I don’t care what the weatherman says ….
‘If the weatherman says its raining, you’ll never find me complaining’ goes the Louis Armstrong classic ‘Jeepers Creepers’. Which some days, in fact some summers – this we are told is the worst for 100 years for sunshine and the worst since 1977 for rainfall, is just as well.
You might recall that we had started out for Paris at midnight or thereabouts and arrived just before 6 a.m. By 11 O’Clock I was clear of the Embassy and we walked a little before heading back to the car and out of the city for the long drive home. And it is still a long drive – that 500 km to get to Paris is exactly the same on the way back. We decided to stop for lunch in Orleans, capital of le Loiret in the region known as Centre because that’s just exactly where it is. In the centre. And in the centre we found a lovely restaurant which filled us full of fish (me) and pork (him). The waiter had clearly stepped straight out of Le Cage aux Folles sporting the skinniest of skinny jeans, a very chic loose white shirt with a smattering of flowers, Converse low-tops which matched my own and hair tied back in a tiny tight bun. He spun and pranced with zesty aplomb and I could happily have taken him home and put him in my wardrobe to pull him out when I need a breath of fresh air in my life. The rain had persisted down on Two Brains and The Bean whilst they waited for me in the park opposite l’ambassade and it increased as we drove south. We were cold and wet when we arrived at the restaurant but a replete belly does much to improve damp spirits and after a quick flick round the city in the car and a decision to visit in the dry some day we set off again through the rain towards our ultimate goal.
Some time ago, I expressed a desire to see Bourges (capital of the Cher also in Centre). I pass by the signs whenever I do the long drive to Calais or back (or, indeed the slightly shorter trip to Paris). Where Orleans is a pretty plateful – half timbered buildings, a cathedral that ranks with the finest in France and the river running stately through the middle, Bourges is frankly gluttonous. Everywhere you turn are cobbled streets lined with those beauteous half timbered houses reminiscent of Stratford (upon Avon not Olympic Central). The Cathedral is enormous, monstrous even.
Overall and oddly Bourges didn’t do it for us. It stuffed us full but left us feeling empty. It confused us and that was the problem – Bourges doesn’t quite know what it is. But the fact is that it is so much easier to have a strategy when you are one thing. If you are a small and perfectly formed medaeval or whatever epoque village or even a middle sized or large one you have an identity and your planning can and should encapsulate that. If on the other hand you have been an important place since Roman times, have a plethora of half timbered Shakesperian houses, a volume of 17th and 18th Century masters dwellings and a cathedral which mushroomed in a mere 60 years to be a soaring gothic monster you have an identity crisis in your melting pot. Of course a melting pot can work, but the real problem comes when the place has been ripped to bits by allowing nondescript modern buildings in the centre and no thought has been given to the way they harmonise with the old. Of course the heavy hitters all over the world, the big iconic cities, can cope because they have huge budgets born of investment and commerce but for a place like Bourges with an embarrassment of historic gems but a total reliance on their tourist income it must be beyond challenging to manage. If someone comes along with an idea and a desire to be in the city then taxes and the prospect of employment force the good folks of the town to say yes, eager to enhance the towns coffers – those same coffers that must be stretched to breaking by the voracious needs of so many historic treasures. We have since discovered that the town has quite the problem with vandalism and youth crime – this, it seems is the fate of such places the world over and I wish I was smart enough not just to question but to dish out the answers. The people, though, were thronging and despite the looming skies and damp underfoot it still looked the fine historic town that it is.
We made our way to a cafe and as we sat down the sky unzipped and a deluge of biblical proportions (not the first and not the last of this journey) flashed down. We sat outside, The Bean sensibly hiding under the table which, though protected by an awning began to puddle nicely. The place was staffed by three men – the oldest, clearly the boss and a younger man who swiftly took our order, coffee and creme brulee for me and chocolat chaud and a mousse au choc/vanille for Two Brains. Picked up off the table and cradled like a baby in our arms, it remained dry enough to eat swiftly. We watched a young woman with a baby in a buggy all enveloped in a rainhood with the older child wearing her coat to protect him. Sleeves down to the floor and dragging feet he clearly felt it unfair that the baby had the luxury of cover whilst his mop of hair was stuck to his head with cold water that then ran down his cheeks in pesky rivulets. She smiled and smiled and the little boy will look back one day and realise what a good mummy he has. We attracted the attention of the youngest of the trio of staff and asked for more drinks. He looked at our now sodden bill, loped inside and 15 minutes later was still affecting to clean behind the bar. Older man passed. We said we had asked for coffee and he leapt indoors shooting the boy a look and saying a very few words that proved suffficient to galvanize, nay ignite the youngster. Smiling to himself the boss retreated. One day the boy will look back and remember what a good boss he had ….
PS: Like many I’m a sucker for a gargoyle and amongst all the amazing carvings surrounding the cathedral was this absolute gem who looks for all the world like Voldemort in J K Rowlings Harry Potter series.
Reblogged this on Half Baked In Paradise and commented:
I drove past the turning for this place en route to Paris and thence Calais, le manche and Oxfordshire on Tuesday of this week. It was sunny. By the time we reached Paris is was wet and in Calais there was the added frisson of a wind that could fell Cyclops in stone boots. Two years ago it was thus in the town when we arrived ….
I never know which bit to reply on!
I liked Bourges very much….we used to take the younger members of the family to stay with friends nearby so that they they could go to the Printemps de Bourges stuff in the evenings and we could enjoy the place in the mornings.
Sadly on our last visit the social problems of which you speak were much in evidence.
As we sped past on Tuesday we vowed to return because we really need to give it another chance, I think. French towns are all mightily effected by those problems and I don’t see em alleviating soon.
As in my ex local town…years ago now…
Exactly. Your closing remark reminds me of a French but not Auvergnat friend of ours saying ‘here there are three prices for every house – one for locals, one for the rest of France and a third for foreigners’. In a sense the beaurocrscy and corruption has the same sliding scale.
It’s a shame many people fail to understand the incredible value of the history surrounding them. It’s not the actual structures to which I refer, but the untold stories of those that built them, the wisdom and abilities of a much more skilled workforce. The true value of a days work was not lost on them.
I am so with you on that …. I never fail to be dizzy when I stop and take in a building … The stones, bricks or wood all hewn by men’s hands. The stories they all contain – some dramatic, some dull but all stories of hard work and purpose. Life in fact, life lived.
I think a better life in many ways.
Ooo how I love those stone houses, and you story! Going on a long drive, stopping here and there, few things beats that!
Bourges is such a lovely town…but it isn’t very much visited which is a shame. (Suzanne)
great read Osyth 🙂
Lazy really – but easier to reboot a few at the moment than write fresh ….. My mum is 84 and her wifi replicates her speed perfectly 😂😂
Happy birthday to mum. I’m at the Olympics on TV. Hard to do much else..must do better and make it to the studio 😊
Bet your loyalties were tested by the rugby 7’s semi 😉😉😉
Go Canada G0!! 🙂
This makes me feel better about always supporting France 🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷
Thanks for the flags. Didn’t know they were available on my mac 🙂 🇨🇦🇨🇦🇨🇦
Glad to be of help 😊
I like how you weave fabulous photographs with stories, Fiona. I also was interested in your story about why the one town wasn’t easy to love, almost like “too much of a good thing.” The really cool gargoyle may end up being your favorite photograph!
The story of the poor boy getting wet in the rain, with his sibling in a protected stroller, was touching. Lesson learned and as mentioned, Mum will come out much loved in time, for being protective for the little one.
I also liked the boss getting on top of the young man. He will come to respect the boss by following the rules of diligence and calm discipline. Going to clean up before bringing refills of the drinks (you and guests) was about learning from one’s own mistakes. Beautiful and warm story of your trip. <3 Robin
Thank you Robin …. Our mistakes and miseries can be our greatest teachers. Bourges is lovely and I owe it another chance to beguile me properly but that day I just felt rather confused. Hugs to you 🙂 x
There is a gut feeling, one I have for much of life, Fiona. I am sure there is one for this town maybe an unseen force pulling the negative reactions out of you. . .
I only wish the new guy of four months were more interested in me, the deeper feeling I felt it is dissipating sadly. So, this gloomy reply is to say, my closest friends here,two specifically will believe they were “right” and one will show it in her face and the other in her verbal (expected over many of my mistakes throughout my life)~ “I told you so!” I will stay silent and hope my building concern of said individual will rise to the occasion and be less self centered. How could he have seemed so sensitive?
So there is my sharing a conundrum of a 60 year old woman with a 48 year old man, thinking this was seriously the last having to get to know someone as he proceeded us a team and age didn’t matter, but after romantic interludes, seeming to move and distance himself. Over coffee, I can imagine a friendly, “there, there” from you. <3
I never say I told you so because I don’t judge, not liking it when people cast judgement and opinions on me! So, since I’m not there with you, I will put a virtual hand on yours, look you virtually in the eyes and say I’m sorry. I will also say that I know you to be a beautiful, talented, creative and sensitive woman with humour and pathos and understanding oozing out. Love can be fickle and cruel but promise me you won’t give up ….. Even if that’s how you feel today. Keep the faith because the right one will find you. Really and truly – I know because I have special powers in such matters 😉💖💫
Rain… that quintessentially summer’s surprise… well, in Ireland… all year surprise! At least your was likely to be on the warmish side…
I lived in West Cork for a while …. That lush green that gives the Emerald Isle its nickname doesn’t come from no-where!