FRANCE: ABLUTIONS Attending to one's bodily needs in remote French pensions thirty years ago was worse than a lottery since there was little chance of winning. Frequently, one needed to go down the corridor. Very quickly VR refused to see this as part of life's bacterial tapestry and demanded facilities en suite. These days no problem. In fact, we've moved up a step: on the long drive down to the Languedoc we split the 900-mile journey at somewhere offering heartless modern convenience, the Hell with wisteria-clad frontages and apple-cheeked patronnes. The Hotel Mercure at Orléans was indistinguishable from a typical US Holiday Inn, and had a room capable of accommodating two king-size beds.
No contact with locals? We ate at a well recommended fish restaurant Le Bigorneau where I contrived to fall out with the waitress; later I enjoyed a stimulating conversation on contact-lens fluid (in French) with the receptionist at the Mercure.
One snag. Hotel baths are now shaped to save water and to provide sufficient grappling points so that even a partially paralysed octogenarian need not drown. Which means they fit like a cheap coffin and great tracts of skin are denied contact with the water. Or maybe I'm just too fat.