Well we have welcomed our first visitors to the château. Rich’s mum and sister have been with us since Monday. It has been lovely to show them the château and to celebrate Richard’s birthday and our 20th wedding anniversary all together.
We went to Toulouse to pick them up and decided to stop over for the night. We booked an airbnb and headed off down the motorway. We were pretty impressed with the standard of motorway service stations when we stopped for coffee and then lunch en route. We really enjoyed the autumn colours in the car park of the second stop:
A quick shout out to Richard A (who loves his Flunch) and Malin (when I saw this sign and thought of you):
We continued on to Toulouse but the rain beat us to it and so we didn’t do much exploring that evening, just took refuge in the pub opposite the airbnb called Le Frog and Rosbif (!) which actually did a very nice burger (and the football happened to be playing on the big screen so Rich was in his element)!
The next day dawned brighter and we did manage a bit of sightseeing (and shopping for more Winter clothes) before heading off to the airport to pick up Kath and Kay. Yes, I have to confess that I did succumb to the Starbucks in Toulouse (the first one I have seen since arriving in France). My excuse is that they have just started serving their Christmas flavours!
After the epic journey back to Aulnay, we gave K&K the grand tour to many “oohs, ahhs and wows”! Nothing quite prepares you for the château in real life no matter how many photos you have seen or how much Google Street View you have experienced…
Together this week we have visited the Château de Crazannes (allegedly the inspiration for the Puss in Boots story by Charles Perrault):
It really is a fairytale castle and, by the look of the thousands upon thousands of fairy lights that were draped over every surface of the château, it looks as though it will be quite magical after dark this Christmas…
We have explored the towns of Cognac, Niort and St Jean d’Angély in our Winter woollies and coats as the temperatures have been hovering around 10ºC most days but we have enjoyed ourselves nevertheless.
We celebrated Richard’s birthday and our 20th wedding anniversary with a lovely meal at La Bonne Étape in Dampierre-sur-Boutonne (after exploring the château there on the way back from Niort).
Then today we wanted to find a service of Remembrance as 11th November is a Public Holiday in France to mark the end of the First World War and to remember those who died in all conflicts since then. We went to our local Mairie at 11am and, sure enough, there were the gendarmes (police) and the sapeurs-pompiers (fire brigade) all standing to attention while we had a minute’s silence, a speech from the Monsieur le Maire and a playing of La Marseillaise. I felt privileged to be part of a local ceremony but also part of a national day of remembrance. As we drove to Chef Boutonne this afternoon, we noticed flowers and flags at every Mairie and on every War Memorial in every village. Those who gave their lives to ensure our freedom have not been and will not be forgotten.
À bientôt, bisous.