Eglise Notre Dame-La-Grande ~ Poitiers

This amazing place is the church in the centre of Poitiers. Originally most churches were painted like this during the Middle ages, but few have the paint still intact. The pillars, walls and ceiling are painted in geometric designs of great complexity and colour, and though the paint is not as vivid as it once must have been, it still dazzles.

The front of the church is carved in beautiful depictions of Bible scenes and at night colours are projected onto it to simulate how it looked before time and weather washed the paint from the facade.

Outside in the square musicians were playing a medieval style music with modern instruments and equipment and I shivered. Poitiers has a long association with the Troubadours, and these men had filled the same role.

A lovely afternoon, and I’d love to go back one day and explore properly.

The Loneliness of the Not-So-Long-Distance Traveller


The Loneliness of the Not-So-Long-Distance Traveller.

Overall, I travel rather a lot for work. But each trip is not particularly long distance, compared with going to say, India or Australia. For one job, I do tours of English locations such as London, Cambridge and a number of other places, as well as my teaching. For the other, I go to Paris, Cologne, Aachen, Lille, and various other places in France.

I came back on Saturday night after my last trip of this year and I decided to tot up how many hotel rooms I have had this year, and it came to twelve.

That consists of 2 in Austria this February, 1 in Paris in March, 1 in Caen(Normandy) in May/June, 1 in Paris also May/June, another 1 in Paris in June/July, yet another Paris one in October and finally one in Lille this weekend. Plus 4 rooms at the Leicester travel lodge at either end of various trips, because since apart from Austria, all my trips are done over land via coach and the early start (1am in one case) mean it’s not feasible to get from my home on the east coast to the Midlands(or wherever) that morning.

Generally, however stressful these work trips are, and however tiring, I do enjoy them but there are moments when I get back to my hotel room at night and just feel so lonely. I’m the odd one out; the kids have their mates, the teachers have their colleagues and usually, the two drivers have each other to share a quick beer at the bar with.

But the loneliness doesn’t last long. In fact, it lasts about as long as it takes me to get ready for bed and fall asleep.

I’m also pretty stoical about the long hours, the delays and the endless small problems that occur en route; there’s nothing anyone can do about this sort of thing and it is pointless to whine and whinge. With one exception, the hotels I have stayed in over the last few years have been acceptable and the beds comfortable, but you know, they are all starting to look exactly the same!


Anyway, that’s it for this year, travel wise, and that’s probably just as well with the weather problems. I’m digging in and staying put now for a while!

Paris (again!)

This is just a little appetister…. an artist at work in the Place de Tertre in Montmartre.

I have to admit, I had some fairly serious concerns about this latest trip, based on the state of play in France currently, but the very worst thing that happened to us in our three days?? No ice cream at the kiosk at the end of Les Jardins des Tuilleries.

I am currenly almost brain dead as I got home just after 1am today and was up to teach this morning, so a more comprehensive post will have to wait.

But coming soon:

Montmartre and the artists’ square

Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame

Musee D’orsay revisted.

….and maybe more.

Watch this space

Facing Fear

I’ve always been scared of heights. Even as a small child, I remember having a great deal of anxiety walking down the narrow cliff path from the hotel in Wales my family stayed at a few times. It was the only way to the beach and so several times a day I had to endure it.

The thing about this sort of fear is that it goes deep and it goes beyond logic. I thought I had mostly overcome it some years back when I found myself able to stand on the roof of a carpark without wanting to hug the ground, and later to walk around the summit of Glastonbury Tor without getting vertigo. Or being able to go to the top of mountains and not feel unwell.

But at times it returns as if it had never been away. I had a bad attack of vertigo at Tintgael Castle in Cornwall some years ago and on occasions since.

So you can understand why I was reluctant to tackle the Eiffel Tower. I’d evaded it last time I was in Paris because one kid was too unwell to go up so I stayed firmly on the ground. This time, I made the decision I would get as far as the second level and then decide if I were going to the very top.

Now the Eiffel Tower is over 300m high. That’s ludicrously high.

I went up in the lift to the second level with my eyes shut and my body shaking. I felt dizzy and sick when we walked around. But I decided that how much worse could it be to go right to the top? So into the little final lift I went, along with some of the kids and up we went…. My eyes were shut tight and I was trying not to hyperventilate. At the top, it’s all enclosed by glass which makes it feel a lot better than the middle section which is only enclosed by wire mesh and the breeze comes in.

So I relaxed a little and took photos:

As you can see, it’s very high!

Then we made our way down again in the lift. It takes rather a long time but we were back to the second level again. I was feeling a bit sick, but then the group I was with decided to walk down from the second level to the ground and that for me was when the trouble started.

It wasn’t so bad with someone immediately in front of me but pretty soon the kids lost me and I was faced with the stairs ahead of me. One foot in front of the other, but there are over 1600 steps…and it’s open to the air. You can’t hurl yourself off it; but it still feels as if you might slip and plummet to your death. Every time I loosened my grip on the handrail my body thought it was the rail giving way and I felt a massive surge of fear shoot through me. It takes at least 20 minutes to walk down. I think it took me half and hour. The group were waiting for me at the bottom and I smothered the urge to throw up in the nearest bin. I was shaking for the next half an hour, and I had a thumping headache too.

But despite being completely shit-scared (excuse my French) I’d done it. No one can take that away from me. And next time, I know I can do it again if I have to. I can choose not to, but I know that it’s not because I am being controlled by my fears. I’ll be back in Paris in late May but I haven’t a clue yet about my itinerary. If it includes the Eiffel Tower, I will be OK with that.

If I could only manage to cope like that with my other fears, I’d be unstoppable….

(for more info and a virtual tour, visit: or the wiki site )

Getting ready…or not!

OK, where’s my passport?

Right, I put it in my messenger bag with the company euros and my euros.

So where’s the bag? Ah, I see it, next to my rucksack for a day’s supplies of food and my clipboard. Is my itinerary still in the clipboarc? Yes, and my notes and the ferry booking and the sweet factory booking. Calm down, no one has touched them.

Where’s my phone? Where’s my freakin’ phone? Like I said, calm down, it’s in the other room charging up.

Company motto: P.M. T. It stands for Passport, Money, Tickets. If you got those, everything else is irrelevant. Actually, it’s the informal motto. I don’t think we have an official motto. It also stands for Pre-Menstrual Tension which about sums up the state I get into immediately before a trip.

I panic, briefly and quietly about everything. I’m full of what ifs and anxiety. I check things six times. If I do this I may have a chance of dropping off to sleep tonight, because my working day tomorrow starts at 1.30am and ends at 2.30am on Saturday. So I’ll be off to bed around 7pm tonight, having hung up my clothes ready in the spare room, and packed everything but the perishables in the rucksack. When I get up at 1am, I’ll fill my flask with boiling water, stuff my sarnies in the rucksack, slap on some makeup and be on the doorstep in time for my boss to ferry me to the coach depot. I aim to have a doze on the coach before we get to the school I’m escorting to Boulogne for the day because once we start, I can’t sleep; I’m on duty then.

So shortly I’m off down to Tesco’s to get my supplies (the budget for day trips is so tight there’s no spare for food; this isn’t a problem but it does mean I need to take what I need) then I shall transfer all I need from my usual capacious handbag into the rucksack and messenger bag. The messenger bag is for vital items I won’t let leave my body, like passport and so on, and the rest of the stuff is made up of things that make travel more congenial, like wet wipes and so on.

I’m going to be away from home about 26 hours, all told, maybe a little less. I do enjoy these trips; I wish I got more of them and the plan is that I will. I’ve got an overnighter provisonally booked for November already, and others that are in the pipeline, like a five day trip along the Rhine next year. They are exhausting in the extreme but very rewarding.

The trouble is I run around like a blue arsed fly the day before as I make sure I have everything. I’ve even asked my boss to get me to show her my passport before we leave my road. I like the belt and braces approach; I’d hate to end up with an involuntary debagging because of lack of forethought.

So wish me luck!