Monthly Archives: June 2013

Embry, Pas de Calais, Thursday 30th May 2013

Standard

 

The pinic area at Embry motorhome aire

The pinic area and stunning views at Embry motorhome aire

 

 We are now at one of the loveliest motorhome aires we have come across yet, right in the middle of some stunning countryside in Pas de Calais with only the sound of birdsong to keep us company. We’ve been here since 11.30 am and, although there is room for 8 motorhomes, we are the only ones here.

 

The motorhome aire with the pitches separated by flower containers

The motorhome aire with the pitches separated by flower containers and Flot Bleu service point  on the right

 

The generous pitches are separated by flower containers planted with both, flowers and culinary herbs like chives and thyme, and there’s one with strawberries too! There is an immaculate shower/toilet block and a Flot Bleu service point which operates with jetons (tokens) available from a machine at 2.50 each. This machine in turn operates with credit cards. The aire itself costs 6 a night and we are waiting for Dominique to come and collect the fee between 5.45 and 6.45 pm, as it says on the notice-board. I do like the personal touch of letting us know the name of our hostess. It’s now 5.30 pm so she can’t be long.

Shower, toilet and information block

Shower, toilet and information block

 

In the shower block there are lots of information leaflets, local maps and magazines in French and English. The showers also operate with a jeton and they will run for 12 minutes. Adonis enjoyed one earlier on and he was very impressed with the large cubicles, the free toiletries (shower gel and shampoo) and the temperature of the water – not too hot and not too cold, but just right. Where have I head that before?

 

Gorgeous view from our pitch

Gorgeous view from our pitch

 

You can also order a baguette, or indeed a whole breakfast basket with croissants and pastries for 5 from Dominique, but as we’re doing our big shop in Boulogne-sur-Mer tomorrow morning, we won’t be taking advantage of this thoughtful service this time, but we certainly will in future when we’re heading south and not going back home.

 

A delightful flower border at motorhome aire

A delightful flower border at motorhome aire

 

Same flower border from a distance

Same flower border from a distance

 

The journey here was very pleasant, especially after yesterday’s nightmarish drive on the Paris Peripherique road. We left Conty at 9 am on the D920 west to Poix-de-Picardie, where we joined the D901 north to just south east of Abbeville, where the road crosses the river Somme at Pont-Remy. From there we took the minor road D183 north, passing St Riquier and Domvast and then the D928 to Hesdin, passed the woods and left on the D108 to Embry (NO tomtom this time!!!).

 

Some very old houses in the village

Some very old houses in the village

 

A bit closer

A bit closer.  How on earth is it still standing?

 

This house is over 400 years old!

This house is nearly 400 years old!

 

 

If houses could talk!  I wonder what this one has seen in nearly 4 centuries!

If houses could talk! I wonder what this one has seen in nearly 4 centuries!

 

It’s a shame the weather has turned cooler and grey again, as there are some picnic tables available here too, as well as a barbecue, so we hope we’ll be able to enjoy these on our next visit, which will probably be in August!

 

Conty motorhome aire, Somme, Wednesday 29th May 2013

Standard

 

Walking around one of the lakes at Conty, Somme

Walking around one of the lakes at Conty, Somme

 

 

We thought it was going to be a short drive here from Versailles this morning, as Satnav said only 90 minutes and, giving the fact that we were a bit worried about navigating through all that spaghetti junction south west of Paris, we decided it would be a good idea to follow the TomTom again north towards Beauvais and then join the D1001 towards Amiens and do some shopping for food, etc. However, as Satnav didn’t seem to know that the motorway it took us on had height barriers on every lane and we weren’t allowed on, they put us on the slip road back out and Tomtom took us all the way round again, still trying to follow the same road. So we had to miss 2 exits and the only way to go from there seemed to be east, as it finally took us to Paris ring road via Meudon, where we had a chance to wave at the Eiffel Tower as we caught a glimpse of it amongst all the chaos inching forward and, one hour and 20 minutes later, we emerged north west of Paris by Clichy and finally on to the A15 to Pontoise and A16 by L’Isle-Adam towards Amiens. To say we were not amused would be the understatement of the year and we don’t understand why that track of motorway by Versailles was shut to tall vehicles. We have agreed that we need a Satnav that includes height and width of vehicles in order to prevent this type of unnecessary agony happening in the future. Why has Paris ring road got so many traffic lights? Isn’t the idea of a ring road to keep traffic moving fast?

 

Inching forward on Paris Ring Road

Inching forward on Paris Ring Road

 

So, although we had left Versailles’ Huttopia campsite at 9.20 am, we only joined the motorway at 11 am!!! We thought better of using the scenic national road by then, as we felt we had already wasted enough time, and we stayed on the A16 to junction 15 north of Beauvais, where we joined the D1001 towards Breteuil and here found a Leclerc hypermarket to top up with diesel and food.

 

From there is was pretty much straightforward to Essertaux and west on the D920 to Conty. I must mention here another infuriating wild-goose chase when we saw directions for another Leclerc at Froissy, just 10 miles or so north of Beauvais, pointing east at the junction between D1001 and D23 saying it was just ‘5 minutes’ from there, but we drove for about 10 minutes through beautiful rapeseed fields before knocking that idea on the head and retrace our steps. This has happened before and this is definitely the last time we fall for such directions. In future, if we don’t see the supermarket, we won’t bother to follow the signs.

 

The spacious motorhome aire at Conty

The spacious motorhome aire at Conty

 

This aire at Conty is very spacious (room for 70 motorhomes) and it’s free for emptying facilities and parking, with a water borne for €2.  There are 2 lakes nearby which look good for fishing and it’s also very popular for horse riding, with the riding school only just opposite the aire. We thoroughly enjoyed the walk around the lakes, but haven’t been to see the town yet. I expect we’ll see it on our way out tomorrow as we head for Embry, just east of Montreuil-sur-Mer.

 

The other lake at Conty

The other lake at Conty

 

Some quaint caravans by horse riding school at Conty

Some quaint caravans by horse riding school at Conty

 

Horse riding at Conty

Horse riding at Conty

 

 

Versailles Palace, Tuesday 28th May 2013

Standard

Versailles 022

 

We got up early this morning to make the most of our visit to Versailles Palace, left the campsite on our bikes just before 9 and got there by 9.10 am. There was already a queue waiting to go in, everyone with tickets (our fully inclusive was €25 each), but this went very quickly and we were in by 9.25 am, having been through the security scanners and holding our free audio guide sets (to be returned at the end of the visit before going out into the gardens).

 

The palace viewed from the gardens on a rainy day

The palace viewed from the gardens on a rainy day

 

Nothing really prepares you for the sheer magnificence, extravagance and luxury of this Royal Palace and it’s very hard to resist the temptation of taking pictures of everything you see. I took over 260, including the gardens and fountains, but managed to cut them down to just over 200!

 

The Royal Chapel

The Royal Chapel

 

The enjoyment of the visit was dampened slightly by the large number of visitors and, as it often happens in this kind of touristic attraction, one had to be patient to have a good look at the exhibits and take photos. Still, I am not complaining and I thoroughly enjoyed myself gawping at the décor, paintings, chandeliers, statues, etc that make this place so unique and so fit for the Sun King that was Louis XIV, who had this jewel built to reflect his power, glory and splendour at the height of his reign. It might have all but ruined the country at the time, but I think they have probably got it back by now, as it apparently attracts 5.3 million visitors per year. No wonder it felt crowded!

 

Bust of Louis XIV by Bernini

Bust of Louis XIV by Bernini

 

There is nothing much I can say about it that hasn’t been written already, only that this is a must-see for anyone in the vicinity of Paris, as it certainly is an unforgettable experience. I can only imagine what it must have been like when the royal court lived there for more than a century from 1682 to 1789, when the French revolution took place and Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were dragged out of the palace to be executed by guillotine in Paris.

 

 

One of the many magnificent chandeliers at the Palace

One of the many magnificent chandeliers at the Palace

 

A demonstration of the opulent decor all throughout the Palace

A demonstration of the opulent decor all throughout the Palace

 

A sample of the elaborate furniture of the period

A sample of the elaborate furniture of the period

 

The superb and jaw-dropping Hall of Mirrors

The superb and jaw-dropping Hall of Mirrors

 

I just had to pose at this most luxurious of halls

I just had to pose at this most luxurious of halls

 

 

 

The Queen's Bed

The Queen’s Bed

 

The luxurious canopy over the Queen's bed

The luxurious canopy over the Queen’s bed

 

 

The princesses' chambers

The princesses’ chambers

 

I think that the visit to the gardens and the ‘Musical Fountains’ was even more spectacular than the palace itself, as we were lucky enough to come on a Tuesday, when they play music by Jean-Philippe Rameau and Jean Baptiste Lully to accompany the changing of water patterns produced by the fountains. Even though it was raining, we still loved the ‘dancing fountains’, especially the ‘Mirror Fountain’, commissioned by Louis XIV in 1702, and the best thing of all is that we were the only people there due to the rain! Absolutely Magnificent! Once again, I got carried away with the camera trying to capture all the different water displays (not an easy task, I hasten to add).

 

The Mirror Fountain in full swing

The Mirror Fountain in full swing

 

The changing patterns of the Mirror Fountain

The changing patterns of the Mirror Fountain

 

More changing patterns of the Mirror Fountain

More changing patterns of the Mirror Fountain

 

 

I was also take by other fountains, like Apollo’s Chariot, the Three Fountains Grove (covered in seashells) and the Dragon Fountain – listed on the gardens’ guide leaflet as D, 21 and 22 respectively – even tough the last two were not in operation at the time of our visit, but at least we were able to admire the sculptures forming the fountains.

 

Apollo's Chariot Fountain

Apollo’s Chariot Fountain

 

Three Fountains Grove from above

Three Fountains Grove from above

 

 

Three Fountains Grove from the bottom showing all the pretty seashells

Three Fountains Grove from the bottom showing all the pretty seashells

 

The Dragon Fountain

The Dragon Fountain

 

My favourite detail of the Dragon Fountain

My favourite detail of the Dragon Fountain

 

 

Well, all these powerful monarchs might be dead now, but they have certainly left something magnificent behind for all of us to enjoy. Chapeau!

 

The back of the palace viewed from the gardens

The back of the palace viewed from the gardens

Huttopia, Versailles campsite, Yvelines, Monday 27th May 2013

Standard

 

Huttopia Camping, Versailles

Huttopia Camping, Versailles

 

 

 How beautiful it is to be sitting here in the sun at one of the many picnic tables provided by this charming campsite so near Versailles Palace. We arrived here yesterday lunchtime and, although it is very busy, we still had the choice between a few pitches, so we chose one that might enjoy some sunshine, as all the pitches are among the trees. We have pitch 106, which enjoys both, sun and shade.

 

 

Enjoying a drink, reading and crocheting in the sun at the available picnic tables

Enjoying a drink, reading and crocheting in the sun at the available picnic tables

 

 

The facilities here are wonderful and we are especially impressed with the very spacious and modern shower and washing facilities block. There is also a heated pool and a restaurant bar and you can order your bread at reception for the following day. We are booked for 3 nights and I can see this is a place I’d like to come back when we decide to visit Paris itself, as there are buses and trains nearby, which is far better than driving into the city and trying to find parking there. This campsite is a wonderful base from which to set off and explore Paris and its surrounding area.

 

Light and shade at the campsite

Light and shade at the campsite

 

We are here, of course, to visit Versailles Palace and we have tickets for tomorrow, which includes the Musical Fountains. We did a trial cycle ride yesterday afternoon and it’s just over 10 minutes from here, following the impressive Avenue de Paris: absolutely stunning, with all the classic buildings, including the Hôtel de Ville or Townhall.

 

Hotel de Ville at Versailles

Hotel de Ville at Versailles

 

The Palace is breathtaking, even from a distance as we were approaching, and the sheer amount of people around its gates made it slightly intimidating, but we are hoping that when we get there for 9 am tomorrow it won’t be quite so busy. There were lots of souvenir sellers too that reminded me of all the traders on the bridges in Rome when we visited the Vatican a few years ago.

 

Approaching the Palace of Versailles on our trial cycle ride

Approaching the Palace of Versailles on our trial cycle ride

 

A bit closer with the street sellers trying to make a living selling souvenirs

A bit closer with the street sellers trying to make a living selling souvenirs

 

On Saturday, we stopped at the lovely motorhome aire in Forges-les-Eaux in the Department of La Seine Maritime. It has room for 40 motorhomes, whith water and electricity supply as well as emptying facilities for 7.50 a night, payable to the guard who comes round in the evening.

 

Motorhome aire at Forges-les-Eaux

Motorhome aire at Forges-les-Eaux

 

The view from the motorhome aire

The view from the motorhome aire

 

From the aire, it’s only a 5-minute cycle ride to the town or to the lakes and woods of Epinay on the opposite direction. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and we thoroughly enjoyed our ride around the lake. This is another beautiful stop for future reference and I might even try the spa next time!

 

The Tourist Information Office at Forges-les-Eaux

The Tourist Information Office at Forges-les-Eaux, Rue Albert Bochet

 

Cycling around the Lake and Epinay Woods

Cycling around the Lake and Epinay Woods

 

Scalpture at Epinay Lake

Scalpture at Epinay Lake

 

The Casino from the Park by Bois de l'Epinay

The Casino from the Park by Bois de l’Epinay