Thursday, 4 December 2014

Train strikes and a weekend away

Bourges cathedral
When Cees’ son said he wanted to visit a guitar restorer in France, we were excited about the idea of meeting up with him for a weekend.  But things never go to plan do they? The weekend of our sortie was chosen and the accommodation almost booked, it was only our rather slow decision making that held that up. This delay was rather fortuitous, as just over a week before we were due to go, I heard on the radio that the French railways were holding a strike, the weekend of our trip. This would make Cees’ son’s journey from the airport in Paris impossible. A lot of quick work, on his part to change flights and on our part to find a new gîte, resulted in our trip to the Berry last weekend - all organised in one day, the day before our departure.

Monastery of Noirlac
Bourges was a real find. It has a beautiful cathedral with some stunning stained glass windows and porticos and the rest of this attractive town is well worth a wander round on a nice day, however, the cold and damp got the better of us there and after lunch we headed off to see the most intact of the Cistercian monasteries in France - we were not disappointed. . A cellist was making a recording in the Scriptorium and the music resonated around the whole Abbey while we were there.

Church at Le Menoux
The next day we had a list of Romanesque churches to visit, all of which were worth the visit and all of which were open, always a bonus. In amongst the church tour, I managed to slip in a visit to a church I had seen in the guide book, La Menoux. The church from the outside is not worth a photo, it is a boring neo-something, the guide book describes it as “banale” which summed it up for me. But when you open the door you are confronted with an assault on your visual senses. A resident of the village, Mr Carassco an artist originally from Bolivia, has painted the ceilings and I mean really painted them. A quote from him in the description of this stunning work of art “Art is love, love is life and life has to be lived not just gone through.” True to his own words, this work of art is not just there, is it really alive even though it was painted about forty years ago.

The ending of our weekend away had a nasty twist when our car started emitting smoke as we drove down the motorway. Fortunately I cut the engine immediately as we cruised to a holt and the fledgling fire put itself out otherwise things could have been an awful lot worse. It turned out that the motor to the windscreen washers had shorted and started to burn, very scary and not to be repeated. I could write a whole blog about the numerous telephone conversations I had to have before we could get someone to tow us off the motorway, if the car had been on fire it would have been a gonner before the emergency services had accepted that there was actually an exit number 23 and quite frankly whether we were in Saône-et-Loire or Allier (we were actually 200 meters from the border) didn’t seem awfully relevant to me at that moment in time. Maybe I should buy a Michelin map for the police in S-et-L, so that they can locate the next person with a burning car at exit 23 direction Macon on the N79, it really does exist!

Jamon Iberico de Bellota
So an inauspicious end to our weekend away with our car being towed to a breakers yard in Digoin. There is a however a happy ending, the car was relatively easily repaired and back on the road after a couple of days with only a slight trace of “eau-de-burned-plastic”.

We and our car are now back at home along with a lovely souvenir from Spain that Cees’ son had brought for us to enjoy chez-nous. So today for lunch we had artisanally dried ham, hand-cut from the bone, served on fresh French bread with ripe mini-tomatoes. La vie est belle!

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