Friday, 27 May 2005


Well, the last couple of days has been somewhat busy.

Wednesday, I left the client's early, to get back to Salisbury in time to pick Alice up from school. Jacqueline too arrived home early, and at 6:30 we left for Portsmouth - to catch the ferry to St Malo! Yes, it was the start of the summer holidays.

I had been a little concerned about how we'd fare with the weather (the weather had been awful in Britain for the last few days), but I needn't have worried.- after a crossing which was absolutely calm, we arrived in Saint Malo in bright sunshine, and that has been the story of the holiday so far. Yesterday, then, we must have landed at St Malo at about 8:30am, and we headed straight to the Mont St Michel - I really like it there and I wanted Alice to see it. True to form, she loved it. We walked right to the church at the top, although Alice said her favourite was a little chapel partway up, where she lit a candle and said a prayer. Obviously going to a christian school is having an effect!

On then to Rennes for lunch, although by now it had become rather hot, so we didn't do a great deal of walking. Enough for Jacqueline to find a Galeries Lafayette, and for me to find a bookshop (my French atlas is way out of date, as is my Michelin Guide, so I had to make amends). Seriously, I could not recommend the Guide Rouge more highly - especially in France - when it comes to finding hotels and restaurants which are, simply, a cut above.

Point in question was the hotel of last night, called I think the Hotel Jardin des Arts in Chateau-Gontier. Chosen for no reason other than it was on our path and was recommended by the Guide, we stayed in an extremely spacious room, had a gastronomic dinner on a terrace overlooking the Mayenne, it is safe to say that we were pleasantly surprised. A beautiful building, even the striking colour scheme seemed to work (our bedroom was green and orange, the restaurant was red and blue!) Had a good chat with the proprietor, who was a great chap. Very into technology - computers (Macs) in each bedroom, complete with loads of music and films via the network. Geeky though it might be, I couldn't leave without telling him how much I appreciated it. (We ourselves have all our CDs stored electronically, some 20gb worth.)

After a leisurely breakfast we headed further into the heart of France, stopping for lunch at a place called Chateau Renault. Salad for the grown-ups, pizza for the enfant, and everyone happy. I should probably mention at this point that we brought the bikes over with us - the first time seriously using the bike rack we bought last year. Very impressed, although with some of the noises coming from the back of the car is did give cause for concern on occasion! But it seems all my worries were unfounded, the bikes didn't move an inch.

On returning from lunch, the thermometer in the car said 41 degrees - we had parked in the sunlight, but even so... The termperaure came down somewhat as we got on the road, but remained comfortably in the mid-thirties . Absolutely shoots down the arguments that you need to go in August to get the good weather.
Anyway, on to Blois, and a supermarket to stock up on some groceries. And we promptly got lost! A straightforward goal, you might think - to cross the Loire. Hardly difficult to find, the river is easily a few hundred metres wide! It didn't help that I was driving and expecting Jacqueline to had some idea about the direction. Anyway, we eventually found a sign for Orleans, which despite being on the wrong side of the river was vaguely in the right direction. So, I made kind of an executive decision and took the road. Stopped a few minutes later to verify my choice, and we looked good on the map. There was another bridge across the river just a couple of villages out of Blois, which we took instead. From there, it was half an hour of driving through beautiful forest and picturesque villages (la Sologne) before we got to our eventual destination - Center Parcs!

Arrived in mid afternoon, still hot, hotter still once I'd unloaded the car, so I was quite tired but Alice, of course, had lots of energy. So, we went for a walk to the dome to check things out, although we didn't swim yet today. After a refreshing bath in the whirlpool, Jacqueline took Alice out for a further exploration while I stayed in (or rather sat out on the patio overlooking one of the lakes) and chilled out. Some peace for half an hour at least - unfortunately then the gruesome twosome returned to destroy the peace. Alice is now being very piggish, wanting to eat everything in sight (it is past 10 o'clock), and Jacqueline has just turned the TV up to some incredible volume. Time to go, will update further soon.

Summary - very impressed so far!

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