In the blink of an eye

Two weeks holiday in France gone in the blink of an eye. One minute I was there, and the next I was back at work. All those tomorrows turned into yesterdays. All those planned routes ridden.

So that all the days would not merge into one fuzzy memory I kept a diary. This would let me relive our trip from the deep depression of my desk. Carla took it even worse than me. We have been back almost two weeks, and she’s still not back!

Saturday
After an early start we called in at Andrews to say hello, drop some engine oil off, and have coffee. We arrived at Dover with an hour and a half to spare (thanks Carla). The traffic had been lighter than she expected. Anyway, the Dover ferry port is such a nice place to while away some time.

The boat was very quiet, plenty of room. I had coffee and carrot cake. We bought a litre of Teachers, and a bottle of wine from the onboard shop. We drove on down to Chartres, it was cold but sunny. Carla took the wheel for the last two hours while I took a little snifter of Teachers, and navigated with my new GPS toy. Arrived at our hotel around about eight thirty. After a good shower (Grohle), we cracked open the wine and feasted on sandwiches while watching some French TV. By nine thirty we were gone.

Sunday
Following a good nights sleep (well I did), we were down at breakfast when they opened at eight, and on our way by 9. Carla did most of the driving while I played with my GPS, and took pictures. Arrived at Noisetieres at 12:30, which was pretty much spot on to what the GPS predicted! House was OK apart from a dead owl which had shit everywhere in the living room before finally dying. It must have come down the chimney as all the doors were locked. There were marks on all the unshuttered windows where the poor thing had tried to make its escape. It must have been an awful way to die. We reckon it had not long been dead. If we had come maybe a day or so earlier we could have set it free, although the shock of it’s ordeal may have killed it anyway.

It was a beautiful day, and after clearing up and unpacking we had some lunch on the patio. Later we went for a gentle bike ride into St Junien. It was really warm, and we both cursed for being overdressed. However, as we sat in the sun in the town square we could see a bank of cloud building out to the southwest. By the time we had ridden home it had clouded over, and by the time we had dinner it was raining and cold. With no shops open, wine was denied, so we made do with a snifter or two before bed.

Monday
Dawned cold and very wet. We headed off to the supermarket for supplies and some shopping therapy. We bought some top nosh, these Frenchies know what food is all about. We had coffee and tart in the restaurant before heading back. It had brightened up a bit. Sunny spells, but a very cold wind. While Carla got stuck into the gardening, I played photographer. We had Macarel for dinner, with a nice bottle of plonk. In bed for 10.

Tuesday
Desperate to get out on my bike, Meteo threatening thunder pm, I told Carla I was going pre-breakfast for a couple of hours. She decided to grab a bowl of cereal and come with me. We did an honest two hours hard work, taking in one of the highest landmarks in the area, before hammering all the way down to the banks of the Viene. It was very cold, and windy, but once we got going it was great, fresh and invigorating.

When we got back Carla made me a Kings breakfast of Bacon Eggs and Mushroom on toast, with a cup of Frances finest coffee. We spent most of the afternoon in the garden, with Carla doing the majority of the work. Later in the afternoon I plotted tomorrow’s bike route and loaded it onto my GPS.

Wednesday
Loaded our bikes into the car and headed of to the Mt Blonds area. This was too be our second ride in the area as we were here last September. We followed a simple road route as the ground was so wet. However, we did make small excursions off road when we saw things that interested us. The weather was great apart form one very cold shower. The route was great, saw some fab countryside.

Back at the car after about an hour and a half. Carla drove home while I rode back. Seemed like a great idea, and at first I was flying along, but the last five miles finished me off (it’s all uphill), and I limped home just as it started to rain. Carla had prepared a super lunch, and by the time we had scoffed, the sun was out again. Carla went into town leaving me to sit in the sun on the patio and watch the garden grow. Carla came back with some lovely plants, and a wheelbarrow (sort of). We sat in the garden with a cup of tea that lasted well over an hour, most excellent. The lambs chasing each other around in the next field provided some entertainment. A swallow visited the pond. Fish casserole for dinner. Oh, and Carla got me a couple of cans of beer from town. Do I live the life of Riley or what?

Thursday
There was a thick fog when we woke up, it had cleared by 10:30, so we decided to ride into town to get some bread and have a coffee. We dressed for the cold descent, but by the time we reached St Junien we were far too hot. Gloves and scarves went in the rucksack. First stop was the flower shop so that Carla could speak to her new friend Anne (who keeps selling her flowers), after buying a large plant, and arranging to pick it up later we bought bread, and went in search of a Cafe. We found a very French one at the bottom of the town, near the station. By now it was very warm, and as we sat in the sun with our coffee it was so warm I took my tights and jacket off. It was going to be warm on the climb back home, so we rode with bare legs (first time this year), no gloves, and jacket undone at the front.

We had lunch on the patio in shorts and T-shirt. After lunch Carla got on with some gardening while I got on my road bike and went for a nice ride around Cagnet le Foret. I haven’t been on my road bike for some time, it was great to zip along at roadie speed, and fantastic to fly up the climbs with so little effort, but it was so uncomfortable. After and hour and a half my dodgy shoulder was very sore. I stuck it out for two hours. When I got back Carla was still gardening, and John (Satellite man), had been and put our satellite dish up. We could now watch endless channels of English tele if we wanted to (We didn’t).

We popped into town to pick up Carla’s plant and get some vino. For dinner we had Champers and Quayle eggs followed by Tuna salad. Oh, and I had a couple of glasses of wine and a tin of beer, before falling asleep on the settee.

Friday
A right Royale Rando! We rode for hours on and off road. Found some fantastic stuff around Cagnet Le Foret. The wild flowers along the roadsides were stunning. Some of it was a bit muddy, but considering the showers we have had, it was pretty good. Some areas will definitely have to be visited again. All through the ride the temperature had warmed, and by the time we got home Carla’s bike was festooned with all the things she had taken off, tights, overshoes, gloves, scarf. Got a great picture of her riding down the Pave from St Auvent. After lunch I made a start on the hedge cutting. We worked hard all afternoon, and rewarded ourselves with a bought Pizza, and a glass of plonk. In bed by 9:30pm.

Saturday
I plotted a route into my GPS and went to try it on my own. I had spotted a large lake on the GPS map, and as the GPS map don’t show much detail thought it must be pretty big to warrant a mention. Anyway, plotted a nice route through the lanes. A hilly route, but all routes around here are fairly hilly. Arrived at the lake after about and hour. There was a path along its shore, and I started to ride that, but after 15mins I could see on the GPS that I had gone nowhere. Decided to retrace my steps (a good chance to try out the ‘track back’ function). Came back along the roads in more or less the same direction that I had gone out. Stopped to take a couple of pictures of the Chateau in Rochechuart.

Home for lunch. Sardines and salad, with a nice cup of tea avec snifter. Après Midi we drove to the Ambazac mountains to visit our friends Paul and Hazel. The plan was that we would go for an evening ride. The weather was lovely. Paul and Hazel were late back, and we decided it was too late to ride. We stayed overnight intending to get out early in the morning. It started raining during the night, and never stopped!

Sunday
Spent the morning looking at pictures of how P&H’s place was when they first moved in. They have done a lot of work on it, and the rooms they have done are excellent. Paul has great plans for a new kitchen and dinning room this summer. Drove home in the afternoon, spent a couple of hours at home before setting of to visit Mark and Wendy (are we socialites or what?). Had a nice evening with Mark and Wendy, and Thierry their 2 year old son. Carla drove home après midnight, while I dozed in the passenger seat.

Monday
And still it rains! Carla and I made further investigations into why the bath doesn’t drain very well. We took various pipes and joints to pieces, all seemed clear. We think we have tracked it down to the septic tank. It looks pretty damn full. We were pondering what to do, while watching the pond when we spotted a large mammal furtling about. It looked like a cross between a rat and a guinea pig, about the size of a small cat! We watched it for some time, and I tried to get a picture of it with my camera. Later on a friend told us they were quite common. Went to the Marie, and got telephone numbers for septic tank emptying geezers. Carla did an exceptional job on the telephone contacting a Vindage. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow afternoon to see if she has been successful (that’s the agreed time of the Rendezvous.

The rain continued on and off. We went to the hardware store in Rochechouart for a treat. We came out with a broom, a thing that you light that cleans the chimney, a couple of knives (very French ones), some secateurs, and a wire brush! Back at the ranch we did some light gardening until dinnertime. Had to do a pond rescue after I inadvertedly threw the rake into the pond. Tuna steak for dinner.

Tuesday
Dawned very grey, and although the weather forecast predicts a good day, light rain falls. The plan is to work in the garden in the morning, then for me to go bike riding in the afternoon while Carla waits to get the septic emptied! It’s just the way it worked out, OK?

The weather started to improve, and by lunchtime I was on my way to ride in the Ambazac mountains (again). Using my GPS to make the return journey from Sunday was easy. In fact it was so easy I probably drove a little bit more ‘Fenchie stylee’ than I should have. I arrived at Paul’s place, and we were out on our bikes straight away. I spent the next three hours riding some of the most ball breaking trails I have ever ridden. Very tough around here. Yes there were some good bits, with fantastic views, but for the most part it was just too hard. Paul has a plan to organise some biking holidays next year, and he’s gonna have to sort out some easier routes if he wants his PG riders to be happy. Had a quick cuppa and some biscuits before heading back to Carla with her empty septic and clean grease trap.

Wednesday
Although the septic had been in real need of emptying, as did the grease trap, the water from the bathroom still didn’t go down the plughole any faster. We set about further exploration of the plumbing/drainage system. After lifting inspection hatches galore, sticking my head down the septic, shoving hose pipes up this and down that, flushing, listening, measuring, we were still no closer.

Carla went into town to do some shopping while I continued to investigate. My last ditch attempt – block all of the vents off in the bathroom, fill the bath with water, and allow the weight of a full bath of water to do the trick. I stuffed cloths and towels in the vents on the washbasin and bidet, then filled the bath right to the brim, hoping that the weight off the water would not collapse the legs on the bath, pulled the plug and waited. The water ‘went for it’, and I could here its progress along the pipe work in the cellar/garage. I crossed my fingers that the pipe work would be OK. Anyway, the result was that the water drained properly, and the grease trap was fuller, confirming that that is where it goes. We chatted about the workings of the septic, and plumbing over lunch (yum yum). Après-midi we worked on the garden. The weather was glorious. Had a little hour bike ride before dinner. All was well, and the weather forecast for our last two days was superb.

Thursday
The start of the big clean up. We need to leave the house spotless for our PGs, but having lived in it for a couple of weeks we have stuff everywhere, and although not dirty everything needs cleaning. Carla concentrated on the house while I concentrated on the Garage, car, and garden. The weather was very hot. Had a superb 2hr ride in the early evening. I felt fantastic. Did I mention the feeding frenzy at the pond? And Carla crawling about on all fours trying to get pictures of frogs?

Friday
Last chance for a ride as we have to leave this afternoon. We were out very early, and the weather was beautiful. A perfect spring morning. By putting all the good bits together from previous days rides we managed to do three hours that was mostly off road. I just did not want it to end, and as time ran out on us I rode slower and slower savouring every last pedal turn. Two weeks gone in the blink of and eye.
See some pictures here.

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