Thursday, 21 May 2015


Is true that my pictures of this Channel crossing may not be the best, but it's also true that it was a pleasure from start to finish. Although our scheduled crossing time was 4.20pm, the friendly – and amusing – chap at the ticket office told us we could get on the very next train – which was more like 2pm. He also joked with us in a jolly manner, making us laugh and feel good about travelling with Eurotunnel.

There wasn't any waiting and we just drove straight on, everyone smiling and waving us forward.

Once on the train, it was smooth, painless and – even better – an informative sign in the loo let us know we were getting the car across in the greenest way possible.

Finally, in our carriage, which contained four cars, there was a happy holiday atmosphere and I had a fascinating conversation with a man who had a very fancy Porsche – and who shared that he was a private racing car driver (as opposed to one who drove for a team). My first time meeting one (and I'm not even sure I knew such a thing existed before!), so interesting too and our crossing was over in a flash.

Thank you, Eurotunnel, for making it all so easy and keeping us green!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Le Jardin des Possibles, near Saux, France

"Would you like to visit a garden?" asked our host at the delightful Les Orangerie Hotel in Lussac les Châteaux, in Poitou-Charentes, France.

Peanuts growing in glass
Why, yes, of course. Why not? Picturing an English garden visit, which means manicured lawns and laid out flowerbeds of fairly ordered heights and colours...

So off we sped, following the hotel's chef, David Royer, who cooks "95% bio", which translates as organic, as he bombed through the French countryside for the next 10 minutes.

We arrived at a little garden of Eden, all created from scratch four years ago by the bubbly, smiley Nicole. High points? The peanuts, growing down into a long glass container; the spiral herb and flower garden; the co-planting to keep pests at a minimum; and Nicole's enthusiasm that we sniff every leaf, taste every flower, smell every bloom.

I began to find myself trying to work out how to say, "Do you need an intern?" in French, because wouldn't it be wonderful to come work here and learn how to make such a perfect organic garden, that's all farmed by hand – "No machinery" – that not only tastes good but looks a picture too?

We left, finally, after stopping for tea in the little patio and being shown the dried flowers in jars she uses for enfusions. How, we wanted to know, does she stop the petals from turning brown? But sadly beyond our school French...

"Is your restaurant locovore?" Which usually means 30km.

"Smaller than that," David said.

Then, making a perfect circle, we went back to Les Orangeries for dinner at its restaurant, served in an impossibly pretty, stone-walled courtyard with the carriage door open to the little lane which runs behind and the golden evening sunlight. First course: salmon sprinkled with leaves and flowers from Nicole's Jardin des Possibles. Perfect.

Les Orangeries, Lussac-les-Châteaux, France

So often when I've travelled, it's me who does all the arranging: beforehand, with all the organising, and during, with all the frontline interfacing with folks along the way. However, on this trip, I'm learning that being the plus-one is actually the best-placed person. You get all the joys with none of the stress. Note to self: do this again!
Doorway of our room

I'm the tag-along on a trip visiting and reviewing 'green' modes of Channel crossing and accommodation in France for

So, first up, we took Brittany Ferries overnight service from Portsmouth, England, to Cherbourg, France. You get on at 10.45pm, find your cabin – which is neat as a pin and amazingly comfortable – sleep like a baby, then wake up in time for a cup of tea and croissant before arriving ready for the day. Perfect! No time wasted and there you are.

Our first destination on this jaunt is Les Orangeries, in Lussac-les-Châteaux, southwest of Poitiers. I think I'll let the pictures do the talking here, because it's so terribly pretty: all honey-coloured stone buildings that run into each other, the roadside frontage hiding the large, lush garden with al fresco dining, a pool, an orchard, lawns and paths behind.

The garden with pool
Breakfast room
Al fresco lunch
It was an easy drive from Cherbough – maybe 4.5hrs? – but as my companion and I yakked and lauhged all the way down through the glorious French countryside, it could have been one hour in terms of how long it felt. And, as ever, the French roads are practically empty, well-kept and the roadside amenities frequent and, on the whole, well kept. Though the squat one took a minute or two to get my head around.