Without wishing to practically repeat my tales of torment of last Summer, when we were enduring a very long heatwave after what seemed like the longest run of continual rain in history, I do feel it would be negligent of me to allow the most recent spell of scorching weather to go unmentioned, especially considering that it was a record-breaker.
Normally we are still experiencing plenty of rain and thunderstorms in June, not to mention, the occasional hailstorm and this June was proving to be no exception where that was concerned apart from that it went from cloud, rain and temperatures in the late twenties to a piercing 39–42 degrees in the space of just a couple of days.
Thankfully, this time we were not completely caught out as we had prepared early for summer.
Ignoring the thick fleece, dual control electric blanket still saved in our Amazon basket from what felt like just a few weeks ago….
Instead, we promptly ordered two small ceiling fans, this time not waiting until the hot weather was already upon us and having the same conversation as we do each and every year as we lay sweltering in bed,
“We should have ordered a ceiling fan!”
Upon arrival, one fan was immediately installed directly above our bed and, it would seem, not a moment too soon for just a few days later it was employed on a permanent basis.
As appreciated as it’s efforts were, unfortunately a fan has zero cooling properties other than to provide the faintest breeze, so when the temperature of your bedroom has already reached 30+ degrees, all it can really do is push the stifling, searing air around a little bit. On the plus side it was very quiet during operation so at least when the temperatures are not so severe as they currently are, we will not effectively be swapping a sleepless night due to the inescapable heat for a sleepless night due to the fact that we are now sharing the bedroom with something the decibel equivalent of a jet engine. It can purr quietly away whilst we eventually drift into a slightly sweaty slumber.
A few fidgety nights were endured, however, when the forecast showed that the temperatures would reach 41 degrees on the Saturday (which we absolutely knew would feel much, much hotter outside our sundrenched house) and with the internal temperature of the house already being pretty unbearable, I decided that a night away might be the only sensible solution to what would otherwise likely be another mainly sleepless and uncomfortable night.
I searched earnestly for a hotel that promised both air-con and a swimming pool and also within a maximum two hour drive from our home. I found about twenty or so options that had availability for the following day and rejected them one by one on their lack of merit (which for me can be anything from a poor review, a noisy location, unattractive presentation or just if there is too much use of the colour blue in the bedroom. In the main, I detest blue décor for a bedroom).
All were rejected for one picky reason or another until I was left with just a single option, a small hotel in a leafy part of Trélissac, just a few kilometres from the picturesque city of Périgueux and having never yet visited that area and with Sunday promising to be much, much cooler, by some considerable measure, it seemed the obvious choice.
I mean, we were ostensibly going for practical
reasons, namely the air-con and the pool, but no harm in taking advantage of an
opportunity to see something new and turn it into a bit of a mini-break, after
all, I do loves a holiday!
Thus, it was booked, my husband was duly informed of our new agenda for the weekend and we spent another uncomfortable and relatively sleepless night in our own bed with the knowledge at least that tomorrow when it would be absolutely intolerable, we would be elsewhere.
The next morning we were up, showered, breakfasted, packed in five minutes, flip flops, swimwear and a spare summer dress for me, flip-flops, clean shirt and trunks for my husband, I had assembled a picnic of sorts and plenty of water into a cool bag and we were leaving the house by nine for a two hour journey and a possible check in time of 12h00 with time for a stop on the way if we saw something interesting en route.
An hour and a half into our journey, there was a thick fog and the car thermometer was reading an external temperature of 22 degrees.
I wondered, and not for the first time, that I might have been a little too presumptuous with my packing in only taking the bare essentials and assuming that I would need nothing more than a bikini and a strappy little skater dress and flip flops.
I am renowned for always wearing the least practical clothes for practically every thing I do, or taking the most inappropriate clothing selection on each of our holidays, despite that we mostly go away in our seven seater car and therefore I could literally take my entire wardrobe (including the actual wardrobe) if I chose to, but I always insist on packing as little as possible into the smallest case known to man, and also forming my wardrobe decisions of what to take on the basis of the most favourable weather forecast I can find and seemingly with only the ‘dressing for dinner’ part in mind, without due consideration to the various other activities of the day. I can’t tell you the number of times we have had to cut short a walk or an exploration because I am wearing a skimpy dress and pointless but very pretty designer flip flops which prove not at all ideal for the terrain. I don’t own a single ‘North Face’ item of clothing!
Thankfully just fifteen minutes later the sun started to burn through the fog and the temperature started to climb.
Not having stopped anywhere en route and it being too early to arrive at the hotel, we decided to continue onto Périgueux for a quick first look and just to get our bearings.
After circling a very full car park several times, we thankfully found a parking spot in the city centre, right under a shady tree, I feared that one more unsuccessful circuit and my husband would have irritably announced “Bollocks to this” before swinging the car around and setting off back in the direction of the hotel, muttering recriminations to himself. When that happens, I have learnt it’s best just to let him have his little moment without interruption. Happily though, we were now parked and set off on foot in the direction of the Cité Mediaeval’ armed with a bottle of water.
To our delight we discovered a market was in progress in the square just in front of the Saint-Front Cathedral; the city was vibrant, full of life and a multitude of colours, sounds and scents, some of them pleasant and some of them, unfortunately, of those people who still misguidedly believe that they need not shower or wear deoderant during a heatwave.
We perused the narrow streets and alleyways for about forty minutes until the heat become a little too unbearable and deciding that we would save our more in-depth explorations of the city until the next day when it promised to be much cooler, we set off for the hotel so that we could avail ourselves of some much needed refreshment in the pool.
On our short drive from Périgueux to Trélissac, I joked to my husband that it would be just our luck to arrive at the hotel to find that not only was the pool closed for some obscure ‘French’ reason but that the air-con had also packed up, as they so often do when they are actually genuinely needed and required to start working harder. The joke was essentially mental preparation for that very eventuality, should it occur, since we have experienced a great many similar disappointments on our numerous previous travels.
We needn’t have worried, we checked in
without issue, we were reliably informed that the air-con was working perfectly
and that the pool was open, not only that but it looked like we would have it all
to ourselves since it was currently devoid of any visitors.
We changed into our swimwear in record time, the air-con reliably blasting out icy coolness and five minutes after having arrived, we were poolside and had our pick of the empty sunbeds, obviously shade being the aim.
I moved two beds into an area that would benefit from full shade all day long and discovering that the outdoor shower was non existent, for its head and tap had been removed, we had to forego the pre-pool shower and plunge straight into the coolness of the small pool.
We swam, we floated, we carried each other around playfully, we enjoyed sole use of the pool for at least an hour before anyone else came along.
By about two o’clock I had started to wonder what on earth we were going to do with the rest of the long hot day, we had been checked in for just under two hours and already we had used the pool extensively and were now laying on our sunbeds in the shade for the second or third time, reading our books or using the internet, or just doing a spot of shade-bathing. It was now a blistering 40 degrees so venturing out anywhere or going for a walk was definitely off the cards.
I yawned and fidgeted about trying to get more comfortable, I turned onto my side and propped myself onto one elbow and studied my husbands face as he lay there, relaxed, tranquil, undemanding. He must have sensed the scrutiny and opened his eyes looking at me with a knowing grin “You’re bored aren’t you?” he said, more as a statement than an enquiry.
“A bit” I admitted “I can’t believe we’ve only been here for two hours” I said checking the time on my phone again.
He launched off his sunbed and leapt head first into the pool, glided the short length underwater and emerged the other end. I joined him by carefully lowering myself into the water from the edge and that’s pretty much how the afternoon continued, retiring to our sunbeds to dry off in the shade until it became just too damn hot and entirely necessary to jump back into the pool again.
By now, there were quite a few people who had joined us. Every sun bed was taken and chairs were being dragged from the restaurant area with people looking desperately for a few square feet of shade.
At about five pm, we decided that we had enjoyed the pool area for quite long enough and retired to our beautifully cool room, allowing someone else to use our sun loungers in their coveted shady spot. It was quite the dash for them as we packed up our things and moved away. We showered, we changed, we had something to eat and feeling refreshed and relaxed we decided that it would probably be a good time to take a little stroll out along the river. We left the cool confines of the hotel and tried to stay in the shade as much as possible. We ambled along the river, it was very humid and what little we were wearing clung to us uncomfortably within minutes of us setting off. By the time we returned to the hotel, some forty-five minutes later my face was almost beetroot and I looked like I had showered fully clothed!
We checked the time it was 20h05, we checked the notice for the pool “Pool opening hours: 09h00 – 20h00” we exchanged disappointed looks with each other and just then the manager appeared on the terrace and told us that we were welcome to use the pool all night if we wanted to. We returned to our room to take the briefest of showers and change back into our swimwear and then we were back in that pool before the manager could change his mind.
Again we had it to ourselves.
Later, our delightfully cooled room provided a wonderful night of decent sleep and the following morning we checked out and headed into Périgueux for a walk around the city, this time in far more pleasant conditions of 26 degrees and some cloud cover.
The old part of the city was almost deserted and we took many photographs of the empty streets. It was Sunday so, naturally, we expected for the shops to be closed but we were surprised at how few people were about, and then we discovered that a Vide Grenier and Brocante (boot fair/antiques market) was happening in another part of the city, about a fifteen minute walk away.
We headed off for a look around, it was huge, it went on for mile after mile. Far more than I could be bothered to look around. Thankfully we only had €60 in cash on us, else we might have come away with a huge and exceedingly ugly, taxidermy head of a French wild boar that my husband had taken quite a fancy to.
It really was a monstrous looking hulk of a thing, great big curled yellow teeth and bristly, matted hair.
Thank goodness they were asking €80 for it and no doubt, being French, they wouldn’t have accepted an offer for anything less than €78 and that would have been accompanied with lots of shaking of the head, the famous Gaelic shrug and wild gesticulations as if they are doing you the biggest favour in the world by giving you a 2.5% reduction!
When we had seen all we wanted of Périgueux we set off in the direction of home, stopping briefly at the incredibly picturesque town of Brântome for a bite to eat by the river. Brântome, the Venice of the Périgord is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. It is quite a long list, but to be fair, everything that we have ever visited from “Les plus beaux villages de France” is indeed, decidedly very beautiful.
We arrived home at about four pm, feeling relaxed, refreshed and like we had enjoyed a holiday that had been far longer than the thirty hours that we had been absent.
The temperature outside was about thirty degrees so vastly cooler than it had been the day before.
Unfortunately, our south -facing, stone house had retained all of the temperature it had sucked up from the last few days and our bedroom was now at an unpleasant 33 degrees. The glasses of water that we had left on our bedside tables were positively warm. Ugh!
We threw open the window and set up a fan on the windowsill to attempt to draw in some cooler air but even at eleven pm, long past our usual bedtime and when the external temperature had dropped significantly to a pleasant 22 degrees, our bedroom temperature was still unyielding and refused to drop below 32.7 degrees. There was simply no exchange of air taking place, I’m still not sure how this is possible, but 32.7 degrees it was staying and we relented to having to attempt some sleep in that heat with nothing but our nakedness and our small ceiling fan for comfort; the pool and the cool, comfortable, confines of our refrigerated hotel room now seeming nothing more than a fantasy.
In other news, with the forecast showing nothing but glorious solid balls of glowing orange fire for the next 10 days and very probably also beyond that, we decided that it was probably a good time to erect the Gazebo in the back garden.
Bugger me, just a few nights later we had a tremendously loud storm that had not been forecast, there was thunder and lightning pretty much throughout the entire night (yes, another sleepless night….Zzzzzzz), not to mention some wild and torrential rain. Lots and lots of rain!
The next morning we discovered this….
The Virtual Recluse
P.S. Am I the only person who is married to a man who insists on having a bowl of piping hot porridge for breakfast, even during a record breaking heatwave?