I organised housesitters ages ago, to look after the house, dog and cat. I found two Swedish ladies from couchsurfers.org, roughly my age, who flew into Brest airport the day before I left, hired a car, and drove down here. Normally I leave my car for my housesitters, but this time I drove across France. I left on Thursday morning, and drove to Azay-le-Rideau in the Loire Valley, where my friend Marylou has a crêperie. I haven't seen her for two years so it was a good opportunity to catch up. I arrived at the end of the afternoon, having strolled along, stopping off to look at things on the way. She gave me dinner in her restaurant, working like a slave all the while, I don't know how she keeps it up.
I left the next morning about 10h00, and drove the rest of the way, along the Loire (I grew quite nostalgic during this bit of the journey), then through Burgundy and on to the border. Not a part of France I know well. I don't like mountains. I felt claustrophobic and closed in when I was not far from my destination. And there was an awful lot of traffic, it took me for ever to get there.
The river Cher at Montrichard
The weather was perfect Saturday and Sunday, we were able to eat out all the time on a wide terrace overlooking the mountains, in true style I took no photos, relying on other people to send me theirs; with the result that I have none as yet. We chatted a lot and analysed what it was we got out of our stay in India; there is no doubt that everybody came away changed to some degree. We cooked meals by rota, vegetarian it had been agreed. Very good food, good atmosphere, a very nice weekend.
My hostess and a couple of fellow guests Place des Nations, Geneva
And on Monday I headed back to do the same drive the other way round. I left at 10h30, went back to Azay le Rideau with the same awful traffic, and had dinner with Marylou and her partner by the river (Vienne? I'm never sure which one it is). I slept at their house that night and set off the following day for Angers where Yves was working for the day. I found a small, very cheap hotel just where I wanted it, by the river Maine at Bouchemaine, just down the road from a very good restaurant, l'Ancre Marine, which Yves found a bit complicated, but which I enjoyed thoroughly. A wide view over the river, a full moon rising, good food, a nice bottle of Chinon. I had tartare de daurade and then sweetbreads in a sabayon d'agrumes, a curious mixture but very good.
The village of Bouchemaine is very attractive, at least the old part by the river. It has tiny streets and old stone houses, and a path along the Maine where it joins the Loire. There were fishermen, a few late holidaymakers, and lots of birdlife. We spent a night there about 12 years ago when I was working for Vacances en Campagne and we didn't regret going back at all.
On Wednesday, I dropped Yves off at the station in Angers, without the help of my GPS which gave up the ghost at that precise moment, then headed in the direction of Nantes. I stopped in an aire and rang the person who keeps Shahdlou to see if I could pop by and see him, and then headed up using my mapbook (what a strange feeling!) to Vay, near Nozay. Shahdlou looked good, he was in a field with 5 other horses, and a few beef cattle. I gave him the bread rolls I had pilfered from the breakfast table and he came and gave me a distinct sign of affection by leaning his head on my chest. One can only stay ten minutes, but it did me good. These photos are not good, but he kept coming towards me. For his age, 24, he's still looking good. The farmer who looks after him, and other horses from the same retired horses association, is in the picture. He's a really nice chap.
Then back to Quimper and my Swedish ladies who had kept the household going. It started to pour with rain, and went on for two days. And cold with it. They prepared me a Swedish dinner for the night of my arrival back with Janssen's fretelse pictured below. Very good and very welcome after a day on the road. They left on Friday to go and tour the north of the Finistère before leaving by plane again. I'm so lucky with my housesitters. I have another one arriving in three weeks time, an American this time, when I go to America to see Cécile and her family.
The weather has turned wonderful again. And all the tourists have gone! Which makes life easier and Quimper emptier. Schools go back this week. I can go to the beach with Ellie again. Back to normal...