Monday, August 15, 2022

The PONettes quest.

The drive up from the nightmare in Angers to the cooler temperatures of Honfleur bumper to bumper busy but the traffic keeps flowing . It's absolute peak vacation season in Europe. After two years of Covid seclusion everyone and their dog is out and about on the roads. Amazingly, roadworks, that bane of  the French travellers life  are notable for their absence

The hotel for day three of the journey to Scotland nestled in a small valley five miles inland from the coast .The sort of post card Normandy village that the satnav has difficulty finding.'Do a U turn if you can' the accompanying and frequent refrain on the back roads from our ever cheerful electronic guide. We arrive early having set off from the heat while it was barely light. Comfort for Sophie and quieter autoroutes for the driver.

Although early The room is ready and we collect our key. The Font notices that there's a table out in the courtyard that's empty. We decide to leave unpacking until later and enjoy an impromptu Sunday lunch by a stream solid with brown trout. The table is near the kitchen which enables Sophie to practice her 'I'm an orphan girl that's never been fed ' routine. The kitchen staff are  having none of it. Eventuallyn the chef emerges and asks if the diva would like some lunch. A metal bowl of cold water appears followed in quick succession by a small pot of sauteed carrots topped with two small slices of lamb shoulder braised then roasted. Sophie's tail does that 'I have died and gone to heaven' beat that all our PONs have displayed at moments of life defining  culinary import.

Just as well we got to the hotel early. At the end of lunch two cars draw up carrying two German couples. The first car a very glossy and presumably mega expensive Lamborghini SUV. The second a slightly less glossy but very new looking four door Porsche. At reception there is a problem. The two couples have a reservation for the night. The hotel has no record of it. The sweet young receptionist is clearly still learning the ropes.The atmosphere goes from bucolic to Dante-esque inferno in seconds. The SUV driver bangs the desk, kicks the porters trolley and turns a shade of red that can't be healthy. Time for dog and owners to retire to their  room away from all this action. In the evening both couples appear at dinner. They're calmer although not necessarily politer to the staff. Curt can become plain  rude if not done right. Seems the owner has found then an AirBnB on the coast and is providing dinner gratis while it's cleaned. Sophie seems unaware of this human drama. For dinner she gets roast salmon and rice.  The PONette's quest for heaven has come true.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Less of a success

Less of a success  on night two of our journey north; The hotel was willing to take dogs and greeted Sophie with the sort of effusive welcome she is rapidly becoming accustomed to. That's where the good news ended. Our room on the ground floor of a sixteenth century castle didn't have air conditioning.  Usually this wouldn't matter  but in these infernal  temperatures the inside was unpleasantly warm. The humans found it just about bearable; their canine companion extremely uncomfortable; We took it in turns to go to the bar to ask for a glass full of ice cubes to cool her down.The barman parted with these reluctantly as if we had a secret drinking habit and were mixing Whiskey Sours in the toothbrush mugs in the bathroom.The ice cubes were added to copious amounts of  cold water and a few tempting kibbles to keep our shaggy companion hydrated and cool. A large party of wedding guests were there for the weekend and had taken all the available fans . "Monsieur There are rooms much hotter than yours' the understandable but unhelpful response from, the front desk. The bathroom had a coolish tiled floor but for some  reason Sophie refused to go into it. That PON logic that says if I go in there I"ll be murdered . So she suffered on the thick pile carpet  

At eleven thirty and again at one Angus and a heavily panting Sophie did a tour of the garden to try to cool down. At two thirty the heat broke and the thunder rolled in. Dog and master were a strange sight sitting out on the terrace in the pouring rain and relatively chill winds . I reassure the nighttime security man that  I'm  a guest and that I"m enjoying the rain. If I'd been French he'd have called the police. Being foreign he accepted this behaviour as if it was the most natural thing in the world. There is a brief and noisy run in with a Belgian man taking his Pomeranian for a restorative early morning walk. The less said of that the better . 36 at ten at night. 20 by three in the morning. Hallelujah.

The grand total for the devilish night ( inclusive of a rather good dinner and a so so bottle of Macon ) came to e666. 'The Font' finds this to be highly amusing. Let it not be said that there is no such thing as Swedish humour.


Saturday, August 13, 2022

Dog owner Recommendation number 1

Quick update.

 Friday was the hottest day of the year. 42 degrees as Sophie is loaded into the back of the car. It's also peak French vacation time so the autoroute is busy - as in bumper to bumper busy. After two hours we try to find a service area for a comfort break. The first four we try are so crowded we find ourselves circling the car park looking, unsuccessfully, for a parking spot, Our fifth attempt finds us parking on the side of an area of what might have been, pre heat wave, grass. It serves Sophie's purpose.

There is a God. The hotel we've chosen for the night is near Limoges airport. As we drive through endless suburbs and past the control tower our hearts shrink. No need to worry. The suburbs give way to woodland and fields of corn. Nestled by the side of the road  La Chapelle Saint Martin. A place for dog owners travelling through France to enter in their address books. Lawns, lakes and shade from ancient oaks. In the room a letter from  the owners welcoming us and our lady dog to the hotel.

Dinner at the outside bistro, Sophie under the table, nose twitching with delight. She ignores a well behaved German couples Schnauzer and a Belgian Labrador  that is clearly taken with this long haired beauty.Overnight we all enjoy air conditioning that despite the torrid heat manages to maintain a cooling 23 degrees in the garden level bedroom. This morning freshly baked croissants outside on the breakfast terrace. Sophie thinks they're to die for. The family diva is quite simply in heaven. The stress of moving replaced by the joy of new sights and scents. You can see her absorbing this fresh and unexplored world. She quickly learns the quickest way from the room to the kitchen . Before we head off there will  be an hours walk to the lakes before returning to the room for a quick pre journey napette. Dog owners this place is a 10/10.

Will tonights hotel choice be as dog friendly ?  

Thursday, August 11, 2022

16 hours to go.

Touch and go with the i-Phone, laptop, temperamental wi-fi signal interface but here goes.

Our  last full day here. The vet gives Sophie  a full hour of his time. The poor wee things not surprisingly a little stressed either because of the scorching heat (42) or because of the steady stream of visitors to The Rickety Old Farmhouse. She  has her pet passport stamped and a Praziquantel tablet is swallowed 'under veterinarian supervision'. The vet has been an important part of our life here. He's seen PONs come and he's seen PONs go and throughout has been a sage , kind and trusted advisor . He has a line from Beckett for every occasion. We are privileged to have met a professional like this. The vet becomes the latest local to burst into tears as we leave. Last night it was the turn of the Anger Management Man to come to the front door to say farewell. 'The Font' gave his 16 year old son a telescope which was the cue for the tears to start streaming in a remarkably unreserved way. Angus gets both a hug and a kiss - on both cheeks. This is not the reaction we expected from a man noted for his 'volcanic' temper.

The Scottish removal men worked hard all day until eight and the sun was setting. Packing in 40 degree heat was difficult but they did it. They planned to drive off straight after they finished but they were booked into the local gites for a second night and were able to relax with steak and chips, a few beers and the gites swimming pool. They set off at four thirty this morning to clear customs in Paris. They are on the first ferry across the Channel on Saturday morning. Removal men have a hard life.

Preparations are underway for the arrival of the new owner tomorrow. After introductions are made ( and Sophie fed ) we shall quietly head off to new places and new adventures. We are excited. It is for us to bow out gracefully and let him be the centre of attention. 

Our long journey with PONs has shown us that despite what the media would have us believe people are generally kind and thoughtful and considerate. This has certainly been the case with the inhabitants of this quiet, deeply unfashionable, little village.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Au Revoir


The Scottish removal men are very efficient. The Chippendale sofas have been taken out through an upstairs window and the bulk of the pictures put into specially made wooden crates. All the books are off the shelves and packed.  I've no idea how long we'll have our desk tops so here are some gratuitous start of day photos of Sophie amid the sunflowers.

Four French 'helpers' are supposedly on their way to pack up the kitchen and the snug but they're an hour late. Despite this the foreman thinks they'll be finished and on their way to the customs clearance station in Paris by seven or eight tonight. We've booked them for a second night in the gites just in case they run over.  Pre-Brexit  moving would have been a case of putting it on a van here and taking it off at the other end. Now, it has to be screened in Paris by the douanes for the princely sum of e450.

On Friday there will be a reception for the villagers to meet the new owner of The Rickety Old Farmhouse. We want this to be a joyous affair. The old and new mayors will be here at noon. Madame Bay ( who wonders if the couturiers workshop can make new curtains for her bedroom ) will be here at 11:45 and the other villagers will show up some time after 12:15. The reception is a perfect chance to use up all the wine that we're not shipping back. The new mayor is quite chuffed. Other mayors have been phoning up asking if it's true that this well known Parisian figure has bought a house in the village. Last week I gave him the couturiers French Wikipedia pages so he has been talking away with great knowledge about this seasons perfume range. I am reminded that the grapevine in French villages is very efficient.

After the gethering for the new owner we shall amble slowly northwards with Sophie in the RHD Volvo. All the passengers will be delighted that it has a fierce aircon system. On Friday the temperatures are due to be back above 40 again. 

If Angus can work out how to coordinate Blogger,  the laptop, the i-phone and French country wi-fi there may be updates on our journey north. Of course it's equally likely that he will be defeated by one or all of these.

So until we meet again a hearty 'Au Revoir' from Sophie to all her friends. Her blog will soon change its title to 'Sophie's simply wonderful Scottish adventure'.

39 degrees and the packers arrive

Life suddenly picking up its pace. Leaving the village seemed like something that was going to happen in the far future but will be happening at the end of the week. The packing of our desktops may happen sooner than that. That's seven weeks since the couturier showed up on our doorstep. Serendipity moves quickly. The notaire says this is the fastest sale he's ever done. 

The packers arrive. They've driven down from Dusseldorf. By the time they get here it's nudging 33 degrees. 39 forecast. Not ideal conditions for carting around furniture and loading up boxes. Their truck is enormous. It holds 100 cubic metres of furniture. They were going to sleep in their truck but 'The Font ' says they'll die from heatstroke if they do. Rooms are booked for them in the village gites. This is not entirely altruistic. If they sleep well they'll hopefully be more efficient and get everything crated up more quickly.

The old mayor comes with his sidekick to pick up some peonies in pots. These will be transplanted to the flower borders in front of the church where the shrubs have succumbed to the heat . The old mayor spots the 2 metre tall artificial Christmas tree in its box. I explain that the Guangzhou Christmas Tree factory produced this one with a light show that is 'sporadic'  and a danger to anyone who is epileptic. This doesn't put them off. They both consider an artificial Christmas tree to be the height of sophistication.  The boxed up tree and some Christmas ornaments are taken away with them. Later this year the tree will take pride of place in the village hall window . They also take the two grey painted wooden Versailles planters from outside the front door. After refurbishment they will look as good as new. These will go on either side of the church door.

Sophie seems to have finally understood that something is going on. She considers having a nap in the library but a steady streamer of packers moving back and forth  puts her off the idea. The family diva gets extra attention, lengthy ear chooks and is soon asleep at my feet, in the office, with the fan full on.

A separate, smaller, croissant for Sophie this morning. I tell the girl in the bakers we are moving. She wonders who she will speak English to. Who indeed ?

Coming back with us a piece of art picked up in New York many years ago. 'Rosie, Queen of the dogs goes to the light house every day'.  I see from the price tag on the back it cost us $411.14 in 1989. What an unusual number. Why not $410 or $415? Give it a week or two and Sophie will also be having a daily visit to the lighthouse and a chance to make the acquaintance of the local seal population. In the meantime there will be hotels and restaurants and exotic ' scents ' to enjoy.

This on the radio this morning as we come back from the bakers :

Monday, August 8, 2022

Monday morning

Last night Madame Bay came to share her thoughts about our departure. Suffice it to say it was a outpouring of emotion bordering on the theatrical . There is sobbing interspersed with nose blowing and eye dabbing. We have provided reassurance about the new owner.  Upon reflection Madame Bay has warmed to the thought of a) the new owner being French and b)  being a couturier. Madame Bay is shown his website and is greatly taken by the claim that that he understands the 'caprice of a womans body'.  This is one of those French phrases that defy translation.

Our Rubenesque neighbour perks up and brightly observes ' Who knows ? Maybe he'll find inspiration here ?  I do nothing to pour cold water on this highly improbable thought. There again who's to say that paisley pattern turbans and acres of orange dyed voile won't be the next big thing on the catwalks of Paris ? By the time she goes Madame Bays mood has gone from gloomy to optimistic. I'm not entirely sure what this says about us. We have promised her that she will be the first villager to be introduced to the new owner.

This morning dog and master sit on the concrete storm drain and watch the sun peek above the horizon. Here, there's a cool breeze that blows down from the mountains and is channeled along the valley. Sophie hasn't complained during this 3 month long  heat spell but chilled by the breeze she's immediately a different girl. Lively and alert. PONs can cope with 30 degree heat. Up to 35 they manage. When it's above 40 it's impossible to be comfortable when you're also sporting a thick, double layer, fur coat no matter how often you're trimmed.

A couple of late to bed owls hoot impatiently at us as they settle down in their nest. Further along the lane two young deer look up in surprise and  sprint into the sunflower fields. Nature does not expect to see humans , or dogs, up and about this early.

We are enjoying these last weeks here. Adventures new await but on a glorious morning like this these old storm drain routines are to be treasured.

Good thing about ten minutes writing a blog every morning is you can go back and see we've been here before and survived :