Wednesday 6 June 2012

A Sense of History

Judy’s Unquotable Quotes Revealed
“My bum only fell apart in the last 5 kilometres,” Judy at the end of an 87 kilometre ride.
And 30 minutes later while relaxing on a terrace bar, “Gosh I’m vain. Staring at myself in the mirror as I do my hair and enjoying the view.”
“I really like the Queen. She’s a good old stick. I really liked her when she was Helen Mirren.”

A Sense of History

Judy with Helen and Bob in their garden near Chinon, France. The New Zealand flag is raised in our honour.
“Do you know where the word spread-eagled comes from?” asked Bob as we waited for our entrée. We both looked at him blankly, and he produced that naughty schoolboy grin we were getting used to.  

Bridge over the River Vienne, at Chinon.
Cloister at Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud.
  A glimpse into the 12th century - 1,000 nuns
lived here in huge dormitories. A seperate area
housed a leper colony (now a hotel) and another
building was reserved for "fallen women".

It’s origins, he said, go back to Viking times when they were a warring lot terrifying the living daylights out of that corner of France where they saw an opportunity to plunder and pillage – what is now Normandy. A valiant opponent defeated in battle was given the opportunity to enter Valhalla, where an endless supply of virgins and alcohol awaited him.   
The only catch was that to reach Valhalla you had to be dead, and the Vikings had a particularly gruesome method to make sure you were – split open the opponent’s ribcage while they were still alive, tie back their arms to expose the internal organs and leave the rest of the work to the crows. A slow, horrible death, and you can bet on it that word soon spread that this was what the Vikings had in mind for anyone foolish enough to put up a determined fight. It was psychological warfare in its infancy – demoralising opponents and sending them fleeing.
Bob - model train enthusiast.

“Brilliant,” said Bob, relishing the details as the entrée was delivered to the centre of the table and we changed the subject.

We’ve been guests of Bob and his wife Helen at their tranquil, delightful home near Chinon, where they live with their dog, a donkey, a cat, a rooster and some chickens.
Eleanor of Aquitaine stepped in to ensure there
was a decent kitchen to provide food for the 100s
who lived at the abbey at Fontevraud. This picture
shows the chimneys above the fireplaces in the kitchen.
Fontevraud was turned into a prison,
and some of the inmates helped restore
the buildings. This wall identifies some of
those prisoners.

France's national heroine - Joan of Arc - the peasant girl credited with rallying
the French to kick out the English. They responded by burning her at the stake.
They’ve done what many people would consider is go one step too far - in their early 60s they left England to make a new life for themselves in France.  Their approach has been to become a part of the community they live in, rather than transplanting a tiny piece of England. And for them it works – they’ve gradually acquired French friends, they speak French fluently, Helen is involved in her choral music in the nearby town, Bob drives a Renault Kangoo – the French farmer’s basic utility vehicle – and they’ve become experts on French history and particularly that of their region.
Outside loo - pity the poor neighbours who
walked underneath at the wrong moment.

Hence Bob’s story about the word spread-eagle. He’s a master story teller, and that gruesome titbit at the dinner table was just one of many yarns we’ve heard over the past days.

With Bob and Helen, May 2012

One of the regrets of travel is that we pass in and out of people’s lives. On this occasion we met two people we immediately related to and know that under different circumstances we would want to become firm friends. But for now though, the road beckons and we are on our way again – to who knows where exactly.   
Lunchtime picnic spot
Heavy rain in the past few weeks has caused
the Loire to run high and there's been some
flooding. Here a boat on one of the Loire's
tributaries has sunk at its berth.


  1. Great guys, so nice to get an update!! x

  2. Fantastic ! The lunchtime picnic spot looks tranquil, good enough to spend the entire day there staring at the water. Maybe the beast continue to provide you as much entertainment for riding it as the photos and blogs do for us poor people stuck in a miserable winter in Auckland.

  3. greetings - keep pedalling --- pahitian

  4. the lads will be en Paree july 14th - thence UK.. back in France most of August -= but presume you'll be battling the Balkans or some such by then, Anyway -- we are all expecting a book at the end of all this bicycling joined at the hip - so to speak... pahi again

    1. Hi Pahi - great to hear from you. Our timing is a mess at the moment. We are making slower progress than we anticipated, and now it's being compounded by the fact tat we are stuck in Nevers (Loire Valley, abt 160 k from Paris) whie we try to find some new tyres. We've had some many punctures in the past few days we are givng up on the current ones. Other than that, bike is going well. We are in good spirits, but finding the whole thing pretty hard work at this stage. cheers, Mike

  5. Hi Mike and Judy
    Finally hooked into your travels. It all sounds so good and France looks great. All good here. News continues to ebb and flow. Stuck in Nevers Nevers land? I guess you will be in Paris by now.enjoy!!!

  6. Love your beautiful pictures of Chinon and so glad you enjoyed your time with my whanau; you summed Bob up perfectly. I'm very jealous (hope the donkey and rooster didn't wake you up too early).
    Jane x


Express a view here.