Karen Prynn, my daughter in-law
was having a 50th birthday bash and when asked what she wanted for a treat she said I would like to stay in a châteaux in the French alps for a week with some friends and family.
So on Friday the 28th
December at 4.30 am 14 of us left St Merryn to go to Pessan Nr Hoche in France,
we were going to meet up with 4 more people on the way in France.
I rode in with Christopher and Karen in the land rover Discovery with my grandson Matt and his mate Josh Sandry. in the other
car was Jack Prynn, Paul Betts, Jackie and Dave Owen, in the other car was Nicholas Prynn, Richard Hoskins AKA Big Dick and Emma Kate, Richard and Emma Kate are Karen’s children from her 1st
Marriage, Glenn, Emma’s boyfriend and Gemma, Nicks girlfriend from Wales. Well we cracked on and put a lot of miles
under our belt and got to Folkestone, where we were going to board the eurostar train, I was looking forward to this as I
have always wanted to go through the channel tunnel, I also wanted to know how they got the cars on and off, this wasn’t
at all like I thought it would be, we drove our cars on to the carriage (cart) from the side, there were 4 cars to a carriage,
it was like driving up the tunnel itself with all the lights in the carriage.
The Eurostar train can carry 766 passengers
up to speeds of 186 mph (300 kph) and the crossing takes about 35 minutes.
Well I didn’t know what
time we the train started moving as it was such a smooth ride, but at 3.15 pm we were finally in France at Calais we disembarked
and were on our way, Well It wasn’t long after that we were lost not only the roads we were on, but lost from each other
every car had a sat nav in it but for some reason they took every body in different directions so in the end every one turned
off there sat nav and just followed one designated driver.
Well we drove on all that day
and at about 9.00 pm we arrived at a place called le Tours, where we were going to stay for the night, I was worn out, I didn’t
think it was going to be such a drag it was a long journey. The others went out
for the night to a night club I didn’t have it in me, and I went to bed.
Well the next day was damp and
dreary nothing at all like the first days drive which was sun and clear skies. Christopher and Dave Owen were talking and
they decided that as they were having such difficulty with the sat nav they wouldn’t bother turning them on, Christopher
said and this was a new saying for me lets just wing it, which I found out later means what we call in Cornwall a little bit
of HIT or MISS, let’s take a chance and go for it and it might end up ok in the end. Christopher then said we wouldn’t
have this much trouble if I had a ships compass we would be there by now.
It seemed such a long drive and
although Christopher had travelled these roads before when he was lorry driving he still struggled with it a bit. We were
pretty moving, it was motorway all the way. We never stopped talking this helped to pass the time. The boys would chop and
change at intervals or when they had enough of each other, you know what boys are like. Well after 800 miles we arrived at
the Châteaux in Pessan well the châteaux was amazing the ceilings must have been 17 feet high,
it was enormous, and it could hold 30 people with bedrooms up and downstairs. It also had its own library. The boys stayed
in the dormitory which could hold about 20 people. We met the owner Chris and his wife Emma and Nick. We also met up with
Karen’s cousins, Ray and Jackie, and Mick and Debbie. Well Mick and Ray are from London
and they reminded me of Delboy and Rodney from Only Fools and Horses they were a couple of real characters.
Karen allotted every one with
there rooms, my room was down stairs it was a fantastic room, I had my own bathroom and toilet but it had a broken lock I
tried to fix it but couldn’t do it this didn’t bother me but on a down side everyone kept sneaking into my room
to use the loo in a week I had used 4 toilet rolls, the woman that cleaned the rooms must have thought that I had a stomach
I was later to learn that the
German SS stayed at the châteaux for a couple of years during the war, and I pictured in my mind these German officers stretch
out on my bed in there SS uniforms, or sitting at the desk going over there tactics. That night we had a treat for tea they
made us a cottage pie it was scrummy.
Everyone thought they would have
a rest but Nicholas and I got up early and went to Hoche cathedral I was dressed in thermal underwear vests t-shirt trousers
jumper coat and hat, Nicholas had a striped t-shirt and a pair of trousers, I said aren’t you cold no he says I’m
use to this weather, I thought as he wasn’t cold I would ask him for his t-shirt.
As we walked up the steps there
were 2 men begging Nick gave them 4 euros each for a cup of tea, I thought to myself these men must have had permission from
the church to beg here.
We went inside and sat down,
the cathedral was called the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie and it is a gothic style building it was built between 1489 - 1560, it can seat about 500 people but on this day I would say there were about 150 of us we took a seat about half way down.
Nicholas said, how do I go about this praying business, I’m not
a Roman Catholic. I said don’t you worry about that God listens to everyone, whoever you are.
I prayed that all the people on
the trip would have a good holiday and that we wouldn’t all fall out or hurt ourselves, I also prayed for a safe return
The service went on I didn’t
understand any of it as it was in a different language but I did join in with the singing although I didn’t know the
words I just hummed along with the music, I do this at our chapel in St Merryn when I don’t know the words, Nicholas
said everyone gave you strange looks. After that came the collection it started with a big rumbling sound I think that was
to scare us to put more money in the pot, I gave 10 euros and so did Nicholas, I turned to Nicholas and said are you ok boy,
he said I’ve got a confession to make I’ve got the shivers well we decided to make our exit.
On the way back we bought all
the ladies in our party a red rose they were 4 euros each and we gave them out when we got back to the châteaux we also gave
one to Emma the owner they were all impressed. The rest of the day was a lazy day for us all. That evening we drove out a
couple of miles to a lovely restaurant that we called the barn.
New Years Eve
I woke up this morning and the
sun was shining, today was going to be special to me, as we were going somewhere I have always wanted to go, Lourdes. I had always had a vision of Lourdes
as being a little run down village with a little grotto around the corner with the water running where you could scoop up
a bit in a bottle if you wanted to; well I was in for a shock. The drive from Pessan to Lourdes took us about 2 hours through
some of the most beautiful scenery ever, the fields were all green and the roads were all lined with trees with a back drop
of the snow capped Pyrenees mountains. As we came into Lourdes
I was shocked to see that it wasn’t a run down village, it was a large town.
Lourdes was originally a small market town lying in the foothills of the
Pyrenees. At that time the most prominent feature was the fortified castle which rises up
from the centre of the town on a rocky escarpment.
the claims that there were apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858, Lourdes has developed into
a major place of Christian pilgrimage.
has a population of around 15,000 inhabitants but is able to take in some 5,000,000 pilgrims and tourists every season. Lourdes has the second greatest
number of hotels in France after Paris
with about 270 establishments.
We got to the car park in the main square, Karen said have you
got your disabled stickers with you as they can be used here, well we parked right at the front it saved us a lot of walking.
We went into the bar for a coffee and a bite to eat, then all 18 of us hit out for Lourdes.
We went into a little work house where Bernadette Soubirous live and worked and then onto
the place where she seen the Virgin Mary. As we got closer I could see a beautiful grey church with a river running along
side, the river was then diverted into fountains where you could drink the water then it filled a pool where you could paddle
or bath. Well I was shocked to find out that all 18 of us in the party suffered from some sort of illness or complaint, I
thought I would be the only one to bath my self but everyone was having a go even the young ones. Christopher bathed his feet,
I said put some on your neck it could help, this is the top healing site in the world I said. I bathed my eye, then Big Dick
took my hands and bathed them in the fountain he said I hope that cures your rheumatism, I thought this was a lovely gesture.
It was a wonderful feeling and
it got to me a bit, we all bathed and filled up our pots, Mathew filled up a gallon container and said I am going to take
this back to my rugby team to give them strength because we have got a big match coming up. People could take as much water
as they wanted there were people with sack trucks carrying huge containers away with them and one thing that impressed me
it was all free there weren’t even any collection boxes around, well done Roman Catholics.
I said to the others that I was
going to buy a candle and go lower down to the grotto and pray is anyone else going to join me, no they all said you go on
and pray we are going to stay here, as I walked down there was a place where everyone that had walked past rubbed there hands
across the stone and worn it smooth, as I was a quarry man I new it had a very short grain and all the rubbing had turned
the surface like polished glass I rubbed my hands over it and left my aura there and taken all the other auras with me. I
went on a little farther with my candle, then I looked back I saw everybody else from our party coming down with candles,
we lit our candles and said our prayers a lot of us got a bit weepy, it really got to me, and that why I’m going back
to Lourdes one day and have 2 full days there. We all went up to the church where they had a service running, it all felt
very inviting it was a great atmosphere and a very religious no one moaned or bitched not even the children or as the Londoners
called them, the bread snappers, I thought it was a great saying. We drove back to the châteaux and then went into Hoche for
a meal, all the Christmas lights were up, they looked fantastic it reminded me a little of Edinburgh. The restaurant staff
waited on us hand and foot and although we didn’t speak the language we seemed to get what we wanted with hand signals
Well that evening we went to a restaurant in Hoche
for a meal we weren’t served for ages so one of our party complained we were going to cut our losses and leave, but
he came back and said that we going to be served. The woman came up to Karen and although we couldn’t make out what
she was saying we knew by her actions that she was giving Karen a telling off. We had our meal it was lovely but the atmosphere
was strange it felt that the French people didn’t like us, well I came to midnight and we all shook hands and kissed
one another Karen kissed every one on the table the band played all we need is love, by the Beetles we all got up and sung
our hearts out they knew we were Brits all right, then Karen went up to the French people and hugged and kissed them all and
said happy new year in English, I assumed they did the same in French, well that broke the ice a bit. Then the music started
once more, by this time Big Dick had a few drinks inside him and went off to the dance floor he was the only one on the floor
but with a belly full of wine and beer he didn’t care, he’s got a dance that he calls the tractor dance, its like
some sort of a jig it is very unusual, but after a while 1 or 2 people joined him, the French women got up and danced, they
were stunning looking women they were so tiny, they were as thin as racing snakes, then
we all got on the floor, even I had a dance with him, they most probably thought we were a couple because one of our party
said to me could you look after my handbag while I go to the loo, so I put it over my shoulder and carried on dancing with
Dick. Well the time came when we had to leave, all the French people said no you must stay. It was nice to see that in the
end we were all friends and that was down to Karen who knocked down all the barriers,
Today we were off skiing. We headed
down towards the Spanish border to a ski resort. We were only 5 hours drive from Barcelona.
There wasn’t a lot of animal life and farm stock around like you see back in England I was later to find out that they
kept there livestock in barns, but we did see a lot of big eagle type birds I’m not sure what they were but they were
huge, Christopher asked me if the Nazis occupied this area during the war, yes I said they were everywhere, they guarded the
Pyrenees stopping people getting through.
On the way down we seen a big
Pyrenean mountain dog running free it reminded me of my dog I use to have, Crusader, this would have been his country.
We got to the resort and went
to the ski shop and got fitted up with our boots and skis then went outside to acclimatize ourselves with it all I didn’t
think it was that easy to walk in the big boots but everyone said don’t worry you will get use to them, we then got
into the land rover which took us up a very narrow zigzag lane just wide enough for the land rover discovery the journey was
just over a mile and it was uphill all the way, and what a view when we got there. Once we got up to the car park we all got
out I got a lovely photo of Christopher with my ski poles. There was snow everywhere and moving, no gliding around was hundreds
of skiers it was a beautiful site, I walked from the car park up to the slopes by the time I got there I was out of breath
it felt like I was carrying everyone’s skis and poles because I didn’t seem to have enough arms they just kept
slipping out of my grip, along came Nicholas and Big Dick and gave me a helping hand, sat me down on a big log to catch my
breath, Nicholas said you must be careful granddad don’t forget we are high up in the mountains and the air is thinner
here. I said to Christopher I think I’m going to kick this skiing lark into touch. You can’t do that he said in
a cunning Cornish way, you will be letting everyone down all the boys back at the yard and in Padstow you promised them that
you were going skiing, the thing was I don’t remember promising anyone I think he made that up. Well I stayed there
for a couple of minutes to catch my breath while the others got the tickets to the cable car ride. We all got in line to get
on the ski lift, I watched to see how you got on, the car didn’t seem to stop it came into the boarding platform turning
back on itself as it carried on back the way it had just come, people were just stepping on as it carried on its way , just
as we were ready to board a guy took our skis and poles and put them on the side, we were ready to board, Big Dick and Nicholas
jumped on but left me standing there, I shouted quick, quick pull me on and they both yanked me, get in they said the door
wont shut, I got in, the car followed the track and all of a sudden it just seem to take off like an aeroplane, looking down
I saw it must be 70 – 80 foot drop to the floor. We got off much the same way as we got on, without stopping but we
all knew what to expect this time, from there we had to get to the nursery slopes, these slopes are for beginners, I don’t
think anyone in our party had been skiing before except Matt, who had been away with the school. This involved getting on
a chair lift you stood on a sort of coconut mat and this chair on a cable came up from behind and scooped you up and carried
you off and as it does so a barriers locks you in, a bit like a fair ride. Once there we put our skis on and we were ready
to ski, I thought well I’ll just have a little run, LITTLE RUN Christ I was gone like a bullet, quickly I fell down,
I didn’t know how to stop, so falling down seemed a good way. I was helped back to my feet, well skis and thought I
would have another go, this time I fell backwards and almost knocked my brain out. I lay on the floor and laughed, I thought
what the bloody hell am I doing here, I’m 71 and never had any skiing tuition ever, well they got me up again I steadied
my self and then decided that I wouldn’t try going straight downhill as I just couldn’t stop, I wish I had packed
a ships anchor and tide the rope to my waist and threw it out every time I wanted to stop, so I decided to try and go across
the hill well over I went again I scrambled up again and thought well if I cant go downhill and I cant go across the hill
then I will try to go up hill, I managed to turn around and face up hill, and then I started to slip, backwards, I heard a
shout it was Jackie, Quick, Quick, Ed’s going backwards, then Ray jumped at me and grabbed hold and saved me in time,
although we were on the nursery slopes I still think we were out of our depth, we would have been better on flat ground with
someone towing us around on a tractor for an hour. Then it was my turn to be a saviour, Big Dick slipped and I grabbed hold
of him, he shouted don’t let go I said I daren’t let you go I hung on for dear life, when he composed himself,
he said thanks for not letting me go, that’s ok I said, if you had carried on there would have been nothing alive that
could have stopped you would have caused carnage at the bottom of the hill, imagine this there I am at 71 hold on to a giant
of a man, he’s 20 stone and well over 6 feet tall he’s a big rugby man who goes in for crunching tackles, but
on the slope he was petrified. After that everyone went there own way I did a little more then decided that I would go and
have a drink in the café.
I sat in the café and watched
all the people skiing, there could be over 2000 people on the nursery slopes at any one time, I watched some of our party
go past they were getting quite good, especially Nicholas, he’s a dare devil so is Paul Betts they were skiing everywhere
they had a go on a snowboard, couldn’t quite master it but they enjoyed the skis.
It was a great day but now it
was time to go we walk down to a ever growing line I was with Ray and Debbie, Mick and Jackie, they said you have to put your
skis on Ed were going on the chair lift well by the grace of god I got my skis on and we all shuffled forward in the line,
I felt like one of those king penguins at the south pole shuffling along in a flock, I got my skis tangled up in some woman’s
legs she didn’t look to pleased. It got to my turn I got into position with help from the guide, then It all happened
as quick as lightning this seat whipped around and sort of scooped the two of us up, the woman next to me pulled down the
safety bar and I got my skis tangled up in it bet managed to get them free, I was talking away to the woman next to me who
I thought was Jackie from London she wasn’t talking back I thought that’s funny Jackie’s turned a bit funny
with me but I was later to find out it was Jackie it was some other woman who I didn’t know at all, as we came over
the rise I realised why we had to put our skis on as the chair was coming into land the safety bar went up and we had to ski
off now I was getting nervous the closer we got to the landing point the faster the chair seemed to be travelling I felt like
an aeroplane coming into land at Heathrow airport, as we got to the target area the guide, who could see I was old took my
arm and guided me off but as you get off you have to ski away from the chairlift well off I went all I could see was another
hill going down the only way I could stop myself was to fall over and over I went. the assistant knocked off my skis and threw
them to one side and helped me up, I waited for everyone else to come off the chairlift as we were watching Big Dick came
off the ride and fell over on to someone, six more people piled into him, Nicholas said I knew it must have been a bad accident
as they stopped the ride, they cleared all the bodies away and the ride carried on, I called that part of the ride, the Big
Dick pile up. After that we walked to the cable car and rode down to the car park.
That evening over dinner I stood
up and talked a little bit about the days events, I also added, that there was someone on the table who we ought to give the
white feather, meaning my son Christopher, as he didn’t go skiing, for those of you that don’t know, the white
feather is given to people for cowardice, he shouted out you could give me the whole white chicken, I still wouldn’t
go, we all laughed.
We went back again the next day,
this time Karen came with us but she didn’t go skiing. Me and Christopher walked into the café in all our skiing gear
on we went through the doors Christopher said we were like Doc Holiday and the Sundance kid walking, also with us that day
were the young boys Matt, Jack, Paul and Josh. Christopher said to us you can say what you want to these waiters and waitresses,
they haven’t got a clue what you are talking about, and he said a few things and made us all laugh.
We stayed in the café for most
of that day, the young ones went of for another day of skiing, Nicholas and Paul Betts went down the black run they said it
was fantastic going through all the trees, mind you they are a pair of daredevils.
We came back to the hotel and
settled down for the evening.
Today is Karen’s birthday,
every one done there own thing during the day the boys went quad biking, I went into Hoche with Nicholas’s girlfriend
Hoche is a lovely town I really enjoyed it, it is a place I will like to visit again, the local people were very nice to everyone,
the Christmas lights were out of this world and the scenery was stunning. I felt safe there, it was a friendly town. I bought
Karen a ring from a jeweller in the town I was going to give it to her for her birthday.
We got back to the lodge we all
had to be ready by 7 o clock Nicholas gave everybody orders and told them what time we were going to rendezvous, you could
tell he was in the Army by the way he was giving out orders. We got back to our rooms, I got out my tuxedo and Nicholas cleaned
my shoes, I had never had my shoes cleaned like that ever before, they were like mirrors, you could see your face in them.
We sat down in the dining room
and had a few drinks, and then someone said speech time. As usual Chris Prynn made a wonderful speech it was magical, then
it was my turn to say something, I said well how I follow that it was fantastic.
I told everyone the story about the
time my mother and father and I went out and left Chris and Karen at my mum and dads house they had to cook a chicken for
when we got back. When we got back the house was empty no movement at all, then I heard a creak coming from fathers bedroom,
went up and I did catch Karen and Christopher in bed they cooked a chicken all right. My father never knew that they were
in there no one told him, if he had known, he would never have slept in that bedroom again. Dad was very old fashioned I don’t
think he ever took of his long pants, especially for any bedroom activities, I think I’m lucky to be here if you get
my meaning. I also went on to say that Karen and I didn’t always see eye to eye, but one day there was a bit of magic
between us and now we are fine with each other. I told her that when Christopher and her got together it was just what the
Prynns needed she was good for my son especially when he needed a kick up the backside. I finished the speech by giving her
a ring and telling her that she is the head of the Prynn dynasty on the female side of the family. Then all the others made
a speech big dick, Emma Nicholas Matt and Jack .
We decided to come home on the Friday. We would have stayed till Saturday
but Christopher had seen a programme on TV about this small French town called Oradour sur Glane where during the
war the Germans massacred the whole village.
The Massacre of
To read more about
the massacre please click here
That really made me think about how horrific the war was there are books on this
atrocity if you get chance to read any of them do so it will open your eyes to what happened during the war. Even now I can’t
believe anyone could do such a thing. The book is called, Oradour sur Glane, a vision of horror.
Well we drove back to tours where we going to stay the night
I got crones disease, I wasn’t feeling well at all I was sick in the car
on the way back, my stomach was aching with muscle cramps, and my intestines blocked, I didn’t tell Karen or Christopher
I knew if I did they would have taken me to a French hospital, didn’t want that, although I had a great holiday I wanted
to get home back to Cornwall.
The next day I felt better, we left about 10 o’clock it was going to be
a good 6 – 7 hour run even with the roads being so quiet well we got to the terminal about 4 o clock got on the train
and off we went, I imagined the waves above us rolling around, but down here it felt so peaceful. Half an hour later we were
in England, we then had a 6 hour journey home, we stopped of in Bristol, for a bite to eat, I couldn’t eat a thing as I still
had violent pains in my stomach. I didn’t realise at the time that it was diarrhea pains, I hung on till I got back
to the stones, well I only just made it, phew. It was good to be home, I like the traveling but I like getting home.