Thinking about holidays (the Paris and Caribbean reflections from my previous post brought about these musings), I tried a new sport this summer.
It has a holiday connexion as myself and the partner in crime were staying in a house in Amboise in the Loire valley. Usually, one of the joys of holidaying in France is eating outside on whatever patio, terrace or decking the holiday accommodation possesses. It’s something the British don’t routinely do at home – unless they are manic barbecue fiends – probably due to having to rush round to go to work, do the shopping, organize the kids or whatever. So on a French holiday, there always seems to be the time to take the baked breakfast goods, the fresh fruit juice and the pot of tea outside to munch and sip gently while planning what relaxed, laid back activities the day may hold. And in the evening, it’s no hardship to drag your meal outside to eat in the evening sun accompanied by a chilled glass or two of Cabernet d’Anjou.
I’m transported there just thinking of it. I can almost hear the crickets. So my expectations for the Loire visit were set. Meals on the terrace or possibly the balcony, watching the setting sun. Hmm. Well. It rained pretty much every day. I seem to recall just two occasions when we sat outside after it had dried up enough to sit on the balcony with a drink. But otherwise, it was eat indoors or risk a soggy baguette!
With the weather as it was and not being rugged, outdoor types, outside activity was a bit limited and tended to involve taking the car out. Which in itself was a bit of a challenge as the electric gates opened onto a one-way, narrow, street busy with tourists visiting Leonardo da Vinci’s final residence, Clos Lucé, at the end of the road. Hardier than us, obviously, or more likely members of a coach party on a schedule. That week, the town seemed full of Russian and German visitors.
We did venture forth on our very first morning with waterproof jackets (as it turned out, more what you might call “shower proof”) and waxed hats to visit the superb Sunday market. Umbrellas were left behind reluctantly as we felt that they constituted a bit of a hazard in the setting of a busy market with overhanging canopies. Several purchases were made including spit-roasted chicken, fresh fruit and naturally some local cheese. By the time we had trekked back to base, we were drenched as the rain had been of the stair-rod variety. Luckily the hot chicken had survived and made an extremely tasty lunch with some fresh baguette which had been secreted away in a waterproof rucksack.
After lunch we debated what to do. After the morning’s drowned rat impersonations, there was little appetite to venture out again so the afternoon looked like a reading and snoozing fest. But then we remembered the sous sol shown to us by our welcomer the day before. And so it came to pass that we plodded our way downstairs to investigate the delights of the games room.
At the far end of this large room stood a table tennis table along with an array of ping pong balls and bats. So instead of a lazy Sunday afternoon, it was Game On! Now, not being little Miss Sporty and one who has never played table tennis before, I can tell you it’s extremely good for your waist line. And not in the way you might think. Yes, there was dashing about to try and hit the ball but the main activity to promote waistline whittling was the incessant bending over to retrieve the ball having failed quite brilliantly to hit it back over the net. So the game went rather like this: serve (kind of), dodge the return, trot after the ball, bend to retrieve it from under a chair, then back to my side of the table. Repeat until time for tea.
As the weather continued with its unfriendly theme throughout the week, table tennis became an afternoon ritual and as the week went on, I progressed to returning the ball and even managed to score some points. It’s amazing how it’s so much easier to like something when you are not completely rubbish at it. Then the delusions creep in. I’m sure I could be good at this with a bit of practice, look how much I’ve improved in a week! So the partner in crime put paid to that by sending a few balls across the table at such a speed I’m sure they broke the sound barrier. That was me firmly put in my place. Still, a girl can dream!