So we decide to set off again with a nostalgic theme – destinations we remember liking from our camping days – top of the list is Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne in Correze, Limousin. We spent many camping holidays here in the past – the last time was probably 2004 before we got the fermette. And we will drive only one or two hours a day with two overnight stops on the way. So we have a plan! I pick out two nice sounding aires that are in towns on red or yellow roads.
Forward to the past
Our plan for this first summer in the van was to meander to the fermette and use it as a base for travels around France. It will be lovely to spend an extended period of time at the fermette so we can grow some vegetables and do other things that need more than two precious weeks to tackle. It proves surprisingly difficult to make a decision about when to set off again though, and for how long: take the constraints away and you need to identify a new set of parameters for planning. Maybe just abandon the planning altogether? Hmmm – not really possible until you are actually underway and choosing where to go the next day. Besides we have a couple of restraints that call for a bit of research, the main one being the avoidance of really narrow roads until Neil is a bit more confident about dealing with oncoming artics on single track roads.
The fermette flower beds are looking healthy and the weather forecast is finally showing some reliable sun coming in the next few days.
First the tedious part – much packing and trying to remember to put back in the van everything we had taken out (bedding, mustard, aires books) and what we had to pick up – swimming things, tin opener, potato peeler and knife sharpener. (Forgot the last three, noticing only when we stopped for the night.) And adding fresh things. Packing to got has to be the most tedious part of this kind of touring – not only cleaning and filling the van but cleaning and emptying the house. Especially when some of us are rather more obsessive cleaners than others. Mentioning no names.
It all takes longer than it should and we set off in the wrong direction as Stella has opted for the narrowest white road in the area. Fortunately we know these local roads and take avoiding action but add 20 minutes to the driving time. Our first stop is St Pourçain-sur-Sioule where a length of green and peaceful river frontage has been dedicated to motorhome parking – we love you citizens of St Pourçain! We arrive in time to sneak a river-front pitch and watch latecomers looking wistful as they back into the pitches on the other side of the lane.
Although there are 58 pitches it has filled almost up by nightfall and more than one friendly neighbour reveals that they have stayed a few nights – despite the 48 hour limit. Chairs and tables out too! One homebound Brit hands over three paperback thrillers she has finished with – great idea – will pass them on once read.
The main street is bustling and only a three minute walk away and a charming traiteur has a lovely tray of lasagne on display. We decide on a new project: sample this quintessentially French dish in every place we stop. Mmm – with a big tomato salad and baguette. Not quite as good as the first one, but excellent nonetheless. Slept quite well on a slight slope but awoke a few times with rain beating down fearing we would slowly slide down the bank into the torrent. At two feet deep we would probably have survived. Rain sounds a lot worse inside a tin box and the ground was fine in the morning. I would like to say we were awoken by ducks, just to continue a theme, but it was not so. There were many of them though and they waddled hopefully around the vans at breakfast time seeking and receiving old baguette.
We emptied, filled and left for Felletin. A straightforward drive that, sadly, skirted Aubusson. Its medieval streets are not recommended for motorhomes and the aire is not close to the town centre:-( We arrived in Felletin just after closed-o’clock. We thought.
Lunchtime bustle in Felletin High Street
But closed-o’clock lasts longer the further south you get so, back to the van for a tomato sandwich lunch and, because it is now very hot, a doze.
A strange aire this one: a car park with an upper unmarked terrace with some trees and a lower one fully marked up with the service point and a toilet (that turns out to be very badly in need of a clean). A couple of mohos are already parked on the upper one so we follow the crowd. It is too hot to cook or eat inside the van and the traiteur, which eventually opens, disappointed us by having no lasagne (or anything else we fancied). If we liked kidneys we would be laughing at every place we stop. But we don’t. We resort to a big tin of sausage in lentils that just needs reheating and, yes, a big tomato salad. We also resort to putting the table outside for coolth and hit a new low – dining in a car park. But it does not feel like a low – more like a privilege.
And so to bed……