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.



  1. Sounds like the sort of day we would have, but it all turned out alright in the end! Lovely countryside.

    1. Yes, it was an interesting sort of day in a spectacular part of France.

  2. Well I for one love to read your drivel here..what you haven't realised dear Tommo is that what you may find boring is still a window to your world that I have no idea about. Reading about your winters and crazy neighbours etc are interesting for me.
    Thank goodness gracious for Georgie to get you off your arse and start bloggeauing again.
    Yes, next year you will do better and make her special day a real special she will treasure always.
    Glad to know that you're all okay, even little Jock.
    Happy Belated Birthday Georgie!!!

    1. Thanks for commenting. Good to know you enjoy my scribings.

  3. I too love reading about your goings on in the Creuse. Fascinating stuff and very funny.

    We spend about 12 weeks (all seasons) at our place an hour North of you and we can't wait to move lock, stock and barrel.

    On a side note, what was your French like when you moved out there, what is it like now and do you have any tips on imroving the vocab?
    Although my French has definitely improved over the last 4 years since buying our house I do get really frustrated that it isn't better!
    I throw myself into uncomfortable social situations to force my self to interact but depending on my mood I either have something to say or I stand around a like the silent one out of the Marx brothers!
    All the French language evening classes (beyond an introduction to French) have disappeared here in Liverpool due to people only wanting to learn Spanish and I am terrible at self study.....moan, moan, moan!!

    1. Bonjooah Craig, Thanks for reading this stuff. Glad you enjoy it. Er, my French was rubbish when I moved here and is now only marginally better. I get verb tenses wrong and haven't a clue whether nouns are 'le' or 'la', but I don't care. Fear is the enemy. Without fear one can natter away using a limited vocabulary and thereby communicate even though one makes a complete fool of oneself. But, I've found, Frenchies appreciate the effort. Another thing is to try and learn a new word every so often and build it in to your repertoire. However, my problem, being an old fart, is remembering the new words. Funnily enough, I learn quite a few new words by reading car and motorcycle internet ads. which come in useful when getting one's car serviced (echappement is exhaust, embrayage is clutch, bougie is spark plug etc. - now I'm showing off), but introducing such words into general conversation can be tricky. I once reduced my neighbours to giggling wrecks when I didn't know the word for 'a bat' (the one that can fly) so described it as a 'souris par avion'. They find my French rather entertaining, but, as I said, it's gradually improving. Long, long way to go yet though. And yes, mimicking Harpo Marx while others are rabbiting on in French is perfectly normal for us Brits.

    2. Thanks for taking the time to explain a little about your experiences with the French language. It seems to mirror mine perfectly!

      I have built up a unusual collection of farming related words from our friend and neighbor as I will help him on the farm whenever he asks.

      Whilst on holiday last week, before I had a chance to fully understand what was going on, I ended up helping to search for a sheep that had escaped, prepare some lunch, helped to slaughter (and pluck for the first time) seven cockerels and then ate some of the said lunch which comprised a dish of cockerel blood drained into bowls of seasoned onions, fried and served with a salad!! Absolutely delicious and very much like black pudding.

      By contrast, that same evening I ended up in the kitchen of a friend of a friends house I probably said about half a dozen words and felt completely out of my depth!!!

      "c'est la vie"