In Bergerac with Cyrano

LOCATION: Housesitting outside of Bergerac, in SW France

WEATHER: Sunny and hot. High 80

Who said the French are snooty? We started the day with a delightful motel desk man who was overseeing the breakfast. It was certainly not like an American motel one. The breakfast bar included some gourmet cheeses and of course croissants and baguettes.

He helped us with breakfast then called a cab for us to get to the rental car office at the airport. Again, the people couldn’t have been nicer. They didn’t charge us for yesterday, even though they had not received my message that we weren’t arriving in time to pick up a car. We extended a day, and they simply moved the start and end date. Then, they said that the car we had originally ordered was already given out yesterday, so they upgraded us to a brand new, bigger car (5 miles on the odometer). They even apologized! George likes this Fiat just fine….

We walked around the town of Bergerac. It is the home of wonderful local wines and foie gras. I think we will like it here!!!

We walked around the old town admiring the lovely old architecture.

Bergerac is situated on the Dordogne River.

Of course, we had to track down one of the statues of Cyrano de Bergerac. Notice his famous long nose…

Our housesitting assignment is in a small village between Bordeaux and Bergerac, right on the Dordogne River.

We chatted with the housesitters and got oriented to our assignment. We will be caring for 3 indoor/outdoor cats as well as keeping the swimming pool clean and watering the plants.

DINNER: The homeowner made a delicious dinner of chicken cordon blue and roasted vegetables.

Almost lost George along the way….

LOCATION: On bus most of the day. Night in Bergarac, France

WEATHER: Cloudy and warm on bus through France

The day started with a bang! We departed from London last night on the bus and arrived at the English Channel at about midnight. We had to get off the bus for passport control. Just as we were finally sleeping! The bus driver told us to run back to the bus as he was anxious to catch the Chunnel crossing at 12:19 AM. I ran back, thinking George was right behind me. The driver started the bus engine up, but George wasn’t there! I yelled to tell the bus driver to wait. By this time, it was 12:15 and the driver was anxious for us to catch that train through the tunnel. If we missed it, we would have to wait 2 hours for the next one. Everyone started looking around for George. They realized that I was anxious and told the bus driver something in French like “this lady’s husband isn’t on the bus yet”. Frantic, I didn’t know what we would do. Finally, George appeared…..He had entered the back door and was in the bus’s toilet! We took off and got on tunnel transport at 12:18. Whew!

Here is the bus and driver on our 35-minute tunnel crossing…

We were scheduled to arrive in Paris at 6:45 AM, but at 4:30 AM, the driver announced that we were arriving. I guess they publish the 6:45 AM arrival time due to the uncertainty of which tunnel crossing transport we would make. The bus ticket said that we were stopping in a “Gare” (station), but it wasn’t a real station, just a dark ghetto-like garage-type area. Most of the passengers just scattered. We had to wait until 8:20 AM for our bus to Bordeaux. There were lots of homeless guys sleeping it off on the benches. We just sort of huddled over our backpacks. Then, these drunk North African guys came in, just to make trouble. They obviously had been partying all night. One guy had his shirt off. They approached me (while George was snoozing), trying to engage in a boozy conversation. I just ignored them and pretended to sleep. I wonder how travelers do this in the winter – just open space – must be freezing.

Finally, it was 6:00 AM, and we walked out of that garage to see if we could find a cafe. Yay! A really quaint, typical Parisian cafe had just opened. We had coffee and a scrumptious croissant.

Back to the bus area. More people had arrived, so it wasn’t scary any more. It was very unorganized, though. None of the buses had signs on them saying where they were going. So, people just walked back and forth, dragging their wheeled suitcases, nervously looking for their bus. It was a sea of humanity, walking from one end of the parking bays to the other. Finally, at about 8;15 a TV monitor came on and showed the bay for upcoming departures. We set off for an 8-hour drive south.

The bus trip was uneventful, but we arrived about an hour late, missing our train to Bergarac. We caught the next one, and happily landed in our hotel at about 8:00 PM. 34+ hours of traveling!!!

We were supposed to pick up our rental car, but the office was closed. We will deal with that tomorrow – if the airport car rental office is even open, since the airport is probably not functioning due to strike.

DINNER: We are staying at an Ibis motel – a European chain like Microtel. There was only one restaurant nearby that we could walk to – an American Tex-Mex steakhouse restaurant called Buffalo that features California wine and quesadillas! What could be worse in Bordeaux country with great wine and foie gras! We were so tired that it really didn’t matter. We ended up with some local wine, a decent cut of beef and a salad.

Glitches in Traveling

The Glitches of Traveling

LOCATION: Traveling from Gloucester to SW France

WEATHER: Sunny in Ross-on-Rye, Drizzle in London. Highs 70

As I wrote yesterday, we had a wicked surprise via email last night informing us that our flight to Bergarac, France to get to our next assignment was canceled. It is due to an Air Traffic Controllers’ strike throughout SW France. So, it wouldn’t make sense to try to find another flight to that area. Frantically we researched other options. We looked at the Eurostar train (through the Chunnel). $600 USD for the 2 of us, plus a requirement to take a bus in Paris from one station to another station with a tight time frame. So, that was out, too. Also rumors of train strikes in France this coming week, too. We had to resort to the bus option.

Originally, we had nice plans to go from Gloucester to London Stansted Airport where we had reserved a cute little hotel/inn, with a leisurely stay and a flight on Tuesday AM direct to Bergarac. The best laid plans…..Now, we will travel by bus to London (3.5 hours), then wait in London for 7 hours, then catch a 9:00 PM bus which will get us to Bordeaux at 3:45 PM tomorrow. We got a refund on our flight, but we lost our money on the hotel. The bus will be $70 USD more than the flight. Crazy. Plus, once we get to Bordeaux, we will have to find a train to Bergarac, then a taxi to the hotel which is near the airport. With all the travel we have done in the last 5 years, this is really the first major glitch we have had. On a positive note, we have a day buffer between housesits, so we can get to the next assignment on time.

With that “sorted out”, we went to bed last night knowing that this would be the last comfortable sleeping arrangement for awhile.

This morning, we said good-bye to our cute little Jack Russell dogs at our housesitting assignment in Ross-on-Wye. The homeowner kindly drove us from Ross to Gloucester, about 45 minutes. From there, we caught the bus and rode through the lovely Cotswolds. As we neared London, we rode near the Chelsea Flower Show area, a very famous event that just started.

The bus dropped us off at Victoria Coach Station which is the same station that we will leave from tonight for France. We will be back here in about 2 weeks, so we checked out our future travel arrangements to Gatwick Airport and found the hotel that we have booked for the night before. We were just killing time, without sitting on our bums (in preparation for the bus trip!)

We enjoyed this nice pub for a drink where we will probably eat dinner at when we return to this area in 2 weeks. The sign outside said that Churchill lived near here and frequented the pub.

Last day housesitting in western England

LOCATION: Housesitting in Ross-on-Wye, England

WEATHER: Sunny again and nice. High 70

For today, our last full day here housesitting, we wanted to return to the Wye River one more time.

We walked the dogs through town and down to the river. We had a nice lunch at a riverside pub.

We talked with a couple that is doing a 5-day rowing trip down the Wye River. It gave us an idea for a future trip. They are going with the current, so it isn’t too difficult. They stop at pubs for lunch and tie up at B&Bs at night.

We basked in the sunshine and really had a nice time.

Back home, I did the last bit of laundry. The Aga oven stays on all of the time, and puts out quite a bit of heat. It does a good side job as a clothes dryer. 🙂

DINNER: Lasagne. I made a casserole for our homeowners, and a smaller one for us. They will return late tonight.

CRISIS —- I normally don’t check emails at night, but I did tonight when I went to the main house to fetch some dog food. I had one from Ryanair apologizing for our flight cancellation tomorrow for France. Yikes! Check tomorrow’s blog to see what we will do.

The Royal Wedding….of course!

LOCATION: Housesitting in Ross-on-Wye, in western England

WEATHER: Perfect (of course!) for the wedding. Sunny. High 73

We did what most all of England did this morning – watch the Royal Wedding on TV (or the telly as they say here).

Starting at about 6:00 AM, we watched the build-up. All morning, the TV folks speculated about the dress, the weather, the procession, and the KISS. Amazing how they can go on and on. Interestingly, there were no commercial breaks.

When things got dull, we went up to the main house to check on things. The flowers there are beautiful.

Then, the big moment at 12:00 noon, when the wedding started. It was majestic, perfect in every way, and just royal!

At about 2:00, when the ceremony was over and the TV personnel were just rehashing the event, we walked to the town center. It was eerily quiet, like a ghost town. I think everyone was inside, just glued to their Telly. There were lots of British flags and banners hanging from windows all over town.

We did some shopping and stopped at a pub where they had some special Royal Wedding drinks. They were featuring a beer called The Windsor Knot made with “a combination of British and American hops”.

DINNER: Indian Tikka Marsala. I used a jar of the sauce and added leftover chicken and veg to it. Served it over rice. Seemed a bit British, in keeping with today’s spirit.

Castle in the country

LOCATION: Housesitting in Ross-on-Wye, England

WEATHER: Smashing! Sunny. High 70

Today we retraced our steps back toward Wales. We took the same bus, but got off in a village on the Wales/England border that has a marvelous pub/inn and castle.

It is a beautiful location. The pub was built in the 1200s and sits along the river

This will probably be our last British country pub on this trip. It is something that we are really going to miss.

Since the weather was so nice, we sat in the garden to eat our lunch of a brie and bacon sandwich and some wild mushroom pate.

We walked off our lunch by trekking up the hill to the castle. They say that Wales has more castles than just about any country.

Back home, we relaxed by our backyard pond. Life at the manor!

Mojo stayed with us while Beamish went up to the main house with the homeowner’s son.

DINNER: Omelette to use up some leftovers and broccoli/cheese soup.

Day trip to Cymru (Wales)

LOCATION: Housesitting in Ross-on-Wye, England

WEATHER: Sunny. High mid 60s

Today we were off to Wales. It sounds like quite a journey, but it is only 10 miles away!

We walked downtown to pick up the bus. We joined the queue along with other Old Age Pensioners. The British OAPs get to ride free, so they ride quite a bit – to visit friends, shop in other towns, etc. The friendly bus driver knew all their names and kidded everyone.

We grabbed a front seat on the top of the double-decker bus for more good views. The streets in town are very narrow. As we were leaving the town, we encountered this delivery truck parked on the right side of the street. The driver was nowhere to be found, and we couldn’t get around. The bus driver got out and searched. He was quite angry. We created quite a traffic jam behind us. After about 15 minutes, the truck driver appeared (probably after a coffee in the pub) and we were off, too.

The roads in the country are impossibly narrow, too. It is a good thing another bus or truck didn’t approach us on this road. Although it was only 10 miles to our Welsh destination, the circuitous route through tiny villages took us 45 minutes. It was delightful.

We were disappointed not to hear anyone speaking Welsh, but all the signage is in English and Welsh. All the children are required to study Welsh throughout school.

We had lunch in an outdoor cafe overlooking this bridge, built in the 1200s.

DINNER: Ryan made us Thai curry with prawns and green beans. It was delicious. The family has lived in SE. Asia, so he learned how to make it there.