11 December 2009

Alans Column in the Leinster Leader

Schnitzel's European Adventures: The continuing search for the 'great walled city'

By Alan Bennett

Our trip had begun. We had already travelled the 102 kilometres from Newbridge to Rosslare and we were now eyeballing the gargantuan vessel that would keep us afloat to France.
It would be easy to be fooled when looking at one of these ferries, they may be magnificent and mammoth, but the waves rule the seas. Basically the ship goes wherever the waves want it to go.

They tend to demonstrate this by bullying the ferry up and down, up and down, up and down. I took my dosage of Sea-Legs an hour before boarding the ferry as stated, but I did not spawn the legs of a sailor, instead I seemed to get the legs of a man who had been drinking since Ireland beat Italy in the 1994 World Cup.

The first person we met happened to be Mikey's Uncle Dave who lives in Spain and was in Ireland for the weekend. Dave was a very nice man but he was a scaremonger, one of these people whose advice, while appreciated, is very much on the negative side.

If he is right we will be arrested in France, scammed in Spain and robbed, raped and beaten in Italy. My intention is to continue this adventure blindly and hopefully prove him wrong on every point. He did come up with one gem though, that we should visit Carcassone, a 16th century walled city. This sounded excellent to me, and so we had a target.

We arrived in Cherbourg, I think I have never been so happy to see land as Mikey embarrassingly had to peel me off the wet ground and direct me back to the driving seat of our Ford Transit van/house. We slept that night in a car park and woke the next morning and set our Sat Nav for Rennes, the first big city on route to Carcassone.

Rennes was quiet. We had made a discovery, France closes early. With this new intelligence we moved on until we eventually found a part of Rennes with some life in it. A square where a Christmas Festival had just finished was kept alive by about 500 young people who refused to let the buzz die. They stood in groups in the cold drinking wine and beer and smashing their vacant bottles; almost as a celebration, as if to say 'I have finished another, my thirst cannot be quenched' Suddenly it felt very like home.

Still the highlight of Rennes for me was a little street called Rue Du Chapitre. We happened upon it as we were ambling around oblivious to direction. We stopped because it stood out as looking particularly French, a charming windy cobble paved street, with enticing little restaurants and boutiques. Signs and menus were sought out of antiquity to give a particularly winsome vintage affect.

Next stop Nantes. Quite excited to get into the big city and look around, we were defeated by rain. This was no average rain, not only would our lovely little green isle be proud of this downpour, it would probably be washed away by it. We got a hot chocolate and continued out of the city that through my windscreen was obviously beautiful and historic.

Email: alanbennett8@hotmail.com for comments or suggestions


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