chateau. Another really enjoyable day in Europe.

Friday, 29th June, 2018

Up at 6.30 am on a hot and sticky morning. We were going out early to a place called Sainte-Aulaye which is about 40 miles north west of here. My friend and former colleague, Brian (also former member of Greater Manchester Murder Squad), bought an extensive but run down property with lots of land in Sainte-Aulaye about 10 years ago but, after doing lots of work on it, he reluctantly sold it.

It was quite a demanding drive along very narrow, poor quality roads bounded by agricultural land and forestry. It was very hot when we got there and there was little to see. It is too layed back for its own good. It was lunchtime when we got there but, with little signs of food, we turned round and drove back.

Sainte-Aulaye

By the time we got back and had done a quick shop en route, it was 2.30 pm and still 32C/90F. We were starving having just eaten one banana since getting up in the morning but decided to fight off our hunger and do a strong, 30 mins swim before preparing food.

Really lucky to have this.

Salmon with pesto topping was griddled outside and eaten with salad. Pauline then put a load of washing into the machine and we went for a long walk. It was a hot and sweaty affair producing more washing. It’s looking like being a long, hot night.

Saturday, 30th June, 2018

Well, the last day of June has been an exceedingly hot one topping out at 34C/93 F without a breath of wind. We went shopping for some chicken, langoustines and salad and came home to sit in and around the pool for the rest of the day. Pauline did wash and dry the sheets and some clothes but the only other activity was grilling duck breasts cut into strips and marinated in lemon and garlic. With fresh salad, it was a meal to remember. The washing machine is in the summer kitchen which is delightfully ‘open’ rather in the manner we are considering in Sussex.

View from the Summer Kitchen to the Pool.

I watched a couple of memorable football matches which ended in Argentina and Portugal going out but the standard was, generally, good. We’ve already planned tomorrow. We are going out early to make the short drive to Issigeac where a thriving market sets up on Sunday mornings and has done for centuries, apparently. We will try to get out for 8.00 am in order to find parking when we arrive.