It has been a busy week and interesting week here at La Godefrere, although for the past couple of days we have been in Nantes celebrating Mrs. Parish’s birthday. More of which later. We returned earlier than anticipated as the weather has turned foul and we have had heavy rain all day so we decided to come straight home rather than plan more visits. Of course we arrived home to meet a delegation of cats with a list of grievances. Our neighbour Peter has been feeding them for the past couple of days but of course they had missed out on some indoor time and a few treats and biscuits for supper. There was a lot of meowing when we got back and rubbing around us with tails erect.

Now we have been viewing “Catwatch” on the BBC which is all about cat behaviour and so we know that this is all a front for our benefit. The cats aren’t pleased to see us back but simply view us as a mechanism to provide food and a warm place for a sleep. The meowing is especially honed to our wavelength and designed to get us to respond. Of course despite viewing the programme we still fall for it and Minou is in and sleeping on my lap as soon as we are in the door and sat down! I suppose that cats have had a couple of thousand years of practice at working their magic on humankind and are clearly very expert at it. I’m now getting the “we are starving and haven’t eaten for days routine” as we are about an hour from tea time for them. They have started the withering stare that is trying to either convince me they have been neglected or hypnotise me into getting them some food. The alternative is to become so annoying that I get fed up and give in early. It is very sophisticated behaviour!!

Earlier in the week we had the case of the bodies in the hearth. We had noticed for several days a number of hornets in the house. The first sign is a really heavy buzzing like a helicopter in the living room. Once located it is then a process for me of trying to encourage them to leave by the front door preferably without attacking me. Fortunately it seems that hornets are not much interested in people and unlike wasps that fly round your head they just buzz. Although apparently it is not a good idea to disturb their nests, when they become very aggressive. Anyway we couldn’t work out where the hornets were coming from until Mrs. Parish heard buzzing behind the door of our wood burner. When she opened the door there was one hornet and a whole lot of dead hornets. We concluded that they must have come down the chimney given that they all looked a bit black! Now Mrs. Parish keeps putting her head in the hearth to see if she can hear hornets in the chimney! The chimney has now been cleaned so hopefully that will resolve the problem, if not I suspect when we light up the fire the hornets will get the message.

So on Friday we set off for Nantes for the weekend to celebrate Mrs. Parish’s birthday. We had a pleasant drive down and chose a route which avoided the main routes and towns. This of course meant that we met very little traffic and because the countryside is so flat all the roads are dead straight. We got to Nantes at about 1230 as we had planned and aimed to find our hotel and get some lunch before commencing sightseeing.  We took signs to the town centre and thought we would soon find the road where our hotel was. Not as easy as we thought. The traffic going into Nantes was pretty awful and we took a turning to follow the road to the station which is near to the hotel. We then proceeded to get hopelessly lost as we entered into one way streets and ran out of sensible signs. Mrs. Parish then discovered that the print was so small on the maps we printed off the internet that she couldn’t make out the street names. Eventually we managed to orientate ourselves and found the hotel.

We had a great couple of days and on the Friday afternoon we went to the Chateau of the Dukes of Brittany. This is a castle with proper walls and inside a chateau which now holds the Nantes museum. So we had a couple of hours looking around this and also a special exhibition on the Samurai history of Japan which was incredibly interesting. We found a really nice little French restaurant to eat in the evening but had the interesting walk past the local table dancing bar to get there!

The seven Samurai

On Saturday we went to the amazing “Machines de l’ile”. This is an incredible set of machines made to resemble insects, birds and even a giant elephant which is 10 times the size of a real elephant and is designed so it walks even reproducing the same movements of legs and feet. There are also many other machines such as a heron that is made to “fly” and an incredible merry go round on three levels with machines made to look like sea creatures. The experience was made even more surreal by the fact that the place was full of French Mayors all wearing their chains of office. The collective name for a group of mayors seems to be a chain gang of mayors (thanks to Kate Weller, Mayor of Weymouth & Portland from who I have pinched the description). They were on an official visit and we kept bumping into them and also saw them having rides on the machines. It was all a bit weird!

The giant elephant out on its walk

We then had a nice walk around Nantes before venturing out to the town centre to find a special restaurant for Mrs. Parish’s birthday treat. The centre of Nantes was buzzing on a Saturday night and it was still warm enough for people to be sat outside and all the cafes were full of people enjoying a night out. There were also loads of restaurants and many varieties from Japanese and Chinese to Greek and Turkish. Mrs. Parish thought she fancied a curry as there are not many such restaurants in France. We found a curry house but it seemed to be populated by French looking cooks and waiters and didn’t have that authentic look to it. We agreed that it would probably be a disappointment!  In the end we decided to visit a restaurant that served Algerian food and had the most wonderful Lamb Tagine washed down with an easily drinkable bottle of Cote du Rhone. It was on the way back to our hotel that we came across a bar called the “Clandestine Bar”. We decided that this was a bit of a mistake putting up a sign announcing where it was as it would be no longer clandestine. We looked inside and there were very few people in there. Obviously not clandestine enough for the people of Nantes.

It may be that the people of Nantes who want a clandestine bar have to drink at home. On the street opposite our hotel was a recycling station with receptacles for paper and bottles. About 3am I woke to hear someone putting their bottles into it. I know sometimes when we have a lot of bottles to get rid of I am sent out under cover of darkness but never at 3am!

Even in the rain it was easier to get out of Nantes than to get in. We came back via the main roads as the quickest way to return and now we are getting ready for the visit of my son Ian and his fiancée Emma along with Tommo the three legged dog. So never a dull moment here.

Time to drink to Mrs. Parish’s good health now that she is another year older!

Bon santé