Monday, 2 May 2011

The honeymoon, south of France

We left for London, and the start of our honeymoon, on the Monday. We stayed overnight in London, right next to Kings Cross, as our eurostar left early the next morning. We had decided to do everything by train, which would have been lovely had the French not chosen the start of our honeymoon to strike over retirement ages. The eurostar people were very helpful both the night before and on the train, keeping us as up to speed with everyones connections as they could, unfortunately things were happening in France faster than they knew. To cut a long story short, we ended up waiting in Lille (however it gave us a chance to do a bit of food shopping, ever taken 2 suitcases round a French hypermarket?) then getting further south to a town I have no desire to remember the name of, being stuck in the train station for several hours as the train time kept getting delayed, until finally in the night a double-decker tgv appeared out of the night, to get us to Montpellier. The car hire company had been great, we found their place while in Lille and got them to transfer our booking to the airport depot since the train station office would be shut by the time we got there. So we got a taxi to the airport, where we found possibly the most helpful car hire man in the world.

Finally we were under our own steam and not bound up in the Frenches arguments!

So instead of the 5pm we had anticipated, James found himself driving us out into the countryside of France for over an hour at 9pm. I am eternally grateful that he likes driving, and has driven abroad before. (that didn't really cut it much shorter, did it)
Our home for the next week was a holiday home of a friends in a tiny hamlet on the edge of the Languedoc. The setting, once we had recovered and it was light enough to appreciate it was lovely. (so lovely, that we are going back this summer) The hamlet was perched up the side of one of the big valleys which cut through the region, so from our little patio we had lovely views. Behind the house the hills rose up, to the top of the escarpment, and even though it was October it was still lovely blue skies, bright sunshine. The nearest town, St Affrique was 5 minutes drive, and had everything we needed to make lovely simple meals.  

We did a lot of relaxing in the first week, something James especially isn't known for!
We went out on a day trip to Albi, with a colossal cathedral, built from brick, and frescoed inside with geometric patterns, it was a soaring building.


We went for a drive along the gorges one afternoon, seeing towns perched up on rocks, and landed in a small town as local men came in from the country with boars in the back of their pickup trucks, which were then taken into what must have been a butchers. We were lucky to have got one of the Citro├źn cars with a panoramic windscreen, so we had brilliant views in all these gorges.

We went to a very odd town (la Couvertoirade), restored from the time of the conquest, to be as it was -a fortified walled town - but people live in it and craftsmen have little shops in it. It didn't help that a) it had not really been described as that, and b) the fog was like pea soup that day, so it was rather like being in an Indiana Jones film. We arrived into the car park and could hear disembodied voices in the mist. Very odd.

James wanted to see the Millau viaduct, built by Norman Foster, the tallest bridge in the world. It was pretty impressive, we managed to find a road that went under it one day, which actually showed it off better than when we went across it later in the week. The photo on the left is James in front of the bridge just before we went over it. the part of the road with the bridge on is toll, once you ar on it you can pull into a specially built service station with a viewing platform which is where we were at in that photo.


 We went for a walk up to the top or the escarpment one afternoon, which was wonderful, lots of wildlife, fantastic views and lots of sun. On the left is a little village from another drive through a gorge, with trogloditic houses, and the right is from the top of the escarpment.


Then, after a week, it was back onto the train, bound for Paris. We got to travel first class, actually got our seats, although the train was packed and it was only an hour delayed! Once I was in Paris I relaxed a lot as our only transport left to take (eurostar home and good ol' British rail) were not involved in the strikes.