Actually it took a long time to get to France. Zurich of course is up amongst the Swiss Alps, in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. So we had to go to Geneva first, where they speak French. This drive was incredibly beautiful.
We stopped along the way at the Castle of Chillon, jutting into Lake Geneva. This is one of the most famous castles in the world, not really big but rather cute. It has a bit of everything, including some original medieval wall paintings and some sensitive reconstructions.
Then through Geneva and into France. The roads were now very small and hard going. We made it into Saint Etienne about 8pm.
We were staying with the parents of our past wwoofer The Marvellous Miss Maud, who is still in Australia working at a truckstop north of Cairns. Maud was absolutely wonderful during our preparations for our enormous medieval event last January. Maud’s parents loved the stories of her adventures at the farm, and invited us to stay.
Maud’s mum Chantel has some English, but her father Gaetan has none. Fortunately he speaks very clear French, and I was able to resurrect my schoolboy French and we got by quite well. As long as we both stayed in the present or past tense.
The next day, we took them to the Chateau de Chalencon, a small mountain castle where I had stayed eight years ago. Our host last time died two years ago. The castle was closed, but I convinced a local (in French) to lend me the keys of the castle for a look. Owen had been there before, aged three, but could not remember it. Allison thought it a most lovely village.
Then Chantel and Gaetan took us to Le Puy, the starting place for the famous Compostella pilgrimage. The town has a cathedral at the top of a pinnacle. We visited that — very beautiful. My best memory is the priest racing up the steep cobbled streets on a motorbike.
We had lunch in the old town, where Gaetan suggested I try the local delicacy, andoulliete. Sounds delicieux. When in France, do as the French do, and I had been telling Owen that he had to be open to new tastes. In the event, it turned out to be a rather chewy sausage of gizzards, and I don’t recommend it.
We watched some lace-making, then we were off to Avignon.