Home Again

We arrived early at the Channel Tunnel terminus but our train was cancelled and we had to go on the next one. It was a long wait!  The M25 was typically slow too with traffic at a standstill in places. The M4 wasn’t too bad though and we eventually arrived at our overnight stop at Beachley, in the car park of the Ferry Inn where the old car ferry used to cross the Severn. It’s right underneath the old Severn Bridge so we had quite a dramatic view.  A pub meal brought our holiday to an end. We were home early the next morning to start theunpacking.

 

Along the North Coast

Surprisingly we’ve never visited the small ports along the Channel coast of France other than trips to Brittany or Normandy. Between Le Havre and Calais was unknown territory so that was the route we took. We had four nights en route.  Our first was spent inland in the pretty Normandy village of Broglie. The Aire was on the old railway line and the village full of half timbered houses.


The countryside became a lot flatter & more agricultural as we approached the coast. There were plentiful tractors and narrow roads to impede progress. We stopped at a pebble beach for lunch the next day, so Nefyn could have a play & then moved on to Fécamp. The Aire overlooked the marina but was very noisy early in the morning   We ate out at one of the seafood restaurants nearby. Ian of course had steak but my sole was truly delicious.


Next stop was Tréport where we took the funicular from the cliff top Aire to the beach. Nefyn enjoyed a swim & Ian watched the many fishermen on the beach and pier as they fished for mackerel. They were very successful too.  Unfortunately after walking around the harbour Ian tripped on a curb and fell heavily.  Luckily he had no serious injury but was quite shaken and rather sore for a few days.


Our final stop in FRANCE was at Le Touquet.  The beach there is vast so we had a good walk. On the way back we walked with a couple from Germany & their two dachshunds. She was German & he was American, so we chatted  happily while the dogs ignored each other!

James & Sara, Crisse

We had a wonderful weekend with our friends, James & Sara. We arrived Saturday afternoon expecting to stay in a nearby campsite to save their seven cats and four chickens from Nefyn’s attention. Over a chat and cup of tea it became obvious that all livestock was keeping a respectful distance and if I kept Nefyn on lead outdoors all would be well. 

We were well entertained with food and wine and good conversation such that we had no need to leave the house. We chose some more of Sara’s pottery to go with the plates we had commissioned and considered adjustments to the model of Nefyn that she’s making. Nefyn obliged by staring at Sara while we were eating so she could get a good view of her features

On Monday after a visit to the vet to comply with pet passport regulations and restocking our supplies at the supermarket we sadly said our goodbyes and moved on

Etang dela Tricherie

Our most isolated aire yet!  We had a pleasant drive off the Ile de Re and through the Marais Poitevin Natural Park. Lunch was taken in the van at a car park adjacent to an old campsite that had been converted to a park. The old hook ups were still there. Nefyn had a good time ball chasing under the trees and then we moved on another 40 minutes to this lakeside site. 

We’re the only van here though the place is busy with a nearby campsite, aerial treetop adventure course, pedaloes & swimming area most of which is closed. The cafe was only open weekend evenings. We had a walk around the lake with Nefyn inevitably enjoying a swim. As it’s a weekend we decided to be lazy and eat in the cafe. The deck was built out over the water so we could watch the large carp swimming below us as the sun went down


Ile de Ré

Having arrived at our Campsite under grey clouds with a threat of rain, we picked a sheltered spot under the pine trees. The following day the sun was shining but we were cold in the deep shade!  So we packed everything up and moved to a lovely sunny spot backing on to the dunes. No shade needed this time of year!  As a bonus we were at the end of a row, with unoccupied cabins opposite and a patch of rough ground alongside so Nefyn had the freedom of being off lead. Our lovely German neighbours were quite happy if she wandered over to say hello so we could all relax

We spent five days there, mostly spending our time with long twice daily beach walks. The site opened directly onto the 10km sandy beach. Of course Nefyn was in heaven chasing her ball and frisbee and swimming in the sea

Our one trip out to see the island wasn’t terribly successful as the roads were narrow &  most car parks had height restrictions which precluded Wotan from using them.  Cycles were the best way to get around and if ever we did another long Moho trip (which we won’t) we’d acclimatise Nefyn to a trailer in advance and bring our bikes

We did get to the lighthouse, the Phare des Baleines at the tip of the island. There must be a lovely view from the top but we were content to save our knees and just have a walk around

It was a lovely break from travelling but time is running out so with just a week to go before our Chunnel booking we had to move on and head north

At the beach.

Since our day at the La Rivière campsite, we’ve moved on a little, and we’re now on the Ile de Ré.  

We spent most of our day on the campsite doing 3 loads of washing, but we did manage a nice walk by the river, and a splendid meal in the campsite restaurant.  The campsite pool, bar and restaurant were beautifully designed, and I’m sure that in peak season in the sun, they are well used.  During our stay after the heavy rain, with puddles everywhere it wasn’t quite so appealing.  

Next day we again moved all of half a mile back to the Aire.  There were a couple of dog friendly attractions in the area that were too good to miss.  

Firstly we visited the site of discovery of what became known as Cro Magnon man.  It is a world heritage site, and there was an excellent exhibition with good timeline guides, before we moved outside to see the actual site.  Cro Magnon is French for Magnon’s Hole.  It was a an excellent way of presenting the story of Homo Sapiens.  


We completed our visit while enduring a few rain showers, but managed to get back to Wotan without getting drenched.  After lunch while Nefyn and I enjoyed our post lunch snooze, Chris visited the museum.  I think she was a little disappointed as there wasn’t much of an English translation to explain the exhibits.  

We left Les Eyzies on Saturday morning, and headed off to visit the Roque St. Christoffe.  A troglodyte settlement fortified to help protect the regIon from Viking incursions.  A truly remarkable construction on 5 levels.  Finally destroyed during the French wars of religion.  


From here we headed off cross country in a north west direction, aiming for the Ile de Ré.  We overnighted in a free Aire with electric in Genté, having moved on from our initial choice as it was so uninspiring.  

On Sunday we continued our cross country drive allowing Madam Tomtom to pick our route for us.  We had lunch in a small village called Aubray, where we caught the small Sunday market, and finally ended up here at Les Amis de la Plage, in the early afternoon.  It was very overcast as we arrived, and the site didn’t look too inviting, but as the sun appeared it improved.  Finally a 50 metre walk to the beach in the late afternoon sun, and we felt at home.   

Onward down the Dordogne.

Our intended destination had been Domme, but all the roads up to the hill top Bastide seemed barred to Mohos.  This was a little strange as we had the sat nav coordinates of an Aire right at the town walls.  We decided discretion was the better part of valour, and instead headed for La Roque Gageac.  It was a great choice.  Officially one of the most beautiful villages in France, on the banks of the Dordogne, and an Aire no more than 50 metres from both.  

After a lunchtime nap we set off to explore the village.  Check out the photos below.  We finished our tour with a massive ice cream.  So large that I didn’t need any supper.  


We also enjoyed a walk along the river bank and found a wonderful beach where Nefyn swam and retrieved her frisbee and had a thoroughly enjoyable time.  



Arriving back at the Aire we started chatting to the German couple next door.  They were great company and we spent a most enjoyable couple of hours watching the sun go down, drinking wine and swapping stories.  Nefyn was able to wander off lead although she did make a break for the river at one point


Next day ( Wednesday ) we headed to Sarlat.  It was market day, and town was very very busy, packed with what seemed to be mainly British tourists.  The market seemed to have genuine local produce on sale, and was fascinating.  We didn’t buy anything, but I was sorely tempted by another hat!  


We searched in vain for the market square we’d had lunch in 35 years ago, but in vain.  I think I must have got my memories mixed up, and we were in another town.  Back at the singularly unimpressive Aire in Sarlat, in the rain, we decided to move on and at about 5pm headed to Les Eyzies.  We found the Aire easily enough and after setting up camp we set off in the drizzle to explore the village.  I think the photos below give a better description than I can.  

It rained very heavily overnight and in the morning we moved less than half a mile to La Rivière campsite, to get our washing done.  

Soiullac via St. Nectaire

With just over 3 weeks of our trip left we decided to head towards the Dordogne and then eventually head north.   The quickest way to the Dordogne valley was via the Auvergne, so we headed off the an ACSI site in St. Nectaire, mainly because the site blurb promised free wifi.  It was a fairly long drive, but scenic, especially the last hour or so.  When we arrived the site office was closed, but as instructed we chose a pitch and made ourselves at home. 

What started as a possible one or two night stopover finally ended up lasting 4 nights.  The site was typically Dutch owned ACSI standard.  Very clean facilities, with excellent wifi.  We met a few other British couples while staying there, in particular our next door neighbours Rhys and Jen who were originally from Caerphilly.  They had also bought their Moho from CLV!  

We didn’t do a great deal during our stay other than a couple of walks, one of which involved a lovely lunch in a typical French restaurant, made all the more special as Nefyn was allowed to accompany us.  The town of St Nectaire was an old spa town, with several hot mineral springs although now very run down after the closure of the spa


The Upper Town


No taking of the waters these days!


Frolicking in the Fields
One other notable visit was to see a ” petrifying fountain ” in action.  Essentially it used the hot spring spa waters, which had initially been the main town attraction, to form artificial stalactites on moulds that were placed on ” ladders “, over which the mineral rich water gently cascaded, and eventually the minerals in the water deposited themselves.  The resulting works of art ranged from plaques both small and large, old and modern, to small elephants and even vases.  We both really enjoyed the visit, and I’m fairly certain we’ll not see the like again.  


The town was at an elevation of 700 metres, so the temperatures we decidedly on the low side, and unless the sun was shining they were almost cold.  Overnight our heating kicked in on several occasions.  Partly in an effort to find warmer temperatures, and also to make progress and not stagnate, we decided it was time to move on.  

We finally set off to Souillac on the Sunday morning and had a pleasant but long 3 hour drive before arriving at the ACSI site.  Having set up and had a snooze we took Nefyn for a walk and swim in the river which ran next to the site.  When we arrived back at Wotan we seemed to be part of a UK enclave.  In particular a guy in a caravan next to us who was from Barry, and a particularly loudly spoken Englishman in a Moho with a large trailer, who were engaged in a long exceedingly loud conversation.  


Swimming in the Dordogne River

Fortunately they both moved on today ( Monday ), only to be replaced by more but less noisy Brits.  One guy tried at least 3 pitches before settling on his preferred choice, and was still setting up almost 2 hours later.  Chris was greatly amused by his antics, possibly helped by the glass of wine she enjoyed with lunch, which we’d taken in town as a means of avoiding a heavy rain shower that coincided with us finishing our morning drinks ( coffee for Chris and beer for me ).  As we’d had breakfast Nefyn had to help me with my Bavette steak, however Chris had no such difficulties finishing her omelette aux cėpes.   

Lapalisse & Brioude

We’re not having much luck finding a good aire at the first attempt. We wanted to make progress south, looking for slightly warmer weather  before turning right towards the Dordogne   We planned a two hour drive as we like to arrive about lunchtime to give us the afternoon and evening to explore. Our planned destination of Digoin looked to be a quaint and interesting town but the aire had been taken over by empty stalls of some sort of market or fair. An hour later we found the aire at Lapalisse. The town was rather run down but had an impressive castle whose gardens were open. The aire itself was a big car park holding over 30 vans. By the time we went to bed. There was a river alongside so Nefyn was able to enjoy a swim too



Today we again set off on a longish drive only to find a very isolated aire on the edge of town with broken glass surrounding the bins, rubbish around the picnic tables and a run down closed and empty swimming pool and tennis courts. We didn’t like it so after letting Nefyn have a run about chasing her ball and a quick lunch inside the van off we went again.

 We were rewarded with a wonderful drive over the mountains and through the forest of the Livredois to the historic town of Brioude. It has no castle but does have town wall which is ascended by a glass lift from the car park. Nefyn looked a bit surprised when the lift rose up but took it all in her stride. She’s coped well with a lot of new experiences this trip. We had a wander around the narrow streets and took turns, without Nefyn, to see inside the basilica. This had some splendid wall and ceiling painting, some very modern stained glass and the crypt contained the reliquary of St Joseph. We enjoyed a beer outside one of the cafes on the way back to the van. At least I enjoyed a beer. The wind caught Ian’s hat which was on the table and it knocked his beer into his lap. His shorts and T shirt were soaked so he had to make a rapid exit to get dry and changed, much to the amusement of all watching!



Luneville

We had a dreadful journey out of Germany. A series of major traffic jams due to an accident and then roadworks added several hours to our journey.  In France we had torrential rain to contend with. We chose to stop at  Luneville rather than our original destination of Nancy as we’d had enough by then. The aire was fully automated but the machine erroneously gave us entry without asking for a credit card so we had a free night with all services including showers and toilets!  It was an early night too as we were tired after the journey so had a simple meal and settled down to the sound of rain and distant music

Before leaving in the morning we had a walk through the adjacent park which was actually the formal gardens of Luneville Chateau and then around the old town. Town had seen better days but had some impressive buildings





After a short stop at Leclerc supermarket we had a lovely sunny drive along one of France’s great D roads through rolling countryside and quaint rural villages.

We had thought to stop at a small rural aire by the River Meuse. We arrived there at lunch time and it was a pretty spot but the river was a torpid stream full of algae and weed and the village was tiny. There didn’t seem much to do so after having lunch there at one of the picnic benches provided we moved on

We ended up by a reservoir near Langres. The aire turned out to be the sloping car park of a campsite so we stayed in the campsite.  €20 for the night seemed exorbitant after what we’ve been paying recently especially as we didn’t need all the facilities. It was nice to have a spacious shower with lots of hot water though. Nefyn enjoyed a swim in the lake and after one night we moved on again