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Phespirit goes to France
Poitiers     May 2010

This might not have happened. Eyjafjallajökull, the Icelandic volcano that choked the skies above Europe with a dense ash cloud during April, decided to cough again in the days before Phespirit's departure. He was savouring a last glass of Shiraz on the evening before his flight to Poitiers when the news came through of an expected airspace shutdown. Quickly he checked the charts on the Met Office web site. These suggested he ought to be able to get away, but how easy would it be to get back again? He made a note of some train and ferry details just in case .....

That morning everything went to plan. Phespirit was on the 07:25 flight out of Stansted, arriving in Poitiers at 09:55 as per schedule. He was lucky. The following day some London airports and parts of European airspace were indeed closed down. In France, however, there was nothing but glorious sunshine as Phespirit began the forty-minute walk from the airport to his hotel. He had made no arrangements for this short break. In fact he had only decided to visit central France because it stood out as a large gap on the map of his travels around Europe. No plans, no pressure; he simply intended to relax and enjoy.

After a first afternoon of doing not-very-much, Phespirit was left with two and a half days to occupy. The first of these he whiled away on a slow, leisurely stroll along the arc of the River Clain as it curved gently around the eastern edge of town. It provided little in the way of entertainment, but he stopped at a few parks and a watermill, he visited a botanical garden, and he crossed over some tasteful bridges. He also ascended to the high point of Notre-Dame-des-Dunes from where he could gaze out across the rooftops and spires of the old mediæval town.

The local tourist information centre had helpfully arranged for yellow, red and blue lines to painted on the streets, marking out the best sightseeing routes around the north, south and east of town. Phespirit filled his second day by walking the first two of these - again slow and leisurely - and in between he called into the Sainte-Croix Museum and took a longer walk out of town to visit the ancient abbey at Saint-Benoît.

Phespirit completed the blue route on his last morning in Poitiers. Shortly after midday he started out for the airport, reassured by the sight of vapour trails in the sky - the volcanic ash cloud had been blown back northwards and all flights had resumed. Poitiers had been lovely, but in truth a one-and-a-half day visit would have sufficed. It didn't matter, though. This trip refreshed Phespirit's appetite for short European city breaks.

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