As Alsace-Lorraine has a special local law, I got an extra bank holiday last Friday for Good Friday or ‘Vendredi Saint’, I decided to get the train to visit my boyfriend in Montlucon, in the region of Auvergne in the centre of France. I’ve learnt a good few lessons this weekend:
1: Everywhere feels miserable in the rain.
2: I’m starting to believe that people put scaffolding and plastic sheeting on cathedrals especially for me.
3: Despite the fact that French trains are normally extremely efficient, don’t count on this happening during Bank Holidays.
4: Sitting next to smelly men on trains is gross – especially when it’s for 2 1/2 hours.
So after 9 hours of traveling via Lyon and Vichy I eventually arrived in Montlucon from Strasbourg. It was nice to just do ‘normal’ things like going to the supermarket to do a food shop for dinner, cook and drink some nice, cheap red wine from Auchan and watch a film.
Saturday despite the rain we decided to take a trip up to Bourges, a medieval village in the departement of Cher and on the Cher river. The Gothic Cathedral is a UNESCO world heritage site and is full some of the most beautiful stained glass windows that I have ever seen (and I’ve been to A LOT of churches).
As a medieval city it’s streets are twisty and turn down into side streets and back alleys, making it really good fun for a good explore – plenty of small shops to amuse ourselves in as the rain lashed down outside. It’s only now looking back that I realise how dark the day was with the bad weather. A particular favourite of mine were the numerous second hand bookshops, which always make me feel like I’m in Diagon Alley. I’m not sure why I’m making so many Harry Potter references at the moment; although I was very sad to hear that Richard Griffiths had passed away this week. Back to bookshops – I treated myself to a couple of second-hand french grammar books which were probably published in the 1950′s. I find the way they’re written really fascinating and the types of passages used to illustrate grammar points are totally different to the ones that have been given to me as set texts in the passed.
However the overall highlights of the day for me came down to two things. First of all I ate my way through my first ever meal of moules, admittedly napolitienne not mariniere, but still eating moules has been on my bucket list ever since I moved to France for my year abroad. Here is the proof! I blame SNCF for making me look so tired! The frites that came with the moules were also really tasty too.
Second thing that made my day was getting out of a train fine, as I’d forgot to ‘compost’ or validate my ticket for the return home. Pleading innocent with SNCF doesn’t always work, but I got lucky!
The rest of my weekend was spent going for a long walk around a lake in Montlucon on Easter Sunday (in true French Sunday afternoon style), then putting down deposits and making all the reservations for all youth hostels and overnight trains for my month long trip around Europe. It’s no longer a dream and I’ll be leaving a month TOMORROW for Interlaken in Switzerland.
I hoped to leave Montlucon on Monday evening, taking the train back up to Paris, then across to Strasbourg to get home in time for work on Tuesday. Unfortunately being Easter Monday (a Bank Holiday all over France) trains were scarce and mine was delayed by 90 minutes, not leaving me enough time to change in Paris, so I spent another night in Montlucon. The replacement coach for 2 1/2 hours and sweaty smelly man came on the journey home on Tuesday! But at least I got back in the end!