High-Fiving Palm Trees

Running, and other aspect of my life.

Buster Ivory and The Cyprus 3 on Tour 2014 (part 2)

Having said our goodbyes, I put the next hotel, The Chateau de Maumont into the sat nav and we set off. It was just over 5 hours away which was what I’d anticipated, and with a couple of stops en route to get coffee and walk the dogs I estimated that we’d arrive at 17.00.

At 17.00 we drove up to the chateau! Perfect! Nice and early, time for a G&T, walk the dogs in the grounds and then dinner.

“Sorry, we do not have a reservation in your name. We also do not take dogs”

Not words we wanted to hear.

“I have the reservation on my laptop, I said we had 4 dogs and you said that was OK!”

They double checked but had nothing for us. I went back to the car to get the laptop to show them the confirmation. Searched for Chateau de Maumont and found…nothing!

I refined the search to ‘Chateau’. Bingo! There was my confirmation from the Chateau de Maulmont

Anybody see something different there? Just a little thing???

An ‘l’. But a fairly important ‘l’.

I apologised for the mix up, (I didn’t like it there anyway) and while Mike gave the dogs a bit of a walk I reprogrammed the sat nav.

Swear Words, many swear words, really bad ones!

The Chateau de Maulmont was 235miles, or in practical terms 4 HOURS DRIVE AWAY!

I cannot begin to adequately describe how furious I was, with myself. I hate being wrong, and in this instance there was only one person to blame, and that was ME!

We’d given our credit card for the reservation so if we cancelled that late we’d still have paid for the night’s accommodation, and so we decided to set off for the correct Chateau.

I drove! I was going to fix this. There’s no way I was letting this situation get any further out of my control

I drove in silence.  Seething, berating myself and being absolutely livid, inside my head.

I have to say that Mike was a complete gentleman. He didn’t tell me off, or get furious himself. He just said, “It doesn’t matter if we get there a bit late, I’ll ring ahead and tell them, and ask them to make up a cold meal and a bottle of wine for us to have in our room when we get there.” Why hadn’t I though of that?!

It took about 2 hours of driving before I felt calm enough to make light of the whole thing.

We were heading for the Auvergne. This is a region in Central France which used to be volcanic.

There are volcanoes everywhere if you know what you’re looking at. They actually look like very green hills, although there are one or two which do really look like the sort of volcano a child would draw.

There’s even a volcano theme park, Vulcania! www.vulcania.com/en

As I drove up and down lots of hills, I thought that the car was struggling a bit. I put it down to the load; this trip was the first journey we’d made with the roofbox so we were getting used to the drag and I just thought that was making a difference.   Going uphill it did seem to lose quite a lot of power, but I decided to ignore that and stop worrying. I was going to get us to the correct chateau if it killed me!!

I finally admitted defeat after 3 hours when we stopped to let the dogs have a walk and I let Mike do the last hour of the drive.

I sat back and checked my emails, and received an absolutely extraordinary piece of news, so extraordinary in fact that I’m keeping it to myself at the moment until I’ve decided what to do about it.

All I’ll say is that it’s about running.

It was getting dark and we were about 40 miles from our destination when 4 warning lights on the dashboard came on simultaneously.

One was the general engine light which could have meant anything, one was something to do with anti-slip, and the other two didn’t feature in the manual at all.

We decided not to stop in case we couldn’t start again, so as Mike drove on I Googled the other lights. It transpired that the particular combination of 4 lights that we had triggered could basically mean anything from “Stop the car immediately, get out and stand at a safe distance while calling the fire-brigade”, to “Ignore it all, it’s a meaningless error message which even Toyota do not understand.”

We soldiered on, we were about 29 miles away by now. The tension in the car was, let’s just say, high.

Watching the miles count down, I thought “Only 5 miles away, we can walk it from here if we have to.” Then I thought, “No we bloody well can’t, in the pitch darkness, with 4 mad dogs. We don’t even know the way. The only way we can get there is with the SatNav guiding us.”

I briefly fantasisted about harnessing the dogs to the front of the car, sitting up on the roof-box, and riding it chariot-style to our destination with the SatNav issuing its orders from below.

Even one mile away was a great distance under the circumstances and so I was greatly relieved when we “reached our destination” at about 10.00 p.m.

Driving up to the Chateau, I was so disappointed that it wasn’t daylight. The place looked amazing.

We parked out front and went in to announce ourselves. The owner is actually English, his wife Scandinavian, but brought up in England. He couldn’t have been more welcoming. Our first priority was to get the dogs out of the car, let them stretch their legs and get them into the room.

It was pretty chaotic. They were v excited to be on the move and to see where they were. We’d been upgraded to a courtyard suite, which was fab. We had to go through the reception area out the other side to the courtyard of the hotel, where the remains of the original building that was a 13th Century Knights Templar stronghold, were preserved.

Our room must have been the original kitchen as it had a huge fireplace with a roasting spit large enough for an ox, and a big brick bread oven.

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Shutting me and the dogs in the room, Mike and Ian, the owner went to get our luggage. After they’d returned, I realised that they’d left a few things in the car, so I told Mike I’d go and get them.

He said we’d all go and that Buster, Toby and Molly didn’t need leads. Well this might have worked had we not encountered a family with children just as we reached reception.

Four Fluffy white dogs and two children in the dark make for quite a lot of chaos. Dogs everywhere, children everywhere. French people talking at us about the dogs. “Ooh les mignons, les mignons. Je les adore.”   “Je suis en amor.”   Etc etc.

Rather than disrupt the whole place I suggested to Mike that he go back to the room with the dogs and let me sort out what I wanted from the car on my own.

At this point things took yet another turn for the worse.

Mike took Bella’s’ lead and half turned to go back to the room. He had not noticed that he was at the top of 4 stone steps that lead down into the courtyard and so he failed to step down them, instead taking the faster option of falling.

British Army training being what it is, and once learned never forgotten, he twisted in mid-air like a dropped cat, and attempted a Commando-style shoulder-roll to standing.

Attempted but not achieved, and as he landed on his nose on the flagstones I was surprised how many thoughts flashed through my mind in a mere millisecond.

I am ashamed to admit that one of the first was “What the hell am I going to do, in the centre of France, with a broken-down car, 4 dogs and the mangled corpse of my husband?”

That was immediately followed by “I wonder, if I get him vacuumed-packed, will I be able to fit him in the roof-box?”

Happily these thoughts were banished by the voluble swearing rising from the courtyard, and as the French family went very quiet and rapidly dissolved into the darkness, I stepped down, grabbed Bella’s lead, and picked up Mike’s glasses, while he picked himself up and checked for breakages, blood pouring from his nose.

Anyone who takes Warfarin will know the dramatic effect it can add to even the most minor of injuries and as the blood gushed, it was difficult to see exactly what he had done. Fortunately once we’d overcome the bleeding with a lot of tissues, we could see that in fact he’d just grazed his nose. I’m not saying that was a minor injury, it looked like he’d rubbed it on a nutmeg grater, but it wasn’t broken and neither was anything else.   Over the next few days various aches and pains came out but nothing serious.

By the time I returned to the room our meal had arrived and it was perfect; cheese, French bread, smoked salmon, salad, pate, sausage, wine, and petits fours.

Dogs fed, us fed, time for bed!

In the morning we got to see the place in daylight and it really was quite spectacular. Mike took the dogs out for a walk and found 3 large Carp lakes from another of the chateau’s previous lives, as a Royal Hunting Lodge, although now apparently they only hold Catfish.

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Door to our room

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Carp Lake

 

We had a lovely breakfast in the Great Hall, which had wood panelling and a vaulted ceiling, then rather regretfully packed up and headed for the local Toyota Dealership which Ian had phoned and warned of our arrival.

While we were checking out, I told Maartje, Ian’s wife about what had happened the previous evening with the Chateau Maumont/Maulmont mix-up. She was absolutely astounded as she had no idea that there was another place with such a similar name. At least she knows now that if someone turns up who thinks they’ve booked but haven’t, they should probably be 4 hours away the other side of Limoges.

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Chateau de Maulmont, in the Auvergne,
NOT the Chateau de Maumont in Poitou Charentes

 

Driving into Vichy, we located the Toyota dealership who were as helpful as can be, and even found the warranty details on their system.  They took the car away for about an hour and it came back fixed!  We and dogs sat in the showroom, putting potential Toyota buyers off as every time someone strolled past lost in a world of paint colours and optional extras, Miss Molly suddenly barked at the top of her voice sending the pauvre French person two feet off the ground, and running for the door.

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Waiting at the Toyota Dealership for the car to be fixed.

 

On leaving the dealership, I VERY CAREFULLY loaded our next destination.  Again approximately 5 hours driving time away…..or was it???

To be continued in Part 3…

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Buster Ivory and The Cyprus 3 On Tour 2014

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On Monday morning last, we were due to leave home for our journey through France to Spain. Accommodation was all booked, everything organised, the only thing we were worried about was how well The Cyprus 3 would behave on the trip.

They proved to be the least of our problems!

We had planned to leave at 10.00 a.m. We got away only 45 mins late due to certain issues with the amount of stuff I was trying to load into the new 510litre roof box which we had purchased in order that the dogs could have the whole interior of the car.

Who new that 510litres was so small?

Thanks to the miracle that is vacuum packing bags we managed to condense the, possibly, 1000 litres of items I was loading into half the space. Believe the adverts, these things are miraculous http://www.lakeland.co.uk/p24142/Lakeland-Vacuum-Totes

We then had a little issue with locking the thing. Resolved on the phone by the very nice people at The Roofbox Company .

Bad language, and tempers forgotten (sort of)  we were off!

So, ON THE ROAD BABY!!!!!

Until about 5 miles before The Dartford Crossing when the M25 ground to a crawl and remained that way for 45 mins until we got to the toll.

Back on it!! Arrived at the Eurotunnel at about 2.10 bought ticket but they couldn’t get us on a train until 3.20. No probs. Had a coffee walked the dogs queued for the train.

Excellent!! 4th vehicle loaded after 3 coaches which meant 4th off at the other end.

En France, the doors opened the coaches drove off, except for the coach in front of us………. which broke down or, tombé en panne!!

Zut Alors!!

Loaded in a metal cylinder, daylight only one vehicle away, it is very frustrating when that vehicle is a 49-seater coach with a seized gear-box.

Lady Luck smiled upon us all at that point, they were on the final attempt at resetting the gear-box prior to calling a tow truck when, hoorah, it worked!

I could feel the cumulative sigh of relief from the entire trainload of cars, coaches, vans, trucks and all their passengers rushing up the carriages behind us, and with that garlicky wind in our sails we launched ourselves onto the French motorway system.

I LOVE French motorways, they’re empty of traffic, they’re well maintained, lots of rest stops and service stations, I could drive for days on them. Lucky, as that’s just what we were going to be doing.

Our stop the first night was booked for Le Manoir des Impressionistes in Honfleur.

We’ve stayed there several times before. It’s run by a lovely if slightly dotty English lady named Brigit who we love dearly, and her sons who are half French. Her husband died suddenly and unexpectedly a few years ago.

My plan for the journey was that Buster would sleep in the room with us as usual, and Toby, Molly and Bella would sleep in the car.

I’d prebooked a room on the ground floor so we could park the car outside the window and we’d hear if The Cyprus 3 started to create a noise, but Brigit insisted that the “doggies” could all sleep in the room with us and we were to treat the place as if it were our own home.

The Doggies liked that idea and although they’d only just been allowed upstairs at home for the previous 2 weeks they romped into the room and onto the bed and assumed positions of leisure that made me think I’d probably get a better night’s sleep if I curled up in the back of the car.

I’d come with a contingency plan just in case we had to bring the dogs into the bedroom, and brought a large white sheet with me to put over the bed and the lovely bedcovers that the French usually provide, thereby at least mitigating some of the decoration by mud that they seem to carry with them wherever they go. Removing dogs, I rapidly covered up the white bedcover before it was too late.

Leaving them in the room while we went for dinner was a complete write-off as they just scratched at the door so we put them back in the car while we had a peaceful meal and a bottle of wine.

We all slept well, Mike took them out for a quick walk in the morning, everyone was off the lead except for Bella, he put them back in the car while we had breakfast, then we took them to the beach! So far as we know, The Cyprus 3 hadn’t seen a beach before.

 

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Bella, Molly, Toby on the beach at Honfleur

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Toby, Molly, Bella on the beach at Honfleur

 

Oh they loved it! Bella had to remain on the extending lead as, even though there are not usually sheep on a beach, she didn’t know that and there was no telling whether she might just charge off into the distance looking for some.

The absolute joyous time they were having brought tears to my eyes. Buster was thundering about like a puppy, Toby found the wettest part of the sand so he could get it all over himself, Miss Moll just waddled along by our sides and Bella hurtled too and fro on her lead. Then they saw the sea!

Glee abounded. It was a bit scary and had to be barked at, but it was also quite a lot of fun especially for Toby who just loves to get wet.

 

 

 

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Buster on the beach at Honfleur

 

The tide was coming in so we couldn’t linger too long.  Back at the hotel, Brigit was dying to show me the new Spa Centre they’ve just finished.  It’s been put into a very old building at the bottom of the garden. which was derelict last time we were there.  They’ve made a lovely job of it and next time we stay I’m going to try to make time to have  a treatment down there.

We said our goodbyes, loaded dogs into the car, luggage onto the top, and we were off.

I put our next destination into the SatNav.  5 driving hours to our next destination…….or was it??

Continued in part 2….

 

 

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