terry on the ferry

WE'VE CROSSED LA MANCHE more times than we can readily account for, Madame M and me. You'd expect one or two of those to have been a bit on the wild side given how often we've sailed, it's about the law of averages, and it is true we have had the occasional frisky but stimulating passage.

I should think that the ship most often graced by our patronage is the Brittany Ferries Amorique, (my snap of the motor vessel is above) – out of Plymouth (going) or Roscoff (coming back). Overnight usually but not exclusively: this time we'd booked the overnighter.  But when we boarded this favoured conveyance in late September this year [it sports Plisson lighthouse photos as a decorative motif in cabins and the public spaces so gets our thumbs up on decor] together with my senior brother Terry as our travel companion, we suffered a voyage that we mostly want to forget! Nothing wrong with the ship mind you, – but why, well over an hour after its scheduled time of departure, were we still tied up in Plymouth, a bit like a cruiser overnighting on a grand tour?

Well, I concluded, that given the approaching bad weather, forecasted by the met office with various coloured warnings (I think we were attracting an amber), the Amorique's commanding officer had probably decided to adopt a plan to get across as fast and as quickly as poss, rather than take the leisurely pace normally adopted by the overnight boat. I reasoned that maybe the ship responds better to a bit of welly in a storm. Short and fast, rather than slow and sedate. Sometime after 'lights out' then, the ship slipped moorings and pootled off into the E of the S.

Terry had already approved his cabin and taken to his bunk, with us next door up there on deck nine. We all looked forward to being gently rocked to the land of nod, awakening refreshed and ready for the rigours of the first day on the other side.

I might have slept, not sure, because rather more than the usual pitch and yaw proved to be on the nightime menu; we seemed to be on a roll, one side to the other, and them some. I felt it incumbent to hold on manfully to whatever I could, but still got regularly biffed in the upper berth: I feared at any minute I might be precipitated onto the cabin floor below not withstanding the restraining pop-up rail attached to my bed designed to avoid such a occurrence.

We passed a most uncomfortable night we all agreed later. I was glad indeed when the pinkity plonkity music designed to gently bring one to consciousness after a night of calm and health giving slumber, confirmed that we were within an hour or less of getting alongside terra firma and that breakfast was now being served in a number of retail outlets down on distant deck seven.

No surprise then, after bro and self had availed ourselves of the gratis grub we attracted with our club voyage tickets down there, and having ultimately disembarked from the now sober, none rocking Amorique, safe ensconced in Roscoff, that we found ourselves perpetually behind rain streaked windshields for the whole of the day, yeah, even unto La Rochelle and our oft frequented hotel.

The first day just seemed interminable. What an introduction to travelling with the Melling-Smiths! We sympathised as fully as folk trying to pull off a good show for kith and kin might be expected to. Terry did not complain one jot, to give him his due. Mrs M and self might have muttered a tad concerning a certain 'law of sod'…

After such an unprepossessing start, our bad luck ameliorated somewhat and we journeyed on without much more than the odd splash of the wet stuff.

Mrs M and I now think maybe we might be better advised to make the transit a three hotel passage in future, when we have a guest on board, in the manner adopted with Dr G in 2018. I hope the fresh morning  perambulation round La Rochelle for our breakfast, our subsequent missing out of Perigeaux, the overnight at Cahors with attendant bridge inspection, the Viaduc de Millau experience and a sun soaked fish lunch on the mediterranean may have at least offset the rather rocky start to Terry's journey and subsequent stay with us in Sablet. Conditions were, after all, a bit beyond our control. 

We take the rough with the smooth don't we Mrs M?
We certainly do Mr Smiff, we certainly do……

The snaps herewith show Amorique entering Roscoff on a sunnier occasion; our guest braving strong winds and rain at St Brevin, across the way from the St Nazaire shipyards: La Rochelle old port at break of day; KTS at the Viaduc de Millau; and Marseillan port where we lunched at La Pacholene, opposite Noilly Prat, as y'do. The clouds at last dispersed!


gardens and installations

OUR RETURN TO CHAUMONT was a very enjoyable experience, all in all. As you can see, we've been here before. 
In fact time was when a return from our summer holiday without dropping in on this annual event would have been unthinkable. But like most things in life, it palled a bit after nine or ten visits; we felt it had stagnated somewhat, lost its freshness, ceased to surprise… so it dropped from our routes to and from.
Eleven years on we are seduced once more by the comprehensive website describing a considerable expansion of what is on offer, over and above the twenty-two garden sets that make up the core of the annual garden festival, changing year by year to explore a set theme.

Now there is more 'art' over and above (but sympathetic to) the gardens, more what I would call installation art, which is a reasonable development I suppose, given that when we last visited Chaumont we felt that wit and novelty was rather eclipsing the idea of 'garden'. Sometimes the garden aspect  of what was being shown was playing very much second or even third fiddle to that of 'installation'. To some extent this was still true in the garden festival number 28 but there has been a change of management. New blood new ideas! Now, there are significant artists making original and new work here in the splendid spaces of the grounds, stables and the chateau itself. New work, not gardenly but in support (loosely) of the annual theme (I think). Which this year was: gardens of paradise.

I am not about to try and give you very much of a snap shot of what we saw in our five-and-a-bit hours on site. If you are really interested in this singular arts and gardens initiative you can do no better (other than getting off down to the chateau and drinking it all in yourself) than visit the Chaumont web site [click here!].

We liked it. We missed great chunks of it (like the chateau which we thought you had to pay additionally to enter, but no, no longer, riff raff can now enter on the back of the overall entrance to the festival fee) but we enjoyed the new (to us) gardens and art in the extensive grounds and were pretty well fagged out by the time we drew stumps and left the scene.  I was going to try and compose some sort of album somewhere but for now I hold up my hand and say that the garden festival has become more secondary; the installations scored more highly for me, and I hope we will go again and see the new stuff coming next year. We'll see. The festival garden 'installations'? OK, good in their way but we've seen more innovation in earlier years, felt almost that we might be sort of going round again. Nevertheless, with all the other stuff to see, a great day out.

After this diversion we pottered on to Le Mans, struggled right through the city to our hotel, a process not helped by heavy traffic, bad signage, road works, diversions and even a wrong turning into a complete pedestrian zone requiring a friendly local to release us by activating a bollard barrier and then directing us, by bicycle, to the right road and the right bridge, to our hotel. And it was crêpes again for supper. Not bad, not good.

Getting out of Le Mans was a whole lot easier than getting in.

Now here's the thing. Instead of me foisting my albums onto my readership this time, here are links to the snaps Mrs Melling took, instead. Well why not? She takes reasonable visual accounts of things and needs a bit of encouragement from time to time. This pic of Le Mans Cathedral is one of hers (I forget to carry my camera). Anyway: try these:
Mary's Chaumont Albums one,  Mary's Chaumont Albums two,  Mary's Chaumont Albums three.

There you are! Get the picture?


coming back cooling down

DESPITE THE HEAT, we decided, as we knocked off the Sablet sand from our open toeds, not to return too post haste back into the myre and turmoil of the ongoing brexit balls up. 

Not that it was that spontaneous: a visit to RHS Rosemoor with Dr G before we dispatched to Sablet prompted us to reflect on former excursions en route home to the Chaumont Garden Festival, ten times in eleven years, no less. In those days we were wont to camp on the Cher and spend a whole day at the Chaumont. What would it be like now since our last visit in 2005? The website looked tempting and clearly the ambition of the place has grown since we last strolled round the exhibition gardens up there on the edge of the Loire.

For those who constantly interrogate the variety of our route strategies, I include our planned route left, not that we stuck to it without variation, as per… But you can see, we used four hotels and I am pleased to say they were all adequately air-conditioned.

Our experience has always been that we leave Sablet suitably attired for the weather in Sablet and arrive at whatever our destination might be looking and feeling considerably underdressed. With our plan to cross over the Puy de Dôme this time after the Issoire stop over we expected the usual shock of the cool but actually it was very pleasant.

So! After the usual ascent onto the uplands of the Massif Central (seriously underdressed for breakfast at Thueyts before the climb, but so were others) we wandered off piste as it were and passed through these jolly places (below) to reach Issoire where we found Rapunzel was letting her hair down at the town hall for some exhibition about hair! (we missed out on that – but ate aligot for supper that was of the first order). Aligot? Cheese (Tonne de Laguiole, or Cantal in extremis) and mashed potato, butter and garlic whipped and beaten together into a stretchy consistency, eaten with a large local sausage on this occasion. I am dribbling at the memory . . .

From Issoire then, to Amboise over the top again very fine open country with big skies.  Breakfast at Champeix, too early to take the waters at St Nectaire, then out into the high country… Just imagine in the winter though, low ragged clouds obscuring views and driving in the cloud half the time.

Auzances seemed to have surrendered its centre, lock stock and barrel, to the curse of the travelling fairground franchise. Houses and the church completely blocked in by some of the worst spray painted 'experiences' we have ever seen. Not surprising that the town was almost deserted. Everything else on the road after that was much fairer in my opinion. A jolly good journey: even had time to go to Oisly to lay in some Touraine for the dark months ahead (although the domaine could not find our account, it being a few years since we took on bottles at this favourite place). Amboise was throbbing with tourists: we crêped after a bit of a search. Good hotel though. Comfy. Out of town. Just up the road from Chaumont… (the next post).


Tour de France 2019

24 JULY STAGE 17 PONT du GARD to GAP. We have done some hours roadside for this damned race in past years and we'll never get that time back. 

This time the race is coming as close to Sablet as anybody can remember so we decide we shall not road-side until the riders are within a few minutes of our chosen vantage point (chosen I might add after several investigations and trials and excursions to work out where we might get the longest view). We've been confined to barracks for so long in the afternoon by the heat, coincidently watching the race unfold, but on this day we slide into the motor and drive for almost five minutes in the searing heat to the quiet little road junction we frequently cross en route to Rasteau.

Of course we can't quite get there as the world and his wife are already ensconced at the spot we have earmarked for ourselves because it provides the only shade for miles along the route of today's stage. So we abandon our wheels and trudge the last 150 metres or so, to try and find that ultimate viewing spot. The tour caravan has long gone and we can easily determine the mad fools who have been here since that passing (at least two hours ahead of the race proper) by the silly hats, free waggy-hands and other freebie junk in their possession. But we do have a grudging admiration for those who have brought tables, chairs, picnics, drinks in cool boxes etc etc to make the long wait normally associated with road-siding that bit more tolerable. It is after all, a part of the tradition of this race which is the sporting event which easily reaches the highest number of witnesses of such a thing, in the world, in space! Millions, I kid you not. Miss it? Not likely! It is FREE!

Now, I am not going to give you a description of this year's race, not even a summary. If you are a fan of The Tour you'll know what happened and if you are not you won't want to hear it anyway, and certainly not from me. If you do, look it up for the full story, its all there on the interweb! But it was indeed a very exciting race, we enjoyed it immensely, and even this mad standing out in the high 30s for thirty or forty minutes.

The riders arrived in an escape group (first picture) within a few minutes of Mrs Melling and self settling upon our separate roadside stances, followed almost five minutes later by the peleton (second picture). As ever it was all over in a matter of a few minutes (it can be just seconds if the race is altogether and going some). But there is a fantastic wave of atmosphere, vangarded by preceding motorcyclists, cars and circling helicopters. You can't tell much of what is going on as the riders go past but we saw it, we witnessed this bit of the race, this year, it's ours.

For us, we get back to car where we realise we are almost collapsing in the heat but are soon back to common sense as the air con in the car does its business. Then off we go back to the homestead to pick up the race as it passes on through the Baronnies toward Gap. When we eventually get back to Bullsmead Court we can review the stage more thoroughly as we recorded it and hey presto there are Mr Smith and Mrs Melling caught on TV from both motorcycle cameramen and by helicopter camera -- so we can honestly say we have achieved immortality as witnesses of the memorable Tour de France 2019 and at last a meaning to our sad road-siding lives. Along with tens of thousands of other poor sots who road-side for that few seconds of excitement drama and sport!

I won't do it again! Until next time…

PS The guy carrying the number 11 in green (middle picture of the five below) is the legendary Peter Sagan, points winner of the TdeF a record number of times. I spotted last year's Tour winner Geriant Thomas too but otherwise all the main GC contenders and race leader Alaphilippe got by me without me spotting their heads. Odd that. GC? General Classification. First second –overall etc.

Some of these pictures are published by kind permission of Mrs Melling; thank you ma'am. The ones that are up the road; I was in the group of road-siders on the white lines in the snap below. Note how Mrs Melling managed to get the roundabout signage into the last picture (right for Sablet) and note the heat haze. 


pizza oven

I HAVE OFTEN EXPRESSED THE VIEW that one could be excused for assuming that the pizza is the French National Dish.

It is ubiquitous. Readily available. Everywhere. Often when there is nothing much else on offer. À Emporter or Eat In. So it is a blessing that both Mrs Melling and self quite like them. In Sablet we do both (eat in and eat out).

On the 'ill advised' visit to the S of F this summer (ill advised because the weather forecast was Scorchio-Forte but we persisted) we partook of our first pizza at the restaurant next door to our Première Classe in La Rochelle (a hotel which we patronised on our spring return [and like] and that Mrs M contacted, after our spring return, to cancel another booking she had previously secured, and paid for up front, which we couldn't use due to our early return to Britain for family reasons. The manager responded and offered a transfer of our booking to a future date up to the end of June – so here we were availing ourselves of this facility).

Sorry about that convoluted explanation but it reveals why we're back in La Rochelle a second time this year (and plan to be a third time, in fact, on the autumn trip down). The hotel is well placed in La Rochelle, comfortable, good air con,  but better still, it has this dashed good restaurant next door and they do do a mean pizza! And I had one, day one, summer transfer to Sablet.

Do you know, when we poll up to the PC in La R in September, with the senior bro as baggage, we'll be in there again and I will have yet another pizza to assuage the hunger that will by then be gnawing at my guts after the drive from Roscoff, (notwithstanding sandwiches we expect to take on board for consumption en route)? Yes I will. (Mrs Melling might have pasta) We've eaten pizzas there -- lots!

Don't worry, I am not now going to start waxing lyrical about every pizza we had on this summer trip. There isn't enough space here and anyway my vocabulary could not do justice to the variety of toppings…Neither did I take notes on the pizzas we consumed, although I can remember a number of them quite well, particularly the Sablet ones; they are impressed upon my mind. Hussein makes them and makes them fast.

Actually I really just wanted to get round to telling you that this summer we seemed on occasion to be entering the very oven in which the pizzas we ate had been baked…  In other words in was too damned hot. Got there! At last!! You might have experienced something similar I imagine.

I refer you to the terrace thermometer at 1Rue FB on 28 June as proof. Bear in mind the device is in the coolest and shadiest corner and you will realise that the 39.5°C represents a considerably higher heat on the terrace proper. Down the A9 a few miles (sorry, kilometres) a village weather station was registering France's all time record at 46°C. It was really jolly warm. I realise that fans of Fahrenheit will prefer the conversion I have included in the snap, lower left, our thermometer can do either. And fans are all we had to try to parry the heat, whilst our friends here all seem to be minded to install air con, not realising, of course, that such devices simply add to global warming (and therefore the need for air con). Far better not to be where the heat is, if one can so organise one's life.

I held on to the conviction that such heat must ultimately lead to commensurate thunderstorms, and the title picture shows the apparent approach of such an episode. But it just never happened, at least, not while we were in residence. We had one wet day only and a couple of sharp showers. My fondness for rain was up to maximum revs!

We struggled to the bar on at least three occasions where the mist sprayers were working non-stop to cool the customers and stayed to have Hussein's pizzas, and very good they are too. We took pizzas home aussi (we struggled to the bar on several occasions and did not have pizzas;  and we did not have pizzas on any visits to L'as de Coeur where the menu du jour or a la carte prevailed, despite their reputation for top flight pizzas). We also ate a fine pizza at the usual place in Buis Les Baronnies, on one of our brave trips out after visiting the blooming lavender to the north of Sainte Jalle. One of best days out actually. Fragrant. See below.

Heat, light, fragrance and pizzas and a close encounter with the Tour de France (and as ever some good conversations into the sweltering nights); that was Summer 2019.  Another post anon!

It seemed to be crêpes on the way back……


outward bound march 2019

AND SO OFF. This brief resumé is simply an outline account for me to keep a handle on what transpired as we journeyed to Sablet this first time in the year, and associate the odd image here and there with our progress south. I do make brief notes normally but they are without imagery or descriptives:- essentially a did this, did that, sort-of-a-thing. Perhaps this post will be similar, who knows, here goes . . .

WE WERE UP AT FOUR PM  (0400 if you insist) on 20th inst and such is the efficiency of our operations at that time of the day, we were smartly away at 0435, in light drizzle. we drove via Exeter and Honiton through to Poole and had three-quarters of an hour spare before the reporting deadline. Once on board the trusty Barfleur (upon which we have so often crossed over to La France, and can still recall the son-and-heir playing in the toddler play area as a toddler, and the teeth gritting this caused at times). The ship has been about a bit since then mind but has been tastefully refitted at least once to retain a degree of contemporary comfort. We gave little heed however: after eating some shockingly leathery toast we  took to our day cabin and caught up on the sleep we missed out on getting up so early, so that we were refreshed for our exit onto Francofirma at Cherbourg, a mostly sunny afternoon drive to a late lunch of home provender in the car, in a car park, in the enticing looking town of Bricquebec.

After this pause we missed our planned onward road by a turn so took the more westerly alternative down to Avranches and our hotel. Which we found without mishap or further missed turnings. After dumping our kit we trundled into town to locate a crêperie and before enjoying that, went into the hillside park to view Mont St. Michel backlit by the rays of the westering sun. All good; crêpes, hotel and night's rest most satisfactory.

THE SECOND DAY OF TRAVEL [21st] was the longest in miles, prosecuted under cloudless skies and moderately warm sun, after a chilly start. An excellent if pricey pair of grande-crêmes with first division croissants only five miles on at Ducey set us up nicely for the day. Nothing untoward occurred (sorry, this is probably not what you were hoping for) and we enjoyed our progression through pleasant, if not spectacular countryside, on mostly quiet roads. Around mid-day we crossed the bridge below, turned back and ate the excellent sandwiches we had purchased earlier at Ducey on the riverside illustrated herewith and below. This was at a village called Lavardin and the river is Le Loir (not The Loire but a principle tributary of same…) – chiff-chaffs singing, ducks dabbling and light breezes riffling the silven flow. Most pleasant.

Thereafter, Mrs Melling took the odd corner off our route en route and added the odd extra mile here and there; there was some confusion at Blois, even the odd unkind word was exchanged, but all in all we had a most convivial drive right into the centre of Bourges for a revisit to the city's spiffing cathedral.

We like this one and I think I might even count it as my favourite amongst French gothic wonders, on account of it having double aisles right round the ambulatory as well as being sans transepts (I have nothing against transepts but if aisles are to go right round then transepts rather mess that up; at Bourges the transepts are reduced to simple exterior porches albeit with many sculpted figures attached therein. I took the picture (left) in 1991… see? still no transepts.
This noble edifice provided Adam's first experience of a cathedral, back when, and he took it in as only a wondering baby can, head thrust back, eyes wide in awe and testing the acoustics of the nave in between pauses associated with the organ being sounded in practice mode.  We have been a few times since but our last drop-by was curtailed by a funeral . . . These latest photographs don't do the space in there justice, but still:

It took a while to find our hotel from this slightly unplanned approach to Bourges : the traffic was heavy and we got ourselves on the right road but in the wrong direction for a short while; but it came right in the end. So it was that we drove out to St Florent sur Cher for a pizza, the only place open and as luck would have it, most acceptable. We also gave the Skoda some victuals but I am sorry to say the motor from thence forward was loathe to start promptly; I wonder if the fuel was a bit gritty or something -- it came from a reputable source. Anyway, it worried me and at time of writing it still does, slightly. Dash it, it is almost new!

MARCH TWENTY-SECOND and the elder brother Terry's birthday: I sent him a card. JS Bach's was yesterday: I didn't send Johanns one as he has been deceased since 1750. After getting the car started (it behaved entirely normally on the road, it is just getting going, initially) we followed the route described in the previous blog to this – and had the worst breakfast ever at a place called Cérilly where we were presented with the dregs of UHT milk in a scruffy tetrabric and half a cup each of barely-warm weak coffee in cups without saucers: Mrs M only managed to acquire but one croissant!! –we had to stop in the next village to retrieve the situation…

Some additional variation was employed to better take in the Loire Gorges, flooded and dammed to provide hydro-electric power and possibly some water, to Roanne etc.

Lovely weather.  Quiet and often deceptively narrow roads but nowhere much for lunch (the only likely place, waterside, had frogs legs and chips but no takers so we simply sank a glass of liquid refreshment and used the loo);  thus it was that we assembled the last of our hardboiled eggs and cold sausages, crisps etc, and 'made do'.

The landscape picture above is the panoramic view from the top of the tower in Saint Maurice-sur-Loire (see upper left); we went on to and across the Barrage-de-Villerest, the principle controlling dam-plus-power station on this stretch of the upper Loire. That is a bit of it (left); it was being overflown by the occasional sand-marten while we inspected it.

The picture below shows what was once a castle on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Loire, but now is an island castle, usually surrounded on three sides by the slow flowing reservoir waters of the much tampered with upper reaches. It's name escapes me: Mrs Melling probably mentions it in her blog.

After putting away such refreshment that we had, Mrs Melling then amended our route to avoid the busy valley routes leading to St Etienne: we took to the hills gaining long views of snow capped Alps and glimpses across to what I maintain must have been the upper snow-caked levels of the Central Massif. Lovely country, blossom arriving big time.

When we finally left the uplands we found ourselves in a rather busy Givors and almost at a loss as to how to get to anywhere where we might cross the Rhône. Traffic was shocking, signposting even more so; so we fought our way up the west bank of the river for a mile or two when we finally got to a bridge Mrs Melling identified as extant, which proved almost jammed up with Friday evening traffic too, but from which nevertheless we achieved a route to our rather comfortable hotel in a somewhat noisy corner betwixt motorway and railway. In fact, there was almost immediately, upon arriving in the sanctuary of our en suite,  an autoroute shunt (clump crash crumple clonk) just beyond our window, to add even more chaos to the traffic trundling in all directions. Be assured, no one was hurt save the vehicles involved (as far as we could tell) but it took quite a while to clear up and reopen the lanes affected. Incidentally that window in our room was almost soundproof when closed so traffic noise was not an issue in the obtaining of our revitalising repose later on.

Hopes of eating at a nearby renowned restaurant were dashed when we strode out to it: fully booked. It looked very inviting. Worst still there was nowhere else save the Campanile hotel restaurant down there and the nose-to-tail traffic precluded any idea of getting out the motor again. The shame of it! We bit our lip and went in. It was the usual bland experience. OK but only OK.

OUR CONCLUDING TRANSIT day was straight forward enough but I found the charms of the Rhône corridor have somewhat faded for me, now: not so the charms of the fine wines of Crozes-Hermitage (see left!) that are cultivated therein, overlooking Tournon. We breakfasted successfully at said town after a search for the croissant, sat in the sun, watched the river boat passengers go off by the coachload, then crossed and recrossed the Rhône, leaving the river valley at Charme for the lovely country of the Drôme via Crest. Once more Madame la navigatrice inventively introduced us to quite spectacular limestone country south of Crest, around Saou and Soyans, in cloudless skies and warming sunshine, ultimately arriving at Valreas to catch up with some supermarket shopping; then hey-ho into Sablet, arriving at 13.15, to unlock, unpack and relish the superb light, the warmth, and to try and get some of that into the cold house. All well, just the odd patch of flaking paint to repatch and further peeling of shutter paint to shrug the shoulders at…

That's it then, in a nutshell. The car is still not starting promptly despite fresh petroleum distillate… wouldn't have happened with the Berlingo… it was a diesel.

Footnote: The Vaucluse weather was wonderful upon arrival and one could sit in the sun without a coat. However, on Monday the Mistral blew in to remind us that winter has only recently relinquished command. Warm out-of-the-wind corners could be found where basking remained possible (like round by the empty fountain by the library) but our terrace at No.1 Rue-FB was a no-no. All potted plants withdrawn until risk of loss and wind-burn is passed.

The minimum temperature in the house during the winter months absence did not drop below 5.9° however, reassuring, and thus mild as Sablet winters go. Two days of blowing and now we are back to calm, mostly. Maximum temperature so far (March)  comes in at 23.5°C. Clouds? a distant memory. Not bad huh? Oh dear, now I am beginning to miss the rain…


exit from brexit

AS THE TSUNAMI OF BREXIT approaches strong believers in the EU like ourselves are being battered and harassed by the realisation that things will never be the same again and that the UK is set to become that potty little fiefdom off the coast of where it's at, its nose in the air and its economy down the toilet. More or less.

We've had it up to here with the stupidity of it all; we are therefore bent on ensuring that if Article 50 is imposed on 29 March (and at the time of writing it just might get delayed a month or two) we at least will have exited and be on the other side of the ditch, even if it leaves us holding the wrong travel insurance, invalid driving licences, whatever. I may run to a GB sticker for the motor, just in case (we've updated our breathalyser).

We are expecting to meet up with our chums of similar disposition on the Sablet circuit thereat to wring our hands collectively a bit more, no doubt – then continue once more as if nothing has happened. Anyway, we always planned to make this spring voyage to the light and joy of Vaucluse and are determined not to let a 'democratic' national death wish by a so called majority in the shires call time on us – just yet.

You will be keen to familiarise yourself with our route out, I am sure:

OK so you couldn't give a toss, but there it is anyway: Gorges & Bourges  –and such is our nervousness at what chaos may ensue after 'the divorce' we have booked the hotels and ferry back again, to ensure we can deliver the son-and-heir back to the satanic shelves of Bath by due date, not that there is likely to be much to stack by that time as the food shortages take hold, as the trucks back up forlornly at ferry ports in their attempt to bring in the provender that heretofore flowed seamlessly into the motherland as well as out…

Keen observers will note that we are utilising the Poole crossing this spring (after an absence of a year or two) and not overnighting either, whilst on the high seas. This means an early start from the homestead, oh dear, but in recognition of our growing maturity we have secured a day cabin so that we can take our repose, recover lost hours of slumber and disembark refreshed, with some energy in the tank for the drive to our first overnighter. I am sure you will be reassured by this, thank you for your concern.

As ever, we are investing in another variation: roads not altogether unfamiliar to Mrs Melling and self (are there any such left?) but in a new arrangement and order, resurrecting  the approach to Vaucluse down the Rhône Valley in part as well as probable passage through some of the gorges of the Loire. A chance to revisit a favourite cathedral at Bourges is included (double aisles right round the ambulatory, as you are probably aware).
But not in that order.
The northbound, Bullsmead-bound journey concluding the spring fixture in this darkling year, incorporates some aspects of the west coast and runs to no less than a four hotel extravagance. It affords an opportunity to take a closer look at Bayonne (avoiding the acquisition of a warning parking ticket this time, I trust) and, if the cards fall right, we should get ourselves up to the top of the St Martin (Biarritz) lighthouse!! Joy! – not written in to the itinerary but politely understood between the party members as a desirable target feature.

 Here it our return routlet, subject to the usual caviats, namely whims and fancies on route:

Yes, of course, there is always a lighthouse; I make no apology (it was Mrs Melling who sussed out that it might be possible to get in and up the Pointe St Martin light this time): fermé when we visited in 2017. Built (well, designed) by Fresnel himself, y'know. Fresnel? Only the father of lighthouse optics, that's all – look him up, I've prompted you before about  Freznel! The king of optics.

We also anticipate introducing the offspring to the wonders of the Contis paint-job en route (see last spring!), and taking a half day concluding dawdle round a bit of the north coast of Brittany… So we will almost certainly mop up the odd harbour light and salute one or two previously scored phares before we trudge off to Roscoff for the debatable pleasures of a daytime ferry back to Plymouth. Then, no doubt, after a return to the old-time drag of trying to get through post brexit customs without losing the will to live, we should get back to Bullsmead Towers before May 14 comes to an end.

Questions concerning these progresses may be forwarded to me at any time between now and then; you will already be completely familiar with my desire to make all as transparent as possible to my public whoever he or she may be. The Atlas Michelin 2014 has not been replaced with an update as it still has all its pages; although worn, it is still serviceable, and smells rather nice.

Sadly I have to report that this return has had to be put on hold. We hope to do it now in the autumn; we have to get back sooner than originally planned, without the son-and-heir coming out to do it with us, all due to a very significant family bereavement. 
Stuff happens… but not Brexit… we will return as we left, i.e, as EU citizens still!