5.4.09 Blois to Bordeaux

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5.4.09 Blois to Bordeaux


This is no exaggeration:  Today the Heavens opened and in a great bright light, Nathalie and Bruno’s wonderful family beamed down into our world.


Okay, so we think Nathalie and Bruno are some of the nicest people we’ve ever met.  I’ll tell you more about them in a minute.  Let’s catch up in time:


We awoke to the sun beaming across the Loire River, the birds on the island setting up quite a noisy greeting, and felt at peace in our little row of motorhomes at the Blois aire.  Million dollar view!


Opened the Behan’s Europe Planning Map and did a back-of-the-envelope, 9-weeks of Europe plan to get a rough travel plan.  Had to hack off a few places, must go faster than we want- Jazy said she’d have not changed to the date to head home if she’d known what we’d miss.  I still think the timeframe for being home will be good for the kids, but it is true that there is far more to see than we have time (or money) to do this trip.  Next trip…


Trotted a short distance up the cobblestone riverwalk to the most delightful village of Blois, which seemed shut down this Lundi (Monday) morning, although it was 10:30am. 


Several attempts to get cash with our Visa did not work again (nor did it last night). Block of America at work again!  What is an international trip without debit card trouble, in spite of my advance calls to tell them where we’d travel?  Ahhh.


We found a payphone to call Ned, who answered!  He reported 4:30am time on his end.  I know he’s happy about that!  We were glad his flight was uneventful from Paris.  Requested help with Block of America, which didn’t happen by our 6pm when we tried to use it again, this time for purchases in a store- embarrassing!


Called Nathalie too- indicated I was sad to miss visiting with them, but scared of my kids getting chicken pox.  Fortunately, Nathalie was smart enough to remind me that SHE is not contagious- that the nanny had not spread it to Noe’ (age 2)- rather the boys the nanny both watched had played together!  Ohhh… I felt like the biggest idiot in the world!  She kindly did not seem to hold this stupidity against me and we set a time to run by their house in Tours to meet them personally. 


Ran up to see the Blois castle, which was just beside the market we walked through yesterday.  Now THAT indicates we were tired because it’s hard to miss a 20’ high stone wall – maybe higher!  The castle was splendid, although we did not pay to go beyond a peek at the inside courtyard.  The view over the town and river from the castle were smashing.


Ran back down to Sugar on the river, and took off.  Fast drive down motorway A10 to Tours.  Because Nathalie has off work on Monday, as does her husband, Bruno, their four kids are normally home for lunch during their 1-2 hour mid-day break (depends on the age as to timing).  Anyway, we were trying to get there by 1:10 pm to see Lea, their 13-year old daughter, but I missed 2 turns in Tours and while the turnaround was quick, we missed her by 7 minutes!  Bummer.  But we did get to meet Elliot (7) and Quinten (16) who were terrific, although poor Noe’ was sent across the street to visit with his grandparents.


Nathalie and Bruno were delightful, kind, thoughtful, hospitable- we loved them!  They have a pool in the backyard which is glass-covered and Bruno removed the water cover so Lia and Charles could swim, which delighted them to no end- they were thrilled!  They even were invited to take showers in the house afterward to rinse off.  Nice!


Jazy and I visited with Nathalie and Bruno in the sun in their lovely backyard, drinking tea, going over maps and getting tips on traveling around by motorhome.  We had questions ready about France and French language and road signs.  Since Nathalie is an English teacher, she is an amazing resource regarding the language differences. 


Well we just ran out of time!  If we hadn’t come up with that silly plan for racing through Europe, we could have spent days talking with them.  Wonderful people! 


The best question of all at the end was when we asked about regional specialties for food so we could buy some while we’re here.  Well, they brought out gifts of wine, champagne, and fresh goat cheese from yesterday’s local market!  Ned, you left a day too early, Sweetie! 


Let it be known that I was completely wrong about the kids and the goad cheese- they loved it too.  I had to have one elbow out to keep them back while I snagged what I could for myself.  It was delicious- now I just need to determine how to hide it in the fridge!


They also gave the kids grenadine to put in water, which they delighted in all the way south- what a terrific way to get enough fluids!  It was just like the flavored water you can buy- but better.


We talked about French schools, vacation schedules and where to go, and RV exchanges.  They would like to find an exchange family in New England and travel that area and Eastern Canada.


Then we walked out front and we showed off Sugar.  Their motorhome is parked across the street down the long driveway of Bruno’s parents.  It was like a lovely fairy garden with profuse flowers perfuming the air- to park Sugar there overnight as they’d invited would have been heavenly and I was so sad we had to continue down the road. 


We went in their motorhome, which was terrific!  It is the same length (7 meters) as Sugar with a slightly different configuration that makes it a bit easier for 6 people.  There is a king-size cabover bed and a longer sofa behind the passenger seat.  The permanent bed in the back is to the side with the bathroom beside it.  You could tell they love their motorhome too- covered parking for it with electric, all the touches added inside – it was just perfect.  And we love Sugar!


Someone is going to do very well to exchange motorhomes with that delightful family.  I wish they wanted to come to Texas in 2010.  If anyone in New England or Eastern Canada is interested in exchanging, let me know and I’ll get you in email contact with them!


We were sad to say goodbye and sadder still that I’d been an imbecile again in not bringing flowers or something with me for such sweet hospitality.  What was I thinking? 


And remember that in France one typically gives quick kisses on both cheeks.  I’ll get that next time for sure! 


I later told Jazy that adults are just not used to face-burning red embarrassment, which I experience repeatedly when I travel internationally.  Instead, we’re usually able to figure out, organize, and prepare for things so that we’re not constantly embarrassed- but it’s much harder to do when situations are new.  Jazy just thinks we’re still tired from Paris and the early morning yesterday- surely that’s a good excuse- right?  I hope I can laugh later at some of the things that make me cringe right now to remember.


But kind Nathalie and Bruno seemed completely unfazed and provided a jewel of a map for us with all the French camping aires, farms that allow camping, municipal campgrounds, etc. for France.  It’s utility is priceless to us.  We’ve done this enough to spy a real help in finding camping tools. 


Here are the tools we need daily:  All the Aires in France book, the Church’s Europe Camping book, and the France Lonely Planet book- and that map now is a huge help.


Tours, the city, was lovely with wide streets and a relaxed feel.  I think this would be a terrific town in which to live and to visit next time.  We did not get to see enough of this city.


Our road tolls today were 8.80E between Blois and Tours (45 minutes), and then 40.50E from Tours to our exit 30 miles north of Bordeaux.


Well, we think it was 40.50 – we exited and came to an unmanned tollbooth, requiring backing up (twice) from the machine lanes and walking up to scout out the situation.  Since it was practically deserted at that exit, this was no problem.  But it was a one-way exit so we had to figure it out.  We finally dug out the emergency Mastercard (cash is low, Visa on block thanks to BOA), stuck it in the machine.  It spit out the card, raised the bar, and we raced through!  No receipt, no price info other than a chart taped on the machine.  Success!


We headed for a nice-sounding Aire in a small town.  We’d stopped at two motorway areas- Wow!  While there are stops nearly every 15 km, every other rest area (or so) was huge- like a municipal park!  They had dump stations, restaurants, information centers, stores with “regional specialties”, and even a cultural museum! 


We had dinner at one rest station, visited their museum (only ones there), admired the squat toilets in the loo, emptied the tank, got Sugar some diesel, and played on the playground.  There were flowers and blooming trees everywhere, lovely picnic tables set in the grass amongst trees, and special camping spots for camping cars, as we’re called in France.


We also visited the rest area’s really amazing store where we bought locally made:  2 espresso china cups, goat milk hand lotion (wanted the one that said “real ass’ milk” but too pricey), some delicious bread (baguettes were sold out), and some chocolate-chip cookies.  Life is good!


But we wanted to get off the highway (there are some scary stories of being gassed while sleeping at these roadside pulloffs, but Natalie and Bruno have done it and I cannot imagine these larger places being any less safe than a campground, really- particularly on the toll road.  So I would have no trouble stopping there overnight.


We like small towns.  Going down D18, we passed several wineries too!  We cannot wait to stop at some tomorrow to explore- we even saw two places with a camping car picture with a moon to indicate we could stay overnight there.


We saw a Tourist Office just 4 miles north of Cavignac that had camping car parking, services, and 2 RV’s overnighting there.  But still we pushed on.


Finally by dark (9:45pm) we arrive at our Aire- a carpark that is clearly signed for camping cars overnight, a big sign too at its entrance.  The town is closed up but very intriguing- we look forward to exploring it tomorrow.  But we’re the only ones here!  We parked near a light in full view of houses and the town.  We’re too tired to worry- really, this place looks like Mayberry’s of Andy Griffith Show fame. 


Perception:  Why is that van going around the carpark repeatedly?  Are they harassing us?  Finally I figure it out- the kid is getting driving lessons from his mom!  Their turns, backing, and stalling the engine are part of the learning process that has nothing to do with us! 


We love France!  The people have been very kind (fellow tourists are the least approachable- strange), the weather lovely, stunning small towns, amazing chateaux, terrific camping environment, delicious food and wine- Jazy is trying to figure out how to do a student exchange if she’s not fluent in French. 


It seems like a terrible shame to have to head out, but we’re aiming for Spain tomorrow.  If we don’t start kicking it up a notch, we’re going to miss much of Europe on this overview tour.  But Lord willing, we shall return to beautiful France!


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photo by: anywien