French time is weird. France is on Central European Time but it obviously isn’t central Europe (other than politically, of course!). France is quite clearly western Europe. 10:00 AM in France feels like early morning which, in fact, it is; the sun thinks it’s early morning (8:00 AM) and the birds think it’s early morning. Only the European bureaucrats think it’s 10:00 AM. This is because the Greenwich meridian runs straight through France as well as through Greenwich; France really should logically be on the same time zone as Britain. I suspect that Central European Time is designed largely for Germany which is noticeably further east. France and Spain, being west of Germany, feel out of temporal kilter as a consequence.
An allied consequence is that, by the time we’ve awoken, performed our ablutions and breakfasted, we are rarely ready to leave camp before what the French consider to be 11:00 AM. That doesn’t leave long enough for any constructive diversion before lunch time arrives. However, Francine had a cunning plan.
We needed a bit of a break from diagnosing caravan faults and fixing punctures in tyres. Fortunately today dawned with blisteringly blue skies and we planned a most-of-the-day bike ride including un pique-nique à bicyclette on the opposite side of La Sèvre Niortaise.
The French are mad-keen on their pique-niques. You’ll frequently see a gateway into a field blocked by a family indulging in un pique-nique. Now, as well as the time being weird in France, there seems to be another oddity: when you are driving along at 10:00 AM, 11:00 AM or 3:00 PM, you will see countless official, well-equipped aires du pique-nique drifting past by the roadside. However, when it comes to lunchtime and you are travelling at 12:00 noon, 1:00 PM or 2:00 PM, all these delightful pique-nique places perform a fancy disappearing act. “Time for a spot of lunch, dear, let’s stop at the next picnic site.” There are none. It’s quite amazing.
Today we lucked out and broke the rule and, on our bikes, we stumbled across a delightful aire de pique-nique in Sainte Christine: water, Odonatas, picnic tables, shade trees and relatively well manicured grass – what more a could a hungry lover of the natural world want? Nothing! We were hooked, which is more than I could say for any fish in the water that the local fisher-persons were after. We stopped. It was utterly delightful. BTW, the water in the picture surrounds the picnic “island” upon which Francine is doing her best to destroy une baguette avec pâté forestière.
Having been munching away at pâté forestière for lunch, after resuming our casual bike ride through enticingly quiet, rural French countryside, we spotted more potential pâté as we crossed a bridge. These ragondin critters seem a little scarce this year after a trapping campaign by the locals and they are normally quite shy. (Given the trapping activities of the locals and their chasing them with empty pâté jars in search of a handy filling, who could blame them?) One, however, calmly sat in a side stream as we breasted a bridge before calmly and slowly swimming away. Maybe he/she – I can’t sex coypus; can’t get close enough for a start 😀 – could see that we had no empty pâté jar.
We’ll be moving off to pastures new after tomorrow, which is expected to be stormy, so this could be our last active day here. It was a good day to end our visit to friends in the Marais Poitevin.