More Rochefort and Amorous Charlie

E937371D-6B8A-4C77-A261-15F991A1C45AAfter a nice breakfast at the hotel we walked via a different route to the area the market had been in. There’s another series of nice parks along the way, and a couple of statues and displays.

We intended on getting another Lavazzo coffee but that cafe wasn’t open so we went down another road to the main square in front of the city hall.
It’s got a fountain with statues on top and the large square is ringed with cafes – we chose one and had a coffee there.
It wasn’t Lavazzo, but was a different Italian kind so was still pretty good.

Walking back down to the river we stopped at another cafe and had a drink – there’s a dog at the cafe that’s really cute – he reminded me of Snoopy from the Penalty Bar. He’s got a nifty haircut – done by the owner herself – and is very amorous towards Mo, who couldn’t care less. Charlie had to be brought back inside several times.
Down at the river the barricades had been removed so we were able to enjoy strolling along the river path. I had been completely wrong about which way the river was flowing – it actually does a large loop around the town so was going in the opposite direction of what I’d thought.

We reached a marina right near the hotel, and there’s a nice looking restaurant on one side.
Once again we watched the day’s Tour stage on tv before going out for dinner. We went to the restaurant on the marina and it was a good choice – I opted for their burger with fries. The fries were especially tasty – they were cut in rounds and were nice and crisp on the outside – perfectly cooked and not soggy or mushy.

It was a good thing we’d gotten there fairly early as by the time we left the place was packed. It was so nice sitting outside on such a lovely evening and enjoying an excellent meal.

Exploring Rochefort

After leaving Mansle around 9:00 we arrived at Rochefort at about 10:30. The room wasn’t ready for us as we were early, so we parked the car and went for a walk. The receptionist had given us a map with a few things marked, and we headed first to the market that was setup along Avenue Charles de Gaulle.
It was quite a large market, and most stalls were local produce, cheese and meats – not very many of the ‘made in China’ junk that can be found in some places.
We walked the entire length, stopping along the way so I could get a stylish new sun hat – it has an inner band so it doesn’t scratch my ears, and a chin strap so it won’t get blown off. At the far end of the market we found a nice cafe and had a coffee – it was actually Lavazzo – an excellent Italian brand.
On the way back to the hotel we went down to the river and saw the Hermione – a replica of the frigate that was sailed by general La Fayette to America in 1780 to assist in dislodging the British.

There’s another ship there as well, and this one is a ‘climbing attraction’ – they attach a rope to you and you get to clamber around on rope ladders, etc. The kids looked like they were enjoying themselves a lot.
We wanted to walk along the river back to the hotel but all paths were blocked – they’re setting up barricades in preparation for festivities tonight in honour of Bastille Day. It’s actually the River Charente, which, as is passes through Mansle, isn’t that large, but here in Rochfort is very wide – also very muddy from the effects of the tide.
When we finally made it back to the hotel the room was ready so we checked in and watched the day’s Tour stage on tv. We hadn’t had lunch but snacked just a bit before heading out for dinner. We walked back to the area where the market had been and chose an outside table at a nice-looking restaurant. I started with an appy plate that was excellent – several different tapas in a slightly vietnamese style. For my main dish I had chicken on a bed of mashed potatoes – also very tasty.

After eating we wandered back to the large park where some of the festivities are happening. There were food booths and tables setup in a large courtyard in front of a stage so we sat down and listened to a live band. The four fellows looked fairly young, and they played some pretty good music.
There was going to be fireworks, but we didn’t stay for them – I’d been wearing my contacts all day and I’m not used to them anymore as I usually wear my glasses/sunglasses instead. As we left the area more and more people were arriving to watch the display, but we continued back to the hotel.

I was still up reading when the fireworks started – Mo was dozing on Colin’s bed and made a few half-hearted barks at the noise but wasn’t really serious about it. She jumped between the two beds a couple of times during the night, spending about half of it snuggled under my left arm. I still miss my kitties very much and I think Mo knows it so she offers comfort when possible.

The Fang

F0F838D1-1D3D-4C6A-B6DB-87ABC6E1C92FWe had a couple of really good rides over the last few days, although nearing Goue on our way home one day we both almost got clipped by the machine that a tractor was pulling – he had the wings facing out instead of in and it must have come within an inch or two of my left shoulder. The sunflowers are going crazy.
One night the bar had fish and/or scampi and chips dinner so we went down to partake. Most of the local brits were there so it was well attended and we had some good company. I actually got the dessert for once and as I took the first bite of my ice cream bar I felt something weird on one of my teeth. It turned out that the right tooth next to the front one had broken about ⅓ off vertically! I’ve named it The Fang – it didn’t hurt and there’s no nerve pain but to my tongue it feels like a giant gap.
I got all of the deck rails painted black and Colin got almost all of the wooden slats sanded – when it’s finished it’s going to be beautiful. Mo is always interested in what we’re doing but has to be kept inside at times so she doesn’t get covered in paint or dust.

We’ve been watching the Tour on tv every day – there’s been some good action and I’m getting excited about going south to see a couple of stages live. The first three stages were in Belgium, the home of the great Eddy Mercx, and the crowds were fantastic.

Nice Rides and Gas Leaks

75C73176-5F14-4B00-BA21-2AB1BF3444C5It’s been several days of varying weather – from very stormy (especially at night) to blazing hot. We’ve gone on more than one really nice ride, including one day to see the ‘Dolmens’ which are burial mounds from about 2,000 years ago.
The next day Colin was out with the local cycling club while I took Mo down to the bar and visited with Peter (one of the brits). We saw a firetruck go by with sirens blaring and lights flashing, then a police car or two, and some utility trucks. As we looked up the street – towards Colin’s house – we could see several utility workers in their bright vests and hardhats going around looking for something.
When Mo and I left the bar we had to detour to the main road as they had blocked our path home. As I approached the house I could see that the medical clinic across from the house had been evacuated and all of the staff were milling around watching the operation. The utility guys had gone from house to house and were checking everywhere with their meters. I walked up to the police and they said ‘no no’ until I pointed to the house and they said ‘ok, but stay inside and don’t come out’.
I got inside and the power was out – they’d cut it to the whole area while they tried to track down the gas leak. At one point I went out on the balcony to get a better look at the action and one of the cops yelled ‘madam – back inside’ (in french, but I understood the gist of it). They eventually traced the source of the leak and brought in the heavy machines to tear up the road.

Another ride took us to Chenon to have a look at the war memorial, then on to Aunac for lunch. There’s a lovely little restaurant that has no menu, just whatever they’re serving that day. We started with a nice selection of buffet salads, then the main course of roast pork and rice – it was so tender it fell apart with the fork, and was very delicious. Next course was a selection of local cheeses, and lastly a dessert, which I as usual, passed on.
By day 3 of the gas leak they’d actually dug a hole about eight feet long, four feet wide and five feet deep. It looked like they’d replaced a couple of main lines with very fancy-looking new ones, then quickly filled it in and re-paved over it – job done!

The mighty Tour de France has started – watched stage one on tv, and looking forward to what we’re going to see live.

Mo has been farting a lot lately – not sure if she needs a change of food or what but we’re scared of lighting a match!

Two Kinds of Races

Housecleaner Yvette came over at 8:30 one morning, so when she arrived I took Mo out for a few hours so she didn’t get in Yvette’s way. We walked down to the campground bar for a coffee, but it wasn’t open yet so we sat on a bench in the sun and read for awhile.
They’re starting to setup booths and things at the hippodrome for tomorrow’s race so there was a fair amount of activity happening. Next we strolled up to the war memorial and sat on another bench, this time in the shade as it’s already starting to get hot.
Back down at the campground bar, which was now open, I did get my cafe creme, which was extremely strong but tasty. Our final stop was up at the Penalty Bar to wait for Colin to join us.
There’s a special lunch on today so the local brits started to arrive just before 1:00. The meal started with a really nice smoked salmon and shrimp salad, then the main course – that we’d pre-ordered – of ‘lamb in black beer’. It was excellent – very tender and flavourful, and served with rice. Following that we got to choose what we wanted from a wonderful cheese tray, then there was vodka on ice cream, and finally, of course, coffee.

By the time we were finished it was really hot out – between the heat and the amount I’d eaten I could barely make it up to the house. And thank goodness for air conditioning.
The next morning I actually set my alarm – first time since the day I came over, I think. I’m really not used to getting up early anymore so rising at 6:00 was a bit shocking. We made it out of the house on time just before 7:30 – Colin’s riding in a local sportif, and I’m helping with coffee and snacks for the riders. I was with Florence, the wife of Michele who organizes the local club that Colin helps out with. They’d stayed in the house in Papiano last summer and we’ve been to their house for dinner before – they’re both really nice people.

The local club had organized it and a total of 130 riders participated, which was pretty impressive. Luckily the major heat held off during the ride – it was actually a bit overcast and relatively pleasant for them.

Once Colin had finished his 67 km we headed back to the house for a bit, then returned to the hall to take part in lunch with the other organizers. It was wonderful – very similar to what we’d had last year at the ‘little ones’ race day. There was a nice sliced roast pork, fresh baguettes, a lovely mixed salad and – my favourite – rillette (kind of pate-that’s-not-pate). The next course was a very creamy camembert-type cheese, then for dessert apple tart – all washed down with red wine, of course.

When everything was packed up Florence asked if we wanted to take any of the leftovers home – I almost lunged for some of the rillette, and they also gave us the half-full box of wine.

Very full once again we popped back to the house so Colin could grab his camera and drop off the car, then headed down to the hippodrome to visit the horses and watch a few races. By this time it was starting to get fairly hot again but the race grounds at least have lots of trees for shade.
As usual we strolled around the horses’ area first and at one point we jumped out of the way of an incoming horse and cart that had just raced. We said ‘sorry’ for being in the way and the ‘jockey’ answered us in English. We chatted with him for a bit as he unhooked the horse from all its trappings – he’s actually Belgian, and it turns out he’s good friends with Philip Gilbert, one of the great cyclists on the Quickstep team. Small world! He has a second horse that would be in race number 5, and he told us that if he wins he’ll buy us a beer.
Colin actually placed a small bet on the Belgian’s horse, then we found a spot in the shade in the grandstands to watch. The first race we saw had a false-start – several horses were acting up so they called them all back and re-started.

When race number five came up we were, of course, cheering hard for the Belgian, but it wasn’t to be. He was dead last for most of the race, moving up to fifth or sixth by the finish – never bet on a ‘sure thing’, even when the trainer tells you he could win.
The last race we stayed for also had a false start – we saw one jockey sitting on the grass, having somehow been unseated, and several other horses got spooked. All of the racers eventually left the field, returning after several minutes to get restarted – I couldn’t tell if the unseated jockey had returned, however.
We didn’t stay for the last couple of races, opting instead to leave a bit early and stop at the bar for a quick drink on our way home. It’d been a very full, but quite tiring day and it was good to sit and relax for a bit with the air-con blasting.

Typical Week in Mansle

We’ve gone for some nice rides over the last days – if we don’t leave early enough it gets pretty hot, though. We stopped one time for a quick visit with Tony and Joyce.
Mo’s been a very good girl while we’ve gone out riding each day – she now seems to understand that we won’t be gone long, and we will come back for her.

The sunflowers have almost exploded with growth recently – a couple of weeks ago they were just starting out and now they’re taller than the poppies. Some farmers are already cutting the first crop of hay.
One day after our ride we went out for lunch – first we tried the little cafe on the lake of the willows, but it was completely closed down. So we kept driving to Aigre and stopped at the restaurant in the square. We both got the beef skewers, which were one of the two daily specials.
The meal came with a salad, as well as green beans, small salty roasted potatoes and a mild pepper dipping sauce. Every part of it was just delicious – the meat was tender and flavourful, the green beans had a bit of garlic but not too much – it was really a very lovely lunch.
Another day we started taking the deck railings down so we could sand and paint them – Colin took the nuts off and removed the wooden slats from the metal railings while I pounded the bolts out of the slats. It’s going to be quite a job – sanding the slats, painting them and the railings, then putting it all back together again.
We drove to Saint-Sulpice-de-Cognac to get a few things for the campervan, including a couple of little portable chairs – they fold up into almost nothing and have handy little carrying straps. Now when we park somewhere and want to photograph races from up or down the road we don’t have to lug the lawn chairs along.
A couple of mornings started out very misty-looking – I wondered if it might be smoke by it didn’t smell like it, and I’m not aware of any large fires burning nearby. On one of our rides we went to Ligne, where there’s a cemetery with some Templars’ graves – all that’s left are the stones, with any inscriptions long since worn off.
We did a bit of tidying up – the book shelves in my bedroom look much better, although there are probably a lot of books that could go to the charity shop some day. One night we had donair kebabs for dinner, and another night we went down to the campground bar – they were showing the women’s soccer game between France and the US, and they had a live band playing.
The band wasn’t bad, but the result of the soccer game sucked.

More Bordeaux – Can You Ever Have Too Much?

Didn’t get up that early, and after I had a nice shower went down for breakfast – it was somewhat better than expected, and Mo was welcome. We checked out of the hotel but put our bags in the car and left it in their carpark for a few extra hours – they said it was not a problem.
I’d looked at the map and we chose a large park to go to that we hadn’t seen the day before – it’s just past the beautiful fountain and we had no problem finding it.
It’s very nice and peaceful, with beautiful flower beds, paths and ponds with different kinds of ducks, geese, swans and other birds.
Also a children’s area that we smartly avoided.

After circling the park we went to a cafe we’d passed and had a cafe creme – very strong but good, and not as atrociously expensive as yesterday’s had been.
After our coffee we walked back through the centre again, passing the tour buses loading up and along the street with all the fancy stores.
We took a slightly different route back – there was one road that had a plaque telling about the Camino de Santiago – St. James went everywhere!. And apparently he smoked also – ha ha.
I took my version of a selfie at an appropriate place…
9468D791-A3EB-4E18-B97F-92BC77F86CB1We got back to the hotel and I did a quick change into something cooler – it’s a lot warmer than the day before.
We got on the way back to Mansle around 1:00 and made pretty good time – traffic in the other direction on the ring road wasn’t so lucky. Then just before Angouleme there was a convoy of motorcycles that were taking up both lanes and slowing all the traffic. They were protesting the lowering of the speed limit last year and cars and semi-trucks were backed up for a mile or more.
We got home at a decent time in the afternoon, then went down to the bar for a drink, before coming back for a nice salmon and salad dinner. As usual I stayed up a bit late reading.