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A Long Weekend in the Loire

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sunny 18 °C
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DSCF6037.jpgFor a long time, Heather and I had wanted to a tour of one of the wine regions in France. This Bank Holiday we carped the diem so to speak, and decided to get ourselves over to the Loire. We booked a few additional days off so that we weren't one of the 30 million on the road at the same time and a trip to Halfords made sure that we wouldn't be running afoul of any of the French road rules; this required:

  1. A magnetic GB badge
  2. A complete set of replacement light bulbs
  3. A warning triangle should we break down
  4. Adjusters so that our headlights wouldn't dazzle the locals
  5. Reflective day-glow jackets so that if we break down, we put them on and won't get knocked over. Quite frankly I will be sitting in the car waiting for the AA if that happens.

Thalassa, thalassa

Following an early mark from work, we jumped in to the car and drove the hour and a half to Dover where we grabbed a cross-Channel ferry. Unfortunately after landing in Calais we still had an hour's drive, and I didn't know what the Gendarmerie think of drunk drivers so I limited myself to a solitary lager. We also tried to get some Euros but at an exchange rate of 1:1, only a £20 was changed.
The actual sea leg was pretty uneventful; I wouldn't say quiet as the boat was pretty full - or at least the bar area we were was. Fortunately, as we had been one of the first to board the boat, we were able to get off pretty quickly and on to French soil.

You should return to Newark

This was pretty much my first self-drive trip in France. I have driven left hand drive cars on the continent before and really don't find it a challenge but this was going to be my first time in a right hand drive car. Jumping straight in with a drive to the Loire (5 to 6 hours) may have been pushing it, so Heather had booked us into a small hotel in a town called Burck. After checking-in, we wandered around to check out the town. Our guess that at the height of the summer (in good weather) it is a popular family destination. Towards the end of the season and not so crash hot weather, it was like a run-down British holiday town.

We decided to cut our losses and go grab a bite to eat. There were a few options available and eventually settled on a quiet place. I can't actually remember what I had but I do recall that Heather had a "seafood medley" that contained something that looked suspiciously liked snails. No matter how many times she offered and how nice she said they were, I was not going to be trying them. It must be an English thing or something but I have been brought up to think that snails were garden pests and not a delicacy.

After dinner we decided to have a few drinks to celebrate our first day (or part day) on French soil. Even though it was only around 21:30, the entire town seemed to be closing down. The only options available were our hotel bar and a strip club. I thought that we should experience as much of the town of possible, but Heather would not budge from the hotel bar. After a few beers and a disturbing experience with one of those God-awful fruit beers, we called it at night. At least we wouldn't have problems waking up due to a late night.

Vinum bonum laetificat cor hominis

The following day was the drive to Saumur in the Loire. The roads were an absolute pleasure to drive on and the Jag just ate the miles. Fortunately the sat nag flashes warning whenever a speed camera is in range so I don't think I got stung - time will tell though.

We arrived at our hotel (l'Hotel St Pierre) and in contrast to our previous place, it was a lovely place with a very friendly owner. After sorting ourselves out we wandered around the town of Saumur, exploring the side streets, small shops, brasseries and bars. One of the most noticeable things were the large numbers of other English tourists in the town; fortunately these were not the kind of tourists that made me embarrassed to be English - there were also lots of British licensed cars, so now doubt we weren't the only ones with the idea of doing a Loire wine tour. The town of Saumur had cottoned on to this and had a "magasin du vin" which contained just about every wine in the region. We wandered in there and sampled their wares, taking photos of the ones that most appealed so that we knew which wineries to visit.

Having got comfortable on the roads, we decided to visit a few of the many Chateaux that were scattered around the Loire. It was at this point we also started to load up the car with one or two cases of wine. Although we were both tasting, I unfortunately had to spit but Heather had no restrictions. We continued the tasting/purchasing into the next day and by the time we were finished, the boot was loaded down 17 cases of wine. As we were loading the last of the cases in to the car, a bus load of tourists were able to get a good look at the volume we had bought and there were a number of approving looks.

Finally, we had to leave Saumur and head back to London. Unfortunately, we had to do it all in one day with no stop overs - 6 hours of motorway driving was kind of tedious. Heather nodded off a couple of times, and I could have done with a snooze myself - it was boring. Probably wouldn't have been a too good an idea though. We arrived at Le Shuttle terminal a couple of hours early hoping to get an earlier train; the terminal was overflowing so that scrubbed that idea. We managed to get home at 18:30 though to cap a successful and enjoyable weekend.

Posted by jefranklin 31.08.2011 13:42 Archived in France Tagged chateau loire wine_tasting Comments (0)

Planning another holiday

Because I haven't had enough this year...

sunny 20 °C
View Backpacking 2006 on jefranklin's travel map.

Heather and I have been thinking about going on holiday late in the year, this year. So we've decided to head away for a week or so, although we are not too sure where. Obviously sunny weather is the attraction, and no doubt Heather would like to get in a few rounds of golf, and we don't want to travel too far. So on the list to consider are:

  • Portugal - should be nice beaches and some golf, weather is a bit of an unknown quantity
  • Canary Islands - should be sunny, etc. but not too sure about the golf
  • Morroco - sunny no doubt, but golf and maybe safety may be an issue

Anyway, a friend of ours will be house-sitting either our current place or if we are fortunate in the next couple of days, our new place. Decisions, decisions...

Posted by jefranklin 13.09.2007 14:14 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged preparation Comments (0)

Le Mans or Bust

5 days of camping, motor sport and beer.

rain 15 °C
View Backpacking 2006 & Le Mans on jefranklin's travel map.

I have just returned from my first visit to the Le Mans 24hr race with a good mate of mine, plus a few of his. I must confess I am not a petrolhead in any shape or form, but the opportunity to spend a week camping with a group of blokes getting merry on beer sounded like too good an opportunity when I agreed to go last June. At the time, the sun was shining as Europe baked itself through one of the hottest summers on records. "Great" I thought, more of that this year...

As the date came closer and closer and the weather got progressively worse; I was seriously contemplating pulling out due to "illness". Nevertheless, on the day we were due to set off, I got in the car. The journey down was uneventful and the weather looked as if it was going to clear up... Fat chance, within 24 hours it was pouring down; by the end of the week our campsite was a swamp (not helped by a farmer pulling out stuck cars with his tractor and chewing up the ground in the process). The rain by itself wasn't too bad, but it was also windy with it - I thought I was going to develop trench foot at one point and I ended up chucking a load of clothing that was damaged by the rain.
Still there was the beer to keep me sane...

Posted by jefranklin 28.06.2007 06:51 Archived in France Tagged events Comments (0)

The end of the holidays (for now)

semi-overcast -17 °C
View Backpacking 2006 on jefranklin's travel map.

Well, our 6 months of travels are officially over. Soon it will be back to job-hunting, finding a new place to live and a return to the normality of a five day working week. However, in the past 6 months Heather and I have been lucky enough to:

see waterfalls cascading off Ayers Rock, dived with turtles on the Great Barrier Reef, mingled with other backpackers in Bangkok, relax on the beaches of Phuket, risk life and limb on the streets of Saigon, drink snake wine on the Mekong, experience May Day in Shanghai, cruise along the Yangtze as the world sailed by, gaze at the beauty of Rome, wander the streets of ancient Pompeii, meet up with good friends in Slovenia, see the Communist relic of Petrajelka juxtaposed with the beauty of Bratislava, be enchanted by the beauty of Prague, been welcomed by the city of Cologne during the World Cup, spend a fortune in Paris (and nothing to show for it), enjoy the Roskilde Rock Festival, sauna naked at 3am in Finland, pub crawl around Turku, find an English pub in Sweden(!), cruise the fjords of Norway and drink cold beer in the warm Arctic Circle.

We have seen a lot, we have lived a lot and we have loved a lot. We have also spent a lot, but life is there to be lived, isn’t it?

Posted by jefranklin 19.09.2006 03:33 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)


-17 °C
View Backpacking 2006 on jefranklin's travel map.

After Oslo, we boarded yet another train and headed north. The first stop was the town of Flåm, on the coast of Songefjord fjord (sort of an appropriate name really). On arrival there, we spent a few hours lazing in the sun admiring the beautiful scenery that one expects amongst the fjords. Eventually, our ferry turned up and we crossed the fjord to Ballestrand, a small village where my father and his partner met us, for the drive to their home village of Fjærland.

Fjærland is a tiny village, consisting of no more than about 300 residents and sits at the end of the fjord of the same name. It was to be our temporary home for a couple of weeks (with a slight break in the middle for a trip to the Arctic Circle), and is a beautifully, relaxing location to hang out in. One of the main features of Fjærland is that there are a couple of glaciers located at the top of the mountains surrounding it, which many people visiting the area go climb up. For the more sloth-full, there is also the Glacier Museum that is essentially a cut-down version of the Science Museum, covering glaciers only. The highlight of the museum when we were there was the wide-angle cinema display (about 140 degrees all around) that runs a 15 minute movie flying over the glaciers.

Other activities that we engaged in were cycling (albeit not very far), berry-picking (Fjærland is teeming with wild raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc) and going on hikes around the surrounding valleys (to the extent that our bodies or more really our laziness would allow us). Our other major activity was to go fishing on the fjord itself. The water was freezing cold (although a beautiful green/blue colour) and the day we went promised rain, however Heather and I borrowed the small boat from my dad and his partner and putt-putted across the 1km or so wide gap. On my second cast, I land a herring that I duly let go (it was too small to keep I thought, although for a herring it was actually quite big). However later, Heather landed a reasonable sized cod and I landed one of similar size followed by a huge one (ok, it was about 12 inches or 30cm long). These we did keep, and they tasted very nice when cooked that night.

Tomorrow is our last day in Fjærland as we catch a ferry to Bergen at around 2pm. Before that, we may try getting to one of the glaciers and touching it just to say we have done…

Posted by jefranklin 12.08.2006 03:42 Archived in Norway Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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