Category Archives: France

An Unwanted Guest

An Unwanted Guest …. What a hell the last 24 hours has been. We arrived at Ouistreham Aire where we have stayed at least three times before with no issue whatsoever and had always thought it a great stop over for the ferry. Not this time! We arrived and entered the Aire paying €10 as we pulled up we noticed a few unsavoury characters walking through the site. A few minutes later the door was tapped but no one was there. An hour later and after taking Molly for a walk and posting my last blog update there was a loud noise from the rear of the van that sounded like someone was trying to steal our bicycles. I ran out and two black guys legged it. An hour later – more noise! I went out again one guy was skulking around the van and ran away and four other guys quickly walked out of the Aire. Another 30 mins and we heard something by the door. A guy was trying to crawl under the van. He ran away but the local police were there they explained that they were all illegal immigrants trying to find a lift into Britain. They were not aggressive and we should lock ourselves in and wait till the morning. After another couple of guys were seen scrabbling around our motorhome and at 10.30 we and another English van had had enough. It was apparent that these guys were desperate and will not give up despite us keep chasing them off. We both decided to leave the Aire and park along the coast where parking was not allowed and take our chances with the police instead of the immigrants. 3K later all was quiet at last but we struggled to sleep and it snowed heavily. At 5.45am our newly acquired British comrade tapped the door saying that they were heading to the ferry. Snow covered all of the roads but I just had to grab a photo.

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We followed on a few moments later and just as we approached the ferry there was a series of loud banging coming from under the motorhome. We pulled up and I jumped out to find out what it was. An immigrant had strapped himself to the chassis in the Aire and had been under our motorhome when we moved it, all through the night and on the three kilometre drive to the port but presumably had lost his nerve when we had driven at speed or with the slush of the snow. Lucky the local police were at hand and I ran over just as he was up strapping himself. He was simply asked to leave by the police who seemed powerless to act. Lesson learned Never park near a port again. Since Calais closed the immigrants camp there they have spread out along all the other ports trying to find a way in. To make it worse the heating and hot water had failed again on the coldest night so far. Freezing and Sleep deprived we ordered a cabin to catch up on some much needed sleep and a hot shower.

The Journey Home

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

Rainbows End

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.

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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.

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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

Honfleur

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

Hurrah!

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!

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Northern Spain & San Sebastián

6745FBE5-8131-4360-959D-A7A5BA4E8CF1Sunday 19th November
We weren’t sure what we wanted to do today. The sun was out and it was warm, really warm and it was a Sunday. We had looked at the surfers riding the waves yesterday and I said that I would love to get out onto the water. After taking Molly for a walk and inspecting the surf I returned to the motorhome and asked if we could stay another day so I could do some body boarding. We needed diesel for the motorhome and petrol for the smart car but it was Sunday, and everything is shut on Sundays so we agreed to have another day in Biarritz and leave tomorrow when the petrol stations were more open.
Needing no excuse to delay I got into the wetsuit, got out the body board and flip-flops and wandered off to the beach. An hour later I was back saying that I had an really good time and ridden some amazing waves but the swell had become too big for me to get over and wishing I could proper surf like the big boys do.
We had lunch in the sun and then took Molly for her second walk of the day. She loved the sand and the beach and after walking to the end of the promenade we sat and watched the ‘proper’ surfers at it. Some of them were really amazing.
We have now parked the smart car in an adjacent car park after punching in the code and doing a quick reverse away from the barrier once it went up. We think we have now fooled the barriers into believing that we have come back into the Aire with the motorhome. When we leave tomorrow we will find out.

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Monday 20th November.
We had a short journey today as it’s only about an hour to San Sebastián. I took advantage of the time on my hands and did 9k run along the beach to the peninsula we walked out on to yesterday. It was a lovely run despite getting wet trainers and not a bad time to. Molly didn’t come as she had a poorly tummy (perhaps it was all the sand she ate yesterday).
Our plan worked the barrier went up and Catori was free to head off to Spain. Angie followed in the smart car and we slipped into Spain like a hot knife through warm butter. No border control no passports to show. If it were not for the different road signs we would have been none the wiser, although the drivers were a little more erratic, the dress sense less fashionable and the shape of the pedestrians slightly more portly than their French neighbours.

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The Aire GPS n43.30760 w00201417 is more of a car park than a camping Aire and we are a bit squashed in but at €3.20 a night including water waste and WC that’s not to be sneezed at. We couldn’t find a space for Sunny so headed of into the centre.
This is our first taste of Northern Spain and so far it has not disappointed. San Sebastián is stunning and very cosmopolitan. We parked in a massive underground car park and walked up to the promenade. It hugged the crescent shaped beach with immaculate sand surrounded by elegant buildings overlooking the bay. A small island sits in the bay and it is all picture postcard pretty. We were both hungry and set of to find something to eat. It came in the shape of a fish restaurant on the edge of the quayside who were just about to close but they let us dine as long as we ordered quickly. We shared a whole Monkfish in a garlic sauce. Not cheap but very scrummy!
After paying the bill we wandered up onto the lower ramparts and then into the old town.


The narrow, dead straight streets with high period buildings either side and gothic sculptured churches crammed into them led to pretty squares. The best of which was the Plaza de la constitutión. It used to be used as a bullfight ring and each of the apartments with balconies looking onto the plaza was given a number and used to rent out their balcony for spectators .

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As we continued to wander the sun was setting and the whole place started to come alive. Tapas (or Pintxo As they are called in Basque Country) bars were everywhere and were getting ready for the night trade. We have vowed to return tomorrow evening to savour the flavour and atmosphere of San Sebastian at night.

Biarritz or Bust.

I got lost today – I saw a circular walk yesterday and thought I would run it today. Having got lost and after 7k I decided that it was not a great walk for us as it was through the trees and could have been anywhere.

We drove to Rocher de la Vierge, a rocky outcrop attached to the mainland by a wooden bridge and gorse-way (still can’t believe that Catori made it through some of those roads). Having parked we walked to the outcrop and out on to the furthest point allowing us to look back at the whole of the Basque coast.

Some nutter was swimming around the rocks in the swell and shortly after we noticed a whole bunch of them in nothing but speedos or bikini bottoms splashing their way out to sea. A small bay round the next bend had a load of kids taking surf lessons and a few lads walking the tightrope that was stretched out across the mouth of the bay. They were doing more falling off it than walking it and it was fun to watch them plop into the sea. As we watched, a few of the swimmers returned to the beach and one lady bearing all, and wearing noting but a bikini bottoms dried herself and then stood in a crucifix position against a wall with a sea goddess painted on it right behind her soaking up the sun. Perhaps she had visions of greatness or perhaps it was just to top up the tan.


We wandered back to the car and then on to the playa watching the surfers battle with the white horses. Two grand cafe crem’s were ordered at the cafe on the beach and a leisurely coffee taken watching the surfers at their game.


We walked back to the car and then drove on to the lighthouse which was started in 1830 built to the half point in 1831 and topped out in 1832


We love Biarritz. The houses look like something out of the Munsters each with a turret and a castle keep, each trying to out do the one down the street and the spirit of one up man ship is alive. The narrow one way streets, the amazing waves crashing against the shore and over the rocks. There is a “lets be alive” spirit of the semi naked surf swimmers, white horse riding surfers and trapeze aritist all braving the sea in late November.

It inspired me to come back to the van and don the wet suit, get out the body board and go surfing – well for a moment at least. After a walk to the sea the waves had turned to rollers and the surf was done for the day. At least I tried on the wet suit and it still fits although the shape hugging properties of latex rubber do have me looking like I am just about to give birth. Well Perhaps tomorrow I will surf before we leave Biarritz.

Tomorrow we head into Spain – well at least if we can get out of the Aire. A double exit barrier is creating a conundrum. The gap between the two exit barriers is just about long enough to fit Catori between them. The second dosnt go up till the first has come down. We can get Catori in between them but not with the car attached or even following closely. This presents a problem, how do we get two vehicles out of the Aire with a ticket for only one. Watch this space – we don’t quite know the plan we have hatched will work but we have to find some way to extract Catori and Sunny from Biarritz!

It’s getting warm, Mimizan & Biarritz

 

Wednesday 15th November

We have been away a week now and today was just really a day to travel. Having already been to a few of the places of interest between Cognac and Bordeaux on our trip last year, we decided to just get some miles behind us. It was an easy drive (now I have learnt to plan my own route on better, but still no toll roads rather than let Margret the sat nav take me on a mystery tour to the destination as quick as possible and bugger the rattling and consequences on the way) We arrived at the chosen Aire in Mimizan which was right on the beach GPS n44.20517 w 001.29675 only to find it closed and being dug up! It looks as though they are either making it better for next summer or getting rid of it. Knowing the French love for Aires I would guess the first. A quick look in the Camperstop book and the second Aire in the town was the only alternative and 1.5k away but it had no electricity hook up which we really could do with. We quickly unhooked Sunny abandoned Catori on a safe side road and went to have a quick look. The Aire had been redeveloped and was very large and smart with EHU everywhere, decision made. Back to Catori and Angie had her first experience of driving in France behind me back to the second Aire GPS n44.21375 w 001.28239 its about 1.5k from the beach but has super walks in the woods right behind us and looks nothing like to picture in the book now. There are two things Molly loves more than anything else (excluding us we hope) and that’s woods and the sandy beaches she should be in her element! As for us out came the chairs for the first time for Beer O’clock al fresco.

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Thursday 16th November
A 5k run down to along and back from the beach brought me back to the van at about 12pm (yes it was another morning in bed ) and we sat outside again with a coffee in the sunshine. Although it is only 12 degrees the fact there is full sun and no clouds makes it really warm. After a very British snack of Heinz baked beans on cheese on toast we wandered down to the beach again and watched the surfers riding the amazing rollercoasters. I would desperately love to be able to surf like that but a body board will have to do for someone like me with a dodgy knee. For a moment I did think of coming back down with the board and wet suit to give it a go but thought better of it. Instead a beer and a further sit in the sun was the order of the evening watching the wagtails run around the site.

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Tomorrow we head off to our last stop in France Biarritz, from there Angie will have to drive Sunny behind me due to the uncertainty of Spanish laws on towing a car behind a motorhome.

Friday 17th November
Mimizan had very little to offer the tourist out of season. In the summer we are sure it would be an amazing beach holiday destination however in Mid November it is just an amazing sandy beach with huge waves pounding which we could hear from our motorhome during the night 1.5k away. So we decided to move on and Biarritz was the destination. 2.5 hours drive and it looked an easy route. It was until we reached Bayonne and Margret decided to take us through the town centre and over the L’Adour river. They had closed the river bridge however and we had to follow a diversion. Just as I thought we had done the worst of it the roads got narrower as we entered Biarritz itself and the route ended up being through a crowded town centre with shops, roadside cafes full of diners and moped ranks all of which were about a foot or two from the side of the van as we squeezed past. We crawled through the twisting maze following Margret’s every order and a queue of cars grew behind us and patiently followed. A taxi stoped in front of us to collect a very elderly lady from a shop who unfortunately could not walk far or fast. Unable to pass the taxi we just had to wait. The elderly lady was helped very slowly to the car by her equally elderly and equally slow husband and two younger members of the family who themselves must have been in their 60’s. The elderly gent finally helped his ancient wife into the car and she slowly sat, bottom first and then he helped her get her legs round and into the foot well which was not an easy task. After doing this it was his turn to repeat the same manoeuvre but on the opposite side of the car and once he finally managed to get there it took him even longer to insert himself into the car. The aged children then decided to fold down the seat on wheels that the elderly lady relied on and the taxi driver got back out to put it in the boot. Well you can imagine that by this time the cars behind us were starting to loose their patience probably believing that it was us stupid Brits trying to get a 30ft motorhome towing a smart car through the narrow streets that was causing the issue. A blast of a horn came from behind us. Lucky the taxi was now ready and shot off at speed leaving us with half of the drivers of the Basque Country  behind us. Eventually after more steep narrow and twisting one way roads we made it to the Aire. GPS n 43.46536 w -001. 57162 Phew!! (Forgot to plan the last bit of the route didn’t I)

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What a fantastic location though one road back from the beach with stunning walks along the cliff and beach. I am sure there is an easier way in!

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Sunset on France with Spainish mountains in the distance

Cognac and a squeeze.

Cognac Tuesday 14th November 2017

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View from our window. Not bad for €0.00 per night

 

On arriving in Cognac the entrance to the only 4 space Aire  GPS n45,69847 w001,33265 was through a small square (typically France with trees and cars parked either side) We squeezed around the first 90 degree corner with cars on either side but at the bottom a German Motorhome had bumped up on the kerb totally negating any chance of making it around the right hand bend for any motorhome let alone Catori . It’s German owner came rushing out saying that the Aire was full and not working and we should go and find another. I went to investigate myself only to find that there was a fantastic space right on the front overlooking the Hennessy building. Never to be told what to do by anyone, I became determined to get into the space. We un-hitched the car and I attempted to get round the corner going forward but it was no good. No matter how many too and fro’s I did it was not going to make it. Option 2 reverse it in. Without the car on the back this was now possible and a left turn took me away from the inconsiderately parked German. As I squeezed through the gap and reversed past her, back down the road into the spot I glanced into her motorhome and she did not look very pleased. I then wondered if she had been left behind to guard the entrance in case a space came available in the Aire whilst her husband had gone of somewhere, the distillery tour perhaps. The space had become available whilst he was away and it was her duty to keep it free until Her husband returned. We will never know but I like the idea of that

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Our Motorhome on the right. Photo taken from the other side of the river

The morning had started late again and my proposed second run was put on the back burner. With only two hours of the morning left by the time we roused ourselves from our bed there just wasn’t enough time to squeeze a run in. I took Molly for a walk while Angie prepared herself and the van for travel. By 1pm we were ready for the off suitably emptied of waste and filled up with fresh water. It was only 1hour 15 mins to Cognac and 15 mins of it was bone shaking. Margret has a knack of taking us down small B roads to save a few miles or mins and there is no way of changing her settings to keep to main roads and whilst we like to see rural France we don’t need to see every farmyard and hamlet in the course of getting to where we want to go. I think I will have to do some map planning and split the journey to fool her in the future.

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We had a wander around the town which apart from the waterside and the Hennessy complex had little to offer over many other French towns. We were sort of expecting more from such a famous location. We had intended to do the distillery tour but at €20 each we decided that one distillery tour is the same as another and we would rather spend the €40 on a bottle than a lot of waffle. What’s more the Hennessy flag reminded me of the Soviet Union flag flying over the cremlin.

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Tomorrow we have a 4hour drive to the heart of the Vendee and enjoy some long walks on amazing sandy beaches.

 

 

Say Cheese! – Or Rochefort if you like it Blue.

 

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Sunday 12th November
We decided to leave Nantes early but actually didn’t wake till 10am. Another leisurely morning it was then. Just before 1pm we left the Aire and headed for Rochefort. We arrived at 5 pm after a three hour drive and an hour lunch stop. The Aire in Rochefort Gps n45.92735 w000.95467 costs a princely sum of €4.10 per night and has all facilities except electric hook up and is with walking distance of the town.

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Nantes Aire
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Lunch stop
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Rochefort Aire

Monday 13th. November
I went for my first run in just under three months – at my pace of 1 kilometre every 7 mins it is perhaps more honest to call it a fast walk than a run. I ran/fast walked to the centre, the arsenal and the marina, returning just before completing 6k. I must admit that it felt good to run again and I will definitely be repeating it more than once every three months. Whilst stretching my weary limbs so that I would be able to walk the next day I noticed a British van on the other side of the Aire and went to have a chat in our native tongue. Well sort of- the heavily accented New Zealand reply was definitely English but not as I was expecting. I really enjoyed having a 10 minute chat to Sarah & Jason. It turns out that they emigrated from New Zealand to Wales three years ago then decided to rent their home out and take at least a year off to tour Europe. They are lucky enough to be able to spend the whole year touring in their Hymer motorhome instead of just doing the winter as we do, so they will be able to see the French Swiss and Italian alps and lakes if they wish to but so far they have only been on the road 11 days. They we’re really interested in what we had done and what we were doing but actually they seem to know a lot more about this touring thing than we do. Sarah said she had spent a lot of time planning and researching and it showed. We never like to impose on folks so left it that we may catch up at some point down the road and I really hope that we do. I am sure they will have some interesting stories to tell and I am desperate to know more about New Zealand a country that I have always wanted to visit. We had both followed Jason and Julie’s Blog “Our Tour” and both took inspiration from it giving us the confidence to do something similar. I mentioned that I too had a much more infant blog of sorts and within a few minutes from saying “cherrio” they had started following my blog too and sent us a message. So “Kia ora” (hello) Sarah & Jason- the wonders of modern connectivity.
We took a walk into Rochefort and whilst it was sunny the wind was cold and when the sun went in it was bitter. I transformed from T’ shirt wearing ‘look at me enjoying the sun’ type macho bloke to a fleece wearing ‘its a tad nippy’ normal guy, to fleece and puffer jacket wearing ‘blimey its frikin’ cold’ wimp. We still ate al fresco though (as the sun came out again) just a sandwich, cake and un cafe crem (they really know how to make coffee) and wandered the typically French streets.
Rochefort was an important ship building and armaments town in its day and tried to rival its nearest neighbour La Rochelle, I’m not sue it ever did though so as it’s neighbour is so much more impressive in every way. Rochefort however is interesting in own way but probably more famous for its cheese than its ships nowadays.
When we got back to the motorhome we decided take Sunny out for a spin and to do some washing at the outside al fresco laundry at the Inter Marchè spending the 1hour 15mins it needed for a wash and tumble dry, therapeutically shopping.
Tomorrow we aim to head to Cognac (about an hour south east) and hope to do a tour of one of the famous cognac houses.

Not a Bouncy Castle!

Saturday 11th November 22.58pm

A two hour drive from Fougerés brings us to Nantes. The roads were typically “French quiet” and we didn’t leave until after 11.30 watching the French remembrance service on French telly. Although the tv and the satellite both work independently from a 12v socket the telly doesn’t want to share the socket with the satellite box (the selfish thing) and immediately powers itself down. A quality 12v extension lead or powerful splitter is needed me thinks.

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No low bridges or tight roads to contend with today and we arrived at the Aire relaxed and ready to do some sightseeing. It is a nice Aire with level pitches amongst grass and trees GPS n 47.24252 w 001.55680 but at €14.50 a night it’s is not the cheapest however it has free wi-fi, water, waste, w.c and battery charge if you need it. As it is the first night we have paid for in 4 nights, the cost is not too difficult to swallow and it’s why I’m using as much free wi-if as possible.  It is right in the centre of the city with a tram line bang outside however as we have dragged him behind us all this way we jumped into Sammy the smart car and shortly found the chateau and cathedral. On a couple of photos we saw on the net earlier it showed the massive mechanic elephant thing and it looked so good that we decided to go see for ourselves. Signs to it were everywhere so we were expecting good things. After a twenty minute walk to get there against the wind we found it but it was more of an indoor attraction and the queue to get in was massive. As we had Molly with us that was a non starter. Was it all as it was made up to be? well we will never know but at least the twenty minute walk back had the wind behind. It was getting dark on our return to the Chateau so we did a quick skirt around the Chateau. Now I have seen many bouncy castles in my day but unusually this is the first chateau we have seen with a full height top to bottom stainless steel slide on its external wall. If only I was a child once more but as I am not we headed for Home after taking  a quick wiz around some of the other sights by car – (mainly stately avenues lined with trees and renascence grandiose buildings and a few statues thrown in for good measure) and a pit stop at Lidle for tonic for the gin and a couple of bottles of our favourite Bordeaux at €2.45 a bottle – smooth!

So Tomorrow we have a three hour drive to Rochefort. We are heading steadily south to try and grab a bit of better weather. I didn’t let Angie bring her big warm winter coat with us saying that we won’t need it and she is not letting me forget it! For the sake of both of us we could do with some warmer weather.

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The Chateau at Nantes

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Not a bouncy castle a slidey castle

Slowly slowly gently does it.

Thursday 9th November

After a lazy morning still recovering from the long and tiring day we decided to go to Bayeaux to see the famous tapestry. After parking the smart car and wandering through the ancient town centre we arrived at the museum just in time for their lunch hour 12.30 – 2pm oh bum we forgot the French love for lunch! We decided to visit the cathedral which had been recommend to us as a ‘must see’ and spent a pleasant 45 minuets looking at the stained glass windows and the amazing architecture. We lit a candle for the soldiers who gave so much to free this town and we left with a real feeling of well being and calm plus very very cold hands. It was freezing in there.
I snapped a few shots of the windows and gargoyles and after we left we went to pick up a few essentials at the nearest L’ Eclerc before going back to the Museum.

€9.50 each to get in but the tapestry was amazing to view made really interesting by the lighting and audio tour explaining each part of the story. I came here with my Mum and Dad when I was a pre adolescent youngster and at the time it had no audio tour and the whole tapestry was stretched out around three walls. You just went had a look and I didn’t really get it I was mainly trying to find the arrow in the eye bit and found it boarding ( perhaps that was my age). This time the journey was much slower and I took in so much. The quality of the tapestry bearing in mind it is nearly 1000 years old is astonishing. A quick cinema show after cleared up the outstanding questions and I for the first time realised that Harold was actually the ‘baddy’ in the story.

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A quick drive took us to Arromanches where the allied troops built a huge temporary harbour by floating concrete sections over and binding them together. (How on earth do you float concrete?)


We walked along the promenade but the wind and cold had the better of us and a hasty retreat back to Catori followed. Wine uncorked cheese getting to room temperature and fresh French bread finished the evening.

Friday 10th November

The quiet was deafening. I lay in bed with a pre dawn blue haze from the sky seeping through the front skylight and all was silent. That was just before I dozed off again only to be rudely awoken a little later by a “Cocker-doodle-doo”. Mr cockerel quickly woke all the chickens ducks and geese and it was suddenly a chaos of noise.
We had decided to move on today as we felt that we had seen as much of Bayeaux as we wanted to and miles needed to be knocked off of the journey. We had circled Fougerés as an interesting town to visit and it was about a two hour drive. We left the lovely Aire feeling guilty as the owner had not come back the previous evening as she said she would to collect her €24 for two night stay and there was nowhere to leave it. Just after 11.30 we slowly pulled away. It was a great Aire and fully worth the €12 a night including electric, water, w.c & grey water dump. The €24 will be spent somewhere else I am sure.

Margret the sat nav took Catori the motorhome into town and tried to send her down a small road under a 2.4m bridge. Lucky I noticed the height restriction on the roundabout and made another circuit of it before going back the way we came. Later we were sent off down a very narrow road with a 3.8m restriction on it. Whilst we are only 3.4m high it is still a bit daunting. Feeling that something was amis I pulled over to check her settings only to find that she was set to Sunny the Smart cars profile. We changed her profile to Catori’s measurements we had no further issues and at 2pm arrived at the Free Aire in the Fougerés Chateaux car park. GPS n48.35524 w.00121130 

After a bite to eat (soup and toast, we know how to live it up) we walked to the castle and circumnavigated its lofty walls popping through a small entrance to see four waterwheels in a line working at full throttle. Further round we noticed that there were two goats on a patch of scrub land between the castle walls and the moat. With no means of escape (unless goats swim) they seemed to be the castles captive resident lawn mowers.

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4 water wheels!!!

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Goats on the bank
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Seem happy enough

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The sunshine disappeared and rain started to fall so we hastily made a retreat to the van before heading off to the L.eClerc to try to find a small television bracket and satellite cable. I actually impressed myself by asking an assistant in French “do you have a bracket for a small television”. I was even more surprised when he seemed to understand and took me straight to the display. Bracket purchased we returned home to install it. The tv now sits on the wall on a movable bracket so doesn’t need to be packed away every time we move plus we can now use it when we don’t have Electric hook up as it is near a 12v socket and it frees up the small table to be able to eat from – Result – we just hope it stays on the wall!
Molly needed an evening walk and it gave me an excuse to go back out with the camera to photo the castle at night. The goats were still there, snuggled into each other getting some sleep before another day of weed munching. The Aire was full on our return and it just goes to show what a valuable resource motorhomes bring to the towns and villages that have Aires as all of them will be spending their money in shops restaurants and bars.

Tomorrow we go to Nantes another two hours south.

Bye-Bye Britan – Bonjour Britany

Woken by a French cockerel in a lovely small farm style Aire just outside Bayeux GPS N49,29949 W0,67436 I thought it was a good time to update the blog with where we are and what has happened since the last post so ……..

We arrived at Carefree last Tuesday afternoon and had the end spot – probably because Catori is the longest kiddy on the block so she don’t get in the way. We really love this little site as it is so quiet with lovely views over farmland towards the Solent. At night we get to watch the big illuminated cruise ships pass by out of Southampton most of them looking more like a moving high rise town than a ship! The sky’s are black and star watching is great through the skylight on a clear night.

On Wednesday we did a bit of catching up with friends and I (Gids) went to salsa and burnt off a few calories in readiness for days of eating yet to come.

Thursday was my Birthday. We caught up with my Mum and Dad at the Bosham inn for a meal then Ryan our son for an evening meal ( we felt like the vicar of Dibley on her Christmas meal ordeal). More evening Salsa was needed to purge some of those calories.

Friday the sun was out and we took Molly for walk down to the beach – she adores the sea and the shingle beach fetching and chasing sticks from the water.

Saturday, another round of Eating Lunch at the Titchfield Mill with our long time friends Andrea and Tim and then a curry in the evening with Lorraine and her husband Steve.

Sunday involved a long awaited round of Golf with our son Ryan, nephew Martin and my best mate Steve. Steve won as usual but only by two points. He says that the new relaxed stress free Gids has had a positive effect on my game. Angie made delicious Lamb shanks for tea and then there was another evening of Salsa for me.

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From left Steve Martin me & Ryan

On Monday I took the clubs to the garage for winter storage and received a text an email and a voice message from Britany Ferries. They seemed very keen to get hold of me for some strange reason and when I rang them back there was a sudden unexpected change to the plans. Our ferry had been cancelled! The leisurely Wednesday morning before we left for France was gone and we had an early morning ferry to catch.

Tuesday- Catori needed a last minute visit to southdowns at 9.30 am for her annual damp check and some work on two slightly leaking windows, and we whiled away the time that she was there with another round of more eating and seeing people. Full English breakfast and then an afternoon meal with Angie’s sister and Dad. I spent my birthday present money buying a pair of Oakley Sunglasses that I had been promising myself for over 15 years but could never warrant the expense but somehow as we spend most of the year in the sun now the expense seems a little more qualified. In the hope that I can loose the blubber that I have gained I also brought a smart shirt and polo shirt from crew that are slightly too tight but I refuse to buy anything other than a medium fit now a days and vow to run myself slimmer  to fit into them.

Wednesday We are off! The alarm went at 5.30am and a quick pack up and drive took us to Portsmouth ferry terminal to board Normandie to France. The new camera took some great close up shots of the Solent forts each totally unique and now all being used for something totally different one is a luxury millionaire home two others luxury hotels and a one as a museum

After a non eventual trip we find ourselves in a pretty Aire on a farmyard just outside Bayeux.

Totally shattered after a full day of driving we took Molly for a quick walk, broke out the GIN had a quick ‘spag Bol’ and  crawled into bed at 9.30pm (that’s 8.30 UK time) watching Blue planet on DVD. I think I saw the opening sequence!

Today a visit to the beaches of the D-day landings and then into Bayeux to see the UNESCO Listed tapestry and the first town to be liberated from the Nazi’s.