Tuesday, April 16
Regular readers will recall that herself spent three months in Tours before Christmas. Many months ago, we booked to spend a week in Tours at Easter. Serious first world problem alert – but to be honest, it was probably a bit close to our week skiing and it felt like we had only unpacked and we were packing up to head off again. Due to various commitments on my part this is the first weekend I’ve spent at home since early March (I’d say you’re delighted I’m spending it updating the old blog, go on, you know you are) and I would say I possibly over-scheduled myself.
Anyhow, we packed like pros and took ourselves off to the airport in very good time due to Mr. Waffle’s extreme punctuality. We were all a bit ratty as we found ourselves in the airport with two and a half hours to spare but never mind it’s better than being late, I suppose.
As we went through security, I tossed my jacket on top of the tray which my firstborn had selected for her gear and she looked at me in horror. “Have you not seen the instructions? When I went through Charles de Gaulle last, the security man said to me ‘Parfait, c’est juste comme il faut’ and he was pretty irate as well because the people from Honduras who went through before me were not on top of the security arrangements. You are ruining my reputation Madame ‘manteau sur sac’.” Was it for this etc?
The flight was uneventful and we got the train from Charles de Gaulle direct to Tours which was a fantastic service. Our Airbnb hosts met us at the station. When we stay places in France we often end up in places that are slightly bohemian and Michael looked around the Airbnb and said, “Why do we always stay in the same place in France?” I knew what he meant. I suppose it’s a combination of wanting the children to have a bedroom each and not wanting to spend the earth.
Relying on herself for suggestions, we had dinner in a Brasserie in Tours and a nighttime wander. It’s a really attractive small city.
Wednesday, April 17
There was a small market in the local park and I spent the morning poking around there and the local Intermarché. Don’t judge. We got the bus into town and went to Place Plumereau which is the centre of the old town where our hosts had warned us not to buy food due to the extortionate prices but we were tourists so we said to hell with it. The weather was beautiful. There seemed to be lots of French people, perhaps tourists, but very few non francophone tourists and there was little danger of people speaking English to us which is unusual in France these days, I find.
We dutifully checked out the cathedral which had particularly impressive 13th century stained glass but the children were resolutely unimpressed.
We then took ourselves home for dinner. After dinner I was sitting near the open door reading when something caught my eye. Was that a sparrow or some other bird hopping near the pot plant across the room? It was not, it was a rat. In what was, arguably, not my finest hour, I ran squealing from the room and up the stairs where I locked myself in my bedroom. Shortly afterwards, I heard noises from the living room where I had inadvertently locked in the children and Mr. Waffle with the rat. I let herself out. “How is it down there?” I asked as we cowered on the bed. “Well,” she said, “when you screamed ‘rat, rat’ the boys and I jumped up on chairs in the kitchen like in ‘Dead Poets Society’ and Daddy started thwacking the rat with the brush trying to get it out the door and it was jumping and squealing.” Not great then.
In time we all made our way back down to the open plan kitchen/living room to be greeted by a pretty annoyed Mr. Waffle who pointed out that I was useless and a bad example to the children to boot. While accepting this completely, I wanted to know where the rat was. “It was a mouse,” said Mr. Waffle and, addressing herself, “sorry miss, it ran into your bedroom but, in a house with two cats, it’s bound to be gone shortly one way or the other.” Herself, unwilling to face ratty alone, swapped bedrooms with Mr. Waffle and me and all night I heard the rat/mouse scrabbling in the walls which was, frankly, not restful.
Thursday, April 18
We decided to leave ratland behind and hire a car to visit Chenonceau a beautiful chateau in the Loire valley which I had visited with my family some 35 years before and where herself assured us there was an excellent restaurant. It was not to be. There was not a car to be hired anywhere in the Touraine. Top tip, if you’re going to Tours for Easter, book your hire car in advance.
So after a vain morning calling increasingly distant car hire locations we went back into Tours and visited the Musée des Beaux Arts which was appealing in a small regional museum kind of way but stiflingly warm.
Then we went for a walk around the streets of the old town and I tried to buy a Lapsang equivalent in a tea shop and they had hardly any left so gave me what they had for free which filled me with, possibly excessive, joy. However, overall there was a certain amount of wilting in the heat and we took ourselves willingly back to the house for dinner and I laid myself down on my bed with a migraine like a 19th century damsel.
Herself bravely decided to go back to her own room for the night.
Friday, April 19
Herself confirmed, gloomily, that she had heard the pitter patter of little paws in the night. Her father stood by his position that it was a mouse.
Herself and myself went to the pharmacist in the square to buy suncream. He looked at us in utter bafflement, “But it’s April.” He had no suncream. We left and he came running after us with two tiny little samples, “Pour vous dépanner pour aujourd’hui.” Unpopular opinion, as the kids say, French people are really nice.
I went to the Tabac to pick up the paper and had a proud moment speaking to the man behind the counter who asked incredulously whether I was really Irish. Hard to know whether this is an indictment of the language skills of Irish people in general or praise of my abilities in particular. Let’s go with the latter.
We went for lunch with the host family where herself had stayed for 3 months. They were really lovely. They lived in the sunny northern suburbs whereas we were in the distant urban southern suburbs so it was a bit of a trek to get there. But worth the effort and they gave us a lift home. I had been slightly in the horrors that the boys would refuse to eat anything but they were really good and made an effort to try lots of things and actually ate a reasonable amount. It’s like the end of an era but in a really good way.
When we got home, we turned to the train timetable to see about getting the train to Chenonceau the next day being unwilling to renounce our dream of seeing at least one castle while in the Loire valley. I said bracingly to the troops, “There’s a train at 9.10 and then the train back is at 4.36, we can spend the day there.” I met with outright mutiny with Mr. Waffle leading the charge. There was a general feeling that a whole sweltering day in the castle might not be for us and, added, Mr. Waffle, “Suppose that the restaurant can’t take us, we’ll be trapped with no hope of lunch.”
Saturday, 20 April
There was a larger market in our little square which I inspected in some detail and picked up ingredients for a picnic. We went to one of the islands on the Seine (Île Simon). We carried our picnic in a tasteful and authentic wicker basket taken from the French people’s house. Let the record show that these are awkward and heavy to carry. I’ve gone right off the idea of acquiring one. The island, however, was a delight. The children paddled in the Loire and wandered around happily. We sat in the shade of the trees and listened to the bagpipe music coming from the bandstand (yes, really, why? couldn’t say).
With our considerably lighter (though still not a negligible weight) basket we wandered into Place Plumereau and had a drink and then saw the Basilica of Saint Martin (quite the famous Catholic saint) and went to the Monoprix. I love the Monoprix. Sad, but there it is. Herself peeled off and went to the contemporary art museum but none of the rest of us could quite face it.
When we got home, we had lasagna for dinner and Michael startled me by eating absolutely loads of it, where will this end? Daniel also startled all of us by hurtling out of the bathroom at high speed shouting, “There’s a rat in there!” “A mouse,” said Mr. Waffle adding gloomily, “those cats are absolutely useless.” We tried to get the rodent out to the garden using a chicane but it wisely retreated to its lair in the walls.
Herself disseminated a quiz to us all called rat or mouse: Michael got 8/12, Daniel and I got 9/12 and herself got 10/12 but Mr. Waffle got 11/12. Maybe it was a mouse after all.
Easter Sunday, 21 April
I had announced early in our stay that we would be going to mass in the cathedral on Easter Sunday. The children were resigned. In the morning we left at 10.45 and I thought we were in good time as mass started at 11.30. It did not, it started at 11 and we were 15 minutes late. I was very annoyed. The church was absolutely packed and we had to stand in a side aisle. All of the children said they had never seen a fuller church in their lives. As mass went on, and on, I began to regret less and less that we had been 15 minutes late. It was nearly 1 when we emerged blinking in the sunlight.
We went to a nasty Italian restaurant for lunch (it looked fine, but it really was not). Then herself went off to meet her friends from Tours and Mr. Waffle and the boys and I visited the Natural History museum; small but alright. Then we went to an escape room. This was a huge success. We all really enjoyed it. Although the boys were very keen, I was pretty dubious in advance but it was great and really well organised. The boys are very keen to try something similar in Dublin. We will see.
We then met herself in the Brasserie near our tram stop and had a last drink. No sooner had we got on the tram than I realised that I had yet again been outfoxed by the arcane and complex ticketing system. “I’ll have to get off and buy a ticket, you stay on,” I said. Happily a bus arrived shortly afterwards which saw me home a good 20 minutes before the others, I was smug.
After the children went to bed, Mr. Waffle and I stayed up reading for a while. He went to feed the cats and I heard him say, “Feck it!” with feeling. There, dead, stretched out by the cat bowl was the body of the offending rodent. I took a picture. Everyone I have shown it to says it’s a rat. Feel free to weigh in.
Monday, April 22
It’s basically deathly quiet in Tours on Easter Monday. Even the local boulangeries were closed. We were forced to eat croissants from the Intermarché*. We spent the morning tidying up and then our hosts gave us a lift to Tours airport which is tiny and no place to spend ages waiting for a delayed Ryanair flight but theoretically very handy.
We were delighted to be home even though some of us had to clear up dried up cat vomit from the stairs.
Would we go back? Yes, definitely. Would we stay in the same Airbnb? Probably not.
*Sometimes I think I might be beyond parody. Would you tell me if this were the case?