London to Bordeaux- 10 days with the Sparkles’

Hello friends, I nearly didn’t make get to write this episode as wifi access in France is the mere cost of your first born child.  Tom, there will be a quiz on this when I get back.

Before taking off on a horse riding holiday across Europe with Aimee the Great (Aka Devine) I’m having a 10 day warm up in the form of a family holiday (think: European Vacation).

Let me introduce the Sparkles family:

  • Esme– eldest of 5 Sparkles sisters, London resident of 10+ years, host to family
  • Effie– my mum, lives in Brisbane and is considered in our family to be an, ahem, food expert
  • Liki– my Aunt who is a locum vet in the UK and you really have to watch out for her when she gets into top gear (which incidentally she did in the Lego episode)
  • Foxy– my Aunt who is a high roller psychologist living in Reno, Nevada, who really understands the meaning of the phrase ‘donkey up’.

Just so my Uncky Dwayne back home didn’t feel left out, Foxy let us each write daily messages of love to her husband, (my Uncky Dwayne), and allowed us to send them uncensored.  Copies of these messages can be purchased for £2.95 per minute…..

Adding some colour to the family, nearly every food intolerance known to man (and according to Liki, dogs) is had by our family.  Accordingly, this makes dining out something of a challenge as is driving long distances in confined spaces, (especially when those who should NOT eat wheat and dairy just can’t say no. Mum.)

Our first family outing was a trip to Sissinghurst Castle and its surrounding gardens.  After a delightful two hour drive (me in the middle of the back of a 93 Toyota Corolla, the youngest and smallest always suffer the most ), we arrived to find these 14th Century castle builders hadn’t really planned ahead when it came to parking.  By the time we arrived (at the respectable hour of noon), there was no parking available.

Unperturbed, we went back down the road to an 11th century pub, ate a £9.95 roast buffet, and waited for the early worm catchers in tweed jackets to vacate the car park.

Now, in the assembled Sparkles family, 4/5 consider gardens and gardening to be their version of porn.  Amusing for me is the frenzy the family get in to, with their various grand ideas for improving Esme’s small English courtyard garden (and by small, think enough room to swing a cat, but expect it to get a bump or two on the head).

Effie and Foxy spent considerable amounts of time debating and designing elements of Esme’s courtyard.  So far, it has a gazebo, a full scale hedge maze, a moat, an orchard, a bronze statue of David, and a family of those swans made out of tyres.  The theme is a cross between Granny Sheik and Shabby Chateaux (all the rage in France I assure you).

We then travelled to France (sans Liki) on the Eurostar.  It really is quite amazing to think that you go right under the English channel, although of course it feels like any other tunnel you might be in (save for the odd octopus and dolphin).  It may surprise you to know (as it did me) time spent ‘under the sea’ is only about 15 minutes of the 2 plus hour trip.  And then, as the train emerges from the waves- you’ve unmistakably arrived in France.

France is, well, so French. We spent most of our time in the Loire Valley, which is so full of chateauxs we got complacent about them and tiny roads where the 16th century sandstone houses practically open onto the street.  We visited several, and stayed at one chateaux, and I could quite believe I was Elizabeth Bennett (but sadly my Mr Darcy did not appear).

As we travelled, my family all smugly brushed up on their French, while I just worked on saying everything in a dodgy Fwench accent and smiling a lot (oh wee Monsieur! wink wink).

The family really embraced the French way of eating- it’s all baguette and cheese (and who can blame them when you can buy a fresh baguette and a whole round of Camembert cheese at the gas station for €2.95!)  This did present something of an eating challenge to me (yeah, I’m the GOOD one who avoids wheat and dairy).  My family seemed unconcerned by my food intolerances, and took a leaf from the book of the last Queen of France and told me to eat (gluten free) cake.

On arrival to France, we bypassed Paris and jumped straight from the Eurostar to a local train to Giverny (straight after a good hour of sweet talking,that is, cos Esme forgot the tickets), where we collected a hire car.  Driving was quite a challenge for all of us brought up to drive on the other side of  the road, especially with Effie frantically yelling ‘Go left go left’ while equally frantically gesturing to the right.

Giverny is the home of the painter Monet, who was also known for his stunning garden.  Yep, another garden, and the family plant fetish was in full swing, but never fear, fellow non-garden fanatics, we only spent 5 hours there….

So how about them horses aye?  Well, I declined to eat any in France,  but by an extreme stroke of good luck (and no forward planning what so ever), I discovered that 10 minutes from our Chateaux in the Loire Valley was Le Cadre Noirde Samur- the French National Riding Academy.

The Academy does around 15 shows a year- and can you believe that there was one on the VERY next day AND I got tickets!!!   Their horses are trained to Grand Prix dressage and do some pretty funky rearing and a unique kick out of their back legs.  Yep- stand aside gardeners, that is my kinda porn.

All good things must come to an end and after more gardens, a plethora of castles and lots of really really old town walls, omelets and divine smelling pastries I couldn’t eat,  it was soon time to depart from Bordeaux (in which I spent perhaps 2 hours outside of the airport!) and start riding Europe.  A quick catch up with Liki at Gatwick and it was onward to Glasgow…

Cheers

S.P. Arkles

Oh-Big shout out to Penny (aka Benny aka the ‘Joy from Darling Devine Sparkles & Joy of Summer Camp 2008 fame) with whom I drank London- lager and ate Shepard’s pie at the Sherlock Holmes Pub.  See you at the Melbourne Cup Benny!  Yeeee haaawww!!!!

PS Esme assures me that Mum is booked into Pastries Anonymous to deal with her addiction.

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About The Tina Sparkles Experience

Welcome- these are travel and dating stories with a difference- there is no doubt Tina Sparkles has the ability to find the humour in any situation. Every blog is guaranteed to be a laugh- hope you enjoy!

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