Gare de Toulouse-Matabiau

After circling around our hotel in a state of semi-panic more than a few times because all the approaches we should have taken in order to access a car park were blocked by extensive roadworks happening on Allée Jean Jaurès and Boulevard Bonrepos.

Eventually, we decided to park at a multi-story car park next to Gare de Toulouse Matabiau.

Must take a picture so I won’t forget where our car is.

The mainline station was undergoing a major facelift…

After checking in at the hotel, we headed back to the station. ‘Mum, why don’t we try the metro?’ We needed to do some shopping and there weren’t many shops around our hotel.

There were two policemen in the station concourse when we walked in. So I asked one of them if he could point us towards the metro entrance. He told us to use the stairs further up and to follow the sign. I thanked him and we headed to the stairs.

Which ticketing machines are for the metro???

I can’t remember which one was the correct one but eventually I managed to buy two sets of the returns for us.

Down the escalator…

And on the platform…

We used the line A from Marengo-SNCF to Capitole.

Our little adventure in Toulouse commences!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Tours to Limoges

Our first dinner in France was a very modest affair. Apart from the fact that the day we arrived on was a French bank holiday, therefore, most of the shops except newsagents were closed but also we, especially mum, were exhausted from a long drive. ‘Shall we eat our emergency foods?’ Mum sighed. ‘Japanese pot noodles?! Yeah, let’s!’ I was rather excited because I hadn’t had any Japanese instant noodle for years!

I must say I found it rather surreal that mum and I slurping the noodle and watching a French news programme on a flatscreen TV attached to the wall. ‘Have some plum tomatoes, mum.’ I passed a plastic containers with the tomatoes to her. I found those tomatoes at a general store / liquor shop which was a stone’s throw from the hotel. The shop was rather shabby and sparsely stocked but I managed to buy tomatoes, apple juice and yoghurt for the next day. I reckoned mum might have liked to have breakfast in our room rather than to visit a dining room because of her hip problem.

The next morning, we set off to our next destination, Limoges. From Tours, we took A10 and found the route pretty straight forward. ‘Look mum! You see the word “Poitiers”?’ The city was where one of the famous battles of the Hundred Years’ War took place, and I was excited to be close to the place even though we were passing it by on a motorway.

At a service near Luant, we had lunch. Instead of pre-made sandwiches, we decided to have some hot food – grilled fish on a bed of pilau rice each and a bowl of salad to share.

The dish was good except it was a bit under seasoned. Having said that, some people may have to watch out salt intake for their health reason, we thought.

One thing we found it shame during this road trip was how rare it was to come across motorway services which were equipped with decent eateries. We didn’t expect gourmet dining but hot food cooked at the premises. However, most of the services, except a couple of exceptions, offered pre-packed food and hot drink from vending machines only.

We found a “what to do when you are attacked by terrorists” instruction on the wall of a toilet.

Unlike during our visit to Strasbourg last summer, we didn’t see any group of soldiers patrolling the streets this time. Yet, the notice on the loo wall reminded us how real terrorists’ threats still were in France.

Between Tours and Limoges, there was a famous national park, le Parc natural régional de la Brenne. There was a large map of the park by the dining area.

We arrived at a hotel just before 3pm. As we stepped out of the car, we found the air warm and slightly humid as if it was going to rain later on. ‘Bonjour.’ I and mum walked through an automatic door and met by an owner of the hotel who somehow reminded me David Bowie – slender, blond and tanned. While mum sat on a chair by the vestibule, I asked him where I could find a pay-point for public parking. ‘We need to sort it out too!’ A couple who were checking in before us wanted to know the location of the machine also, so we all followed the owner to the corner of the street and bought tickets to display on the dashboards.

The hotel had a sweeping spiral staircase which was decorated beautifully, but alas, no lift! ‘Sorry mum.’ I apologised to her while I hoisted our cases to upstairs.

Our room had a large window which faced the street and the bathroom was large and well-equipped.

‘Now, we have to sort out our dinner.’ Mum appeared still not quite fit enough to walk too far nor to go up and down the stairs. ‘What do you wanna do?’ Mum suggested if we could have a little stroll around the vicinity of the hotel and decide what to do about the food. ‘Hopefully, we may find a deli or a bakery nearby!’

Unfortunately, we didn’t come across anything as such. There were a plenty of cafes and eateries but they were closed as the time was mid-afternoon, too late for lunch but too early for dinner!

Then, we bumped into the couple who we met at the hotel hall. ‘We are trying to find some shop to buy snack.’ I confided to them. ‘Ohhh, it’s not easy in France, is it?’ They suggested that I should ask the guy at the hotel.

Sure enough, he directed me to a Carrefour City which was situated a block away from the hotel. We have been sniffing at the wrong tree!, mum and I lamented. After taking mum back to the room, I went to the supermarket alone.

At the shop, I bought two boxes of salad, cartons of juice, a bag of croissants and four small boxes of yoghurt. ‘So the dinner is sorted then.’ I also bought a huge reusable Carrefour shopper made with cotton and the bag proved to be a very valuable asset during our road trip.

Now, I am gonna visit the famous Gare de Limoges-Bénédictins!

‘I will take pictures and show them to you, mum!’

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Memory loss

‘Do you remember what we did in Tours?’ Mum and I still question each other but either of us can’t recall anything in detail. It was because we were more concerned about mum’s injury than paying attention to our first French city since our road trip eleven months ago.

From Caen Ferry Port to Tours was about 274km and the journey took us just under 3 hours.

Fortunately, the hotel we checked in had a lift so it made our life a lot easier, especially mine as I had to carry all the luggage.

After unpacking, we shared a bottle of beer and discussed how the day went. ‘Hope I will feel less pain tomorrow.’, mum said longingly and I nodded very hard because I couldn’t agree with her more.

One thing I remember clearly was the receptionist at the hotel. He told me that Aikido was his hobby and I taught him typical Japanese greetings such as konnichiwa, konbanwa and matane.

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Uncertain beginning…

My mum had done it again. So what had she done?, you may ask. Well, let me explain.

Everything seemed to be going swimmingly then…

After finished checking in at the gate, we moved to a security check-point and a staff there asked us to step out of the vehicle. ‘Mum, he wants us out of our car.’

I didn’t see what happened because I was occupied with the security guy and mum was at the other side of the car but she stumbled as she was climbing out of the seat and took a rather awkward tumble.

The security was all clear and we were allowed to return to the car. As I buckled up and started an engine, mum confessed what she had done to herself.

‘You did what?!’

She showed me a red mark on her knee as she recounted the circumstance of her little accident. ‘Were you hurt?!’ ‘I think I twisted my hip when I tried not to fall.’ Oh no, mum…

The journey to Caen Port was to take five hours and her injured hip started to bother her as soon as we settled ourselves in our reserved reclining seats.

‘Don’t worry, mum. I’ll fetch painkillers from the car!’

I went down to the car deck with a steward and brought back the medication and a yoga mat. ‘Mum, lie down flat on the mat.’ Even though she found it a bit embarrassing at first, she admitted that resting on the mat felt much more comfortable than on the reclining seat.

The ferry was busy with school children. It looked like there were at least three separate school trip parties on board and the kids were everywhere except the reserved areas.

You go and entertain them!

Good luck, Mr.Teddy…

Then, I went to the upper deck to take some photos so I could show them to mum…

I wished if she could come with me because the views around the upper deck area were spectacular.

We are almost there!

‘Oh, why did this happen to me?’ Mum sighed as she did her seatbelt. ‘I’m sure it will get better soon if you take it easy for a while.’ I tried to sound optimistic even though I was not sure at all.

It was hardly an auspicious beginning of our road trip…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Salut, Calais!

Our mum & daughter road trip had finally come to an end. It was a whirlwind ten days holiday which was filled with lots of laughter, meaningful conversations and a few unexpected events. I was very sad because the holiday with my precious mum was over but also I was relieved because I managed to finish the 3756km drive without any incident and to deliver mum home safely.

After leaving Cité Europe, we followed Google’s instructions for Eurotunnel Terminal.

Wind mills were hard at work at Calais…

My word of advice for anyone who is considering using Google Map in order to find the right terminal for cars and coaches is, DON’T USE GOOGLE MAP unless you want to end up at a terminal for freights!

Until we found ourselves at the check-in gates for lorries, I had 100% confidence in Google Map. However, the glitch let us down at the very end. Shame on you, Google!

After a few frantic three-points turns and whizzing around countless roundabouts, we managed to find the right terminal without using satnav and parked the car at their car park.

‘Phew, that was a bit hairy!’, we agreed as we alighted from the car…

We looked around a shop and used a bathroom before joining a queue for the immigration.

The queue through UK Border Force point was long and slow …

Same as the cross-channel ferry journeys, an interview by the immigration officer took place while we were in our car. Even though, the interview was friendly and courteous, it was much more thorough , therefore, it took a lot longer than I expected. Since the UK terror threat level was still critical, it was understandable that the border force wanted to scrutinise every single person entering the UK properly.

Finally, we were boarding…

Salut, Calais…

A journey to Folkestone was smooth and eventless.

When we arrived to the UK, the sun was already set…

So this was the way our road trip ended. I never thought that writing a chronicle of the holiday would take this long! Anyway, that’s a wrap! Thank you for your patience and I hope our adventure was entertaining and inspiring somehow. We are already plotting another mum & daughter road trip 2018 which will take us all the way to the south of France and back. I can hardly wait…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Blog at WordPress.com.