We must have been another hour and a half on the road from Mont Saint Michel before we reached ‘home’; Maison Laudiere, on the edge of a very large forest full of wildlife that yearns to frighten the piss out of you. More on both the wildlife and the accommodation later. Having received some superb directions and recommendations for where to go and what to see in the area, we set out on a day that looked like it could and possibly would dump a large quantity of rain on us before we had even reached our first destination.
As Julie has already de-catted the bag in her usual style and substance, I can only repeat that the destination was the seemingly sleepy town of Carrouges and it’s impressive Chateau (no, I don’t know how do to the little hat thing over the a). Parking up at the church on the top of the hill was both a blessing and a curse. 60% blessing on the way down, 90% curse on the way back up. While strolling down we were treated to a dog who seemed to be barking en Francais (no, I dont know how to do the c thing either) and to the melodic repetition of school children floating down from a 3rd floor window. The noise was floating, not the children. That’d just be mad. Down the hill to the chateau, then down another hill then down a further hill, while all the while I couldn’t help but think of the walk back up. Lazy bugger that I am. Having walked all the way down to the quite understated gatehouse (below), we found that there was a large and practically empty car park that the bike could have been left in.
The grounds were well manicured as one might expect, there was even a gardener that looked somewhat like a French OPW worker doing the rounds. The place was practically deserted apart from a few other tourists, very much like the town we parked in at the top of the oh so numerous and steep hills. Three menacing looking geese followed us for much of our stay, possibly the quirky chateau residents alternative to guard dogs.
The hills menaced further but we triumphed, despite the sun coming out and beating down upon us for our return journey. All loaded back up and ready for the off, I double and triple checked the directions we’d been supplied with by Carole in the B&B then made several wrong turns anyway. Yes, by the end of this holiday, I would be master of the u-turn. The general direction was south and eventually (after a few more wrong turns) we ended up in the chocolate box picturesque town of Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei. There were strange rumblings from the back seat which I put down to the cobbled road surface at the time. Having found a suitable parking place a couple of cars down from some very confused looking elderly British people, we proceeded towards the church on the top of the hill. The rumblings returned but I thought nothing of it. As we passed the church and came to a field full of wild flowers with a small chapel in the end of it the rumbling returned again, somewhat louder this time. All that rumbling eventually culminated in an explosion of “ZOMG!” or similar and on turning around I spotted Julie in a state of excitement that almost had her hovering above the long grass and wild flowers. I’d have assumed the cause was too much coffee/pepsi/sweeties but it was still quite early in the day.
The church on the hill (before the chapel in the field that is) was a bit odd. Outside it was a traditional sort of church type building but inside it was full of what in my primitive understanding of all things arty I’d refer to as ‘modern art’. Paintings hung from the walls where I would have expected to see assorted religious paraphernalia. Even the familiar stations of the cross were being acted out by little steel sculptures that also had a very modern feel to them. We did some further rambling around the small town before taking a shaded spot at a small bar/cafe (the only thing open in a town of 2 other shops/restaurants). It was nice to take ten minutes out to soak in the complete, perfect calm of the town, the incredible amount of flowers and the overall ambiance only broken by infrequent passes of tourists and the odd tractor. Coffee sipped and Coca-Cola downed, we strolled down to the river where several eastern Europeans made it look like they were hatching a cunning plan to harvest trout. We left them at it and got back on the road to the gardens up the hill. This was another one of the suggestions we got from Carole in the B&B and it was spot on. The area was great and the person I assumed to be the owner (or at least the lady behind the desk at the time) was very friendly despite the language barrier. Oh and they had a walnut tree. Lunch for the price of an entry fee.
As mentioned in the last post, Julie was eager to get some photos of Mont Saint Michel all lit up. We made the trip back out taking a slightly different road (mainly because I was quite lost) and made it in perfect time to enter the dedicated motorcycle parking spots in the main car park. The Mont itself was surprisingly quiet, the only movement outside was hotel staff laden with bags making their way up the hill to their respective properties. It seems many of the days visitors had already departed as the main attraction at the site had already served it’s last tour group of the day. Even the numerous postcard stalls and tourist tat shops were closing up for the night. It seemed to be perfect timing then, we’d already been warned earlier that morning about the horrendous crowds that the attractions brings in and we were keen to avoid all that. Having walked as far as we could (given that half the place was closed up for the day) I couldnt help but think that the place was like a cross between Temple Bar in Dublin and a film about the horrors of the black death. On any given Saturday night, I’m sure the place is rolling with drunk tourists falling out of the many restaurants. All with a quite medieval slant though. We had dinner inside the Mont walls in a restaurant that all seemed very samey-samey. What I mean by that is all the restaurants seemed to be serving the same dishes. Naturally, we chose the place that had a pair of shouty 16 year old girls serving.
Stuck without a tripod, there’s not a whole lot you can do with long exposure photography. I settled on using the bike as a tripod by parking on the causeway, putting the bike on it’s center stand and sitting the camera on the luggage. Worked so well I may get a tripod thread with a sticky ass and affix it permanently to the luggage. My long exposures and photos from farther down the road were sadly lacking however. One of the limits of having a fixed 35mm lens I guess.
The road back to the B&B was a challenging one. Not only I have not ridden a bike on the other side of the road for a while, I’ve never been on the wrong side of the road in the dark before. The challenge was compounded by the daft as a brush GPS sending me down all kinds of side roads, tracks and generally not perfectly surfaced highways and byways that I’d requested. Anyone that rides a motorbike (and possibly anyone that cycles or rides a horse) will know that when something unexpected happens, the natural response is to grab the saddle with ones cheeks. About 20 minutes out from the B&B, the bloody GPS routed me through dense forest on a winding road best suited to a scene in a horror film. In the pitch black night we rode along cautiously around bends while giant crunchy moths pelted the windscreen and the visor on my helmet. On a relatively straight stretch of road I cracked open the visor a notch for some fresh air and *WHAM*. That, I told myself instantly, was not a fucking moth. What it was however was a bat about the size of a large kitten. It bounced off the windscreen, narrowly avoiding hitting me in the shoulder. I gripped the saddle with such ferocious intensity that had there been mineral deposits twixt my cheeks, I would have created several karats of diamonds. Hell, there nearly were mineral deposits between my cheeks. The speed of the up to now somewhat sedate ride increased dramatically and later on it became clear that the odd irregular banging noise in the back of my mouth was my heart pumping it’s last. Almost 10 minutes later we were at the B&B and I proceeded to mentally dry-heave. No, I don’t like bats. I’ve never liked bats. I’d sooner kick an alligator in the balls then attempt to French kiss it than be in the same room as one single small bat.
I went to bed, doused in holy water and with a crucifix under my pillow.