Category Archives: 2015

Les Settons, Nièvre, Wednesday 30th December 2015

Standard
Les Settons

Les Settons

 

We woke up to a beautiful frosty morning in La Porte d’Alsace on Monday, with icicles hanging from the wheel’s arch below the heating outlet, with the thermometer saying -2°C.

 

We set off on the D419 again and A36 past Belfort and Montbéliard to junction 7, as we needed to do a shop, and tried our luck on the national road D633 and got lucky at L’Isle-le-Doubs, where we found an Intermarché to buy provisions for the next 3 days.  From there, it was a short drive to Baume-les-Dames, which we found covered in frost and were spoilt for choice of pitches at this large aire, as there was only one more van getting ready to leave.  We hooked up and filled up with water and, after lunch, had a lovely long walk along the canal and river Doubs.  The Reception hut at the motorhome aire opened at 5.30pm for payments, by which time there were about 8 motorhomes to stay for the night.  The fee was €9.90, which is a fair price to pay this time of year, as it is good of them to keep the water and services running in freezing weather.

 

Our spot at aire in Baume-les-Dames

Our spot at aire in Baume-les-Dames

 

Motorhome aire and Marina from far side of canal

Motorhome aire and Marina from far side of canal

 

Beautiful colours in Baume-les-Dames

Beautiful colours in Baume-les-Dames

 

Baume-les-Dames and bridge

Baume-les-Dames and bridge

 

I loved the original Christmas decorations outside this house!

I loved the original Christmas decorations outside this house!

 

We left in the morning a bit later than usual to give the frost a chance to melt and carried on the A36 past Besançon and Dole to Seurre in the Saône-et-Loire, where we stopped for the day yesterday.  The aire here has been moved to behind a line of alpine trees and it is not on the Marina itself and, as there was an old caravan parked there, we decided to park closer to the Capitainerie to enjoy the view of the Marina and the river.  This is a very pleasant stop with a nice walk along the river and into town, but not much to do there, as the museum and church were both shut, which we thought would have been interesting to visit. Maybe some other time…

 

The lovely walk on the river Saône at Seurre

The lovely walk on the river Saône at Seurre

 

Pretty Seurre on river Saône

Pretty Seurre on river Saône

 

From Seurre, we followed the D973 past Beaune to Autun, where we had anextended coffee break this morning at the aire by lake and Roman Theatre.  The lake had been drained to get all the fish out, but the walk through the Roman Theatre was quite a treat, despite the heavy fog, and we thought it might be nice to return in spring when the lake has been filled again and to visit the rest of the town.  On the way out, we saw the two Roman Gates too, which are quite impressive.

 

A very atmospheric Roman Theatre in the fog, Autun

A very atmospheric Roman Theatre in the fog, Autun

The Roman Theatre at Autun

The Roman Theatre with stage at Autun

 

You have to admire these ancient walls

You have to admire these ancient walls

 

Close up of Roman bricks

Close up of Roman bricks

Roman gate at Autun

Roman gate at Autun

 

Roman gate on our way out of Autun

Roman gate on our way out of Autun

Still seeking a lake, we headed north on the D960 to Lac des Settons, near Montsauche-les-Settons, part of the Grands Lacs du Morvan, where we finally stopped for the day and night.  It really is beautiful here and I can see this would be a very popular summer holiday resort, as there are various outlets for boat rides around the lake, as well as bars, restaurants, hotels and a campsite.  We went for a long walk around the lake and both sides seem perfect for a family summer holiday.

 

Walking around Lac Settons admiring the beautiful colours

Walking around Lac Settons admiring the beautiful colours, motorhome aire in centre background

 

Light and shade contrast

Light and shade contrast

 

This gorgeous building houses the Tourist Information Office

This gorgeous building houses the Tourist Information Office

 

It’s been a bit warmer today, temperaturesrising to 7°C, and we’ve had a lovely sunset.  Tomorrow, we are heading for Chiddes, about 18 miles south of Château-Chinon.

Chavannes-sur-l’Etang, Haut Rhin, Sunday 27th December 2016

Standard
DSC_0082

Motorhome aire in Chavannes-sur-l’Etang, La Porte d’Alsace

 

I am happy to report that Christmas dinner was a great success and that the chicken cooked perfectly well in our Andrew James multi-cooker, even if I had to cover it with some foil before placing the lid on top. It only took about 90 minutes and this was followed by the roast potatoes and parsnips, which only took about 15 minutes. On the vegetable front, I boiled some sprouts and carrots and even managed to to make some gravy with some Bisto granules I brought from home. It all turned out rather well and we have proved that it can be done without great difficulty and just a little bit of organisation. The pumpkin soup we bought from the Traiteur was also very tasty and we had this with some fresh pretzels we bought from one of the bakeries in town. Not bad for our first Christmas in the van!

DSC_0061

Preparing Christmas dinner in Hymer

DSC_0076

Chicken looking good in Andrew James multi-cooker

DSC_0080

Enjoying Christmas lunch in festive Hymer

 

The weather was sunny and bright, around 12°C, and that made the day even more special. The night before Christmas Eve, we enjoyed a lovely view of the full moon and all the other motorhomes decorated for Christmas around us. The temperature dropped yesterday and we needed our hats and scarves to walk into town, but it was still sunny and bright: just perfect for this time of year. It dropped even further last night to freezing temperatures and there was frost on the ground this morning at last!

 

DSC_0058

Full moon on Crhistmas Eve

 

DSC_0059

Other festive motorhomes and full moon at Obernai’s Camping Municipal Le Vallon de l’Ehn

DSC_0056

You’ve got to love some people’s festive spirit!

DSC_0090

icicles formed overnight above wheels!

 

The veal pie we bought in the same shop as the chicken was also very good and we still have some left. This was a bit trickier to warm up in the multi-cooker as it was very thick and compact inside and, as I didn’t want to burn the crust, I cooked at No 3 for 20 minutes, but this wasn’t enough and I then tried again for another 15 minutes at No 4; the crust at the bottom burnt a little, but the rest was lovely and hot. Next time, I will cut the pie into quarters and see if that works better.

DSC_0087

Reception area at La Porte d’Alsace on a frosty morning

 

We left Obernai this morning after finding out that barrier at campsite needed a magnetic card to exit, which we didn’t have, and had to wait until someone turned up with one, which thankfully didn’t take too long. That must be a problem for people who wish to leave early in the mornig as, if they have a card, there is nobody to give it to. Being a Sunday, Reception didn’t open till 10am and we were ready to leave for 9.30am, as we had paid the day before. There is a slight flaw in the system, me thinks.

Finding an open supermarket today was our second challenge of the day and we decided to leave the A35 motorway at junction 28 south of Colmar to try our luck in the villages along the national road N83 to Belfort, as we are only about 10 miles east from there. We found no supermarkets open, however, but were lucky to find a bakery on the south sid of Cernay where we bought some orange juice and water, as well as the daily baguette.

 

DSC_0088

Map with walking tours at La Porte d’Alsace

 

We got here at La Porte d’Alsace for 11.30am and it’s been a lovely sunny day again, reaching 12°C outside and 26°C inside, so no heating needed. We are the only ones here, so it’s been very quiet except for the traffic on the D419, which has been quite busy today. The motorhome aire is open, but the electric hook ups and the water taps have been turned off. Still, it is a lovely spot.

I enjoyed my walk with Beano around the field adjacent to the motorhome aire, except for the final 100 metres or so, where there is no path and, as I didn’t want to walk on the busy road, I stayed on the field and my trainers got clogged up very quickly, making it very difficult to walk. Thankfully, it wasn’t far to go and I rinsed the mud off when I got back to the van: the trainers are as good as new!

DSC_0086

Bautiful frosty landscape at Chavannes-sur-l’Eetang

 

The sun’s going down, as is the temperature, but still blue skies all around. Adonis is putting the windscreen cover on the outside for the first time this holiday, as forecast is 0°C tonight.

DSC_0089

Frozen Chavannes-sut-l’Etang in glorious mornig light

 

I might cook a Spanish omelette to go with the rest of the veal pie tonight and tomorrow we are heading for Baume-les-Dames, about 40 miles south west of here on the way to Besançon.

Obernai, Bas Rhin, Alsace, Thursday 24th December 2015

Standard
image

Pretty Obernai

We made it to Alsace for Christmas as we intended and we are certainly not disappointed with our choice. We loved Obernai when we came here in the summer a couple of years ago and we just knew it would be beautiful at Christmas. The whole place’s got a very special atmosphere, all made possible by the Christmas market stalls, the street and houses decorations, the festive people and, of course, the mulled wine!

image

Our first view of the town

We arrived at the Camping Municipal Vallon de l’Ehn yesterday morning and, after hooking up and giving Beano a little walk around the campsite, we set off to explore the town and soak up the spirit of Christmas, so beautifully done here. We loved the whole thing: the various wooden huts selling all kinds of goods, the Manger with life size figures and real sheep and donkey, the train ride and carrousel for children and seeing everyone enjoying themselves sipping a glass of mulled wine and munching on roasted chestnuts, which added to the seasonal atmosphere with the lovely scents.
We bought a couple of bottles of Crémant and Cordon Bleu Snitzels for tonight and came back to the van for lunch and Beano’s afternoon walk.

image

The life size Manger with real animals

 

We returned to the town in the evening to see it all lit up and enjoy a glass of Bière de Noël and, of course, the ubiquitous mulled wine to make time for dinner.

image

Beautiful and original Christmas decorations

image

image

The town in full swing

image

One of many lovely seasonal stalls

image

You just have to love this!

image

We tried a couple of restaurants, but they were fully booked, but struck it lucky on our third attempt at La Halle aux Blés, where we had a hearty meal of spare ribs and chips for Adonis and Escalope Viennoise for me, all accompanied by a lovely pitcher of Riesling. We were delighted with our choices and the generous portions and felt a bit too full for pudding, which we decided to leave for Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

image

Wreath over our heads at La Halle aux Blés

So we staggered back uphill to the campsite and had a good night’s sleep with just the slightest threat of a headache that, thankfully, didn’t go full blown.

image

We sat here on our way back to enjoy atmosphere before bed

image

This morning, we took the bus into town and bought a chicken for tomorrow and a veal pie for Boxing Day. The idea was to buy an already cooked chicken, but as we hadn’t seen any outlets yesterday and we didn’t want to risk going without on Christmas Day, we bought a fresh one from the local Traiteur, only to find later on that the full-on market was on with no less than 3 outlets for ‘Poulet roti’!!! We had a good laugh about that and now we know for next time.

It’s a lovely sunny day with blue skies today and, although it is not frosty, it is just perfect for Christmas. We’ve just taken Beano for a long walk along the stream and are enjoying a refreshing beer in the sun.

image

Aire at Catillon-sur-Sambre

The drive here went without a hitch, stopping at a very empty Wissant aire the first night, by the canal at Catillon-sur-Sambre east of Cambrai on D643 on Saturday and 2 nights at Stenay, the first night by the Capitainerie, as there was no-one to give us the code to enter the proper aire, but the guard came in the evening and gave us the code for the next day after paying our €9 fee. Stenay was also cheerfully decorated for the season.

image

Parked by Capitainerie at Stenay

image

Festive lights at Stenay

Finally, we stopped for one night at Harskirchen by the Port de Plaisance, all very quiet and peaceful and free this time of year.

image

Aire at Harskirchen

Le Crotoy, Somme, Thursday 5th November 2015

Standard
Le Crotoy Bay at low tide

Le Crotoy Bay at low tide

Our stay at Broglie was very quiet and peaceful, with only one other motorhome staying for the night. We enjoyed our usual walks around the water gardens, where we fed the ducks, and along the Charentonne river to the old water mill, with Beano off the lead now, as he is getting very good with his recall, long last!

After our visit to the vet first thing in the morning, we set off from Broglie at about 9 o’clock and followed our usual route to Le Crotoy, still one of our favourite spots on our return journey.

 

Too many potholes at Le Crotoy motorhome aire

Too many potholes at Le Crotoy motorhome aire

We were a bit disappointed, however, with the poor state of the motorhome aire, which is in desperate need of repair, being as it is full of potholes, made a lot worse by the recent rain, and one needs to constantly change direction to avoid them: it really felt like a mine field. Given that the aire is always busy and that the fee has increased to €6 a day, there is no excuse for such poor maintenance and it seems a bit complacent on the part of the local council, as motorhomers also spend a fair bit of money in the bars and restaurants in town, which no doubt helps the local economy. We can only hope that Mayor will take notice and carry out the necessary repair work.

 

The entrance to the motorhome aire: simply not good enough

The entrance to the motorhome aire: simply not good enough

Our walk around the bay had a totally different feel to it today, as the tide was completely out and the landscape looked completely alien. It was lovely, though, and we thoroughly enjoyed it, as usual.

Walking around bay at Le Crotoy

Walking around bay at Le Crotoy

 

Bay of the Somme

Bay of the Somme

Bay of the Somme and Le Crotoy

Bay of the Somme and Le Crotoy

In the evening, we went to the Restaurant du Port and enjoyed a most exquisite seafood dinner of mussels in Roquefort sauce, fresh prawns and sole. I can’t wait for next time!

It’s shopping at Auchan in Boulogne-sur-Mer and Wissant for the rest of the day tomorrow, with our Eurotunnel crossing on Saturday. We’ll be back on the road on 18th December for our Christmas holiday in Alsace!

St Germain de la Coudre, Orne, Tuesday 3rd November 2015

Standard
St Germain de la Coudre 005

St Germain de la Coudre

 

No matter how small a place is in France, it always has something different and wonderful to offer the visitor.

Forest Pool to St Germain de Coudre 089

Attractive bridge by motorhome aire

 

We have found another lovely free aire at this pretty village on the D7 slightly north west of La Ferté-Bernard, right by the little stream and pretty bridge with easy access to the shops and restaurants. The aire has a borne for water and electricity, but it is out of order at the moment, maybe because the area is under renovation and they are still laying gravel in the aire, which is by a brand new recreation ground for football, basketball, tennis, etc, as well as a children’s playground. All in pristine condition, very clean and tidy.

 

Forest Pool to St Germain de Coudre 087

Motorhome aire at St Germain de la Coudre by new sports grounds and stream

 

As usual, we went for a walk around the village to get our bearings and we admired the quaint old houses and the stream going under some of them. We wondered if they ever get flooded in heavy rain! Still it is a charming little place with a very good boulangerie, which has won a golden award in the last 2 years and where we’ll get our baguette and cake in the morning.

 

St Germain de la Coudre 002

Quaint old houses and a stream runs under them

 

It’s back to Broglie tomorrow for Beano’s check at the vet’s and Le Crotoy on Thursday.

Mennetou-sur-Cher, Monday 2nd November 2015

Standard
Forest Pool to St Germain de Coudre 061

Pretty medieval Mennetou-sue-Cher with lift bridge on canal

 

After 3 failed attempts at finding a motorhome aire to stop for the day, we finally found something we liked at this pretty little medieval village on the river Cher on the D976, just slightly north west of Vierzon.  The aire is free and has a borne for water and electricity by the fire station right behind us.  It is by the canal and a lift bridge leading to the village, the canal offering a lovely dog walk as well as fishing.

Forest Pool to St Germain de Coudre 082

Motorhome aire by canal

We’ve just been for a stroll in the village, which is very interesting, dating back to the 6th century, when Ingertrude, daughter of Clotaire I, decided to build a monastery.  The village was then fortified during the 13th century, starting in 1212 by Hervé II, Lord of vierzon, who built a fortress with 5 towers, 3 of which still remain today.

Forest Pool to St Germain de Coudre 063

Joan of Arc’s gate at Mennetou-sur-Cher

Forest Pool to St Germain de Coudre 071

Quaint old building in Mennetou-sur-Cher

Forest Pool to St Germain de Coudre 067

Old buildings at Mennetou-sur-Cher

Forest Pool to St Germain de Coudre 068

Artists hard at work

 

We really enjoyed looking at the old walls and buildings, as well as all the flowers and edible plants cultivated all around the village, some even being offered for free, amongst them parsley, basil, rosemary, calendula and sage.  I would have liked to visit the Art Centre and the Beads shop for my crocheted jewellery, but alas! They were both closed.

Forest Pool to St Germain de Coudre 065Giving away edible plants and herbs!

Forest Pool to St Germain de Coudre 064

Lovely and humourous flower display

Forest Pool to St Germain de Coudre 077

Seasonal plants

Forest Pool to St Germain de Coudre 072

Beads shop. Shame it was shut!

 

We had originally planned to stop at the motorhome aire in Valençay, opposite the château, but it was just a car park behind the Tourist Information Office and we didn’t like the look of it, so we continued further north to Selles-sur-Cher.  Unfortunately, the aire here was closed for the winter and we were forced to continue with our search and tried the aire at Langon, just about 3 miles west of here, but this was practically on the main road and it would have been noisy, making it unsuitable for our needs.  So it was 4th time lucky today!!!  Sometimes, you just have to persevere.

Forest Pool to St Germain de Coudre 009

Our base camp at Forest Pool with lodge on the left

 

After Uzerche, we arrived at Moulin de Bret to meet up with Nikki, Julian’s wife, who was looking after their fishing lakes while Julian went fishing in Bordeaux.  We had to phone her in order to find their house and she very kindly drove to Bret to meet us so that we could follow her to her house for a coffee prior to going to the lake itself.  She also led the way to the lake, Forest Pool, as, again, it would have been impossible for us to find it, being as it is in the middle of nowhere about 20 miles south of Limoges, in the Fôret de Fayat, near Château Chervix.

Forest Pool to St Germain de Coudre 014

The lodge and fishing swim from far side of lake

 

The place was absolutely wonderful, like an oasis in the middle of the forest, with a fine lodge with a big kitchen and living area, a shower/toilet room and a bedroom, although we decided to stay in the motorhome as our living quarters and just use the shower and the sink for washing up and the oven to warm things up.  Around the lake itself, there are 3 bivvies set up for prospective customers, but Adonis just used the one closest to the lodge.  This place would be ideal for 3 friends who want to share the cost of a fishing holiday, as the fishing gear is also included when making the booking.

Forest Pool to St Germain de Coudre 019

Adonis and Beano enjoying fishing in the sun

 

The weather was very warm and sunny during the day and it was lovely just to sit by the lake wearing only t-shirts, but it cooled down very quickly after sunset.  It was also very quiet as there was nobody else there most of the time, with only Nikki and a couple of friends coming round to set things up for a Halloween party on Saturday night, which we helped with too.

Forest Pool to St Germain de Coudre 052

Enjoying a drum fire on Halloween night

 

I was surprised to see how many British people have settled in this neck of the woods, as around 30 people turned up for the party, including children, and they all seemed very happy with their  decision to move to France and had no regrets at all.

 

The party was very lively and we had some wonderful French food like chicken soup, Boeuf Bourguignon and Cassoulet prepared by Nikki herself, all accompanied by great music courtesy of Mark, a friend and neighbour of Nikki and Julian’s.  Most of the ladies and children dressed up and I felt I had to join in the spirit of things and had one of the young girls make up my face like a zombie and she did a wonderful job.

 

wpid-img_20151031_183430.jpg

Yours truly turned into a zombie for the night!

 

We went to bed at around 1 am, but the hard-core party goers kept going till 4 am!   I was woken up by Beano wanting to go for a walk at about 8.30 am, so I was glad I had had an ‘early’ night.

 

We left Forest Pool yesterday morning and spent a very relaxing day at Lac de St Pardoux, about 12 miles north of Limoges, to recover from the excesses of the party.

Forest Pool to St Germain de Coudre 057

Peaceful Lac de St Pardoux

 

Tomorrow, we are hoping to get to St Germain de la Coudre in Normandy, south west of Nogent-le-Rotrou.

 

 

 

Uzerche, Corrèze, Tuesday 27th October 2015

Standard
Beautiful old Uzerche

Beautiful old Uzerche

The motorhome aire at Neuillay les Bois was a bit too small and with just one other motorhome and a car parked there, there was hardly any room for us, so we left and tried the one at La Pérouille, but, although it was pretty enough, the parking being on grass, we didn’t feel like taking any chances of being stuck if it rained and decided to try somewhere else again.

Wild camping at Gargilesse Dampierre

Wild camping at Gargilesse Dampierre

Adonis suggested looking at his new app called Park4Night, which showed a nice wild parking space on the river Creuse, so we headed for that and got there just after 12 noon. The place is called Gargilesse Dampierre and very good it was too, making us very glad and relieved to have finally found somewhere suitable for the day and night.

Beano enjoying his new surroundings at Gargilesse Dampierre

Beano enjoying his new peaceful surroundings at Gargilesse Dampierre

It is near the Dam of La Roche au Moine and it is popular with local walkers and picnickers, as there is another larger car park nearby. It is a perfect one-day stop with a lovely dog walk along the river and very quiet in the evening and I think we’ll probably come back here again. There is also a campsite, which seemed to be closed this time of year.

Bridge at Gargilesse Dampierre

Bridge at Gargilesse Dampierre

View from bridge

View from bridge

This morning, we joined the A20 towards Limoges, where we did another big shop at Cora, which turned out to be very reasonably priced, and continued down to Uzerche at junction 44 and then the D920. Again, we were here just after midday and had time to walk Beano on the popular path along the river Vézère and a beer before lunch.

The wonderful motorhome aire at Uzerche

The wonderful motorhome aire at Uzerche

Our parking spot and Vézère river seen from above

Our parking spot and Vézère river seen from above

This is a wonderful free motorhome aire with electric hook-up on a prime location by the river and with easy access to the charming old town. We’ve just been for another walk to re-visit St Pierre’s Church and its 11th century crypt, the oldest crypt in the Limousin. The town itself is very picturesque with its turrets covered in spiky roofs resembling witches’ hats. I simply love this place and the views from the top outside the church are just beautiful.

Views of Uzerche

Views of Uzerche

Uzerche

Uzerche with a typical witch’s hat turret

Admiring the views from high ground

Admiring the views from high ground

The river Vézère at Uzerche

The river Vézère at Uzerche

Eglise St Pierre

Eglise St Pierre

Old door on Eglise St Pierre

Old door on Eglise St Pierre

Insid 11th centure crypt at Eglise St Pierre

Insid 11th centure crypt below Eglise St Pierre

11th century crypt below Eglise St Pierre

11th century crypt below Eglise St Pierre

Strolling around town

Strolling around town

Tomorrow we’ll arrive at our final destination at Moulin de Bret to stay with a friend of Adonis’s from his childhood days in the Forest of Dean and where he’s hoping to do some quality carp fishing.

A pilgrim

A pilgrim

I simply LOVE this

I simply LOVE this

La Ferté Saint-Aubin, Loiret, Sunday 25th October 2015

Standard
Château de La Ferté Saint-Aubin

Château de La Ferté Saint-Aubin

We forgot to put our clocks back one hour last night, so we’ve enjoyed one extra hour of holiday time today! And it really has been a lovely day. We woke up to a sunny, bright and fairly warm morning at Pont de l’Arche and after walking Beano and a visit to the local boulangerie, we were on our way again to St Jean Blanc, just south of Orleans.

Pont de l'Arche view from motorhome aire

Pont de l’Arche view from motorhome aire

On arriving there just after midday and finding it teaming with people and the motorhome aire full of cars, we had to make a quick decision as where to go next and La Ferté Saint-Aubin was the obvious choice, just a few more miles on the same road south, D2020, and we were here by 12.30 pm.

Interesting sculptures near motorhome aire at La Ferté Saint-Aubin

Interesting sculptures near motorhome aire at La Ferté Saint-Aubin

We were very impressed with the location, a wooded park by the river Cosson with a very interesting and original selection of sculptures part of “D’un Bout à l’Autre” (From one end to the other), a joint effort between La Ferté Saint-Aubin and Beachport in south Australia, and it is also very near the Château, which we visited this afternoon. This aire is free and has a borne for water as well as the usual emptying facilities. It is just outside the municipal campsite and has room for 10 vehicles.

D'un bout a l'autre information board

D’un bout a l’autre information board

Interesting and original sculptures part of  D'un Bout à l'Autre project

Interesting and original sculptures part of D’un Bout à l’Autre project

D'un Bout à l'Autre sculpture

D’un Bout à l’Autre sculpture

I loved this exotic looking flower, part of D'un Bout à l'Autre

I loved this exotic looking flower, part of D’un Bout à l’Autre

D'un Bout à l'Autre sculpture

D’un Bout à l’Autre sculpture

D'un Bout à l'Autre sculpture

D’un Bout à l’Autre sculpture

As far as the Château itself, it makes a very interesting and enjoyable visit and we particularly liked the stables, originally built in the second half of the 17th century, the kitchen, where they were doing cooking demonstrations and hands-on activities for children, making the local speciality, honey fairy cakes and, my personal favourite room, the Orangery, with its superb collection of dolls and old toys, which I simply loved. This room can be hired for weddings, receptions and congresses.

Cake making demonstration in the kitchen of the Château de  La Ferté Saint-Aubin

Cake making demonstration in the kitchen of the Château de La Ferté Saint-Aubin

Hands-on experience for the kids

Hands-on experience for the kids

Dolls display in the Orangery

Dolls display in the Orangery

Dolls display at the Orangery

Dolls display at the Orangery

Dolls display at the Orangery

Dolls display at the Orangery

Dolls display at the Orangery

Dolls display at the Orangery

We also liked the park, which covers 80 acres of land, where various traditional games can be played, making it ideal for children and young families.

Waling outside in the gardens of the Château

Waling outside in the park gardens of the Château

Chapel Island in the Château park

Chapel Island in the Château park

The view of the Château from the park

The view of the Château from the park

The drive from home to Calais went without a hitch, except that, once again, the aire at Wissant was full and we had to drive a bit further down to Audinghen, like at the beginning of our summer holiday.

From there, we drove to Pont de l’Arche, where we found that the motorhome aire has now been moved to the other end of the car park, right by the municipal campsite. It is still free, but now there is room for 10 motorhomes and the bays are wider, so it is definitely an improvement.

New grounds for the Motorhome aire at Pont de l'Arche

New grounds for the Motorhome aire at Pont de l’Arche, outside municipal campsite

This morning, I walked to the bakery just a few metres from the aire and, besides the usual baguette, I bought a most delicious 3 chocolates cake, which we thoroughly enjoyed this afternoon.

Delicious 3 chocolate cake bought at Pont de l'Arche patisserie

Delicious 3 chocolate cake bought at Pont de l’Arche patisserie

Tomorrow we only have a short drive to Neuillay les Bois near Châteauroux.

La Fresnaye-sur-Chédouet, Sarthe, 27th August 2015

Standard
Our parking spot at the aire in La Fresnaye-sur-Chédouet by La Forêt de Perseigne

Our parking spot at the aire in La Fresnaye-sur-Chédouet by La Forêt de Perseigne

We made it to Parthenay early on Sunday morning, but, although the motorhome aire looked very good and right by the lake, we didn’t stay, as it was raining, windy and it felt a bit cold, so we decided to carry on driving and ended up in Étang de la Tricherie, just off the D160, about 20 miles north west of La Rochelle and just south east of Les Herbiers, south of Cholet. We were there for midday and soon after the weather improved considerably, so we spent a very warm sunny afternoon by the lake.

Enjoying a walk around the Étang de la Tricherie

Enjoying a walk around the Étang de la Tricherie

Being a Sunday, the area around the lake was buzzing with families picnicking, fishing, swimming or having fun on paddling boats. Adonis enjoyed a spot of fishing and Beano and I a long walk all the way around the lake. We finished this fine day with a BBQ courtesy of Adonis and first and last of the summer holiday, but we must definitely do this more often. Come to think of it, it’s the first time ever that Adonis has cooked in all the 6 years of our motorhoming life!

Plenty of water activities for the whole family at Étang de la Tricherie

Plenty of water activities for the whole family at Étang de la Tricherie

The aire at the Étang de la Tricherie is free and very large, with spaces on grass and hard standing, the services being by the shops, amenities and restaurants.

Motorhome aie at Étang de la Tricherie

Motorhome aie at Étang de la Tricherie

Monday morning started wet again and we intended to stop for the day at the aire at Brissac-Quincé, just south of Angers. We were there early enough to go for a walk around the lovely gardens of the Château during a break in the rain. The Château de Brissac is the tallest castle in France, boasting 7 floors, and it is quite impressive from the outside, but we just fancied a stroll outside and didn’t do the full visit, but no doubt we’ll be back, as the motorhome aire in town was quite adequate and free.

I simply loved this ivy-covered house at Brissac-Quincé

I simply loved this ivy-covered house at Brissac-Quincé

The impressive Château de Brissac

The impressive Château de Brissac

DSC_0225 (1)

A gentle stroll around the gardens of Château de Brissac

A gentle stroll around the gardens of Château de Brissac

After our visit to the château’s gardens we continued a little bit further north west to spend the rest of the day at the lovely aire at Bouchemaine in the Maine-et-Loire Department. We were surprised to see how much the fee has increased since we were here last, jumping up a whopping 5, costing now a total of €13.50 to include electricity, water and showers. Not too bad, I suppose, when you consider we paid €26 for the Sosta at La Villa/Stern in Italy back in July. Here, we just enjoyed the long walks along the rivers Maine and Loire and made the most of the showers, although the water was only lukewarm when I had mine and I wished I had taken it in the van instead, where the water gets really hot.

Wonderful (if pricey) motorhome aire at Bouchemaine

Wonderful (if pricey) motorhome aire at Bouchemaine

Bouchemaine

Bouchemaine

After Bouchemaine we intended to stop at the municipal campsite at Sablé-sur-Sarthe, but the access road the SatNav took us on was too narrow and too busy and we couldn’t get through, being forced to get out of town again. A bit annoyed by this, we continued on the A11 and A28 to Beaumont-sur-Sarthe, at junction 21 north of Le Mans, and stopped at the municipal campsite there instead. We came here back in 2012 and had really liked it and it has changed little since, except that there is now a coffee shop with a bread and pastries service, a large TV and book borrowing service at one end of the excellent shower and washing facilities block, which has also got access for the disabled.

Disabled access to wonderful shower and washing facilities block at Beaumont-sur-Sarthe campsite

Disabled access to wonderful shower and washing facilities block at Beaumont-sur-Sarthe campsite

The weather here was a bit mixed with showers and sunny spells, but we managed to have lunch outside and Adonis enjoyed some fishing, culminating with a prime catch of a 34lb carp!

We stayed here 2 nights, but it didn’t stop raining last night and it was still pouring down this morning and by 11 am we had had enough and decided to leave. The bill came up to €32.32 for the 2 nights, which is quite reasonable considering the idyllic location.

Beautmont-sur-Sarthe

Beautmont-sur-Sarthe

We only drove for a mere 40 minutes to about 5 miles east of Alançon, where we’ve found this little aire by the Forêt de Perseigne, which is absolutely lovely. It’s been raining most of the day, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying a long walk with Beano through the forest, as the tall and mature trees made perfect umbrellas!

Perfect for walks rain or shine, Forêt de Perseigne

Perfect for walks rain or shine, Forêt de Perseigne

It’s only been 15ºC outside today, so for the first time ever we’ve put the heating on in the Hymer and I’m very pleased to report that it works perfectly well and it’s very efficient and quick.

Due to this wet and cold weather, we’ll be having that tin of Cassoulet that’s been on the shelf ever since we left home 2 months ago. Only 5 days left of this holiday and we have already made an appointment for Beano’s Pet Passport at the vet in Broglie. It really feels now like our long summer holiday is coming to an end. Where did the time go and were we really that hot in Italy and Croatia?

Niort, Deux Sèvres, Saturday 22nd August 2015

Standard
Original Dragon sculpture in central Niort

Original Dragon sculpture in central Niort

Bourdeilles (Dordogne Department) was absolutely lovely: a little medieval town with an impressive château dating back to the 14th century still preserving its medieval gardens, growing all kinds of medicinal herbs and other edible plants like rhubarb, courgettes, etc and with access to some spooky caves which we entered to accompany a couple of little girls who asked me very kindly and sweetly if I could go in with them. Luckily, they had a torch on their phone and we were able to see into the depths of these ‘caverns’. I was surprised to see that there were blankets in the ground in a couple of them, so it looks like they are still being used!

Medieval Bourdeilles on the river Dronne

Medieval Bourdeilles on the river Dronne

View of river and town from bridge

View of river and town from bridge

Enigmatic rock carvings on Château walls

Enigmatic rock carvings on Château walls

Enjoying the views in Bourdeilles

Enjoying the views in Bourdeilles, looking down on Medieval Gardens

Medieval Gardens at Bourdeilles Château

Medieval Gardens at Bourdeilles Château

About to enter caves in Medieval Gardens

About to enter caves in Medieval Gardens.  Do you dare?

Exploring the caves using a mobile phone light!

Exploring the spooky caves using a mobile phone light!

Bourdeilles from a bit further up the river in afternoon light

Bourdeilles from a bit further up the river in afternoon light

We stayed at the motorhome aire by the Municipal swimming pool, right by the river Dronne, with easy access to the town over the quaint ancient bridge and with lovely views of the château and town. Nobody came round to collect the 4.50 daily fee, maybe because we were not exactly in the official aire, which was a few metres away on grass or because it was Sunday. Either way, we spent the night for free at this most charming of places in the Périgord.

Motorhome aire seen from bridge expanding river Dronne

Motorhome aire seen from bridge expanding river Dronne

View of Bourdeilles from motorhome aire

View of Bourdeilles from motorhome aire

On Monday, we drove to the Municipal campsite of La Fontaine du Pre St Jean at Dompierre-sur-Charente, near Cognac, as we really like it there, and we booked for 5 days, which came to a grand total of ₤54.70!  We usually enjoy this site for its peace and quiet, easy access to the river for swimming, fishing for Adonis, the Bac crossing the river and long walks along the Charente for Beano, but this year the usual tranquillity of the place was shattered by a group of young teenagers and children who came to the picnic area by river just outside the camping in the early afternoon and stayed till the evening, being rather too loud for our liking and accompanied by a dog that would not stop barking. This certainly was the case on our last night, Friday, when the rowdy group arrived at around 2.30 pm, waking us up from our siesta, and they were still there 5 hours later, with an almost constant bark from the wretched dog. We felt annoyed about this, as we were paying customers and they weren’t, and they really spoilt it for everyone, so much so that we were actually glad to leave in the morning. Shame!

The peaceful Municipal Camping of La Fontaine du Pre St Jean at Dompierre-sur-Charente

The peaceful Municipal Camping of La Fontaine du Pre St Jean at Dompierre-sur-Charente

The picnic area by the Charente river outside campsite

The picnic area by the Charente river outside campsite

The 'bac' providing a river crossing service during the summer months

The ‘bac’ providing a river crossing service during the summer months

I couldn't resist this happy sunflower by the river Charente

I couldn’t resist this happy sunflower by the river Charente

After our shopping in Leclerc this morning, we carried on north on the free A10 to Niort and were very glad to find a couple of available pitches at this wonderful motorhome aire, attractively separated by old stone walls and hedges for privacy and so near the city centre over the bridges: a real bargain for ₤7.50 a night, to include electricity and water. The fee is collected by guardian in the evening.

Our pitch at Motorhome aire at Niort, with hedges and stone walls separating parking bays

Our pitch at Motorhome aire at Niort, with hedges and stone walls separating parking bays

I really enjoyed my walk with Beano in the park along the river Sèvre Niortaise by the aire while Adonis cycled 5km out of town to get some fishing bait. It is a very attractive leisure area for families with a well equipped children’s playground, fitness course and pony rides.

Niort seen from park

Quaint Niort 

After Beano’s walk and Adonis’s cycle ride, we walked into town just to look around and cool down with a beer at one of the many bars at the Esplanade du Jardin de la Brèche.

The Esplanade du Jardin de la Brèche in N

The Esplanade du Jardin de la Brèche in Niort

Niort really is a very charming city, with a mixture of old and new and even the shabby-looking old houses only seem to add to the overall charm of the place, with a great feeling of space and laid-back attitude. Les Halles de Niort Market near the Donjon (or Château de Niort) are open every day except Mondays, offering all kinds of specialities of the region and are worth a visit. We didn’t go inside the Donjon this time, as it was getting late, but it is something I would like to do on our next visit.

The Donjon de Niort

The Donjon de Niort

We also discovered on our way back to the aire an Indian restaurant and thought it would be a good idea to try it, but then Adonis read a good review of another one, The Taj Mahal, also very close to the aire, and we decided to go there instead, but, although the starters were very good (a selection of Samosas, Onion Bhajis, prawn puri, etc) the main courses did not quite hit the mark and they were definitely not a patch on what we are used to at home in England. Nevertheless, it was still a good evening out and the service was courteous and efficient and the prices reasonable.

Shabby façades in Niort only add to the charm of the city

Shabby façades in Niort only add to the charm of the city

Water mill near the motorhome aire

Water mill near the motorhome aire

Tomorrow, we are heading north to Parthenay, only 45 minutes away!