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:
As for the van… tentatively named Heidi Hymer. Is that far too camp?
Yes, I am doing remarkably badly at the blog catchup thing but do not believe that I have no intention of filling the gaps. I just need time and space.
We have reached Airvault, apparently at the same time as Spring, and are staying on a caravan site just outside the town. Nell is very happy here as there is ample off-the-lead walking for her and this in turn makes us happy too. Walks are a more pleasant task when the dog can run freely.
We are at Camping de Courte Vallèe, a former municipal site now owned by an English couple. The municipal leisure facilities here are a change from the usual swimming pool and football pitch neighbours. No, here we have a country park! Just out of the gate, a little way down a traffic free lane, and over the river and hey presto, doggy heaven.
After Nell’s morning walk today we ventured into town for lunch. It was raining but I took the camera anyway. Here are a few of the results.
Click any image for a larger view. Once viewed large try the PREVIOUS IMAGE arrow on the right of the screen to navigate to the next image in large size. Crazy, I know, but it works.
Airvault is quite hilly. Halfway to to the town centre and we were at the same height as the church belfry
This was where we had planned to have lunch – at a Creperie in the old chateau. It was, of course, very firmly closed
Not the church architecture that I expected, having seen the belfry and spire
The artisitc graffiti appears quite frequently. Anothe rhorse can be seen on a building a few metres from the camp site
I fell head over heels with this house
The country park
We move on to Montmorillon tomorrow and then back to Lathus for a while. There is no hookup at Lathus so the laptop will stay in the cupboard – no updates expected whilst we are there. Instagram is the best to be expected.
We stayed on the motorhome aire by the park just outside the old town walls. the park was extensive and wooded, providing Nell with some wonderful walking.
Zamora was a wonderful town in which to wander the narrow and characterful streets. Many eateries, several fine wine shops and delicatessens selling Jamon and other good stuff.
A very Catholic and very religious town known especially for its Holy Week celebrations.
Notable for its 2 Cathedrals, 24 Romanesque churches, the many storks nesting in the town and for public art… formal and informal. Sadly much willful desecration of beautiful old buildings with indiscriminate graffiti “tagging”.
Click the images for a larger view.
One of the many ornate and beautiful properties in the town… “wedding cake” buildings
Double decker storks
Like Liverpool, they have one to spare
Well worth the visit.
Image navigation doesn’t seem to be working well: here’s the Slideshow version
Last week we had arrived at Arcachon, where we stayed for three nights. It was a very pleasant campsite, with fair to middling sanitaires. There were four washing machines and two dryers so by the time that we left, everything in the van was squeaky clean.
Direct access into the forest meant that Nell was more than happy with her particular lot.
As for ourselves, we walked into town a couple of times and found plenty to occupy us, though the proposed celebratory dinner morphed into crèpes for lunch.
We’re going where?!
Tree in the park
Boules in the Parc Mauresque
The view of the town from the top of the observatory
l’observatoire de Sainte Cécile at Arcachon
Red bench in the park
Enjoying t he late November sun
Arcachon is a pleasant and quite upmarket seaside town with plenty of sandy beach. The weather was such that there were people out on the sands and we even sat on the front eating ice cream one day, watching the carousel turning in the sun.
The carousel filled me with instant joy the moment that I saw it. Even from a distance I could tell that it was a genuine old one and as we came closer and heard the organ music I do believe that I began to squeee. I even attempted to capture a video in order to share the full effect. Sadly, it failed to pick up the music.
The Parc Mauresque completely captured me and I was happy to stroll through more than once. It was fantastic to see the French out and about and using the park in an enthusiastic way that we tend not to see in the UK. There were many games of boules in progress on both afternoons that we passed trough, and quite a few players eschewed the formal squares in order to play in the sunshine on the park pathways. This made negotiating a route quite challenging at times. The young people were in evidence on half day Wednesday too, some of them practising with their skate boards. All very charming.
I had discovered that the town sported a bridge construction and an observation tower, both of which had engaged the hand of Gustave Eiffel in his early career. It is said that his work on the observation tower informed the later work on his better known engineering work in Paris.
Anyway, it was a glorious day when we came to it, far more clear than the previous day had been and I was minded to be brave. I actually climbed to the top despite the wobble and even managed to release my hands from the railings at the top in order to take photographs! I felt very pleased with myself and the view was certainly worth the effort.
By the time that we left Arcachon, the weather had warmed up somewhat and the overnight frosts had passed.
Our next stop was at a beautiful lakeside aire at Gastes, where we stayed for two nights after stopping in Biscarosse first to collect our package. We also had a Chinese lunch…
A garden feature
At the Chinese Restaurant
Scarecrow in one of the bio-diversity areas
On the lake
The aire lies next to a marina and a cycle path runs by, we were not short of walking for Nell. The village is small and what facilities it could boast were closed for the season, sadly. A Friday evening market consisted of one fruit and veg van and a mobile pizzeria.
By the campsite at Castets
After Gastes came Castets, where we are now on our third night. The walking here is not so good but there is a space by the river that borders the site. A cycle route is about half an hour’s walk away. The small town boasts a cinema and a bar and also a rather pleasant restaurant, Les Forges, where we had dinner on Saturday evening.
That’s all from France for now. Tomorrow we hit the motorway and go take a look at Spain to see if we like it.
We find ourselves in Arcachon tonight. That’s on the coast just SW of Bordeaux city.
A parcel is winging its way to us at Biscarosse and we must wait for it to arrive. Having got ahead of ourselves that means that we have several nights to fill in. The campsite at Arcachon is likely to fit the bill, there are places to eat, things to do and see, and forest to walk. Best of all, the washing machines are functioning. Actually, even better than that, there is a cat to cuddle. No toilet seats, though, but one cannot have everything.
The house sale completed today and we just logged on to admire the numbers in our bank account but they aren’t there yet,
Between leaving Le Bilos and arriving here, we stopped off at Pilat to see the dune. “Seeing” apparently meant “climbing”. All I can say is that if it had been the desert I would just have lain down and died.
I bought a hat from one of the tourist tat stalls at the dune. Crazy, I know. Having given away all of my hand-knitted hats, and having brought just one with me, I find that it has felted and shrunk. I could have knitted a new one as I do have some yarn with me but there’s nothing to beat instant gratification and red angora, is there?
Some scenes from today:
We’re going up there!
On our walk
Seen en route
At le Bilos
At the dune. Note the man not toiling up the sands. Those two girls at the front were lugging roller blades and crash hats up the dune so heaven only knows what they were going to do
In the forest
on the dune
In the forest. Now identified as Arbutus and edible so may pick some tomorrw
On the dune
Tomorrow we will go look at the town, gaze at the ocean, and perhaps find somewhere for a celebration dinner. Oh, and I will do the laundry.
So much to catch up on now that I wonder if can really be done or if I should even be trying. I am working very hard to have at least a quick view of our lives inserted daily via Instagram and I do hope that it is enough, not only for our readers but for ourselves. I am afraid of forgetting and really did hope to have a full journal here. Things are just not working out that way, I am afraid.
Au Revoir to Rochefort
So, last time we caught up, we were apparently on the banks of La Loire… a whole calendar month ago. Today we are in Gascony (or almost) on a forest campsite and working our way back to the coast after visiting a whole host of places:
We went from Rochefort sur Loire just a little way along the river to a riverside car park in a small village, St-Clément-des-Leveés and walked along the long distance riverside footpath and that was all very lovely.
Evening sun reflected off the Loire at St-Clément-des-Leveés
Then came Longué-Jumelles, which was not so very nice but we did eat some very pretty food.
Very pretty food
After that we had four wonderful nights at Saumur on a very nice campsite on an island in the middle of the Loire, We had a wonderful “Chinese” meal though not a Moroccan one nor a Michelin starred dinner but we did buy gorgeous cakes and succumbed to our first chocolatier. There were pink umbrellas and feral kittens and lost of blue skies and sunshine.
Twisted spire, not in Chesterfield
The chateau at Saumur
Umbrellas in Saumur
Fish in the Loire
The chateau at Saumur
On leaving Saumur we went a little touristy and visited a mushroom-growing cave.
The aire we were to stop at had gone and the car park bore “No overnighting” signs so instead of staying at Montsoreau we had to move on, we went to Villandry.
The Loire at Montsoreau
Villandry provided a fairly sterile environment and we were soon away on our travels again, this time to land on a France Passion site at Vouvray, at Domaine du Clos de l’Epinay. We slept within the walls of the Clos and bought some very nice wine after a friendly, educational and generous tasting,
Not just vines in the Clos…
Not just vines in the Clos…
Returning to the banks of the Loire, we moved on to Amboise and another of the Loire island campsites. We visited Leonardo da Vinci’s final home but not his resting place and we bought delightful goodies from an upmarket Patisserie but failed to bump into Mick Jagger.
Leo lolling by La Loire
In Leonardo’s Studio
In Leonardo’s garden
In Leonardo’s garden
In Leonardo’s garden
Montrichard was next on our itinerary and at this moment I am struggling to recall what that was like or what we did. Ah, perhaps because the significant portion of our day en route was spent at the Chateau at Chenonceau. Looking back at Lightroom, I find that Montrichard offered us a lovely Aire by the side of the river (Cher, I believe) and a riverside walk into a nice enough town.
Montrèsor the next day offered very basic facilities but the town was really lovely, though the riverside footpath was closed. We had some sensational galettes and crèpes at Barapom and a noisy evening due to Trick or Treating.
Window in Montresor
November began in Rosnay at a quiet campsite that suddenly became startlingly busy in our particular neck of the woods. The town was also startlingly busy due to a public holiday car boot sale.
Saint Pardoux and Lac Frèadour came next, via a wonderful Croque Monsieur at La Trimouille. Sadly the Lac had gone missing but we still had a wonderful time on a campsite that we almost had entirely to ourselves, with lots of walking by the side of the drained lake.
(I should add that throughout all this time the sun just kept on blazing and shorts were very much in evidence even in November.)
We went to visit the Wolves, via an extensive but beautiful and enjoyable Dèviation, and stopped overnight at a small village aire in one of the many villages named Saint-Laurent. The following night we wilded up in the hills at the side of a large lake and the following day visited an island on the lake before travelling to St Germain les Belles, where we stayed for two nights on a campsite there by another lake.
On the island
Parked by the lake
Sabots on t he campsite
We found a Goldsworthy
Our next stop was at Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, which was indeed a “Beautiful Place”. The Aire was right by the side of a branch of the Dordogne. A very narrow water course running around the near side of an island in the river. It had been set up for Kayak racing. On the island facing us was the sports field where the school clearly gave their Phys Ed lessons. Lots of noise and whistles. The town though was both ancient and enchanting and the riverside walking on the still side of the weir was breathtakingly beautiful. The sun was still shining and all looked fabulous.
Further along the Dordogne, we went to visit Rocamadour, the Cité Religieuse which clings to the side of the cliffs. We slept at the top of the cliff in the car park by the funicular railway that takes visitors down to the Sanctuary. The bad weather had arrived and the spectacular views that we should have had on our journey there were all shrouded n mist and drizzle. Things were to stay that way for a few days, which was a real shame, given the nature of the scenery around us.
Rocamador was where I thought we may have stumbled across the Holy Grail…
but that theory turned out to be full of holes…
the colander was for holding nails, to be knocked into a log as a recognition of a donation made.
Our following planned stop turned out to be a disappointment but we found sanctuary ourselves at Beynac, in the form of “tolerated parking” in a car park there. We also found a good lunch and a new-to-us dish of Salardaise potatoes, which we had served with Confit Duck. Very nice indeed and compensation for the drizzle.
We pitched up next at a small “CL-style” campsite near Monpazier. Camping Lune sur le Lac is owned and run by an English couple. We all thought that we had the place to ourselves until a couple of Netherlanders landed and there was also the company of a frog in the shower.
The weather turned brighter but was frosty at night by now.
After two nights on the site we planned to move further on but before we left we became aware that the local town was worth visiting. So we did, we visited and we stayed overnight in their generously-provided free Aire (with free services for the motorhome too). Monpazier may well be my favourite town to date. I loved it and would wish to have stayed longer, certainly to return, and maybe even to find our next home there.
Running low on supplies we visited next a France Passion site at Monbazillac. A very quiet, well-heeled and well-kept village – if it only had a Boulangerie and was affordable on the housing side, we could have settled there very happily indeed. Still glorious sunny days but frosty nights. We walked the circular route around the village and joined the 6pm wine-tasting and availed ourselves of the remarkably fine wares. Fabrice Camus makes some very different wines indeed. I wish that we had more room in the van to carry more of it with us.
Things went a little pear-shaped when we left the Avinturiers; the planned stop at Saint Emilion was not at all suitable. We did spend time in the town and had fun with my camera for a while but elected to move on to the following day’s stop instead. However, when we arrived at the campsite, that too proved to be unsuitable and we declined to pay €15 in order to park outside the gates and by the side of a busy and noisy road. We looked up a nearby Aire in the All the Aires book, France Passion being out due to lack of space for further vinous purchases at this juncture, and ended up on a sweet little free aire in Capian. Sized for 4 vans, with services (paid), on the edge of the village and with a Pizza Cabin sited adjacent. Well, we did. Be rude not to, wouldn’t it?
Finally, we came here, to Camping le Bilous, near Salles. It is a forest site, literally; it is possible to stroll out of the rear of the site and straight into the forest, which is exactly what we did yesterday and walked for nearly four hours. Mr Snail and Nell are out doing the same again, which is how I find time to catch up a little on the account of our travels.
Facebook doesn’t seem to know about this site and I am not at all surprised. It is very low-key. The site is almost full of caravans that appear to have been pitched for years. There is no motorhome service point that we can find. It is very, very quiet. It does however sport not only toilet seats but also a heated shower facility that does not have push button controls. This makes me happy. The laundry facility that we came for being out of commission makes me rather less so.
Leaving tomorrow and going to play on the sands…
Tomorrow should be a big day for us, if all goes according to Plan.