Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Do's and don’ts

Last Friday was the hottest day of the year so far; with temperatures up to 37°C in the Kempen. The Kempen is the area east of Antwerp, in the northern part of Belgium. The sandy soil captures and reflects the heat of the sun, making it the hottest spot in Belgium. Where I live, in the centre of the country near Brussels, we had up to 34°C. At 8 a.m. in the morning the thermometer already indicated 24° C, which is a lot more than the morning temperatures we had mid-May during our Loire Valley trip!

On the first morning of our stay in Vouvray, I had noticed a thermometer lying on one of the terrace benches. It read just over 10°C. I decided to photograph it every morning so that I could show the daily increase to the ‘folks back home’. But I could have saved myself the trouble as there was no noticeable increase, except on the last day – Friday morning – when the mercury suddenly took a giant leap to … 11,5°C!

Vouvray, May 20th, 2010 at 8 a.m.

Day temperatures, however, were fine; not too hot, not too cold. On Thursday morning, the last day of our stay, the air was crisp and cool. But by the time we reached Langeais, it was getting uncomfortably hot in the car. We found a nice parking spot in the shade in the village square near the château. This was our first destination of the day. I had read about a temporary exhibition on food in the Middle Ages that sounded very interesting. Moreover, I had some vague recollections of walking up the steps that led into the castle, but I didn’t actually remember visiting it.

There was a large party of extremely well dressed people waiting outside the ticketing office and the girl at the counter was rather stressed. As in most tourist places, she asked us the number of our ‘département’ for their visitors’ statistics. This only applies to French people, as we, here in Belgium, don’t have departments but only provinces (10 of them). When J.L. jokingly answered that we didn’t have one, without mentioning that we came from Belgium, the girl threw him an icy glance over her steel rimmed spectacles and angrily slapped the ‘enter’ key of her computer keyboard. Slightly intimidated J.L. offered “We’re from Belgium”. “Trop tard” (too late), the girl sneered and turned away to ‘help’ the next visitor. This was the very first time that we ran into such a disagreeable ticketing clerk. In most cases they are very smiling and good-humoured … and if we are to believe them, they all have friends or relatives in Belgium.

A medieval royal banquet: no flash photography, please!

The exhibition turned out to be a bit of a disappointment as it mostly consisted of large information boards with detailed descriptions of what the medieval foodies used to eat. Although it was very interesting, we had expected a more dynamic set-up. The best part was a large dining table that had been laid out for a medieval dinner. Unfortunately there was a rope preventing visitors from actually walking around the table. Moreover, the room was poorly lit, which made it hard to see the details of the cutlery and the (fake) dishes that were on display.

Contrary to my normal respect for ‘don’t do’ signs, I shot a photo using the flashlight of my camera while nobody was watching. During the rest of the visit I constantly expected some guard to come up to me, reprimanding me for my disobedience and confiscating my camera …

When was the last time you ignored a ‘don’t’ sign?



Nadege said...

Here in LA (don't know if they ask in other states) they always ask for my zip code (code postal) and if I want to open a credit card with that particular store... It bothers me a bit but it is the employee's job and I answer the question.
Last year when we went to visit the "gouffre de Padirac" they asked for our "departement" and I just said we were from California.
The weather has been really delightful where I live but it gets really hot in the valleys but we are used to it and are geared for the heat. Also, we probably only get 3 weeks of humid weather around August (when the monsoon comes up from Mexico) otherwise it is generally dry heat, which is much easier to tolerate.
California might have big problems but the weather is not one of them.
And by the way, the stressed girl was rude.

ladybird said...

Nadege, Some stores in Belgium also ask for your zip code. At first, I found it annoying, until I read somewhere that they use the information to find high-potential locations for new stores. This way we recently got a new 'Mediamarkt' (the largest and cheapest multi-media store in Belgium) at 10 km from my doorstep ... instead of the 40km it took before to go to the one in Waterloo. :)