Monday, March 3, 2014

Part Five - Saint Saens and the North

You may be getting the impression that our holiday was somewhat muddled - it was! We jumped from World War Two to World War One and back to World War Two; from France to Belgium then back to France and back to Belgium; from sun to rain to sun to rain and more rain, then finally back to sun. In seventeen days we covered over 5500 kilometres and visited seven countries! I am trying to simplify things and make them a bit more cohesive, even if it means changing around the order in which we visited a place. On that note, let me tell you about a couple of adventures we had in the north of France - some time in between all the other places we visited up there.
Me tucking in to some good French mille-feuille,
like custard square but with more pastry
Our camping-car negotiates some narrow French country roads.
Yes, our van is nearly as wide as the entire road. Oncoming traffic be damned!
The first place I want to tell you about is the little town of Saint-Saëns. Saint-Saëns is now a farming town, though it has previously been known for its monastery, convent, castle, tannery, and glass-making industry. Nowadays, about 2500 people live in the picturesque town. We called there one morning when it was time for croissants and baguette. It was also time to stop and phone our motorhome rental agency and ask about a fault with our camping-car. Their solution was to pull on the handbrake, while driving, and keep it on for about 50 metres. We then had to do this about once every ten minutes for the remaining fifteen days of our holiday, and wasted half a day in Amiens trying to get Peugeot mechanics to look at the van. We had no luck with this, and it was our first experience of how frustrating it can be to get help in a foreign country. Even when you're doing your best to speak French to the staff at the garages, or when you've hired a motorhome from an English-speaking company. Needless to say, we won't be recommending that company - or having to deal with French mechanics - in the future!

On a brighter note, the town of Saint-Saëns was gorgeous! The first house we came across was this one:

And got in trouble with the half-naked (or fully, we didn't look too hard) owner, who shouted from the top window to us - demanding I tell him why we were taking photographs of his house. Perhaps he thought we were taking pictures of him as he opened his shutters, nude?!

The walk into the town was so pretty, and the pastries were just what we needed. 

The former railway station
Me being very French - baguette, pastries, and a Rue 11 November 1918
 - there is one of these in every town!
 Here are a couple of other photos from our time in northern France. The other two places I wanted to talk about I shall leave until the next blog post as they need to be treated with a bit more gravitas. 
Before the cold front arrived....
Somme mud on the floor of the van
Cooking, camping-car style
I want this courtyard.
A typical French lunch, overlooking the Pas-de-Calais countryside.
The first time we were able to use our outdoor lunch set
(Five minutes later it started hosing down)
Mmm... now I feel like mille feuille and baguette... and a holiday in France!

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