The First week in France

We have struggled with internet so what we have decided to do is each Friday do a blog update so here is the first 10 days.

20/10/16 Thursday GH – Bonjour France

24 hours of firsts.

First time on the Eurotunnel, – this was dead simple despite the size of the van. We were herded onto the same carriages as all of the other cars. They looked like the vulgar carriages used to transport the poor Jews to concentration camps ( It made us feel how lucky we were to have our freedom to be able to travel and how grateful we should be to those who fought for it. It seems fitting that we will be visiting the Normandy landing beaches at some time this break.) Inside however they were clean and we were in a carriage with only one other car. After setting sat nav for Le Crotoy I settled down for a sleep whilst Angie started a new book on her Kindle. No soon as I started to nod off and we were there, so quick.

First time driving a 30ft Motorhome on the wrong side of the road and the wrong way around roundabouts. It was a sinch actually mainly due to the near deserted French Roads and the low speed limits that are here. We only had two loonies feel the need to overtake even though the long, straight, wide and well tarmacked roads would have every other Englishman having their foot to the floor – perhaps they are a little more chilled here.

First Night in a FREE Aire GPS n50. 22886 e1.61253 (we should have paid but we didn’t have a ton of one euro coins – well 6 would have done, and it didn’t take notes. No one came to check so a free night it was then.)

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First day waking up in a different country in our new home – we wonder how many times we will be able to say that.

First early morning Run (as soon as it was light enough) in France -8k into the village and back to get three croissants for breakfast and to see what the village was like and if we wanted to stay here or move on. We are at Le Crotroy on the Somme Estuary. It is a typical French seaside town with lots of Fresh Fish shops and restaurants. We decided to stay but move to the other Aire which was on the other side of town but overlooking the harbour and Marina GPS n50.21800 e1,63300  Initially parking to the rear of the Aire with a limited view but when a French Motorhome moved off and there was a space large enough for us at the front we quickly moved to take full advantage of the superb view.

First time that we decide to walk into town oblivious to the French lunch ‘hour’ from 12.30pm – 2pm. Everything was Ferme! – CLOSED! Angie thought I had planned it that way. She knows me far too well, but on this occasion it WAS a mistake, honest!

First time realising that we were very much mistaken and that the space that we thought was just wide enough for one Motorhome is actually wide enough for three -US plus two, according to the French and Dutch vans that have just shoehorned themselves in beside us to get the view, we can more or less touch them from our windows. You can see the “gap” we left either side of our van in the attached photo – honestly would you? We are new to this stuff so perhaps they are right but talk about breath in, especially when the remaining 3 acres of Aire is deserted. Little do they know that our T.V at night wakes up vans 50m or more away due to where the speakers are and we are unable to do anything about it apart from not watching T.V. I sincerely hope they like English Television and were planning on listening to it until late into the evening.

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First bike ride, Just Gid’s and Molly this time as Angie is trying to shift the start of a cold. Not a long one as dodging the rain showers but just enough to check the bike out and fully finally wear Molly out. She is zonked, snuggled up on her blanket after an 8 mile run 3 mile walk and 4 mile fast run next to the bike.

Tomorrow we aim to move off to Honfleur, a pretty fishing town steeped in History before heading to Mont St Michelle if the weather brightens up a bit if not we head south in search of sun, but for now we sit here cold beer/ G&T in hand tapping away at our blog / reading kindle books looking out onto the Somme Estuary. Better than a business generation Thursday? -NOT ARF!

 

 

21/10/2016 Friday AJH

Not Honfleur

Ok we changed our mind. We lay listening to the rain on the roof of the van and decided that Honfleur can wait till the spring -the sunshine is calling us. Let’s head down to the Vandee and Bordeaux for some warmth. A quick check on the sat -nav says a 12-hour drive is in store. We decide to go as far as we can and when tiredness kicks in find an Aire to stay over. This plan of action has taken us to a pretty Aire on the banks of a river just south of Le-mans GPS n47,88917 e0,03040 – 5 euro a night including electric seemed pretty good.  We topped up on wine, food and diesel at a ’Le Celerc’ and at 1.11 Euro a litre for diesel we filed up – A tank full was £15 cheaper than in the U.K. French supermarkets are amazing – two whole isles of chilled deserts as an example a huge fish counter selling every type of fish you can imagine and not to mention the huge wine section – their most minimalist shop puts some of our best to shame. Being foodies we are going to have to be very careful with our calorie intake especially with quality wine starting from 4 Euros a bottle. We have purposely avoided the Toll roads as we want to see rural France and the French Motorways look the same as U.K motorways. The last few miles seemed more French than the first few hundred perhaps we are getting to the real France now. Gids seems to have perfected his French accent as English vans have commented on him being able to speak the lingo. He quickly corrected them, and the French seem to jabber back to him as soon as he says a few words. 6 words down then about 100,000 to go.

So here we are on the banks of a river just south of Le Mans and have had another change of heart we now think we will motor up to the start of the Loire Valley at Orleans and bimble down the banks of it seeing what we see until we hit the coast, and then turn left.

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22/10/2016 Saturday GRH

Centre Ville, Centre France & Centre Europe

We have had a change of heart -again! – well I suppose that is the luxury of having time on your hands and a movable home – We have now headed to the geographical centre of France and apparently also Europe although I remain to be convinced on that, the home of Joan of Arc – Orleans. It feels that we have a plan at last. Orleans to the Vendee via the Loire valley, a cacophony of Chateaux’s, walled towns and Cities, stunning riverside vistas await apparently. We have driven 128k today from Le Mans, and excepting the ubiquitous roundabouts that the French love (and that also work) so well, I need not have moved the steering wheel for most of it. Miles of dead straight tree lined supremely tarmacked flat roads with huge flat plains either side only broken by the occasional pretty village (where right angle bends and single carriageway streets put my driving to the test), water towers or high tech wind turbines that they seem to have embraced as easily as the roundabout.

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We have named sat-nav today and she is now called “Margaret”. For those of you who remember Little Britain and the book shop clip Margaret is this voice that knows everything but often is a bit slow in offering the information. Sat-nav is the same –  Brilliant and we could not manage without her but on occasions provides the info we need just after the turning or the exit is upon us. We love Margaret though she is always there despite her occasional lazy moments she is the font of all knowledge.

We now sit next to the Loire with a lovely view of the river only a 5k walk or cycle from Orleans at the centre of France for the princely sum of 4.5 Euros a night  including water waste and electric hook up GPS n47,88550 e,1,83990. Tomorrow (Sunday) we hope to ride in to Orleans lock up the bikes, spend a leisurely afternoon seeing the sights, perhaps a spot of tourist shopping if everything is not shut again and then ride back. I truly love the French attitude of fitting work around personal time where everything stops for lunch between 12.30 and 2pm and much closes half day on a Saturday, and when they close for lunch they leave everything out on the pavement to save taking it in. Why can’t Britain be more like that rather than the rush, hustle and bustle that it is. Estate Agents even close for 2 hours and pop over to the local bar for a pint and some lunch, their window displays made of plastic wallets/ punched pockets or a mix of the two with particulars in taped to the inside of the window- IT WORKS!

 

 

23/10/2016 Sunday AJH  After a great day in Orleans

Yesterday was a great introduction to the amazing architecture that the french cities has – everything shut but brilliant for exploring Orleans.I even found my own Jewelry shop shame it was shut as Gids would have had to buy me something from my shop wouldn’t he?

 

24/10/2016 Monday GRH

What a great day this turned out to be. A quick 6k run down the banks of the River Loire followed by driving a planned route that got curtailed half way. After a quick visit to a very pretty but very closed and deserted Beaugency with its superb 15th century multi arched bridge,

 

 

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we decided to go and see if we could find some parking near Chateaux Chambord to see if we could see if from afar but typical French for you there was a camping car Aire in the grounds and at 11 Euros for 24 hours it seemed a no brainer to not stay here with the Chateaux only 500 meters away. GPS n47,61608 e1,51057  (Not sure if this GPS is the same Aire, as we found ours by chance but it looks similar and similar price) We pulled up and went for a walk around the grounds for free. On the way back stopping at the first OPEN shop we have seen in about a week. Feasting ourselves on the yummy free biscuit samples that were everywhere to be eaten, vowing to go back the next day to buy something. Back to the Van for home-made pancetta wrapped chicken breast stuffed with Boursin with roasted Mediterranean vegetables and a superb bottle of red Bordeaux from crystal wine glasses – Oh yes we know how to live in comfort. Sausage, mash, peas and onion gravy tomorrow! Settled down to watch film 4 with a glass of whisky on ice & Angie of course with the ubiquitous G&T. After a cold beer, a bottle of wine shared between us a couple of Gins and a couple of whiskies – neither of us saw the end of it. Tomorrow (today now) we plan to see Blois, Vouvrey and then to see the ancient quarter of Tours.

 

25/10/2016 Tuesday GRH

Well, today was a bit of a planned flop. I went for a lovely misty 6k run around the ground of Chateaux Chambord, we had a lovely breakfast followed by a 3 Mile walk with all three of us and then we set off to see Blois, Vouvray and Tours Margret nearly sent me up a bus lane in Blois and we ended up in a small housing estate -not fun with 30ft of motorhome behind you – we gave up on Blois and ventured on to Vouvray and the Aire we decided to use to park in was so small that we would have blocked everyone in and out so decided to just go to Tours. When we got to the Aire it was a Car park surrounded by council flats and a park and ride. Hmm not us so we found another at Villandry and thought to give that one a go. Margret struck again and this time succeeded in getting us into a designated bus lane. That in itself would not have been too bad but this lane ended up coming to a stop at a red light next to a raised entrance platform. A bundle of perplexed French passengers looked on. The red light seemed to say red for ever and when it finally turned Green the option was drive straight forward on to the tram lane – worrying! Or cut right into the lane we should have been in, to a few blasts of horns the second option was taken – better than being rammed by an automated tram we thought. We have now got to the Aire in Villandry GPS n47,34100 e0,51127 and it is being updated so no water electric or waste is available HOWEVER it is only 1k from Chateaux de Villandry Angie we wanted to see for its sculptured gardens – Result. Off to that tomorrow before heading further south west again.

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26/10/2016 Wednesday AJH

Stunning gardens at Chateaux la Villandry. Spent 3 lovely hours taking in the feast of colour. Even the vegetable garden was sculptured (take note Mr Lenton we expect to see yours the same way on our return). We decided to leave for further south and make the run to La Rochelle as the sun seems to be out there. It will be a bit of a tough run but someone a has to do it.Really pretty views on the way there and Margretnearly caught Gids out again, Driving directly in to the westerly setting sun cant see the road or the sat nav screen and Margret says take the slip-road on the right. Half way up Gids reralises that she actually meant the next slip road. We decide to stop indicate left and wait for the que to clear a few moments and lots of horn honking later we are in the right lane going the right way sa-la-vie!

 

 

27/10/2016 Thursday GRH

A long drive and then last night was a bit of a shock – we got to the Aire only to find that it wasn’t there ended going to the one in the city centre at 10 Euros a night (there is a choice of three at La Rochelle GPS n46,15250 w1,13944 or n46,16620 w1,1544 or n46,14213 w1,16773)  but we badly needed water or we would be a bit smelly.

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Went for a run into the centre and decided that it was an Angie heaven – shops brimming with stuff to browse cobbled streets markets cafes bars and amazing architecture and historical buildings. We walked in with molly and had a brilliant time getting lost in the allies and cobbled streets. It is the first place that we have been to where it has a buzz to it. After a good mornings therapeutic walking we decided to leave for somewhere further south again – The barrier was up so a free night for us again – two in a row wahoo!!!. We are heading for the middle of the vendee and a washing machine as I am running out of running gear and the washing bag is getting full. We could also do with some internet.

 

28/10/2016 Friday AJH

We are on a Camping site in the Vendee for the first time in 10 days, free internet and pay for washing and drying facilities but the sun is out and we are sitting in the sun whilst we do some house chores. Tomorrow we will take a leisurely stroll to the village and to the beach but the way it is at the moment it is hard to drag ourselves away from the warmth of the sun and a bit of sun bathing.

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29/10/2016 Saturday GRH

8K Run this morning and then a walk back to the same beech – its Saturday pm so everything is shut -a sun blessed lunch alfresco comprising Brie wine and biscuits as we forgot to get bread earlier.still it was nice and we hope to pop a few miles down the road to a Aire right on the beech at 8 Euro a night including electric and water, that’s not too bad n45,69193 w1,18896 We are the only people in shorts as everyone else is in jeans jumpers coats and scarfs whilst we sit out in shorts and t shirts – i actually had my shirt off it was so nice. We do get some strange looks. Need to find a garage for diesel and Auto gas for the bottled gas fill-up, never done a fill up before so wish me luck but I suppose 2 months use of gas before a fill up is needed isn’t too bad,

 

 

 

 

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