11 November 2012

Robert comes to Melle

Hello, I'm back! Apologies for my absence over the past 10 days; I have been rather occupied since my last post, as my boyfriend came to visit me this week. I also apologise for the fact that this is going to be a long post. I'll make it more bearable, though, by including a wide selection of pictorial matter.

So I met Rob at La Rochelle airport on Monday afternoon, after not having seen him for 6 weeks. To say I was excited is an understatement! As the weather was much sunnier than I had expected, and this was my first time in La Rochelle, we sat and admired the beautiful 'Vieux Port' (old harbour) whilst munching on a croissant and pain aux raisins for a good hour.

Boats in the harbour with La Rochelle's famous towers

Pain aux raisins, my new best friend

A panoramic view of the Vieux Port

Enjoying the blue skies, we then looked behind us to see a huge grey cloud heading our way, so we decided to make our way to the station. It was quite a dramatic change in weather, and we got back to the station just in time before it started hammering down. Having not properly consulted my train timetable, we got to the station about 1 minute before the train to Niort was due, without having yet bought a ticket. So we had to wait for the next one which was an hour and a quarter later, and with it now raining comme une vache qui pisse, further sightseeing was out of the question. Long waits in stations now seem normal for me.

Dark skies approaching
Here comes the rain...
A very moody sky
Monday was also very exciting as it marked the first time I used the oven at home! Being Rob's favourite dish, I went all English and cooked Shepherd's Pie. And it worked, yay!

For those of you who don't know what
Shepherd's Pie cooked in a French oven looks like

On Tuesday, I took advantage of having a man in my company by taking him to SuperU, buying a new TV and making him carry it on the half-hour walk back to the flat. Whoever said men are useless?! With a lovely LED TV now successfully installed in my lounge area, I will now hopefully get more listening practice as I immerse myself in French television...or more likely, American TV dubbed into French.

On Tuesday night I cooked Steak Haché avec une fondue de légumes, aka Burger and veg. And yes, of course I took a photo of it:

Rare burger. Nom.
Having seen on CoVoiturage.fr that someone was driving from Melle to Saintes and back, and with sun forecast for the whole day, we decided to profit from this and take a daytrip there. Apparently there was some miscommunication in arranging with Monsieur Jean-Louis, however, because after waking up early and making our way to the centre of Melle, M. J-L's green Renault Mégane never materialised. Not wanting to waste being up bright and early on this glorious Tuesday morning, I took Rob for a tour of Melle. It was so nice finally being able to show my town to someone. And with the weather as it was, I was once again reminded of what a gorgeous town I live in. Especially now in autumn, I can't get enough of all the different coloured leaves.

Cimetière Saint-Pierre with a backdrop of autumnal beauty

Nearly all that's left of the medieval
fortifications of Melle

Getting home and realising it was now too late to travel too far for the day to make it worth the journey, we decided to go to the town nearest to Melle called Celles-sur-Belle where I knew there was a nice abbey and gardens. So after lunch we took the 10 minute bus ride there and enjoyed a lovely relaxing afternoon in the grounds of the 12th century Abbaye Royale.

L'Abbaye Royale de Celles-sur-Belle and its beautiful gardens

Awaking on Thursday to an overcast sky, we decided there wasn't much point in venturing off somewhere, as nowhere looks as nice when there's no sun. Instead, I dug out a leaflet the tourist office lady gave me in my first week in Melle, and suggested going for a walk along Melle's 'Chemin de la Découverte'. Part of the walk is on an old railway line, and for those interested in trees and flora-related things, there's apparently 1800 different species of tree along the route, as well as 250 roses, but I'm assuming they're only there in spring or summer as I didn't see any.

Autumn leaves lining the old railway line

The route also follows the small rivers that run around Melle
La Béronne

The walk also contained the old wash houses of Melle (one of which is about a 3 minute walk from my flat, but I'd never discovered before) which I found fascinating to imagine the women washing there however many centuries ago.

Lavoir de Loubeau

Lavoir de Villiers

Interior of the Lavoir de Villiers

With the walk coming to an end as the sun was going down, this made for some water-colour-painting-esque skies.

My landlord had said there was going to be a meal for all the residents in the block in Chef-Boutonne (a town about 10 minutes away). Reluctant to go (because I've seen a grand total of 2 other residents in my time here) but knowing we probably should attend, we got ready for around 7pm. We weren't too sure how we were getting to there, but my landlord had said on Tuesday that he hoped there'd be a car to take, so we assumed we'd get a text or a knock on the door around then. By half 7 we came to the conclusion that no one was going to take us there, and so made the decision to try out the steak house, Côte de Boeufin the centre of town. Pâté followed by one of the tenderest steaks I've ever had, and finished off with a crêpe, it was a damn good meal for just 17,50€ per head.

One of the things Rob had most wanted to go to was the Friday market in Melle. So we went along in the morning and got our dinner sorted by buying a lovely fresh piece of salmon from the fish stall. We also bought a huge slice of French cake without having a clue about what it was, and a nice slab of Faume d'Ambert cheese. No trip to Melle is complete without soaking up the French conviviality of the Café du Boulevard, and when we'd tried to go there earlier in the evening for a drink with Mike it was closed. Knowing they serve food there but not yet having been there for that purpose, I suggested we go there for lunch, as they have a different main dish everyday. Friday's plat du jour was haddock steak served with a big mix of vegetables, salad and bread. It was delicious and great value, so I'll have to eat there more as the dishes are totally French.

There was a section of Thursday's walk that we hadn't had time to complete, so we did the rest of that on Friday afternoon, then came home and cooked the salmon to absolute perfection.


After: Salmon poached in white wine, onion, garlic,
peas and carrots, served on a bed of rice

Today, Rob went home. I took him to Niort to get the train, and after lots of cuddles and crying we said our goodbyes and left in opposite directions.

Heart-wrenching love ballad plays to footage cutting between me gazing out of bus window and Rob out of train window, as rain pours over the bleak French countryside...

Rob and I on the ramparts of Melle

A few things I've learnt this week:
  1. Autumn might just be my new favourite season; I didn't realise nature could be so colourful;
  2. Going on walks is ten times more enjoyable with someone else;
  3. Boyfriends are great for carrying your shopping bags;
  4. How the stock exchange thing works. Well, the basics;
  5. Time really does fly when you're having fun.

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