22 September 2009


We have developed a mode of travelling that works very well although it can be a bit gruelling. We leave home in Derbyshire mid-evening to drive to Folkestone, where we board a train at midnight, or a bit before if we arrive in good time. This makes for a less unpleasant journey south. Trying to get down the M1 for an earlier train (or ferry) is stressful and extremely hard work due to the horrendous traffic, which gets progressively worse the further south you get. Leaving home that bit later means we miss the worst of the traffic. It's roughly 12 hours door-to-door in total.

The péage at Tours at 7.00 am, the first day of our holiday.

We get to France in the early hours and press on. It's around six hours' driving to Le Grand-Pressigny so we take turns to drive or snooze, sometimes actually stopping in a rest area to sleep for a while if we are both too tired. The roads are usually pretty deserted in the early morning.


In August we arrived at our little cottage at about 8.15 am. Nick and Lulu went straight to bed. I was too thrilled to have come "home" again to sleep, so walked down to the village to get some shopping, stopping at the butcher, baker and little supermarket. I felt rather out of place in my denim jeans, shirt and cardigan. I noticed that even at that hour everyone else was wearing shorts and t-shirts and I then noticed it was actually rather warm. Little did I know exactly how warm it was going to get.

As I came out of the boulangerie, Henri, the patron and chef at Grand Ma's called to me and told me about the special musical evening they were having. A special menu and 3-piece jazz group. We had actually planned on an early pizza from the van in the village square and an early night but I thought this sounded like fun and we could always have a lie-in tomorrow.

When I got back to the house Lulu was out in the garden running around excitedly. Wondering what was going on, I looked up and saw a hot air balloon drifting over the house towards the château. I wrestled my camera out of my bag and dashed up the hill just in time to see it land behind the château.

The château was looking gorgeous that first morning.

After a customary picnic-style lunch we wandered down to the village to the Association Rétro-Mécanique's annual event taking place down by the river. It was incredibly hot. People were shade-hopping from one canopy to another but Nick and I just wandered "mad dogs and Englishmen" fashion around the field, determined not to miss anything.

The usual display of ancient and very colourful tractors.

A rather unusual selection of spare parts were for sale.

This bunch of old Citroens looked rather cute.

Move over, Célestine, what I really want is one of these.
(Any suggestions for a name on a postcard, please.)

I the evening we went to Grand Ma's and enjoyed a lovely dinner and excellent music from Callie, Nev and their French keyboard player whose name I didn't catch. I didn't quite catch the name of their band either but I would go and see them again. We tried really hard to stay awake long enough for the dancing but at 10.30pm gave up and went home to bed.

Callie is the one playing the double bass. She was great.
She didn't stand on it to play, though. Pity.
We had only been in Le Grand-Pressigny for a single day but we were having a great time. It was wonderful to be back and we had two whole weeks to enjoy. Heaven.


  1. Once we come out of the tunnel it takes us about six hours to get to our bit of France as well. Isn't it lovely to be on those deserted roads.

    Thank you very much for popping by to commiserate with me. I'll be back - I like the look of your blog

  2. French Fancy, welcome, I'm glad you called in. I've been sneaking into yours for a while!!
    I also have another suggestion if you check back.

  3. Jean, However hard I try, I can't say that I like the combination of the 'old' and 'new' part of the Château. I was even horrified when I saw it for the first time last June. Susan (Days on the Claise) tried to reconcile me with it, but I still dislike it. Sorry! Martine

    P.S. As they say in French: "Les goûts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas!" ;)

  4. Martine - I know just what you mean. Susan convinced me of the quality of the materials, the design and workmanship. I am kind of getting used to it. That's not really the same as liking it. I'm sure I will love it eventually, just because it is "ours".

  5. Recently ther's been an exhibition on Sheffield's Art Gallery - one piece was several huge canvasses covered in thousands of little strips of hand cut red paper. There was no design, just volume. Its not art. To be art you need form, shape, image, etc.

    So I'm with Martine on the Chateau! What really upsets me is that it looks to be deliberately wrong. The proportions, angles, materials, colours, block spacings,...everything right down to the mimicked windows and gutter spouts are wrong. There's no flow, persective, proportionality, sympathy, etc. If they'd built a corrugated iron shed on the side it would have worked better - at least it wouldn't look pretentious.

    It would have been so easy to get it right, and I don't mean impersonate the old, just complement it. There's nothing wrong with contrast or introducing a different style, but our Chateau was a fabulous monument...and it deserved better.


  6. Hi Jean
    I thought I'd visit someone who not only bought their place in France, but enjoy a Harley too. Now that really is living the dream.
    I think I'll enjoy reading about your experiences.

  7. Cor lummee, my journey There is a stroll in comparison. I sort myself out on a Thursday evening with any bits that need to make the journey, usually very little except the camera. When I get back on Friday night, I raid the fridge for any perishables, frog march the collie round the block for a pee and off we go. I try to get away about 6:30 since there's usually something like The News Quiz on radio 4. Depending on traffic, I'm usually There between 10 and 10:30. I can wander round the village, collie peeing on all blades of grass that haven't had his treatment since we were last There. Bt the time I've checked out everything, switched on stuff, had a glass of wine, it's bed time.

    And Saturday morning, we wake up to breakfast in the right place. Like you say, "Home".

    Your holiday sounds smashing.

    Mad x

  8. Mad - driving in France is so easy the distance is not a problem. It's the UK side that is such hard work.

    Going by air is about 4 hours quicker but then we have to leave Lulu with a dog sitter. And hiring a car is expensive. Jean

  9. Hi Jean,

    Cally Nev & Claude make up CNC Jazz trio.Blog looking great!
    Jim craig

  10. The Renault...she is a Maud....Celestine's sensible sister... :)

  11. Maud, that's it !!
    Just right. And when it breaks down we can call it M..de.
    (We have seriously been talking about buying an old one and doing it up. Insane, I know.)

  12. Jean, I like the new stone with the old in the Chateau... even the odd sized windows work... they haven't tried to re-create something 'old'.... but I still can't get my head round the green panelled roof. For almost two years I have thought it was a large tarpaulin covering some work being done. I photographed it last weekend and just hope it weathers in a bit!! Like your blog by the way... we've just started one on the Aigronne Valley wildlife around our Pressignoise pad.
    Tim and Pauline

  13. Oh... I meant to add... if you get a Rennie 4.... make sure the front flap is like the one at the Retro... the newer ones all have a black or grey plastic grill that has a flap at the back. The difference can be discovered when you open the flap for the first time in the spring. With the old ones the flap has deflected all the dead flies up and over the windscreen.
    With the grid and flap inside... I would advise you to wear a face mask! Or be like us and get a 2CV... then you can bowl along the local roads , with the hood rolled back.... and really enjoy the French countryside.
    Tim and Pauline