Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Birthday trip

So..., longtemps no bloggeau. Come to think of it, it's over a month. No reason. Well, apart from laziness. And the fact that I started bloggeauing mainly to keep Georgie informed of goings on, but now she's out here it seems a bit silly 'cos she obviously knows what's going on. And, of course, I can't really imagine why anyone would be interested in reading about what a retired layabout gets up to out here in the backwoods of central France. Er, apart from my bro-in-law and sister who, I think, check in from time to time just to see that I/we are okay. Anyways..., Georgie has told me off for not bloggeauing and she's suggested I should do a write-up about her birthday trip a couple of weeks ago. Bit embarrassing really 'cos her special day was slightly ruined due to 1) a lack of planning, 2) a bit of a late start, 3) a bit of a row about me not making enough effort on her special day, 4) a bit of a row about map-reading, and 5) a bit of a rush due to our late start. Add to that the fact that I drove for about six hours, covered about 180 miles zig-zagging along 'B' roads and crawling up and down the snaking lanes of the Auvergne's mountain region, plus the fact that Jock was with us and had to be given a quick walk every so often to stop him from dying of boredom in the back of the car, and you probably get the picture. If we do the trip again next year, which I'd like to do, we'll hopefully be better prepared and thus make it a far more enjoyable experience. Which isn't to say we didn't enjoy it, it's just that it could have been better. But there again, let's face it, birthdays are stressful. If they're anything less than perfect, it's a disaster. And now Georgie's asked me to bloggeau about it, maybe as penance for ruining her special day. Not that I ruined it on purpose. Perish the thought. It's just that I had one of those days where I couldn't do anything right. Apparently. Ah well, c'est la vie.

Anyway, her birthday started well. Well, I thought it did. I'd spent a lot of time working out what present to give her. Bought her a little something and wrapped it up with a leftover bit of last year's Christmas wrapping paper. Made a bit of a balls up with the Sellotape stuff, as usual, but I thought it looked pretty good despite the odd tear. When she opened it I detected a fleeting look of disappointment. Not a lot, just a hint, but enough to make me realise that my brownie points weren't exactly maximum. Still, the thought was there. After all, she'd mentioned some time ago that she needed some elastic to replace the saggy elastic 'belt' in her winter long-johns, and now she had some. Two in fact, in different widths 'cos I didn't know which width was required. Hang the expense. Generous to a fault.

Present-giving ceremony over, we then had a conflab about what to do and where to go. Being a Libran, Georgie finds it a bit tricky to make decisions. I gathered there were three options: to visit some chateau with a fancy garden which she'd read about, or visit some pretty villages near Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne which she'd read about, or visit the Auvergne and see the magnificent scenery which she'd read about in one of my earlier postings when I'd ridden through the hills on my return journey home when collecting my superb Honda CB1300S (now sold). Eventually we decided on the Auvergne, knocked up some sarnies and a Thermos, and departed at around mid-day (if we do the trip next year, we'll leave at around nineish).

After about an hour and a half's driving, I pulled into a lay-by to give Jock a quick walk and to have a quick fag and maybe a sarnie and coffee. Big mistake. The lay-by wasn't exactly what Georgie had in mind for a lunch stop so she stayed in the car feeling a bit grumpy. Sensing she wasn't a happy bunny, I slung a confused Jock back in the car and hit the road again. At that lay-by the bluebird of happiness must have fluttered from the car to be replaced by the chicken of depression. Things weren't going well. About half an hour later, in the foothills of the mountains, I stopped again for a quick break. And once again, Georgie stayed in the car with the chicken of depression perched firmly on her head. Things were going from bad to worse. Indeed Georgie even said that she wanted to go home and go to bed. However, the sun was shining, it was a glorious day, the mountains were ahead of us and things could only get better. So, onwards.

A bit further on, above the treeline, I stopped again to admire the splendid view, have a swig of coffee, give Jock another pit stop and have a quick fag. Georgie obviously thought that this was more like what she had in mind for a lunch break scenario so she got out of the car and joined me and Jock for a lunchtime snack as we took in the view. Things were improving. The chicken of depression took a back seat as we drove onwards towards our goal of Puy Mary, one of the highest mountains of the Auvergne. We stopped again a few miles further on to take in an even better view. It was all very quiet, except for the sound of the engine fan whirring away. Clearly the climb was proving to be quite a challenge for our poor little dogwagon. About a mile further on we arrived at a car park area just below a big hill where people were waving, so we parked up. Georgie nipped off up the road, apparently intending to have a bit of a walk and take some snaps. By the time I'd put Jock on his lead and locked the car she was on her way back again, saying there was a café just up the road. I asked if she fancied stopping off there for a quick coffee, but she said "no". So we hit the road again.

Now, if I'd had time to do a bit of internet searching before we left home, I'd have realised that the big hill where those people were waving was actually Puy Mary. As it was, I thought Puy Mary was a bit further on up the road. After all, there was no big sign saying 'This is Puy Mary, park your car, let the engine cool down, visit the café and admire the splendid views'. So we carried on up the road. Trouble was, after we passed the café, we started going downhill. At that point it sort of dawned on me that we'd been at Puy Mary without realising it. Ho-hum. Anyways, I've now done a bit of research and discovered that Puy Mary is apparently 1783 metres high, while Ben Nevis (Britain's highest mountain) is a mere pimple in comparison at just 1344 metres. And because I didn't realise the big hill was Puy Mary, I didn't take any photos of it. However, I've nicked one from the internet and another from a few decades back showing some old bangers that somehow managed the climb without exploding. But I did manage to take a snap of the road leading up to the mountain and a couple of the view when we descended.

Going down the other side and heading back north, we passed through some very pretty valleys with cattle fields on either side. Georgie kept remarking that she could hear bells, but I couldn't, probably due to my infernal tinnitus. Eventually figured out that the cattle round these parts wear cowbells, unlike the cattle in our Creuse region. The scenery was fab and I half expected Julie Andrews to appear over a hillside warbling 'The hills are alive... etc.'. Luckily, she didn't. Stopped at a bridge crossing in the 'Gorges of the Dordogne' and took some snaps. Apparently the river provides electricity power. Impressive stuff, but a bit spooky.

Arrived back home at about 7.30. Maybe next year we'll plan things a bit better. Rather fancy legging it up that Puy Mary mountain and gawping at the view. Must be pretty spectacular.