Cognac Chateau 2015



Cognac Diary

With a slight rain delay, we headed north to cycle the lanes around Pons. All around were sunflower and maize fields as we headed through Avy and onto Perignac.  One year on and the teens were getting quicker, so sprinting ahead to get a photo was impossible as all they did was chase me down. We lunched by the church at Berneuil, before heading to Pons and its impressive Donjon and equally impressive ice creams at the cafe. Back at the chateau, the pool filled with children whilst the adults got ready for dinner. Peter the Danish chef cooked a French meal in a chateau which housed German officers during WW2. Salad, followed by steak and potatoes was topped off by a creamy dessert, all very delicious

We headed for Cognac , somewhere that Lester wryly observed was a destination we had tried to get to in the past but failed. More sunflower fields and I'm sure the teenagers were even faster, but years of training had taught them to wait at junctions, allowing us to stay together. Cognac was accessed via a quiet route from the west and having off roaded along the river we split for a few hours to explore the town. The thing is with France though is that most days seem like holidays, so it was a very fortunate cafe owner who saw cyclists converge from all directions to meet again. Back through Ars with its Roman church and inevitable photo opportunity for Facebook and everyone headed back at heir own pace back to the chateau for a BBQ and a bit more snooker

Loading the bikes onto cars meant that if we started at Epargnes, we could get to the beach, so at 1015 we descended towards the Gironde and the coast. Talmont was a great ice cream stop. Much like Castle Coombe in Wiltshire, it was a village by the coast where tourists mingled with the restaurants and tourist shops. However the church by the headland with it's graves appearing out of the dirt was a memorable sight. France is developing a West Coast cycleway and we picked this up heading northwest as it followed the coast along a dedicated hard packed cycleway. Sheds of stilts with fishing nets littered the coast and it was a shame that the route ytook us back inland at Meschers. We were heading for Royan, but after 4 miles it became apparant that there was just too much traffic, so we dived left and down  to Suzac Plage where we spent 2 hours enjoying the sea. Cutting through the woods and a sandy track we headed back to Epargnes passing fields of sunflowers with expansive views. Back at the chateau we had a communal buffet, munching through rillette, salad and smked salmon, washed down with cheeses and more tarte au citron.

Jarnac lies to the east of Cognac and through it flows the Charente River, and it was to this that we headed with bikes strapped to the cars. From the brightly coloured Mairie we headed east along the northern bank, passing through many more small settlements than we had in the past 3 days. Chateauneuf arrived and we dived into its cafes, sending the teenagers out in search of a boulangerie. Coffee and patisseries consumed, Steve pointed out the ideal group shot opportunity, so we lined the steps, waved and camera clicked to record another year passed. Chateauneuf was a river crossing, so it was close to the southerly bank that we now went, turning north and westwards again at the next river crossing. Arriving at the riverbank a jetty presented the perfect picnic spot, so as folk munched a variety of baguette filling, a number of us tested the water, along with the eels and small fish munching bits of bread. We continued along the riverbank, with it's white hard surface it was glorious and ending with a push through a field seemed a fitting end with gags about the Rough Stuff Fellowship ringing in my ears. Back at Chateauneuf we headed west climbing out of town before a lovely descent back to the valley floor. A final piece of riverbank and we got back to Jarnac, just as the rain started. Washed and scrubbed up, our evening led us to Pons for a meal at the Cafe du Donjon where a long table groaned under duck salad, salmon or beef, finished with a choice ot tarte.

Drat, this far south and Western Europe in August is a damp place. No chance of a cycle ride, though 7 hardy parents braved the horizontal rain and did the route to the coast.  The children figuring that the pool was dryer than outside splashed about with the inflatables whilst 11 of us played Perudo in Les Etables. After lunch I accompanied Robin and Karen via the myriad of back lanes to Pons where we quaffed coffee, eclairs and Cognac under the shaddow of the Donjon. Back at the chateau, it was left overs night, so all of us met for the last time in the chateaus dining room where we ate through salads, crostini and the star of the show, Penny's Eton mess with locally sourced meringue. The snooker tournament neared the end and the semi finals were tense as Robin and Hiliary along with Nigel and Katherine booked themselves into the final where the former won a tin of local biscuits for the journey home. 

So another holiday over. 


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