August, 6-9th, 2019

Deeply disappointed by our early return from the Dordogne and buoyed up by slightly cooler weather we effected our plan to go out “little and often” in an attempt to train the cats for living in the new van.

Melle, Fontaine de Villiers

Trip the 2nd for Van Nessa.

GPS Coordinates : 46.231778  -0.143972

https://campingcarpark.com/en/shop/parking-areas/camping-de-village-area-of-melle/

Another former Municipal campsite, smaller than the one at Tauriac and less formally arranged. Sanitaires again – just one toilet and one shower, and again rather basic. They don’t look very nice and could do with an upgrade but that shower performed fantastically well, with plenty of hot water on tap.

We chose this site for the same reasons that we chose the last one – good shade from mature trees and a safe area in case of cat-escape.

The weather being cooler and the cats being less hyper, we managed to stop out for our planned three nights. Melle offered plenty to keep us occupied and although I took many photographs on our wanderings I actually failed to find the time to take photos of the site, sorry.

An extensive network of footpaths can be accessed directly off the site. Much of the walking forms part of an Arboretum, with 1,800 different types of trees and 300 different roses. Three National Collections are held. There is an additional Forest Arboretum opening off the Discovery path, and a cycle route on the former railway extends to almost 15 km (linear route). Some walking routes are entirely off-road but others cross parts of the town

In the town there are three lovely Romanesque churches to visit, a market hall, a motorbike museum, and some historic silver mines to see. Good eating possibilities, with two Michelin-recommended establishments within half an hour’s stroll of the aire and plenty of other eateries available. A particularly lovely Lavoir is sited right by the aire. Children’s play area faces the site. Friday market.

The Verdict

I am going to give this one 4 stars also, mainly based on its fit with our preferred lifestyle.

We enjoyed our stay and plan to return in the future.

Van Nessa

We ate out twice and made a salad on the other evening, so cooking facilities remain untested.

Having twice been to a site with showers, the bathroom remained untested also (but see forthcoming post…)

The bed remains comfortable and we slept transversely again.

The Cats

Dusty and Chloé behaved better than we might have expected. Dusty was a bit rowdy on the journey there, Chloé elected to travel on the bench seat and snooze her way through the journey.

Dusty was less inclined to sit outside this time, due possibly to this site having become quite busy whilst we were there – he’s nervous of other people and vehicles. I put him out on a line but he chose to return inside.

I also tried Chloé on a line but she got in a bit of a guddle with the washing up bowl, scared herself and managed to back out of her escape-proof jacket. Fortunately she did not run off but went up on the axle somewhere similar and when she emerged, she also chose to go back inside the van.

Overall I believe that she is now pretty much bomb-proof in this respect, seeing the van as her safe place. We have concluded that she learned her lesson in Viviers and is now minded to stay close to home. We also believe that her stopping out for three nights was probably not of her own choosing.

Those may be filed under “famous last words” I expect.

Being on mains hook-up we plugged in a Feliway diffuser and nights were fairly calm. Dusty was far quieter on the drive home, though a long way from actually being silent. Chloé popped up into the over -parcel shelf and didn’t come out until we were parked back at home.

Overall I am leaning towards finding a tethering solution for travelling with Dusty in preference to putting him in a carrier. He’s far too active to allow him to be loose when we are driving but may complain less if not boxed. Mr Snail finds driving along to a cat’s chorus to be very stressful.

Our next task on the van will therefore be to fit an appropriate fixing point for the cat’s harness.

July 23rd 2019

Trip the 1st

It was mid-canicule and powerfully hot at home so Mr Snail thought now the new van had arrived, the thing to do would be to go in search of cooler weather. He found some, down in the Dordogne and we packed up and took off .

We had chosen a CCP aire on an ex-municipal campsite that had good tree cover for shade and was away from roads (thank you, Nevilley) in case of cat escape.

Tauriac, Le Mas de la Croux

A nicely tended former Municipal Campsite. The trees are mature, as are the privacy hedges between pitches. The pitches themselves are spacious and unexpectedly feature flat concrete pads for parking.

A Plan d’Eau adjacent to the site features a small beach, supervised swimming (in season and in fixed hours) children’s play area, crazy golf and a bar/restaurant. Naturally, some noise is generated until late hours when the weather is clement.

The site is also bordered by a shallow and slow-running arm of the River Dordogne. There are smaller, unhedged pitches on concrete pads overlooking the river, lightly shaded by trees.

A rarity for motorhome aires – there are Sanitaires. Somewhat basic but better than no facilities at all. These are seasonal. Also the aire is shared with tenters and tuggers in high season.

There is no commerce in the village other than at the Guinguette but shops may be found at the next village, about a mile away. These remain untested by ourselves.

The site is very pleasant and we might have stayed there quite happily (and will probably return sometime) but the weather, although 7 degrees cooler than at home, remained too hot to be at all comfortable.

https://www.google.fr/maps/@44.9057863,1.7727134,17z

Cats escaped.

Tempers frayed.

It was too hot to do anything other than to sit outside with a cooling fan running to generate some breeze – which is why I have no photographs to share.

We packed up early the following morning and fled home to our stone-flagged floors and air conditioning units.

The Verdict

Taking this under consideration as an Aire rather than as a Campsite, I think that we might rate it as a 4 star stop. Bear in mind that we did not explore the area at all, for fear of expiring from heat exhaustion.

Van Nessa

Performed well. We had a comfortable ride of three hours there, and thoroughly appreciated her efficient cab cooling especially when we encountered roadworks in Limoges en route.

It is the season for roadworks in France, Deviations and Routes Barees abound.

We did not cook, only prepared a salad.

The bed proved to be capacious and comfortable – we slept in a transverse configuration.

So far we are having trouble in adjusting to the more cramped conditions.

The Cats

Importantly, we had failed to register how much more difficult it would be to deal with cats when we have a wide sliding door rather than a narrow hinged one.

Dusty seems quite happy to be attached to a line and to sit under the van in the shade, watching the birds.

Chloé popped outside for a look but fundamentally prefers being inside. Not a good choice in that extreme heat.

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.

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.

Snail Spaces: Camping de la Maye (Caravan Site)

A peaceful caravan site on the edge of Rue, conveniently located opposite a Carrefour supermarket and a short stroll into town. Rue is another pretty town, though not in the same league as nearby Montreuil.

The site is ACSI approved and a member of the ACSI Camping Card discount scheme. Touring pitches are interspersed between static caravans and are on grass, which is not particularly level or smooth but are pleasantly screened by hedges.

The whole site has an air of gentle neglect, with the grass being quite lengthy and the hedges not in the least manicured. This is not necessarily a bad thing in my book… so long as the important facilities are in good shape.

Electricity is 6amp. We paid 30 Euros after discount for two nights with a dog plus a 3 Euro Tourist Tax.

The facilities block looks smart enough at an initial glance  but a broken skylight and damaged floor in the dishwashing area might be taken as hinting to a general lack of upkeep.

There are separate Male and Female facilities, with special provision for Disabled and Babies. External dishwashing facilities and a laundry room with one washer and one dryer. Both are sturdy high capacity machines. A wash is 5 Euros, with detergent supplied and a dry cycle costs 4 Euros. My washing took 36 minutes. The dryer gave more than the 30 minutes that we were told when we enquired. I think perhaps more like 45 minutes. Sufficient to dry a king size flannelette duvet cover with two pillowcases and some othe ritems. really dry. Snuff dry. My best ever camp site drying experience in fact, so perhaps not as expensive as it at first seemed to be.

Showers are push button delivery. The water was just about hot enough. The shower trays are sunken within the cubicle but there is no curtain to protect clothes and shoes from wetting, just a narrow screen which offers a shelf for toiletries. The floor became very wet and with nowhere to sit down, it was impossible to dress without getting trousers soggy,

The toilets are of a seatless type and somewhat off-putting to an English bottom. Toilet paper is not provided so be sure to take your own supplies. The toilets themselves were badly stained and not at all pleasant to those of  us used to squeaky clean club sites.

Dogs on lead on site but there is a green lane close by where we could exercise Nell off the lead. In town there is a green avenue by the Lycee where she could also have a good play.

Last Visited: September 2017 (unlikely to return)

 

Snail Spaces: Montreuil-sur-Mer (Aire)

An 8-pitch purpose built Aire with hard standing and attractive planting is situated just outside the town wall in a quiet residential area and adjacent to the car park that supplies the Motorhome servicing via a single borne and a superloo.  The car park was previously the Aire and now acts as an overflow area as the location is an extremely popular one. There were over two dozen vehicles in total on our first night.

 

the overflow on Saturday morning

The car park does double duty as the school bus station and there are large and clear signs prohibiting Motorhomes in the  car park between 16:00 and 18:00 hours and at lunchtime on Wednesdays.

They mean this!

It is easy to see why there is a prohibition, there are large numbers of children milling around and perhaps 8 buses using the space, Yet so many drivers seem to find themselves immune to the notice.

On both days that we were on the Aire we saw the local Gendarme turning vans off the car park. Where drivers were not at home, tickets were issued.

The Aire is a short stroll from the main square in town, where Bars, Boulangeries, Charcuteries etc. abound. There is a Carrefour Contact store and a wonderful Fromagerie. We found a Launderette within lugging distance and a lovely Salon du Thè specialising in marvellous patisserie.  There is a Saturday market in the square and this also applies pressure to the overflow parking area.

I could happily have stayed forever but the Aire is restricted to 48 hours parking.

Free but drinking water costs 2 Euros.

Last visited September 207