Monday, 17 November 2014

A very busy day (Nathanial)

So today we should get the van back, the gite is only booked up until today and we’re ready to go. The van should be ready for the afternoon so we have another late breakfast and slowly pack our food and clothes. We call the garage to see what time the van will be ready only to be told that Fiat can’t deliver a particular part for another 3 days, and there might be a problem with a brake disc! SHIT! To make sure there is no problem with communication I agree to go over to chat with them.

We can’t even extend our stay at this gite as other guests are due to move in later. We quickly get online to find another, but this turns out to be quite difficult as we need it today and some are really expensive. After about an hour Beth comes up trumps again and manages to find one about half an hour away in Burie.

Thankfully the garage have given us a car to use whilst they have the van, albeit a two seater. This means we have 4 bikes, 4 people, clothes and food to get in a little two seater Peugeot 206. To get around this I take Tom with me to the garage with two of the bikes in the back (to put on the van and leave) with all our clothes and food, and decide to meet Beth and Alf in town, where they are going to cycle, then we need to high tail it to the new gite to meet the housekeeper and get the keys.

After a while talking to the mechanic, Alexis, we decide to leave the brake disc as it is. It’s worn a bit thin but it has only just gone through the MOT at home and they didn’t pick it up, so I feel this isn’t a dangerous predicament.

We get back to Saintes and meet Beth and Rooster at the rendezvous point, where they squeeze in the back of the car on the metal plate where the seats should be. Beth’s not amused (she’s just cycled two miles in the rain and then waited for half an hour. With Rooster, who’s not known for keeping his displeasure to himself). We have to leave the bikes chained up until I can return later to pick them up. Beth’s even less amused about this as thanks to the ‘ride to work scheme’ we have just bought her a new bike which is very nice, but we have no other choice.

Now it’s my turn not to be amused. I’m driving a strange car on the wrong side of the road, with the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car, Beth and Rooster illegally in the back with no seat belts (and no seat) and Tom in the front with no booster. I’m well nervous! I keep thinking every car behind is an unmarked police car. The sat nav is doing its job but I mis-read it (for a change) and I go to turn up a wrong road. To do this I need to cross over the road but I fail to see the car coming in the opposite direction and it’s about to hit me head on. Beth makes her usual high pitched scream in my ear whenever this kind of situation arises, and I soon see the error of my ways. I put my foot down, screech out of the way, receive a horn from the car behind and end up on a country road going the wrong way, Fraggle rock!!

Everything's on the wrong side

We finally get to the new gite and meet the housekeeper who gives us the grand tour and settles us in; we explain we don’t speak any French so for the next twenty minutes she explains all the ins and outs of the gite……..in French! We just nod our heads as if we understand everything she says and keep saying oui, oui. We’re past caring at this point, we unload the car and get the kettle on. Bloody hell, what a journey!

Before I can go back for the bikes, I have to wait for a couple who are very kindly bringing some gas adapters to us (See Beth’s previous post). The couple, Mike & Anne, arrive, we have a cup of tea and a chat and I then set off for the bikes. By now it’s pitch black and the most amazing fog has settled across the country side, which is lovely to drive in. For about five minutes. It’s been a long day and I really can’t be bothered with driving this car any more. The fog is so thick that the headlights are reflecting back at me. If I put my main beam on it’s even worse. I can’t see beyond the bonnet and there’s no cars in front for me to follow their rear lights and no street lights to see anything. Thankfully the sat nav is acting as a co-pilot and letting me know when corners are coming up, as we are in the middle of farm land and the roads are like lanes. There’s no white lines so I can’t even follow them. Thankfully because we are in the middle of no-where, there is no one else on the road which means I at least have both lanes to myself, which I need.

I get to Saintes, thankfully the bikes are still there. I manage to cram them in the back, once I’ve removed the wheels, then its back through fog city to the new gite. I come off the road twice onto the grass verge, nearly write off a broken down car and then the fuel light comes on, great, this could end up ugly. With lots of positive thinking and sweet talking to the car, I manage to get back, have a well-deserved hot chocolate and Baileys, and crash. 
Tomorrow, I’m not doing anything!


  1. That all sounds like good fun to me! I'm trying to think of other places to visit in Saintes,but I think that you' ve already been to the best ones!

  2. Hi Stephen, yes Saintes is beautiful but we might try visiting in the summer next time!


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