Last night there was a big thunderstorm in Bordeaux but it did nothing to cool things down. It was both hot and humid when we out at 8:30am to pick up the rental car. It was an absolute breeze picking up the car from Hertz (I am a loyal Hertz customer and they generally give very good service worldwide). Back to the hotel for breakfast with the family. Novotel hotels pride themselves on keeping staffing to minimal and so the breakfast is pretty much self-service. You could have eggs if you wanted but you had to cook them for yourself. Not kidding – a frying pan and hot plate supplied. We stuck to the continental option which (being in France) included some very good cheese. In France I think it is impossible to eat too much cheese and it is certainly impossible to find bad cheese.
After breakfast we navigated to the nearest shopping centre to get some essential items (like beers, cooldrink, etc) and more importantly to buy some French pre-paid SIM cards. We found an Orange (French cellphone provider) shop at the centre but it became very clear very quickly that it was going to be a long process to get 5 SIM cards activated. I left Helen to do that it of the arranging while I headed with the kids into Carrefour. It is a supermarket chain in France. It was a massive superstore (similar to Walmart) but the big difference is that it is totally disorganised. It seems that they randomly scattered aisles throughout the store. There was an aisles of bikes in between the food aisles even. By the time we had finished doing the shop, Helen was still going on making payments for the SIM cards. They insisted that each card must be paid for separately so that involved 5 separate payments.
We then headed out on the road to Brantome where the Chateau (http://chateaudelacote.com/) is located that we are spending the next 2 nights. It was pretty straightforward with the GPS giving sensible directions for 95% of the route except for one section where it took my down a very small country road to cut off a corner of the main road. We stopped at Perigueux at the Inter Marche (another supermarket) to buy some lunch. It was Friday lunchtime and we were the only people in the supermarket. Not kidding – not one other customer was to be seen. Clearly not the time to shop in Perigueux. And in case you’re wondering it was a decent sized supermarket. Only 1 till point open but then why would you need more with only one customer?!
We stopped on the side of the road to eat our purchased lunch of a baguette, brie, smoked salmon and parma ham. You simply can’t beat a lunch of that nature in France. It brought back memories from our trip to France last year. Only difference was that it wasn’t 30 degrees when we were here last here (it was pouring with rain). There was even a toilet at the picnic spot we chose randomly. Only problem is toilets on the continent are not always what you expect (see pic). We were only 30 minutes away from the Chateau after eating lunch and we arrived at about 2:45pm. We have the whole Chateau booked for the next 2 days. My sister (who has done a lot of the organising – well done Lynne) was already at the Chateau but we were the next to arrive. Shortly after us everyone started to arrive and by about 3:30pm everyone except 4 people had arrived.
It was so hot that I was drenched with sweat from carrying luggage up the stairs. Sitting outside is slightly better than inside because you at least get the effect of the breeze. Helen and I still managed to drink a litre bottle of water in about 10 minutes. I have never tasted such good water! There was a welcome tea at 4pm (of cake and juice – no one would want tea at 30 degrees). Everybody just sat around catching up. Some people headed for the swimming pool. There are about 33 people staying over night but at the dinner tonight there were 43 people as some of the wider family are also here to join in the celebrations but they are staying in the nearby town (Brantome).
The dinner tonight was in the cellar which is definitely the coolest place in the Chateau at the moment. We all had to chose our meals about a week ago so that the kitchen staff could cope with us eating at the same time. Basically the choices (for both starter and main) were duck & salmon. This is a major duck farming area and so we have duck on the menu for almost every meal. Fortunately I like duck and so do the family. And washed down with a good Bergerac wine from the region and you can’t really go wrong. Add in good family company, some reminiscing and comparing notes on children raising (or more especially the art of raising teenagers and how they manage to consume internet bandwidth) and you have a very enjoyable evening. And we have another six of them to come!
More tomorrow ….
P, H, S, M & C