I did a lot of driving over the last two weeks. For the interest of everyone, here is a rough break down of my route. Each full stop represents at least one night’s sleep:
Surrey to Bristol. Bristol to Launceston. Launceston to Plymouth. (Ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff.) Roscoff to La Chatre-sur-le-Loir (via Rennes and Le Mans). La Chatre-sur-le-Loir to Nogent-le-Rotrou. Nogent-le-Rotrou to La Chatre-sur-le-Loir.
[Then we had the wedding]
La Chatre-sur-le-Loir to Nogent-le-Rotrou to La Rochelle (via Tours and Poitiers). La Rochelle to Nogent-le-Rotrou (via Marais Poitevin). Nogent-le-Rotrou to La Chatre-sur-le-Loir. La Chatre-sur-le-Loir to St. Malo, Ferry from St. Malo to Portsmouth, and Portsmouth to Surrey and home!
So a lot of driving backwards and forwards. So what about the tourist bits?
I spent two nights in La Rochelle with a couple of friends. The first night was spent in a little studio apartment called Bar de l’Hôtel de Ville. As far as I’m concerned this was a posh title for student-grade accommodation. In fact it was worse than anywhere I lived as a student (and if you knew me back then you’ll know that this takes some beating!). I generally slept badly on this trip, and the night spent in this hole was probably the worst of the lot!
I rose nice and early the following day and booked us all into another hotel down on the old harbour front called Hôtel Saint Jean d’Acre. I would say this was comparable to a travel lodge, though it cost a bit more. Unfortunately my plan for sleep failed and I had a pretty rough night’s sleep once again. However the potential was certainly there this time.
While in La Rochelle we ate and drank in pleasant quantities, went on a couple of boat trips, and walked around part of the town. Our activities were nothing to write home about, but we had a good (and fairly amusing) time none the less.
We drove back to Nogent-le-Rotrou via the Marais Poitevin (Venise Verte or Green Venice). Tip: if you go here don’t follow the signs to the bird centre. Not unless you really like birds.
I’m sure this part of France is lovely – it surely sounds good from the tourist book write-ups! I have a feeling we didn’t see the best of it though, and two hours probably isn’t enough time anyway. The idea of punting around a French Venice rather appealed to us. Regrettably we only found some tree and weed-chocked streams. Not what I had expected. I think this is somewhere you need to spend more time though in to get the most from it – and it’s definitely somewhere I want to head back to.
After the drive back to Nogent and my first great nights sleep, I spent the day with one of my friends meeting family, eating, and then looking around one the local castles: Château Saint-Jean. I’m sorry to say we had eaten and drunk too much at lunch before hand though, so after a quick look around we ended up sleeping on the grass. It was a nice end to a good day though.
So that was really all the tourist stuff I did. Not a lot really. I think I made up for this though by meeting lots of great French people. They are a funny bunch the French: They don’t usually treat tourists especially well, but if you’re a friend of the family then they can be an extremely pleasant, generous and welcoming bunch. Everywhere we went we were given drinks and asked if we would stay for lunch or dinner. This is the way you really get a feel for a foreign society, and this was the part of the trip I enjoyed the most (apart from two very dear friends getting married, of course…).
OK, so what about the photos? They’re on their way – please bear with me!