A quiet day on site

Next day was a Saturday and the forecast was for sun all day, praise be, so before breakfast I went to the laundry room and put a wash on.  Hopefully I won’t have to do another one before we go home!  We’d brought as much as we could in the way of clothes, towels and bedding, but there’s a limit to how much weight you can carry, so on a three-week trip it’s almost inevitable there’ll be a time when you have to use a washing machine.  The day was mostly sunny, although not as hot as when we first arrived, so we sat outside the caravan and relaxed.  Unfortunately a large French family arrived with two vans and one camper van and set up camp on an adjacent pitch, spreading out in front of the pitch so it was a tight squeeze for anyone to drive past them.  They played endless ball games – football, rugby, tennis, in fact anything involving a ball or frisbee of any size or shape.  Luckily they all went to the swimming pool in the afternoon so we had some peace!

In the evening John cooked chicken on the Cadac and we watched rock-climbers on the cliff face opposite as we drank a glass or two of wine.  The wine was called Chateau de Planques, pronounced “plonk”, but tasted a lot better than it sounded!  Later, two hot air balloons floated overhead, but both had trouble maintaining height – one came so low we thought it was going to land in the camp site! 

Chateau Milandes

Sunday was cloudy with a bit of rain but we decided to go out anyway, to Chateau Milandes not far from Castelnaud.  It’s a lovely Renaissance chateau, but the main attraction is the personality of its owner from 1947 to 1968, the extraordinary Josephine Baker.  Born poor and black in the USA, her talent for singing and dancing (of the exotic variety) made her the star of the Folies Bergere in Paris. She had numerous famous lovers, several husbands, was a heroine of the French Resistance, became involved in the civil rights movement in America, and adopted a “rainbow tribe” of 12 children from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.  It didn’t end well – she got into financial difficulties and was evicted from the chateau.  She died in 1975 and was given a grand state funeral.

We had seen a sign for falconry displays in the gardens, no doubt provided to keep children entertained.  One was due to start just as we arrived so we decided we might as well watch, as the weather was dry for the moment.The performance was much better than I expected.  As well as various hawks and eagles there were several owls, and their keeper demonstrated their speed and accuracy at catching prey.  There are large aviaries of all kinds of birds in the grounds, and at certain times children can feed and interact with them.

Unfortunately it started drizzling so we took refuge inside the chateau, which was full of memorabilia from Josephine Baker’s career. As well as posters and photographs there were some of her fabulous stage costumes, including her daring banana skirt, recently revived by Jean Paul Gauthier, and a room dedicated to her wartime career in the Resistance.  The Art Deco bathrooms she installed had decors inspired by her favourite perfumes, Dior and Arpeges, but the large kitchen was very much a cosy family room where her entire adopted family could sit round the big farmhouse table for meals together.  As the guide book said, she was one of the most remarkable women of the twentieth century. (picture from Pinterest)

When we returned to the car park we saw it had been taken over by the Tarn Retro Auto Club – all sorts of interesting old French cars! By now the rain had really set in so we drove back and had a quiet afternoon reading yesterday’s Telegraph – not our paper of choice, but all they ever seem to sell abroad is the Mail and the Telegraph!

The weather wasn’t showing any signs of improving in the near future.  Usually, if you’re in a caravan or motorhome, you can simply move elsewhere in search of sunshine. We spent the next day lookingat our options and scrutinising several weather forecasts.It seemed the weather outlook was poor all over France.  There’s usually somewhere dry and bright, but the whole country seemed to be blanketed in rain and cloud for the foreseeable future.  We considered moving elsewhere, not for better weather, but perhaps to a city where there would be more to do on rainy days.  Our camp site, and the surrounding area, was very much geared to warm weather activities. The toilet facilities were also less than ideal – loos without seats are really not comfortable!!  But if we left,we would have to take the awning down, and it would be wet – not ideal for packing up, because of the risk of mildew. We decided to wait one more day then head to Clermont Ferrand.