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Published: July 17th 2013
Leaving behind the delights of Najac and the Aveyron Gorges we had 5 days to potter up through the middle of France to get to Calais. The plan was to spend the last few days just north of Paris near Compiegne and visit some friends.
Patchwork fields with dry stone walls and bordered with trees reminded us of home ..but then passing through villages with beautiful old stone houses and flower bedecked streets - mostly ville fleuries we knew it was France. I love the large brown tourist signs at the side of the roads - depicting the delights of this or that town or city ...some of them works of art in themselves ...who designs them - is it a state department ?? an arm of the tourist boards?? or are they commisioned...I would like to know. And so there was a lovely brown sign just as we entered Orleans enticing us to the Parc Floral and Source of the Loir. Why not visit this place we asked ourselves..and spent a most delightful couple of hours wandering round this beautiful park with its chateau and formal garden, lake and fountains surrounded by the rose garden, wild grass garden, apline
garden, shape garden, fuchsia garden and dahlia collection etc etc ...here it comes in this blog my flower fotos- I havent had too many of them so far. It goes to show that the unplanned visit following the brown tourist signs can turn up trumps.
We had booked in at a Gite de France chambre d'hote ( Derby Country)not far from a little village Neauvy sur Barangeon - it looked good on the website so we thought 2 nights to have a bit of relaxing time would be just right .... and we couldn't have been happier with this choice. Our welcoming host Monsieur Terry guided us to a picnic table , told us to be at home , he would fetch our bags and make us some tea !!! What could be better. Two beautiful farmhouses has been converted into a large gite and 5 chambres each with a theme ...we were in the blue flower room ...so lovely. Dinner out at a local auberge was delicious and again very warm welcome from te owner. And so a day was spent loafing about in the peaceful garden in a deck chair and catching up on reading. And did
I mention the guest sitting room and dining room - very elegant and very french decor ( every thing matches!!) with a scrumptious brekki french bread, croissants, homemade jams, yoghurt, ham and cheese. Yummy. Time to leave and on to our next stop.
Well every now and then the plan doesnt go as you hope and you have a disaster and what you have to do is put it behind you and not let it spoil everything good . Situation was a basic motel room booked at Ballandins at Rambouillet - we expected basic but not so run down and tatty and such a small room with a tiny cubicle for a shower /toilet smelling of drains . The only plus was the sheets and towels were clean...this place made me feel like it was a hostel for homeless people. I won't dwell on this - but we got away next morning as soon as we could drove to the next door Carrefour supermarket car park and had our picnic breakfast there beside a tree. Our next 2 nights ad been also a a motel from the same chain so I cancelled that and one of my friends, Annie
, came to the rescue and invited us to stay with her. PHEW...thanks Annie.
Compiegne is the Imperial city with Napoleon's Palace as well as being the place in the forest where the peace treaty for the 1914-18 war was signed. Viewing the lavish Imperial apartments was a real treat and also we were lucky to be able to see a special exhibition of textiles from the Imperial period...there were the most beautiful rich fabrics on display, dresses which Princess Mathilde had worn, furniture, drapery etc .
Complimeting this "palace visit" was a visit to my other french friend Arlette and luckily for us her son Fabien and his wife Sharon with baby Luli - Fabien and Sharon have always hosted me on my way through Singapore so it was great to see them in France. Sitting in Arlette's pretty garden under the shade of the trees we had drinks and cake and lots to chat about and catch up.
And was there anything else to surprise us on our last day's drive to the ferry. Yes there was ....huge swathes of fields here in the Somme of wheat and other crops of varying green colours and
with poppies weaving their way through the wheat. Another brown tourist sign - ruins of a Roman Theatre - with an archeological dig going on too...and great place for a picnic coffee stop under the trees.
And yet another surprise - Amiens - we had been told that there was some gardens on water !!!??? The Hortillonage - yes it turns out to be like plots of land like allotments surrounded by little canals - some of these gardens were very well kept with little summer houses on them..and for an hour we cuised on a barque - a small boat holding 12 persons with an electric engine so it was silent. Stunning!! Don't miss if you are going to drive to Calais via Amiens. Copy from web site - "The hortillonages “floating gardens” are emblematic of Amiens. You can discover them in special boats known as “barques à cornet”. The hortillonages cover 300 hectares. They are interlaced with 65km of small canals, known as “rieux” in the local dialect. These market gardens, gently lapped by the Avre and the Somme, have been cultivated since the Middle Ages."
Last stop Calais and with 30 mins to spare we
drove to Centre Ville and the Hotel de Ville ...wow what a wonderful building with a fabulous clock tower , a Rodin statue in front ( I love the hands) and very pretty gardens. Usually one just drives fto and from the ferry port ...so next if you so a ferry crossing time stop in Calais and go and see the Hotel de Ville.
Back home just before midnight and I had clocked up almost 2000 miles driving in France so add that to my USA trip and I have just driven about 5500 miles since April...time for a rest I think..and I have even unpacked now and put the cases in the loft ...until next time.
Love to all. xx
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