Sunday, 5 June 2005

Afternoon Off

Glorious day this morning.

Weather yesterday was very cloudy, with only patchy sunshine. For some reason Alice didn't want her usual swim, instead she wanted to go over to the play area. So the morning was spent in a mixture of either the outdoor play area, or the indoor Experience Factory, where the play frame is.

I have to say that Centerparcs is absolutely heaving this weekend. It appears to be worse than last weekend, although the queues to use the slides etc. looked about the same. But certainly, as I've said before, the midweek sessions are far less populated than the weekend sessions. As Jacqueline said, this is what we could expect if we came during the summer holidays, too.

Anyway, after a home-cooked burger lunch (cooked from frozen!) Alice went over to Kids' Club, where she was apparently taken to the disco that didn't happen on Thursday. The women at Kids' Club knew all about it, I just got confused since what they said flatly contradicted the flyers we'd been given. Still, Alice loves discos, so what the hey?

Gave Jacqueline and I a little time to ourselves, so we headed off to the nearby town of Vierzon. It is the largest town hereabouts without heading into one of the cities. Having parked the car, we walked along the river (L'Yevre) for a while, and then headed to the main street. We got to a clothes shop, and.....stop! In fairness to Jacqueline it had loads of beautiful kids' clothes, plus a nice selection for Jacqueline. They even did some nice-looking shirts for me! This is the thing that England simply does not have - clothes shops with good designs and reasonable prices. As it was, we restricted the clothes for Alice to a single pair of white and pink cargo pants, but she looked adorable in them.

We arrived back in good time, and I went off to pick up our swimming things leaving Jacqueline to mooch around the dome. Kids' Club is next door to the swimming area, so the plan was to pick Alice up and to go straight there. Meantime, I made use of this new Michelin Guide I'd bought to phone the only rated restaurant in Chaumont to reserve a table for the evening.

As I've already said, the parc is heaving this weekend, so much so that swimming was almost unpleasant. Very packed in the outside area (plus quite overcast too, making us feel quite cold), but even the larger indoor pool appeared absolutely crowded. I ended up getting out early, I'd had enough. Jacqueline too. Of course, Alice remains oblivious to crowds, so she stayed in until we got her out, although even she found it more comfortable to play in the sandpits rather than to swim.

Back to the cottage for a quick change, then off to Chaumont. La Grenouillere. Very well signposted, about 1km out of Chaumont on the Route d'Orleans. Beautiful old building, with excellent food to match. We had an exquisite cocktail to start with - a sparkling white wine with a little added honey and rosemary. An odd combination but absolutely delicious. For starters, Jacqueline had langustines, while I had foie gras (absolutely love it, and had not had it yet this holiday), while for main course we both tucked into a traditional Sologne smoked lamb dish. Very subtle, I have never had smoked lamb before but it was delicious. I think there is no substitute for a good cut of lamb. We even got Jacqueline to try some French cheeses, something she just doesn't do. She didn't like them, but at least she tried them. Cheese is an excellent way, in any case, of taking the taste buds from the main course and preparing them for the dessert.

Ah, dessert...... Hot chocolate pudding, with homemade ice cream - very chocolately. Dreamy.
During all of this, we had ordered the "menu enfant" for Alice. For a very reasonable price, she got a wonderfully prepared three course dinner of pate, chicken and tagliatelle, and homemade ice cream with caramel and chocolate trimming. Absoultely gourmet quality, but did she appreciate it? I ended up eating a large chunk of her pate, not to mention her chicken (which was simply delicious). At other times, we let her wander around the garden (the auberge was in a lovely setting). She did find room, however, for her dessert.
This really is what sets France apart from other nations, the trouble they take to prepare and to serve food (and wine, of course). It is even more than taking it seriously, it is a pure passion about food. Of course, there are "junk" restaurants here as everywhere else, but good food here is surely better than anywhere...

Anyway, enough of my eulogy. Suffice it to say, straight to bed once we got home (after great fun trying to park in a packed-out car park), and to sleep. Except that Jacqueline has been awake most of the night - she says its not indigestion, but she just feels too full-up to sleep. Alice and I had no such problems, although I did wake up early (well, 5:45am, which will be my normal time from next week!!). I appear to have picked up a tickly, annoying cough while we've been here (which when compared to the multitude of bites on my legs is a strikingly odd combination!), which meant I had to get up in order to avoid waking the whole house up.
Have been up now since quite early, but short of putting some coffee on haven't taken any steps toward breakfast. I think Jacqueline is likely to be lying in this morning, given the amount of sleep she had last night, so I'll probably end up taking Alice swimming.

Have been thinking once again about the fact that the clients haven't paid yet - and unfortunately this time it really is quite a bit of money. I'm Ok until we return to England, but if they haven't paid by then everything basically stops. I'll be overdrawn at the bank, for starters, so won't be able to get any cash. In practical terms I simply won't have the means to get to their site, which although it would lose me money would in some ways be quite a good retribution, since they are dependent on my for a couple of pieces of work at the moment. Serves them right. But once again it highlights the need to get some new clients. People are saying that the market (and market rates) have picked up, so I really need to see some of that action. I'm really not punching to my weight with what I'm doing currently.

Ah well, I'll try to put all this to one side until we finish our holiday. Last full day at Centerparcs today, which is quite sad in itself. Hopefully we'll visit Chambord this afternoon, but I'll need to see how Jacqueline feels. Alice has just woken up, and her first question is whether it is the afternoon, so she obviously feels she's had a lie in.

One final thing - before I started writing I put some of yesterday's bread out. Since I started writing I've seen Mr and Mrs Mallard, Mr and Mrs Chaffinch, even a robin and, as Alice has just spotted, a mouse. Wonderful array of wildlife here right on the doorstep.

Will try to get an internet connection now to see if any interesting emails have arrived.

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