Monday, 12 November 2012


After being subjected to having to empty my belongings out of my bedroom yet again, thinking that finally a guy with half a neurone would arrive as scheduled and put it all right I was grossly disappointed again. JC took time out of his day yet again to wait in my apartment for a guy who could only manage to screw on a drawer handle before leaving. Worse, in trying to fix the armoire door he made it worse. So pieces of my bed, and other furniture is still propped up around my walls

 It's November. I bought and paid for the furniture AND the installation back in June. I was fuming and told JC that behaving typically French, shrugging shoulders and saying 'c'est la vie' doesn't cut it. Noise, action. Jean-Claude rang the service manager of BUT and thinks that the NEXT time someone comes to fix it all it WILL be done. I do hope he's not disappointed. I hope I don't have to seek out a consumer protection organisation in France.

Trying to put all that behind me for a bit we headed south to Surgeres to spend a couple of nights with my very distant cousin Gilles and his wife Micheline. I was delighted when they suggested we visit. I've always been looking for a family, somewhere to belong and, although this distant French family will never be the family I needed all my life, I'm happy to be recognised, invited and to share stuff.

We shared meals and a trip to Saintes. In Roman times, the city was known as Mediolanum Santonum.

Saintes is the second city in Charente-Maritime, with 26,470 inhabitants in 2008; its metropolitan area, the second urban area in the department, counts 56,598 inhabitants. The city is located 60 km southeast of La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast, and not far from Rochefort where my ancestors left to found a colony in Akaroa, New Zealand. The A10 autoroute (France), operated locally by Autoroutes du Sud de la France, passes through the commune in its western part, in a north-south axis. By the A10, Saintes is 125 km from Bordeaux, 140 km from Poitiers, 470 km from Paris.

It was the centre of Roman civilisation for Aquitaine and also a stopping point for the pilgrims en route for Santiago de Compostella.It was one of three great regions conquered by Julius Caesar. There remains a well-preserved amphitheatre, thermal baths and triumphal arch. The cathedral is having some renovation done. We visited the amphitheatre, a women's convent, the arch and part of the archaeological museum.

The arena was completed around 40 AD and had room for 15,000 spectators who came to see circus games and fighting. It must have been magnificent in its heyday as it had very high walls. Women had to sit in a separate section.

The Germanicus arch was built 18-19 AD at the point where the Romand Way from Lyon intersected and was the gate into the town on the bridge over the Charent River. Demolished in 1843 it was rescued and re-erected on oneof the river banks of the town centre.

The museum of Gallo-Roman civilisation presents objects from everyday life. We visited an annex that was open and free to see statues and carved blocks.

On Saturday evening another related cousin, Alain and a not-directly-related cousin Michele arrived to share dinner with us. It was a lively affair with bold and interesting conversations. The only downside for me was all the food I can't eat, like fish, seafood and chicken. I got by though with the champagne and wine.

We also discussed the latest and revised edition of the Libeau family genealogy book. It's a disaster - full of mistakes, some of them very serious, like getting the head of the family wrong. I discovered I'd been married to someone I never married and there was a date given. Surely I'd have remembered that if it had happened?  Each one of us found glaring mistakes.

We  visited a tiny fishing port on the banks of the Charente. A really working fishing village specialising in oysters. The oyster shucking team showed us their moves and micheline got to eat an oyster raw, straight from the sea. Gilles and Micheline will be visiting NZ early next year and are hoping to swallow a few famous Bluff oysters.

 Photo below: Me and Michelle at the little fishing port.

It was a four-hour drive back to the Chartres area of France. I enjoyed watching the beautiful French scenery changing. I hope my cousins can come and visit us one day.


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