Monthly Archives: April 2012

French windows, shutters and doors

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I know this is a bit of a lame topic, but I have to admit that over the last two years travelling through France, I seem to have developed an obsession with French windows, shutter and doors, often staring at them for ages and losing my husband in the process of photographing them.

There is not much to say, just that I think they are beautiful and I will understand if nobody else agrees with me or people find the topic boring or uninteresting.

For those of you who might be interested, here are some that caught me eye.

Arles, Provence

 

Arles, Provence

 

 

Arles, Provence

 

Arles, Provence

 

Mers-les-Bains, Le Somme

 

Mers-les-Bains, Le Somme

 

Mers-les-Bains, Le Somme

 

St-Cirq Lapopie, Le Lot

 

St-Cirq Lapopie, Le Lot

 

Rouen

 

Rouen

 

Rouen

 

Tours

 

Tours

 

Tours

 

 

Lac des Varennes, Thursday 12th April 2012

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Lac des Varennes

Here we are again at one of our favourite spots to relax and fish in the Vallée du Loir near Château-du-Loir.  It’s warm and sunny and we have booked for four days in what is now going to be our first proper rest on this holiday, as so far we haven’t stopped anywhere else for more than two days.

 

 

 

 

 

It poured down with rain in Cransac, accompanied by thunder and lightning, so I never had a chance to go and explore what looked like a very pretty thermal town and the woods surrounding it.  On the plus side, nobody came to collect the €5.30 fee for the facilities at this lovely and secluded aire.

Rocamadour

So yesterday morning, we followed the D840 from Viviez northwest past Figeac, Thémines and Gramat and stopped at Rocamadour for mid-morning coffee to make the most of the fact that being mid-week, there wasn’t a problem with parking and it wasn’t packed with visitors, as it tends to happen in the high season.  It certainly is a very impressive little town, perched high up on a cliff and pretty as a picture, of which I took a few.  It’s all very dramatic and wonderful and I’m glad we’ve seen it, but not being the religious type, we didn’t bother to visit the inside of the shrine where the miracle performing black Madonna is held, for we are not after miracles or healing of any sort.

 

 

From Rocamadour we went on to join the A20 motorway just south of Brive-La-Gaillarde at J54, past Limoges and La Souterraine to J20 to Cuzion, where we had enjoyed it so much last July.  I went for a long walk with Bramble along the river Creuse, downstream from the water dam, and really loved the tranquillity and beauty of the place.  I took some photos of wild orchids and other flowers before the skies opened again and had to make a run for the van, where Adon very thoughtfully had the heating on.

The River Creuse at Cuzion

 

I baked two fresh salmon fillets covered in chopped garlic and herbs de Provence and served it with new potatoes: a luxury meal in a place of outstanding natural beauty: life just can’t get any better sometimes.

Rain again first thing this morning, so we continued north on the A20 to Châteauroux at J13, to go northwest on D943, past Loches to Tours, the A28 to J27 and D938 to Château-du-Loir and D305 to Marҫon.

I love this place: the sun is really hot now and there’s no wind.  I can’t remember it ever being windy here.

Adonis is already fishing 10 metres away from me and he’s used our new inflatable boat to cast some bait into the middle of the lake. I hope he catches something this time.  I’ve got the password for wifi, so I hope to check on my messages later on.

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Well, it’s Monday  16th April today, our last day here, and Adonis’s caught 3 carp, a 19lb, a 39.1 lb and 34 lb, so it

Adonis and his 39 lb carp

has been a very successful fishing break.

Adonis and his 39 lb carp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The weather has been changeable and we’ved had a mix-bag of everything, but that doesn’t detract from the charm and calm of this wonderful campsite.

Lac des Varennes campsite

Cransac Aire, Tuesday 10th April 2012

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Pretty and secluded Cransac Aire

 

Well, it wasn’t sunny and it was windy this morning, so we left Stes Maries-de-la-Mer at a reasonable 9.30 am after a good walk with Bramble and a long wait at the campsite reception to pay for our day stay: slightly shocked at the €25.30 cost, by far the most expensive site we have ever been to.  Good job Floppy ‘forgot’ to declare the dog (another €4)!  Anyway, it was a nice day in the sun and we had a hot shower!

 

Cransac aire

 

 

No bread at the campsite shop, so it was foot to the accelerator and off we went through Montpellier and over the Millau viaduct to save time (€10.10) and on in driving rain.  We were glad to get off the motorway just after Millau and take the main road to Rodez, and on to the aire at Cransac, and very nice it is too!  We arrived about 3 pm for a late lunch.  The aire has delimited pitches separated by hedges and is clean, with excellent walks for Bramble.  Nobody has come to collect the €5.30 fee yet (7pm) due to the bad weather.  This is spa town, so it would have been lovely to explore it further in the sun.  We like it here: it feels very tucked away.

There’s been a slight leak in the van today through the side window when it was pouring down earlier on, but I’ve put some sealant on, so I hope it works.

Tomorrow we head for Brive-la-Gaillard and north, probably to Cuzion and then Lac des Varennes in the Vallée du Loir via Loches.

Work is still far away to worry and it’s 20 years of Adon and Flop!

Provence: Stes Maries-de-la-Mer, La Camargue, Monday 9th April 2012

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Camargue horses and riders

 

 

It’s been a fantastic Easter weekend and the sun has been shining most of the time, albeit windy in our first taste of the mistral!

After leaving our wonderful wild camping spot at Lac de Pareloup, we drove to explore the opposite side, as it is facing east and had the sun from early morning till evening, but the only access to the beaches there was through the campsites, which seemed to be closed this early in the year.  So now we know for future reference.

So we took the small roads D993 and D30 to Millau, where we tried to find the motorhome aire to stop for coffee, but it wasn’t signposted and we just drove through the large town to the south side on the D809, bought a baguette and cake and stopped at Le Larzac between junctions 47 and 48 on the A75, with very strange rock formations to distract us, on our way to Portiragnes to visit Adonis’ mum and dad.

We avoided the expensive Millau viaduct (€10.10) and we enjoyed the FREE motorway all the way, which was nice for a change.

We were in Portiragnes just after midday and it wasn’t long before Bramble got into a fight with Huntley (in-law’s dog) when he tried to eat his food, resulting in Huntley biting Bramble’s ear and piercing it in 3 places:  perhaps we should put studs in them and make him fashionable.

We sat by the pool for the rest of the day, sheltered from the wind by the east wall of the house: a real sun trap, which required sunblock, sunglasses and hat!

Saturday was also very leisurely spent, with just a quick trip to Carrefour for food and beer for the next few days, enjoying more sunshine by the pool, even though the water wasn’t warm enough to swim in it yet.

The day ended with a magnificent meal a Le Cep d’Or in Béziers, where we enjoyed a delicious 3-course meal for €17.50 each, which included sardine croquettes, salmon mousse and goat’s cheese gratin for starters, lamb stew (similar to Shepherd’s pie), fillet of plaice with roast potatoes and roasted chicken breast with vegetables for main course and for dessert we had gallette Bretonne, Crème Catalane and assorted cheeses.  The service is very friendly and efficient in a small and intimate setting, which also has tables on the terrace, but the weather wasn’t up to sitting outside (perhaps when we return in the summer).

Unfortunately, the wind brought the rain and we had to make a quick run back to the car, as we were all wearing summer clothes and only had one umbrella between us that I’d taken as a precaution.

I felt very tired when we got back to the house and went straight to bed, for we wanted to leave early on Sunday morning and beat the traffic on our way to Arles.

Arles and the river Rhone

This time we decided to bite the bullet and pay the motorway tolls in order to make good time and joined the A9 at J35 at a cost of around €20 in total, paid in 3 different stages, but at least we were in Arles for 11 am and found the free motorhome aire/car park right on the quay of the river Rhône and walked into town to be greeted by a very lively Easter Fiesta, with various brass bands performing at different spots in the town, huge paellas being cooked outdoors and people dancing in the streets and generally having a good time.

Paellas being cooked in the streets

 

 

Espace Van Gogh, Hotel Dieu

We managed to drag ourselves away from these merry celebrations and visited the Espace Van Gogh (Hotel-Dieu), where the artist was sent after assaulting Gaugin and cutting his ear off.  This is now a cultural centre and has recreated the beautiful courtyard flower beds according to his paintings.  I also loved the yellow arches and arcades, where some Art and souvenir shops can be found.

 

 

 

 

 

Ruins of Roman Theatre

 

We also enjoyed walking around the Roman Theatre and the Amphitheatre, wonderfully preserved, and where a bullfighting fiesta was taking place.  Apparently it can sit 20,000 spectators.

We spent some time admiring the doorway of the Cathedrale St-Trophime in Place de la Republique with its magnificent 12th century Provenҫal stone carving depicting the Last Judgement.

But the most impressive event of the day, and indeed to whole weekend has to be the jaw-dropping show of the Camargue horses and their riders (or guardians) running the bulls up and down the Boulevard des Lices, the riders trying to contain the bulls in the middle of a group of horses and young men alongside the bulls, grabbing their trimmed horns and tails to keep them under control.  We’d never seen anything like it before and were suitably impressed.

 

 

The running of the bulls

The running of the bulls

Grabbing the bull by the horns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch and a quick rest, we walked along the river walls where Van Gogh used to walk with candles on his hat.  This portion of the walk is marked on the ground with tile gravings depicting the artist and it also has red street lamps along the river (impossible to miss).

Following Van Gogh footsteps along river walls in Arles

 

We enjoyed more bands playing outside the amphitheatre to a huge crowd of people and noticed these were getting merrier and merrier and louder and louder.  Back in la Place de la Republique, we delighted listening to a very young and entertaining brass band, bought some gifts in Espace V. G., had a drink in the busy Boulevard and finished with a pizza late in the evening, admiring the sunlight bathing the town from the opposite side of the Rhône: the perfect room with a view and a great ending to a most enjoyable day.

Celebrating Easter Sunday by amphitheatre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brass Band in Place de la Republique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Le Pont Van Gogh

This morning we drove looking for Van Gogh’s Bridge and followed the signs from the outskirts of the town, but they soon left us on the D35 south of town and ended up driving about 3 km before we realized it couldn’t be that far and did a u-turn.  Sure enough, just entering the town again, we saw a sign that wasn’t visible at the roundabout from the opposite direction and found and photographed the famous bridge.

After filling up with diesel, we took the D570 southwest to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer on a very well maintained road which made easy travelling and got here for 10.30 am.

 

 

We are at a huge campsite – Camping de la Brise – with just a hedge and a fence between us and the beach, Plage Est.  It’s been very sunny and warm all day, but the wind’s still blowing (that’s how the campsite got its name, I expect).

Camping de la Brise

I’ve just taken Bramble for a long walk around the bird sanctuary in the Etang dit L’Impérial and admired the majestic and striking pink flamingos and other wading birds.

 

Pink flamingos in La Camargue

We look forward to an evening and another day in the sun: hopefully the wind will drop…

 

 

 

 

Lac de Pareloup, Wednesday 4th April 2012

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Wild camping at Lac Pareloup

We were hoping to stay at lovely Camping de la Plage at St Cirq-Lapopie for four days, but the weather turned colder and wet and we decided to carry on further southeast, hoping to find the sun and the warmth again.

St Cirq-Lapopie

 

Monday afternoon was hot and sunny and we had lunch and dinner outside, we even put the awning out to give Bramble some shade and we had a paddle in our new inflatable boat to the other side of the river Lot to get used to it and row in a straight line instead of in circles, which was quite amusing.

 

Roadsign outside St Cirq-Lapopie

 

Unfortunately, yesterday dawned grey and rainy and after taking Bramble for his morning walk, I gently strolled uphill to the village of St Cirq-Lapopie and marvelled at the staggering beauty of the place.  I had never been in such an old place before and it entirely deserves the reputation of being one of the most beautiful villages in France.  It’s entirely medieval, with its ancient doors, windows, rooftops, etc and the view from the top of the cliffs is simply breath-taking, commanding a panorama of the river Lot, surrounding valleys and villages:  well worth the steep climb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We returned again this morning for Adonis to see and to take photos, as I hadn’t taken my camera yesterday because I only went there looking for bread early in the morning, but there is no bakery in the village and I had to walk back to the campsite and cross the bridge to Tour-de-Faure, where there’s a hotel-restaurant, a bakery and a grocery shop.

The 12th century church at St Cirq-Lapopie

 

 

We spent the rest of the day at the campsite, Adonis fishing nearby and me crocheting and reading and made the

Old roof and window at St Cirq-Lapopie

decision that if it didn’t brighten up today, we’d move on.

And so it was that we woke up to another overcast and damp morning and, after taking a nice hot shower, we packed all our stuff, filled up with water and drove up to the village to take photos.

We were on our way towards Rodez by 10.30 am following the windy D42 south to join the D911 past Villefranche-de-Rouerque and stopped for coffee 804 metres up at the viewpoint in Rieupeyroux, marked by a chapel and 3 crosses and where we enjoyed some bright sunshine to go with our coffee and tarte citron.

 

 

 

 

 

Le Lot near St Cirq-Lapopie

 

On our way again to Baraqueville, where we joined the D888 past Flavin and Pon-de-Salars and where we headed south on D993 to this charming lake of Lac de Pareloup, just by Salles Curan, the small town down the road where I hope to buy our bread and cake tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stunning sunset at Lac Pareloup

 

Just been for a very pleasant walk along the lake shore.  It’s very quiet here now: Not a soul around!  And what an amazing sunset: the stuff of dreams.

Saint Cirq-Lapopie, Monday 2nd April 2012

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Loches

After 3 days on the road, this feels like the first day of a proper holiday, parked by the river Lot in a lovely and quiet campsite, Camping de la Plage.

After leaving Montbizot early yesterday morning, we followed the A28 past Le Mans and Tours and then the D943 to Loches, where we stopped for coffee and cake in the town’s car park right by the Château.

It’s worth at this point to make a breakdown of the motorway tolls so far, for they are not cheap!  From south of Rouen at J25 on the A13 to J21 on the A28 for Montbizot, it cost a staggering €43.40 and from there to between J26 and 27 north of Tours a further €13.30, plus another 90C from J22 to 23, exit for D943.  A total of €57.60!!!  This is why we prefer to use the national roads, as diesel these days is expensive enough at €1.41, the cheapest we’ve seen so far, but it goes up to €1.57 in some motorway service stations.

St Cirq-Lapopie

After Loches we continued southeast on D943 to Châteroux and joined A20 at J13 – a mercifully FREE section of motorway, all the way to south of Limoges, and exited at J41 for Magnac-Bourg, where we stopped for lunch and a rest.  The aire here was attractive enough, with free water, toilets and emptying facilities, all by a charming pond, but there were too many noisy dogs in the new housing development and, after taking Bramble for a long walk through the nearby woods, we decided to carry on south, back on the A20, past Brive-la-Gaillarde to J55 for Souillac, where there was a big free aire for over 30 motorhomes, with the €3 machine for water and electricity, which we didn’t need.

Our pitch No 29 at Camping de la Plage

It was very hot and we sat outside for about an hour before dinner of pork chops and chips and it was just wonderful to be able to enjoy proper summer-time heat for the first time this year.

We got up early this morning and headed for our destination after emptying grey water and toilet.  We tried following the SatNav, but once again it insisted in taking us through narrow country lanes and we had to ignore instructions and follow map on the national and regional roads, far better suited to our needs.

 

We followed D12 to pretty Gourdon and D673 to Montcabrier, a bit windy, but with staggering scenery.  Then south on D58 to Touzac, our final destination for the day, but when we got there at 10.30 am, there was no-one at reception but a note saying to ring a mobile number for service, which we did, but there was no answer and Adon left a message on answering service.  After waiting a few minutes, nobody came and I decided to try the toilets, but, to my dismay, I saw they hadn’t been cleaned properly and there were lots of leaves on the floor, a fluorescent tube left all along the wash-basins, together with wall plugs and other bits and pieces of maintenance work lying about.  At this point we decided the site wasn’t ready for service, even though we had emailed in advance and it was supposed to have opened for the season yesterday and, very much disappointed, we left to go back east again. Pity, as the site looked very pretty and it is right on the river Lot, perfect for fishing and the reason why we’d chosen it, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Medieval Village of St Cirq-Lapopie

After a quick check on the aires/camping map, we got back on the D811 via Puy-L’Eveque and headed East, past Cahors and then the D653 to Saint Cirq-Lapopie, with some stunning scenery and rock formations, making arches over our heads and following the river Lot all the while.

view from the top of St Cirq-Lapopie

We are glad we got to see all this after the morning disappointment, as we might have missed it otherwise.  We got here for 1.15 pm and the friendly and helpful receptionist told us to find a space and go back to register at 5 pm, which I’ve just done.  This pitch – number 29 – has its own water tap and electric hook-up and a lovely view of the river and surrounding cliffs.

Medieval village street

After lunch, we went looking for a suitable place to fish on the other side of the campsite fence and enjoyed a lovely walk in the sunshine, taking lots of pictures of this charming location and Bramble had a swim in the river.  Then, we both had much needed showers and a drink and now Adon is trying to inflate our brand new boat to explore Le Lot further.  Watch this space…

Spag Bol tonight!

Medieval St Cirq-Lapopie

Ancient door at St Cirq-Lapopie

Montbizot, Saturday 31st March 2012

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Walk around Montbizon's aire

 

We waited ages for this it seems, but now we are away again.

We were surprised we were allowed to board the Euro Tunnel train at 9.20 pm last night, as our booking was for 6.40 this morning, but we tried our luck and saved some time.  We got up early this morning and were at Auchan hypermarket in Boulogne-sur-Mer when it opened at 8.30 am and did our usual shopping for food and drinks.  We left at 9.30 and had a coffee break just before Rouen.  Then, unusually, we drove motorways all the way to J21 on the A28 to make good time to arrive at this aire at Montbizot, where we arrived at about 2.15 pm.  It is a good aire, with some hedges for protection and access to the river, but with ‘No Swimming’ signs here and there, which I am sure the French ignore and so would we if the weather was hot enough, which it isn’t at the moment.

 

Aire at Montbizon

 

I had a quick go at fishing, but found a snag and I’m not getting all the gear out now to change a hook!

Walk around Montbizon's aire

Tomorrow we head for Le Mans/Tours/Châteauroux (via Loches), then past Limoges  to an aire at Magnac Bourg – at least that’s the plan.  That will put us within a morning’s drive of the site on the Lot and hopefully some sun and fish!

 

 

 

 

 

Tranquil Montbizon