24.04.2010 - 29.04.2010
God, I’ve completely lost track of the days. Ann assures me it’s Thursday, but I have to look at the computer clock to be sure. Having no work days, no television and not reading the newspapers leaves us in a kind of time warp, or perhaps a time void. It’s strange.
Rouen was a nice place, with wonderful mediaeval back streets, wonky tudor-style houses (most often painted an assortment of pastel colours), and more Gothic edifices than you could fit into your average vampire movie. There was one other church in the city - Saint Ouen - but a little north-east of Notre Dame, which impressed me greatly. It looked much like any thousand year-old European cathedral, but somehow the inside was so much brighter than most. Whether it was the colour of the stone used, or larger stain-glass windows I can’t really say, but it had a warmth and light that seemed more inviting.
I managed to find a web café on the Rue de General Leclerc on Sunday where I managed to spend the afternoon catching up with mail and doing my banking. It was run by an ex-pat Canadian, Steve, who’d married a local woman and stayed. He’d run this American-style burger bar in Rouen for eight years, yet flatly refused to learn the language. He was a very pleasant chap and did his best to make us feel ‘at home’ but he was just odd. For anyone who remembers watching ‘The Comic Strip Presents’, there was a episode called, ‘A Fist Full of Travellers Cheques’. In it there was a mad American who owned a desert cantina in Spain – that’s who Steve reminded me of.
Anyway, we stayed in Rouen three nights in all; then decided on a location that was easy to reach in a day’s driving. Oh, for anyone doing a trip like this, remember just one thing – buy a GPS!! I can’t emphasize it enough. I took my old Navman into a tech shop in Rouen called ‘FNAC’ hoping to buy some European maps (we hadn’t been able to use it, and trying to find our way around England and France was madness). Anyway, we couldn’t get what we wanted; so we had to fork out for another one called a ‘Tom Tom’. It cost us 189 Euros, but it is unutterably brilliant, and has probably prevented me and Ann from tearing one other apart with our bare hands.
We drove down on Monday to a village called Fresnay-sur-Sarthe intending just to spend the night before moving further west. We were so taken with the idyllic location of the campsite, the hospitality of the site manager and the village itself that we stayed an extra night.
The site manager, whose name strangely I never found out, encouraged us to visit Nantes (where we are now) to witness the extraordinary ‘Machines de L’ile’. After two nights in Fresnay, and armed with our fabulous GPS, we drove casually towards Nantes, stopping overnight in a place thirty kilometres short of our destination, called Ancenis.
Ann had been moody all day because of the fact that 'T-Mobile', with whom we’d both signed up in the UK, wouldn’t let us recharge our mobiles using our Aussie credit cards. Ann seems lost without her iPhone; so we’d stopped briefly in a pretty town called Chateau Gontier (not far short of Ancenis), to buy new ‘Orange SIMs’. We left there, but discovered that for some reason her iPhone couldn’t ring out.
The evening was somewhat strained because of yet another frustration over technology (were it not for the GPS, I’d confidently proclaim that all new technology is inherently evil!).
We arrived the next day on a grey rainy morning in Nantes, and managed to sort out the phone problem at an Orange retail outlet. We then spent an hour or so in the centre of town, I checking my emails in a café and Ann receiving retail therapy.
We later booked into a very nicely run camping site called ‘Petit Port’ and parked up. We took a tram to the centre of town; then walked to a music shop called ‘Sam’s’ on the Boulevard Ernest Dalby to see about getting me a second-hand cut-down guitar. Ann had been encouraging me to get one, but I was less than confident of being able to secure one so easily.
As it happened I got a really nice little brand-new slim-bodied guitar with a cut-out, called a Harper (never heard of them) for 135 Euros. It’s probably made in China, but it’s perfect for the van, it has a nice action, has a pick-up and sounds really nice. Just the job. Ann bought it for me as an early birthday present.
The evening in the van saw the dour mood of the last couple of days swept away by both the strains of my guitar playing, and by the curious pleasure gained from mad impulse buying of many pieces of exorbitantly-priced garments! (Ann of course!)