Lovely leisurely morning. Really easy drive (for three hours) to sisterS and bilK's. They cooked, we all ate, watched Jersey Boys film and eventually all up to bed.
All up and breakfasted and tackled the luggage-in-the-boot jigsaw puzzle. SisterS and I got comfy in the back (we are both short and sit low in Hubby's car, so I'd made booster seats and foot rests for us, she loved that) and men in the front. Last check of "have we got everything?" and we were on our way!
Their house to Folkestone was an easy 2.5hrs, but we did have just under an hour delay on the shuttle.....the Marshall at the front of our queue told us that one cause was a dodgy carriage door that took 10 mins to open and close each time, then there was the Ford Escort car rally convoy when 26 of them boarded an earlier train and one went up the ramp when it shouldn't and damaged its underneath spreading oil over the ramp, sending the following cars sliding backwards down the ramp! And while we were waiting he got messaged over his radio about a Rolls Royce that had gone the wrong way and blocked the entrance to the train refusing to move, so they called the police. So an entertaining wait :-)
Our first night was at the Brasserie Des Sangliers, in a small town called Crecy-en-Ponthieu.
First of course a drink outside, still really sunny and warm.
Then a local walkabout and discovered a really small museum.
The curator was adorable. He insisted on guiding us around and explaining as much as he could so he could practice his English (a big struggle for him).
We were back on the road early for the six hour journey and arrived about 6pm (ish) at the Novotel Hotel in La Rochelle. We'd made a couple of stops, first at Angers but no food places were open so apart from also stopping for fuel and loo at an Aire we managed with the snack bag I'd packed. After we checked in at the hotel we went out for a walk (desperately needed as we were all car-shaped). Down by the harbour we found a scruffy looking outdoor cafe and had, amongst other things, burgers, beers and live jazz. Shame it was a great success for only three out of the four of us.
We wanted a lazy day after all the driving but lots of walking locally. Our hotel is right in town but actually set inside a park, so to walk to the centre we have a very pretty route.
We took a walk down to the marina for petit dejeuner (breakfast) and went to a restaurant where the bread was fresher, the croissants flakier and the waitress smilier than the place we went to yesterday! Then back to the hotel just to get in the car and drive to Île de Ré, which had been very highly recommended, making stops on the island for driving/eating/drinking at La Flotte, Saint-Martin-de-Ré, Le Bois-Plage-en-Ré and Sainte-Marie-de-Ré and the rest we drove through with some very narrow roads!
SisterS and I also had a nightly ritual with whoever was on reception asking for tea bags and fresh milk to take to our room, they provide kettle and stuff but never quite enough of the stuff we want and those little pots of long life creamer is yuck in tea!
Just like yesterday we made our way to the same restaurant overlooking the marina and the lovely waitress remembered just how we all like our breakfast! Impressive!
We had this day planned long before we'd even arrived in France. Many years ago SisterS worked with a lady who with her husband moved to France and has lived here for 15 years, they've always kept in touch and sisterS has visited twice before (second time with bilK). As soon as they knew we were staying nearby we were all invited for lunch and even sent precise directions. We also have the satnav (which sisterS calls "Satarina Navratilova"). They live in Montmouton, Écoyeux just over an hour away but the hardest part was getting out of La Rochelle as roads were closed because of the market and the satnav couldn't cope!
We were all very warmly greeted and shown round Y&D's lovely home, sisterS admiring the changes since her last visit, and even their dog kept saying hello
For breakfast it was back to the marina and our favorite place, but different staff were on so it wasn't as good, shows it was that one waitress that made it special. Today we visited Île d'Oléron, very highly recommended by Y&D and they are so right it's a beautiful island. We stopped at La Cotiniere and Saint-Denis'd'Oléron and drove around the rest.
SisterS was told about a theme park we would like which isn't full of rides or tat. So we booked online for Grand Parc du Puy du Fou. It was about two hour drive away so we skipped our usual breakfast and drove off early with our croissants in a box!
However I try to describe the place would not do it justice, so here is the link.
It is history, divided into eras and portrayed in shows. Sounds simple but it is far from simple, each show is an extravaganza! You cannot hope to see every show (and they tell you that often). We first collected headsets so each show came to us as an English translation.
Our first show was
Experience the romantic adventures of Richelieu's Musketeer's, set against the backdrop of a giant 17th century theatre (covered theatre with 3,000 seats). A magical show with capes, sword fights, flamenco ballets and incredible special effects!
.......And the arena filled with water!
Our second show was
ORIGINAL 2016 CREATION: LE DERNIER PANACHE
Discover the biggest day show in the Grand Parc du Puy du Fou's history. Follow the glorious destiny of a french naval officer in 1793. The life of this hero of the American War of Independence will definitely change during an ultimate fight for freedom.
........And this was all done in a 360° cinema with very live performances enhanced with film while the audience rotated to where the action was!
Our third show was
THE SECRET OF THE LANCE
A spectacular medieval adventure inspired by the legend of a mysterious lance with magical powers.
......And the horsemanship and acrobatics on horseback was breathtaking!
By the time we got back to the hotel it was raining and we were all too tired to walk into the town centre so we ate at the hotel, which actually was really nice and no more expensive than we'd been paying elsewhere.
We'd packed up the car and checked out of our hotel and on the road just after 8:30am. There was a slight delay leaving as sisterS had to make another check on her son and his partner who are currently on the labour ward awaiting their first baby. Hard for us all to leave the safety of WiFi when expecting such exciting news!
We've had torrential rain all day, so got wet loading the car and got wet when stopping for breakfast at an Aire, then got wet when trying to stop for lunch so ate in the car.
Into our rooms and immediately connected to WiFi but no further news from the parents-to-be!
It was a really charming old hotel with lots of character. Flushing the toilet in my room was hilarious as the very old suction/pump/small pipes system was really really noisy!
The plan had been to leave the hotel by 9am to reach Calais an hour before our 12:20pm train booking but we were all too excited to hopefully meet the newest family member, so we skipped breakfast and checked out at 7am and when we arrived at Le Shuttle terminal we were given a boarding pass for the 10:50am train, then read on the display boards that there was an hour delay. So into the terminal building to buy coffee and croissants. ....but just as we sat to eat the board changed for us from "wait to be called" to "please proceed" so breakfast became takeaway!
But our adventure didn't end there! Nobody wants a great holiday to end but we had the best reason ever to rush back. Now UK side and a slow journey as the M25 was its usual crawl/standstill/crawl. Arrived at sisterS and bilK's house in time for a quick lunch then off to the hospital.
How adorable is she?
Out for dinner which didn't go quite as hoped but I'd found a 40% discount voucher and we all eventually enjoyed our meals so not awful just another tale to tell.
None of us were late to bed, it had been a long and exciting day.
Up quite early and bilK cooked us a yummy English breakfast.
Then all too soon we hugged and kissed and Hubby and I headed home.