Well due to the on going issues with lack of internet and download speeds we have had to wait to give the blog an update so under is our ramblings and photos since the last update – we hope it makes sense.
Thursday 10th & Friday 11th November -Gids
Windy today – sunny but THE WIND! -not much sleep last night as a result. We are in Gruissan GPSn43,10444 e3,09944 by accident as the Aire we were aiming to go to was closed. Went into the town but that was closed too – they decide to not open until 4pm in this town. One day we will get this French timing thing that differs between village and village, town and town. No wonder we never see any one they are probably so confused as to when shops are open and closed that they just don’t bother and stay indoors. Gruissan has an immense marina full of boats a massive lovely beach, we are sure it is heaving in the summer but at the moment its dead!
Friday – moved on after eventually getting the motorhome started at least we had a reason to observe the 11 am 2-minute silence – Margret the Sat-Nav struck again today taking us to a Lidl distribution center rather than a shop.
Saturday 12th November -Gids
We find ourselves at Le Grande Motte GPS n43,56789 e4,07404 a very impressive title for a relatively new town. After nearly three days and Gruissan which was a lovely old town around a ruined castle overlooking a bay and lagoon, and it was free, we had decided to put down roots, well at least for a day or two but we were blown to kingdom come and back. The winds were non-stop for two full days and three full nights so we decided to find somewhere a bit more motorhome friendly and headed North East.
We are now just east of Montpellier and have electric hook up for the first time in 4 days and boy do we need it. The leisure battery was dead as was the Vehicle battery – we had to get a jump start from our French neighbour to get us going. We are now on a 10 Euro a night Aire but with free electric and nicely protected from the wind and in a private spot that we can sit outside if the weather remains warm. We may stay here for a day or two, try to catch the bus to Montpellier tomorrow or Monday or perhaps drive there and then head up to see the famous 2000- year old Roman viaduct at Pont Du Guard.
We had a lovely day. A 1 mile walk into the centre of Le Grand Mont and WOW it felt like Cannes or the Monte Carlo Yacht basin. It was really busy, a huge Marina with some very expensive motorboats and bars Cafés and restaurants. The sun was out the wind was nowhere to be seen and it felt like a British summer day. Plans changed and the meatball spaghetti Bolognese that was planned for tonight back at the van can wait. We decided to pull up a chair enjoy the sun and our surroundings and treat ourselves to Le Plait De Jour. I had been waiting for Moule’s et Frittes since arriving in France and finally it was to be. Angie plumped for the steak and we had our second meal out since arriving – Yummy and filling – Molly was brilliant again – she lay under the table and just waited. A long walk along the Sandy beach was in order to work off those calories and Molly loved the beach as she always does. She is like a dog possessed with many of the passers- by laughing at her silly antics. We think it must be the feeling of the sand on her feet that sets her going.
Checked the Bus time-table on the way back and we think a bus to Montpellier is possible tomorrow. Presently typing the blog, beer in hand with Avitar on in the back ground.
Sunday 13th November Gids
Another walk into town today after a 7k run to the tourist info and back. (Twisted my ankle trying to find a loo that was subsequently shut) Not quite as warm as yesterday but still a lovely day to just wander. Le-Grande-Motte is great, but it is just stacks of hotels, apartments, boats and restaurants and an amazing beech, other than that there is not much here of interest. Great for two weeks of summer sun and the beach but it’s not really us now in the winter.
We have decided to drive into Montpellier tomorrow park the van and explore, moving back to Sete and the beach side Aire after with the view to walk or cycle to Sete or perhaps have a couple of lazy day’s beech-side before heading back north. It may appear that we are indecisive and perhaps we are. As we have no pressing timescale or agenda we can just do what we want, when we want, going where ever we want, and changing our minds if we wish to do so.
Monday 14th November -Angie
Well we used to be unsure but now we are not so certain! Montpellier can wait. We have decided to go to Nimes and then on to Pont Du Gard, a real Roman fest then. Nimes has one of the best intact Roman Amphitheatres in the world dating from 200 B.C and a Roman Temple from about the same era. Having tapped in the car park that looked fairly central to everything into Margret we set off, the five of us, me, Gids, Molly, Catori the motorhome and Margret the Sat-Nav’.
We passed flocks of wild pink Flamingos in the lagoons (-must get a picture on our return trip) and finally, nearly made it to the central car park that we were aiming for, however the road signs were saying nothing was allowed over 3.5 tonnes. Catori is a bit of a big bird weighing in at 5 tonnes. We decided to detour from the planned route and eventually found ourselves in a park and ride which was much more satisfactory. A hop on the bendy bus and 20 mins later we were face to face with History. We saw the parking that was our first intention, underground with tiny roads to and from it. Why oh why did Margret not warn us! We were so glad that we over ruled her wicked plan.
We had Pigeon chasing Molly with us so we could not go in to any of the sights, which was a shame but at least it has helped us reach a decision. When we go to Rome, Molly is defiantly staying in the van so that we can go into the sights and also to save our arms from becoming a foot or so longer due to her continuous pulling to try to get the Pigeon’s.
A short drive out of Nimes and we are now pitched up at a free Aire about 2k away from the Pont Du Gard GPS n43,93789 e4,55851. A 2,000-year-old Roman Viaduct. Tomorrow therefore suggests it will be a walk from here to take in the UNESCO sight in all its glory. Gids saw the super-moon in all its amber glory when taking Molly out for her evening toddle but no Camera !
Tuesday 15th November – Gids
Cold wind today but not too cold to deter us from a walk to Pont Du Gard. All the guide books talk about the first moment that you see this wonder to Roman engineering. It truly was breath-taking however the more we wandered around it and saw it from different angles the more impressed we became.
We were more or less on our own and this is one of the advantages of seeing France or anywhere come to think of it out of season. Sure you don’t get to sunbathe on the banks of the river and spend all day there in glorious heat but to be able to visit a site like this and photograph it at will with no one being in the way is amazing. On the Southern side there was a path down to a beech by the river that it crosses. Too much of a temptation for us to not go down to the shore. We were all on our own on the beach and in the lea of the wind with the sun out it was really warm but a bit too early for our pic-nick that we had brought with us. We just spent a happy half hour playing fetch stick from the river with Molly – she loved it oblivious to the historical importance of the site. It was a special moment and one that we will never forget but I felt sad at the thought of all of the slaves suffering and deaths that went into creating this amazing bridge. We could imagine this beautiful sun filled valley being full of misery for hundreds of thousands of slaves for so many years. Once again we feel so lucky to be living in a civilised modern word now.
A walk back to the van and a short drive a little way down the valley to a village called Comps on the edge of a river – Peaceful aire GPS n43,85390 e4,60912
Wednesday 16th November Gids
The plan was to head down to Arles to have another dose of Roman history but we have a pressing issue that needs to be resolved – She is called MOLLY and without her pet passport being stamped and her vet administered tapeworm pill and obligatory health check she was not going to be coming home with us. So there it is, we are now on the homeward bound part of our first trip to Europe in Catori the Motorhome with Margret the sat-nav. We decided to take the shortest way home which also happened to be the highest. 1,121 Meters or about 3,000 foot above sea level and over the Millau suspension bridge – the highest and longest in Europe. On to the A75 we headed and up and up and up it went, twisting its way around, over and through some amazing mountain passes – a true modern day achievement to civil engineering. At one point on the way up we saw tiny little lorries in the distance climbing what looked like the side of the mountain we knew that we would be heading there soon. It was a slight relief when we reached the first plateaux as poor old Catori was burning a lot of oil pulling 5 tonnes of herself up the pass. She did well not dropping below 65 K.P.H and having to overtake all of the HGV’s on the way up. I dared not look at her MPG! We finally came to the Millau Bridge – secretly I was dreading this bit, expecting to be buffeted and blown all over the place but in actual fact it was event-less. They have some kind of shutters on the side that seem to do the trick or perhaps there was no wind on the day, either way it was slightly disappointing as there was no view to be seen through the shutters, although they look if they are made of glass and in hindsight I should have pulled over into the Aire on the other side to take a photo of it – So this internet stock photo will have to do DOH And double DOH! £38 Euros to go across the bridge sounds extortionate and perhaps it is, but the motorway was totally toll-free for the entire journey and we must have saved that amount in diesel. We are now set up for the night in a small free Aire at Montpeyroux GPS n45,62373 e3,19911 just south of Clermont Ferrand on what feels like the top of the world . We hope to find a vet tomorrow and then carry on our way.
Thursday 17th November Gids
Vet Day! It’s all about getting Molly UK legal today. Googled Vets in Clermont and found a few. Bearing in mind that parallel parking a 30ft motorhome in a city centre is not the most enjoyable hobby you can undertake, finding one with parking nearby was paramount – On the way in to the chosen practice we saw a vet and logged its location just in case. It was just as well as the chosen vet was, a) not in business any more by the looks of the building it once occupied and b) right by the university there was no way we would find parking. We headed back to the first and parked in a Boulangerie car park, brought some lunch and asked if we could leave the van there to walk Molly to the vet. Sure no problem. Vet was open, we speak no French, they speak no English, Google translate to the rescue. After a few minutes of typing to each other we had an appointment at 4.15pm. Bugger that is 5 hours away. We decide to do a bit of therapeutic wine and cheese shopping if we can find a local shop. We asked Margret and there was an E.Leclerc just around the corner. WOW talk about having your socks blown off this “grocery shop” was amazing. We actually took photos of the “fish counter” and the “wine isle” not to mention the cold steam being pumped over the salad section. 3 ½ hours later we emerged, 158 Euros lighter but what a shop! Having a Tesco background I was in awe of everything even down to the ‘facing up’ and the width of the marble isles. Better than ANY I have ever seen including Harrods food hall. They truly really love their food here, If you want it they will sell it. Angie is in love with it and is so glad that they do not have anything like it at home I don’t think she would never leave!
Anyway that saw off four of the five hours we needed to kill. Back to the Boulangerie and we purchased four Croissants for breakfast tomorrow and asked if we could leave the van again. It was a different person this time round. Walked Molly down the road again, half our later and after a thermometer up her bottom a pill down her throat, two Vet signatures on her passport and a payment of 37 Euros she is UK Legal.
A late night drive to Saint Pourcasne Sur- Sioyle. I am not good at driving a wide motorhome, on the wrong side of the road, in the dark, with no street lighting, on narrow roads, with Huge lorries coming at me in the other direction. Pleased to arrive is an understatement.
Friday 18th November
Anxious to not have to repeat last night’s night time driving experience we were up and out early. Ile-De-France has very few Aires and they are a long way from each other. The drive was amazing mostly quality duel-carriage ways and we made good progress until Margret fell asleep again and failed to advise me of a turn and then decided to re-direct me through the narrowest of back roads to our desired evening Aire. It sounded nice and looked nice in the picture. On the banks of a canal with pic-nick benches, grass, trees and electric hook-up all for 5 Euros a night. What the town forgot to mention is that it is on the edge of a quarry plant that was carefully missed out of the photo and the town is the worst we have ever been to, very desolate and industrial It’s called Souppes Sur – Loing. Well we will stay here for the night and then it will be so-Long Souppes Sur -Loing we will not be returning any time soon.
Saturday 19th November
A driving day today really good roads though and a lot of free motorways so made good time. The only issue was that the Aire we had picked last night had no waste, toilet emptying or water supply facilities unless you ventured in the horrible town centre. We decided to give it a miss and hopefully find somewhere en-route to the next that was able to provide free grey and fresh water but No chemical toilet emptying point. No such luck I think the Parisians don’t want us “camping car” lot too near their precious city unless we pay good and proper to visit it. They therefore seem to have a 100k exclusion zone for Aires all around the city. Desperate to find somewhere to empty the loo we sat in a rather nice lay-by studying the bible on Aires and have found ourselves in Conty a small town on the edge of Amiens. We vowed to visit the WW1 war cemeteries and now seems a fitting time. Tomorrow is our last full day in France until we return in about 2 weeks and then head south to Spain so we have decided to do a tour of the Somme (or as best we can in a 30ft beast) before heading to Boulogne -sur-Mer which is about a 30min drive from Calais. We are really looking forward to seeing friends’ family again and Angie can’t wait to get to her Hairdresser after about a 6 weeks absence. We will update the blog again tomorrow and then add the photos as soon as we get reliable internet
Sunday 20th November 2016
We vowed to visit a war memorial on this trip and today on our way back we felt it fitting that we made good that vow. Thievpal memorial is tribute to all the unknown allied solders who could not be identified. Their remains were buried under one massive monument to them, all 73,367 of them. The names of those who never returned but were never found inscribed on the memorial stones. Their loss and those of all who have given their lives in all and subsequent wars so that we can enjoy our freedom can not ever be forgotten. Without their sacrifice our trip, all of our lives and all of our freedoms may have been so different.
After a very moving and sobering visit we made our way to Boulogne for our final night in France before traveling to Calais and boarding the train back to the U.K