Category Archives: France

Bounty Lake (Etang des Chères), Sarthe Department, Sunday 29th December 2013

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Lovely sunny and warm Sunday at Bounty Lake

Lovely sunny and warm Sunday at Bounty Lake

 

We’ve decided to try out this lake about 6 miles (9km) south of Le Mans to see if Adonis is a bit more successful with his fishing, as he hasn’t been very lucky lately. We have provisionally booked for 2 days, but might push another night if weather holds. It’s very quiet here and the British couple in charge, Bob and Les, are very friendly and welcoming. We have water, electricity, a hot shower, the sun has been shining all day and it felt quite warm in the van without any heating until now, 5.30pm, so it’s been a good day.

 

Fishing at last!

Fishing at last!

 

This is, however, the first nice day we’ve had since we left home on Thursday morning, as the weather turned very windy and wet in the evening at Wissant, with the van rocking in the middle of the night, waking us up. In the morning, we saw a branch from one of the trees behind the van had been broken off and had caught in the branches of the adjacent tree, so lucky it didn’t damage either the motorhome or the house in whose garden it stood.

 

A very windy night at Wissant left us this broken branch behind motorhome

A very windy night at Wissant left us this broken branch behind motorhome

 

We followed the same route south as in October half-term, stopping at the motorhome aire at Buchy, just north of Rouen, as we had really liked it then. As we arrived by lunchtime, we took Beano for his afternoon walk through the market town, but as we got to the centre, he was spooked by something and, while I was taking pictures of the market place and Christmas decorations, he managed to pull the lead off Adonis’s hand and I saw him running for his life in the middle of the road heading straight for an on-coming car. I screamed and Adonis waved his arms about to stop the traffic and Beano ran to the pavement, heading uphill back to the M.H. Aire. I ran after him, but he was too far in front and I would have never caught him if it hadn’t been for a kind young couple who saw him coming and luckily stopped him and kept him until I got to them, breathless but relieved to have got him back safe. So we took him back to the van and left him there with his food and water and we went out again to enjoy a coffee at one of the local bars and to continue taking photos of this charming little town. I think that from now on we will remember Buchy as the place where Beano ran off and I nearly had a heart attack!

 

Beano on the lead before he ran off

Beano on the lead in Buchy before he ran off

 

 A Christmassy Buchy

A Christmassy Buchy

 

Welcome to Buchy

Welcome to Buchy

 

The old market place at Buchy

The old market place at Buchy

 

 

Buchy's Townhall

Buchy’s Townhall

 

On Saturday morning, we bought our baguette and cake from one of the boulangeries in town and continued on south, still round the north and eastern side of Rouen, as the Pont Mathilde is still closed until the summer of 2014, and followed the usual route down to Alençon on the D438 and from there on the D338 to La Hutte, where we headed west for about 4 miles on the D310 to Fresnay-sur-Sarthe, where we stopped at the motorhome aire by the circus school which John and Julie had told us about, right by the old railway station. This was very pleasant, but the water had been turned off, so we bought 2 5-gallon bottles of water at the nearby Le Mutant supermarket, just to be on the safe side.

 

Motorhome aire by circus school at Fresnay-sur-Sarthe

Motorhome aire by circus school at Fresnay-sur-Sarthe

 

Once again, we went to explore the town, but this time we kept a firm grip on Beano’s lead and we even carried him in our arms for a bit when we was reluctant to walk and was pulling back too much.

 

The river Sarthe had burst its banks

The river Sarthe had burst its banks

 

We were amazed to see that the river Sarthe had burst its banks again and quite a few houses seemed to have their gardens and outbuilding under water or badly flooded, so we were worried that Bounty lake, just a few miles down the road, might be the same, but luckily we are all right here.

 

A flooded Fresnay-sur-Sarthe

A flooded Fresnay-sur-Sarthe

 

Flooded gardens and outbuildings

Flooded gardens and outbuildings

 

Flooded Fresnay-sur-Sarthe

Flooded Fresnay-sur-Sarthe

 

Fresnay-sur-Sarthe is a really charming town and we have fond memories of our first summer holiday in the van back in 2010 when we watched the Football Worldcup final between Spain and Holland and how friendly the campsite manager had been, giving out free beers to everyone. We hadn’t come back since, so I am glad we have now, and we should return again in the summer and enjoy a swim in the river, like we did with Pepo and Bramble 3 years ago.

 

Walking in charming Fresnay-sur-Sarthe

Walking in charming Fresnay-sur-Sarthe

 

Today’s been a short drive from Fresnay-sur-Sarthe, back on the D338 and round Le Mans, past the 24-hour racing circuit and back on the D338 to Lake Bounty. We arrived by 11am, with plenty of time for mid-morning coffee and cake, showers and even fishing before lunch!

 

Our parking spot at Lake Bounty, just a few meters away from the fishing area

Our parking spot at Lake Bounty, just a few meters away from the fishing area

 

We hope the weather holds so that we can keep on enjoying the walks around the lake, the fishing and, most importantly, relaxing in the sun.

Berck, Pas de Calais, Thursday 31st October 2013

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Berck seen from the beach

Berck seen from the beach

 

 I am delighted to say that John and Julie were absolutely right in recommending this top aire by the Base Nautique, Chemin aux Raisins, right by the enormous beach and lovely sand dunes, very much like Le Touquet-Paris-Plage. It only cost €6.50 a day and has room for 75 vehicles, but it’s free from November to March inclusive and there’s free water, although no electricity.

 

Berck's motorhome aire by the Base Nautique

Berck’s motorhome aire by the Base Nautique

 

We arrived here at around 1.15 pm, as we decided to do our big shop this morning instead of tomorrow, being Toussaints and a Bank Holiday here and we were not sure if Auchan in Boulogne-sur-Mer would be open.

 

Sand dunes on Berck's beach

Sand dunes on Berck’s beach

 

We had lunch a bit later than usual, followed by a rest after the long drive from Broglie (3 ½ hours plus shopping time), and have just returned from a very pleasant walk in a very strong wind on the magnificent beach and pier where we were able to have a good look at the seals resting there and, of course, I took loads of pictures!

 

Seals at the end of the pier

Seals at the end of the pier

 

I'll just have a rest!

I’ll just have a rest!

 

It's more fun with a partner

It’s more fun with a partner

 

Mingling with the seagulls

Mingling with the seagulls

 

Beano thoroughly loved chasing his ball on the hard sand despite it being blown into his eyes and getting his fur covered in it.

 

A great beach to chase a ball

A great beach to chase a ball

 

I can imagine what a wonderful place this will be in the summer months too, and again, this is another destination to come back to in the future, whatever the weather.

 

Lighthouse seen through the sand dunes

Lighthouse seen through the sand dunes

 

We also had a lovely sunny day in Broglie yesterday and it was great having a dog again to walk along the Charentonne river, with its picturesque water mill and beautiful views of the countryside around. We met a very friendly Dutch lady who’s moved here and we chatted with her in French for a while, as she spoke very clearly and was easy to understand. She told us she lived in one of the houses on the hill on the opposite side and that she regularly walks the round tour from her house down through the village, to the library by the motorhome aire and through the woods, which only takes one hour, so we might try this when Beano is a bit older and can walk for longer.

 

The water mill at Broglie by the Charentonne river

The water mill at Broglie by the Charentonne river

 

 I went to the local bakery for the daily baguette and cakes, then the butcher’s for a couple of delicious fillet stakes, which I cooked and served with chips, salad and bread.

 

Lovely views from the river walk

Lovely views from the river walk

 

The visit to the vet’s was quite straightforward, even though the nurse seemed quite surprised that the rabies vaccine was done in 2 separate doses in the UK and she queried me about this. Other than that, it was plain sailing and Beano is now wormed and ready to return home.

 

The Charentonne river at Broglie

The Charentonne river at Broglie

 

So, it’s Wissant’s aire tomorrow and another long walk on the beach, we hope.

 

Ferries heading for the UK

Ferries heading for the UK

 

La Ferté-Macé, Orne Department, Tuesday 29th October 2013

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The lovely beach on the lake at la Ferté-Macé

The lovely beach on the lake at la Ferté-Macé

 

We are at another beautiful aire at the Base de Loisirs of la Ferté-Macé as a one stop-over before the vet’s appointment at Broglie tomorrow.

 

The lake

The lake

 

We had originally planned to stop further south at Javron-les-Chapelles in the Mayenne department but, although it was pleasant enough, flat and in the middle of the town, it wasn’t really what we are attracted to to spend the day and we thought this would be a more attractive spot for the day. It certainly is charming, as most – if not all – Bases de Loisirs are, and it has the bonus of fishing and a long dog walk around the lake. It is free and it has 6 pitches, but the emptying facilities seem to be at Place de Needstadt in the town itself, not at Parking de la Brochardière, where we are at the moment.

 

Our parking spot at la Ferté-Macé Base de Loisirs

Our parking spot at la Ferté-Macé Base de Loisirs

 

This seems to be the perfect place to come with a young family in the summer, with plenty of facilities on offer like golf, parkour, kayaking, etc as well as a wonderful play area right on the beach for the young ones. It is popular even today, sunny and showery in late October, with quite a few people just coming for lunch and moving on again, perhaps to work, or walking their children and dogs.

 

The children's play area on the beach

The large and well equipped children’s play area on the beach

 

So Adonis’s been fishing and I’ve been walking Beano and crocheting and we are all happy.

 

Walking around the lake at Ferté-Macé

Walking around the lake at Ferté-Macé

 

We had a very easy drive this morning from Pont Réan at Guichen in Ile-et-Vilaine department, joining the D117 to south of Rennes and the N157/E50 due east to north of Laval, N165 to Mayenne and N12 north east to Javron-les-Chapelles. It was still early enough in the morning to try a different destination, so we went up north on D218 and D916 to just north of Bagnoles-de-l’Orne

 

Walking around the lake

Walking around the lake

 

I would certainly like to come back here in the summer months to enjoy that beach and a relaxing day in the sun.

So, it’s Broglie tomorrow and we might try the aire at Berck on Thursday, as John and Julie were quite impressed with it and highly recommended it.

Pont Réan, Guichen Aire, Ille-et-Vilaine, Monday 28th October 2013

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Well, we have survived the storm that was supposed to hit Brittany at 80 m.p.h last night, although we both agree that it had been far worse the night before at Quiberon.

 

We survived the storm at Quiberon

We survived the storm at Quiberon

 

Something quite amusing happened yesterday morning. As we were leaving the aire at 9 am, we encountered a few vans parked around the exit, with a van trying to squeeze out between the bollard and the paying machine using levelling blocks, as this had broken down and nobody could get out. I was told help had been called for, but being Sunday it might take a little while. A frustrated camper tried jumping on the bollard itself to make it go down, but to no avail, but at least it provided a few moments of entertainment. A few minutes later, the gendarme arrived, but he couldn’t do anything either and even tried kicking it, which, of course, didn’t work! The guard finally arrived at 9.20 am and operated the system manually and we were able to leave without further ado. Very efficient, we thought, and we carried on merrily on our way.

 

A wet walk on Port Blanc

A wet walk on Port Blanc

We spent Sunday afternoon and night at the new motorhome aire at Baden, situated on Route de Port Blanc, Kerhilio, at 800 metres from the jetty de L’Ile aux Moines (www.airedesiles.fr) This is quite an impressive and beautifully kept motorhome aire and the 8 daily fee for this time of year included electricity hook-up, wifi and showers, although these were switched off! The water borne operated with a €2 coin and we were more than happy to pay for this, as we were running a bit low and desperately needed a shower. The aire has room for 50 motorhomes, but there were only 3 last night, well protected from the strong winds by the surrounding trees.

 

Stopping by the oyster beds

Stopping by the oyster beds

 

We loved the walk down to the beach and seeing the oyster beds in the fishing village. It was raining quite heavily at one point, but we didn’t really mind as the scenery was so lovely.

Oyster beds

Oyster beds

 

Oyster beds under water

Oyster beds under water

 

We went to Port Blanc after making a final visit to the Carnac Alignments at Kerlescan, with its 13 rows of the best preserved menhirs and the impressive Géant du Manio, which stands 6 metres high, and its Quadrilateral. This is situated just a short and pleasant walk through the woods from the D196 road.

Getting excited about finding the Giant!

Getting excited about finding the Giant!

 

The Quadrilateral at Manio

The Quadrilateral at Manio

 

The Gian at last!

The Gian at last!

 

 

Little me by the Giant of Manio

Little me by the Giant of Manio

This morning, we left in a downpour and got rather wet whilst filling up with water and emptying the grey water tank, but the rain cleared soon after and it has remained a sunny and warm day (22 ºC in van at the moment at 5 pm). We went back on the D101 to north of Vannes, N166 to Bohal, about 10 miles south of Ploërmel, D776 to Guer, D772 to north of Guichen and D577 to Pont Réan, about 6 miles south of Rennes.

 

The motorhome aire by the Vilaine river

The motorhome aire by the Vilaine river and stone bridge

We are parked right by the Vilaine river, with a beautiful and picturesque view of the stone bridge on La Cale de Pont Réan, Rue de Redon. It really is lovely here, with 10 pitches for €5 a day, which is collected by a guard in the evening.

 

The charming stone bridge at Pont Réan

The charming stone bridge at Pont Réan

There are lots of people walking along the river, so it seems to be a very popular place, with a few restaurants and all kinds of shops, as well as canoeing and other water sports. This is another charming stop to bear in mind for future reference.

 

The river walk and motorhome aire viewed from the stone bridge

The river walk and motorhome aire viewed from the stone bridge

 

We are going towards Alençon tomorrow and have already made an appointment at the vet in Broglie for Beano’s worming before returning home on Saturday.

 

The quay and access for water sports at Pont Réan

The quay and access for water sports at Pont Réan

Quiberon, Morbihan Department, Brittany, Saturday 26th October 2013

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Côte Sauvage or Wild Coast at Quiberon

Côte Sauvage or Wild Coast at Quiberon

 

This has been our first ever day in the Brittany region and we have certainly made the most of it.

 

Magnifcent sunset at Oudon

Magnifcent sunset at Oudon

 

We were woken up at 7.30 am by Beano, who seemed a bit unsettled or upset about something (perhaps the early trains going past near the campsite at Oudon), so we were ready to leave Oudon by 9 am, back on the D723 to join the motorway north east of Nantes at junction 41 and on to the N844/A82/N165/E60 (Why so many names for one road???) towards Vannes and on to south west of Auray, where we headed south west to Carnac on the D768.

 

The Carnac Alignments

The Carnac Alignments

 

With only one break for coffee before 11 am at the lovely aire of Marzan at j.17, over the attractive view of the Vilaine river by La Roche Bernard, we were in Carnac by noon and, after deciding not to stop for the day at the motorhome aire in the town itself – lovely as it was -, we went back on the D196 just north of Carnac to have a look at the famous Neolithic site of The Carnac Alignments, made of thousands of 6,000 years old megaliths.

 

The Carnac alignments

The Carnac alignments

 

We stopped by the Visitors’ Centre at Le Ménec to go around the site and get some information about it. The leaflet says the village of Ménec was built within the enclosure, comprising 71 blocks which almost touch one another. This site currently has 1,050 stones running over a total length of 950 metres.

 

Ménec, built around the megaliths

Ménec, built within the enclosure

 

We really enjoyed our walk in the sun around this fascinating and intriguing site and finding out about their history and purpose. Built between the fifth and third millennia BC by sedentarised communities, the rows of menhirs and enclosures form part of individual tombs (mounds) and collective tombs (dolmens).

 

Some of the bigger megaliths at Ménec

Some of the bigger megaliths at Ménec

 

After our walk around the site, we made our way to Quiberon and, although we tried stopping for the day at various possible wild-camping spots, we decided on the official motorhome aire by the camping municipal de Kerné on Route de Port-Kerné, open all year and with room for 110 vehicles, with water but no electricity at only 6 a day. This wonderful aire is right on the coast and commands beautiful views of the very aptly named Côte Sauvage or Wild Coast.

 

The motorhome aire at Quiberon

The motorhome aire at Quiberon, Port-kerne

 

So after lunch and a little rest, we went for another long walk to enjoy the magnificent coastline and the sheer force of the ocean blowing the foam from the waves over the impressive cliffs, making it look like snow.

 

The wind 'playing' with the foam from the waves

The wind ‘playing’ with the foam from the waves, looking just like snow

 

The wind 'playing' the the foam from the waves

The wind ‘playing’ the the foam from the waves

 

It’s been very windy all day but still very warm, with temperatures in the van hitting 26ºC in late October! I am not complaining.

 

Loving the wind and the sea at Quiberon

Loving the wind and the sea at Quiberon

 

 Tomorrow, we are going to see the rest of the megaliths, including the Giant of Manio or Géant du Manio, which stands roughly 6 metres high! After that, we’re hoping to spend some time in the Golfe du Morbihan, which looks very interesting indeed.

 

Côte Sauvage or Wild Coast at Quiberon

Côte Sauvage or Wild Coast at Quiberon – more ‘snow’

 

 

Oudon, Loire-Atlantique, Friday 25th October 2013

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Oudon, on the River Loire

Oudon, on the River Loire

 

We started our half-term holiday last Saturday morning, 19th October, and, after an uneventful crossing in the Eurotunnel, where we enjoyed a quick sandwich, we made our way to Boulogne-sur-Mer (junction 31 on A160 for our usual shopping at Auchan. As it had already been a long drive from home in Bognor Regis, we decided to stay on the motorway and followed the A28 south of Abbeville to junction 9 and on to the motorhome aire at Buchy on the D928 and D41, about 15 miles north east of Rouen.

 

The well maintained and pleasant aire at Buchy

The well maintained and pleasant aire at Buchy

 

Buchy’s is a very pleasant aire by the car park at the sports centre (Parking Salle des Sports), Route des Fourges, and near the college. The book says it has 4 pitches but we reckon that there’s room for double that number. It is free, with a borne for water and electricity for 2.50. The pitches are on hard standing and there is no clear division between them but they are surrounded by well maintained grass and it’s perfectly adequate for an overnight stay. As it was already late afternoon, we didn’t do very much other than walk Beano, our new puppy, and eat our flammekueche (or Tarte Flambée), which is a lovely alternative to pizza.

 

As we have our new puppy with us, we had to get up early for toilets, etc and were ready to leave Buchy before 9 am on our way to the aire at Montbizot, still travelling on the eastern bank of the River Seine at Rouen, as Pont Mathilde on the western side is still shut for repairs until the summer of 2014! So we followed the D6015 to Junction 21 of A13 west to J. 24 by Château de Robert Le Diable and then the usual route past Bernay, Broglie, Sées, Alençon and Beaumont-sur-Sarthe.

 

Montbizot is half way between Beaumont-sur-Sarthe and Le Mans and we made it there by 12.30 pm, as the roads were empty, being a Sunday morning. We had a heavy downpour for a bit, but it was still warm and pleasant for walking by the river Sarthe. This was another quiet afternoon, followed by a delicious Parmentier de Canard bought at Auchan, which only required heating up in the oven.

 

From Montbizot, we carried on south to our main destination of this break at tried and tested and very much loved Lac des Varennes, near Château-du-Loir on the D338 and D305.

 

Beautiful and reliable Lac des Varennes

Beautiful and reliable Lac des Varennes and Adonis inspecting his ‘swim’

 

As this is our seventh visit to this wonderful campsite and Base de Loisirs, there is nothing much new to say except that this time John and Julie, whom we met in the summer holidays at the aire in Bourget-du-Lac, came to meet us there and we spent 3 wonderful days with them and their daughter, Hannah, and her boyfriend, Adrian. So we shared some lovely food, including a most delicious Confit de Canard with Saute Potatoes courtesy of our friends, and, of course, plenty of cheese and wine!

 

A very happy Adonis with his 19lb (9kg) carp.  Photo courtesy of John D.  Southworth

A very happy Adonis with his 19lb (9kg) carp. Photo courtesy of John D. Southworth

 

On Tuesday night, at around 11 pm, Adonis finally caught a 19lb carp (roughly 9 Kg), which made it even more special for him, as he hadn’t caught anything at Easter or in the summer holidays. Unfortunately the flash on my camera went on strike and I had to rely on John to take pictures with his mobile phone.  Thank you John!

 

Enjoying the warm sun at Lac des Varennes

Enjoying the warm sun at Lac des Varennes

 

Wednesday was quite a warm day and we spent it outdoors most of the time, just enjoying the sun and the peace of the place this time of year, when Beano can run freely as there’s no-one around.

 

Beano running freely and chasing his ball at Lac des Varennes

Beano running freely and chasing his ball at Lac des Varennes

 

Yesterday started overcast but it cleared after lunch and Adrian, Hannah and Julie enjoyed a paddle in our inflatable boat around the lake, of which we are very pleased, as we hadn’t used it yet on this holiday. That was followed by some refreshing beers and snacks by John and Julie’s pitch, where we decided to move from our usual fishing area when Adonis decided he didn’t want to fish any more. So we packed the van and up we drove to the drier area near the only open shower block closer to the reception area.

 

Adrian and Hannah enjoying a paddle in the lake

Adrian and Hannah enjoying a paddle in the lake

 

We left this morning after saying our goodbyes and hoping to meet up at Easter again and we were on the road again for 9.30 am. We did a quick shop at Leclerc in Château-du-Loir and headed slightly south west on D766 past north of Angers on A11 to J. 20 with the intention of stopping at the aire at Le Celier, which is supposed to be behind the church and have room for 5 motorhomes but it is non existent. We were annoyed at this, as it was already 1 pm and we hadn’t stopped at all since leaving Leclerc, so we turned back on our heels on D723 to Oudon and here we are, right by the river Loire and just outside the 2* campsite of La Tour, which is now shut until June 14.

 

The Tour at Oudon, seen from Camping de la Tour

The Tour at Oudon, seen from Camping de la Tour

 

There is a well-maintained motorhome aire at the entrance of the campsite with running water and emptying facilities and it’s free but we are in the general car park, closer to the river, only a few metres from the aire itself.

 

Parked outside Camping de la Tour

Parked outside Camping de la Tour

 

I enjoyed a walk with Beano around the campsite and down to the river bank, which seems to be very popular with the locals.

 

Exploring the walk path at Oudon along the River Loire

Exploring the walk path at Oudon along the River Loire

 

Tomorrow, we’re heading for Carnac on our first ever visit to Brittany. I am really looking forward to discovering a new region in this beautiful and amazing country.

 

 

Le Crotoy, Somme, Wednesday 28th August 2013

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Charming Le Crotoy - Let the light speak for itself

Charming Le Crotoy – Let the light speak for itself

 

 This is our last day of this superb summer holiday and we can’t think of a better place to spend it than at this jewel of a fishing town on the bay of the Somme. Another regular in our travels, it never ceases to charm and delight us in equal measure and yet, every time we see it, it seems to be different, perhaps due to that brilliant light reflected on the water changing with the seasons.

 

I never tire of looking at this view

I never tire of looking at this view

 

The shimmering light

Varennes & Le Crotoy Aug 13 045

The shimmering light

 

 

The wonderful motorhome aire right on the bay still only costs €5 a day and the borne for water and electricity €2, which we don’t need. This is the ideal spot to set off for long walks around the bay, along the beach or into town. We have done all these and today it seemed a bit sad not to have a dog with us to join us in our rambles, but still very enjoyable all the same.

 

The motorhome aire, right of the Bay of the Somme

The motorhome aire, right of the Bay of the Somme

 

Motorhome aire from a distance on the Bay

Motorhome aire from a distance on the Bay

 

One of the aspects we like the most about this town is all the various fish restaurants and today we decided to treat ourselves to a nice meal out, being our last day and all. So we went to the popular ‘Le Saint Pierre’ (pure coincidence, of course) on 30 Quay Courbet, right on the sea front and where everything is happening. We had some delicious mussels in Roquefort sauce followed by king prawns, all very fresh and served in very generous portions. Adonis couldn’t really manage the king prawns, so all the more for me! All that, with a bottle of Muscadet, a coffee and a cognac only came up to €44.50, and what a perfect way to finish the holiday!

 

Le Crotoy: full of treasures

Le Crotoy: full of treasures

 

Yesterday, we spent the day at equally quaint and picturesque Broglie, just south of Bernay in the Eure Department, where I enjoyed a stroll along the aquatic gardens and, even tough most of the plants are coming to the end of their flowering period and glory, it is still a very pleasant, charming and relaxing way to spend half and hour or so.  The aire here still stands at €5, plus a borne for water which operates with a token (jeton) for €2.50 to be bought from the Mairie or from the caretakers who come round to collect the daily fee in the evening.

 

Magnificent Broglie, from the Aquatic Gardens

Magnificent Broglie, from the Aquatic Gardens

 

Aquatic Gardens, Broglie

Aquatic Gardens, Broglie

Aquatic Gardens, Broglie

Aquatic Gardens, Broglie

 

Bullrushes

Bullrushes

 

 

Water reeds

Water reeds

 

We are going home tomorrow, 2 days earlier than planned, in order to pick up our new puppy, Beano, a Jack Russell Terrier born on 24th June. It is always nice to have something special to look forward to after a marvellous holiday.

 

Broglie

Broglie

Lac des Varennes, Château-du-Loir, Sarthe, Sunday 25th August 2013

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We just love it here, beautiful Lac des Varennes

We just love it here, beautiful Lac des Varennes

 

It’s pouring down with rain at the moment. I was sitting at the outdoor reception area checking my emails and social media messages, but I had to rush back to the motorhome as laptop was getting wet. I only just made it back before the real downpour started. This is the second day of proper rain we’ve had since we left England, the first one being at Bourget-du-Lac back on 29th July, so we can’t complain and I’m sure the land needs it after such a hot and dry summer.

 

Our favourite pitch (208) at Lac  des Varennes

Our favourite huge pitch (208) at Lac des Varennes (picture taken from the lake shore)

 

We arrived here on Friday just before 1 pm and, as reception was shut, we had to have lunch in the visitors’ car park and wait until 2 pm to install ourselves on our pitch. While we were waiting, we took the opportunity to walk down to the lake to see if our favourite pitch (number 208) was available and, as luck would have it, it was! So Adonis asked if we could take it and here we are for the sixth time on one of the best spots on the campsite, where Adonis can watch his fishing rods from, only a mere 5 metres away!

 

Adonis's in his element, fishing right by our pitch

Adonis’s in his element, fishing right by our pitch

 

It was very hot when we arrived and, as I was about to go for a paddle in my inflatable boat, 2 very friendly children, Ollie and Megan from Stoke, approached me and asked where we were from in England. We talked for a little while and eventually met their dad too, John, who surprised me greatly by asking me if I blogged. On saying I did, he said he’d recognised me and that he’d read my blog and that was the reason why they were there. Isn’t that great? That’s all I ever wanted when I started publishing my diaries as blogs, to share travelling information with fellow travellers, so I’m delighted that my efforts have actually helped someone with a decision about their holiday destination. So John and Sarah, if you’re reading this now: you made my day!!! And thank you for reading.

 

Lac des Varennes.

Just chilling at Lac des Varennes.

 

So we have spent another 3 very lazy days by the lake, fishing, crocheting, reading and occasionally checking my mail and today we’ve met another lovely couple from South Africa living in Southampton who have been travelling in their motorhome for 15 months with loads of interesting stories to tell. I just love meeting all these wonderful travelling people and could listen to them forever.

 

We have one more day here before setting off for Broglie, then shopping at Boulogne-sur-Mer and finally Wissant for our Eurotunnel crossing on Friday 30th. We have brought forward our departure by one day as we’re going to collect our new Jack Russell puppy and we want to spend a whole weekend with him before going back to work.

 

Some needed shade at Souillac's motorhome aire

Some needed shade at Souillac’s motorhome aire

 

Before coming to Lac des Varennes, we spent one night at Souillac’s aire in Le Lot department, which is still free with a bourne for water for 3. It was very hot, but we managed a pitch in the shade of some trees and we enjoyed a couple of swims in the Dordogne river, right by the Camping Las Ondines, only a 5-minute walk from the motorhome aire.

 

Camping La Tete Noire

Camping La Tete Noire

 

After that, we spent one day at Camping La Tête Noire at Buzançais in the Indre department. This is a charming little campsite with plenty of shade and clean facilities with an access ramp for the disabled. It very much reminded me of the municipal campsite at Beaumont-sur-Sarthe. It was also very cheap at just over €14 for the night for the two of us with electricity supply. Another good stop to remember for future reference, as it also had direct access to the river for swimming and fishing.

 

I love this HUGE willow tree at Camping La Tete Noire

I love this HUGE willow tree at Camping La Tete Noire

 

'Inside' the tree.  Well, under the branches.

‘Inside’ the tree. Well, under the branches.

 

I really can’t believe we are now into our 8th week and we only have 5 days to go!

 

Camping La Tete Noire

 Peaceful and charming, Camping La Tete Noire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Les Montagnes, Mazamet, Tarn, Tuesday 20th August 2013

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Mazamet Lac

Les Montagnes, Mazamet 

 

 We’ve been very busy since we left the oyster farm at Mèze. We spent Monday at the aire in Marseillan Plage, which again operated on a barrier system for 10 a day, payable before entry, but well worth it, as it was only a 5 minute walk to the beach and all the restaurants and amenities in the town. Marseillan is a very lively seaside town this time of year and we made the most of the beach and the free evening entertainment.

 

At the tapas restaurant

At the very popular tapas restaurant, La Taberna

 

We went for a pizza at La Taberna, a Spanish tapas bar not far from the beach, where we enjoyed a nice meal serenaded by a wonderful blues singer. After our pizza (one of the best I’ve ever had) we joined the local celebrations with the equivalent of ‘The Voice’ being staged and televised from there and we got to see the contestants and vote for our choice. After that there were a couple more acts followed by the Grand Finale courtesy of Les Farfadais, an amazing group of acrobats and dancers that put on an spectacular show the likes of which we had never seen before.

 

The evening entertainment: Fantastic Blues singer

The evening entertainment: Fantastic Blues singer

 

 

We felt our €10 fee for the motorhome aire really paid for itself just by the sheer quality and entertainment value of this incredible show that must be seen to be believed. See more here: https://www.facebook.com/LesFarfadais?fref=ts

 So the night ended on a very high note indeed and we think we might make a point of coming here again next summer to enjoy these wonderful festivities once again.

 

Beautiful Marseillan promenade

Beautiful Marseillan promenade

 

After Marseillan Plage we left for Portiragnes in the Herault Department to spend a few days with Adonis’s parents and our friend and colleague Lesley, who flew from England on Wednesday 14th in order to celebrate Béziers summer festival. This was again another heck of a party and one couldn’t help but being drawn into the madness, chaos and fun of this charming city and its people.

 

The Saysells and Lesley enjoying a sangria at Beziers Feria

The Saysells and Lesley enjoying a sangria at Beziers Feria

 

The party started with an amazing parade very much in the style of the Brazilian Carnival, with very accomplished dancers, acrobats and amazing floats delighting the crowds of holidaymakers and locals alike. We particularly enjoyed the ‘firework-spitting’ dragon accompanying what looked like Orcs from the Lord of the Rings movies: simply jaw-dropping, with men on stilts doing the most impossible somersaults.

 

The Parade

The Parade

 

 

 

Lesley's 076

 

 

Lesley's 077

 

Lesley's 078

 

Lesley's 082

 

The Fireworks Spitting Dragon

The Fireworks Spitting Dragon

 

It was actually scary!

It was actually scary!

 

Somersaulting Orcs!

Amazing Orcs on stilts!

 

 

A Somersaulting orc!  You can just about see blur!

A Somersaulting orc! You can just about see blur!

 

And more amazing contraptions!

And more amazing contraptions!

 

And the Scots made it too!

And the Scots made it too!

 

Thank you for posing especially for me

Thank you for posing especially for me!

 

 

So we partied hard and joined the dancing, singing and drinking (I had never drank so much sangría in my life before) and simply had a whale of a time.

 

Joining in

Joining in

 

Don't ask me what I'm doing here: I don't know, but it was great fun!

Don’t ask me what I’m doing here: I don’t know, but it was great fun!

 

 Whilst at Béziers, we also went to see a Flamenco Mass at the Cathedral, which was beautifully done, but after a while we started to feel a bit dizzy in the heat, surrounded by so many people, and had to leave to get some fresh air and a drink (more sangría, I’m afraid).

 

Sangria

Delicious Sangria

 

While we were enjoying our cold sangría, we had the fortune of watching the beautiful Camargue horses being ridden by gorgeous young girls dressed in very showy Flamenco dresses that were a joy to see.

 

Flamenco dresses on Camargue horses: a perfect combination

Flamenco dresses on Camargue horses: a perfect combination

 

The rest of the time we spent chilling by the pool in the ‘Saysell Villa’ in Portiragnes and walking Huntley the dog, the family gorgeous and affectionate pet.

 

Time to relax at the Saysell's

Time to relax at the Saysell’s

 

We left Portiragnes this morning and headed west on the D612 all the way to Mazamet and after deciding that the aire in town wasn’t quite what we were looking for (being as it was in a car park), we came just a little bit further south on the D118 to this charming aire in the woods by the lake at Les Montagnes, which is free and has clean water and the usual emptying facilities for motorhomes.

 

Sunbathing after cooling swim

Sunbathing after cooling swim

 

We’ve just had a couple of swims in the cooling lake and sunbathed for a bit. It’s much cooler here, being higher up, which is rather welcome, but I expect tomorrow we’ll be going back to higher temperatures again when we come down from the hills. We are heading for Souillac in the Lot department.

 

The cool motohome aire at Montagnes

The cool motorhome aire at Montagnes

 

Mèze, Herault, Sunday 11th August 2013

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Oyster beds in the Bassin de Thau

Oyster beds in the Bassin de Thau, Meze

 

Our stop at the Manade des Baumelles France Passion site at Les Cabannes de Cambon in the heart of the Camargue, 11 km from Stes Maries de la Mer on the D38, was a real treat. As we got there just before lunch yesterday, we went to introduce ourselves at the restaurant and had a ‘bière de Gardians’ and a delicious glass of sangría that had been prepared for a group of people who had booked the special guided tour and lunch. We were very impressed with the restaurant, offering mainly bull meat dishes, but also pork, Angus meat and fish and would have eaten there, except they only open at lunchtime and we simply couldn’t manage a big meal like that at lunch.

 

Manade des Baumelles Bull Farm

Manade des Baumelles Bull Farm

 

Manade des Baumelles Bull Farm

Manade des Baumelles Bull Farm

 

The Restaurant at Manade des Baumelles

The Restaurant at Manade des Baumelles

 

 

Enjoying a beer and a sangria in the shade

Enjoying a beer and a sangria in the shade

 

The place was very quiet all day, with just the sound of the bulls, horses and birds, and we were delighted with our evening walk, at around 9 pm to watch the aquatic birds on the marshes, like the Black wing stilts, pink flamingos flying in formation right over our heads, egrets and others. There was also a crescent moon in a most spectacular blue and purple sky I couldn’t tear my eyes away from.

 

A majestic bull

A majestic bull

 

The bulls

The bulls

 

Saying hello to the friendly horses

Saying hello to the friendly horses

 

Black wing stilts at sunset

Black wing stilts at sunset

 

Flamingos flying overhead

Pink Flamingos flying overhead

 

Another glorious sunset

Another glorious sunset and crescent moon

 

One of the guardians told us in the evening that they would be getting the bulls ready for a local feria at 9 in the morning and that we could go and watch them if we pleased, which of course we did. This was most interesting and we enjoyed watching them (from a safe distance) select the bulls to bring them round to the trailer by the farm. This took the most part of an hour and we finally left the site by 10 am.

 

The Gardians of the Camargue at work rounding up the bulls

The Gardians of the Camargue at work rounding up the bulls

 

Rounding up the bulls

Rounding up the bulls

 

Unfortunately, the downside of La Camargue is the mosquitoes and I hardly slept at all last night, as there were over 30 of them (yes, I counted them as I hunted them down!) in the motorhome. I think at one point I was doing some weird version of Kung Fu in bed trying in vane to fight them off. I’ve got LOADS of bites all over my body and I seem to have reacted to them, as some of them are really big and swollen (2” or 5 cm across), but fortunately they’re not itching too much because I’ve put some cream on which gives instant relief (Marie Rose soothing cream – and I swear by the stuff!).

 

The motorhoe aire at Meze in full-on sun

The motorhoe aire at Meze in full-on sun

 

After the Camargue, the idea was to stop at the large motorhome aire at Palavas-les-Flots, a bit further west and a mere 50 minutes drive, but it was really chock-a-block with motorhomes and too overcrowded for our liking. And that, combined with the fact that we drove round twice trying to find the entrance in a very busy sea-side town, where the summer fête and Sunday market were in full swing, made our minds up to carry on further west to the aire at Mèze.

 

Lunch in the shade at Meze

Lunch in the shade at Meze

 

 This aire in Rue du Stade is in full-on sun, has 6 pitches, it’s free and it has free fresh water and emptying facilities, so after making the most of these services, we drove just a couple of hundred meters down the road and parked in the shade of some pine trees, where we had our lunch and a siesta.

 

Karine and Yvan oyster farm at Meze

Stopping for the night at Karine and Yvan Caussel’s oyster farm and France Passion site at Meze

 

We decided not to stop for the night there after all and headed for this oyster farm France Passion site run by Karine and Yvan Caussel, where we’re hoping to buy some mussels in the morning, which they also sell, as I am not a great lover of the oysters themselves and Adonis had a bad experience with them a few years ago. This site can be found by following the signs from the town of Mèze to ‘Ecosite, Complexe Conchylicole and Ferme Pedagogique’.

 

Bassin de Thau

Bassin de Thau

 

We are overlooking the Bassin de Thau, looking towards Sète and all the oyster beds, very special indeed!