Category Archives: 2014

Soubise, Charente Maritime, Saturday 16th August 2014

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Charming Soubise

Charming Soubise with motorhome aire visible on right of picture

 

Alfter spending 5 very lazy days at the tranquil municipal campsite of Fontaine du Pre St Jean at lovely Dompierre-sur-Charente, we are now ready to make our way to Brittany, which we intended to do on the first week of our travels, but the weather changed our plans then and we thought we could do it on our way back north instead.

The tranquil Fontaine Pre de St Jean

The tranquil Fontaine du Pre St Jean on the banks of the Charente river

 

We didn’t do much at all at Dompierre other than fishing, reading, crocheting and walking Beano along the river. The weather was a bit temperamental and nowhere near as hot as last time we were here and visited Cognac in the sweltering heat. This time, we had a combination of sun, wind, showers and storms, maybe because of Hurricane Bertha coming from the west, but we still managed to lounge around outside the van and eat outdoors everyday.

 

the idyllic river Charente by Dompierre

the idyllic river Charente by Dompierre

 

We really like the simplicity and laid-back feeling of the place and watching passengers on the ‘bac’ (barge) crossing the Charente river on their cars and bicycles, all the more enjoyable for being the only working ‘bac’ left in France!

 

The 'bac' on the Charente, the last of its kind

The ‘bac’ on the Charente, the last of its kind

 

 

The campsite itself is basic with adequate toilet and washing facilities and just by the river with direct access through a back gate. It only costs 11.16 a day for a pitch with electricity, so what’s not to like?

It certainly seems to be getting more and more popular as, despite the dogey weather, it was fairly busy with campers, caravanners and motorhomers, but still very quiet, peaceful and idyllic.

 

A flooded reserved pitch due to unseasonal weather

A flooded reserved pitch due to unseasonal weather

 

This morning, we left heading for Rochefort, past Saintes on D24 and D137 and did our weekly shop at Super U in Toonay-sur-Charente, just east of Rochefort. We then joined the motorway for just one junction (32 to 31) and south on D733 to Soubise’s motorhome aire. This is another wonderful aire for only €7 a night, with electricity, water, showers, toilet and washing facilities, all included in the price! There is plenty of shade, a charming pond with fishing and a lovely dog walk. Weird to think we are so close to the mouth of the river Charente, just a few kilometres north!

 

Motorhome aire at Soubise, with lovely walks around

Motorhome aire at Soubise, with lovely walks around

 

The fishing pond at Soubise

The fishing pond at Soubise

 

There is also a restaurant here right by the Capitainerie on 2 Rue Henri Drouet called Lestran and that’s where we’ll be eating tonight as it looks absolutely lovely and authentic. I’ve seen they’ve got ‘Moules Frites’ for only €7, as well as crêpes!!!

 

 

Enjoying a walk around motorhome aire

Enjoying a walk around motorhome aire

 

The 'Yacht' park

The ‘Yacht’ park at Soubise

 

Old cannons by Marina

Old cannons by Marina

 

Tomorrow, we’ll be heading towards Nantes and hope to stop at the motorhome aire at St Philbert De Grand Lieu.

St Christoly de Blaye, Gironde Dept. Sunday 10th August 14

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The swimming lake at St Christoly de Blaye

The swimming lake at St Christoly de Blaye

 

It’s been quite an interesting ride since we left Pamplona yesterday morning. There was no problem following the Carretera de Irún, or N121A, north, which is wonderful, but no good if you don’t like tunnels, of which there are many and long on this stretch of the road. We enjoyed the mountain landscape again and the lovely Basque country houses or Caseríos, very pretty and picturesque. We also did a very cheap shop at Mercadona just down the road from the campsite on the way to Pamplona to stock up on Spanish products to bring home.

Once in France, we followed the A63 past Bayonne to junction 7 and D810 towards Vieux-Boucau-les-Bains. This was a terrible mistake on my part, as the stretch of road from Capbreton to Seignosse-le-Penon was jam packed with traffic, not made any easier by the absurd number of roundabouts that seem to appear every 200 metres or so and made the experience even more tiresome and irritating. Add to this pedestrian and cycle crossings and you’ll get a picture of the frustration of not getting anywhere fast!

We somehow arrived at the aire at Vieux-Boucau-les-Bains for midday and had to take a ticket to get in at the barrier. A quick drive around showed us that there were hardly any spaces available and we squeezed ourselves between 2 vans parked parallel to the access road, but after taking Beano out for a quick trot and putting van on blocks, we realised we couldn’t connect to the electricity hook-ups, which was supposed to be included in the price, as they were all in use. Taking everything into consideration, – being packed like sardines, parked by a busy road, no chance of getting table, chairs or awning out and no electricity – we decided to leave, but to our dismay we still had to pay the 12 daily fee, as we had stayed there longer than 5 minutes! We found this terribly unfair, as just driving around to find a space takes longer than that and feel like writing to the Council about it. Surely there should be a longer period before they start charging, at least 15 minutes, to give people a chance to have a good look around and decide whether to stay or not.

Annoyed, we put it down to experience and decided to go back to reliable and trusted Étang de Léon, about 10 miles north east, and were pleasantly surprised to find a much emptier road (D652) and motorhome aire, with loads of space, shade and right by the lake at the lower price of €10 a day, but no electricity. Much happier then, we had our late lunch and rest before walking Beano in the woods and a swim in lovely lake.

 

The roomy motorhome aire at Etang de Leon

The roomy motorhome aire at Etang de Leon

 

This morning, we joined the A63 at Castets (J.12) all the way to north of Bordeaux and paid the €15.62 toll, just like last year. After crossing the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, we joined the free A10 to J40a and D137 to St Vivien-de-Blaye’s motorhome aire, which stands by the church and a lovely pond and seemed quite adequate, but Adonis thought the bells ringing might be a problem and, after going for a walk round pond, we thought we could try this other aire just 3 or 4 miles north and we are delighted with our choice.

 

 

Pretty and tranquil motorhome aire at St Vivien-de-Blaye

Pretty and tranquil motorhome aire at St Vivien-de-Blaye

 

The motorhome aire at St Christoly de Blaye is free, with toilets, a shower and free water and, again, right by the lake and a wonderful woods walk around it. There is also a sort of ‘animal farm’ nearby with exotic creatures like camels and llamas, as well as horses, pigs, geese and chickens, and offering pony rides and pedal cars for families. We love it here and I wouldn’t mind staying another day. In fact, I would be very happy to pay £12 here instead of that awful aire at Vieux-Boucau-les-Bains!!!

 

Shady motorhome aire at St Christoly de Blaye

Shady motorhome aire at St Christoly de Blaye

 

Some exotic animals near the motorhome aire

Some exotic animals near the motorhome aire

 

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And the old fashioned gypsy caravan

And the old fashioned gypsy caravan

 

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Camping Ezcaba, Valle De Ezcabarte, Pamplona, Friday 8th August 2014

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Embalse de Yesa a Pamplona 136

Beautiful Pamplona seen from the Cathedral’s Bell Tower

 

We have spent three very hot days in Spain, the last two at this wonderful campsite just outside Pamplona, and I’ll be sad to leave tomorrow to make our slow way back north through France, although we still have Brittany to look forward to as a proper final destination.

 

Heading south for the Pyrenees

Heading south for the Pyrenees

 

After leaving the motorhome aire At Sévignacq-Meyracq by Arudy, we went straight south on the D934 to Fabrèges in the Pyrenees National Park, just 10km north of the Spanish border, where we were able to stop for the day and night by the lake, which was utterly beautiful and heavenly and where we enjoyed a cooling swim with Beano as well as a walk around the area, popular with walkers, trekkers and tourists waiting for the funicular and the mountain train. We didn’t go on these, as we didn’t want to leave Beano alone for too long and most round trips took 3 hours, so we enjoyed a quiet day by the lake, admiring the mountains and making the most of the pure clean air.

 

Our stopping place at Fabreges, Pyrenees National Park

Our stopping place at Fabreges, Pyrenees National Park

 

The lake and mountains at Fabreges

The lake and mountains at Fabreges

 

Feeling excited about Spain being just on the other side of those mountain behind me

Feeling excited about Spain being just on the other side of those mountain behind me

 

The Funicular ride up to the mountains

The Funicular ride up to the mountains

 

We carried on south on the Spanish A136/N260 to Sabiñánigo and west on N330 to Jaca, where we did a small shop at Mercadona and stocked up on some Spanish goodies like Manchego and Galician cheese, membrillo (quince jelly) and Colacao (drinking chocolate) to take home to Pepo.

 

At last!  Welcome to Spain after a 4-year absence

At last! Welcome to Spain after a 4-year absence

 

From there, we carried on west to the campsite on the north side of Embalse de Yesa, where we stopped for the day. This was a basic campsite with adequate and clean facilities and lovely views over the lake and, more importantly, direct access to it, although we thought the 27.40 daily price was on the steep side, but one supposes you pay for the privilege of the location and because there is nowhere else around to stop for the night.

 

Lago de Yesa

Embalse de Yesa

 

Embalse de Yesa

Embalse de Yesa

 

Sheltering from the heat at our pitch at the camping of Embalse de Yesa

Sheltering from the heat at our pitch at the camping of Embalse de Yesa

 

The Reception area and Bar at camping of Embalse de Yesa

The Reception area and Bar at camping of Embalse de Yesa

 

Yesterday morning, we continued slightly north west towards Pamplona and north from there on N135 and arrived here just after 11am to enjoy another hot day and the large swimming pool, This is a very large campsite, although only half of it seems to be taken up at the moment and we presume that its size it to accommodate all the visitors during the Feria of San Fermín on the second week of July.

 

Camping de Ezcaba, Pamplona

 Charming and roomy Camping de Ezcaba, Pamplona

 

The site has very good facilities, including a large area for bbqs, showers and washing blocks, all very pristine and attractive.

BBQ area for campers at Camping Ezcaba

BBQ area for campers at Camping Ezcaba

 

This morning, we took a taxi to Pamplona for only €10 and enjoyed a stroll through the city’s old quarters (or Casco Viejo), which is absolutely charming, with its old buildings with beautiful balconies, the jaw-dropping Townhall and its magnificent Cathedral. We paid €5 each to get in, which included a visit to the Bell Tower that commands impressive views of the city below: definitely worth a visit.

 

Enjoying the sites in the Casco Viejo in Pamplona

Enjoying the sites in the Casco Viejo in Pamplona

 

La Plaza Mayor in Pamplona

The attractive Plaza Mayor in Pamplona

 

Pamplona's Cathedral

Pamplona’s Cathedral

 

View from the Bell Tower

Views of Pamplona from the Bell Tower

 

Views from the Bell Tower

Views from the Bell Tower

 

Views from the Bell Tower

Views from the Bell Tower

 

Ornate chapel inside Cathedral

Ornate chapel inside Cathedral

 

Tombs of Charles III and Eleanor of Castilla

Tombs of Charles III and Eleanor of Castilla

 

Beautiful Gothic Cloister

Beautiful Gothic Cloister

 

Again, as we didn’t want to leave Beano alone for too long, we had a beer and a tapa in a bar just outside the Town Hall and took a picture where people usually stand behind a wooden fence during the running of the bulls in San Fermín before taking another taxi back to the campsite.

 

The superb Town Hall in Pamplona

The superb Town Hall in Pamplona

 

Some interesting roads in Palmplona's Old Quarters (Casco Viejo)

Some interesting roads in Palmplona’s Old Quarters (Casco Viejo)

 

Charming buildings in the Casco Viejo

Charming buildings in the Casco Viejo

 

Charming buildings in the Casco Viejo

Charming buildings in the Casco Viejo

 

Waiting for the bulls!!!

Waiting for the bulls!!!

 

It’s been a hot day, but the weather has been threatening with thunder on and off for about an hour, only to produce a lot of noise and a few drops of rain. We have put our stuff inside just in case, but the sun has just begun to shine again…

Aire de Sévignac-Meyracq, Arudy, Pyrénées Atlantiques Dept. Monday 4th August 2014

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Beautiful setting for the private aire at Sevignacq-Meyracq

Beautiful setting for the private aire at Sevignacq-Meyracq

 

We didn’t quite make it to Boussens as planned on Saturday and opted instead to go to the municipal campsite at Rieux-Volvestre, which turned out to be absolutely lovely, very quiet and just perfect for us. Getting there, however, was a bit of a mission, as the co-ordinates given in the camping guide were wrong and the TomTom took us all the way down south of junction 23 when it should have been 26 and then through Cazères, where the main road was blocked and we kept running round in circles trying to get out of town. There were no signs to indicate the detour route, but we eventually found D10 north east back to Rieux-Volvestre. This is one of the occasions when I wished Adonis followed my advice rather than the SatNav, as all this added at least 40 minutes and 15 miles to our journey totally unnecessarily.

 

Camping du Plan d'eau at Rieux-Volvestre

Camping du Plan d’eau at Rieux-Volvestre

 

 

When we eventually arrived at the Camping du Plan d’Eau, I had to queue behind 2 large families who were paying for their stay with Holiday Cheques given in 20 each, which had to be stamped individually before being filed away by the receptionist. This procedure for both families took nearly half and hour and I swear I was about to walk out when the receptionist asked me if I needed assistance.

 

Our pitch at Camping du Plan d'eau at Rieux-Volvestre

Our pitch at Camping du Plan d’eau at Rieux-Volvestre

 

 

I am glad I managed to hold on to my patience, as the site was definitely worth both the wait and the extra miles. It sits just by the river Garonne, which transforms into a huge lake thanks to the dam at just south of Carbonne, about 2 miles north of Rieux-Volvestre. We had a large pitch (Number 28) on gravel with our own water tap and electricity in a shady spot, which was very welcome, as we spent 2 hot and sunny days there. The booking also gave us access to the enormous community swimming pool, surrounded by a large field with plenty of shade, as well as the lake for fishing. The toilet and shower blocks were immaculate and all in all we couldn’t have been more pleased with our choice for only 36 for the 2 nights! This is definitely a place to come back to.

 

The large swimming pool at Plan d'eau de Rieux-Volvestre

The large swimming pool at Plan d’eau de Rieux-Volvestre

 

A happy Adonis fishing at the Plan d'eau de Rieux-Volvestre

A happy Adonis fishing at the Plan d’eau de Rieux-Volvestre

 

The Lovely Plan d'eau at Rieux-Volvestre

The Lovely Plan d’eau at Rieux-Volvestre

 

Plan d'eau at Rieux-Volvestre

Plan d’eau at Rieux-Volvestre with Heron

 

Yesterday morning, I cycled into the town itself for a baguette and a packet of Galoises for Adonis and for more cash, as the campsite didn’t accept card payments and we thought we might stay 2 more nights. We didn’t in the end as we had a big storm last night with torrential rain which lasted for hours and kept me awake for a bit and, when we got up this morning, it felt much cooler and the sky was overcast, so we decided to make a move and continue heading west.

 

Cycling through Vieux-Volvestre

Cycling through charming  Rieux-Volvestre

 

The old Cathedral of La Nativite-de-Marie de Rieux

The old Cathedral of La Nativite-de-Marie de Rieux

 

Old houses at Rieux-Volvestre

Old houses at Rieux-Volvestre

 

Ancient Rieux-Volvestre

Ancient Rieux-Volvestre

 

The Cathedral tower

The Cathedral tower

 

We intended to stop at one of the motorhome aires in Lourdes and maybe go and see the shrine, but the first aire was right on the road and totally unsuitable, even just for lunch, and the second one, supposed to be by the coach park and with room for 50 vehicles, was shut so we had no choice but to get out of town through heavy traffic, hundreds of traffic lights and road bumps and tried to find a more suitable stop for the day and night.

 

Lourdes Shrine in the mist

Lourdes Shrine in the mist

 

The lovely setting of Lourdes Shrine

The lovely setting of Lourdes Shrine

 

I’ve got to say that I did like the look of Lourdes with its old and beautiful buildings and I would have loved to go for a proper stroll through the streets and visit the sights, but it was not to be and I had to content myself with a few snaps as Adonis was driving as fast as he could (which wasn’t very fast at all) for the exit.

 

The river running past the motorhome aire at Sevignaq-Meyracq

The river running past the motorhome aire at Sevignaq-Meyracq

 

We headed west on D937 and D35 towards Arudy, about 12 miles south of Pau and, again, we are delighted with our choice. This is a commercial aire for 10 a night plus €2 for electricity if needed, on a beautiful field by a little river (I think it’s the Nez, but I am not 100% sure) on hard standing surrounded by grass and trees and our ideal kind of place: tranquil and peaceful with just the sound of the flowing water and the birds singing. Beano loves it too, as we were able to let him off the lead to chase the ball and cool down in the river.

 

Having fun and enjoying the beauty of the river

Having fun and enjoying the beauty of the river

Montferrand, Aude, Saturday 1st August 2014

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Beautiful field of sunflowers by motorhome aire at Montferrand

 

We have spent 6 superbly lazy days at Adonis’s parents’ house in Portiragnes, where the most strenuous thing we did was to cool in the swimming pool and walk the dogs around the vineyard at the back of the house. It was wonderful to have that time to rest from the driving and route planning and to spend quality time with the family.

 

Chilling by the pool

Chilling by the pool

 

We were all a bit concerned during the first couple of days because Huntely, my in-law’s dog, is much bigger than poor little Beano and he just wouldn’t leave him alone, following him everywhere, walking almost above him and licking his back and neck continuously, even wanting to mount him. The first day he kept this behaviour up for 6 hours and we had to resort to locking ourselves in the van with Beano for a long siesta and afternoon break just to keep them apart. Later on, Adonis’s dad came up with the idea of throwing water from a bucket over Huntley’s back and this seemed to do the trick. So, for the next day, Peter kept that bucket of water nearby as a deterrent from Huntley’s amorous advances on Beano and just the threat of lifting the bucket was enough to stop him. Thanks to that, we enjoyed 4 days of more appropriate dog interaction, playing with the ball and chasing each other to everyone’s relief, as Adonis and I were thinking we might have to go and stay at a campsite or the new motorhome aire in Portiragnes beach, which is not that close to the Saysell’s residence, just to keep Beano safe and our sanity intact, but I am pleased to say it never came to that.

Huntley and Beano enjoying a chase game

Huntley and Beano enjoying a chase game

 

Instead, we enjoyed 2 lovely meals out, one on Portiragnes Plage, where both Peggy and I were defeated by our enormous Gazpacho starter and were unable to finish it, delicious as it was, in order to give us a chance to finish our main courses of salmon and duck respectively and our delicious puddings (grilled pineapple for Peggy and mandarine and strawberry sorbet for me).

The other even better meal was at L’Ecluse last night on the Canal-du-Midi on the way to Béziers, where we all shared a Tapas starter and we all loved Adonis’s choice of Fish and Chips du Sud (of the south), which had us all intrigued when reading the menu and later found out it consisted of small pieces of fish fried in a thin batter with the chips served in a paper cone! We were all too full for a pudding, but very happy with our meal as we’ve always been every time we’ve gone there.

 

Canal-du-Midi

Canal-du-Midi

 

Our break in Portiragnes also gave us a chance to take the van to the garage, as it was making a worrying squeaky noise, both when we were driving or when walking inside it when stationary, and we thought there might be something wrong with the suspension. Adonis kept spraying it with WD40 for about a week prior to our arrival at Portiragnes, but to no avail. Adonis took the van to the mechanic just down the road on Tuesday morning and, after 3 days there, he finally collected it yesterday afternoon, only to be told there was nothing wrong with it and the chap refused to take any payment, as the van had sat in his garage for 2 days before he actually looked at it! Still, Peter gave him 20 for his time and trouble, which we later refunded and, feeling greatly relieved that all is well with our home on wheels, we put back all the stuff we had taken out ready for this morning departure.

 

Field of sunflowers on our way to Montferrand

Field of sunflowers on our way to Montferrand

 

All set and ready to leave by 9.15 am, we said our good-byes hoping to return next summer and headed towards Carcassonne on D612, D11 and D610. Although these roads are generally good, some stretches were being re-surfaced and there was a detour by Trèbes, which slowed us right down. We even considered stopping at an aire signposted at Puichéric thinking it would be by the canal, but it turned out to be right on a hill, away from the water, so we stuck with our original plan of stopping here in Montferrand, a shady aire right by the Canal-du-Midi on D6113, just west of Castelnaudary, surrounded by gorgeous fields of sunflowers.

 

Enough to put a smile on your face

Enough to put a smile on your face and brighten up your day

 

We’ve just returned from an hour-long-walk along the canal and enjoyed the procedure of a boat going through the locks. It seemed that everyone on the walk stopped to watch and admire the lock system, which is definitely worth the wait.

 

Watching the lock in action on Canal-du-Midi

Watching the lock in action on Canal-du-Midi

 

The happy travellers and spectators at the lock

The happy travellers and spectators at the lock

 

And the lock opened.

And the lock opened.

 

We are thinking about going to the municipal campsite of Boussens tomorrow, about 60 miles west of here, but we’ll have to head north first towards Toulouse and south west from there on A64 to enjoy the better roads.

 

Canal-du-Midi

Canal-du-Midi

 

Canal-du-Midi

Canal-du-Midi

 

Canal-du-Midi

Canal-du-Midi

 

One last time, just because it's so beautiful!

One last time, just because it’s so beautiful!

 

We’ve just seen that the bourne here does not work and won’t be able to empty toilet cassette!

Les Poissons d’Argent Aire, Petite Camargue, Gard, Friday 25th July 2014

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The very spacious new aire of Les Poissons d'Argent, Petite Camargue

The very spacious new aire of Les Poissons d’Argent, Petite Camargue

 

This has been a surprise! We’ve only found this wonderful aire between Le Grau-du-Roi and Aigues-Mortes thanks to the pre-loaded points of interest on our TomTom, as it does not appear on the Aires guide book. It is set in 20 hectares of nature in the Petite Camargue and it has a restaurant, with fishing included in the 9 daily fee (12 with electricity). The pitches are generous, with plenty of space for awning, tables and chairs outside. Although it is rather large, there are only around 20 vans here at the moment (6 pm). We are sitting inside waiting for the storm to pass, which is quite spectacular and almost welcome after a very humid day.

 

After the storm in La Petite Camargue.  Glad it's not my awning!

After the storm in La Petite Camargue. Glad it’s not my awning!

 

Our original plan today was to stop for the day and night just north east of here at the aire at the Port de Plaisance in Bellegarde, about 10 km south east of Nimes. We were there around 11 am and, although it was free and beautiful, with pitches separated by lovely hedges of Bougainvillea, it was too close to the very busy and noisy D38 and after our afternoon dog walk, we decided to make a move and try another aire at La Grande-Motte, outside one of the campsites there, but we didn’t like the look or the price of it, as for 16 the vans were parked like sardines and right by the main road again, so we headed towards one of the aires at Aigues-Mortes outside the city walls and found this one on our way there, so we came to have a look and were impressed by what we saw. We’d stop here a few days if we hadn’t agreed to visit Adonis’s parents tomorrow in Portiragnes.

 

Our spot at the attractive aire at Bellegarde

Our spot at the attractive aire at Bellegarde

 

Port de Plaisance at Bellegarde

Port de Plaisance at Bellegarde

 

Pleasant long walk along the canal at Bellegarde

Pleasant long walk along the canal at Bellegarde

 

In the evening of the 23rd July and of Adoni’s birthday eve, we went for a meal at Les Bronzés restaurant, right on Pampelonne beach and enjoyed one of the best meals ever: we shared a delicious large tapa of calamares served with a sweet chilli sauce and garlic dip, followed by a Thai chicken curry for me and Daurade (type of sea bream) for Adonis, accompanied by a jug of the house Rosé, which went down only too well and too quickly! All that, to go with the spectacular view of gigantic yachts on the Mediterranean sea, is going to be a hard act to follow: absolutely superb!

 

Lots of shade under the pine tress at Cuges-les-Pins

Lots of shade under the pine tress at Cuges-les-Pins

 

Yesterday morning, we had a total change of scenery at the aire amidst the pine woods of Cuges-les-Pins, very tranquil and relaxing for only 3 a day, with water but no electricity. We were lucky with the traffic, as we left Pampelonne before 9 am and the roads through St Tropez and Cagolin were quite empty at that point and, therefore, we had a very pleasant drive, unlike the day before when we arrived. There was, however, a very windy stretch just north of Bormes-les-Mimosas on the D98 towards Toulon, but Adonis handled it well and I was very glad not to be at the wheel.

 

Lovely scenery surrounding the aire at Cuges-les-Pins

Lovely scenery surrounding the aire at Cuges-les-Pins

 

It was still very hot up on that wooded hill and by 4 pm we felt in need of a cold shower, for which we used the water pipe provided to fill up motorhomes. Even Beano has a refreshing splash, as did the wasps, which seemed desperate for a drink, and we were more that happy to provide.

It’s Portiragnes tomorrow, where we intend to stop for a few days and have a break from the road. It will also be wonderful to have access to the Saysell’s swimming pool!

Plage de Pampelonne, Côte d’Azur, Var, Tuesday 23rd July 2014

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Amazing yachts at Plage de Pampelonne

Amazing yachts at Plage de Pampelonne

 

I really wanted to see what all the fuss was about in this area and I certainly have! Adonis wasn’t so sure about driving anywhere near la Côte d’Azur, but we were so near that is was a shame not to. We have been suitable impressed by the gigantic yachts that must cost millions of pounds moored just off shore and close enough to swim to. I must admit that while I was enjoying a swim in the gorgeous warm Mediterranean sea, I was tempted to swim up to one of them and ask them for a refreshing, cooling beer, but I managed to control myself even though the famous jingle of “Two pints of larger and a packet of crisps, please” kept ringing in my ear. I wonder who owns these monsters of the seas and what you have to do in life in order to be able to afford one if you are not Royalty or a Hollywood star! The mind boggles…

 

Close enough to  swim to

Close enough to swim to

 

We arrived here just before midday today after spending a very quiet and peaceful day a the France Passion site of Château des Demoiselles between Mui and La Motte, where we had a very warm reception by the hostess and where we did some Rosé and white wine tasting and, as usual, we walked away with half a dozen of their fine and refreshing product. We were told we could stop a couple of nights if we wanted (with plenty of shade at no extra cost) which was good to know, but we really wanted a water source for swimming and cooling off, so the obvious choice was to drive to the coast, a mere 12 miles away as the crow flies. We chose to come to this beach just south of St Tropez, hoping it would be a little quieter and not quite so manic as St Tropez itself or Ste Maxime to the north.

 

Our shady spot at Chateau des Demoiselles

Our shady spot at Chateau des Demoiselles France Passion site

 

Plenty of space around us

Plenty of space around us at Chateau des Demoiselles

 

The lovely and peaceful vineyard

The lovely and peaceful vineyard around us

 

Closer

Enjoying a walk through the vineyard

 

As expected and warned by the hostess at Les Demoiselles France Passion site, the moment we hit Ste Maxime the traffic slowed down to snail pace and we were bumper to bumper for about half an hour all the way to port Grimaud and les-marines-de-Cogolin, where we cut across on minor road D61 to Ramatuelle, a very pretty old town where we stopped for baguette and some Parma ham for lunch, as we are running low on supplies and need to stock up very soon.

 

Driving through Ste Maxime at snail pace

Driving through Ste Maxime at snail pace

 

We did not enjoy our drive on D559 at all, even at 10am, as it was already becoming unbearably hot, but it is the only and compulsory route between Ste Maxime and St Tropez. As the traffic was so painfully slow, I did manage to snap a few shots of the towns, which I think might be quite good.

 

Ste Maxime

Ste Maxime

 

Beano is not having a good time of it either, as I don’t think this intense heat really agrees with him and he’s had a runny tummy to boot. Goodness know what he’s scoffed down!

 

Trying to keep Beano cool swimming in the Med!

Trying to keep Beano cool swimming in the Med!

 

The traffic did ease out after Cogolin and I really enjoyed walking in the charming town of Ramatuelle, even though I didn’t have much time, as Adonis and Beano were waiting in the van on top of the hill in the baking sun.

We were lucky to get in this very busy aire, only 200 metres away from the beach, and were very happy to pay the 8 for the day, as it has water, toilets and cold showers (very welcome in this heat). It is also a very pleasant walk on the sandy path to the beach and we even have room to put out the awning!

 

The motorhome aire 200 metres away from the beach!

The motorhome aire 200 metres away from Pampelonne beach!

 

Our pitch at the motorhome aire.  Just about enough space for awning!

Our pitch at the motorhome aire: just about enough space for awning!

 

We have decided against going any further east and into Italy due to the awful traffic, so we’ll be going west again towards Portiragnes in the Herault Department to visit Adonis’s parents. Not sure where we’ll be staying tomorrow yet. Qué será, será…?

Ste Croix-du-Verdon, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Sunday 20th July 2014

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Lac de Ste Croix

Lac de Ste Croix

 

 

Wow, wow and again WOW! I knew it was going to be beautiful, but the sheer scale of the lavender fields around Valensole is simply breathtaking: mile after mile of endless lavender fields, all growing in neat rows of raised beds, undulating into the distance as far as the eye can see, beautifully set against the majestic backdrop of the Alps. It is simply absolutely spectacular and a true triumph of Mother Nature, not least because of all the beehives helping pollination along the way. Nice to see, as bees seem to be in decline these days.

 

The breathtaking lavender fields

The breathtaking lavender fields

 

Visitors enjoying the fields and scent of lavender

Visitors enjoying the fields and scent of lavender

 

We duly stopped at the first sight of these amazing fields to take some photos between the rows of lavender, like everyone else who had taken the trouble to journey this far, and bought some lavender products at the Terraroma Distillery, both for ourselves and presents for family and friends. Apart from the stunning landscape, the scent of the plant is simply intoxicating at this point and I’m really looking forward to replicating this sensation both in the motorhome and in the house, to which effect we have bought a fragrance diffuser and pillow mist.

 

The Terraroma Distillery and shop.

The Terraroma Distillery and shop.

 

 

 

 

We had no problem getting to Valensole from Aix-en-Provence following the D96 north east to Manosque and east from there on D907 and D6, but we found that they were holding la Fête de Lavande today of all days and instead of carrying on the D6 from Valensole to Riez, as we intended, we were diverted about 10 km norht to Poteau de Telle and then south again to Riez before we could finally join the D11 to Ste-Croix-du-Verdon and the lake. We didn’t mind too much, as it was still early and the scenery was so magnificent and we got to see twice as much of the lavender fields and the Verdon Regional Park.

 

More lavender on our detour with beautiful backdrop of The Verdon National Park

More lavender on our detour with beautiful backdrop of The Verdon Regional Park

 

We got there just after 12.30 pm and got a nice parking spot overlooking the lake and what a view it is! We have found another aire with a fantastic view! It has toilets and free water and it’s only 6 a night, collected by guard in the evening. We like it so much we are thinking about staying another night.

 

Enjoying the views at our lovely spot at Ste-Croix-du-Verdon motorhome aire.

Enjoying the views at our lovely spot at Ste-Croix-du-Verdon motorhome aire.

 

The said view of the lake

The said view of the lake

 

We went for a walk down to the lake and even Beano was happy to go for a swim, but I wasn’t wearing my swimming gear, as the Mistral had been blowing quite heavily when we left the van, but it had blown over by the time we got to the bottom. I would love to have a swim here though, as it is so heavenly.

 

Ste Croix-du-Verdon from the lake

Ste Croix-du-Verdon on the way to the lake

 

We also went for a beer and a Mojito at the Restaurant/Bar Le Comptoir, as I just couldn’t resist the temptation of sitting at such a stunning location and I was more than happy to pay 9 for my cocktail and 6 for a large Howgarrden with lemon. We both left very contented.  

 

Quaint spots at Ste Croix-du-Verdon

Quaint spots at Ste Croix-du-Verdon

 

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Adonis has just come back from another swim and I’m about to cook a Spanish potato omelette.

We are considering going to Côte d’Azur and then crossing over to Italy…

Camping Arc-en-Ciel, Aix-en-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône, Saturday 19th July

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Beautiful Reception area at camping Arc-en-Ciel

Beautiful Reception area at camping Arc-en-Ciel

 

 

We are so glad we came here! We’ve totally fallen in love with this amazing town, so eclectic and cosmopolitan, yet so very French! We are only sorry that we could only manage 3 days at this wonderful campsite, as it’s fully booked for tomorrow and we have to leave our pitch. In fact, we were very lucky to get it in the first place and be able to stay for 3 days, as we hadn’t booked (we never do). When we arrived on Thursday morning, I was initially told they didn’t have room for us, but the very helpful and friendly hostess found us a perfect pitch by the river, No 36, with lots of shade from a pine tree and the surrounding tall bamboo. We even have our own water fountain with an old-fashioned stone basin and we couldn’t ask for more: absolutely charming.

 

Out pitch shaded by pine trees and tall bamboo

Out pitch shaded by pine trees and tall bamboo

 

Enjoying lunch in the shade surrounded by bamboo

Enjoying lunch in the shade surrounded by bamboo

 

The tall bamboo providing shade and privacy

The tall bamboo providing shade and privacy

 

Our very own water fountain with stone basin

Our very own water fountain with stone basin

 

The campsite is spotless, with roomy shower/toilet cubicles and ample space for washing clothes and dishes. There is also a large swimming pool and lovely views of Le Pont des 3 Saults, painted by Cézanne, and free WiFi! For 75 for the 3 nights, we are more than pleased.

 

The river running through campsite with Le Pont des 3 Sautls

The river running through campsite with Le Pont des 3 Sautls

 

River running past right by our pitch

River running past right by our pitch

 

The large and cooling swimming pool

The large and cooling swimming pool

 

 

The town of Aix-en-Provence is a little jewel full of life, colour and delicious aromas. It is a place where you can let yourself be taken by your senses and every corner hides a treasure. On our first day, we visited the Musée Granet, where they are holding an exhibition of Pearlman’s Collection, which includes works by Cézanne, Manet, de-la-Croix, Van Gough, Picasso, Modigliani and others: a marvellous treat for Art lovers.

 

Busy Aix-en-Provence on a Friday morning, market day

Busy Aix-en-Provence on a Friday morning, market day

 

The rest of the time we have enjoyed strolling gently through these quaint streets and marvelling at the town’s fountains and architecture, not least its Cathedral Saint Sauveur, that dates from V to XVII century. We visited this morning and it’s truly fascinating, with its Roman mosaics, Medieval triptychs and Renaissance paintings: a wonder to behold!

 

The Cathedral Saint Sauveur

The Cathedral Saint Sauveur

 

A clock tower

A clock tower

 

We thoroughly enjoyed the large street markets selling everything you could possibly need and I am forever gob-smacked at the size of the fruit and vegetables here: a gigantic version of what we get back home and so aromatic and inviting. We came back loaded with nectarines, apricots, sanglier (wild boar sausage), herbs of Provence, cherries and assorted flavoured biscuits, such as aniseed, lemon, cinnamon and chocolate: truly delicious.

 

Enjoying a spot of shopping at the magnificent street market

Enjoying a spot of shopping at the magnificent street market

 

Giant cherries!

Giant cherries!

 

Look at the size of those spring onions!

Look at the size of those spring onions!

 

We’ve just come back from a meal out at Le Solferino restaurant on 3 Place d’Arménie, where we enjoyed lamb cutlets and salmon with a nice bottle of local Rosé, all very reasonably priced and most enjoyable, served by a very friendly and efficient waiter who spoke good English: a perfect way to end our visit to this adorable and welcoming city and I for one can’t wait to come back.

 

Strolling gently through town enjoying charming views

Strolling gently through town enjoying charming views

 

Quaint and chic

Quaint and chic

 

Fountain at Place d'Albertas

Fountain at Place d’Albertas

 

La Rotonde Fountain

La Rotonde Fountain

 

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Tomorrow, we are heading slightly north east – east of Manosque, to visit some lavender fields and hopefully buy some lavender products. I am really looking forward to that, as they look amazing in the pictures!

 

So very French!

So very French!

Clansayes, Drôme Dept. Wednesday 17th July 2014

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Clansayes motorhome aire

Clansayes motorhome aire

 

Well, there never was a game of petangue at La Héronnière campsite on Monday as planned. Adonis and I duly turned up at the ‘arena’ at 5pm as advised, but nobody else did. We waited for a bit, but not even the manager who had invited us showed up, so feeling a bit foolish, we went back to our pitch and relaxed for a bit before going for a swim at the pretty beach just outside the camping itself. It was quite hot by then – the hottest day so far on this holiday- and the swim was a welcome respite from the sun. The water felt warm where the sun was heating it, so I kept swimming backwards and forwards on the sunny stream watching the red kites flying overhead: very calming indeed. In the evening after dinner, we packed our tables and chairs and brought in the awning ready for an early start in the morning.

 

Medieval Boulieu-les-Annonay seen from motorhome aire

Medieval Boulieu-les-Annonay seen from motorhome aire

 

We left La Héronnière by 9.30am and did a quick shop at Auchan at Sennecy-le-Grand to see us through the next 4 or 5 days, then we carried on south on D906 and joined the A6 at Tournus (J27), past Macon and Lyon, where there was a major delay due to the sheer volume of traffic. We virtually crawled for about ½ hour and it was beginning to feel very hot after 11am, so it was a great relief to leave the city behind and drive along the river for a while. We finally arrived at the free motorhome aire at Boulieu-les-Annonay just after midday and thoroughly enjoyed a cold and refreshing beer before lunch.

 

Pitches separated by hedges at Boulieu-les-Annonay

Pitches separated by hedges at Boulieu-les-Annonay

 

The full site of the motorhome aire at Boulieu-les-Annonay with free water facilities and services on left

The full site of the motorhome aire at Boulieu-les-Annonay with free water facilities and services on left

 

We went for a stroll around this charming little medieval town, surrounded by a wall with 7 round towers still remaining and soaked up the lovely views of its surroundings. The air provides 6 pitches separated by hedges, but there is also more parking available and this morning there were 10 motorhomes which had obviously spent the night at this welcoming stop. There are 2 water taps free of charge and emptying facilities, but no electricity and we thought it was a perfect stopover on the way to the south.

 

One of the 7 towers in Boulieu-les-Annonay

One of the 7 towers in Boulieu-les-Annonay

 

A quaint old house in the village

A quaint old building to house the Mairie

 

Another attractive building in the village

Another attractive building and street in the village

 

The pleasing view from the motorhome aire at Boulieu-les-Annonay

The pleasing view from the motorhome aire at Boulieu-les-Annonay

 

This morning, we followed the D82/86 to Tournon, where we joined the N7 south, past Valence and Montelimar to join the D133 east at Notre Dâme de Montcham and then D571 to this aire at Clansayes (N 44º 22.161′ E 004 47.807′).

I have to say that, even though it is a beautiful and peaceful place to stop, we felt a bit ripped off as the motorhome aires guide says it is €10 a night plus €4 for electricity and there is a swimming pool and showers. What it doesn’t say is that there is an extra €4 charge for the use of the pool and a further extra €4 for the showers. We also had to pay €1.50 for Beano, bringing the total to €15.50. I also ordered a baguette for tomorrow and I was charged €1.20 for it! The worst thing, however, was when we parked in the shady area under the trees and the manageress I had just paid all this money to came running after us saying we couldn’t park in there because that area had electricity hook-ups, which we hadn’t paid for and, although we explained we were not going to use the electricity, but we wanted the shade because of the hot weather, she made us move to the full-on sun area. I simply felt outraged at this and felt like asking for my money back and leave there and then, but it was nearly midday and we had been driving since before 9am and really needed a break, so we managed to find a spot with a small tree that provided some shade and put the awning out. I just feel her attitude was really mean-spirited and out of order, as there is only one more motorhome here in that shady area and room for at least 5 more. It is now gone 4pm and the only other van that arrived earlier decided not to stay: I wonder why??? It’s a real shame that the natural beauty of this tranquil spot has been ruined by the meanness of its owners; I mean, who refuses shade to anyone on an scorching summer day? It seems totally inhumane to me especially since we paid almost a campsite price. Whoever heard of paying a premium for shade? There is nothing like pleasing your customers and I certainly won’t be recommending this site to anyone and perhaps the Vicarious All The Aires France Guide book ought to update their information about this particular site.  Would be customers need to know!

 

Our pitch under a small tree at Clansayes misnamed motorhome 'aire'.  Not much shade here.

Our pitch under a small tree at Clansayes misnamed motorhome ‘aire’. Not much shade here.

 

Same from a different angle: Note the  full-on sun!

Same from a different angle: Note the full-on sun!

 

Tomorrow, we shall be arriving at Aix-en-Provence, where we are hoping to stay at the Arc-en-Ciel campsite with direct access to the river, which sounds great.