Winter Tour 2018/19 Part 1

Setting off on the RN from home. Yellow Jackets in window “just in case”

I am taking a new approach to documenting our travels for this trip. Trying to write things up in full just makes me get behind and uploading all of the photos gets me in a pickle with our bandwidth. So here’s what I plan to do this winter:

As and when we have a power hookup and I can fit the time in, I will bring us up to speed quickly on the journey so far. There will be a Featured Image representative of the journey, perhaps a couple more images if that seems appropriate and when I am using site WiFi. When we get home, I will upload one or more Gallery posts and do my best to caption with any remaining memories at that stage.

There may, or may not, be an Instagram connection to keep things topical whilst mainly offline but I have to work on that aspect since discovering that my plugin does not play nicely and only shows the most recent of uploads. Research on a better plugin continues.

The Journey from  home until Spain

We departed on Wednesday 21st November 2018.

The plan was to mosey on down to Arcachon, stay there for three nights and then move on down to Spain, making the border crossing on Sunday when the French roads are quiet. News of the Gilets Jaunes and their behaviour in Bordeaux led us to change our plans at the last minute. We decided to take the D roads, avoiding Bordeaux.

We tucked our legally-required high-vis jackets in the window, hoping that any protestors at  road blocks would think that we are sympathetic to their cause and therefore treat us kindly…

Day 1: to Brantôme, 133 Km.

Brantôme

We left at 1pm, packing Nell the dog, Chloé the cat and Dusty the kitten into the van along with our goods and chattels. Good roads and fair weather most of the way, clouding over just as we reached Brantôme. We did have to stop after ten minutes, when Chloé escaped her carrier.

Brantôme offers a large riverside Motorhome Aire (100 pitches), with payment barrier. 6€ plus tax. Parking on grass and sand. Pretty level. Adjacent to a park area and a short walk into town Motorhome servicing point is outside the barrier. Waste free, water 2€ for 10 minutes. We found ourselves with just one other van for company.

A very attractive and interesting town, though mostly closed on a winter Wednesday. Would like to return when things are open. There are 4 Michelin listed restaurants, two of them have a star. An excellent store encompasses general grocery (SPAR) plus high class epicerie, boucherie, traiteur, cave, fromagerie and bread.

Day 2: to Monbazillac, 90 Km (223 Km total)

Possibly one of the very best France Passion stops

Good roads again, weather a little grey and damp, improving as we reached our destination.

We stayed at the France Passion Site at Domaine de Lande (Les Avinturiers) in Monbazillac, where the lovely Camus family have set up a nice Aire with services (no EHU).

This is a stop that we used last year and will use again. Tastings at 6pm. Now with bread delivery at 08:30. Free waste and water, chemical disposal, drive-over point.

There are waymarked walks around this lovely peaceful and tidy village, with views across Bergerac. A restaurant and a hairdresser are available, and a Sunday Market in season. The Maison de Tourisme sells wines from the local domaines. The local Chateau is open for tours and tastings.

The “Heritage” Monbazillac is highly recommended, as are the Red and the White Passarillé wines. We came away with ten bottles, and an eleventh complimentary bottle.

Day 3: to Zarautz, 346 Km (569 Km total)

Labastide d’Armagnac. We ate at the Bistro at the right of the image

We were going to stop at another France Passion stop, near Labastide d’Armagnac but concerns about Saturday’s protest led us to make the long leg direct to Spain and we headed straight to familiar ground at Gran Camping Zarautz, where we stayed last winter when travelling in both directions.

We parked temporarily in the Motorhome Aire at Labastide  long enough to know that we would not care to stay overnight. It is a place that is very sadly unkept and neglected. The village is however, charming and there we had a good lunch of Galette before moving on.

Only one slight hiccup with the SatNav, followed by a Motorway U-turn and we were in Zarautz by tea time, staying three nights (Fri/Sat/Sun)

Zarautz

Gran Camping Zarautz is situated conveniently close to the motorway, is open all year, and offers ACSI rates. The staff are all very friendly and speak sufficient English to make life easy. The on-site Sidereria/restaurant offers good simple Basque fare with a midweek Menu del Dia for 11€ (including wine or cider), the weekend Menu is 19€. They have a wood-fired grill and their own (bottled) beer available (very good it is too!)

A well-stocked shop and good laundry facilities supplement the excellent toilet/shower block to make this an all-round good site. Beware though, the 450 step descent to the beach and town, and the return climb.

Les Gilets Jaunes

Taking the back roads did not avoid the protests entirely and we met groups of protesters on each day as we travelled south. Mainly they were gathered at roundabouts serving the major routes, Largely they were inactive, just maintaining a presence. We were stopped only twice, for a couple of minutes each time. The second stop resulted in a nice chat with one of the protestors who apparently also has a motorhome. 

All of the protests that we met were conducted in a peaceful and civil manner. Where traffic was being stopped it was done in an intelligent manner, with traffic control in place and delays kept to a minimum. The protestors and the Gendarmerie appeared to accommodate each other in civil fashion. At almost every protest point, we were given cheerful waves and smiles.

We were lucky. Not all travellers were so.

Happy to be in Spain, though, and away from potential flare ups.

Flitting

This blog is flying south for the winter.

The packing of the van has begun, subject as ever to great indecision and panic about which clothes to take and what kitchen equipment is needed.

The one item that was not questioned is this one:

A little light entertainment

It will help to pass those long evenings until the Pablo’s ATH begins. We have purchased vol 2 of these puzzles but think that one hefty book should see us okay for this trip and, after all, I am supposed to be keeping the payload down. If I leave the second book behind I can take another jumper… Will we need jumpers? Not if last winter’s weather is anything to go by, at least not after the snow and the rain ran out. I think we need to pack for three seasons. 

We shall be heading to known territory initially and hope to be in Arcachon the day after leaving home. If I remember correctly, it was warm and sunny in Arcachon last year and we were eating ice cream on the prom.

Night one will be on an Aire somewhere between here and the coast.

See you soon.

Adriers August 1st – 3rd

We had our first outing to try out the Hymer, keeping close to home in case of problems. 

The site details are here together with many photographs.

We stayed only two nights but will be happy to return in the future, just when the weather is not so hot.

A few snags were evident:

  • the catch on the overbed roof vent is broken
  • the grey waste decided to leak all over the aire
  • the bathroom door decided to lock me in 

Apart from these niggles,  the van is pleasing us. The over cab bed is surprisingly comfortable and the lounge seating area is very much so. The table, which I had initially liked for its size and sturdiness, is as big  pain as other B524 owners have mentioned. It makes getting in and out of the bench seats very difficult and because it doesn’t fold flat it cannot be stowed out of the way.

I particularly enjoyed the good fly screens on the windows and life was more comfortable than at home, with so many flies annoying us.

We attempted no cooking, so reserve judgement on the kitchen facilities. We were however impressed that the fridge kept up, with internal temperatures in the van exceeding 35°C and the van  not parked completely level. Also impressive was that internal temperatures remained tolerable  despite the heat outside. The breeze moving through the large windows was a great help but we think that there must also be excellent insulation.

As for Adriers – the presence of a leisure lake with fishing and swimming, plus a bar in the town doing a 4 course Menu de Jour with wine for €12, all topped off with many miles of good walking… We will be back for sure.

Our next anticipated trip will take us a little further afield, to the far side of Poitiers. A vineyard stay, a brewery trip and a good meal should all add up to an excellent break. Before we go we will hpe to fix some of  the snags with the van and civilise Cat, such that she may join us.

Have van, can travel

Today’s earworm is “A walk in the Black Forest”.  Why? Well, I shall leave that to the reader’s imagination.

In the meantime, Heidi Hymer is taking us on our first trip tomorrow, all being well. We have some doubt as to the weather and if it will be too hot for comfort and safety. The French meteorology people have put out a health hazard warning, with our local temperature predicted to be rising close to forty degrees by the weekend. 

Luckily, we are planning to stay close to home. Having found a nice quiet Aire about ten minutes away we think it is ideally placed for our first trial. If anything goes wrong we can just come home, even if it means walking…

We have a Hymer

For those who have requested pictures

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The new-to-us Hymer came home on Friday last, after the long trip home from Pierrelaye on the northern outskirts of Paris.  Mr Snail has since been spending time looking for snags and fixing them. We began to pack but the heat has defeated us.

Yesterday we went to buy gas bottles. 

We think that we may go off  for one or two nights very soon, perhaps just up the road to Adriers, where we have discovered a little known Aire de Campingcar. If we forget to pack anything it’s only ten minutes home to come and pick whatever up.

We have a new van mascot:

Dusty

As for the van… tentatively named Heidi Hymer. Is that far too camp?

He’s gone

Vincent has now been sold and returned to the UK.

Tomorrow the house becomes ours. We have some more French red tape to deal with after that and then will be free to begin viewing potential replacement motorhomes. Hopefully we will soon have news of a new snail shell and plans for trips around France. We really want to get off to somewhere new in the Autumn – possibly Champagne.

If you have a nice French-plated LHD moho currently for sale in France, why not let us know what you have on offer. We might be able to get together.

As for updating the blog, we do now have at least a dining table and chairs to sit at the table. So the laptop can come out and I can do some work at last. Things will be even better once the desk arrives. Connection and bandwidth remain issues for the time being.