Monthly Archives: January 2013

Le Crotoy, Thursday 3rd January 2013

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Le Crotoy as seen from motorhome aire.

Le Crotoy as seen from motorhome aire.

 

My first entry of the year happens to be on the Bay of the Somme on a misty, but warmish afternoon.  The thermometer in the van reads 17 °C and, as we haven’t had the heating on since 1.30 pm and it’s 4.45 pm now, the temperature inside can’t be very different from the outside.

 

Motorhome aire as seen from the Bay of the Somme

Motorhome aire as seen from the Bay of the Somme

 

We’ve just come back from a long walk with Sasha around the bay and the marshes and Sasha had a whale of a time leaping about, chasing the seagulls and the ducks.  I took lots of pictures all the way as I never tire of the beautiful sight of the town of Le Crotoy from the motorhome aire and the marshes.

 

Sasha enjoying herself on the marshes of the Bay of the Somme

Sasha enjoying herself on the marshes of the Bay of the Somme

 

 

Enjoying a long walk around the Bay

Enjoying a long walk and a run around the Bay

 

The aire still costs €5, plus €2 for the water and electricity borne if needed.  There are 8 vans here at the moment and it’s hard to imagine now how busy it was in the summer, with hardly any spaces left, even though the parking area is quite big, with room for 200 vehicles!

 

The Bay of the Somme

The Bay of the Somme

 

The Bay of the Somme

The Bay of the Somme and Le Crotoy

 

We thoroughly enjoyed our break at Amboise, as always, and left on 1st January for Montbizot, north of Le Mans, following mainly the D938/338 from the north of Tours.  Montbizot has a little aire with enough room for 6 motorhomes, but the water and electricity supply borne was switched off for the winter, but as we had topped up in Amboise, it didn’t really matter.  Again, the river Sarthe was overflowing and the walking area and path were waterlogged and flooded in parts, so walking was difficult and Wellington boots were a must!

After Montbizot, we carried on north on the D338 past Alenҫon and D438 to Broglie, where once again we had made an appointment with the vet to have Sasha wormed and checked before returning to England.  The guard came early in the evening to collect the €5 fee and we also bought a jeton (token) for water for €2.50 to last us until the end of the journey.  We were glad to see that everything was in working order.

It felt very strange this time round not to have Bramble with us, as we’ve been here so many times with him, especially during the walk along the Charentonne river.  Even the vet asked about him.  Still, Sasha loved the walk too and I hope it will be the first of many happy walks in this lovely village.

The vet was booked for 8.30 am, so we made an early start this morning and got here for 12.30 pm, following the A28, joining it at junction 14 north of Bernay and on past Rouen, but we had to take the A150 for a little while as the bridge was still closed on the Eastern side of the city and the traffic was diverted westwards.  We joined the A28 again at J.11 and followed the usual route past Abbeville to J.1 and D40 to Le Crotoy without any further disturbances to the traffic.

 

Le Crotoy

Le Crotoy

 

Various aquatic birds at the Bay of the Somme

Various aquatic birds at the Bay of the Somme

 

We are off to Auchan at Boulogne-sur-Mer for our final big shop to stock up on wine and beer before our final overnight stop at Wissant and going home.

We’ll be back in February!

Our parking spot at the motorhome aire of Le Crotoy

Our parking spot at the motorhome aire of Le Crotoy

 

 

Amboise, 31st December 2012

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A Festive Amboise

This is our third time at this very convenient and well equipped motorhome aire with a fantastic view of Amboise Château.  We had such a wonderful time last New Year’s Eve that we decided to come back and welcome 2013 at one of our favourite places in France and, where better that right on the banks of the river Loire?  We were more than happy to pay the €20 for our two-day stay here, as it has clean water and electricity included in the price, not to speak of the extremely pleasant walk all around L’Île d’Or, right in the middle of the river, dividing the north and south parts of the town.

 

A festive Amboise

A festive Amboise

 

We arrived yesterday after spending one night at Vars, practically on top of the Charente, as the river was so swollen it had burst its banks and the place we had chosen to stop for the afternoon at Le Portal was badly flooded and we were worried that if it rained again, we might get stuck.  Still, we spent a very pleasant afternoon there and Adonis managed to do some fishing for the first time this holiday and caught two roach.  Vars is just about 10km north of Angouleme, as we were quite keen to find a new overnight stop in the Charente area in order to have more options for the future.

 

The swollen rive Charente at Vars, our overnight stop

The swollen river Charente at Vars, our overnight stop

 

A flooded Le Porta,l where Le Charente burst its banks

A flooded Le Porta,l where Le Charente burst its banks

 

From Vars we went back on the A10 north of Poitiers, Châtellerault and Tours, where we came off at junction 22, south of La Loire and east on D751 to Amboise in time for lunch.

 

Sasha enjoying a good run by the Loire on L'Ile d'Or

Sasha enjoying a good run by the Loire on L’Ile d’Or

After our afternoon walk with Sasha around L’Île d’Or, we went into town to admire the Christmas decorations and enjoy a beer in one of the many lively café bars along the main street by the Château.

 

Christmas lights at Amboise

Christmas lights at Amboise

 

Christmas lights at Amboise

Christmas lights at Amboise

 

This morning I went on a long search for mussels and king prawns, as we fancied these as our last supper of the year.  I first went into the town on the south side of the river, but I couldn’t find a fishmongers or a supermarket selling fresh shellfish, but plenty of oyster sellers on little stalls on the street.  I asked a gentleman who looked local, as he had a carrier bag with shopping in it, and he told me to cross the bridge to the north side and find the market there.  I followed my instinct out of town until I saw signs for Aldi and Intermarché.  I tried the first, but had nothing in the way of fresh fish and so I carried on to Intermarché in Villeret, where I struck lucky and got what I needed.  I was surprised to see it was nearly noon by the time I got back to the van, as I’d left at 10am!

 

Posing by Leonardo da Vinci Statue at L'Ile d'Or

Posing by Leonardo da Vinci Statue at L’Ile d’Or

 

I quickly got changed and we set off to visit Château du Los Lucé Parc Leonardo da Vinci, home to the Artist/Genius from 1516 to 1519 and where he died on 2nd May 1519.  We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of the place and it seemed quite surreal to be standing where he’d lived and worked and by the bed in which he died.  We particularly enjoyed the models (both small and life-size) of the inventions he dreamt of, tanks and aeroplanes included.  We loved the fact that there is an exhibition of interactive life-size models in Leonardo’s Garden for people to admire and enjoy and we couldn’t resist the temptation of trying them out: great for children of all ages (especially those pushing 50!).

Trying out one of Leonardo's inventions (an early tank)

Trying out one of Leonardo’s inventions (an early tank)

 

The prototype for a helicopter

The prototype for a helicopter

 

A parachute

A parachute

 

Car and bicycle

Car and bicycle

 

Double staircase: you can see people on the opposite side, but you never meet!

Double staircase: you can see people on the opposite side, but you never meet!

 

Various models of Leonardo's inventions

Various models of Leonardo’s inventions

 

Tank model

Tank model

 

A paddle steamer in Leonardo's Garden

A paddle steamer in Leonardo’s Garden

 

Leonardo's study

Leonardo’s study

 

Leonardo's bed

Leonardo’s bed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We made it back to the van for 2pm for a later than usual lunch, followed by a quick siesta and another walk around the island and we are now going to get ready to celebrate New Year’s eve with the king prawns and mussels I walked so far to get.

I wonder if we’ll come back here next New Year’s eve again!

 

 

 

Créon, Gironde, Friday 28th December 2012

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Stunning sunrise at Leucate Plage

 

After spending 5 very pleasant and warm days on the Mediterranean coast, including Christmas celebrations with the family, we are now limping back northwest, taking things very easy indeed.

Christmas with the family

Christmas with the family

 

After Portiragnes, we went back to south of Narbonne on Wednesday 26th December and spent the day and night at the motorhome aire on Leucate Plage.  It was a very sunny and warm day and we really enjoyed our two long walks with Sasha on this east-facing beautiful beach.  The aire is divided into two areas, north and south, at Parking du Gallion, and there are loads of parking spaces.  There were only 6 vans when we arrived, but it was quite busy when we left in the morning, with all the spaces facing the sea taken up.  This aire is €7 a day in the summer months, but it’s free this time of year, as the facilities for clean water and electricity are closed.

 

Spectacular sunset

Spectacular sunset

We also enjoyed a spectacular sunset and sunrise and managed to take decent pictures of both.

 

Sunset at Leucate Plage

Sunset at Leucate Plage

 

On Thursday morning we went back on the A9 to Narbonne and west on the A61 past Toulouse and A62 north of this city to J9, where we got off onto the D813 to Moissac and west to St Nicolas de la Grave, where we parked right by the lake on the Country Park of Tan et Garonne.  This was another smashing wild parking/camping spot, but the weather changed and it rained quite heavily in the afternoon, so I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I could have done.  Adonis took Sasha out for her afternoon walk while I was still waking up from my siesta and they were gone for almost an hour, enjoying the herons and the egrets and a good run around.

 

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The Pyrenees: a beautiful backdrop to the motorhome aire at Leucate Plage

 

This morning we stopped at the aire of Valence, just west of St Nicolas-de-la-Grave, still on the D813 to empty toilet cassette and top up with water, where for €4 you get 15 minutes of water, which is more than plenty to fill up.  We really liked this aire for future reference and the town itself was full of character and fascinating buildings.

 

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Motorhome aire at Leucate Plage

 

 

Motorhome aire at Leucate Plage

Motorhome aire at Leucate Plage

 

We were hoping to stop for the day on the banks of the Garonne and we tried several aires listed in the book, but luck wasn’t on our side and we only found this aire at Créon, about 10 km north of the river, at 3 o’clock this afternoon.

 

Leucate Plage

Leucate Plage

He first place we tried was St Martin de Sescas on the D113, west of La Réole, which according to the official motorhome guide (Guide Officiel Aires de services Camping Car), should be open all year round, but when we got there the farmer told us it was closed for the winter.  So we carried on further west to Langon, where we found parking right on the river at a large car park, where a market was being held.  We were just finishing our lunch when a gendarme came and told us they were going to put the barrier down and we couldn’t stay there the night, so we moved on towards Cadillac, on the D10 northwest of Langon.  We didn’t really like the aire at Cadillac and, checking the map again, we chose to try Créon, even though it is not on the river.  This is far more pleasant and we have free electricity, even though there are signs on the borne saying it’s been switched off.  According to the guide it costs €3 a day.  The aire is on Boulevard Victor Hugo, Station de Vélo, and it has a lovely cycle and walking lane that goes on for miles, all the way to Bordeaux!

We are hoping to stay by the Charente tomorrow, but we shall see how we get on…

 

Sasha enjoying a sniff on the Mediterranean coast at Lecuate

Sasha enjoying a sniff on the Mediterranean coast at Leucate

 

Leucate Plage

Leucate Plage

 

 

Gruissan, Aude, Saturday 22nd December 2012

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We’ve made it to the Mediterranean at last after a week on the road from Calais.  It is the first day of sun and blue skies since we left England and it’s also very warm (18°C inside the van at 5 pm!).  I am just loving the eastern light and the fact that we’re facing the sea, where the sun is going down gradually and bouncing off the terracotta and yellow painted buildings: a sight for sore eyes indeed.  We’re just north of the Pyrenees too, in the Languedoc Roussillon region, and we can also see the snow-capped mountain tops, just to make a perfect picture.

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We’ve just been for a long walk around the marina and admired the luxury yachts as well as the holiday homes and tranquility of the place in the winter, but I can imagine that it must be mayhem in the height of summer.

 

Enjoying a walk around the Marina at Gruissan

Enjoying a walk around the Marina at Gruissan

 

Gruissan is just southeast of Narbonne, one of the principal Roman cities in France, and usually a very windy place, but today there isn’t a hint of it anywhere.  We’re off to Portiragnes tomorrow to spend the Christmas holidays with Adonis’s family, but we’re thinking about coming back here afterwards, as it is so idyllic.

 

The huge motorhome aire at Gruissan beach

The huge motorhome aire at Gruissan beach

 

Parked right by the sea with beautiful views of the Pyrennes

Parked right by the sea with beautiful views of the Pyrennes

 

 

Sign at motorhome aire

Sign at motorhome aire, free in the winter

 

 

Yesterday we spent the day in Grisolles, north of Toulouse (junction 68 off the A20 and then south on D820), where we found a motorhome aire not listed on the official guide (Le Guide Officiel Aires de Services Camping Car), just behind the community hall by the Garonne canal.  It had lots of spaces for motorhomes, a water tap and facilities to empty grey water and toilet, but no electricity, and it’s FREE!

 

Walking along the Garonne canal at Grisolles

Walking along the Garonne canal at Grisolles

 

We went back there after deciding that the aire at Grenade, just a few kilometres down the road from Grisolles, wasn’t really appropriate, being in a small car park by the cemetery, made worse by some road works going, with one side of the road being closed.  It didn’t really feel all that attractive or welcoming at all, so once again it paid off being flexible about our destinations.  So we made a u-turn and were very pleased with our decision.  There were only 4 motorhomes at the aire in Grisolles this morning, including ours, very different from where we are at the moment, which is also huge, but a lot busier: it must be something to do with the Mediterranean weather…

It was absolutely pouring down with rain all day yesterday and we got soaked walking Sasha along the canal, so we really appreciate the dry and warmer weather down here and will be sad to leave this region.

 

The Marina at Gruissan

The Marina at Gruissan

 

We used mainly motorways coming down from Uzerche and it’s good to know that the A20 is largely free until past Brive La Gaillarde at J.54 to Montauban, which was only a couple of euros.  The A61 from south of Toulouse to Narbonne was €20, but we didn’t mind paying for this, as all the motorhomes aires so far have been free, with exception of the €3 at La Suthe-sur-Sarthe, so we can afford to splash on better and faster roads.

 

The Marina

The Marina

 

The Marina

The Marina

 

Gruissan

Gruissan

 

 

Uzerche, Thursday 20th December 2012

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View from St Peter's Church

View from St Peter’s Church

 

 

We are now at the motorhome aire in the beautiful medieval town of Uzerche, right by the river Vezère in the Correze Department.  There are supposed to be 30 pitches for motorhomes, but there are only two of us here and the rest is just being used as the town car park.  In fact, when we arrived here at 11 am this morning, there was a NO ENTRY  sign on the way in as there is supposed to be a market here every 20th of the month and every Saturday, when motorhomes would not be allowed from 6 am to 1 pm.  Luckily for us it’s been pouring down with rain for most of the day and there weren’t many merchants at all, not even half a dozen, so they let us through without too much resistance and we were able to hook up to the electricity outlet for free.  The water tap outside the old station building has been neutralised, but Adonis’s just filled up using the sink the the toilets, which happen to be open.

 

View of the car park and motorhome aire from hill top

View of the car park and motorhome aire from hill top right by the bridge

 

This really is a wonderful aire, with stunning views of the old town and the clifftop and with a tarmacked footpath along the river, perfect for dog walks.  I am amazed that this is totally FREE, even the electricity, in such a pretty and  peaceful place.  Hats off to the French again.

St Peter's Chruch, Uzerche

St Peter’s Chruch, Uzerche

 

As we got here so early, we had plenty of time to wander around the town and visit St Peter’s Church or Église St Pierre, a fortified church with an amazing XIth century crypt, one of the oldest in the Limousin.  the views from outside the church, on Place de la Lunade overlooking the river valley, are quite staggering and we took our time photographing the views all around us.

 

11th Century crypt

11th Century crypt

 

11th century crypt

11th century crypt

 

11th century crypt

11th century crypt

 

 

11th century crypt

11th century crypt

 

11th century crypt

11th century crypt

 

 

Another peculiarity of this town are the ‘Maisons à Tourelles’, or turret houses, with their typical cone-shaped roofs, just like witches’ hats, dating from XV and XVI centuries, as is the XIV century Porte Béchaire, one of the nine original gates allowing access to the town: all well worth a visit, even on a rainy day like today.  In fact, the whole place is so full of amazing buildings and walls to look at that even the rain couldn’t spoil our visit and enjoyment of this remarkable little town.

 

Maison a tourelles (Turret House)

Maison a tourelles (Turret House)

 

Buildings on the cliff top

Buildings on the cliff top

 

Porte Bechaire, one of the 9 original  access gates to the town

Porte Bechaire, one of the 9 original access gates to the town

 

Uzerche from the hill top by St Peter's church

Uzerche from the hill top by St Peter’s church

 

 

Old steps at Uzerche

Old steps at Uzerche

 

Uzerche and the Vezere river

Uzerche and the Vezere river

 

Yesterday we stopped at Lac de St Pardoux, just off junction 25 on the A20 on our way down south from Montrésor.  It was our second choice after deciding the original aire we were heading for at Béssines-sur-Gartempe (also off the A20 at J.24) wasn’t quite up to Adonis’s liking and we thought the stay by the lake might be much more pleasant, which indeed was!  We had made very good time coming down from Montrésor on the D755 and D975, past Châtillon-sur-Indre, Azay-Le-Ferron and Le Blanc and then the D675 to Le Dorat and east on D942 and D45 to Béssines-sur-Gartempe, all fantastic straight roads until the D45, where we encountered some very interesting, almost hairpin, bends.

 

Aire at Lac de St Pardoux

Aire at Lac de St Pardoux

 

We really thought that the aire at Santrop beach by Lac de St Pardoux would make a fantastic stop in warmer weather and, again, we’d love to come back at Easter or early in the summer before the crowds arrive.  Sasha had a whale of a time leaping and charging about on the sandy beach and it was great to see her running around without worrying about traffic at all.  There was another motorhome when we arrived there, but it left early in the afternoon, so once again, we had the place completely to ourselves and another FREE night stay.  There is a motorhome service borne which operates with €3.50 for 100 litres of water and 1 hour electricity, but we didn’t need either, although it’s good to know for future reference.

 

Lac de St Pardoux

Lac de St Pardoux

 

Sasha cooling down after a run at Lac de St Pardoux

Sasha cooling down after a run at Lac de St Pardoux

 

Tomorrow we’re travelling towards Toulouse and we’ll decide where to stop when we get there.

 

Lac de St Pardoux

Lac de St Pardoux

 

Our motorhome in the woods seen from Santrop beach at Lac de St Pardoux

Our motorhome in the woods seen from Santrop beach at Lac de St Pardoux

 

Montrésor, Tuesday 18th December 2012

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We made it to Montresor 038

 

 

We made it to Genillé by 1 pm today, only to discover that the motorhome ‘aire’ was just a parking space behind a farmhouse where a rusty old caravan with a dog tethered to it were standing.  The place looked very unwelcoming indeed and the actual ‘parking’ space was on tall grass, so without giving it a second thought or having the need to discuss it at all, we turned around and headed southeast on the D10 to this charming medieval town of Montrésor, complete with a chateau and an abbey, all on top of of a hill on the river Indrois, a tributary of the river Indre.  The aire is FREE and has room for 15 motorhomes and it also has a free water tap and facilities to empty the toilet and grey water.  The aire overlooks the chateau and is very quiet, so this has been another lucky find due to last minute change of plans!  It’s good to be flexible.

 

The pleasant walk along the river Indrois in Montresor

The pleasant walk along the river Indrois in Montresor

 

We have just come back from a walk around the town and along the river, where every so often there are information panels about the history of the town. This place is well worth a visit and we’d like to come back again to explore the chateau (originally built in the XIth century and re-inforced on the XVIth) and the abbey.

 

One of the bridges along the river walk

One of the bridges along the river walk

 

We made very good time this morning after leaving La Suthe-sur-Sarthe, with only one stop at Leclerc at  Chateau-du-Loir to buy some bottled water and some more food, as we were getting worried that all the water outlets might be shut again, like it happened last January.  Luckily, there is water here, but you never know when or where the next source is going to be.

 

The Abbey at Montresor

The Abbey at Montresor

 

The TomTom decided to take us up north again from La Suthe-sur-Sarthe to join the motorway, but we changed our minds and opted for the D338 south, just by the 24-hour-circuit and Musée Automobile of Le Mans, past Ecommoy, Chateau-du-Loir and all the way to the north of Tours, where we headed east on the D801 and joined the A10 motorway from junction 20 to 23 (only 90 cents!) and then the D943 southeast towards Loches and D764 to Genillé.

 

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As we’ve had a long day on the road today, we might have a shorter drive tomorrow.  Let’s see what happens…

 

View from the hilltop

View from the hilltop

 

 

The old town

The old town

 

Entrance to the Chateau

Entrance to the Chateau

 

 

 

 

 

La Suthe-sur-Sarthe, Monday 17th December 2012

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This is going to be our first Christmas travelling in the motorhome and we hope to make it as far as Arles, Provence, as our final destination before turning back, but, as always, nothing is written in stone and we’re willing to change our plans on the go if necessary.

We left England last Saturday 15th on the Channel Tunnel as usual and were in Calais just before 3 pm.  We did our shopping at Cité Europe and were at Wissant aire for 4.30 pm with only one other motorhome to keep us company: a far cry from last August when we were lucky to get  a space.  It must have been raining quite heavily here too, as the field opposite the aire where we usually go for our dog walk was waterlogged and difficult to walk on.  Still, it was a dry and pleasant evening and the feeling of freedom at being away is always comforting, whatever the weather.

We had another downpour overnight, which kept me awake for a bit, but Adonis managed a long dry walk on the beach with Sasha, our new four-legged travelling companion, before the rains started again.

As usual, we followed the A16 and A28 south to Rouen and we were making good time until we came across the signs north of the city indicating that the bridge over the Seine was shut and we had to find an alternative route.  We followed some signs to Le Mans, which eventually disappeared in true French fashion and ended up on the A150 and A151 heading north again!!!  We got off at Tôtes and headed west towards Yvetot on D929 and then south on D131 to Pont de Brotonne and finally made the decision to stop at St Nicolas de Bliquetuit for the rest of the day, as it was already 2 pm.

 

Although our original intention was to stop at Broglie aire for the night, we quite welcomed the sudden change of plans, as the view from the free aire is just stunning, right on the river Seine, especially with all the Christmas lights and decorations.

 

View of St Nicolas de Bliquetuit from motorhome aire

View of St Nicolas de Bliquetuit from motorhome aire

 

 

Our Festive Motorhome

Our Festive Motorhome

 

Sasha and I enjoyed a long walk along the river bank and I never tire of admiring such beautiful view.  I took a lot of photos, of course, both of the town and our festive decorated motorhome, full of tinsel and baubles.

 

Lovely walk along the river Seine

Lovely walk along the river Seine

 

Motorhome aire at St Nicolas de Bliquetuie

Motorhome aire at St Nicolas de Bliquetuie

 

Gorgeous sunset

Gorgeous sunset

 

 

The view of St Nicolas de Bliquetuit at night.

The view of St Nicolas de Bliquetuit at night.

 

 

Our festive motorhome

Our festive motorhome

 

 

Relaxing before dinner

Relaxing before dinner

 

We were on our way by 9.30 this morning still headed south on D913/313 to junction 25 of A13 and south on A28, all the way to north of Le Mans, where we joined the A11 southwest to J9 for la Suthe-sur-Sarthe.

 

A very full river Sarthe by the motorhome aire at La Suthe-sur-Sarthe

A very full river Sarthe by the motorhome aire at La Suthe-sur-Sarthe

 

 

A very swollen river Sarthe

A very swollen river Sarthe

 

We were on our way by 9.30 this morning still headed south on D913/313 to junction 25 of A13 and south on A28, all the way to north of Le Mans, where we joined the A11 southwest to J9 for la Suthe-sur-Sarthe.

We love this wonderful aire and we’ve been here in all kinds of weather, but this is the first time that we have found it flooded in some parts, as the river is all the way up to the landing bays and the swim where Adonis was fishing last summer is completely under water, so no fishing today!

We have decided to move away from the river bank and we are actually parked in the ‘proper’ motorhome aire, right by the campsite, which is shut this time of year.  The fee is still €3 a day, which usually includes electricity and water, except that due to the ‘ freezing’ weather the water supply has been cut off even though it is not cold at all, just wet.  Still, we are not complaining as we have plenty of water and we can always fill up somewhere else when needed.

We’ve just been for a coffee and a beer in the village, followed by another dog walk along the river Sarthe and it feels just as charming and magical as the first time we came.

We are off to somewhere in the Loire tomorrow….