Month: July 2020

September and October 2018 – an interesting route home

Back at the fermette Monsieur Laplace called at 10:30 at night to send noxious smoke up the chimney to ensure our unwelcome visitors died peacefully in their sleep:-( He will only come at ten-thirty at night or five in the morning to be sure of catching the little stingers while they are all at home. Then he came back a few days later to dislodge the nest and sweep the chimney. Its dangerous if you light a fire while the nest is still up there – they are highly flammable, and the house has big old wooden beams:-((

We spent the next couple of weeks enjoying local rural activities: the apple fair, jam and chutney making,

the exotic local wildlife, gardening,

walking in the woods, getting the aircon fixed on the car. Again. It had continued very hot and dry.

dry

And deciding, having missed the adventure of travelling to Croatia, to make a proper tour of the route home via Brittany to Cherbourg.

I had long wanted to see the standing stones littered across Brittany so we headed east-north-east to the banks of the Cher and the Loire.  First stop was on the banks of the Cher where we had our first experience of being moved on.  The long, wide, flat and totally empty river bank, complete with motorhome service point, was out of bounds for overnight parking! Strange. The official lady was not one to be argued with but had the grace to point us to a tiny lay-by in the approach road and said we could park there. This was about ten paces back from where we had originally parked. Ah well – c’est le reglement.

Last stop before the ancient stones of Carnac was at Montoir-de-Bretagne at the mouth of the Loire. Here there is a gravestone marking the one lone WWII grave set in the corner of the communal cemetery.  David Murphy was an air bomber who died when his bomber crashed on 25 July 1944.  His body was found at sea, the assumption being he had escaped by parachute before the actual crash on land which killed the other members of the crew.

I find this solitary grave so sad.  I followed the story up later – his brother had been killed shortly before – both so young! There is a Canadian memorial site where I found pictures of his nieces visiting the grave – he was fondly remembered.

Leaving this sad story behind we moved on to the even older stones at Carnac. Its a small town and the small town centre car park allows mohos to park overnight – thank you! It is also full of trees, very welcome for shade but difficult to find a spot where protruding roots and broken tarmac won’t damage your sump!

The stones are remarkable – hundreds of yards of parallel lines of them. Apparently the major lines continue right out under the sea thereby demonstrating how much the land has sunk towards the south east. We walked around some of them and then read up in the old Rough Guide about other menhirs, dolmen and tumuli in the surroundings, determining to visit a few of them tomorrow en route to the sea. The range is fascinating – some stone-lined burial chambers, some huge brooding stones deep in the woods. A longer trip is needed to absorb all this.

Moving on a few miles: a patch of rough ground behind the dunes had been designated a free aire 30 miles south east of Carnac, just outside the little fishing harbour of Locmariaquer. (Takes a while to get your head around some of the names hereabouts!) No services provided but with full sun and a full tank of water we could cope with that. We drove there detouring to see some of the individual megalithic sites en route

and took one of the last few places for the night.

Loq aire

Another burial chamber with a standing stone is just along the beach. Its tunnel faces straight out over the sea and, if you can summon the courage, it is quite long, low and spooky inside!

The beach is long and sandy, the sea tempting, but not enough to overcome the slight, cooling breeze! There is a perfectly positioned municipal campsite just a bit further along the dune. I noted this for a longer visit next year. Idyllic for a quiet early autumn stay.

Alas, we could not tarry amongst the dunes and megaliths – we now had a schedule to keep if we were to catch half-term in Swanage. The Cherbourg to Poole ferry was booked for a couple of days time so we headed north to Dinan for one last overnight stop. We had been tempted to try the aire at St Malo as we remembered that captivating walled city from a previous visit. Like the city, it is very popular so Dinan appealed rather more. What a good choice that proved to be! Dinan is like a miniature, well-heeled version of St Malo. A medieval town sits atop the cliffs above the River Rance, protected by huge ramparts. The downside? the moho aire nestles at the foot of the walls by the river – a lovely spot almost under the towering viaduct. We zigzagged up the steep stairs into the old town and perambulated the charming streets going slightly snap-happy at the well preserved timber buildings the huge ramparts

and the stunnning Basilque Saint-Sauveur. Definitely a stop to remember for future travels in this direction.

A leisurely drive next day got us to St-Vaast-la-Hougue – a motorhome aire in a small fishing harbour a few miles from Cherbourg. We like to go early to the port and spend a few hours in Cherbourg market (if open) and have a final French lunch. The good citizens of Cherbourg have provided an  aire adjacent to the port to make life easy for voyagers, and an afternoon sailing took us to Poole by 9:15. This is just too late to try and get to a campsite near Swanage before dark at this time of year. We are visiting old friends thereabouts again – a different campsite this time – but we have discovered we can stay at the port for a fiver with toilet and shower available. And bacon sandwiches if you are awake early enough. We never are:-(

This time we walked on the sandy beaches by day and over to the local pub later on. The sunset was memorable.

Then onward to Bristol for a couple of nights outside my mother’s care home and in the CL near my sister’s house. My mother was up to lunch out on the first day and an outing to a local bird sanctuary the next. Good going! The weather had not followed us over the channel however and we all got comprehensively rained on beside the otter enclosure. Retreating to the café as fast as the electric wheelchair would allow was a good move though, and the flamingos massed to greet us! I wonder what they feed them to get that colour. The family photograph is not particularly flattering (and has convinced me to abandon short hair – however convenient!) but it’s a great composition.

Since it was now very close to Hallowe’en we also got to team up to participate in my sister’s Hallowe’en quiz with her gym friends and attend a performance her choir’s moving tribute to the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war – the Gurt Lush choir. Busy life, Helen!

As far as I can tell from the photographs on my phone, we drove straight back to York, disgorged the van contents onto the dining room floor and, being too late to get back to storage, let Portia stay the night outside the house. Then – back into her hangar until next time – probably to Spain and Portugal for the winter months.cropped-snails-poor.jpg

 

 

 

6 – 23 September 2018 ….. Back from Paris and off again.

It is nearly two years since I put a page up on this blog.  The last entry cropped-snails-poor.jpgcovered up to September 2018 and as I write it is July 2020.  We’ve navigated the lockdowns in France and the UK and are currently in France for another month or so.  To cover two years’ travels means the next few blogs will be a fairly compressed catch-up!

Confusing times

Two years ago we thought 2018 would be our last year of freedom to roam Europe for Europe 2unspecified periods of time. Brexit was scheduled for January 2019 and there was a lot of confusion about what rules would apply in the transition period – if it happened. To make the most of this possible final year as full Europeans we found house sitters and bought insurances that would cover us for longer than our usual three months, up to a possible six. We had set off in July planning to spend the heat of the summer based mostly at the fermette and then try to go further afield to Germany and maybe even right across to Croatia in the late summer and autumn. Our discount camping card (ACSI) is only valid out of high season and the weather is usually still great, so this would be a good chance to use it to the full.

Water, water…..

On 5th September 2018 we arrived back at the fermette having spent a week or so on the water with ne’er a drop to swim in. Such is the nature of the canals and navigable rivers in France where the boats don’t use on-board tanks for effluent. The on-going heatwave made us nervous of heading for unknown, inland places and we just wanted guaranteed shade and water for a plunge. We shelved the idea of Germany, Austria, Croatia and came up with a straight two way choice – straight south to the Mediterranean or south-west to the Atlantic. South-west won with several tempting sites on the coast near St Jean de Luz.  Pausing only a day or two to do laundry and generally sort the van out we got back on the road

First stop, a favourite riverside campsite for over twenty years, Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne. This time we chose the cheaper option of one line back from the riverfront – can’t quite remember why now. It was a good pitch with reasonable shade and an ever-changing river view as occupants of the riverside plot opposite came and went over the next several days.

We just relaxed for the next few days: river swims, walks in the medieval town, meals in the shady town squares, dips in the newish but shade-free pool in the evenings.

Chilled and ready to go we headed off again in a southwesterly direction across bastide country. We were alone in the car park just outside the town walls of Monflanquin and walked up to the town itself. It is a beautiful thirteenth century fortified town: a deeply shaded,  arcaded central square lined with artisan shops and pots of geraniums; magnificent views of the surrounding countryside from the ramparts. France is full of these unsung, but not unknown, gems – so many that each has only a few tourists at any one time. This was just a one night stop though as we headed for the sea.

We reached the Atlantic just north of St Jean de Luz on 14 September. It was fabulous. Camping Tamaris is just above the sea – a short access road with a couple of shacks selling surf boards or seafood tapas. We were definitely in the territory of the sun-streaked, slender, bronzed, beautiful people. Most of them were back at work though so we older, but still beautiful, people could hold our own! The beach was a sandy bay with a natural sand bar visible at low tide across most of its opening, breaking the full force of the Atlantic and providing a wonderful swimming lagoon.

The campsite had the most appealing swimming pool I have ever been in. A large pool with tapering depth, lined with blue-brown-green multicoloured tiles that made it look aquatic rather than clinical.  It had huge glass covers on runners for out-of-season use. I wonder it if opens for Christmas?

A short walk along the coast was the next bay – this one much longer and with bigger waves. This is where the remaining beautiful people hung out with their surf boards, bandanas and insouciance.

Highlights of the next few days: a cycle ride along the littoral to St Jean de Luz which still retains some turn of the century glamour. A line of concrete wartime bunkers staring out to sea, an arts and crafts exhibition (of hugely varied talents) all along the promenade in town, fish restaurants as far as the eye could see, sun, swimming, beach bumming, beers and tapas. Neil loved the leisurely morning walk to the nearby grocery store for fresh bread each day. It was a stay that we will remember with nostalgia for the carefree beach life and we will be back. We hope.

We were reluctant to leave the sea and head back the way we had come, so after five magic days I plotted a route north along the coast then due east. There are many campsites and moho stop-overs available on the Atlantic coast. We trundled from one to the next failing to find one that met our, fairly minimal, criteria – plenty of shade and immediate access to sea (and not big “family friendly” all singing, all dancing sites). The one we found at Biscarosse was laid out expansively under the pine trees that cover the land all the way up the atlantic coast in this part of France. No rocky bays here – just miles and miles of high tussocky dunes and crashing waves. It is a bigger, more corporate  site than we usually choose but seemed pretty relaxed and only sparsely occupied.  It was a short stroll to the beach down a shady path.  At high tide the sea was quite close, but it went out an awful long way. It was too far for me to want to stroll in the heat of the day in swimsuit and flip-flops, so we were grateful for the large multi-pooled pool with sun loungers and parasols.

We had only four days left and, right on cue, the weather was threatening to break.  So we felt OK about heading inland.  Our route went via historic Brantôme (8th century cathedral!) in what used to be the Dordogne before they reorganised the boundaries. It’s now Périgord and it was definitely clooudy. Then the spa town (since Roman times) of Neris-les-Bains.

This got us home in the morning of 23rd September – our deadline for the appointment with the désinsectisateur who was coming to rid our chimney of a wasps’ nest:-(