Monthly Archives: November 2011

Arromanches, Friday, 29th October 2010


Ivy-covered building at Lude

So we made it here in a day.  Didn’t stop at Lude as Chateau was shut for the winter, which was very disappointing indeed.  Nevertheless, town looked very pretty and took pictures of ivy-covered buildings in the square and outside of chateau.  I’d love to go back in April, when it opens again, and have a proper look inside and around gardens.

Ivy-covered building at Lude

We had a coffee in a popular café opposite the car-park and then drove for a while until nearly 2 o’clock, when we stopped again at the Belle Branche woods near L’Etang de Curéci, off the D306 from La Flèche to Laval, where I would have loved to have the time for a walk and a explore.  A place to mark on the map for future reference, as I believe we could have stopped for the night.

Lude Chateau, closed from October to April

After lunch, we set off again and without further stops we got here for 6 pm.  We stopped at the aire near the beach and were lucky to get a parking space, as it’s full now (14 spaces in total).

Remains of Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches

We took Bramble for a walk on the beach and took pictures of remains of war-time Mulberry Harbour, which look quite eerie and scary now.  The museum opens at 9.30 am, so we’ll visit it tomorrow after breakfast.

Remains of Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches


After walk, we went for a meal in a bistro and I have to admit that I’ve just had the most disgusting main course in my entire life.  Adonis and I shared a lovely first course of Moules à la Normande, which we really enjoyed, but then I made the mistake of ordering the pork for a change (which I never ever do) and I soon regretted my choice.  Whilst Adonis was enjoying his beef, I had to content with some revolting slippery, rubbery, poor-excuse-for-a-meat dish, fatty slices of pork, which I couldn’t eat.  All for the privilege of 12 E.  I’ll remember NOT to order pork in France in future ever again!

Remains of Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches

All this was accompanied by the most unoriginal, boring music videos, so it’s not with great surprise that we didn’t stay there long.

We are now back in our cozy motorhome listening to the rain (far better sound than that awful music.  I am going to carry on with my book, forget about horrible meal and, hopefully, fall asleep.

A better day tomorrow.

Remains of Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches

Lac des Varennes, Thursday, 28th October 2010


31 lb 6oz fish (32 kg)

Today is going to be our last day here.  We have certainly made the most of the peace and quiet of the site, as I think there’s only just one more family left in one of the mobile homes, and Adonis is more than happy with his fishing, as he caught a 31 pound 6oz carp yesterday morning, which he could hardly lift.  Bramble is wondering what all that is about and keeps sticking his nose everywhere.

frosty morning

After 2 frosty mornings, we had some very heavy rain last night, but the sun is making an effort to come out now.  I’m in the van with the heating on just for a little while, to get rid of the chill.  It’s a very efficient heater and doesn’t need to be on for very long, which is good for gas consumption.

Last night we had one of the best supermarket pizzas ever, with lovely crusty dough, stringy cheese, roast peppers, merquez sausage and chorizo and was really worth the 6.90 E that we paid for it.

Tonight I’ll be making spaghetti Bolognese for our last supper in this stunning site.  I’ll be sorry to leave it, but no doubt we’ll be back next year, perhaps for Easter.

site sign

view of site from opposite shore







I went for a cycle ride earlier on through the day-visitors’ park on the other side of the lake and it’s just as beautiful as this side, but much bigger, with lots of activities for both adults and children in the summer months, but it won’t be quite so peaceful then.

Tomorrow we plan to make an early start, top up with diesel and provisions at LeClerc and head off for Lude to visit the chateau there before heading slowly northwest for the D Day Landing beaches, which promises to be very interesting.

Must phone vet to make appointment for Bramble for Monday!


Lac des Varennes, Tuesday, 26th October 2010


relaxing fishing

We spent a very lazy day yesterday, just lounging around in campsite, Adonis fishing, me crochetting and reading Florence Nightingale book in French and Bramble chasing his ball and getting tangled up with fishing rods and line.

We were very pleased to discover that, despite campsite being nearly empty, the showers are very hot and clean and the bread from Reception is delicious and cheap.

Eating in the sunshine

We both had a siesta yesterday and today, which I hadn’t done in months!  It’s just so tranquil here and idyllic.  I’ve taken lots of pictures of site, especially the trees in their stunning autumn colours: I don’t tire of looking at them.

It was a beautiful sunny and warm day yesterday, but today started really frosty and had to put heating on for a little while, although I thought van was rather warm inside, considering the frost outside.

We had breakfast and drove to Le-Clerc for diesel, but were only allowed 28E worth due to the fuel blockade.  Still, we have 3/4 of a tank full and 10 more litres in canisters for emergencies.

After that we cycled into Marçon (only about 5 minutes) and had coffee in what appeared to be the only bar in town.  I took picture of typical church and war memorial monument and cycled back for more fishing and reading.  Adonis bought yesterday’s Telegraph and it was nice to catch up with the news.

I’ve spoken to Pepo twice so far: he seems well and happy in Robert’s company and appear to be coping well with cooking fresh pasta with pesto and putting pizza in oven.

We left travelling documents behind, so it was handy that he was at home to give us details of train back from Calais.

We may stay 2 more days here and then head back north to visit D Day Landinig Beaches, but I really want to visit one of the many chateaus in the area and buy some more of that lovely wine!

I’m cooking Milanesas tonight, which is Adonis’s territory normally: I hope not to disappoint.

A happy husband with carp!

Adonis’s just caught a 16-pound 3 oz carp!  At least he’ll be happy while he has his dinner!


Ball chasing time!

Angers, Wednesday 2nd November 2011


The weather has taken another turn for the worse today and we woke up to a cloudy and much cooler morning, so after breakfast, dog walk and small shop of baguette, cake and some Frankfurters for tonight’s dinner, we took the 10.15 bus from outside aire to Angers (only 1.40 E return each) to visit the castle and admire its famous Apocalypse Tapestry.  The entry fee is only 6E and I thought this was really good value.

Angers Castle

The castle looks very impressive from the outside, with its 1km long wall flanked by 17 round towers resembling elephant’s legs gripping the rock below above the river Maine.  It started as a look-out post in the IX century set up by the Count of Anjou.  In the XIII century, the regent Blanche de Castille had the fortress built for keeping royal troops.

Elephants' feet towers



The Tapestry of the Apocalypse is a gigantic piece of cloth made entirely of wool measuring 100 metres long and 4.5 metres high.  It was commissioned by Lous I, Duke of Anjou, in 1375 and was probably completed in 1382.  It depicts the story of the Apocalypse according to St John and offers a realistic representation of the ravages of war, raids, plague and famine.  The original drawings were made by the official court painter Jean de Bruges.

We were really taken by this majestic piece of embroidered art and spent most of our visiting time admiring the story, the representations of the devil and the beast of the sea and the skill involved to complete this medieval masterpiece.  I love embroidery myself and I can really appreciate the time, effort, hard work and dedication that a project of that magnitude requires.

The gardens

After that, we continued our visit of the single-nave chapel, built around 1410 by Yolanda of Aragon (wife of Louis II), with very interesting bas-relief triptic, and the parapet walk on the ramparts with panoramic views of the city and the river Maine below.

view from parapet walk

After our visit, we got the bus back right by the Tourist Information Office and were back ‘home’ for lunch.

It’s been a lazy afternoon, apart from dog walk, and it will be a lazy dinner too of hot dogs and chips.

We’ll be leaving tomorrow for vet in Broglie and then we’ll head for Boulogne for our big shop before returning to England early on Saturday morning.

The flower-filled moat


Bouchemaine aire, Tuesday 1st November 2011


Shower block at Bouchemaine aire

Here we are again, at one of the best aires we’ve encountered so far in our travels, just south of Angers on the D106 (off the D323 west of Angers), just where the rivers Loire and Maine meet.  It’s been a glorious sunny day right from the start and we were able to have lunch outside again, even on 1st November.

It’s still bank holiday weekend, today being All Saints day, or Tous Saints, but this aire is relatively quiet compared to the last two we stayed in.  The best thing about this site is that it is right by the river, it has a free toilet/hot shower/washing up block and even more amazingly free electricity.  When we came last Easter, we paid 8 E a night, but it’s free from today, according to the big notice up on the shower block.

I just love walking up and down the path along the river, which is also very popular for dog walkers and cyclists, but there are also lots of areas to throw the ball for Bramble, which amuses everybody when he thunders down chasing it and jumping up for the catch.

river walk by Bouchemaine aire

Bouchemaine aire from river walk








We followed the TomTom today, and although mainly I agreed with the route, I did question the wisdom of sending us down across 2 windy and narrow country roads: it might have saved time, but it certainly wasn’t comfortable driving.

Adonis’s just brushed Bramble, as he’s still shedding lots of hair, and he’s just gone bananas, leaping all over the place.

I’m cooking lentils with chorizo and lardons tonight to use the chicken stock I made in Lac des Varennes.  The spaghetti Carbonara was delicious last night. Another triumph!

setting sun on the river Maine at Bouchemaine

It’s just so perfect here we might stay another day.

St Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, Monday 31st October 2011


We’ve spent another day on the coast on this charming little town on the Côte de Lumière.  It was a bit of a windy road getting here and it took longer than we thought, but it’s certainly worth it.

view of St Gilles-Croix-de-Vie from lighthouse

We left La Tranche sur Mer in thick fog again this morning, but like yesterday, it cleared by mid morning.  We stopped at Super U for supplies at Talmont-St-Hilaire on the D949 after mistakenly taking the D105A/D21, which was far too slow and with too many roundabouts and traffic lights.  After that it was much easier bypassing Les Sables D’Olonne on the D949 and joining the D32 on the norht of the town and D38 to St Gilles.

We found the aire near the parking for the crossings to L’Île D’Yeu, which only cost 5E a night and is within easy reach of the town centre.  We had lunch and walked Bramble around lake nearby and then we strolled gently into town and enjoyed the views from the marine with its old fishing boats and modern yatchts.  We took plenty of pictures and had a beer facing the western sun, which was very pleasant.  For a change, I had a cherry beer (Kriek), which was deliciously refreshing after our sightseeing.

St Gilles-Croix-de-Vie in the setting sun

Colourful displays at St Gilles-Croix-de-Vie

It’s getting dark now, so we’re getting ready for the evening.  I’ll be cooking spaghetti Carbonara for something tasty, filling and quick to prepare.

We had a lovely meal last night at ‘Le Petit Bonheur’: we enjoyed mussels a la Marinière to share as a starter and for main course I had salmon in a lemon sauce served with king prawns and a little rice and Adon had a bavette (beef steak) with chips and we both loved our choices.

Not sure I can compete with that tonight!

St Gilles-Croix-de-Vie marina

La Tranche-sur-Mer, Sunday, 30th October 2011


Today’s been a beautiful hot day and we’ve spent most of the afternoon walking on the beach, watching the big waves and the surfers trying to get beyond the swell and ride them.

La Tranche-sur-Mer during tide out

It was another quiet night in the woods at V.I.P. Pêche campsite, and, as the clocks went back last night, we had another hour to play with, except that out of habit, we woke up just after 7 am, as it would ha e been 8 by our body clocks.  So we were ready to leave by 8.30 am and, being so early on a Sunday morning, the roads were empty and it was all easy driving, except for the thick fog in places, where we couldn’t see beyond 50 metres or so.

We headed west on the N149/E62 towards Parthenay, D949B to La Châtaigneraie, where we took the D938T south and had a coffee break at Mervent, which looked charming, even in the fog and where I took some pictures to capture this eerie sight.  After Mervent, we joined the D208 southwest until it joined the D949 to Luçon and Pont Rouge, where we finally joined the D747 to La Tranche-sur-Mer.

We arrived just after 12pm and went for long walk on the beach to make the most of the sunshine, then we had lunch and a short siesta and went out again for a longer walk as it was too hot to be in van (29 C).  We drew curtains across and opened some windows to cool it down, but resisted the windscreen cover, as we like the beautiful light of la Côte de Lumière, just to the north of here.

La Tranche-sur-Mer with tide coming in

It was curious to see how the tide had come right in, as when we arrived 3 hours earlier, it was at least 300 metres out and lots of people were picking mussels, clams and other shell food.  I took loads of pictures, including more Nazi bunkers!  There’s also a very interesting and long stone wall in the sea built to facilitate the collection of seafood, something I’d never seen before.

We’re hoping to eat out at the sea-front hotel – Le Petit Bonheur – just a few metres down the road from this car park by the lighthouse, so I’m looking forward to enjoying some of that local sea food.

This car park is very full now, even as the sun is setting (6 pm) and the surfers are coming out of the water.  I wonder what it’d be like in the height of summer!


La Tranche-sur-Mer with tide right in

La Tranche-sur-Mer's sunset and surfers heading back.

V.I.P Pêche Campsite, Plan d’Eau d’Ayron. Saturday, 29th October 2011


V.I.P. Peche campsite

We are in a small campsite just northwest of Poitiers on the E62/N149 or Route de Poitiers.  We are the only campers here, apart from a young couple who arrived in a panel van last night, but left this morning, so again Bramble is free to run around as he pleases, although the road that leads down to the fishing lake can get busy and I worry he might wander across.

We arrived yesterday just before 1 o’clock and checked in at the bar by lake for 2 days (only 24E) and got a fishing card for Adonis for only 15E for the day and a half he’ll need it for.  We’re camping right under the oak trees and, being autumn, we get some acorns falling on top of van and that’s what actually woke us up this morning.

It’s beautiful being parked in the woods, with all the leaves changing colour this time of year and we are surrounded by a canopy of green, yellow, orange and brown.  Some of the acers along the way were of an intense read, which was quite amazing, but not in this particular wood.  I just love the serenity and peace of the place.


VIP Peche lake

Adonis’s been down by the lake most of the time and I’ve been reading, crocheting and revising my French and German as the weather turned cloudy yesterday and rainy this morning.

VIP Peche fishing competition

There is a fishing competition today and the competitors started arriving soon after 8 am.  It was very peculiar to see all the fishermen lined up all along the edge of the lake, spread out every 10 metres or so. I walked down there with Bramble after my very welcome hot shower to enjoy the warmth and I fancied getting to know the place a little bit.  It took us a while to find Adonis, as he had to make room for competitors and was forced to find a spot further down the lake.  Then we carried on walking around lake and found the village and château, but that’s when the rain started and had to dash back, unfortunately.  Perhaps if it’s dry this afternoon, I’ll have another go and explore it properly.

It might be interesting to go to the bar when all the competitors have a break.  They’ve put up an awning and some tables and chairs outside so, being a Saturday, perhaps they expect a few visitors. It’s all very serious, with some fishermen bringing big tents (maybe they listened to the weather forecast) and loads of fishing equipment that puts poor Adonis to shame.  Still, he’s got what he needs, including a little bivvy to keep him dry and the bar is also a fishing tackle shop where he can get anything else he needs.  The carp are jumping out of the water, so I hope he’ll catch something today, especially after the disappointment of Lac des Varennes.  It certainly looks more promising!

Ouchamps, Thursday 27th October 2011


Ouchamps aire

We are at a tiny but adequate aire about 10 km south of Blois, after spending a couple of hours visiting the impressive Château Chambord, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

We stayed in Lac des Varennes four nights instead of seven, as the carp in the lake weren’t taking the bait and Adonis got fed up with the fishing (or lack of it).

After the rain on Tuesday morning, it turned out quite nice for the evening and all day Wednesday and we were able to eat outside in the sun again.  I made a chicken casserole and a chicken curry with the expensive bird and also some stock, which I’ll use for a lentil or bean stew with chorizo to make 3 meals out of it and not feel quite so ripped off.  Good job I enjoy cooking, even on holidays!

We left this morning at 9.30 am as we had packed everything last night and we were more or less ready.  I must also mention that the tripped fuse was not in the van, but on the hook-up box in campsite, which the manager fixed 2 hours after Adonis told him about it.

After a quick stop at Leclerk hypermarket in Château-du-Loir, where we bought some fine Jasniers local wine amongst other goodies, we followed the D938 south to Neuille-Pont-Pierre and the D766 east towards Blois to join the D951 in the south of the city.  We followed the river Loire east for about 10 km and joined the D84 at Montlivault south to Chambord.

Chambord Castle

After a frugal lunch in the Château carpark/aire, we started our visit of this most spectacular kings’ residence just after 1 o’clock, where every room holds a surprise, not least all the Royals’ portraits, impressive in size and mesmerizing in their regalia and fascinating costumes, even if some did look a bit ridiculous to today’s eyes.  I particularly loved Marie Antoinette splendid dress and Louis XIV chambers.  The building is a triumph of Italian Renaissance in France: its construction even involved diverting the river Loire to accommodate it!  It was designed by Italian architect Domenico de Cortona in 1519, with a mind-boggling double staircase attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci.  François I commanded the building of this jewel, but he never saw it complete.  It was continued by his son Henri II and then by Louis XIV, as they both loved hunting, which is another aspect of the grounds, with its 5440 hectares, the largest enclosed forest park in Europe.  Big game is the king of the area now, especially Red Deer and wild boar.  Unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore the forest, for we had to take Bramble for his afternoon walk, so we might have to come back some other time, as we love this Loire region.

Louis XIV bedroom

We would have stayed the night in the Château’s car park if it had been cheaper, but 20 E a night seemed a bit steep, so we just came back west on the D33, south on the D956 to Mon Repos and D77 southwest to this aire.  We followed the sat. nav. for a change, just in case, as we were a bit tired, but I still like to keep my eye on the map, so that I know where we are.

This aire is tiny, maybe room for 2 or 3 motorhomes tops, but it’s quiet, facing a lake on one side and the woods on the other.  We can empty grey water, toilet and there’s a free tap in toilet block by playing field, so it has everything we need.

Not sure whether to cook bacon and eggs tonight or Merguez and couscous: I’ll decide later.

Louis XIV bed at Chambord