16 April 2009


Checking the luggage before boarding the ferry at Portsmouth

In June 2003 we drifted down to the Auvergne and camped at a small village called Bagnols, near Bort les Orgues. Nick had by then given up trying to keep Grin on the road and had bought a black Dyna Glide. We had also long since given up travelling light and each holiday carried an enormous amount of luggage bungied onto the seats, racks, anything. This added to our comfort in camping but made breaking camp a lengthy and complicated process. Everything had to be lashed down and stowed in exactly the right way to balance the bikes for the journey.

Nick and his lovely black Dyna

Our stay at Bagnols was memorable for two things:

1. The menu at the only hotel / restaurant in town. It had been translated into English for the convenience of visitors and it was hysterically funny. We sat outside with a beer whilst waiting for our food and laughed out loud at such dishes as "young cow's laughter in his grandmother's blue" - the translation for veal in a blue cheese sauce.

2. The amazing thunderstorm on the second night. We were quite high up and the thunder was like drums beating and bouncing around us between the hills. We hardly slept a wink. It was incredibly noisy, quite terrifying, and went on for hours.

After a couple of nights we moved on and south, heading for the Dordogne. The heat gradually increased as we came out of the hills and travelled south. By the time we arrived at Aurillac, it was extremely hot and humid. We set up camp in a shady spot. When we went for a shower, we were already hot and bothered again by the time we got back to the tent. The next afternoon we went for a walk along the river bank and it started to cloud over and cool down a bit. Thank goodness, we thought. By the time we reached the village it had started to look very grey and a lot like rain. We just made it to the canopies outside a restaurant when the heavens opened. It rained big style. Along with other tourists we decided we were stuck there for a while so we thought we may as well have a meal.

A nice shady spot for our tent

We had one of the best meals we have ever had in France, under a canopy, in the pouring rain, dressed in our scruffiest clothes and we were probably a bit whiffy too. The waiters had to keep prodding the canopy to get the rain to pour off onto the terrace instead of breaking through onto the diners.

Suddenly, as we paid the bill, the rain stopped and the sky cleared. We set off back along a steaming footpath and arrived at the campsite to find - DISASTER.

We had washing on the line that was sodden but so was the tent. A corner of the tent had come adrift and it was flapping about and had let water in. We were able to scramble together a reasonably dry bed for the night but the rest was in an awful mess.

The next morning it was 10 degrees cooler than the day before but we decided we had had enough of thunderstorms, heat, sleepless nights and the hard work that camping can sometimes be. This was supposed to be a holiday, after all. We packed up all our soggy washing, sodden tent and luggage, bungied it back on to the bikes and somewhat dejectedly, headed north. I was all for giving up and going home but Nick had other ideas.

Later that day, we were standing in the tourist office in Chinon enquiring about a gite. At that time our French was not too good but we got the gist of the conversation between the lady behind the desk and the hopeful gite owner. She said we were on "a moto" and therefore, no, we would not have too much luggage. She had obviously no imagination when it came to how much stuff you could actually get onto two bikes. Needless to say, the gite was very small. Actually it was just one room, with bed, table, "coin cuisine" and assorted furniture all crammed in. There was a small shower room with washing machine partitioned off in a corner. Neat but pretty cramped. Also slightly damp, as it was built into the rock in the hillside at the back.

We just had the ground floor of this little house - upstairs was another, more luxurious gite !

But we stayed for almost a week and were able to get everything washed, dried and sorted out. We also were able to meet up with our friends, Pete & Cyn, who were on their way south in their motorhome. They were looking for a property to buy.

Party-time, with the hopeful house-hunters.

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