Sunday, 5 August 2007

Meymac, Uzerche, Turenne and St Céré

This post covers the start of our journey through the region of Perigord, including a couple of disasters that took place en route.

On the afternoon of Wednesday 25 July we headed west, driving on a road we had seen several days earlier, eventually leaving the departement of Puy-de-Dome and moving into Limousin. As usual we asked the GPS to avoid toll motorways so we drove on a mixture of good roads Ace could fly down and narrow, twisting country lanes we drove down cautiously. We came across an E.Leclerc hypermarket on our way. They have a new advertising campaign “En anglais on dit ‘Hard discount’, en francais on dit E.Leclerc”. (In English we say ‘hard discount’, in French we say “E.Leclerc”). Sarah and I have never heard of this mysterious phrase hard discount, if anyone has please let us know!

Above and below: Uzerche

We stocked up on the usual range of products: chicken; minced beef; taco dinner set; M&Ms; cookie dough ice cream; grated cheese; broccoli; mushrooms; bread; water and pepsi max. We set off on our way to the nearby town of Meymac. The aire de service was a 2.5km out of town on a hill overlooking a lake. We set up Ace and then wandered down to the lake which had a small beach, packed with holiday makers. There were pedalos, canoes and kayaks for hire and pony trekking nearby. We were pleasantly surprised by the location of this aire, the book doesn’t go into a great amount of detail about each one. There was also some holiday chalets nearby with a facilities block (toilets and table tennis table) Sarah and I were only too happy to take advantage of!

That evening we cooked chicken stew and ate outside at our dinner table for the first time! We took the dishes inside and I grabbed a cold beer from the fridge. As I was about to go back outside, I knocked the bottom of the bottle against the cooker and the beer fizzed up everywhere, all over Sarah’s freshly washed slippers! Oh no, she was such a trude and I was in the bad books big style! I went outside with what was left with the beer and then proceeded to spill it all over the table. I had barely had a drop at this stage! I gave up on the beer and we continued with a game of cards until it was time to go in.

The next day we awoke late to another glorious sunny day. We decided today would be the day the bikes got another outing, the last time they were used was in the Netherlands 6 weeks ago! We saddled up and rode towards Meymac, 3km away. Halfway there Sarah was having a lot of difficulty pedalling, we realised her tyre was warped and with every revolution of the tyre it was brushing past the brake making it very hard to get anywhere. When she was riding it looked like the tyre would fall off! We swapped bikes and eventually got into town. Meymac is a lovely small town built on a hill with a fountain in the main square. Many of the houses have castle-style turrets and we had a peak over one fence where they had a lovely paved area with swimming pool. There was an art exhibition on in part of the abbey but as usual we’d made the mistake of turning up at lunchtime when everything was closed. We had a nosey in the estate agents window as usual, there were a few houses which looked quite fantastic but which we couldn’t quite afford!

We headed back to Ace where I tried to fix Sarah’s bike but I think it’s beyond help. We sat on a blanket and ate the rest of our cookie dough ice cream, though Sarah had mined out all the lumps of cookie dough the previous evening! We walked down to games room at the holiday centre and had a quick game of table tennis then went and sat on the lake beach in the sunshine for half an hour.

We decided to head off to pastures new for the evening since we’d been at the lake for 24 hours. We drove half an hour to the nearby town of Uzerche where the aire de service is located where the old train station used to be. With free electric and water on offer, the car park was packed with about 20 motorhomes and there was no space for Ace! At the end of the car park there was a sculpture exhibition taking place with several artists using chainsaws on huge blocks of stone. I asked if we could park just inside the fence for the exhibition and the sculptor, covered in dust, told me to speak to a bloke in his 50s sitting at a table enjoying a beer with his mates. We had a discussion about where to park and we eventually agreed a position between the station building and the exhibition. We hooked up to the electric and by now we were getting some death stares from the 2 motorhomes opposite us! Another motorhome family were quite friendly though and told us we were fine where we were. Three other motorhomes turned up and followed our lead by parking near the station building.

After our dinner of tacos, we walked into town and watched people playing petanque (boules) and then wandered around the old town taking photos. The next morning we were awoken by the sound of chainsaws, the sculpters were at it again! I went outside a couple times and came back in looking like I had been caked in white makeup! We moved further down the car park now some motorhomes had left where it was a bit quieter. Sarah made Swiss chocolate crispie and cornflake cakes in the van while I filled Ace with water outside.

We drove on to the town of Turenne where we parked up early in the afternoon. The aire de service was a medium sized car park overlooked by the castle and village. We relaxed during the afternoon and then walked around the village in the evening. That night we had 2 disasters… the first was that loads of dust was on the inside of my camera. Black particles were sticking to the filter in front of the camera’s sensor, a photographer’s worst nightmare! They were sticking to the filter and wouldn’t budge with bursts of air from my rocket blower. The second disaster was that Sarah became unwell with women’s problems. I won’t go into the details, but she wasn’t very well at all.
Above: Turenne
Below: St Céré

The next morning we drove for an hour to Saint Céré where we tried to fix these two problems. We spent 3 and a half hours in the local hospital to find out eventually that everything would be fine in a couple of days. We also went to the local camera store where most of the black dust was removed from my camera’s filter, but a few small dust specks were still there. When we were in the van about to leave, four French blokes who were drunk or on drugs decided to give us some verbal abuse. One pressed his face against the window while giving us hand signals and practicing his English swear words at us. Thankfully he decided to walk off after I told him to “Move on old chap” or words to that effect. I’d already decided I was going to grab the steering wheel lock and smack him one should he try to enter the van or hurt Ace!

After spending an hour at a WiFi location at a nearby campsite, we headed on to the hamlet of Thermine which had provided free electric and water for us at the top of the hill next to the church. Once we were fully charged and watered, we headed down to the parking spot in front of the town hall and next to a 14th century market hall. That evening there were some locals chatting and having a drink rather late, not rowdy or boisterous, but loud enough to make us want to leave! Just as we were thinking about leaving, the only other motorhome parked up left for the local football field car park. At 11.30pm we looked through our aire de service book and saw there was another one 10km away. We drove off into the pitch black night along one track roads, arriving at the village of Chapel-Miraval just before midnight. There were 2 other motorhomes parked up and even though we tried our best to be quiet, everything we did seemed to result in a loud bang of some sort or another! We finally climbed into bed at 1am after ringing home for a chat.

The next morning we again hooked up to the free electric at the borne on the car park. Three motorhomes arrived out of nowhere to use the borne, it was delightful watching them tip their liquid crap down the drain as we were tucking into our croissants and coffee! After looking around town we jumped into Ace and headed off once again.

1 comment:

uncle neill said...

I tried to send one of these some months ago, Matt. I'm sure it was tremendously funny and informative, but then again maybe I'm "dreamin'"

Too late to say much now but shall get into it from tomorrow

all the best

helen and neill