Thursday, June 14, 2018

Only in France!

French Village Diaries #OnlyInFrance Bressuire
Bressuire

The school run weather gods have been at it again this week. With Ed boarding during the week, it’s only on a Monday morning that we have an early-start school run, but consistently all winter it was only on Mondays, and when Adrian was away working, that the gods threw down a heavy frost for me to scrape off the windows. It is now June and on the one Monday when Ed had to be in Niort, 60km away, by 8.00am for his English oral Baccalaureate exam, the gods chose rain of biblical proportions, knowing that Adrian was away, and the driving was all down to me.

The 5.30am alarm wasn’t necessary as the thunder woke us both at 5.00am. The only way to reach the car, parked just outside the front gates was by wearing wellies and once I’d moved the car from the lake it was parked in, I still had to find Adrian’s boots in order for Ed to wade through the lake and reach the car. Thankfully we did remember to put his shoes in the car, as I’m not sure it would have done his stress levels much good being the only teenager at the exam wearing his Dad’s wellies.

It poured all the way to Niort. I had no option but to drive through flood water in Chef-Boutonne, where the road was totally submerged, and at one point on the way to Melle, all across the road was a deep brown slick of mud running off the fields. I have never seen weather quite like it, especially in June, and we have been here almost fourteen years.

Thankfully two days after our wet trip to Niort, the sun was out for our 225km round trip to Bressuire for his German oral exam. Yes, only in France would kids be sent from their lycée to another one in the department that is 112km from home, all for a 20-minute oral exam. This distance was way out of my comfort zone, but I took a friend for navigation help (I tried to work the Sat-Nav in Adrian’s car, but I am too much of a womble to get both sound and pictures) and I made sure we left with hours to spare. 

We arrived at the lycée in Bressuire an hour and half early, not bad as we had to navigate a dreaded 'Route Barrée' and 'Deviation' just as we arrived on the outskirts of town. We had time for a leg stretch and maybe even the possibility of finding a quick plat du jour for lunch. Yes and no! After quite a bit of walking all we found were long-ago shut up bars and auberges, so it was back to the car where we tucked into my emergency quiche in the lycée car park (please tell me I’m not the only one who never ventures too far from home without packing an emergency quiche!). 
 
French Village Diaries #OnlyInFrance Bressuire
Being interviewed in Bressuire on the final day of the Tour de Rêves
With Ed safely in his exam, Lesley and I set off once more to explore Bressuire. We walked almost 5km, took some photos, had a tasty ice-cream (don’t tell Ed), but the only bit of Bressuire I’d been to before, a bar we stopped at on our Tour de Rêves bike ride last year, was mysteriously allusive, despite wandering here, there and back again.

Thankfully we didn’t have the four hour wait that I’d had on Monday morning, this time Ed was finished after only an hour, so by 15h we were setting off for the two hour drive home. Just as I was relaxing back into the familiar roads closer to home, almost patting myself on the back at my accomplishments, things up ahead didn’t look quite right. On a straight section of road, a car was on its side, airbags gone off, debris and glass in the road and a real shock to see. It had obviously only just happened as there were other drivers there, and a farmer directing traffic, but the pompiers and gendarmes hadn’t yet arrived on scene. We also found out later that there had been a very nasty accident, just as we were leaving Bressuire, on the road to Parthenay. Although we had arrived on that road, for some reason we came home on the Niort road instead. 

Maybe the gods were on my side after all!

Next week Ed has a full timetable of written exams and then that’s it, he’s finished with school in France. Where have the last fourteen years gone?