I  head south-west through Poitou-Charentes, the Cognac, region and decide to make a convenient stop-over at Saint-Hilaire-de-Villefranche.   On the way I call in at Saint-Jean-d’Angély because the name sounds so pretty. I park near some splendid civic buildings then enter the old town and stop by the ‘office de tourisme’ for some information. The lady … Continue reading


I am shocked as I drive into the Chenonceau estate in the Loire valley to see numerous coaches and hordes of people there, so turn around and leave. The lady in the tiny tourist office tells me that the château is visited by thousands of people all year round (I read later an estimated 850,000+ which … Continue reading

‘Bon continuation’ at Chartes …

From my charming apple farm gîte, where the farmer proudly tells me that he has a remarkable 38,000 apple trees, I take the local train to Chartres for a couple of euros each day. Chartres is a lovely town, with an extensive old town area. The Chartres old town is rather up market compared to … Continue reading

I come full circle

As I approach I can see Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral from miles away, standing completely alone on the skyline. Vézelay pilgrims saw Sainte Marie-Madeleine on the top of a far green hill, St Jacques pilgrims taking this route to Santiago see this important stage of their pilgrimage rising before them across a vast plain.   These … Continue reading

Serendipity strikes again

The night before I leave Bourges, heading for Chartres – a special destination for me – I look at the map and let fear into my heart.  It is clear that the autoroutes would be quicker and easier.   I would prefer a route nationale but I know I cannot drive for long periods due to … Continue reading

The Mysterious Master Builder of Bourges

Bourges ‘centre ville’ has retained many of its half-timbered medieval houses, despite the many fires that have ripped through it in the past. It’s no surprise – all those closely constructed wooden buildings and narrow passageways. They look top-heavy and unstable, and it is not a trick of the eye. People chose to build the … Continue reading

When does a traveller become a pilgrim?

When I started to dream, several years ago, of wanting to Journey I wondered what the experience should be called in my mind. Would it be an adventure? An odyssey? A pilgrimage? A quest? An expedition? Or would I simply be on a tour? I knew the word ‘holiday’ did not once enter my thoughts. … Continue reading