The Journey Home
Wednesday 14th March
Carcassonne – NOT!
Despite our keenness to see Carcassonne it has once again eluded us. A six hour drive from Vilanova took us to this double walled citadel. We had decided on four options for the night, two camp sites and two Aires but despite our best planning we still failed to see one of Frances biggest tourist spots. One campsite did not open until Monday the other which we were told was open was totally closed, one Aire only took Motorhomes under 8 meters due to a double barrier entry and exit system where the second barrier 8 meters from the first did not open until the first had closed behind you. The other Aire that was closed last year was now open but wanted €30 for any stay over 12 hours and had no facilities. RIP OFF came to mind. Luckily we had Sunny the smart car in tow so we unhitched him and were able to quickly check all this out whilst Catori was having a rest in a lay-by. So Carcassonne you have yet again lost our patronage and the profit from a meal for two with wine and beer and not forgetting a sticker for the van. We will try again another year! We ended up a further hours drive north at an impromptu Aire picked out of the book as a ‘last resort’ thing and it is a great Aire right on the bank of a canal with lovely canal side walks to the town. €8 including WiFi all services and electric. Now THAT is more like it. This town really knows how to gain visitors with a full Aire opposed to the empty affairs at Carcassone. Castelnaudary GPS N43. 314100 E 001. 949240 really deserves more than a quick look but unfortunately we have a ferry to catch so it’s a one night wonder for us this year I’m afraid.
Thursday 15th March
A campsite to ourselves
Once again we had a few options for our second stay over but the outright forerunner was the Aire at Donzenac again as it is so close and easy to get to from the arterial route we are taking home. It was closed last year (but it was New Year’s Eve) It’s a hard life.The book said it is open all year so we thought we would give it another go. Our Aires & Stop Overs The five and a half hour journey was a pretty route that we enjoyed last year up and over, and through. Cahors This year the weather was likewise kind to us bright and sunny all the way and we pulled over on the side of this “main road” for a spot of lunch and stretched our legs, a few cars and lorries passed but it was mainly deserted and quiet. The Aire at Donzenac was having its water/waste and chemical disposal replaced when we arrived so was out of action. I used my best pigeon French to ask the workers if we could just stay on the Aire without using the facilities. One disappeared and shortly later the barrier lifted the door to the small reception hut opened and the adjacent campsite was put at our disposal with electric for €16 for the night. We decided to go with it as we were both tired and in fairness we had stayed here last year for free. We had a choice of all of the pitches and despite the attraction of being right next to the river we opted for a gravel track as the grass was sodden and we didn’t want to get bogged in.
Friday 16th March
Another five and a half hour drive today and we have ended up at another lovely FREE Aire on the banks of the Louire River which is in full flood. The first two hours or so were easy motorway driving. The D 954 to Blois was a lovely tarmac road and a straight as an arrow due north for mile upon mile. Once again a mild sunny springlike day and we stopped at one of the roadside picnic spots France is brilliant at. This one was by a lake and provided a great place for lunch.
The fantastic road was complimented by great scenery of vineyards, forests, and a few Château’s. It changed at Oucques the road became narrower and very worn out and bumpy from the constant use of the huge lorries that also use this route without bothering to reduce their speed except when going through the picture perfect villages along the way (who all seem to be lobbying for a bypass) The heavens opened and the most vivid and stunning double rainbow appeared very low down on the horizon straddling the road. We were so engrossed in it that I nearly rear ended a small red thing that they call a “car” (France and to lesser extent Spain has loads of these underpowered things that seem to go no faster than 25 miles an hour and sound like a bee stuck in a jam jar, I think they have taken the place of the 2CV). We had a very very large red thing in the shape of massive lorry right up our backside but Angie was determined to try to capture the moment. The image is not a patch on the size, colour and brightness of the rainbow but it gives you an idea.
After passing the red annoyance in front of us that was being bimbled along the road by an elderly gentleman behind the wheel in no obvious hurry sporting a flat cap and a bulbous red nose to match his car, and finally being able to gain some distance from the red beast behind us we spewed out on to the N1010 and then the N10 where our riverside Free Aire at Marboue was waiting GPS N48.112400 E001.328600. It’s a great stop over and one that we will use again.
Saturday 17th March
A three and a half hour drive today to get us back to the north coast and this pretty town that I visited with friends when I was in my early 20’s but Angie has never seen. The morning was mild and I walked Molly I’m just my T shirt and jeans. As we drove north it became cold bitterly cold and it was the first time we had to put the heating on in the cab. We arrived at the Aire GPS N49.419240 E000.241540 and I jumped out to refill with water and dump the grey and black waste. It was frikkin’ freezing I quickly jumped back in to clobber up but despite my work jacket and woolly hat I was very cold for the first time in 12 months.
We drove into the town to pick up a few last minute provisions (more wine) as it started to snow and by the time we had come out of e’ Leclerc it was heavy. As I tap away at his blog it remains heavy and is laying on the roofs cars and grass. We hope it will not be so heavy to hamper our last day in France and trip to the ferry.
Sunday 18th March
we woke at 8.30 to clear paths and roads. The snow did not settle so we can enjoy Honfleur in all its very cold glory! It was FREEZING walking into town but it was very pretty despite the cold however the wind had us keeping away from the waterfront. In the sun this is a glorious place and it was a shame that Angie had to see it sub zero but there will be another less inclement time in years to come I am sure.
The final 1hr 30 min drive brings us back to the Aire at Ouistreham ready for our ferry to arrive at 6.30am tomorrow.
Our adventure Ends….. for the time being at least.
One last note… as I walked Molly along what was Sword beech where so many lost their lives on 6th June 1944 there is a memorial to the fallen.
There were two inscriptions. The first was Churchill’s famous “we shall fight them on the beeches” speech immortalised in stone and under it also in stone, one that is now so apt for our troubled and more secular times that we have voted for and are heading towards. It simply says
“Men will be proud to say I am a European. We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think as much of being a European as belonging to their native land. We hope that wherever they go in the European continent they will truly feel, here, I am at home”
… It’s orator… Winston Churchill 7th May 1948.
If he could see us now!