A week in France
For those of you only interested in my fishing, the following is diary of our trip.
There are no fish, not even a tiddler, but I did try!
We ate some though.
17th & 18th May
Our “adventure” starts today, Friday, with a 5 hour journey to Poole in Dorset for an over nighter at the Premier Inn, Holes Bay, prior to the ferry crossing to Cherbourg.
On arrival we check in, have a wash and brush up and then to the on-site pub for a early dinner and a few beers.
Our ferry crossing is at 7:30am Saturday morning, and so we have an early night and set the alarm for 6am. These long car journeys are not as easy as they used to be!
After a good night sleep we’re off to the terminal, about 10 minutes away.
Too early for the pubs breakfast they are not available until 7am. We assumed that there were breakfasts on board anyway.
So we’re off, the sea is flat calm with hardly a ripple as we sit down for our full English, well almost, being a French boat, the sausages weren’t English style porkers but .....something else, maybe cheval!
The sea remained calm throughout the just over four hour crossing and got us there a little before the due arrival of 12:45 French time.
Our destination Chaniers for a sleep four, riverside cottage on the banks of the Charente, found by searching Google for riverside cottage France back in February.
The cost for the week 560 euro about £500 all in.
So, we set the satnav for our destination and another six hour or so journey, temperatures looking good at around 18c.
Our journey was relatively trouble free, one thing for certain is that the satnav bird has no idea of French pronunciation, a bit misleading at first but, when she directed us onto route Deforar, we got used to her way with lack of French, when it read D4A on the sign!
Anyway after a stop or two for fuel (60 plus mpg) and an early dinner, we arrived at the cottage at around 7:30 pm in the pouring rain, and a temperature of around 10c; not what we had expected!
|the view from within|
Sunday 19th May
And it was a good nights rest, waking at about 7:30 for a pot of tea, we had taken our own Assam, not expecting to find any such provisions in the cottage.
We had also brought along some continental meats and cheeses for our first breakfast, before we set about hunting for the local shops.
In fact we were directed, last night, by Nathalie to Sainte the nearest town, where there is “a good Sunday market” we were also advised to top up for Monday as it was a public holiday, The Pentecost.
The market which is about 15 minutes away is in the town centre, and as we found, is almost totally food, it was heaving with customers!
Rows and rows of stalls selling vegetables, fresh herbs, shellfish & fish, cheeses, breads, eggs and cooked meats. Even cooked chicken, paella and a curry to save the home cooking.
There were individual stalls with just wine, oysters, asparagus, potatoes or eggs,
Not one plastic wrapped item to be seen .
We could have stocked up with everything we needed, but just allowed ourselves enough for the couple of days.
What a big shame that we don’t see this kind of market at home anymore, although perhaps the farmers markets are getting there!
A ready cooked chicken with salad went down well for lunch, and whilst the rain held off we decided to have a closer look at the river, which is about 30 yards from the entrance to the cottage grounds.
The river here is joined by a canal with locks and there is an island formed where a branch of the river runs through to an old mill, so in the corner of all three stretches of water there is effectively a pool, which in the majority of the margin is lined with cabbages and water lily.
|du moulin royal de la Baine (17c)|
There is an island formed by the canal and the private land, and we were able to walk it’s length, about 300 yards, nothing special about it, tree lined both sides, with steep, non concrete banks to the canal side.
|the side stream,the canal , the river|
I later found that the other bank was barbed wire fence up to the bank and a stream to cross, so ruled it out of my plans
Our afternoon walk gave me the opportunity to hear my first cuckoo of the year, much the same as my last years visit to France, I’ve not heard one around our part of the Wolds for some years.
It also gave Pauline the chance to spot a nest.
Whilst she was dawdling along behind me checking out the workings of the lock system, she noticed a great tit, trying it’s best to look uninterested in her. As she moved away she watched the bird, with a beak full of feed, drop down into what appears to be a capstan.
She called me over, advising of her unusually perceptive sighting, something she’s eventually picked up from me, with my derisive comments of “ you couldn’t see anything of interest unless it came up and bit you on the arse” when on our country walks.
So, peeping down into the workings of the “capstan” I spied a number of gaping beaks, took a snap and got away quick. I was surprised to see that the camera had done it’s job.
Back in time for tea and to eat our fresh supply of “rose crevettes” (prawns) with slabs of good fresh proper bread and lashings of butter, eased down with a bottle of Muscadet Sevre et Maine (Sur lie).
Replete and wondering whether to open another bottle, I’ve picked up my copy of Tom Fort’s The far from compleat angler (Merlin Unwin 1995) and I am relaxing after a good day out.
Tempted, as we are prone to be, we’ve just opened a bottle of Cote du Rhone... so goodnight!!
Monday 20th May
A grey wet miserable start to the day, which didn’t get any better as we made our way to the coast at Royan, about 40 minutes away.
As it is a public holiday, we were concerned about our milk supply, having forgotten it yesterday. We needn’t have worried, one of the big centres run by Leclerc was open for trade, where as most other shops were closed.
A short list of essentials was purchased, although I could have spent a lot more....perhaps on the way home!
On arrival in Royan, the sea was grey and with white horses, but full of surfers taking advantage of the on- shore wind.
We had a bit of a walk under the umbrella, and then decided to have lunch, and head back to base after in case the weather had changed and I would go fishing.
The lunch was one of our “must haves” when visiting France, a seafood platter.
This was a giant of a dish which consisted of half a lobster, a crab, six langoustines, six crevette and a pile of brown shrimp............each!
It took us two hours to get through this finger buffet, it was washed down with a half bottle of Muscadet.
Pauline had the better share of the wine, the driving rules here have me a bit concerned, especially as I had to buy a breathalyser kit for the car before we drove in France!
Anyway back to base, it was still tipping it down, so I decided to make my rods up ready for a hoped for lull in the weather before dark.
No change, and I wasn’t going to sit out in the rain, so I picked up and finished the book.
Tom Fort’s (brother of Matthew the food critic) book is a bit of a hotchpotch of his angling experiences.
He runs through his exploits from his early days of chub and barbel fishing, and where he spent 3 months fishing the old eastern block countries for trout.
He gives complete paragraphs to “Great Men” of angling, Walton, Skues, “BB” etc.
He covers his fishing of the Eden, the Scottish highlands and Ireland, dry fly fishing for trout, with the occasional reference to his salmon exploits.
His early introduction to dry fly fishing on the Kennet is quite interesting, in particular the demise of the part of the upper river he fished.
He also gives his personal views and thoughts on fishing and fishermen, and even gives a paragraph or two over to coarse fish, giving them a label suggesting their human characteristics and vocations.
Of the barbel he states:
“ big, but not bloated, handsome but not effete, strong but definitely not macho, thoughtful, even a bit moody at times, but at bottom (which is where the barbel feed) thoroughly decent, dependable yeoman farmer type”
I ordered this book after reading and enjoying one of Tom’s other books Downstream (across England in a punt) it's about his journey(as seen on TV) from the source of the Trent to about Cromwell Weir, where he abandoned the punt on advice, and ventured to the Humber by other means.
All in all this has been a good read, and is recommended for being just that.
Tuesday 21st May
Another wet and miserable start to the day, I’m out of reach of the internet, of which I’m not too sorry. I’ve weaned my way from it in recent months, there is only so much you can say about fishing and stuff on the forums, and come to that some of the beings that inhabit them!
I do miss the opportunity at this time, to search out stuff, as my memory fails at times, but particularly as I’ve just come across a book written by mine host Kyle Jarrard, entitled Over there, hidden in amongst the books in this cottages shelves.
I’ve started reading it, it will take some concentration as he has a style of writing I haven’t come across before! Something perhaps like screen play writing?
So far so good, but I’m off out now to see if there are any fish in the river!
I had a few hours on the river, snapped the tip of one of my rods due to poor threading, I hadn’t noticed that I had missed out the second from the tip ring out, (too many wines) a tangled swim feeder link around the top became a snap!
Anyway, I didn’t fish the spot I wanted to in the main river, as there were three French guys already there, they had not caught, so I settled for my second best spot just off the confluence of the canal and the branch.
There was plenty of small fish activity, and what could be pike or perch attacking them, for me though, not a touch.
I do have spinners, plugs and rubber lures with me so I have options for another session.
Overall the lack of fish caught was not a problem, as I spent most of the time bird watching, ducking the swifts that were almost touching my head as they flew over shrieking, the swallows and martin’s kept out of my way.
A black kite(bird of the day) circled over the top for a good while, a kingfisher dashed up and down the river, and reed bunting were in and about the willows and rushes next to my swim.
Just as I packed up, and the rain started, a crane flew over, and a far bank visit from four wild water swimmers!
Wednesday 22nd May
Ah that’s better, some sun poking through the clouds, we’ve decided to visit Cognac, Pauline wants to celebrate her being paid this month as a now fully qualified OAP at 611/2!
Having only bought the occasional bottle of Hennessey for Christmas she thought we should perhaps, if only once, take the drink seriously, so we hunted around but was unable to find a guided tour open, perhaps we are a bit too early in the holiday season?
So we did the other thing and went into a cognac shop and bought a selection of 3 brandies from one producer.
One each of their 10, 25 and 35 year vintages in order that we could get a flavour of things!
So a tasting session, perhaps when we get home.
Lunchtime, and once again we’re on the seafood, we’ve bought a dozen oyster and a kilo of mussel.
Have I ever told you we are both fans of all sea food and will eat it in preference to meat when out?
Now, I’m very wary of oyster and won’t eat them out, especially if I have a drive home. This stems from a very bad experience some 15 years ago when working for C&A.
We were taken out to lunch by our solicitors, to Alastair Little’s restaurant in the West End of London. Being a fan of oyster from an earlier French visit, I had half a dozen as a starter.
Before we had finished our sweets, I had a very bad turn of which I won’t go into detail, but an emergency rush to the bogs was required.
Save as to say I left the restaurant very quickly, escorted by my colleague and friend Louise Leadbeater, who put me on a train at Euston and ‘phoned Pauline to be on the look out for me at Wolverton station.
I found myself a long carriage with a toilet and dumped myself in a seat next to the toilets, warning a young lady next to me that I wasn’t drunk but quite sick, so I may dive into the loo often.
In fact I didn’t, I must have cleared it all out in the restaurant!
The journey didn’t seem to drag, and on arrival at Wolverton I found Pauline asking after my well being, as
“ you look like a ghost”, a quick dose of the cure all, Alka Seltzer and straight to bed.
I was right as rain next morning.
Anyway, I shucked the oysters, there were in fact a bakers dozen, one for the shucker(me)!
I cooked the mussels in red onion, garlic and white wine and we sat down and ate them all, with loads of this good bread (of which I’m eating too much ) and lashings of butter, washed down with a bottle of Entre-Deux-Mers.
An hour later, so far so good!
It’s clouded over a bit, but we’ve made about 19c today, so a good rise in temperature.
Fishing again, wandered down stream and it was obvious that the water was up and it was racing along, with loads of debris floating through, and it continued to do for the session. No signs of fish movement.
Most of the stuff seemed to be from the pool area where everything had settled, branches, cabbage leaves reeds and all sorts of merde!
So I decided to fish it Trent style with a 150 grammes of open end feeder stuffed with soaked pellets (the Dynamite red ones) and a pair of pellet glued to the hair on a size 4. The rod pointing almost skyward to fend off the debris, it worked most of the time.
Anyway 3 hours later without a touch and feeling just a bit queasy, I stood up and was promptly retching, the mighty mollusc had bitten back!
I was ok when I stood up but immediately I sat down the retching started again, this time wet, and to top it off the cold sweat,
I remained standing watching the rod, oh yes I let my other rod fish itself with a chunk of garlic spam.
Still no sign of fish or bites, and Pauline appeared behind me. It’s good to have somebody feeling sorry for you.
So I stuck it out for another half hour or so, not feeling any better and afraid to fart, and decided to give it up as a bad job!
The walk back was a slow and lethargic, this gut illness stuff certainly takes it out of you, and by the time I got back to the cottage I was knackered.
A couple of Alka Seltzer and a long sit on the loo, because they are almost instantaneous at expelling any bad stuff that is to come up, none did, but a lot of murmuring.
So I laid on the bed and dozed off for about an hour.Still no further bad effects, so to bed proper.
There was a lot of murmuring to disturb my sleep throughout the night though.
Bird of the day a turtle dove, I’ve not seen one before, pretty scarce at home.
Another first, although as I didn't see it,even with binoculars, so not strictly a BOTD, a "little brown jobbie" a nightingale singing from the tree opposite me on the far bank as dusk set in.
Thursday 23rd May
8:30 am, all seems ok, so now the test, eggs, toast and bacon, tea and fruit juice.
9:30 still ok, I think I got off lightly, possibly a manky mussel, time for a shower.
The sun is shining for the second day, let’s make the most of it.
Now, do I fancy a paella for lunch ........or something else!!
Decided against testing fate with a fish dish and after a walk around Royan with the sun on the seafront beating down in the shelter from the sea bound winds and giving a modest temperature of 16c, we decided to head back, where Pauline concocted a salad of all the stuff in the fridge, with some hard boiled eggs, ham and cheese, oh yes and a bottle of Muscadet.
We had an after lunch walk to the river and along it’s banks looking for a spot for my evening session. Most of the drifting stuff seems to have gone down river and it looks quite clean, if up a little more than yesterday.
I’m afraid I still feel lethargic, so it’s back to the cottage to attempt to get through mine hosts book.
It’s 8pm, I gave it a good go, and finished it but couldn’t help feel that it was written as a film, or tv series to be dragged out over many weeks.
All in all hard work, skipping from character to character and orator, so not be recommended unless you want to fully concentrate on a book just to see the outcome!
The day still has another two hours of light to go, but I just can’t be arsed to fish. Another bottle of Cotes du Rhone didn’t help me.
Anyway, let’s open another bottle before bedtime and start on The Fisherman’s Bedside Book compiled by “BB”.
It turns out that it’s almost impossible to read, as Pauline has developed an alcohol induced need to chat!
Friday 24th May
Our last day at the cottage.
We’ve decided to make a trip in to Saintes again, our Sunday trip wasn’t to see the town.
It’s grey again and the temperature is around 13c.
A very busy town with a good few tourists around, apparently the big church, St-Eutropius is quite important, as it forms part of the Christian pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella. We’re not into churches, others obviously are!
On and off showers eventually drive us to a restaurant for lunch.
We both agree we’ve probably had enough sea food.
So after a starter of warmed chevre on a salad for me, and a duck foie gras on salad for Pauline, I had some very good beef almost rare on a skewer and The Boss had some very good pink duck breast, both served with frites.
Our sweets were apple tart tatin, and for me creme brulee.
I stuck with a 50c glass of Leffe pression, Pauline had 25c carafe of Cote d'or, and a rather large cognac. She’ll sleep well!
The little restaurant is very good by the way, check out La Fondue if you're ever in the town.
Back home and I’m off down the river, and it’s still rising!
I decide to fish float for whatever I can get my hands on, and let the “Trent style” rod fish itself.
Five hours later, not a nudge on either rod despite many a bait change.
The river is now washing around my boots, it’s still raining, and I’m backed up bit by bit to the barbed wire fence.
Time for a quick retreat, to make sure I’m not cut off, and back to the car to pack all my tackle away for the return journey.
Tomorrow will find me in the supermarket getting cheap diesel (why is it a lot cheaper than the petrol over here) and some French wine and beers.
Saturday 25th May
7:30am up and running.
There’s a chill on the wind and it’s....grey..again
One last look at the river, it’s come up just a few more inches from my hasty retreat.
Pauline has packed the case and is sorting the odds and ends.
Breakfast is of the last tomatoes and bacon on toast.
The car packed, and we await the lady of the house’s friend to come along and take over the keys. The family left for Paris on Friday for a Christening.
Our ferry sails 18:45, so plenty of time for a steady drive to Cherbourg and perhaps some lunch on the way.
We are due to dock at around 10pm BST, and another stopover at the Premier Inn awaits us.
Arrived with time over a flat calm sea, for a couple of pints of Ringwood Ales Best Bitter, before bedding down for the night for the journey home tomorrow.
Sunday 26th May
Home in 41/2 hours (55mpg)
All in all a great visit to a cracking part of France, despite the weather and catching no fish, although to be fair I didn't give it much of a chance. Perhaps they were off elsewhere breeding?
The cottage by the way, was very good, in a very good location. I wouldn't say comfortable, it does need better sofa's, not good for the back if sitting our the rain for periods of time reading books!
No plans for any fishing, although a trip or two to a pond may be on, prior to a week on the Wye in the not to distant future