Wherein we try very, very hard to stay in La Châtre

For some reason the city of Limoges made me uncomfortable. Perhaps it was the change from the fields of Aniane to the grittier urban environs. Perhaps it was staying in the microhotel. Perhaps I was just sad that things were drawing to a close. But when I got up on Sunday morning, I just had to get out of there.

Careful readers of this blog will note that things in our family tend to go horribly awry only when we forget to eat. Limoges was no exception. We had decided not to take the 3,40 euro Formule 1 breakfast, and instead to fend for ourselves. What we forgot was (a) the Formule 1 was located in an industrial park, far away from any corner boulangerie, (b) it was Sunday, (c) it was a holiday (VE Day). As such, places to grab a quick coffee and croissant were few and far between.

What we should have done is to hop on the A20 north and stop at the first rest stop. They’re always open. What we did instead, or rather what I did, being the catatonic underfed grumpy driver, was to randomly drive through the countryside in a primitive forage for food. I think I hoped that, as if by magic, I would round a corner and see a neon sign, above the world’s best boulangerie, flashing “Stop Here Pete!” It didn’t happen.

We did manage to see a lot of the rural areas around Limoges. It’s a lot like Prince Edward Island, in fact, except that there is a much greater proportion of Limousin cattle about, that being their “home place.”

Eventually we ended up getting on the A20 north, stopping at the first rest stop, and managed to get enough food in us to keep us going. Crisis averted.

Having no idea of our destination, we decided we needed to get off the A20. The autoroutes in Frances are an excellent way to quickly get from point A to point B. In a sense they are like traveling at “warp speed,” as things move by too quickly to really focus on at 130 km/h and there’s not really any scenery to speak of in any case, as the land given over to autoroutes is generally the land not needed for anything else.

So at exit 18 we slowed from warp speed and switched to impulse power and headed east towards the village of La Châtre. Not that we knew anything about the village, but it had a pleasant dot on the map.

It turns out that La Châtre is the birthplace of George Sand. I must admit that, short of a vague recollection that George Sand was someone important, I’d no idea who she was. This was remedied somewhat by a visit to the George Sand Museum in La Châtre which is housed in an ancient tower in the middle of town. The Museum is home to a huge collection of stuffed birds, a giant wooden village, various paintings and sculptures, and a decent collection of George Sands memorabilia.

An email to my English-major brother Johnny filled in the gaps for us in the George Sands story:

George Sand was the pen name of Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin, later Baroness Dudevant, a French writer and feminist. She was perhaps as famous for her numerous love affairs (with Franz Liszt and Frederic Chopin, among others) and her flamboyant bohemian libertine lifestyle (she preferred dressing in men’s clothes when it was seen as quite scandalous to do so and as such is often speculated to have been a lesbian) as for her writing.

La Châtre turned out to be a rather pleasant place. It being Sunday, and VE Day, everything was closed up tight, however, and we thought it might be nice to stay overnight and get a taste of the working town in the morning. However all attempts — and there were many — to find a place to stay resulted in failure. We found closed hotels. Locked hotels. Full hotels. Hotels with crabby managers who claimed not to be able to accommodate three people in a room. We found a charming riverside hotel located down a flower-lined country lane that could have come from the pages of a novel. It was closed up tight.

Although Catherine did eventually find us a room, in a hotel on the edge of town, the room was rather abysmal, which we took as a sign that our romance with La Châtre had to end. We got in the truck and headed to the City of Bourges.

To find a hotel in Bourges, I simply pulled out my Orange mobile phone, fired up the web browser, and selected “find a hotel near me.” Through some magical “we know what cell you are using and thus where you are” method, it gave me a list of three. We choose one, Les Tilleuls, and followed the directions provided right to the door. The delightful manager arranged a room with two beds (one big, one little) on the top floor. The hotel was a welcome change from the prison-like conditions of the Formule 1 the night before (prison-like but, of course, 1/2 the price, which is the point).

Bourges turned out to be the perfect city to end our trip. Small enough to walk around, large enough to have enough to entertain our senses, we ended up staying for two nights. Complete report to follow later.

As I type, I’m in the Hotel Étap near the CDG airport in Paris (getting here is a tale of its own). We leave tomorrow morning for Charlottetown.

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