Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Travel day from Mont St Michel to the Loire Valley

Travel day! Although travel distances in France aren't big, we wouldn't think twice about a 300km journey, it takes forever because you can't go more than about 10km before having to slow down to go into a town. On the motorway the speed limit is 110, on country roads it is 90 in general and as soon as you hit a town it drops down to 50 or sometimes even 30. It is a little self inflicted because we have chosen to use fewer motorways and more country roads for two reasons, the tolls which soon add up and one gets a better sense of the french towns and countryside going through the villages; I think!

Our first stop today was Chartres Cathedral which is in, one would never guess, Chartres. The guide book says that it is in the middle of undeveloped farmland. Strangest farmland I have ever seen, loads of asphalt and buildings! The Cathedral turned out to be more interesting than I expected simply because it is just ginormous, the ceiling is 37m in height and the photo below is of us standing next to one of the many pillars. The 'wall' behind us is not a wall but the foot of a pillar just to give you a sense of just how big they really are.

What I found quite fascinating is that the monks had invented a sort of internet/TV equivalent in the 12th century, the labyrinthe pictured below was used by pilgrims in lieu of actually going to jerusalem on a pilgrimage. What they would do was crawl the labyrinthe from start to finish and that was considered to be the equivalent of and actual pilgrimage in much the same way as we use internet or TV in lieu of actually doing the real thing; it just isn't somehow quite the same!

Coming out of the Cathedral we had a stoke of luck because we saw an 'Internet' sign in the tourism office and went in to ask and it was FREE not the typical 6 EUR for an hour which is the normal charge. I am still smarting from paying for wi-fi access through Orange at '30 000' points of access which we have been able to find exactly one. The one at the formula 1 where we stayed after coming off the euro tunnel. So we made hay while the sun shone and published a whole load of days and we'll be making a point of finding tourism offices in future if we don't somehow bump into an Orange wi-fi access point.

We are now camping in the Loire valley between the towns of Blois and Tours at a campsite called 'Parc du val de loire' which is so, so; the showers leave a lot to be desired but at least they are hot. The weather has not been kind to us today and it is wet, windy and cold but we hope that tomorrow will be better!

We had the most awesome supper of onion soup, bread with a camembert like cheese, bordeaux wine and pudding and coffee. Camping like this really makes one enjoy some of the smaller things in life.

The car went much better today for some reason, almost no juddering at low revs so we hope that this will continue. I tried to buy more fuel for the stove but ended up buying turps instead of benzine; it's quite difficult explaining what benzine is here, even trying to do it in england was pretty difficult.

On our way down to the Loire river we passed some towns names that just have to be mentioned; La Sagne, obviously the home of lasagne and Dorat obviously the home town of Borat.

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