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Sunday, 9 June 2013

Getting there

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.
FRANCE: ROADS/DRIVING Tolls on French motorways (autoroutes) are quite punitive but the roads are better surfaced and maintained, and the traffic lighter than on the British equivalents. Certainly this is the case with the A75 due south from Paris towards Clermont Ferrand and over the exhilarating Millau Bridge. Perfect for cruise control. On one stretch I kept it engaged for nearly an hour - a bit like riding in a private train. Far from lulling you it allows you to concentrate on your road position and your next move.


  1. I almost split my sides as I read your words, dear RR! Perhaps I'll tell the story someday of the time I got stuck in a Japanese "pot" bath. As a germanically-inclined tall woman, I had my share of feeling like Gulliver in Lilliput whilst in western Japan. I never thought for a moment these things could happen in Europe!

    The waitress forgave you in the end, I'm sure. How bad can a falling out in a restaurant be?

  2. RW (zS): My first bloggeristic communication while on my hols, courtesy of my neat little Compaq netbook. Welcome to the village of Aniane in the Languedoc. The wine waitress went off in a vehicle which can only be describe as a huff when I reminded her I'd ordered but not received a bottle of Pouilly Fumé. Never mind, she wore too much make-up.

  3. Just read your answer to Rouchswalwe's comment. Poor thing had no time for jokes.

  4. Ellena: Not being served my Puilly Fumé was no joke. I fear I snarled.

  5. 'Never mind, she wore too much make-up'

    - wouldn't do to have her mascara running into the food after you'd made her cry would it!

    In fact when I worked in catering health and safety training frequently stressed that those handling food should leave right off the make-up and perfumes. Front of house jobs are different, my niece who works for Air New Zealand, at the airport, not as a flight attendant, has manicure, make-up and hair-do all laid down in the job description.

    Doesn't seem unreasonable to ask for your bottle of wine, or did she mistakenly bring you Pouilly-Fuissé instead? I'd have settled for that.

  6. Lucy: Had she brought me fuissé rather than fumé I'd have been far angrier, suspecting rapacity. The price difference, you see.

    I didn't set out to blur her eye shadow. It was the first day of the holiday and I was looking obsessionally for opportunities to make the French laugh - a worthy cause, you will agree. I can't remember anything going wrong but then I suppose I'd be the last to know.

    Make-up in restaurants is an interesting subject, or you may have turned it into one. There seems to be a limit - poorly defined, I admit - beyond which one should not go. As the other diners arrived I realised it was a very fashionable place for the French. And our group certainly lacked fashion. Perhaps the huffishness was an aesthetic reaction.