Lazy Sunday. Taking things easy after yesterday's exhausting trip to Sepmes, a little village about 30 miles south of Tours. Went there to pick up the car I'd seen last week (see earlier 'Cars' posting). Booked the bus and rail tickets a couple of days earlier and made the difficult decision to leave the dogs on their own for what I hoped would be about 13 hours. Or possibly longer. Or maybe even longer if anything went wrong. All very worrying.
Left home at 6.30am (5.30 UK time) and caught the 6.55 coach to Montlucon. Set the alarm for 5am, but woke up at 3.30. Gave the dogs a quick walk. If I went back to bed, I ran the risk of kipping through the alarm so I stayed up. It's tricky filling in time in the dark hours before dawn. Time just drags. And the dogs knew something was up which made things worse. Leaving them behind and walking out the door was tough, but it had to be done.
Arrived at Montlucon at around 8.20 after a sleepy coach trip as night gave way to a grey dawn. Had a coffee, a croissant and a fag at the caff opposite the railway station. Jumped on the Paris train about half an hour later and grabbed a window seat. Snoozed as the train followed a canal (river?) going north. Rolling hills turned to boring flatlands so I dug my book out of the rucksack and had a read. Then some bottled water and a sarnie (my early rise had led to being properly prepared for a long journey - rarely happens!).
Hopped off the train at Vierzon just before 11. Train to Tours wasn't 'til 12.40ish so I had time to kill. Ambled around the main street. Depressing. Shops closed down and up for rent. Maybe the recession. Or maybe the big supermarchés on the edge of town had put them out of business. Or maybe Vierzon is just one of those nowhere towns that people pass through on their way to somewhere else; a French equivalent of somewhere like Crewe, which Bill Bryson recently described as being the 'armpit of Cheshire'.
Killing time in the armpit of France ain't easy. Had three coffees in three different cafés. The third caff was a belter. Or, to be more precise, a dump. Made me laugh though. The bill for the coffee and citron syrop with water came to 3 euros. Left 4 euros (2x2 euro coins - I didn't have a 1 euro) in the bill saucer on the bar and went outside for a smoke. Brought the empties back in to pick up my 1 euro change and the saw that one of my 2 euro coins had miraculously changed into a single euro. Waitress said "thanks, money is exact" and I walked out giggling. Couldn't be arsed to argue.
With half an hour left, (how can I put this delicately?...) I needed to go to the loo for a spot of rearguard action. Thought the railway station would be as good a place as any. Found the gents, walked past the urinals and opened a door to a sit down. Trouble was, the sit down was a old-style stand up, consisting of a sort of shower tray with a hole in the middle. Being a mere novice in such matters, I didn't really know where to begin. Checked the walls for some diagramatic instruction, but there wasn't any. Determined to succeed in my mission, I took off my jacket and rucksack and prepared for a practice run. Right, logic dictates that you reverse towards the loo, put a foot on the footplate either side of the hole and let nature take its course. However, I assume that with trews and undies wrapped around ankles, one surely runs the risk of depositing into said clothing, rather than the hole. So, shoes, trews and undies would have to come off. Too much trouble, especially in a confined space. Gave it up as a challenge too far. Visited the caff opposite the station instead.
Caught the train to Tours which turned up late. Killed a bit of time by pacing up and down the Vierzon platform. Thought I'd never get out of that nowhere town. Sun came out as we headed west, following the Cher river and canal across more boring flatlands. Out came the book again. And another sarnie. After a time, the train entered the shade of some trees with loads and loads of parked cars and coaches. We stopped at a little station. Saw the sign 'Chenonceau'. The name rang a bell. Then I remembered it as being a beautiful chateau which bridged the river Cher. Georgie had dragged me there on my first trip to France years back on a motorbike. Unfortunately the chateau wasn't visible from the train so I've nicked a photo from the internet. Well worth a visit if you're up that way.
Arrived at Tours at 1.55. Now I had to get a cab to Sepmes (next train there was at 6.30ish), a journey of about 30 miles. Guessed it would cost about 50 euros. Wrong. Cost 84. Anyway, I arrived at the car dealer's at 2.40. Half an hour later I was on my way in the new dogwagon - a 1.4litre, 12valve, 1985, Honda Civic Shuttle with a low mileage of 73,000 kms (about 44,000 miles?).
Now I started worrying. Had I bought a dud? Would the engine blow up, stranding me in the middle of nowhere? If so, would the dogs survive being left on their own without grub? Needn't have worried though, the car went fine. Arrived home at 6.40. Dogs were fine too. A few puddles but no poo. Whizzed them up the Lightning Tree for a well-earned run. Not sure how they took to the Shuttle's flat rear space instead of their comfy seats in the Merc. Still, they'll have to get used it. The Merc's now a doggy-free zone and long may it stay that way.
Fish, milker, garlic......
3 days ago