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Home Travel StoriesFrance 2013

France Day 13 - Quietude For A While

By Sharon Parker

The deluge continued unabated all through the night. Me and the bf played some games. With limited storage space on the bike and little room in the tent I will let you work out what they were.

My airbed went down several times during the night which was not much fun and while flat it got me way too close to the freezing cold wet floor.

In the morning it is still raining so we decide we will just have to sit it out and stay another day here. On the upside the camp site owner deducts 2 euros off the the bill for another night because of the lack of sun.

The friendly English chap gives us details of some places to visit including a Bastille situated close by at the top of the hill. To our surprise the rain actually stops so we decide to make the best of it quick smart and get ready for a walk up to the Bastille.

I do not trust this little break in the weather so I set out wearing my biker jacket and waterproof jacket over the top.

We cross the bridge and saunter past some old looking houses residing in narrow streets. More modern houses are on the outskirts including some for sale. A bungalow catches my eye and the bf and I talk for a while about dreams and make up plans about what we could do with a house like that. I wish our plans could be more than dreams.

After the bungalows the going starts to become rather steep.  

a typical french street in penne d'agenais with houses and trees
Onward and upwards

The English chap told us there are two ways up to the Bastille. We could follow a road which wis longer but less steep or choose the short cut which is far steeper. Feeling like a challenge and thinking we are quite fit we choose the short cut. The short cut itself used to be a road but it is no longer in use with both ends cordoned off. As we climb I am not in the least bit surprised that it no longer serves as a road for vehicles. The gradient is very extreme. I am sure cars had real trouble trying to brake down this route or even getting up it in the first place. I am not doing so great myself. Clearly I am not as fit as I believed I was. I puff and blow so much the bf takes pity on me and offers to carry my jacket. Even with the extra load he pulls ahead of me and I have to play catch up. Harrumph I remember a time when I was super fit, now let me think that was err ... only 12 years ago that I used to run 10 k races. Ha I am getting old and my body, if not my mind knows it. I struggle on and eventually reach the top and the waiting puffed out bf.

the bf as he catches his breath sat on a barrier at the top of the steep road
The bf won but he can not talk for a while.

The pretty route continues at a much more gentle incline now and the views from up here are stunning. The winding road leads to a most charming and pretty hilltop village. The narrow twisty lanes and the old houses, some still intact with ancient thick circled glass windows are a delight to me.

The hillside and vast countryside expanse seen from the bastille on the hill
What a view
narrow and ancient streets around the bastille
Higgly piggly old village houses make a perfect place to explore

I spy a little wrought iron gate partially hidden by ivy and creepers, with a woodland beyond. I excitedly tell the bf I have found a secret garden but he informs me that if I found it it is not a very secret is it? Pah Mr Grump.

the iron gate filled with leaves and vines
My secret Garden .... Sush don't tell anyone
the bf pulling faces and being grumpy
Mr Grump - Not impressed with either my secret garden or being covered in sticky leaves

The impressive sight of the Bastille Notre Dame de Peyragude finally comes into view. The wide wooden doors are open and we enter inside, just as the heavens open and rain falls. I am not particularly religious, as in I do not follow one particular religion. But I do believe in something greater than ourselves. So religious places such as this are always a pleasure to me. The Bastille is beautiful. Once inside the stillness and quiet surrounds me. A feeling of peace and reverence descends upon me as I gaze in awe upon a most impressive bronze cross suspended beneath the decorative doomed ceiling. Soft light filters through the surrounding finely crafted stained glass windows and reflect off the cross. I try to let my footfalls fall as softly as possible as I explore this sanctuary so as to disturb the peace as little as possible.

The Bastille Notre Dame de Peyragude, an impressive church
Bastille Notre Dame de Peyragude
large wooden doors in the bright stone bastille, open for everyone
It is good to feel welcome here with an open door
large gold coloured cross hanging from fine wires in the bastille, beautifully lit
The magnificent bronze cross
3 tall arched stained glass windows with the light shining through
Stunning stained glass
stained glass window showing christ after the cross
Thought provoking scenes

To the left is a large shrine where for a donation you can purchase a candle to light for a lost loved one. I want to light one for my wonderful mum but realise I have brought no money with me. I am bitterly disappointed but send her a little love you from me instead. I feel so peaceful here that I could remain for some time, but the restless bf has sat quiet for too long and as the rain has eased off it is time to move on. I imagine if I lived close by this beautiful Bastille it would be a place I would visit frequently. With one last lingering look I leave this place of quietude. The Bastille is en route to the Road to Santiago and I imagine it has provided a welcome rest point and place for reflection for generations of pilgrims.

In the surrounding gardens we discover a small grotto, within which are placed candles and photographs of lost loved ones. A statue of the virgin Mary guards the entrance. I find it sad to reflect that such a place would not be possible where I live. The cave would be littered with broken beer bottles and cherished mementos would not be left to rest in peace. It is even rare to find a church with a open door back at home due to fear of theft and vandalism.

A friendly French couple stop to chat and with the usual hand gestures and the bf's grasp of the French language and their limited English we manage to make ourselves understood.

The rain holds off just long enough for us to get back inside the tent. We hope it is another short shower. It is 12:30pm so we decide to have an afternoon nap nap while the shower hopefully passes by. I awake around 3pm to the sound of thudding rain on the tent. Damn it is no shower this time then. The bf is no where to be seen and I have no idea where he may be. I need to go to the toilet but it is raining so hard I decide to hold on to see if it eases off. By 4pm the need to wee is getting urgent but the rain has not stopped and the bf has not returned. Well needs must so I pull on my muddy boots and prepare to squelch my way out of the tent. The bf suddenly reappears, he has been sitting in the covered area of the reception and reading old copies of top gear. Not quite the afternoon either of us had in mind earlier.

We decide to go to the supermarket in desperation to find something to do. I had hoped it would offer a dry and warm place. It is dry but it is sadly lacking in any warmth what so ever. While browsing around we chance upon some cheap beach lilos. I am sick of waking up now on the floor with a deflated air bed so at just €5 I grab one. We also get a reed mat in the hope it may cover the worse of the mud.

Once back inside the tent we dine of some delicious soup that manages to warm me up a little. The lilo is also a great success, once inflated I see the sides are raised so it gives a cot effect keeping you snug in the centre and preventing you from rolling off it. It also comes with its own attached pillow and it far more comfy than my supposed real camping airbed.

It is still raining hard at 6pm and the conditions are now getting rather miserable. It is cold and damp and the mud is now getting over everything, it really is rather unpleasant. I snuggle back inside my sleeping bag in an attempt to keep warm. We are both bored and I try to relieve that by playing stupid games, such as name a girls name beginning with A etc, in a vain attempt to pass the time. When the bf's eyes glaze over and he looks ready to drown himself in the mud in the porch I decide it may be best to stop and see if sleep will give us both some blessed relief from this sodden world. It is raining so hard and the ground so lacking in drainage I really do fear we shall come upon some sort of disaster during the night. So despite my new lilo being super comfy I have a fitful nights sleep.

Forming a Plan The formulation of a cunning a devious plan to take on Europe is formed in the tiny mind of our intrepid explorer...
The GF Question Do I take the gf with me to France? Can she come? Will she like it? These are all very difficult questions...
France...I wanna go but can I...?? Can Sharon make it to Europe? Will the kids survive? Will the bf behave? Is there any space for makeup? All these questions and more...
The Load Getting everything we NEED and a few items we WANT onto a motorcycle can be a problem. Now I have to work out how to get 3 WEEKS worth of gear onto the poor donkey(aka bike)
Camping In Cambridge The start of our Epic Adventure...or bike holiday around France. Cambridge is surprisingly nice really.
France - Day 1 Sharon's first day from her point of view. Cushy Cambridge and dry weather...what more could a girl want?
The Chunnel The Chunnel, I'm excited but also stressing because the bike's already broken before we leave the UK. I worry too much...
France - Day 2 - Bikes, Trains and Tents Sharon leads us through sunshine, hair issues, the Channel Tunnel and into France. But France is eerily quiet...
Here Comes The Rain Bike fixed...bike broken. Rain, endless dull roads, miserable towns and more rain. Oh the joy of travel! At least Epernay welcomed us with a huge smile :-)
France Day 3 - Crying Through The Rain The rain plays tricks with Sharon's spirit but a stiff upper lip and giving herself a good talking to see her through.
Rain Into Dijon Rain, rain and more rain. Just how long can it last? Would we be better off with a Jet Ski? Can we continue to keep our Great British Stiff Upper Lips?
France Day 4 - We Are Mustard We Are Dijon is the destination and we're surviving the rain...that makes us well mustard! We're happy in spite of the rain but how long can we keep smiling?
The Joy Of Being Lost As we head south the rain lightens but will it ever stop? I get lost which is no surprise, but lost turns out to be the best part of travelling. Are things finally taking a turn for the better? I do hope so...
France Day 5 - Biker's Paradise Sharon's day 5 in France starts out rough but improves considerably. What delights can put such a joyous grin on her face?
The Stunning Alps We are both facing a very strange situation...that of sunshine, warmth, beauty and pleasure.
France Day 6 - Magnificent Mountains Sharon shares the delights of the Alps. Sometimes life is good!
Highs And Lows From the stunning Alps to our ultimate destination...MONACO! Is it all I expected? Will it be as I imagined?
France Day 7 - Scooter Mayhem Sharon describes the best and the worst France has to offer. Ride on the back with her from the beauty of the countryside to the mayhem of Monaco
Resting And Deciding Today we stop to take a breather and recuperate. It's also time to make a decision about the rest of our journey. I used to be indecisive, I'm not so sure now.
France Day 8 - Chilling In The Pool A day off from the journey sees Sharon and Ren doing something very silly, breaking things and achieving very little. What a splendid way to spend a day!
Going West Day 9 sees us heading west from the coast. It's finally dry, but it's still windy so not too hot. The gf's not well and Ren is relentlessly lost. Overall not a bad day then!
France Day 9 - Poppies, Vines and a Wet Lettuce Feeling poorly rather spoils Sharon's day today. Still on she must go on and survive what might have otherwise been a good day.
Biggest Bridge In The World In glorious sunshine and fine health we make our way from Nimes to Millau complete with it's Viaduct. Sometimes life is good, occasionally it's great!
France Day 10 - Deflated to Elated Today is a good day for Sharon. Today the sun shines, the scenery is beautiful and the people are pleasant. Join her as France puts a smile on her face.
The Wettest Bridge In The World The Millau Viaduct ought to be impressive. It is, but nowhere near as impressive as the amount of rain falling from the skies.
France Day 11 - Grim Not every day can be filled with sunshine and smiles, even on holiday. This one certainly was not for Sharon!
False Hope Part One Ren would like to invite you to a joyous report about the delightful weather in the South of France! He'd like to. Instead it just rained and rained and rained and rained...
France Day 12 - It's Gloomy Inside And Out Sharon freezes her butt off during the night then is treated to a cold and wet ride. The Ren sure knows how to spoil a girl.
False Hope Part Two Is this the end? Has Armageddon arrived? Is this the Apocalypse? It sure as hell feels like it.
France Day 13 - Quietude For A While Sharon's report on another day of mixed weather. There's peace and beauty then there's mud and cold. Adventure...no-one said it would be easy!
Sunshine After Rain A night of rain soaked delirium. Will the day be any better? Will our travellers ever dry out?
France Day 14 - A Bit of 5 Star Luxury Sharon has a much better day on the road and a luxurious 5 star campsite. It's amazing what difference a little dry weather can make.
Back Into The Flatlands A quiet, simple and easy days ride through France for Ren. Pleasant enough but the flatlands are getting a little boring now.
France Day 15 - A Bit Of 2 Star Delight Sharon has an ordinary day and a frustrating battle with the weather.
Not Far To Chinon It's a short, easy and peaceful ride this day in France. Ren gets all philosophical too.
France Day 16 - A Historical Walk Around Chinon Sharon enjoys a hint of sunshine and the history of Chinon, France.
Shopping To Mamers Ren's airbed's leaking now. No problem, find a shop and buy a new one...easy? I don't think so...
France Day 17 - The Gift Of TIme Even though the weather is cool Sharon's heart is warmed by the people she meets in France today
Don't Go To Ault Ren has a grim, long, dull and uninspiring day in France. The accommodation doesn't help.
France Day 18 - Is This Misery Or Joy? Sharon finds sunshine, ancient caravans and ponders about hapiness.
Looking For Luxury With time on their side Ren looks for the perfect campsite for the next to night. Not finding it makes him a very grumpy boy.
France Day 19 - Campsite Conundrums Although the wind blows the sun is shining while Sharon looks for the perfect pitch.
Resting In Ambleteuse Ren philosophises too much on the final day of his trip around France.
France Day 20 Sharon's in a reflective mood on the last day of our French trip.
Back Into England Ren recalls the final day of the French Adventure. It's all over far too soon.
What Did We Learn? Ren sums up his thoughts about France and the French trip.
France On Reflection Sharon sums up her her experience of the French Trip. Damn those Alps.
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