P1080660A very hot night with thunderstorms and torrential rain in the small hours. Quite exciting though.

We took a small detour on the way to Laon via unprepossessing Hirson and equally drear Fourmies, the latter being marked as a pleasant town on the map but this was not obvious,

Anyway the Hotel le Bannier de France in Laon is located in a one way one lane road and getting there by GPS requires several circumnavigations. Finally made it and despite the trip advisor reviews to the contrary it's fairly typical of it's type, somewhat run down and smelly. Our room is up two floors above what appears to be the kitchen and spacious at least.

Having arrived at a fairly sensible time to try to beat the heat there is the opportunity to explore the very down at heel main street. The good news is that there is a coin laundry, just what we need after 10 days!

A drink in a new bar (Zinc) just down the road recalls old times, doing the laundry while at the pub. This time we did not get locked out of the laundry having gotten back to pick up the clothes too late.

The restaurant over the road Estaminet St Jean did not look too bad and apart from confusing maroilles cheese with morelle mushrooms my din

ner was ok, chicken in cheese is a bit....... well odd. Mary was delighted with hers.

The most marked thing about Laon is the sad state of the place. At least 25% of the shops stand empty and many look to have been for some time. It's a dire state of affairs and several of the people we see go past look to be high on drugs or booze. There's a downward spiral of no visitors - no shops and Laon is well advanced on this.

For some other unfathomable reason the road is dug up and left impassable. This in the summer school holidays.P1080674

Crowds started to arrive as time passed and we followed them down to the cathedral for the son et luminerre show at 10pm. This was lots of fun and shows that someone is trying to promote the city and there are people about if what you are putting on is good enough.