Category Archives: premiere classe hotel

Monday 20th June 2022 – HERE WE ALL ARE …

… not exactly sitting in a rainbow, and not exactly sitting in a Première Classe Hotel in Tours. STRAWBERRY MOOSE and I are actually sitting in Rosemary’s spare bedroom here in the Auvergne.

Last night was another turbulent night with tons of stuff on the dictaphone. There was something going on about Canada and the World Cup. They had qualified for another final and a World Cup final for another sport the previous day. When they qualified for the World Cup people accused them of a little indifference because they didn’t celebrate as much. There was a dispute about one of their goals that should have been given offside. There was also a scandal that they had a camera installed in the changing rooms for one of the matches. People were questioning what was going on about that as well.

There was something happening to do with a guy to pick up an arctic lorry and trailer that had broken down somewhere. He had one of these dock shunter things for pulling it. I thought that that would make a really interesting article for a newspaper, to go with him and write about his recoveries. I went with my father and the first part went OK but waiting for him to come back the second time, we were waiting there hours, not for him but for another person who was coming with us rather. We were waiting hours and in the end we decided that we’d go without this other guy wo I had to go and rescue my cat Tuppence to bring with me. Trying to catch her was another thing, but in the end I managed it but she wouldn’t let me put the antiseptic on her paws. In the meantime she’d been catching fish out of the pond and eating it. We were talking to the neighbours about how good it was to actually have a cat that feeds itself without any help from us.

There was a rich comedian telling us the story of the time that he was at a hotel somewhere doing an entertainment and there were these three girls. He’d managed to get together with the older one but had been told in no uncertain terms what would happen if he started to get together with the two younger ones. He made an attempt on the middle one, put his arm around her etc but she was very uncooperative and wasn’t interested at all. He was telling us how difficult it was to try to be friendly and put your arm around a girl who was not at all interested in any of that. In the end I didn’t want to hear any more about his stories so I went off to have a shower. The shower in my room was pretty miserable and wasn’t up to much so I prepared my stuff ready to go into my friend’s room. On the way there I told them that I was going in for a shower and if they wanted the bathroom for anything they had better hurry up. They said that they thought that they had heard me use the shower so I explained how awful it was. I’d had it running but it hadn’t done anything very much so they asked me to wait for a minute while they organised themselves in their room.

Anyway I was awake early and up and about as soon as the alarm went off.

After a good shower I packed everything and was actually back on the road again by 08:55.

Caliburn required me to stop down the road at LeClerc to fuel up and I found myself right by the hotel that I had tried to find last night – just a cockstride away from where I’d slept.

The drive – as far as Chateauroux anyway – was quite comfortable except that I was flashed by a speed camera that I hadn’t noticed.

But once I hit Chateauroux the sun came out and it burnt me out of the cab. That was hot.

At LeClerc at Montlucon I went in for some groceries and I bumped into two people whom I knew, who high-tailed it out of there the moment they saw me coming. Old habits die hard in Montlucon.

On the way out I found a sheltered shady layby and stopped there to make a butty And then pushed on to see my partner in crime.

It’s been two years since we last saw each other and despite our lengthy telephone conversations we had a lot of catching up to do. I also met her Ukrainian refugee family who seem like really nice people.

They have a young girl, barely a teenager, who is very fond of animals and was showing me photos that she had taken of local animals here. So in exchange I showed her my photos of polar bears, walruses and whales from the Arctic.

She’s ever so cute and it is totally beyond my understanding why anyone would want to be so evil to kids like this.

She has a cat too and insisted on giving it to me to let me cuddle it, even if it wasn’t that keen.

Tomorrow she’s going to have the shock of her life. I’m going to introduce her to STRAWBERRY MOOSE.

But not right now. I’m off to bed. I’ve had a long, tough day, I need my sleep and it’s already late.

Sunday 19th June 2022 – HERE WE ALL ARE …

strawberry moose place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo June 2022… not exactly sitting in a rainbow but sitting in a Premiere Classe hotel in Tours in Western France.

And when I say “we” I really do mean “we” for I am not alone. As you might expect, STRAWBERRY MOOSE has come with me too. I can’t leave him behind.

And just in case you are wondering, I’ve already made a considerable list of things that I’ve forgotten. Most people make a lost and pack accordingly. I pack and then make a list of what I’ve forgotten.

Despite a late night last night I was awake at 08:30 and drifted in and out of sleep for another couple of hours

After the meds and checking the medication I started to back up the big computer onto the little portable memory stick that travels with me. And that wasn’t the work of five minutes.

Then I had to finish off emptying out Caliburn and packing up everything to go in him. The final task was to do all of the washing up and cleaning and then disinfect everywhere.

There were plenty of notes on the dictaphone too. I was writing stuff for a radio programme, the notes for the music. One was for a particular group from the 60s. I remembered seeing them and I got on really well with them. They were busted for drugs like most groups were at the time. I always remembered the last time I saw the girl singer was that some of her group had gone already. She was singing with just one or two of them in the street on this makeshift stage. At the end she got off and came over to see me smiling and we bumped fists. She wandered off down the street and that was the last I ever saw of her. I remember thinking about how nostalgic this was and things might have been different to everyone’s lives if instead of bumping fists I’d grabbed hold of her and held her like I wanted to do but I didn’t really know whether I should have done at the time.

Later I was with Nerina and she was having problems as well with her new relationship. They were no longer sharing a room together. Where they worked in this motel they had a room made up for both of them but they were actually sleeping in separate rooms. I asked how long this had been going on and she replied “a couple of years”. Anyway they had been caught doing this and it had led to all kinds of different complications and for all kinds of different reasons that they were no longer actually living together.

Finally there was a group of us on board a boat. We’d had a meal and we were doing the washing up on the back of the boat outside. There was a little guy on board something similar to Hercule Poirot. He came over and said that he had a request for us. We asked what it was and he asked could we go and do the washing up in the kitchen, in the sink. I couldn’t understand why so I asked him why but he couldn’t really come out with a really good answer. Someone else cottoned on to the fact that he didn’t think that the washing up was being done correctly. It needed to be done in running water and the plates properly scrubbed and everything like that. He didn’t think that what we were doing was very hygienic. I was basically on the point of telling him that if he wanted the washing up done down in the boat in the kitchen he can take the bowl away and do it himself rather than disturbing us who were doing it while he was doing nothing but discretion got the better of me. I tried to find out exactly what his precise objection was but for some unknown reason he wasn’t really all that keen in spelling it out. It was annoying me that we were working and he wasn’t and he didn’t like the way that we were working but he didn’t actually volunteer to come along and do the work himself if he wanted it done in a different way.

There was much more to it than this but you really don’t want to know about it, especially if you are eating your tea right now.

By 16:00 I was on the road again. First stop was at LeClerc to fuel up (and that cost me an arm and a leg) and then we had a leisurely drive through the French countryside.

We hit Tours, 250 kms away, at 20:00 and saw a cheap B&B hotel so I left the ring road, found myself stuck on the motorway and couldn’t find my way back, came off and couldn’t get back on to retrace my steps.

premiere classe hotel joué les tours France Eric Hall photo June 2022However, all was not lost. After I’d been driving for a while around the suburbs of Tours trying to find that hotel, a Première Classe Hotel loomed up out of the gloom.

A room was a mere €45:00 which I’ll take any time, and they arranged for a vegan pizza for me at a nearby hotel that even gave me 15% off.

As you might expect, I’m totally wasted after the drive. I’m clearly not up to this. The day that I drove non-stop pulling a trailer for 32.5 hours are long-gone.

But right now, I’m off to bed. I’ve earned a good night’s sleep.

Tuesday 28th July 2020 – I’VE BEEN RELIVING …

… a photo that was taken 50 years ago, almost to the very day.

view butte de suin 71220 saone et loire france eric hallBut as you admire a few photos of the glorious views from today’s lunch stop, I’ll start off by putting things in their proper order.

To start with – or, more to the point, not to start with – I missed the alarms this morning as usual and it was more like 07:30 that I finally ended up crawling out of bed.

No breakfast this morning either. In view of the virus situation it’s a bag already made up and deposited outside your door and that’s not really very much good to new as there is nothing really in it that I could eat.

Instead I carried on with some paperwork for a while.

view of alps butte de suin 71220 saone et loire france eric hallNerina had been off doing something or other during the night and the first person to come back was Hans complaining that the collection had been absolutely nothing. I carried on waiting but as I walked away I had Nerina’s coffee with me and her white tag so I had to go and put her coffee back at the foot of the stairs into the cellar. Someone made the remark that that coffee was ruined. I said “it was only made 10 minutes ago” but they said that it had all skin and everything all over the top of it as if it had been made a day or two. I brought it down to show them but Nerina came down. I told her what hans had said about the collection and she replied that it was pretty miserable. There weren’t all that many people there. We carried on walking and she asked “is there any possibility that you can do something about your language courses, especially July and August as it’s going to clash with something here with the choir?” She told me all about it. I wasn’t sure that the language courses ran through July and August – they only do through the school term time. I said “that’s so far ahead that we don’t really need to see about that right now”. We went for tea and tea was porridge. People were making their porridge up and burning it. Mine was quite reasonably good and I was eating it. This Chinese waiter came past and saw one of the porridges on someone’s table which was burnt. he said “you’re just ruining that porridge here”. I asked “how would you go about doing it?” He said “you start off by making a tower of cereal and then you and then he started rambling and I couldn’t follow or understand so I asked him to repeat it. I couldn’t understand it again so he said it a second time.

view to south wast butte de suin 71220 saone et loire france eric hallAnd there was far more to it than this but as you are probably eating your tea right now i’ll spare you the details.

Having finished my notes I packed my things, I headed off out to the van with my luggage. On the way past the reception desk in the hotel I did pick up a coffee on the way out of the hotel. At least it was free and I had a free hand to carry it.

Having forgotten once more to take a photo of my night’s lodging I found my way around the industrial estate to the LeClerc where I picked up a few more travel essentials to ease me along on my journey to wherever it is that I’m going (which I still haven’t decided yet).

view to north butte de suin 71220 saone et loire france eric hallIncluding a new SatNav.

The one in my van is a cheap thing, about 7 or 8 years old, well out of date now and apart from that, the connection is loose. So you’re driving along and you suddenly notice that it’s switched off and you missed a turning or two a long way back. It takes a while to make another connection and then it drops again and we repeat the process.

In Leclerc though, they had a decent mainstream one with free updates and because it was the last one – the display item, they knocked me something off it.

There was some excitement there too. Someone wandering around without a facemask was being given a PV – a Procès verbale or on-the-spot fine by a Gendarme.

view to north east butte de suin 71220 saone et loire france eric hallBack on the road again I headed on eastwards along the big dual carriageway towards the Rhone valley.

A little later on during the morning I stopped again in a suitable lay-by near Charolles. We had arranged to have a Welsh lesson this morning.

Determined not to miss it, I’d configured Zoom on my telephone and I attended that lesson accordingly. It wasn’t very convenient but at least it worked, which goes to show just how useful modern technology can be. This opens up all kinds of possibilities for the future.

view of church butte de suin 71220 saone et loire france eric hallFor lunch I found a beautiful spot on a butte overlooking a village called Suin.

The N79 is a road that i’ve travelled on several occasions and each time I’ve been along it, I’ve seen a sign for a scenic viewpoint, the Butte de Suin. That seemed to be a suitable place to stop for lunch

It took quite a bit of finding too, for although it’s only a couple of miles as the crow flies from the N79, it’s a long and tortuous route to arrive at the summit and I was starving by the time that I reached the top of the butte

view in direction of cluny tournus autun butte de suin 71220 saone et loire france eric hallMy butty with its assorted fillings was all the more delicious because of the wait and the view was even more delicious. It enticed me to spend a good hour or so having a wander around.

If the altimeter on my telephone is correct, I’m an 592 metres right now, on a bluff overlooking a couple of river valleys right on the watershed between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean river system. You’ve seen in several of the previous photographs the kind of view that there is from up here on top, but I’m not sure what that is on the horizon over there.

It could be a broadcasting aerial I suppose, or else it could be a water tower. But it’s far too far away for me to identify it clearly.

view of alps butte de suin 71220 saone et loire france eric hallWe are so high up here that away in the distance when the weather is clear you can see all the way to Mont Blanc in the Alps.

It’s over there in that direction towards the right but unfortunately you can’t see it today which is a shame. If you peer through the gloom and the haze you can just about see the outline of the Alps on the far side of the Saone Valley.

That’s probably 100 or so kilometres away and Mont Blanc is a long way further off beyond there on the border between France and Italy. And that reminds me – it’s been years since I’ve put my sooty foot in Italy. It’s high time I went over there again but I don’t have time right now.

butte de suin 71220 saone et loire france eric hallOn top of the Butte de Suin is a statue of the Madonna.

The design of this statue is said to be inspired by the statue of the Golden Madonna that can be found in the Basilique Notre Dame on the top of the Fourvières Hill, the eminence that overlooks the city of Lyon.

That statue was designed by Joseph-Hugues Fabisch and erected in 1852. The one here at Suin dates from 1884 and from what I’ve seen, the two do look pretty similar.

statue of madonna butte de suin 71220 saone et loire france eric hallThere’s quite an interesting story that’s often told around here about the positioning of the Madonna on top of the hill here.

Elderly people talk of how many pairs of oxen and the hordes of men who were required to drag the statue to the top of the hill, even though it’s many years before their time. And each time you talk to someone, it’s always a different number of oxen and people involved in the work. It’s just like some of these Chinese whispers

And don’t ask me why she has what looks like a radio aerial stuck behind her because I don’t know that either. I suppose that it might be a lighning conductor.

butte de suin 71220 saone et loire france eric hallApart from the statue of the Madonna that we have already seen, ther ehave been a considerable number of curiosités built here on this summit in the past but unfortunately there are little if any visible remains.

The first recorded object up here was a temple that the Romans built to honour the dod Mercury, one of the 12 major Roman gods and was said to be the god of commerce and also of travellers, and it’s for this latter reason that I imagine that his temple was erected in such a prominent spot because from here he would have had a really impressive view of all of the traffic travelling up and down the valleys at the foot of the rock.

That might also explain why in medieval times there was a castle built up here. In the lawless days of the 13th and 14th Century any nobleman bent on on improving his financial situation could see the travellers too from miles away and send out a war party to exact a toll from them.

view of church butte de suin 71220 saone et loire france eric hallAnd the existence of the medieval castle might also explain the presence of the village here.

There had been a settlement of sorts here for a good many years and known to have been in existence in the 11th Century but the castle would have required all kinds of ancillary staff – farmers, millers and the like – who would not live in the castle but would want to live close by for protection and their presence would attract other tradesmen.

There was a church known to be here in the 10th Century but the present church has been altered and modernised so much that it’s impossible to say whether there are any vestiges of the original church

butte de suin 71220 saone et loire france eric hallThe castle was demolished as a consequence of the Wars of Religion

What we’re seeing here is not part of the medieval castle but the site of an orientation table. That was installed here in 1963 and renovated in 2008.

Something else that we can’t see either is a rather large medieval cross on the summit that was known to be here in the 10th Century and which I imagine (but I don’t know) would have been swept away when they built the castle up here.

What we can see, apparently, are 52 church towers. But I didn’t stay to count them all. I have things to do, places to go and people to see.

col des enceints 71520 Bourgvilain saone et loire france eric hallBack in Caliburn I set off to drive to Leynes and the house of my friend Jean-Marc and his wife.

My route through the back lanes of Burgundy took me over the Col des Enceints on the D212 between Bourgvilain and Pierreclos. it’s 529 metres high, but a climb up of 242 metres. Plenty of hairpin bends and at one point there’s a climb of 12%. That’ll warm up Caliburn ready for his visit to the Alps in a couple of days time.

20 minutes later I turned up the house of Jean-Marc. He was a boy with whom I had a school exchange back in 1970. We had lost touch after that but a casual meeting with a relative of his 6 or so years ago had enabled us to re-establish contact.

We’ve seen each other a few times since then and it’s nice to be in touch and exchange news.

We had a good chat and then we went round to see his mother. She’ll be 90 very shortly but I’ve seen 70 year old people much older than she is. She’s in the peak of health both physically and mentally which is astonishing.

50 years ago it was the birthday of Jean-Marc’s sister and we had taken a photo of the party. Today the three of us (without Isabelle) arranged ourselves as we had done back then and re-took the photo.

Back at Jean-Marc’s, Jacqueline had already prepared a meal. Stuffed courgettes, which brought back many happy memories of living in the Auvergne when courgettes would be on everyone’s menu at this time of year.

Our conversation continued, as we had a lot to say, for quite some considerable time until bed time. They had very kindly offered me a bed for the night which was very nice of them, and I took myself off there and that was that.

Tomorrow I’ll be moving on because there is still plenty to see and to do that must be done while I’m still able to do so and, more importantly, before we have this second lockdown which I am anticipating once the holiday season has finished.

Monday 20th July 2020 – TODAY WAS …

… something of a rather sad day. Nothing to do with anything that I have done, I hasten to add, but from a historical perspective – more of which anon

First off though, taking my bag off the bed, I noticed a rather large brown stain on the quilt. Somehow my bottle of gravy browning has leaked. So I had to scrub the quilt cover with soap to stop the stain fixing into the cover

Secondly, I still can’t make the internet work here. So having learnt the technique of USB tethering last night, I used it again, It’s not very satisfactory but at least it works.

That is, well enough to type up the notes off the dictaphone. There were some weird goings-on last night but unfortunately I can only remember a bit of it. There was a housing estate like Park Estate in Shavington and a house on there was all overgrown and filthy, full of weeds and the house was all infested with cobwebs. I was with a young guy. I don’t remember too much about how it started off but I remember that eventually we were driving around Park Estate together. We went to this house as we had to pick something up and this involved getting a third guy to go with us. There was a woman there and a guy – it might have been my friend from Stoke on Trent. In the meantime there was some discussion about someone else. As we were driving around this estate he said that he was the guy who did something or other. This young guy pointed out a building and said “that’s where that guy committed suicide 3 years ago. He gassed himself”. I could vaguely remember that so he said “yes, he had a washing machine that was for sale”. I was really interested. When I looked on my Social Network pages I found that he was born in Pwllheli. That was really interesting to me and I was very disappointed to find out that he had died. We got to this house and got a few things together. This living room was so untidy and no-one seemed to be bothered at all. Filthy, untidy, cobwebby. In the end to close the door it was just a case of pulling the curtains and kick a load of stuff out of the way. This woman was sitting there doing something said “yes, that’s fine”. We had to go outside then and get in my van ready to go but the other guy then started to move some sand and gravel and ash around. It was a case of getting a barrow-load of stuff, tipping it through a sieve and the stuff that passed through the sieve, throwing it away somewhere. All these long grass and weeds so he was doing that. At one stage he was pushing a load and went to tip it up and the barrow just folded up under the weight. He was cursing this and I thought to myself “now that they have messed up the wheelbarrow we might actually stand a chance of going”

Another thing that I mentioned on the dictaphone that I head when I transcribed my notes was “don’t forget to add that someone else’s flaming alarm awoke me at blasted 05:10 this morning”.

Having had a shower I went downstairs, made my excuses to the receptionist and then loaded up Caliburn. Reversing into the busy street was … errr … interesting, but eventually we set off and in the blistering heat, headed south.

burnt out houses at entrance to oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAfter a drive of several hours in the sunshine, I finally came to my first port of call.

My route took me round the city of Limoges on the ring road out westwards on the N141 toward Angouleme to reach what is probably the saddest place in Western Europe where the nadir of man’s inhumanity to man in the horrors of war was reached.

And if the burnt-out building on the hill over there in the previous photo hasn’t given you a clue as to where I am, then read on.

burnt out peugeot 202 square town centre town centre oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThis is the photo that everyone has seen and which comes to everyone’s mind when the subject of Oradour sur Glane comes to the fore.

The burnt-out shell of the old Peugeot 202 in the town square has featured in just about every article or every story that has ever been written about that tragedy that took place here on the 10th of June 1944 as a company of the Das Reich 2nd Panzer Division of the SS passed by on its way to the Normandy beaches.

And after they left the village, only 6 people who had encountered the Germans remained alive and all were seriously wounded.

memorial in cemetery oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThe scale of the massacre can be gauged by plaques such as this that cover the cemetery.

Of the women and children rounded up by the SS, only one woman survived to tell the tale. All of the others regardless of age, from the smallest baby to the oldest grandmother, were brutally killed, in many cases by being burnt alive, in the village church by the soldiers.

No-one knows the exact number because the village was home to dozens of refugees who had been bombed out from elsewhere and who were not recorded on the census held by the authorities, but the best estimate is that 349 women and children lost their lives either in the church or while attempting to escape from the inferno.

the grange laudy on the road to the cemetery oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThe fate of the men was no better.

In places like this, the men who had been rounded up were shot – in the legs according to one of the 5 who survived – so that they would be disabled. Then wood and so on was piled up on top of the injured men and set alight so that they burned to death.

In this barn, the Grange Laudy or “Laudy’s Barn”, one of 6 places of execution, 62 men were herded. 6 of them made a run for the door when the fire was at its height and 5 managed to escape completely despite their wounds, the 6th being shot down and killed.

In total, approximately 643 unarmed civilians were brutally slaughtered, and the village was burned down around them. Everything that could burn was destroyed.

So while I post the remainder of the photos that I took, which in most cases have little bearing on the text that accompanies them, I’ll tell you a story.

Each photo is captioned individually by the way with as much information as I have found to date. Click on the photo to see it. If you have anything to add, please use the link to the contact form bottom-right.

And so, the history of the village of Oradour sur Glane is somewhat complicated because, as you might expect in a tragedy such as this, quite a few romantic notions have been allowed to creep into the story and which may or may not have some foundation in fact, and I’ll do my best to avoid perpetuating any myth.

burnt out cars unknown makes and models road to saint junien oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallBut let’s start at the very beginning.

The name of the village, Oradour, is said to come from that Latin oratorium, which suggests that during the Gallo-Roman period … “you must NEVER say simply ROMAN in France” – ed … there was some form of place for prayer here.

Its first mention in print was in 1264 when it appears in the Chronique de Maleu, where it is stated that Oratorio supra Glanant belongs to the canons of the Abbey of St Junien.

As is usual with these places it passes into the hands of nobles and then by a variety of marriages and inheritances it changes hands quite rapidly until the French Revolution which swept all of the nobility away.

It’s often been said that by the time of the outbreak of the Second World War it was a sleepy little village in the countryside, but I’m wondering just how much of that is simply poetic licence.

burnt out cars garage desourteaux oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallIf you have a look in many of the barns and garages of the town, like this one here, there are the remains of burnt-out vehicles everywhere.

As far as I could see, I counted 32 of them that were plainly visible and it’s almost inevitable that there were others that I wasn’t able to see. There were other vehicles, such as the draper’s van, that were known to have been driven away by the German troops when they left.

No village with that many vehicles is going to be sleepy by the standards of 1930s rural France, surely?

tramway burnt out houses road to javerdat sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallFurthermore, there was electricity in the village, and even an electric tramway that connected the village to Limoges and you can see the remains of the line in this photo.

It’s quite true to say that there was a network of “tacot” – the narrow-gauge lightweight tramways that honeycombed their way all across rural France, but for the most part they were shoestring operations rather like the railways of Colonel Stephens in the UK, staggering on under a burden of financial uncertainty and barely surviving into the 1950s.

An electric tramway shows a degree of investment that would never ordinarily be seen in a “tacot” network. It seems that the population of the village must have been wealthy enough to have been considered a worthwhile target for the railway company under these circumstances.

burnt out houses on the road to st junien oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallDuring World War II 168 men from the village were conscripted into the French Army and at the cease-fire 113 of them returned to the village. The rest were either prisoners, displaced or lost.

That was basically the village’s only connection with a War that had largely passed them by, other than of course the arrival of different groups of refugees who came to the area.

The villagers were never really bothered by the pressures of occupation, being content at first with life under the Vichy regime.

Gradually as the war wore on they became more and more disillusioned. The general opinion drifted towards a yearning for liberation and an Allied victory and several people joined the Resistance.

Several more people assisted with the “rat lines” of exfiltrating evading Allied soldiers and airmen.

burnt out houses on the road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThe Normandy landings were greeted with a great deal of relief and people began to look for the day that they could return to peacetime normality.

But this is when Das Reich entered the scene.

On the Eastern Front the 2nd Waffen SS Division Das Reich had been through the mill and at the 4th Battle of Kharkov in April 1944 it had been very badly mauled and had been withdrawn from the fighting.

It had been sent to south-west France, the area around Montauban, to rest and be reconstructed with new recruits.

burnt out houses on the road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThe D-Day Landings had caught it in a state of unreadiness but nevertheless it was ordered North to confront the Allies.

What should have been a fairly pleasant journey northwards was fraught with problems as the resistance left no stone unturned in their efforts to delay the troops. Destruction of bridges, dynamiting the railway, ambushes in country lanes were the norm.

On the Eastern Front, no quarter was ever asked for or given and a decree of 3rd February 1944 signed by Hitler had made it clear that extreme action against the civilian population in the face of terrorist action was appropriate.

burnt out offices of the dentist M Regnier oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallDas Reich brought with them to the Western Front this behaviour and as their route north was littered with Resistance attacked, it was also littered with atrocities committed by Das Reich against the civilian population in revenge.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that WE VISITED TULLE in 2014 where Das Reich had hanged 99 civilians from lamp-posts, but the worst is yet to come.

The reason why Oradour-sur-Glane was chosen to be the site of the worst massacre of civilians in Western Europe in modern times has never been satisfactorily explained.

tramway and burnt out houses on the road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallA German officer, a certain Lieutenant Gerlach, had been carried away by the Resistance. Legend has it that the Germans suspected the village as being the home of the Resistants concerned, but this has never been established with any certainly.

It was however a day when there was to be a medical inspection of the inhabitants so everyone from the village and the surrounding neighbourhood would be in the vicinity of the schools where the inspections were to take place.

But whatever the reason, Sturmbannfuhrer Adolf Deikmann had received instructions to create “an event of the greatest possible terror” to quieten the resistance activity in the area.

burnt out houses on the road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAt some time between 13:30 and 13:45 the village is surrounded by a force of about 150 German soldiers.

And when I say “German” I have to be very careful because there were without any doubt several soldiers of Das Reich were Alsatian – from the French province of Alsace that was forcibly incorporated into Germany.

A German officer present, Heinz Barth, is quoted by the French author Jean-Jacques Fouché as saying “now we’ll see what the Alsatians are capable of”.

burnt out car unknown make and model on the road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallOne has to be very careful not to make or imply any kind of suggestion that the Alsatian troops in Das Reich took part willingly in the massacre.

The merest hint or suggestion brings down the wrath of at least one Alsatian ex-combatants’ association onto the heads of the author.

It’s not been unknown for these Associations to trawl the literary world for such allegations and to haul authors and historians before the Courts on charges of slander and libel. And while these cases are generally dismissed, it’s still quite an expensive and time-consuming process.

champ de foire looking towards town square oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne eric hallWhere we are standing is in the Champ de Foire, the marketplace of the village, with the burnt-out Peugeot 202 down at the far end.

The German troops advanced into town from all directions herding the civilians into the marketplace. By 14:45 there were almost 250 people there

Other troops were out in the neighbourhood rounding up the agricultural workers labouring in the fields while more soldiers made a systematic search of the houses for anyone hiding or attempting to escape and discovered something like 150 people hiding.

tramway from limoges near church looking towards javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThere is good evidence to suggest that some of the women and girls found hiding were sujected to sexual violence by the soldiers and several were shot dead or beaten to death on the spot.

And at this moment, to add to the confusion, a tram from Limoges pulled up in the town. One of the people on board leapt down as if to make good his escape but was immediately shot down on the spot and his body thrown in the river.

As for the two member of the crew on board, their papers were checked by an officer and ordered to return with their tram to Limoges.

eglise saint martin oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallBy 15:00, with as many as possible of the village now assembled in the Champ de Foire, the women and children, believed to be 350 in total, were led off to the Eglise St Martin, St Martin’s Church.

Boys over the age of 14 remained in the marketplace with the men.

As to what happened that afternoon in the church, there was only one survivor, Marguerite Rouffanche. She was questioned on several occasions and swore a deposition on 13th June 1944 before the Prefect of Limoges, according to a report prepared for the French Government 2 days later. Her story never varied from one moment to the next

inside eglise saint martin oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThe women and children were herded into the church and once they were inside the Germans place some kind of large container in there.

This container had cords trailing from it and the Germans lit these cords. As a result there was a loud, enormous explosion and a huge thick wave of black suffocating smoke.

According to subsequent testimony, the aim was to bring down the roof of the church onto the people inside but the explosive charge was insufficient so the Germans threw hand grenades and fired bursts of machine gun fire through the door and windows in an orgy of slaughter.

missing roof of eglise  saint martin oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallOnce the Germans were convinced that there was no-one left alive in the church they heaped a pile of straw inside and set the church alight.

However there were a great many people still alive in the church. Several people who had taken shelter behind the altar attempted to escape from under cover of the smoke. There was a broken window behind the altar near to which they found a step ladder that was used when the curé had to light the candles.

A crying baby held by one of the escapees alerted the Germans who machine-gunned them all down. Marguerite Rouffanche, badly injured, managed to haul herself into the shelter of a nearby garden. She was the only survivor from the church. Everyone else was killed.

burnt out houses in the champ de foire oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAs for the 180 or so men and boys, they were kept waiting here in the Champ de Foire while the Germans searched the houses for any arms and ammunition.

The “official reason” that the Germans had visited the village, according to the survivors, was that the Germans suspected that there was an arms dump in the village. This was what they had all been told while they were waiting in the Champ de Foire

The Germans found nothing of any particular significance, so the next stage was that round about 16:00 the men were led off in groups of about 30 to various locations.

forge beaulieu tramway road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAmongst the places to which they were taken were

  • The Grange Laudy
  • The Forge Beaulieu (here on the right of this photo
  • The Chai Denis
  • The Garage Desourteaux
  • The Grange Milord
  • The Grange Bouchoute

burnt out garage near forge beaulieu oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAccording to the 5 survivors, after a long wait, the Germans opened fire on the men and boys, first of all aiming for the legs to cripple them.

And while they were still alive, they were covered with straw and other flammable material which was then set alight so that they were burnt to death.

At the Grange Laudy, 6 wounded men made a break for it under cover of the smoke. One was gunned down but the others made good their escape.

burnt out car unknown make and model near chai denis on the road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallHaving murdered all of the villagers that they could find, the Germans then turned their attention to the buildings.

The buildings were looted of anything of value and then set alight. During this operation many more civilians were discovered hiding and either pulled out by the Germans or attempted to flee the flames.

These were shot down in cold blood, and it was discovered subsequently that the bodies of some women and girls were in positions that suggested sexual violence.

forge beaulieu tramway road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallRound about 18:00 an engineer from the tramway turned up to find out what was going on. He was met by a mass of flames. He was also met by a German patrol who checked his identity and then told him to clear off and think himself lucky.

Also round about this time a tram from Limoges turned up, and a further one arrived two hours later. They too were searched, the identity of the passengers and crew were checked and they were all turned back.

Several other people attempted to reach the village from across the fields but met German patrols and were turned away.

burnt out car unknown make and model on the road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallLater on that evening most of the troops departed, taking away a great deal of the booty and leaving a detachment of soldiers secured in one of the shops to guard the village.

The discovery later on of several hundreds of empty bottles of wine and champagne in the building tells its own story of what went on during this night and it’s possible that the deaths of some of the girls and women occurred during this period.

Over the following two days the main body of troops returned and did what they could to clear away the human remains and render impossible any identification of the deceased, just as they would do on the Eastern Front.

All that they could find were buried in a hastily-dug pit behind the church.

burnt out peugeot 202 square town centre oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallDuring these two days a cordon of troops around the village tried to keep the civilians away.

However, some people, including the sous-préfet of the region, managed to infiltrate themselves into the village to see the situation.

What they saw rendered them speechless and their subsequent report need not be repeated, save one remark from the sous-préfet that the village was beyond help.

If you remember our railway engineer who was met by a mass of flames, it’s hardly a surprise.

burnt out cars unknown make and model near forge beaulieu oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallIncluding the 5 men and one woman who escaped directly from the slaughter, it’s reckoned that in total about 30 people actually present in the village at the time survived.

One 8 year old boy waiting for his medical inspection saw the Germans arrive and ran away into the woods just before the cordon closed. Everyone else in his family was killed.

Two men took shelter in the drains and hid there until it was safe to leave, and then they sneaked off into the woods.

burnt out crushed car unknown make and model near forge beaulieu oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallOf those hiding in the houses, some managed to hold out amongst the flames until dark and then likewise sneak out into the woods.

One youth with a broken leg in plaster and who had been unable to attend the medical inspection nevertheless managed to make his way into the woods under cover of darkness.

Another dozen or so passengers from the tram that arrived in the evening also managed to slip away into the woods.

Everyone has his or her own story to tell about their own drama on that day in June.

burnt out houses on the road to the cemetery oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallOn 13th June, the Préfèt of the département and Monseigneur Louis Paul Rastouil, the Bishop of Limoges, visited the village and made a report of the incident to the French authorities in Vichy.

It’s in this report that the first suggestion is made that the Germans were retaliating for the kidnap of one of their officers, although the Préfèt added that the village was one of the calmest and hard-working in his area.

On the 14th of June the Bishop sent a strongly-worded protest to the German General in charge of the area, and 2 days later held a mass to mark the event. Several other masses were said and a ceremony was held in the Cathedral on 21st June despite the best efforts of the Vichy police to disrupt it.

burnt out houses on the corner of the champ de foire and the road to the cemetery oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallBy now, the Pope had come to learn of the event and his ambassador sent a strongly-worded rebuke to Marshall Petain, President of the Vichy Republic.

Petain in his turn summoned the German Ambassador to him and in a most untypical outburst told him inter alia ‘you’ve burnt our villages, massacred our children, profaned our churches and heaped shame upon your country. You are nothing but a bunch of savages”.

And I have often wondered about the German Ambassador’s response to that. It must have been very interesting, but history does not record it.

burnt out cars citroen possibly a rosalie and a peugeot 202 on the road to the cemetery oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallPetain didn’t stop there either.

He wrote to the German Chief of Staff and told him that even if bands of people, often inspired by foreign terrorists, are causing problems for the Germans, the depth and ferocity of the German response has gone beyond all bounds of all reason and threatens to undermine any hope of reconciliation between France and Germany.

The German Ambassador refused to transmit the letter so, not to be outdone, Petain caused a copy to be given to a General in Hitler’s entourage with a copy to the Pope.

burnt out lorry unknown make and model near grange laudy oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThe village was never rebuilt. It was decided in January 1945 to treat it as a War Memorial and a new village was built several hundred metres away.

Meanwhile, the French authorities continued to make their investigations into the Massacre. A Court of Enquiry in Limoges set to work immediately and shortly later a German soldier who had been present at Oradour sur Glane fell into their hands.

He was tried and on 12th March 1946 sentenced to death for his role in the massacre. However the sentence was overturned due to the fact that at the time he had been a minor.

on steps of eglise st martin oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallIt took 8 years for sufficient evidence to be amassed in order that some soldiers alleged to be present could be identified, and then some French laws needed be changed so that they could be brought to trial.

One notable absentee at the Court hearings at Bordeaux was the German officer commanding Das Reich, Heinz Lammerding. He was traced to the British Zone of Occupied Germany but inexplicably, the British refused to allow him to be extradited. He had been apparently tried for other war crimes and served a sentence, and so was deemed by the British to be purged.

The French were not amused, as one might expect. He was sentenced to death in absentia and there was even talk of sending in a commando squad to kidnap him. That came to nothing and he died peacefully in 1971.

burnt out cars garage desourteaux oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAmongst the defendants were 14 French soldiers from the Alsace.

That there were soldiers from the Alsace present at Oradour sur Glane has never been in dispute – the soldier who translated the orders from German to French in the Champ de Foire was unquestionably from the Alsace.

They all claimed that the Laws of Military Justice passed by the French did not apply to them as they were French, and in any case most had been conscripted into the Division.

The French response was to charge with treason the one, Georges René Boss, who admitted volunteering. He was found guilty and condemned to death. The others received various terms of imprisonment.

burnt out cars unknown makes and models oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThe story doesn’t end here though – not by a long way.

There was a huge outcry in Alsace against the sentences and all kinds of turbulent events took place. In the end, the French Government voted a Law of Amnesty – a decision described by some as “shameful”. One author has suggested that the French Government preferred to placate a wealthy, industrialised region of France rather than a “poor rural community that posed no threat whatever to national unity”.

The 13 conscripts from Alsace were released and the one sentenced to death along with another Prisoner who had received a capital sentence were reprieved.

burnt out citroen traction avant 15 rear of church oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAs you might expect, in the Limousin there was uproar as the prisoners were released.

Many people who lived in the area and who had been awarded honours and medals by the French Government returned them in disgust.

Even a bronze plaque that the French Government had presented to the town in commemoration of the atrocity was returned. In its place the villagers erected a plaque listing the names of all of the Parliamentarians who had voted in favour of the amnesty, along with another plaque listing the names of all of the convicted men who had been liberated.

Even some towns that had been honoured for their wartime rôle by the French Government returned their honours.

burnt out cars unknown makes and models road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallThe French Government had erected a “Crypt of The Martyrs” to house the ashes, but the citizens refused to allow the ashes to be transferred.

As well as that, they refused to allow the Government to sent any representative to any of the ceremonies that took place in the village to honour the dead.

As the mayor of the new town said at the time, “to our feeling of great sorrow and our struggle for survival has been added a feeling of injustice, abandonment and even of some revulsion”.

burnt out car or van chassis road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallIn 1981 in East Germany, the authorities arrested an old man who turned out to be one of the Company Commanders known to have been present at Oradour sur Glane, living in the East under a false name.

He was tried in East Berlin for various war crimes including that of Oradour sur Glane, during which three of the survivors gave evidence against him. He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, but was released in 1997.

It must have been an embarrassment to the French and British Governments that it was the East Germans who were most interested in pursuing the events of Oradour sur Glane.

burnt out shop insecure frontage road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAnd as subsequent events unfolded, the interest of the East German Justice system in the events here must have proved even more embarrassing to the West.

In October 2010 whilst searching through documents formerly held by the Stasi, the East German Secret Police, a researcher discovered a document that showed that the Stasi had conducted an enquiry into the massacre.

This document contained a great deal of incriminating evidence previously unknown to the French authorities. Furthermore, it identified many of the participants, of whom 6 were found by the German authorities to be still alive and living in what was West Germany.

burnt out cars maybe citroen b14 road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallIn an enquiry undertaken by the German police, two of them denied being present at the time and the other four, aged 85 and 86, could not remember or were in no medical condition to be questioned.

As a result, in January 2013 several representatives of the German Justice system from Dortmund visited Oradour sur Glane in the hope of finding additional supporting evidence.

In January 2014, a former soldier, Werner Christukat was tried in Germany but found Not Guilty due to lack of evidence, a decision that was upheld on appeal. Although it was held that he was present at the time, there was apparently insufficient proof to suggest that he took an active role.

burnt out car maybe a citroen b14 road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallIn my opinion, not having access to the full facts of the case, this is a most extraordinary decision considering the verdict that was presented against John Demjanjuk a couple of years earlier.

In Demjanjuk’s case, a legal precedent was set that mere presence at an act of war crimes was sufficient for someone to be found guilty of being an accessory, a principle that was subsequently successfully applied against several other people who had served the German cause during the War.

Suspects are still being PULLED OUT OF THE UNDERGROWTH AND CHARGED in accordance with the Demjanjuk decision even today, and so I am curious to see why it did not apply in the case of Christukat.

Despite “the continuing enquiries”, which are being carried out by the German Government due to the “Demjanjuk decision”, it is doubtful if any other person will ever be brought to justice.

girls school road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallEven today, the body that represents the soldiers from Alsace is active in this field.

When he learnt that German Prosecutors were on French soil searching for evidence, a spokesman from the Association des Déserteurs, Évadés et Incorporés de Force (ADEIF) “wouldn’t it be better for someone in High Authority (in Germany) to have come and given a public apology to those people from Alsace who were incorporated by force” into the German Army?

As you can understand, anyone writing about the massacre needs to tread carefully. Any criticism of the involvement of soldiers from Alsace in the massacre even more than three quarters of a century after the event is met with a full barrage of everything that the defenders of their role can muster.

burnt out car unknown make and model road to javerdat oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAnd it isn’t only the ADEIF that is on the warpath.

Revisionist history is all the rage these days as people, taking advantage of the death of eyewitnesses, now attempt to view the events through eyes of different colours and either deny their part in the massacre or shift the blame onto others.

These will inevitably be laid to rest eventually when the public records of the trial at Bordeaux in 1953 and the investigation by the Prefet of the département of Haute Vienne become available to the public and I for one can’t wait for that to happen, but these days people have a tendency to believe whatever suits their own opinion rather than be swayed by hard evidence.

memorial cemetery oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallBut retournons à nos moutons as they say around here.

The Association Nationale des Familles des Martyrs organised the building of their own Memorial to the Martyrs which contains the ashes of those who died at Oradour sur Glane.

But I wasn’t very happy about them being visible to public gaze, I have to say. There’s a glass panel in the monument through which you can see bones and ashes. For me, that was in rather bad taste.

visitor centre oradour sur glane 87520 haute vienne france eric hallAs a result of a project going back to the late 1980s, on 16th July 1999 a Visitor Centre was opened at the village, complete with Ye Olde Gifte Shoppe, which was something else that I thought to be in pretty bad taste. It’s all completely different from when I came here the first time and when I brought Nerina here in 1991

It was opened by none other than the President of the Republic, Jacques Chirac accompanied by Catherine Trautmann, the French Minister for Culture. By now, the politicians from the Government were being allowed into the village by the population.

Francois Mitterand, who had voted in favour of the Amnesty in 1953 went there on 10th June 1994 but according to the local Press, all the inhabitants closed their window blinds in protest.

Unfortunately, since then the Centre has become the target for neo-Fascist revisionists who have been spraying the notices with graffiti saying such things as “Liars” and “Reynouard (a far-right Revisionist who has a whole list of convictions for Nazi apologia) is right” and things like that.

Several other French presidents have been to the village subsequently, and one significant visitor here, on 4th September 2013, was Joachim Gauck, President of Germany who came with the French President Francois Hollande. During this visit, Gauck gave a speech of apology and reconciliation.

One person who never, apparently came to Oradour sur Glane was Nicolas Sarkozy. He did however go to Colmar in the Alsace where, on 8th May 2010 where he publicly declared that the soldiers of Alsace recruited by the Germans were “not traitors but, on the contrary, victims of a real war crime”, something that went down like a lead balloon with the citizens of the Limousin.

In fact, this action of Sarkozy made me wonder whether the appearance of Hollande, Sarkozy’s opponent in the Presidential election of 2012, at Oradour sur Glane in 2013 might have been more of an opportunist nose-cocking at Sarkozy and a vote-winning exercise rather than any kind of personal sentiment, but sometimes I’m far too cynical for my own good.

But then again, Emmanuel Macron came to Oradour-sur-Glane in between the first and second round of elections for President in 2017, so I’ll let you make up your own mind.

And while you do that, I’m off to my next port of call. And I’ll leave you with one final thought about the events of Oradour sur Glane that has been missed by, as far as I can see, every commentator on the events.

And that is that the events here delayed Das Reich‘s journey to the Normandy battleground by three days and how might the course of the war have been different had they not been held up here? And how many lives were saved elsewhere because of the delay?

Even if nothing else, the events of Oradour sur Glane fulfilled one purpose that benefited the Allied cause.

So picking up a baguette and fuelling up Caliburn as I passed through the new village, I carried on south (stopping for lunch on the way).

strawberry moose Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallNext stop for this afternoon is the town of Chalus and its early medieval tower.

While Strawberry Moose works out how he’s going to take the keep by storm, I’ll mention something about our interest in this place.

Yesterday, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, we visited Chateau Gaillard, the castle of Richard the Lionheart, and we talked about the siege of the castle by King Philip after the death of Richard.

ruins Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallThis castle would have been a much more important place than it would appear today.

There may not be much remaining of the fortifications here today but there are the remains of several stone walls such as these remains here . These might either be the remains of buildings or of walls, although the curved end is more suggestive of a former building in this particular case..

And the big pile of stones in the bacckground, I wonder where they came from and of what they were part.

inside great hall Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallBut what we are looking at here, in the Great Hall of the Manor House to which the tower belongs, is said by some to be the spot where King Richard died in 1199.

It’s certainly true that he was carried to somewhere round about here, but there are several candidates for the place of his death. Some sources suggest that he even lived for 6 days after being wounded.

The castle is situated today in the département of the Haute-Vienne in the Limousin, but previously, back in antiquity it was quite close to the border between the Périgord, which was not then part of France and the domaine of Counts of Limoges.

This border took on a totally new significance in 1137 when Duke William X died without a male heir, and his lands passed to his daughter Eleanor. She was immediately married off to King Louis VII but the marriage was not a success.

inside great hall Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallThe couple divorced in 1152 and just as quickly as her first marriage, she married Henry, Duke of Normandy.

Henry’s grandfather had been Henry I, King of England and after the death of Henry I there had been the disputes over the throne of England between the late King’s daughter Matilda (The Duke of Normandy’s mother) and Stephen, nephew of the late King.

With no direct male heir to the English throne (Henry I’s son had been lost in the “White Ship” disaster of 1120), Stephen invoked the right of male progeniture and claimed the throne. This had led to Civil War in England

inside great hall Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallHenry had been campaigning against Stephen on behalf of his mother and the matter of succession was resolved in 1154 when Stephen died. Henry simply took over the crown by right of occupation, having no faith whatever in whatever promise Stephen had made.

This sent shock waves throughout the whole of the border area between Périgord – by now part of the region of the Aquitaine – and that area ruled by the Counts of Limoges.

Rather than being a boundary between two rulers of more-or-less equal stature, it was now an international boundary. Consequently a whole line of fortifications was either built or rebuilt by the Count of Limoges to secure his frontier.

view from Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallThere was already an important road between the religious centre of Bourges and the port of Bordeaux in the Aquitaine. This passed by the town of Chalus and so the rocky outcrop was considered to be a logical place to build some kind of fortification that would protect the road.

Due to its strategic position it was subject to attack on many occasions, even once prior to the issues with Richard, but it is with Richard that we are particularly interested.

And for this, we need to turn our attention to the Third Crusade to Palestine.

While the object of the Crusade was the recapture of territory lost to Saladin after the disastrous Battle of Hattin, the Pope took the initiative to persuade Henry II of England and Philip of France to forget their disputes, take the cross and accompany the crusaders.

However Henry died before he could set out and his son Richard set out in his place.

view from Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallThe Crusade was only partially successful and in 1192 Richard left Palestine to return to England. On his way home he was kidnapped by Leopold of Austria who had a personal grievance against him, and passed to the Holy Roman Emperor who held him to ransom. On payment of the ransom by the English, he was released.

While he had been imprisoned there had been several revolts against him, most notably by his brother John but also by the Counts of Limoges, and these continued.

During the rebellion of the latter a mercenary named Mercadier and his forces had attacked the castle on behalf of King Rechard.

The 38 local people present, men, women and children, fled to the tower and barricaded themselves in.

strawberry moose Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallMercadier began work on undermining the walls of the tower. And that would not have been easy because the walls are 3 metres thick, so I’m told.

Anyway, after 4 days of work, Richard came by to see how the attack was progressing.

While he was inspecting the works he was shot just underneath the neck by a bolt fired from a crossbow from the top of the tower roughly where Strawberry Moose is standing, and died of this wounds when gangrene set in.

And that unfortunately is that as far as Richard the Lionheart is concerned.

Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallSo now that we have set the scene, let’s go off on our guided tour of the premises.

The first thing that needs to be said is that while the tower here is original, the building probably isn’t. It dates from the enlargements of the 13th Century and I’ve seen a reference to reconstruction du logis du chateau en haut – “reconstruction of the lodgement of the upper chateau” – of 1280.

If that’s the case, this would be the garrison of the castle, where the defenders of the castle would lodge.

cellar Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallThere’s a doorway in the wall of the building that leads into the tower.

And from here we have a choice of two directions – upwards and downwards. We are going downstairs into the basement of the tower, complete with a lovely vaulted ceiling and beautiful arched fireplace.

Back in the 12th Century it would probably have been lit by tallow candles, presumably on a round chandelier that would be raised up or lowered down from the ceiling, rather than the reproduction medieval flares on the wall either side of the chimney.

strawberry moose in cellar Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallThere are two rooms underneath the tower.

We’re in the second room here. The entrance through which we walked from the first room is behind the pillar, under observation from Strawberry Moose who is presumably watching for English soldiers and mercenaries from the Perigord.

We’ve seen a few items of furniture around – in the previous photo and in this room. I’ve no idea if they are contemporary or reproduction but there certainly wouldn’t have been all that much furniture in a medieval building such as this. The occupants wouldn’t have been as wealthy or had as many possessions as is often depicted in Hollywood epics.

cellar Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallBack in the first room again you can see an example of the type of chandelier that I mentioned, although I doubt if it would have been as elaborate as this one.

Over to the left are the stairs down which we descended, and on the right is a doorway that leads out into the moat. For obvious defensive reasons, it’s doubtful that the doorway is contemporary with the construction of the tower and is more likely to be a comparatively modern alteration.

But I’m not going outside right now, I’m going back up the stairs, and right to the top too.

view from Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallAnd here I am, right up on the top of the tower and you can see the excellent view from up here.

Although it might not look like it from down below, it was in fact a real fortified castle and in this photo you can see part of the old walls of the place over there on the right with the remains of a little angled tower. I imagine that the walls continued round to the left of the line of trees covering that bank just there.

Even from this height you can see how the tower of the castle commands the view of the approaches to the butte. The main road that it covers is the one in the upper centre of the image heading slightly off to the right.

But now having had a good look, I’m going back downstairs and out through the door that we saw earlier.

Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallHaving passed through the doorway in the tower into what I reckon may well have been the old moat, we can see the difference here between the old, original buildings and the more modern construction.

There was a part of the chateau built in the Seventeenth Century by the Bourbon-Busset family who had been the owners since 1530, and in the absence of any other information and of any other suitable candidate, I would suggest that the Hall on the left of this photo might be the more modern part.

As an aside, the Bourbon-Busset family is an illegitimate branch of the Royal House of France, the illegitimacy being due to the fact that Louis de Bourbon, cousin of King Charles VII, married without royal consent and later kept the marriage secret in order that he could become Bishop of Liege.

strawberry moose Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallAnd so Strawberry Moose and I climbed to the top of the main tower to see the view, which you have already seen in a few earlier photos.

And climbing to the top of the tower isn’t easy, although it’s easier than it might have been because there is one floor missing from how it was originally. That was somehow lost in the renovations of the 1960s although this might be the damage that was referred to when in 1870 there was “a fall of stones” at the chateau.

But the first obstacle that you have to overcome is the actual entry into the tower because it’s not as straightforward as it might be. The door is about 30 feet above ground and you need to climb up a rather steep ramp to enter.

view from Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hall And although it might not have been as easy as that 900 years ago, I have actually seen an old drawing of the tower that seems to suggest that there was some kind of building at the side.

It’s quite possible that if this was the case, there may well have been a stone staircase inside that went up to the main door.

Once inside, it continues to be something rather challenging to reach the top.

statue of crossbowman Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallIn certain places the original circular staircase around the inside of the outside wall. In other places the staircase is no longer there and there is some kind of ad hoc ladder arrangement to reach the floor above. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

But once you do actually make it to the top, it’s well worth it because of the view. And not just of the view of the surrounding countryside either, but also because of the decorations in the garden. Like this crossbowman, for example.

The significance of this escapes me right now. But I did wonder whether it was on that spot that King Richard met his end.

flag of Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallFlying from the top of the tower is this rather beautiful flag.

Unfortunately I’ve not been able to identify it – it doesn’t belong to anyone who might have had any claim over the castle so it looks as if I’ll have to leave this for a while until chance plays its hand and I spot it somewhere else where there’s a legend.

But of course, there’s always my very knowledgeable readership. It might be that one of you lot might know. if so, please contact me using the contact link bottom-right.

strawberry moose grand piano Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallSo while STRAWBERRY MOOSE entertains us with selections from the classics, I’ll tell you a little more about the subsequent history of the castle.

After a siege by soldiers from the Perigord in 1265 in which the defending captain was killed, a fine levied on the attackers enabled the chateau to be repaired. It passed to King Philip in 1306 and in 1317 he gave it to one of his advisers, Henri de Sully.

As a result of various marriages it passed through several families, including the Bourbon-Bussets whom we mentioned earlier, and also the Borgia family of Italy, the family of Cesare and Lucrezia.

During the Wars of Religion it was attacked twice, in 1569 and again in 1591 during which attack it came under artillery fire.

ruined church Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallAs usual in a medieval fortified place, there would be a chapel or church. And the Chateau de Chalus is no exception.

What we have here is the Eglise Notre Dame – the Church of Our Lady of High Chalus. Building commenced in the 11th Century and in 1095 Gerald, Abbott of the Monastery of St Augustin of Limoges took up possession. It later became the parish church and was expanded in the 15th Century.

ruined chapel Château de Châlus-Chabrol 37500 indre et loire france eric hallSubsequently a new church, the Eglise Notre-Dame de l’Assomption was built in the village and the one here became disaffected. It gradually slipped into decay and began to fall down. A visitor who passed by in 1888 noted that there was much more of it still standing back then than there is today.

But on a happier note, what remains of the church was added to the List Of Historic Monuments on 25th March 1981

Interestingly, the entrails of Richard the Lionheart are said to be buried somewhere within the precincts of the church, although I couldn’t find out exactly where they might be.

Having left the scene, a long drive brought Strawberry Moose, Caliburn and me as far as Gueret where, due to the heat and general fatigue, we abandoned our efforts to continue.

A brief shopping excursion to LeClerc and then I installed myself in a Premier Class hotel cross the road where I had a shower to cool myself down, and washed my clothes. Internet once more very patchy so the USB-tethering came ito the fore.

Having made myself a dish of pasta and vegetables in the slow cooker, I lay on the bed and crashed out completely.

That was that.

All translations in the text from French and German have been done by me.

Sunday 8th July 2018 – WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT …

canada national parks vimy ridge france… that by the end of the day I would have been setting my foot inside Canada?

Only in your wildest flights of fancy would you have imagined it, but nevertheless, here I am. And quite right too if you ask me.

I DID say “never say never”, didn’t I? And where there’s a will there are relatives. So Canada here I came.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here, aren’t I?

As expected, I had a bad night with my noisy neighbours. But not so bad that I wasn’t able to go off on a nocturnal ramble.

A rather distressing one in fact. Two men were trying to extract a piece of wood from underneath a huge pile halfway up a scaffolding at IKEA of all places. The pile titled alarmingly and caused two yellow dumper-type lorries to swerve. One of them crashed into Caliburn and badly damaged him, but the lorries didn’t stop until they were round the corner. I didn’t know which one was responsible for the damage so I challenged them both. But they both denied it. A friend of mine, someone from school, was travelling as a passenger in one of them and he reckoned that it was the other so I challenged that driver but he still persisted with his denial. I tried to explain that I had seen what happened with the wood so they could hardly be blamed and the insurance would deal with it anyway, but they still refused to admit which one of them it was.

premiere class hotel rocourt liege belgium july juillet 2018Awake before the alarm, I did some more paperwork and then tidied up ready to leave.

I had a gentle moan at the receptionist about my neighbours (it was hardly her fault, was it?) so she offered me a complementary coffee.

It pays to complain, if you do it nicely enough.

Round the corner to fuel up Caliburn, to the Carrefour Sunday supermarket for bread and some buns for breakfast, and then on the road in the blinding heat for France, eating my bread rolls and drinking my coffee as I drove.

My route took me all the way down the motorway well into France, and I came off at Denain and headed for Douai.

Regular readers of this rubbish in one of its very first incarnations will recall that I called Denain “The Land of the Living Dead”. All of that area, Denain, Douai, Doullens, they are all old mining and heavy industrial towns and the collapse of Western European heavy industry in the 1980s affected them terribly.

They were bad 20 years ago but now they are even worse than parts of Stoke on Trent, and that really is saying something, I’ll tell you that. Horrible, sad, decaying cities.

I found a place to stop and eat my sandwiches, and then went to book a room in either Albert or Arras. And I don’t know what is happening there right now but prices are through the roof. There’s clearly something going on.

All that I’ve managed to find in my price range is a flea-pit in Lens about 20 miles away from where I want to be. That’s not a good sign.

But anyway, I’m back on the road and heading for this afternoon’s destination. And The Lady Who Lives In The SatNav is doing her best to confuse me.

But before I actually reach there, I’m side-tracked … "yet again" – ed … by something that’s not on my list of places to visit.

tank cemetery guémappe franceI’d heard of the “Tank Cemetery” somewhere in the back of my mind, where graves were laid out in the shelter of an abandoned tank, but that was up north.

So seeing a sign for the “Tank Cemetery” around here at Guémappe, I went for a look.

It relates to inter alia an action on 23rd and 24th March as a continuation, I suppose, of the Battle of the Somme, when the village was stormed by soldiers of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, and then subsequently by a couple of Field Ambulance Units until it was overrun in the German “Spring Advance” of March 1918.

And there are 64 Cameron Highlanders buried in one mass grave here.

foncquevillers military cemetery franceAnyway, I eventually reach my destination. This is Foncquevillers Military Cemetery.

Foncquevillers was a British stronghold behind the front line in early 1916 and it’s where part of the british Army assembled to plan its attack on the Somme.

What we are going to be doing over the next few days is to sketch out the plan of attack of 1st July 1916 when General Rawlinson’s disastrous handling of the the Third and Fourth Armies led to a debâcle unparalleled in British history and a disaster second only to Dunkirk.

I’m not going to write too much about it here because there is so much to say and I can go on for ever … "not with a bayonet through your neck you couldn’t" – ed … and besides, it’s going to be spread over a couple of days … "and several fields too" – ed.

So I shall just say that I had a very pleasant afternoon ambling through the sunshine.

And you’ll be surprised at just how much is left to see after 102 years. Most of the stuff has been ploughed away but you do occasionally find some gems.

But from there I headed north to Lens. All 45 kilometres of it and it’s rather a drag.

vimy ridge memorial franceBut Rupert Brooke famously talked about “a corner of a foreign field that is forever England”.

What he didn’t say is that there’s a couple of corners of foreign fields that are forever Canada and I’m standing in one right now.

I came here with Nerina 30 years or so ago, but I’ve no idea where my photos might be, and so I came by again.

vimy ridge memorial franceAnd for those of you who couldn’t see the monument clearly, here’s a close-up of it in all its glory.

It’s a monument not only to the events on Vimy Ridge over Easter 1917 but also to all of the fallen Canadian soldiers who have no known grave – more than 11,000 of them.

And their names are engraved on tablets as we saw at the Menin Gate at Ieper.

vimy ridge memorial franceYou can see why possession of Vimy Ridge was something worth fighting for – if anything is worth fighting for, that is.

The view all over the plain between Douai and Lens is phenomenal, and it’s the first real occasion that the British and French had of actually overlooking the German front lines – the Germans always going for the heights.

But I’ll come back to all of that in a bit.

Right now I’m off to my hotel. I eventually find it by the railway station in Lens. I’m pretty disappointed with this one – not for the least of the reasons being the weird landlady who clearly ought topass the bottle around instead of keeping it for herself.

The room is OK and stifling hot, so I nip downstairs and bring up the fan. That’s much better.

A quick wash of the undies and I sit down to do some work but my heart isn’t in it and eventually I drift off to bed with most of the stuff undone.

I can’t keep it up these days like I used to.

Saturday 7th July 2018 – ONE OF THESE DAYS …

… I’ll have a decent night.

But it wasn’t last night, that’s for sure. With all of the excitement following Belgium’s unexpected victory over Brazil there was chaos in the streets and enough noise to awaken the dead.

And so despite everything and all of my best intentions, it was hours before I managed to go off to sleep.

It was another morning too where I was awake long before the alarm went off. When I finally glanced at the time it was 05:47 and I was hoping for something rather better than that.

There had still been time to go on my travels though. Back driving a taxi and I’d been given a list of the regular clients which I was sure that I had memorised, and so I tore it up. And immediately there was a call over the radio “go to Nantwich and pick up so-and-so”. And I couldn’t remember where he or she lived. My notes were too badly torn to be able to be pieced together so I asked on the radio, but I couldn’t understand the reply which was rather garbled.
A little later I was in Eritrea (don’t ask me why) – an Eritrea that looked like nothing that I had ever seen of it. There was a military patrol walking down a road floating up observation balloons, many of which had fallen to earth and were littering the side of the road. Suddenly the patrol withdrew, leaving me isolated right out in front, a rather nervous place to be. Eventually I found a tourist guide who was selling tickets on a steam train ride. he was negotiating with someone and they agreed on a price of $50:00. The only thing that I could see in the brochure for a steam ride was at $130:00 so I asked about it. He replied that I needed to go to the railway station and book it there. He mentioned 13:30 but I didn’t understand if that was the time of departure or the time of return, and it was all so confusing.

So crawling out of bed I had my medication (now that I have some) but I still didn’t feel like any breakfast so I had a shower instead and cracked on with my paperwork.

The cleaner wanted to come in here at 11:00 but I told her to wait for a while as I was expecting a visitor.

And sure enough, just when I reckoned that I ought to go outside, I opened my door to see Alison pulling into the car park. Bang on cue.

welkenraedt july juillet 2018Our first port of call was about 30 kms down the road in Welkenraedt.

Despite only having a population on 9,000 or so, it’s probably one of the most famous small towns in Belgium and it’s one that I’ve been dying to visit ever since I first came to Oostende over 45years ago

And for one of the strangest reasons too, because it’s not your usual run-of-the-mill tourist venue.

Back in the 1970s at the railway station in Oostende there would alwas be a train waiting to meet the ferries, and they would always be going to Welkenraedt.

It aroused my curiosity so I did a little research and found that it was a small town in the north of the Ardennes that didn’t look as if it had any significance at all, so I was puzzled as to why all of these trains would want to come here.

railway station welkenraedt belgium july juillet 2018And when you look at the station, it’s a big, modern station that has plenty of facilities and it is all out of proportion to the size of the town

A little bit of research back in those days soon cleared up the question.

Welkenraedt is the closest railway station to the border between Germany and Belgium – in Germany until 1919 and in Belgium afterwards.

And when the railways were electrified, the German voltage system was different from that in Belgium until comparatively modern times. And until the Schengen agreement, there was a frontier post at the station.

So while the passengers were having their passports controlled, the train would be changing engines and then going on to Aachen or Cologne or maybe further still.

Welkenraedt is officially a German-speaking town but when it was transferred to Belgium by the Treaty of Versailles, the SNCB, the Belgian railway company, opened a locomotive depot here and transferred in a large number of French-speaking railway workers.

They flooded the town to such an extent that you will struggle to find German spoken here today. We saw a couple of signs in German but that was about that.

We went off to find something to eat as Alison was hungry, and I forced down a helping of overcooked chips. I’m clearly feeling better after my crisis of Thursday and Friday.

viaduc de moresnet july juillet 2018But you can’t cometo this region without going down the road to Moresnet.

For several reasons really, not the first of which is this absolutely gorgeous railway viaduct.

It’s not quite on a par with the Tracel de Cap Rouge of course, that’s rather exceptional, but it’s by far the best that you are likely to find around this part of Europe.

viaduc de moresnet july juillet 2018According to the information that I have found, it was built during the period 1915-1916. The pillars are fine examples of reinforced concrete of that period.

It’s just over 1100 metres long and at its highest, it’s about 60 metres above the velley of the River Gueule

That tells us a couple of things

  1. There may well have been something here prior to that period that was demolished at the start of World War I
  2. It escaped demolition during the fighting of World War II

viaduc de moresnet july juillet 2018Knowing my usual luck, we would ordinarily have had to wait for about three weeks to see a train pass over the viaduct, and then we would have missed it because we had gone for a coffee.

But that’s not the case here. This is the main railway line that runs between Aachen and Antwerpen, one of Europe’s busiest ports.

We’d hardly pulled into the village before a freight train went rattling by just above our heads.

moresnet belgium july juillet 2018So while you admire the village of Moresnet and Alison and I have gone for a coffee with the friendly young girl who runs the village café, let me tell you a little story.

At the end of the Napoleonic Wars the Treaty of the Limits in 1816 redefined the border between the Low Countries (because Belgium didn’t exist at that time) and the Kingdom of Prussia.

For various reasons, they couldn’t agree with what to do with the commune of Moresnet and so they planned to divide it between them.

moresnet belgium july juillet 2018Unfortunately, any logical dividing line ran right through a very important and valuable quarry and they couldn’t agree where the line should go so that each country would have half the value.

Eventually, they agreed that the quarry and a surrounding piece of land would be a neutral zone administered jointly by one official from the Low Countries (Belgium after 1830) and the Kingdom of Prussia (the German Empire after 1871).

And so you had Moresnet, Neu-Moresenet (the German bit) and Moresnet Neutre.

In 1914 Germany took all of it, so at the Treaty of Versailles Belgium was awarded all of it, so in 1940 Germany took it all back and in 1945 Belgium regained all of it.

There has been quite a lot of excitement in such a sleepy little Belgian village

But our conversation with the serving wench was quite exciting. being practically right on one of Belgium’s linguistic borders, our conversation drifted between French and German with hardly a pause.

Belgium is a fascinating country.

And if that’s not enough to be going on with, just up the road some time round about 1750 a miracle involving Mary the Mother of Jesus is said to have taken place

franciscan friars moresnet chapelle july juillet 2018Pilgrims came to visit the site so a small chapel was built, followed by all of the usual facilities for the visitors, and the village of Moresnet-Chapelle developed.

A group of Franciscan Friars (and seeing as this is Belgium, they were probably chip monks) were sent from Aachen in 1875 to provide spiritual comfort to the visitors.

As a result, some substantial development took place.

chemin de la croix moresnet chapelle belgium july juillet 2018Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we’ve talked on several occasions about the Chemin de la Croix – 14 stages of Jesus on his way to his crucifixion, death and subsequent resurrection.

We’ve also been to see a a magnificent example of this at Cap de la Madeleine in Quebec.

In 1895 they decided that they would emulate it (the filthy beasts) right here.

chemin de la croix moresnet chapelle belgium july juillet 2018In 1895 German benefactor provided some cash to purchase the land around the chapel and they set to work.

The work was completed in 1904 and today there are 14 grottoes made of puzzolane, each featuring one of the stages of the Chemin de la Croix.

The aim is to visit each one, purchase a candle to light in each (which must bring in a fortune) and say a prayer at each one, in order to be absolved of your sins.

Of course, I don’t need to, for regular readers of this rubbish in one of its previous guises will recall that I was granted absolution by the Pope, having passed through all of the Holy Doors in Rome during the Period of Grace in 2000.

I choose my friends carefully as you know.

chemin de la croix moresnet chapelle belgium july juillet 2018The twelfth station, the Calvaire or Calvary, featuring the crucifiction, is always a good ‘un and there’s no exception here.

In fact, it was so popular at one time that they have installed benches here and occasionally hold open-air church services here.

But clearly not masses, because the place is pretty-much deserted today.

And I shan’t bore you all by repeating the story that a Frenchman delightfully told me, that they asked for a famous sculptor from each country to send in their impressions of how the Calvary should look, and the Belgian sculptor sent in a drawing of John Wayne on his horse.

Final stop (for now, anyway) on our day out was just a couple of miles up the road.

driehoek netherlands germany belgium july juillet 2018Here we have the Driehoek – or “Three Corners” – where the countries of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany meet.

And when we had Moresnet-Neutre, it was a Vierhoek because that area had a bit of it too.

The girl in red is sitting half in the Netherlands and half in Germany, and the girl on the floor is half in the Netherlands and half in Belgium.

vaalserberg netherlands july juillet 2018Not only that, the highest point in the Netherlands – the Vaalserberg – is only 100 metres or so from the border and so we had to pay that a visit too.

It’s all of 322.4 metres above sea level, or 1,058 feet for those of you still dealing in real money.

And in the background you can see an observation platform. Apart from the fact that it cost real money to go up there to the top, the number of steps that I saw was enough to put me off the idea.

So having been driven up the Vaal(serberg) our next stop was across in our third country of the day – Germany. And those silly Brits who voted to leave the EU just don’t understand the advantages of having Breakfast in Brussels, Lunch in Luxembourg, Tea in Turin, Supper in Sampdoria and Bed in Bari.

Aachen in fact was where we went, where Alison wanted to take me to a café that she had found. And even though we arrived 12 minutes before the advertised closing time of 18:00, they refused to serve us.

Consequently we nipped to Mullers for some of my white coconut chocolate, and then to the cat café that we had visited a while ago.

The cooking smelt delicious so Alison had some thick soup and I had hummus with raw vegetables and bread.

It’s not far back to Liège from Aachen, even though you pass through three countries to get there. and I was in time to see Russia defeated by Croatia. And I could tell by the way that the first Russian limped up to take his penalty, head bowed to the ground, that he was going to miss it.

Tomorrow I am on the move, and so an early night – if my neighbours let me. They are being just a little rowdy, but then you can’t win a coconut every time, can you?

Friday 6th July – I’M DEFINITELY FEELING …

… poorly right now.

We’re back on the “sleeping all day and eating nothing” spell that we know so well. It was a good plan to book myself in here at the Première Class Hotel in Liège for several days.

A word about the hotel though. They are in general good hotels – well sited, cheap and convenient. But I’ve noticed once or twice now that the rooms are starting to have little defects and the maintenance isn’t being kept up.

I can see them going the way of the Formule 1 hotels if they don’t start to get on top of the little irritating defects.

But be that as it may, I slept until just before 02:00, went off again round about 03:00 and had a brief spell of awakening before going back to sleep until the alarm went off.

And I’d been on my travels too – watching a film starring Michael Caine about a whole series of vicious murders. It turned out that a male transvestite had had a very hard time in a prison and so was intent on dealing with all of the people who had sent him there. He was only exposed by accident at the very last moment when Michael Caine, deciding not to go home but to go to the delicatessan instead (this action took place in Stoke on Trent by the way), recognised the person travelling on a bus that turned at a junction right by where he was standing.
Later on during the night I was with a young girl, about 15 or so, and we’d been on a bus trip to Scotland. At the time to leave, two people hadn’t turned up so we had to wait for them. It turns out that they were Scots women and, as they freely admitted, they had had a drop too much to drink. And this made the journey back very uncomfortable.

I hadn’t paid for breakfast here, because I’ve had issues with that in these places, so my intention was to pay as I go along. But somehow I just couldn’t fancy eating anything.

Instead, I mooched around, did some work, crashed out again, that kind of thing.

Eventually I went for a walk to look for a branch of the Fortis Bank (to no avail) and did some shopping in the Cora supermarket down the road. I’ve bought myself another electric fan. It’s stifling in here and I can’t do with the heat.

And even though I’m not eating, grapes at €2:45 a kilo were too good to resist as was a litre of banana-flavoured soya milk.

Having had another lie-down, I made some sandwiches and to my surprise managed to eat them too. And then another lie-down until about 18:00.

Yes, I’m not feeling so good right now but one thing that we do know is that it will all be better in a day or two. It goes in cycles like that.

Now, it’s just a case of riding out the storm. Or sleeping it out.

Thursday 5th July – WHAT A DEPRESSING DAY!

But let’s not go getting ahead of ourselves.

Last night was weird. I crashed out as soon as my head hit the pillow, woke up again after about half an hour, and then crashed out for good until about 04:30.

And then of course, I dozed off again just a couple of minutes before the alarm went off.

Consequently it was a very tired and weary me that hauled itself out of the stinking pit, and even a shower couldn’t really bring me round. I was feeling awful and for two pins I would have gone back to bed.

But I have things to do, and so I staggered downstairs to the van.

On the car park I met Hans who was loading up his van ready to leave, so we wished each other a good trip and like the Knights Of The Round Table, we each went our separate ways.

There wasn’t all that much traffic on the motorway given the time of morning, so I made it to Leuven in good time. And it seems that my parking spec has been taken by someone else. So I parked in an empty spec and anticipated a row when I returned.

The walk from there up the hill to the hospital was a long, weary walk and I almost didn’t make it. “I’m definitely not feeling myself today” I said, and just as well too because it’s a disgusting habit.

At the hospital I was early so I had to wait around for a while. And the first lot of bad news is that my weight has gone up by 3kg. Hardly a surprise seeing as I’ve been without my tablets for 12 days.

Plugged in and switched on, I slept for most of the day. With just the occasional awakening from the medical staff. And it was during one of those awakenings that I had some even more bad news.

The protein loss has doubled to just over 2.0 and the red blood count has collapsed to 8.8. No wonder I’ve been feeling so ill today.

They are totally dismayed by that and they want to bring me forward to three-weekly visits. That is out of the question for the next visit so we agreed on Monday August 6th – which means that I’ll be travelling back to Belgium with Alison.

And the one after that will be on August 27th, which is also bad news and rules out any possibility of going to North America.

Eventually they threw me out and I headed for Caliburn. Loads of things that I wanted to do but I just wasn’t up to any of them. No-one had said anything about Caliburn being in the wrong place, so we all came back to Liège, stopping off at Bio Planet for some vegan cheese and vegan sausages.

The traffic in Liège was horrendous yet again and it took ages to reach the hotel. By now I was thoroughly and completely tired and fed up so I went straight to bed and that was that.

It’s been a very bad day.

Wednesday 4th July 2018 – THERE HAS TO BE …

… something extraordinarily civilised sitting with a coffee on a terrace in a hotel with my feet almost in the Rhine looking at a car ferry loading up and crossing over to the other side.

It’s not like me at all is it, this “being civilised” bit?

And having had a really good sleep in a really comfortable bed and a really copious breakfast, all for €53:00 per night, then you can understand why this place will be added to my list of places to revisit.

And comfortable bed it was too, although I wasn’t in it for long. I’d taken a plane back to Crewe, and landed at the airport at Radway Green. But the 320 PMT bus didn’t come to the airport and so this meant a long walk with my baggage to the Alsager road. And with having to be back three hours before the flight departure the next day with no public transport, it meant that I would only have time to put my foot in the town before I would have to turn round and come back. And anyone who knows Crewe will realise what a good idea that is, although for some reason that I can’t understand, it bothered me more than it should have done.

railway line eastern rhine linz germany july juillet 2018And while I’ve been sitting here on the terrace, I’ve been watching the railway line across the river on the eastern bank of the Rhine.

I’ve counted one train every couple of minutes or so, the majority of which are freight trains.

I can’t see the railway line on the Western bank but I can hear it, and the trains seem to be just as frequent. It’s a big contrast to the UK isn’t it?

river rhine barge kripp  germany july juillet 2018And it’s not just trains either.

We saw dozens of barges yesterday sailing … "dieseling" – ed … up and down the Rhine too and it didn’t look as if we were going to be disappointed today either.

This one seems to be a gas tanker, and there are even tankers full of sulphuric acid that use the Rhine – one of those sank off St Goar a few years ago.

hotel rhein inn kripp germany july juillet 2018Having completed another mound of paperwork we all loaded up Caliburn and headed across the road for the ferry.

And this gave us a good opportunity to admire the hotel.

As I said, the Hotel Rhein Inn might be a little old and tired, but on the value-for_money scale, which to me is quite important, it scores an easy 10 out of 10.

I haven’t had such a good sleep and a nice breakfast as that for quite some considerable time.

canoe river rhine linz germany july juillet 2018Just as we were boarding the ferry across the river, a canoeist went heading across our bows.

That’s rather a dangerous sport to do here, I reckon with all of the river traffic. There aren’t just barges but cruise ships, pleasure boats, speedboats and all that kind of thing.

And so shouldn’t go lighting a fire in your canoe. After all, we have been told for many years that you can’t have your kayak and heat it.

car ferry river rhine kripp linz germany july juillet 2018So off we set.

And the crossing was not as straightforward as you might think because we had to dodge and swerve around the barges that were heading up and down-stream.

They didn’t look as if they took any prisoners while they were on their travels. “Full steam ahead” without even a hint of “left hand down a bit” to swerve around the other traffic on the river.

erpel ludendorff bridge remagen rhine germany july juillet 2018Now that I’m on the eastern bank, the first stop has to be on the edge of the town of Erpel.

That over there is the western tower – the one that has been transformed into a museum by the then-mayor of Remagen and financed by the sale of the stones from the demolished central towers.

And despite the bridge being more-associated with the town of Remagen I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s better-seen from Erpel.

erpel ludendorff bridge remagen rhine germany july juillet 2018This is the eastern tower here in Erpel.

You’ll notice the slits in the brickwork here. The bases of the towers were designed to accommodate troops of infantry who would defend the bridge, and the slits were loopholes through which rifles and machine guns could be fired.

The accommodation in there has now been transformed into a Performing Arts centre.

railway tunnel erpel ludendorff bridge remagen rhine germany july juillet 2018Here on the eastern bank, the railway line that crossed the bridge disappeared into the railway tunnel halfway up the Erpeler Ley

This tunnel, almost 400 metres long, curved around to the right and joined up with a railway that connected to the line along the eastern bank.

It was hiding in this tunnel that the German engineers pressed the plunger that detonated the explosives that failed to go off correctly.

It was discovered later that an artillery shell had severed many of the cables that connected the individual charges.

remagen river rhine germany july juillet 2018There’s a good view of the town of Remagen from along here too.

The Rhine was at one time the frontier of the Roman Empire and here the Romans built a fort, which they called Rigomanus.

A town grew up around it and although the town was fought over and destroyed many times, each time it arose again from the ashes.

st apollinaris church remagen germany july juillet 2018The church that you can see over there may well be the church of St Apollinaris.

The story goes that a ship loaded with Holy relics sailed from Milan to Cologne in the Middle Ages, but grounded at Remagen.

They unloaded some cargo to lighten the ship, and as soon as the relics of St Apollinaris were unloaded, the ship floated away.

His relics were then interred in the old Roman chapel here which was subsequently expanded into a church.

So if you are suffering from gout, epilepsy or venereal disease, this is the place to be.

oshkosh blaue sau bad hoffen germany july juillet 2018Bad Hoffen up the road is also the place to be as far as I am concerned.

Here littered around a yard at an old factory was a whole collection of old commercial vehicles, one of which was this Oshkosk

Oshlosk is a company that is a builder of specialist vehicles in Appleton, Wisonsin, USA and was founded in 1917 to make severe-duty 4×4 vehicles

cadillac fleetwood bad hoffen germany july juillet 2018As for this lorry, I don’t have a clue what it might be, although rollers on the deck indicate that it might have been for use around a steel mill or something.

As for the car on the back, we all know what one of these is because we’ve seen one before. It’s a Cadillac Fleetwood and I reckon that it’s either a Series 7 or a Series 8, which puts in in the late 50s or early 60s

military helicopter bad hoffen germany july juillet 2018There was tons of stuff here and I didn’t really have much of an idea about what they might be.

There was even a “Whirlybirds” helicopter parked up here. Someone had had his chopper out.

I’ll have to do some research when I return home and I’ll update this page with a pile more photos so that you can see just what there was in here.

Not long after this, we had a little excitement.

It was grey and heavily overcast out over Bonn and I was sure that a storm was threatening.

We didn’t actually see any rain but I suddenly came across a patch of road that was soaking wet and you could smell the rain in the air.

It didn’t last long before we were in the dry again, but it really was bizarre. I learnt later that they had had a severe storm which, although it only lasted for a couple of minutes, was so severe that several houses had flooded.

ruined castle near bonn germany july juillet 2018We pushed on and as we drove past Bonn (which is on the western side) I noticed the ruins of a castle perched on a rock.

Ordinarily I would have gone to make further enquiries but I missed the turning to where it was situated and there was so much traffic that I wasn’t able to turn round easily enough.

And so we carried on

We eventually found a LIDL (you can never find one when you want one, and when you don’t need one you keep on tripping over dozens) where we were nearly squidged by a German drifting across the road in his car, mobile phone in one hand.

And having bought stuff for lunch, the next issue was trying to find a place to eat it. I must have driven down dozens of little alleys heading towards the river only to be disappointed with no parking.

traffic jam stau koln cologne germany july juillet 2018Instead, I ended up crossing over the Rhine, just south of Cologne, thinking to myself that I’m glad that I’m not travelling eastwards.

I didn’t like the look of any of that at all.

Instead I pulled off the motorway at a very dirty unwelcoming service area and did my best to eat my food without noticing too much all of the rubbish that was littered around.

At Aachen I left the motorway to look for fuel and as luck would have it, the only petrol stations open were on the other side of the road and crossing over in all of the traffic was practically impossible.

So I pushed on, into the Netherlands and round by the winding road that goes across the highest point in the country, and into the Belgian Ardennes.

Still without finding any fuel.

I was now in that part of the Ardennes which had seen heavy fighting in the Battle of the Ardennes – or Battle of the Bulge.

american war memoria, neufchatel belgium july juillet 2018The Germans launched a surprise attack on the American forces sheltering here, hoping to break through the lines and recapture Antwerp.

The attack failed but it caused heavy casualties. An American tank Corps based in Neufchatel was badly cut up by the attacking Germans and the citizens of the town, in partnership with the American Army, erected a memorial to the soldiers who had died.

So we carried on and eventually arrived in Liège. By now the fuel question was becoming rather desperate – Caliburn had done a record 840kms on three-quarters of a tank – so I pulled off at the big commercial shopping centre.

And wasn’t that a mistake?

We were now well and truly in the rush hour and it took ages to sort ourselves out. I took a little short-cut that I knew but to my dismay the motorway entrance was closed for repair so I had to go back and fight my way through the traffic.

I eventually reached the hotel, to find that Hans had beaten me by a good couple of hours.So I went for a quick shower and, shame as it is to admit it, crashed out on the bed for 20 minutes.

We ended up at Chi-Chi’s, one of the franchised Tex-Mex restaurants. They concocted a vegan meal for me which was totally delicious. But when was the last time that you ever heard of me leaving a table with food still upon it?

And not only that – Usually we spend our meal-times discussing the women and girls in the restaurant but today we ended up discussing our medication and bowel problems and the like.

Aren’t we getting old?

Back here, I couldn’t even keep my eyes open so I came back here and crashed out for good.

it had been a long day.

Saturday 18th March 2017 – LAST NIGHT …

… was something of a restless night for me. For a start, I wasn’t hungry and so I didn’t have anything to eat. And then I couldn’t go to sleep for ages either. By 06:00 I was wide awake and working on the laptop.

Nevertheless, I did manage to go on my travels during the night. I’d been to some kind of city where the railway lines had been moved out of the centre to the edge of the place, and the interior where the rails and the stations had formerly been was now all overgrown and being used by the locals as a kind of park. There were some arches over where the railway lines had been – brick arches of the kind that might have been built by the Romans and in very poor repair. I kept trying to take a few photos of them but people kept on getting in the way and it was just so difficult to have a clear shot.

Anyway, I had breakfast, in company with plenty of other people and a pile of dogs – it seems as if there was some kind of Canine Convention going on here just now. And then, as usual, I had things to do on the laptop.

Having survived the initial attempt to turf me out of my room, I decided not to push my luck and by 10:00 I was on my way. First stop was the LeClerc supermarket for bread and a few other bits and pieces to set me up for the next few days. I had a chat with Ingrid on the telephone too and we arranged to meet up on Monday for a chat and so on.

And then – I’ve put this off for so long but I can’t keep on doing it. I headed for home. It’s been a long time since I’ve been down these roads. For the last 18 months or so I’ve been something of a disciple of Wilfred Grenfell, who sais that “when two paths are open, always take the more venturesome”. But I have to go home sometime.

When I finally arrived, I could see that it was clear that the gales and tempests that have battered the centre of France have given here a pretty good battering too. But there’s no real damage or anything and, to be honest, it was good to be back. The good news is that the rodent-proofing that I carried out here in December seems to have worked and there’s no obvious signs of any damage. It was 16.1°C in here too so that was good – saved me having to light a fire.

But the bad news is that the storm has done something to the internet connection and that is down. It looks as if I’ll be taking Ingrid to Montlucon on Monday to swap my Livebox over for a new one. Anyway, I had a nice sit-down and relax for the afternoon, and kicked my mug of coffee all over the floor breaking off the handle of the mug, as well as washing the floor..

One of my plans for tonight was to go down to Pionsat to watch the football. But to my astonishment, not only is Pionsat running just one team this season (instead of the two last season and even three a couple of seasons ago), the team has declared a general forfeit and abandoned all of its matches. I don’t know what to make of this. It’s all rather astonishing as far as I’m concerned.

So anyway, I made myself something quick out of a tin to eat and then settled down on the sofa tonight, trying to sleep amid the sound of the animals scratching away in the roof.

As Golden Earring once famously sang, “You know it’s good to be back home” but I have been realising day by day while I’ve been away that with my declining health (because I can see it declining every day) my long-term future lies away from here.

Wednesday 15th March 2017 – THAT WASN’T A VERY NICE …

… night at all.

Not for any shortcomings of the hotel, I hasten to add. This was in fact one of the better Première Classe hotels (but still not as good as the one at Maubeuge last year of course) but nevertheless it took me an age to go off to sleep and then I tossed and turned a good while during the night.

A hot shower brought me round – sort-of-ish, and a good breakfast followed. I had a rest for a while afterwards, and then edited some music tracks so that I have some custom alarm calls and ringtones on my new telephone.

cora supermarket auxerre yonne franceFirst stop was the Cora supermarket around the corner. And here was a thing.

Those of you with long memories will remember back many years ago about the Morrisons supermarket at Reading where the car park had a height barrier “to stop travellers entering the car park”, but also keeping out anyone with a high vehicle.

Here, they seem to have the same issues, but nevertheless they have managed to make a parking space for high vehicles and here’s a rather dirty Caliburn to prove it.

I’ve hit on a new plan for eating out in hotels, which I’ll explain later. It involves a visit to the shops and the purchase of certain items. But while the supermarket was good and objects at a reasonable price, the woman on the check-outs was useless. Far too busy talking to her friends in the queue to concentrate on what she was doing and as a result she was making mistake after mistake. Not a very good advertisement at all for the store.

railway museum toucy yonne franceHaving given Caliburn a really good wash, I had a slow drive through the countryside towards the south-west and into the watershed of the River Loire.

Destination was the town of Toucy, still in the département of the Yonne. I’d driven through here on several occasions 9 or 10 years ago and I’d noticed the old railway artefacts here in the town. Today was the day that I had decided to come to see what was going on

railway museum toucy yonne franceThe place was all locked up, and looked as if it had been that way for 10 years. Everything was rusting and decayed, including these beautiful diesel multiple-unit panorama cars.

The driver’s cabin is very interesting, isn’t it? But that kind of thing would never work in the UK with the restricted loading gauge on British railways.

The only British railway network with anything resembling a Continental loading gauge, the Great Central, was closed down in the 1960s.

railway museum toucy yonne franceThis was probably the most short-sighted of all of the short-sighted railway “economy” measures of the Beeching era, and replacing it today for the HS2 network is costing the UK billions and billions of Pounds.

That’s the trouble with the UK of course – it’s all down to short-term economies and there isn’t an ounce of long-term vision in anything that the country does.

And they are going to find out that for themselves once Brexit begins to bite.

railway museum toucy yonne franceBut leaving aside yet another good rant for a while, I carried on with my wandering around the railway … errr … museum.

As you can see, the exhibits, such as they are, have clearly seen better days and there doesn’t look as if there is anything going on here. There doesn’t seem to be anything in the way of restoration or renovation taking place on the … errr … exhibits here. They are just parked up and abandoned.

railway museum toucy yonne franceThis is probably one of the saddest exhibits here on the site.

I don’t know anything very much about French railway locomotives and the like, but this looks as if it’s something quite unusual and interesting – far too interesting to be just stuck here in a siding and left to rot away.

It’s all quite depressing, wandering around here and seeing all of this.

yard shunters baudet donon roussel railway museum toucy yonne franceThese little locomotives were quite interesting. Yard shunters, I reckon, and made by Baudet Donon and Roussel in the early 1950s.

It’s a little-known fact that this company is actually the successor of the company founded by Gustave Eiffel, he of the tower fame. The company branched out into the construction of railway locomotives and multiple-units, and quite a lot of the company’s equipment found its way onto the French railway network during the period of modernisation after World War II.

yard shunters baudet donon roussel railway museum toucy yonne franceThese little machines weigh a mere 14 tonnes, are just under 6 metres in length and flat-out, they will travel at all of 16kph.

Mind you, with a Renault 60 horse-power PETROL engine, 8-speed gearbox and chain drive, you aren’t going to get much more out of her.

They were the first locomotives to come of the new SNCF standardisation process after the War and replaced all kinds of assorted yard shunters, including horses and, in at least one case, oxen.

They were essentially a temporary measure and withdrawal of the class started in 1979.

railway tourism bicycles museum toucy yonne franceRailway tourism seems to be the up-and-coming thing these days, and this can be accomplished in many different ways.

You might also remember when we were in New Brunswick, Canada, back in October last year, that we saw that old railway bicycle that I admired so much. Combine the two together, and you’ll end up with something like this.

Mind you, it would be really exciting meeting another similar vehicle coming the other way on a single-track line. “Survival of the fittest” is what springs immediately to mind.

narrow gauge railway museum toucy yonne franceThere’s a pile of narrow-gauge railway equipment here too, and they have laid some kind of track to accommodate it.

It looks very much like mining or quarrying equipment to me, although there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of mining around here and I’ve no idea where there might be a quarry.

But like everything else around here, it’s all lying around abandoned and there’s no signage or anything to indicate what all of it might be

One thing is quite clear though.

In the past, I’ve been totally scathing of what passes for “preservation” of railway and other historical artefacts in North America. Having seen what is (or isn’t) going on here, I’m going to have to keep my mouth closed, or else start eating some rather large helpings of humble pie.

MAN van hool alizée toucy yonne franceI couldn’t leave the site though without taking a photo of this sorry machine.

It’s a Van Hool Alizée of the mid-1980s, lying here abandoned in the yard, and it brings back many happy memories for me. 25-30 years ago, I was earning my living travelling around Europe in one of these with piles of tourists when I worked for Shearings Holidays.

Beautiful machines, especially when built on a Volvo chassis, but this one is rear-engined so at first I thought that it might be a Scania. However,it turns out to be a MAN and I never had the opportunity to drive one of these.

Ohhh happy days!

medieval castle guedelon yonne franceAs you may (or may not) know, I have a degree in Historical Technology and just down the road from Toucy is Guedelon.

Guedelon is an extremely interesting place and very high on my list of places to visit because what they are actually doing is building a Medieval castle from scratch.

Not only that, they are using nothing but construction techniques of the period, including man-powered cranes and the like.

medieval castle guedelon yonne franceYou can imagine therefore that this was a place that was also very high on my list of places to visit, and so I set off chaud-pied, as they might say around here, to see what I could see.

But regular readers of this rubbish will know exactly what I discovered when I arrived here.

That’s right. The place is closed “for the season” and despite all of the people wandering around the site pretending to work, it wasn’t possible for me to gain admittance, even just for the purpose of taking a few photos.

That was something that I found extremely miserable.

fourgon incendie delahaye B163 cosne cours sur loire nievre franceHowever, it’s not all doom and gloom because as I arrived at Cosne-Cours sur Loire, I encountered this magnificent beast, and it’s another sad and sorry machine having been abandoned to the elements, despite its rarity value.

It’s a Delahaye fourgonette – I reckon a type B163 – and it’s the type of chassis preferred by the French fire brigades in the early 1950s for the building of specialist vehicles.

But it’s rather a shame to see it sitting here out in the open in a field like this. As I said – I’ll have to stop criticising the North Americans.

river loire cosne cours sur loire nievre franceBy now, it’s time for (a very late) lunch and so I head into the town. The River Loire passes by here in all its magnificence and there’s a nice park across the river from the town that’s a very suitable place to stop.

And, as you have probably noticed, the clouds have gone, the sun is out and there’s a beautiful blue sky to sit and watch me as I eat. It’s a marvellous afternoon and I intend to make the most of it.

cosne cours sur loire nievre franceThe town itself is another one of these beautiful, cramped Medieval cities that has unfortunately seen better days.

There seems to have been a settlement here in Prehistoric times and there was certainly a … errr .. Gallo-Roman settlement called Condate here.

With its comparatively easy crossing of the Loire here, it was the centre of several confrontations throughout history. As far as the British are concerned, its claim to fame was that during the Hundred Years War, Henry V was marching here to meet the Burgundian Army in 1422 when he caught dysentery and died.

His premature death effectively marked the end of any serious hopes that the English might have had of making a permanent conquest of France.

By the 17th Century there was a thriving metallurgical industry here and this was the basis of the wealth of the town. It manufactured fittings for the French naval industry and these were shipped out down the Loire to the naval shipyards downriver.

rivier loire cosne cours sur loire nievre franceHowever the French railway network caused a decline in navigation on the Loire and the metallurgical industry closed down in the 1870s. Some vestiges of the industry lingered on for a while but it all eventually petered out and led to the slow decline of the town.

Today though, it’s the second-largest town in the département of the Nievre after Nevers and as a result it’s become something of an important regional administrative centre.

suspension bridge river loire cosne cours sur loire nievre franceThere’s a beautiful suspension bridge here across the river and this is what had attracted me to the town. I’d never had the time to stop here before.

Unfortunately it’s not the original bridge here. That dated from 1833 but unfortunately that was destroyed during the Second World War. The bridge that’s here today dates from the 1950s but nevertheless, it’s still a magnificent structure and the setting here is tremendous.

US Army 1944 Dodge lorry hotel des gatines cosne cours sur loire nievre franceHaving had a nice walk and a good relax to read my book, I headed off to my hotel. It’s a little place right out of the way in the countryside about 2 miles from the river.

But I’m not alone here- not at all. There’s a 1944 Dodge Lorry – a veteran of the US Army parked here in the barn by the side of my room. It’s certainly the right hotel for me, isn’t it?

And my room is nice and cosy too. This was a good choice.

Tea tonight was something so simple that I’m really surprised that I have never ever considered it before. It’s so easy too, especially in a hotel bedroom and I shall be doing this kind of thing more often.

Half a tin of potatoes, half a tin of mixed vegetables, half a tin of mushrooms and some lettuce all mixed up in salad dressing. Followed by a soya dessert and a chocolate soya drink, with one of these packets of fruit-and-nut mix.

Simple, effective and healthy. You can’t say fairer than that.

And I’ve had a shower, washed my undies and now I’m settling down for the night. See you in the morning.

Tuesday 14th March 2017 – YOU MIGHT …

… or, more likely, might not … be wondering where I’ve been for the last few days. Well, almost a week in fact.

The truth is that I have had a very (un)pleasant stay amid the local facilities of the town of Verdun.

No, not the Nick, Rhys, the local hospital.

I was rushed in there on Wednesday night/Thursday morning after the landlady of the Hotel du Tigre found me flaked out in my bed having had the most serious relapse to date. She promptly called for an ambulance.

There was no internet in the hospital and somehow my telephone had become damaged so I was out of touch.

Anyway, they threw me out this morning and a taxi took me back to the hotel.

I’m still not 100% fit – far from it, in fact – so I had a slow, steady drive southwards and ended up at Bar-le-Duc where I bought a baguette and made myself a butty.

On my way through the town I’d seen an “Orange” boutique and so when it opened after lunch I trotted off round there to see what they could do about my phone. I’d managed to clean it up and dry it out but the keyboard wasn’t working, so I hoped that they could do something about it.

Nothing that they could do on the spot so repair would involve sending it away, and the hourly charge was something rather ludicrous. However, my contract has only one month to go before renewal and on renewal I would be entitled to a new telephone at a discount price. One or two deft keystrokes and I suddenly found myself the owner of a brand-new Samsung Smartphone, for all of €44:00. About half the price of the postage and minimum repair charge.

Later on, I was back on the road and had a gentle drive across the northern Burgundy mountains as far as Auxerre. This is where the new telephone came in handy because a quick search on the internet told me where the Première Class Hotel was situated – it’s quite a way out of the city.

Hopefully I’ll have a good sleep and a decent breakfast and make myself ready for the next stage of my journey.

Monday 5th December 2016 -DRAT AND DOUBLE-DRAT!

The other week, we discussed the problem of burst tyres on the motorway.

And so it should come as no surprise to learn that it was the turn of Yours Truly today.

Not quite on the motorway – in fact about 400 metres after I’d pulled off at Montlucon. But a flat tyre just the same. There’s a nail in it somehow.

Luckily, if there is such a thing that can be called lucky, regular readers will recall from 2012 when I had a blow-out on the M6 near Stoke on Trent, I’d pushed the boat out and bought three really good Hankook tyres. The fourth was a second-hand cheap tyre that I had bought because of the wheel that was attached to it. There was plenty of tread on it but I didn’t expect it to last very long. Anyway, it’s this one that has the puncture.

There’s a spare on Caliburn and that was a second-hand one that I bought for the wheel (it was the time when I was collecting a second set of wheels for the winter tyres). But when I had a look at it … well … I’ve thrown away better tyres than this. A fair amount of tread to be sure, but standing around for as long as it has has done it no favours. But at least I was mobile with not much effort.

selfish parking montlucon allier franceMy new enhanced mobility took me to the LeClerc supermarket where I stocked up with another big supply of food for Belgium. And while I was there, I had another big laugh at the selfishness of other drivers.

The driver of this car parked it up at the supermarket – and pretty badly parked at that – and walked away – and then turned round to come back and parked his car even worse, straddling the white lines.

The selfishness of people is astonishing, isn’t it?

Having done the shopping, I went off in search of some tyres. I’ve ordered two brand-new Hankooks and they will be delivered on Friday. They will be going on the front, the other Hankook that is still on the front will be the spare, and the nasty spare tyre will be going in the bin.

But I’m not thinking very clearly here. What I should have done was to forget about the new tyres, come back home and fitted Caliburn with his winter tyres on the front. And the money situation is going to be important because on the way down from Leuven, I could feel the other wheel bearing start to tighten up and that’s going to have to be looked at. It’s yet more expense that I can do without.

I had a decent sleep last night and the breakfast at the Premiere Class was quite good. And then I hung around there doing stuff until about 11:00. When they threw me out of the hotel I hit the road and drove steadily down to Montlucon

tacot railway station narrow gauge bourbon l'archambault allier franceI cut the corner off down at the end of the road and came back through Bourbon l’Archambault, and this building caught my eye.

You should all know what it is because I’ve taken you to see a few of these. It’s the old railway station of Bourbon l’Archambault and the railway concerned is the tacot, the metre-gauge railway network that covered the Allier during the first half of the 20th Century.

Built far too late to have a decisive influence on the country’s transport policy and built too cheaply, serving the layout of the terrain rather that the needs of the passengers (one commentator described the railway stations as decorating the abandoned landscape), the only surprise was that they lasted aslong as they did before road transport swept them away

There’s a new chain of budget hotels opening in France – called Ace Hotels. One has been built on the edge of Montlucon and so I went for a look around.

ace hotel montlucon allier franceAt just €49:00 per night, it’s excellent. Certainly the best budget hotel in which I’ve ever stayed. The only complaint is that there aren’t enough of them yet.

My view from the window was excellent, right across the motorway and into the Combrailles at the back. That’s where I’ll be heading tomorrow.

So in the meantime, I ordered a pizza and wasn’t that a disappointment? Overpriced, undercooked and crushed up on one side of the box – someone had carried it vertically.

I shan’t be going to that pizza place again.

Sunday 4th December 2016 – I’VE HAD A FEW …

… twinges just recently but last night I had a major attack of cramp. Both calves too and I was in agony for half an hour. First time for absolutely months and months and months. I’d almost forgotten all about them.

But eventually the pain wore off and I could carry on with sleeping – until the alarm went off.

I’d been back to Labrador as well during the night. That seems to be a regular route these days. It’s all clearly playing on my mind.

First into breakfast this morning, and all alone too. and my 08:05 I’d finished, been to the boulanger for my baguette and rescued three plastic crates from the skip at the supermarket.

The morning was spent doing some tidying up (which is not like me, is it) and getting my room ready for being away for a week or so. I have to make an effort, I suppose. I did some stuff on the laptop too and an early lunch saw me down the road and at Cailburn by 14:00.

We hit the streets and fuelled up and then had a very uneventful drive down as far as Paris. One thing that I had forgotten is that Sunday late afternoon it’s “red” rates on the péage in the direction of Paris and I really was nailed for that. It wasn’t half painful

The Franciliènne was packed too – end-to-end traffic all the way around and it didn’t clear either. Things only eased off when i left and headed into Melun.

Plenty of room at the Première Classe on the edge of the city and the room was quite comfortable, even though some people in the room above seemed to be having a party. I had a really good pizza brought to me and then I crashed out for an hour or so.

Tomorrow after breakfast I’ll have part II of my journey, back to Montluçon at least. To do some shopping tomorrow evening and find a place to stay ready for part III.

Sunday 5th June 2016 – AND WHILE LAST NIGHT …

hotel premiere classe hotel feignies maubeuge nord france… didn’t match the previous night’s sleep by any means, it was still one of the best that I’ve had for quite some time.

I was up quite late, what with one thing and another, and it took a while to drop off. We had the usual trip down the corridor and then a noise in the corridor awoke me some time during the night, and I couldn’t go back to sleep for ages after that. But when the alarm did go off, I was flat out and away with the fairies.

I’d started off the night back in Crewe somewhere around Gresty Road and I’d met a girl there. I’d had quite a few things to do and she was roped in to help me. We had been making quite a bit of progress, so much so that we had finished long before I was expecting to,and so I was making plans to leave. It was at this point that the girl announced that she was going to miss me very much – a strange thing to say seeing as how she was due to be married in four weeks time – and I had to spend a lot of time persuading her to concentrate on what was going to be her future without me being anywhere in the picture.
A little later on, I was joined by my brother and I wish that he would badger off out of my night-time wanderings. I’d been building up a kind-of database of girls whome I knew, and making little notes about them (I was much younger in those days) and out of the blue, my brother asked me “who’s this ‘blond stunner’ then?” I replied that it’s none of his business and that I would thank him to give me back my notes. He replied that he didn’t have them, all he had were copies, but that led to yet another one in a series of dismal family arguments.

It’s hard to believe that I left home when I was 18, one of the reasons being to get away from all of this nonsense and have some peace and quiet. I can’t believe that after all these years, they are still following me around. I still can’t seem to find any peace.

I had some things to do before I left, and it was 11:30 when I hit the road, stopping off for a baguette down the road at the supermarket. The Lady Who Lives In The SatNav took me round a few lanes and we completely by-passed Maubeuge which was nice because it’s a bit of a maze around there.

The drive up to the motorway services at Heverlee was quite uneventful, and I took my time. I was in no hurry. And by the time I arrived, the sun was out for the first time for a couple of weeks so I sat outside on the grass, ate my butty and read a good book for an hour or two.

It’s no surprise to learn that I’ve booked myself in at the Ibis on the motorway. It’s €69:00 for the night but it’s the most convenient for parking and it’s nice to have a little luxury every now and again. Tomorrow I’ll be off to Pellenberg at … errr … €10:00 per night and that’s quite a difference, both in price and luxury.

Before settling down for the night, I nipped into Leuven and the fritkot on the Jacobsplein for some chips and a veggieburger. Now I’m all ready for a good night’s sleep – I hope. A really deep and peaceful sleep will do me the world of good.