A Laundry Hostage situation…
Our travels take us south as we leave Bourges. The next stop has to be somewhere with good internet signal as we’re keen to stream the Rugby World Cup final, so we’re looking for a nice-looking Aire in a slightly bigger village or town, to spend a couple of days. We settle on Bellac, which looks like a nice town with plenty to see for us to spend some time. The Aire is alongside the river and it is only a short, but steep walk up the hill to get to the old town and the shops.
Part of the appeal of slightly larger villages and towns is that they’re more likely to have a bit more going on. If you’ve toured France in the off-season, you may be familiar with the French ghost villages; they look like the apocalypse has already happened… All buildings fully shuttered and not a sign of life anywhere… So we’re hoping Bellac will have something more going on. Little did we know but it was All Saints Day, a French public holiday so everything was shut and not a soul in sight! It stayed quiet all weekend, as it seems most people had taken the opportunity for a long weekend.
Bellac is a pretty hill-top village with a compact old town centre, some shops, bars and restaurants. There are lovely views across a small valley towards the viaduct for the train, and there is a medieval bridge over the river. There are also some walking routes indicated on a sign by the Aire.
Saturday morning comes and luckily the mobile internet signal is strong enough for streaming, so it’s time for the Rugby World Cup! Unfortunately, it was not to be this time so we decide to go for a little walk around to shake off the disappointment. The weather isn’t good enough to go for a hike so we stay in the town and have another look around. There is a very small market on in the square but not much else is happening. We decide to stick around another night as we’re quite comfortable in our little Aire.
The next day, a Sunday, we want to move on, but as we’ve spotted a laundrette in town, we decide to drive to the carpark next to it and get a quick wash done before we leave… It turns out to be a big mistake!
We get the change for the machines from the little supermarket and get the laundry on. We have a cup of coffee in the van before heading back half an hour later to put the laundry in the dryer, only to find the door to the laundrette won’t open! What is going on here?!? The door is on a security lock and you have to press a buzzer to open it. But the button doesn’t buzz anymore and the door won’t open! Nothing we do seems to work, our laundry is now being held prisoner by a faulty laundrette door…
There is no number anywhere visible for us to phone to get help, so we decide to look for help in the village while one of us keeps an eye on the laundrette in case someone comes to unlock it… In the little supermarket, no one knows anything. Next I find a taxi office. It’s shut but some people are inside, so I knock and at least they know who owns the shop. It is owned by the Tabac next door. They try to phone them for me but no answer. I take the phone number to keep trying. Next I try the bakery, often the heart of French village life. Someone there must know something. The lady is very helpful and also tries to phone some numbers, but unfortunately there is no answer… It seems our only option is the stay another night and wait until the Tabac opens the next morning at 6:30am… That’s fine, except our bedding is in the wash… Oh well, we will have to do without for a night.
The next morning I’m up and outside the Tabac by 6:30am. I’ve prepared my best French sentences to explain what’s happened to try and retrieve our laundry… The guy in the Tabac seems to claim that the electric has tripped but as we look at all the fuses, they all look fine to me… After he’s fiddled a bit with the timer on the electrics, it seems we’re back in business! It’s been a bit of a nuisance but we’re just happy to have our laundry back. Soon enough it’s all clean and dry and we set off from Bellac a day later than planned. It’s all part of the adventure of being on the road! Next time though, we will avoid unmanned laundrettes on a Sunday and use the machines in supermarket carparks instead!