Caiti and I delivered Benj back to his flat in Limoges on Tuesday. He was keen to get back to revise for upcoming tests, and to see his petite amie again. Plus he reckoned Creuse was too cold for him!

The résidences were decidedly unfestive. There was just this notice up from the caretakers wishing everyone a happy Christmas. Could try harder, I think!

We left him unpacking and busily texting friends to see who was around and headed into Limoges. The Christmas markets were advertised as still going on, and both of us were keen to do some ice-skating. I’d seen the rink when we’d walked into the city on the day we picked Benj up.

I got us a bit lost getting to the Place de la République, but eventually we found it. Our detour did at least mean that we passed these three Christmas ragondins (coypus) outside a bar. Well, that’s what I think they were!

The ice rink was nice and quiet, so we hurried over. There was only one counter where a guy was handing out skates, so I went over to pay him to hire some. “C’est gratuit,” he told me. Mega!

We put our skates on and wobbled across the rubber matting to the ice. I launched first. Now Caiti and I are both nifty little skaters, but today something was wrong. I was making the right skating motions, but all that was happening was that my feet were slipping to the side and I was only inching forward.

I was puzzled. It was the same puzzlement I felt the time I dropped one-year-old Rors into the swimming pool, without first inserting the floats into the special compartments in his Polyotter swimsuit. I just couldn’t understand why he plummeted to the bottom of the pool instead of bobbing around on the surface waiting for me to slip into the water beside him. Luckily I realised what the problem was very quickly and was able to retrieve my beloved infant before anything drastic happened. He was surprised but none the worse for wear!

Anyway, it was another of those ‘what the heck’s happening’ moments. Surely I hadn’t forgotten how to skate in the space of a year, or become so decrepit that I no longer had the strength to do it? I glanced at Caiti who was frowning in a perplexed way. We floundered over to the railing and compared experiences. Neither of us could stop our feet from sliding sideways all the time. And then Caiti spotted that we weren’t skating on ice. We were skating on cold plastic.

Can you see the squares?

It’s true! It was an artificial skating rink, and sadly it was hopeless. Possibly if we’d had top notch skates rather than poor old battered communal ones we might have managed to swish semi-gracefully across the ice. But we didn’t. We battled against the odds for half an hour before we gave up, very disappointed. Win some, lose some. We’ll have to hit the proper ice rink in Limoges some time.

Caiti struggling

Anyway, we’d worked up an appetite for chips and we had nice, rosy cheeks so it wasn’t all bad! This pigeon had his lunch next to us.

All the Christmassy market stalls had gone, which was a shame since I’d been planning a long, slow browse around them with Caiti, who loves to shop. So we got back to Benj’s flat rather earlier than planned. We went through the Jardin d’Orsaywhere the largest amphitheatre in Gaul used to stand.

We said our goodbyes to Benj and left the big city behind for the time being. But we’ll be back before too much longer I imagine.