Widow Twanky World

So many people are concerned about how we do our washing when we are on tour, that we thought we’d oblige and share the vast array of options available, from outside supermarkets, to Aires and campsites. There are also pretty decent showers, loos etc so we can sustain an acceptable level on the personal side too! 🙂

Anyway, getting that smalls (get it!) matter out of the way we had a seamless exit from Brexitland, technology has enabled it to be a fast process, uploaded docs mean no paper/app checks. Easy peasy! Le Shuttle has wifi so I WhatsApp’d BBC 6 music that we were listening under water and got a shout out from Mary Anne Hobbs, much to Nick’s surprise when he heard “a cat called Jigsaw” live on t’radio. As usual, she was oblivious to it all!

Leaving a deserted Folkestone terminal, anyone imagining that just crossing the channel would result in warmer temperatures is wrong, it’s bloomin cold which is to be expected at the centre of a land mass really. Being -4 at 10.30 in the morning though is tad nippy but it does make for some stunning driving and scenery. Our first day was a pretty dull drive, interspersed with gorgeousness, as it was heavily overcast, although the Cathedral at Chartres shrouded in mist was wonderful. Staying off the motorways and the “Mc Drives” is worth it, even if a lot of freight traffic, some of the scenery is blissful.

Oradour sur Glane was a deliberate detour. We’ve been to several Ghost Towns on our travels, all consciously deserted after Gold or Tin rushes etc but this is different. At this stage a BBC style “Content Warning” is needed. 10th June 1944, a few days after allied troops landed in Normandy, the Nazi’s literally wiped out the town in one day. The burned town remains in arrested decay and is a terrible reminder of the massacre that took place. All the town’s men were round up and shot, the women and children locked in the church and burnt to death. The bullet holes, a haunting and poignant reminder of what has happened, and still does, in our lifetime.

Trestle sewing machines, a rusted reflection of war time make do, cars burnt out, and various artefacts, bedframes, bikes, prams etc are scattered within the remains. The properties are labelled, reflecting a vibrant town, doctors, dentists, garages, hairdressers, carpenters, hotels, cafes… it had it all and then, nothing, 643 deaths. The birdsong is all that breaks the eerie silence. The church remains, a majestic shell, with the original spire cross, leaning, fallen, in the corner. The internet has before and after pictures which bring to life the shocking devastation man can create. No one has ever been held accountable. There is a gut wrenching memorial at the cemetery to the families, wiped out, listed in stone.

Continuing on, via a fab little wine bar in Montauban, we stopped at Albi, a reasonable sized town, known for being the birthplace of flamboyant Toulouse Lautrec and for it’s incredible Cathedral Basilica of St Cecilia. Thus a town where Renaissance and Gothic meet Colour and Theatre, head on. Having said that, every inch of the Basilica is painted, in vibrant colours, creating 3D effects on the walls and ceilings and wall paintings that are so textured they appear tapestry like. The ceiling is stunning as is the architectural design, above, its a mash up of arches, pillars, figures and wood carvings. Who needs absinthe when imagination can create works like these!

Its not the only show in town though, the Collegiale St. Salvi d’Albi with its dramatic but toned down interior is equally splendid. It has The Ecce Homo (This is The Man) group sculpture, dating back to the late C15th and miraculously survived destruction during the French Revolution. It represents the presentation of Christ to Pontious Pilate. It’s in amazing condition for its age.

Stepping into more of the town we grabbed coffee and waffles to warm up and watch the buzz of the local life before wandering some more of the older medieval areas, exploring the Palace de la Berbie grounds with its immaculate gardens and covid safe statues before wandering back across the bridge (one of the oldest in France) to where were parked up. We enjoyed the window displays!

Carcassonne was our final stop over of note in France, to be honest, it was shut! Such a tourist destination it seemed lifeless at this time of the year. We could admire the majesty of La Cite with its double fortress walls but internally, it’s so oriented to tourists it lacks authenticity to a degree. Unusually, the walls now have stripes, a disastrous consequence of a Swiss artist, given permission to glue yellow aluminium strips to them as ‘an art installation’. When removed the patina of age also came off. We did agree that the French do Gargoyles very well (A Nick quote!), the glorious Cathedral Basilica St Nazaire within the walls, was adorned on its exterior, but they weren’t a match for the light show inside, from the intricate and delicate stained glass windows.

In the Bastide St Louis part of Carcassonne we found a lovely chapel, Chapelle Notre Dame de la Sante at the end of the historic C14th Pont Vieux. We’ve never seen walls tiled with “Merci” adorning the walls in a chapel, plus graffiti of the same in numerous languages.

So that was France en route down, arriving in Spain its very windy making the drive across the snow capped Pyranees an interesting one, not for the sights but staying in a straight line. Anyhow we’ve made it. Has anyone ever googled the words to “A Viva Espana” or even listened to the Black Lace version as a sing alonga tune….. don’t….. it’ll be an ear worm for days and the words are pretty terrible…!

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