Tuesday, February 17, 2009

France ............

We left early Monday morning for the Eurotunnel to France. Drove through the busy early morning traffic in London a bit of an ordeal with a new car but what the hell, if I can drive in Cape Town I can drive anywhere.
Megan very kindly purchased a Garmin satnav which made things a lot easier. Just listen to the voice and drive! Arrived in Folkestone with just a 15 minute wait before boarding. So well organised drove car onto upper deck sat back and 45 minutes later we arrived in Calais.
My driving experience in the States has certainly been of benefit as it was off the train and driving on the right side of the road. The highways are excellent in France, well maintained and signposted. We have learnt a lot in the past few weeks, how to pump gas for instance. All self service also a lesson learnt in America. We had planned to drive as far as Rennes that day and spend the night in a hotel before the short drive to the cottage in Pontivy. It was not good driving weather with lots of rain and a very strong wind. Day time driving was not too bad but there are no cat's eyes on the roads here and I really missed them as it is quite easy to miss exits in the poor light. Our fuel stops were also the opportunity to get meals, must say that as a 'gourmet' nation France does not impress. Ordered hamburger and chips which should have been quite basic. The burger was made from boiled mince which tasted quite awful and the chips were OK. Mervyn ordered sausage which did not seem too bad but we pointed out that it was made of tripe!!
Arrived at the hotel to discover no one on duty but a blackboard with names and room numbers of all the late check ins. Found rooms with the keys in the door, not too bad a hotel but only one large and one small towel per room! When checking out in the morning was asked if everything was OK and I mentioned the towel story was told that well all the rooms are one price!!! My very basic schoolgirl French consists of Bonjour, Bonsoir, Merci and Au Revoir but I am finding that I am picking up some words again.
We arrived at the cottage mid morning which we had agreed to with the UK owners. Spent the entire day waiting for them to leave so that we could settle in. They finally left at 6 in the evening. We then re-arranged the furniture suitable to our needs and feel into bed after a scrappy meal. The cottage is quite charming but very damp as it has been closed up since September. All the heaters going have helped. Apparently there is a shortage of wood as it should be ordered in autumn and stocked up for winter. Due to the severe winter this year demand has exceeded supply. We managed to get a supply at a rather high price but it has helped to dry out the house and make it a lot more comfortable.
Supermarkets are amazing, the quality of the fresh food is excellent and the meat looks so good.
On Wednesday it was off to Paris for an overnight stay to be early for the kitties arrival on Thurs morning. The highway was amazing, 'tho the toll cost some 27Euros the speed limit of 180km meant a quick j0urney.
Paris is not my favourite city as I have never seem to enjoy the sights. Both my previous visits have been to the railway stations and this time we skirted the city to get to a hotel near Charles de Gaulle Airport. All the grubby parts of the city and as it was evening the traffic was horrendous. Thank goodness for the Garmin but it was a stressful trip and I made the same mistake twice going round through the departure drop off area of the airport and eventually finding our hotel. Interesting!
Nice hotel but shower a disaster only two towels (again, must be a shortage in France) and Megan managed to turn the bathroom floor into swimming pool.
Left early to find the kitties. Once again got hopelessly lost and managed to take the same wrong route three times! Small consolation was the car in front did the same thing we eventually found what we were doing wrong and arrived at Swiss Cargo to try and find the cats. Have found signposting of buildings in France is not the best and we eventually found the office and were told that we had to go to customs to get clearance. This was further down the same street fortunately and as I could not find a parking Megan braved the offices on her own. After waiting for some 15 minute left the car where it was and went to find her. She had wandered up and down with all sorts of instructions go here and go there and still could not find the office. Asked again and were told to look for a door down the passage. Pointed out that there was a sign over an obscure sign with'Duane' this fortunately proved to be the right place. Got the relevant form and drove back to Swiss Cargo, more forms and payment of 78Euros and we were told to go and collect our cats from their warehouse. Find a tiny office and spot the cat boxes sitting on the floor in the freezing cold right where a busy forklift truck was reversing and most probably terrifying the kitties. Waited for some one to come and help and eventually after a long wait loaded the boxes into the car. Four very nervous cats who had travelled well and only managed to do some puddles in their boxes. The drive to Pontivy is some 5 hours and all I wanted to do was get out of Paris as soon as possible. We did manage to get going quite quickly and made the journey home without any problems. Unloaded the cat boxes and the cats appeared looking a little scared at the strangeness of everything. Will have to keep them in the house for several weeks until they become a little more secure again. There is a family of cats just down the road who might be territorial so hope there will not be too many 6
So now we are here, busy making bears for the upcoming Hugglets show this weekend. The cats are settling in, we are settling into a different lifestyle. Shops close from 12 to 2 every day for lunch! Something to get used to.
Will be travelling to London with Megan on Friday for the show and to bring back my unaccompanied baggage which has now arrived in London. Apparently my computer has been totally damaged and will have to be replaced, thank goodness I took the step of insuring all our stuff.
Pictures soon...........................

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