"Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you," said the wisest of wise men. "The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon."

('The Alchemist' Paulo Coelho)

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Nearly the end

Friday 17th Sept.

Our last day today! Yesterday we had a stroll around Tours and managed to find the house where I had my flat during my 6 month stay here. We did a little more present shopping and then carried on north again, this time to Le Mans. Keith was really looking forward to this stop because of its car racing connections and he enjoyed going vroom, vroom on the Mulsanne straight, which, of course, I had never heard of. I further showed my ignorance in being surprised that the 24 hour race consists of racing round the same circuit for 24 hours. For that length of time I would have thought they would at least go round the whole of northern France - it would be much more interesting too! Of course, we had to visit the museum. A great time was had by all! We did manage to find a place to lay our heads for the night without any trouble this time and enjoyed a very pleasant dinner. Angers and Tours are both very elegant towns and Le Mans suffers by comparison. We did venture into the centre but were disappointed - a very ordinary place.
Today, we set off once more, ever nearer the end of our holiday. We drove past Alencon and Vire to our destination for tonight, St-Lo. Once we'd checked in, we drove into town to have a look around. It is an interesting place in that it seems to have suffered badly during the war, so much so that hardly any of the buildings seem to date from before the war. It was obviously an old walled town with a castle once upon a time and some of the castle wall is still remaining but there is one church which must have had its bell tower demolished and replaced after the war by a concrete one which looks very peculiar and does nothing to enhance the church. There is another, bigger church which was obviously very badly damaged and we managed to track down some old photos showing how it looked originally. During the bombling, it lost one tower, the other one was damaged and much of the front too. The plainness of the stone which has replaced the missing parts is startling and emphasises the damage suffered.
So tomorrow, Cherbourg and the ferry back to England. We have enjoyed this holiday so much, especially as it has been some years since either of us had had a proper one. Things have changed, of course, but people still retain the politeness that I remember and the elegance and attention to detail is still there. So, too, is the slower pace of life. We have been constantly amazed that long lunch breaks are still a widespread feature. Practically all shops are closed on Sundays and Mondays too, most close for one and a half to two hours on other days and rush hour seems only to start at 9a.m. We even saw a hypermarket petrol station which was closed for an hour at lunchtime and closed for the night at 7.30p.m. So, for people working full time, there must be a real problem if they have banking or shopping to do during their lunch hour - everyone else is on their lunch-break too.

Lastly, something I don't remember from the past is the graffiti - often quite artistic if lacking in originality, it is everywhere. I would love to know who on earth treks out to the middle of Les Landes or halfway up the Pyrennees to graffiti on any and every available wall and, more importantly...............WHY!!!

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