Troyes – French Adventure 2012 Part 1:

troyeshouses

As soon as I disembark whatever means of transport I’ve chosen to traverse La Mer (Euro-tunnel in this case)  I feel I’ve come home…….it’s never been my home, my French is tres crap and I have no French connections at all but it still feels so right.  I will go to great lengths to get my French fix, lies, bribery, threats, self-denial, gross exaggeration – there is no level I won’t sink to in order to secure my crossing to France. This year had even involved various levels of threats to the passport office finally culminating in tears of despair after they’d made a monumental cock up; we finally received the new passport on the morning we travelled! Thanks to family, friends and the UKCS guys for seeing me through one of my darkest hours.   Therefore on a sunny dawn late August we arrived with very little money (lie number one = “it’s fine hon, we can afford it”) and a whole lot of  joy in my heart – Bruce was snoring loudly in the passenger seat so I’m not entirely sure he felt same elation.  Perhaps I should explain that we were child, or rather teenager free and Bruce was asleep because he’d been doing a gig in London while I slept for a few hours at his sisters house in Rochester before we caught the 5am euro-tunnel-train type thing.

We had endured a wet, miserable summer so far but this weekend the temperature had started to soar and as Fugly chugged along the troyescathedralmotorway, the heat increased.  The air-con still didn’t work, Bruce woke up in a sweat and the benefits of my 1.5 hours sleep were wearing off at an alarming rate.  As we pulled off at Troyes, in the now searing heat, the elation had turned into dehydration and our communication was reduced to a short, clipped bark, sometimes accompanied with a low growl and a cutting remark.  We parked close to the center of Troyes and found a square with some cafes, nice but not remarkable.  After we had sat and lapped up the atmosphere and the coffee we headed to another square with a market place where there was a stage and live music.  I love live music and outdoor concerts but I think tiredness and heat were starting to win the day and my energy levels were such that I couldn’t even be bothered to snap at Bruce in the usual tired and grouchy manner, not even a little snarl.  We started to walk back to the car when I spotted some medieval timber buildings around a corner………….and so began my love affair with Troyes and our holiday for real.

boat trip and france etc 040Troyes is the capital of the Aube department within the region of Champagne-Ardenne, south of Reims, on the road to Lyon.  Troyes history dates back to Roman times and includes Joan of Arc, wrangles and treaties with the English throne, a revolution or two and of course the obligatory Great Fire.  It’s location and annexing from Champagne caused uprisings as late as 1911 and resulted in the wine growers being granted permission to label sparkling wine from this region “Champagne”.  The French and their wine eh? This historical melting pot has resulted in some fine architecture, Troyes cathedral being a fine example.  Work started on the gothic cathedral in the 13th century and continued into the 16th century so it’s worth a look if only to honour the tenacity of the builders and craftsmen.

In medieval times the city was a bustling trade centre and gave its name to Troy Weight which is apparently a measurement for gold, as I have had no gold to weigh I am unfamiliar with this term. In 1524 the Great Fire destroyed the city bar one or two buildings.  All this history and drama serves to make Troyes an interesting place but what really floats my boat is the half-timbered houses that survive from the 16th century in the old town.  Their pretty pastel colours, crookedness and shabby chic authenticity is irresistible to me, I was drawn towards these buildings from a chance glimpse around a corner and soon a whole mini-town opened up before us.  Bruce, who is unmoved by boat trip and france etc 042inanimate pastel coloured buildings and generally doesn’t give a flying fig about history began to to take the tiniest bit of  interest as he caught a whiff of French cooking.  The lunch time menu was being prepared in the numerous restaurants situated in rustic twisted buildings with their tables pouring out onto the narrow sunlit streets flowing effortlessly, like wine, from building to pavement.

boat trip and france etc 043We stopped for lunch, rude not to really.  The restaurant was called Rouge et Noir (ranked 12 out of 111 on TripAdvisor) and we opted for a table in the sunshine against the church wall.  I was so impressed to find a vegetarian option on the menu, in fact I had to look twice and then ask Bruce to confirm that we were in France, meat eater central, and that I had found a restaurant with a vegetarian option.  Slightly taken aback I perused the menu while Bruce ordered drinks.  I opted for the vegetarian platter and the drinks arrived –  Orangina for me (driving and a total lightweight) and the most delicious red wine I have ever tasted for Bruce.  As we sat in the sunshine supping our drinks I watched the stress lines visibly dissapear from Bruces face, his dimples began to reappear and the smiles became more regular.  He was positively elated when he put the first boat trip and france etc 044mouthful of food into his mouth, the whole dining experience including the service couldn’t have been bettered. Viva la France!  The food, the drink, the location, the weather and the ambience combined to provide that perfect holiday feeling expressed with a long, deep sigh of contentment.

Our intention was to motor as far south as possible and find a campsite by 5pm however, after a long, lazy lunch in the sunshine the thought of getting back into a hot car with no air con was about as appealing as eating live cockroaches.  We checked our phones for the latest weather which basically said we were in for a couple of days of hot sunny weather then back to the miserableness that had been our summer in the UK, at which point I suggested we went to Lac D’Orient, a few miles east of Troyes.  We sauntered back to the car hand in hand, the stress and worries of home finally banished and 1 weeks worth of time for each other to look forward to……………

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Day 5 – Widmouth Bay & Day 6 – The Home Run……..

Today was a take it easy day except for a visit to Widemouth Bay.  For the keen surfer this seems the place to be, a huge expanse of sand near Bude with the surf rolling in all white and frothy.  For those not into surfing there is the digging in the sand option, taken up again by all 4 kids and the people watching with a coffee option, taken up by Bruce and I at the handy little cafe/kiosk.  It was a fab way to end our holiday, we may not have risked sunburn in Cornwall but it has plenty to offer and I will certainly return one day especially if I am a) brave enough b) have the money to learn to surf! (Oh and c) loose enough weight to actually get into a wetsuit).

Day 5 – The Home Run:

Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself and quicker than a blink of the eye it was time to leave Cornwall.  Other than the weather the general consensus was it had been a good holiday but France still comes out favourite.  Fugly, our lovely Fiat Multipla, had whizzed around the Cornish countryside without any fuss whatsoever so we were pretty confident we’d get home with no problems.  And we nearly did!  About 10 miles from home, all of a sudden with no warning, our drive shaft fell off.  Luckily Mum came and rescued the kids and Bruce and I waited for recovery.  We were soon hooked up and towed back to Bruces unit where we picked up his van, not a total disaster and we nearly made it home!

Day 4 – Shipwrecks, Cider & Seals………..

So where do you take 3 teenage boys and 1 almost teenage girl on a rainy day in Cornwall that costs next to nowt?  I scoured the tourist info brochures concentrating purely on the price, not looking at what the actual attraction was, which is why we nearly ended up at Billy Bears Fun House and Ball Pool! Sadly indoor play area days are long gone but I was attracted to the Shipwreck museum in Charlestown, surely that would capture a little interest in a teenage soul?  With the rain still beating down we arrived at the Museum, it cost a little over £20 for all 6 of us using a combination of discount vouchers, student union card and a small white lie.  Ollie and Bets posed on a lifeboat with as much enthusiasm as they could muster and we walked through the underground tunnels to the main museum.  Bruce and I found it fascinating and could have wandered round looking at the displays for a good few hours but the teenage mutant lot whizzed round and hung out by the exit, although I couldn’t see them I knew they were there, I could feel their “I’m bored” hormones permeating the thick stone walls between us and them.  I blame myself, I’d promised them a visit to a Cider Farm and the prospect of an illicit drink of Cornwalls best scrumpy was a far more attractive proposition to them.

On to Healey’s Cornish Cyder Farm for a taste of their finest.  To be honest there isn’t a lot to see here unless you take the distillery tour which is about £5.00 per adult but it does have a nice cafe, shop and some big shire horses.  Despite it being free admission we spent a small fortune having a pasty in the cafe (8/10 better than yesterday was the verdict) and buying scrumpy.  George bought some mustard (don’t ask) with his spending money and declared he’d very much enjoyed the cyder farm.  Just being in an alcoholic environment was enough to lift the spirits of even the most disinterested teen but they could only stand and watch as Bruce and I sampled the delights of Healey’s finest at the tasting table (I had to stop after 3 tasters as I was driving and I’m a lightweight when it comes to drinking).  We hiccupped our way back to Fugly The Car and set off for Newquay.

I have never been to Newquay before so when we stumbled upon the Harbour pictured above, with the sun now shining and blue sky starting to dominate the sky, I knew I had found a favourite place.  We entered the harbour a slightly unconventional way by steep stone steps and across rocks, whereupon the kids found a cave and we suggested they go and explore it whilst we explored the prospects of a coffee overlooking the harbour.  We found The Boathouse, a restaurant right on the harbour beach, and with the vain hope that it may be a couple of hours before we needed to call Cave Rescue we settled down to a peaceful, relaxing cup of coffee at a reasonable price in the sunshine watching the boats a bobbing.  It wasn’t long before the peace was shattered, cave explored, the teen tribe had decided to dig holes in the sand (fast becoming a favourite past-time on this holiday) right below where we were drinking coffee, they had a whole beach but no, they needed an audience for their hole digging and we were the chosen two.  We tried to ignore them, refused to “look after” jumpers, cameras, phones, mustard and a pair of socks but eventually we were surrounded by a jumble sale of belongings.  I tried not to look or engage with them but I was soon laughing at their exploits and clicking away with the camera.  They are a totally bizarre bunch but I do love em all. And as for the seal referred to in the title, we met him on our wander around the harbour walls following a boat in hoping for a fish.

Day 3- On the trail of Doc Martin……….

I admit I’m a big fan of Doc Martin and couldn’t resist the temptation.  After a pastie (pastie was rated 7/10 by Bruce) in Rock we headed for Port Issac where the series is partly filmed.  As advised we parked at the top of the hill and were greeted by a parking attendant who I’m sure is straight from the series, you know the type, fingers in lots of pies, little earners going on here and there.  You could almost see the pound signs ring up in his eyes as he took our £3.00 and in true Cornish style, with few words, pointed to a stretch of overgrown grass and hedge where we were to park. We then began the hike down the hill and realised we could have parked anywhere for free on the side roads but hey ho!

Port Issacc is nestled on a steep hill going down to a small working harbour and is everything you’d expect of a small Cornish fishing village; nets and baskets, boats and cottages, crab sandwiches, ice-creams and lots of tourists!  I got out the camera and started to exercise my creative side, the best of which are below.  Left to my own devices I could have stayed for hours, people watching, taking pics and drinking coffee or even a few beers.  But I was not left to my own devices, 4 teens moodily stomped around said quaint village, decided it was “alright” then were ready to move on to the next.  They did agree to pose for photo on the steps which I think clearly illustrates their disinterest levels.  I didn’t even get as far as seeing Doc Martins house.

Day 2 – Flushing Beach

We awoke to a grey sky and Bruce being stuck to the plastic mattress, we had luckily managed to go through the night without peeing the bed which surely deserved a gold star on our star chart.  Our plans today involved meeting friends L & S for a day on the beach, we had been promised some sunshine although the low, grey clouds and sea mist told a different story. 

After waking the platoon and issuing rations we left the barracks for Penryn where L & S live, I was being ever the optimist and spotting glimmers of sunshine however my hoodwinking came to an abrupt end as the rain began to fall just as we arrived at L & S’s house.  The rain passed quickly and the clouds began to break and as we sat on the decking drinking coffee we decided that by the time we got to the beach we would definitely be needing the sun tan lotion.  And so to Flushing beach via Argos at Falmouth where I had been given information that a Lumix camera had been reduced from over £100 to £49 and as my lovely Mum and Dad had given us a bit of spending money before I left I decided to treat us (meaning me) to a new camera – it’s a fab little thing so big thanks to Mum and Dad.  We also dropped in to Trago Mills, a shop full of low quality, cheap everythings to buy an SD card, a £3.99 watch for Beta and a dressing gown for George as well as a pair of flip flops for Bruce.  We now had all the necessities for a day at the beach – except towels! 

We arrived at Flushing beach to the sun shining and the sea sparkling.  The kids immediately got to work digging big holes for no reason whatsoever and Ohm and H arrived to assist in the “dig a great big hole” project.  I got busy with my camera, see results below, taking pictures of the few bits of blue sky I could find to give the illusion of being on a “summer” holiday.  We spent a lovely hour eating our pack up (reduced sandwiches from Tesco Express – Tuna & Sweetcorn 15p, bargain!) talking to L & S and watching the world go by until L got a phone call to say his Mum had fallen and possible broken her ankle so they had to rush off to take her to hospital (fortunately it was only a twisted ankle, painful though).  With no friends to play with Bruce and I left the kids digging a hole and headed for The Royal Standard for a cup of their lovely coffee.  We arranged to collect the kids 1 hour later which we did and shoved various sandy, soaked bodies (no towels remember) into Fugly and back to the barracks. 

Having attempted to cook a meal for six using 1 small oven tray the night before, we decided to have Fish & Chips for dinner that evening and went into the village of Mullion.  Here we found The Galleon Fish & Chip shop and what a find, the service was friendly and efficient and they serve freshly caught local fish in their crispy home made batter, Bruce thoroughly enjoyed the Pollock.  If you’re ever in the area in need of fish and chips this is the place to go, they have a small restaurant to.

Suitably full we returned to our nissan hut and went to bed eager to be up and moving on to our new destination the following morning.

Flushing Beach July 2012

Blue sky at Flushing July 2012

And so to Cornwall……………..

Exhausted, stressed, tired and penniless we set off for Cornwall at 5.30am on a wet and soggy July morning – Bruce had just returned from a gig and I just wanted to escape from …well everything really.  The kids dragged themselves out of bed and into the car and by the time we reached the M6 everyone was sleeping soundly, except me as I was driving and battling with lorry spray and a torrent of standing water.  We passed an accident where someone had quite obviously lost the battle and rolled the car, debris littered over the carriages like a suitcase spilling its contents, it had only just happened, I hope everyone was OK.

After a pit stop just after Bristol (items consumed 9 cobs, 7 bags of crisps, 1 packet beef, 1 packet ham, cheese, jaffa cakes and a kit kat) we arrived in Plymouth to visit our friends S & J then continued on to Mullion.  The sun began to make brief appearances, the rain stopped and all of a sudden we were on holiday……….The kids, as always, are the best and never fail to make us laugh at their silly words and observations, apparently one of the ruder ‘in’ sayings is from Southpark (or Family Guy all the same to me).  We drove the last few miles full of hope – hope that we would have a super duper caravan thingy and even more hope that the jet stream would position itself where it’s supposed to be this time of year IE north of the UK!  

Our first view of Parkdean Holiday Park, Mullion was the concrete building with Costcutter emblazoned across it, the windowless, grey architecture a relic from the heady days of 1950s holiday camps. This did not bode well, a bunker for a shop, a barrier at the gate and rows of green Nissan hut style caravans almost arrogantly plonked in a beautiful part of the country.   Reception were friendly and efficient and gave us our entertainment passes which we never paid for and had deep reservations about using them for the ‘on site entertainment and pool complex’. 

We found our block and located our home for the next two nights – a green static caravan set within it’s own water feature – a bog!  To be fair to Parkdean they were working tirelessly to place down paths, paving stones and gravel to counteract the rain that the pesky jet stream has been dumping on us for the last few weeks.  We investigated our nissan/caravan further, it didn’t take much investigation as it was very small for a static van and certainly not big enough for all 6 of us.  The first indication of this was the seating area that we couldn’t all sit in at the same time (meals in shifts, TV watching rota) further investigation found the sofa bed a very tight squeeze to pull out and not get mangled with the table and the flimsy mattress was dismissed out of hand “I’m not sleeping on that thing” retorted one happy teenager.  Consequently George ended up sleeping at right angles in the L shaped dining area.  As Bruce and I squeezed and pushed past various bodies, luggage and shoe debris we located our bedroom and the wonderfully considerate built in incontinence sheet on the double mattress – no way of removing it whatsoever but at least we can now wet the bed with impunity!  We’re staying for 2 nights and will be visiting friends so we’re going to have to put up with it.

On the bright side Cornwall is a beautiful county, rugged and quaint, almost foreign and so very different from the rolling Leicestershire countryside and we were away, I’m not sure Bruce shared my optimism, partly due to being thoroughly knackered and partly due to his non comprehension of how anyone can possibly enjoy a holiday in the rain, I think it’s his Mediterranean blood that’s a the heart of these weather issues plus the fact he can be bloody miserable sometimes.  Ohm rang his old mate H in Flushing and speedily set up going over to see him for a sleep over – so leaving 3 bodies behind Bruce, Ohm and I set off for the quaint little village opposite Falmouth and Penryn where Ohms best friend from his school days in Penryn lives.  H’s Mum was in the Royal Standard Pub so we felt it only right, after dropping Ohm off that we go and join her.

We were met with warm friendly service that stretched to giving me a wine taster to be sure I liked it – I did! Bruce had a pint of Doombar, a locally produced beer. The menu looked diverse and interesting with most things homemade and apparently the food is well worth splashing out for, maybe next time. We settled down outside, child free and listened to K telling her stories and anecdotes with such naturally comedic timing that we were soon falling about laughing.  Her stories included her pissed up Granpops as commander of a Navy ship and taking his lump hammer to a Japanese made Microwave oven, her various ballistic experiments one involving a pedal bin, several cans of hairspray and a dead turkey, apparently her television set was no more after that little escapade and her sons battle re-enactments where one elderly lady beat him around the head with her handbag when he was dressed as a German officer.   K was interesting, intelligent with a passion for life and a hearty laugh, enough to chase the blues away and take you away from the mundane existence found in the cul de sacs of of a Leicestershire village where the most interesting thing some of our neighbours have to think about is what that unconventional family across the road (that will be us) is up to and why we don’t put our bins back on the drive the second the bin men have emptied them!  After a freshly ground and just about perfect coffee we set off for our barracks and a much needed sleep in our plastic bed.

 

Holidays 2012

It’s been a long time but now the sun is shining (in my head anyway, I won’t bother looking out of the window) and holiday season is here once more. As ever money is tight so I have made the best on The Sun Holiday deals, Tesco vouchers and a cheap local campsite to plan 3 holidays to meet everyones needs.
First up is our annual weekend away with my brother and his family, camping in our tent. You may remember last year was a bit of an adventure, see here for an account of our windy weekend:  https://kyla40.wordpress.com/page/4/ or see picture opposite – a poorly tent!

We’re off this weekend to Holme Pierrepoint, the National Watersports centre in Nottingham. This is fairly local to us and costs £17.00 per night, per pitch for all 6 of us plus the dog. We’ll take the barbie and some beer, Mum and Dad will join us on Sunday for lunch (Mum has requested we take a TV so she can watch the Jubilee Flotilla, bless!) <

On Monday we pack away and get home in time for Bruce to DJ at the local pub for a Jubilee party, they want Karoeke which Bruce is not keen on at all but it’s local and it earns a few pennies whilst having a beer with friends and neighbours.

Next up is our Sun holiday in Cornwall, paid for with some cash and some holiday tokens from The Sun. We go first to spend the weekend at Parkdean in Mullion hopefully in a static van. This is near to Penryn where Bruce and kids used to live so we shall probably catch up with some old friends and then we’re hoping to visit a radio mast place called something like googlewilly, George has requested this and I have to say I am nearly as excited at the prospect of visiting a radio mast as I am of snail racing. On Monday we move to a holiday camp in St Minver and again we will hopefully get something with a fully working toilet and leak proof roof. This holiday is for the family, especially the kids, so I have purchased the Entertainment Pass which will hopefully keep them all occupied and in the evenings we can threaten them with Karoeke and Bingo if they don’t behave!! (I love a game of bingo and a sing song but it’s my secret).  Hopefully Fugly Car will get us there and maybe even back again and the sun will shine.

Finally, when all of the kids have gone to their respective ‘other parent’ Bruce and I will be taking the Transit van to France, with a mattress and camping cooker in the back.  Tesco vouchers have paid for the Eurotunnel and at the moment the Euro is weak which is great news for us.  Taking the Transit means we can ‘rough camp’ or stop in lay-byes and I can pretend I’ve got a camper once more, I’m quite excited.  I love the freedom of following the weather, freedom to do as I please and my bed in the back……..just need to give the “do I really need a Bog in a Bag?” question a bit more thought.

Hopefully many happy days ahead…………