France 2009

8th July 2009 – Pegasus Bridge

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We felt really proud today when we visited the Pegasus Bridge memorial, as the Oxon & Bucks Light Infantry played a massive and vital role in the operation. It held special memories as Dean’s dad had played the bugle and more recently our brother –in-law has also played there.

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Recently, John also ran a tough charity 65 mile marathon to Pegasus Bridge for Project 65 http://www.project65.net/

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The museum was well worth going to as it explains the build-up, the kit they had to wear, how immensely difficult it would have been for the glider pilots to even get to their destination, and what happened once they landed. One reason to be really proud of our armed forces, irrespective of politics.

7th July 2009 – Mont St Michel

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This was a place I’ve always wanted to go to as I visited it when I was at school, and had such good memories. I was not disappointed as the narrow streets, snaking up through the grounds were just as I remembered.

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It was great to come back with Dean for him to see what I kept going on about! Like a big kid he bought a T-shirt from one of the shops, and we went for steak and chips in one of the cafes. It was a bit bloody for my liking but Dean was in his element.

We spent a good few hours walking around and then set off for Arromanches, and did a detour to visit a German war grave called Mont-de Husines. It is something we forget to take on board, but it was a very sobering experience especially when you see graves for ‘Ein Deutscher Soldat’ with no name. There were 11,956 soldiers buried here alone.

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Lest we forget.

The Aire at Arromanches was the tightest we’ve ever been on. The ‘van next to us could not open their habitation door at the same time as ours was open, we were that close!

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We were very lucky to get a spot as people kept turning up trying to squeeze in wherever they could. It was worth it though as it is about five minutes walk away from the beach, where you can see the remains of the Mulberry harbour and the museum is just off the beach.

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It is difficult to imagine what the scene would have been like 65 years ago.

6th July 2009 – Cancale

The home of oysters! As we were now in Brittany the weather had taken a definite turn for the worse and today was no exception.
However, being in the town renowned for them we were duly obliged to wander in and purchase some for Dean to try. Not liking anything about the sea, I declined. After all the excitement it was a bit of a letdown as he neither liked them nor disliked them.
The beds where they harvest them were available to view, but I wasn’t feeling very well that day so having to smell seafood all morning wasn’t the best thing to do! We went back to the van and watched Babel (excellent film) after polishing off the remains of the contents of the fridge.
We also managed to book an earlier ferry home as we need to get a few things fixed.

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5th July 2009 – Dinan

What a fantastic town! We’d spotted a write up in the French book we’ve got but the setting was amazing. The Aire is situated right underneath the viaduct in what is classed as Port Dinan and is within five minutes of Dinan proper.
The weather was perfect we set off around the town (a tad steep) looking at all the old medieval buildings, taking loads of photographs and just taking in the atmosphere. Everyone was so friendly and we ended up in a restaurant on the harbour front, Dean eating Moules Mariniere avec Frites and I had the Salad Paysanne.
Dean watched the locals to see how they ate the mussels and was chuffed to discover you eat them using the shell of the previous mussel to pick the next one out. He felt like a local!

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3rd July 2009 – Beauvoir-sur-mer

On route to our next Aire we passed fields and more fields of sunflowers, their heads all pointing to the sun. The Aire was easy to find and again there were Dutch, German and French on site all giving bits of advice. Here we also watched Andy Murray bow out of Wimbledon, but at least he has a realistic chance of winning it next time!
We wandered into the village which again was covered in wonderful flower arrangements, then we stopped for our usual coffee and meandered back to the ‘van.

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2nd July 2009 – La Rochelle

We were now making our way back up the West coast of France and our next stop was La Rochelle, a medieval fortified town. You are able to take a tour around the ramparts but we did not have time, so we have made a note to return there in the near future. The Aire was in the main car park where French parking skills leave a lot to be desired, so we did not want to be away for too long!
As always, a lovely market was taking place and the shops were heaving with tourists. We made our way back to the ‘van to spend a relaxed evening.
With our experience we’ve now gained, we’ve realised we need to invest in a scooter to get around. The ‘van is too large to get into the pretty villages, so we would be able to pitch camp somewhere and then do a tour of loads of places. Research has begun!
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29th June 2009 – Labenne
Moving on from the Pyrenees, we headed for the Atlantic Ocean and ended up at Labenne. It was a large site with ‘entertainment’, but the pitches were nice and large.
We have subsequently decided that although we like the beach scenery and Dean likes to dip his toes in the water, the campsites are a bit too “Hey Macarena” for our tastes! Having said that, it was so hot over the next few days all we could do was sit in the ‘van watching Wimbledon tennis in as little clothing as possible…nice?!
One evening we walked up to the beach about half an hour walk away, and were rewarded with a beautiful sunset.

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24 June 2009 – Luchon
The day started off well as we received the news we’ve been wanting to hear for months, that Dean has got his redundancy from BT! After 19 years of work, we decided to mark the occasion by going out for lunch. We dressed smartly (well, smarter than we normally are but still scruffier than when we were at home) and walked into the village. It is quite large and there are some beautiful areas of it, along with the thermal baths.
The village is festooned with lovely flower arrangements, and their roundabouts are works of art!

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We chose a smart looking restaurant and sat at a table outside so we could watch the world go by. Angela wasn’t quite sure what she ordered, but it turned out she hadn’t ordered enough…only a starter! So she had to watch Dean enjoy a lovely plate of steak.

The dessert of Creme Caramel finished off the meal, washed down with the rest of the wine followed by coffee…not the one we ordered! It’s a very chilled out affair as they seem to be in no hurry to get rid of you, although the waiter did remind us of Jack out of Will & Grace!

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It was a real treat for us as we don’t normally eat out, and then we mooched around the lovely independent shops. Dean got himself a T-shirt and we bought a load of postcards so watch this space…

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23 June 2009 – Luchon

Having bought a map of the area yesterday, we set off into the woods above the campsite to walk into Luchon via the scenic GR86 route. As it was over 30 degrees it was a bonus that the walk was in the woods as it gave us plenty of dappled shade.

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It was a bit steep at first and we’re both out of the habit of walking, but it soon levelled out and our lungs got used to the extra effort! We could look out across the valley on quite a few parts of the walk, and also watched the para-gliders coming into land – it seems a very popular pastime over here, especially in the ski resorts.

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We were on a mission to get back to the ‘van as Andy Murray was about to play his first game at Wimbledon….didn’t realise he wasn’t going to be on until 4pm! One great bonus about travelling is that we can watch as much of Wimbledon as we like, rather than work getting in the way…weather permitting 😉

21 June 2009 – Luchon

Having left Bolquere we spent a few nights in Varilhes where we caught up with a few things, namely updating the blog!

We then travelled onto a site called Pradelongue in a village called Luchon. It is right in the middle of the Pyrenees, and will be a good base for ski-ing. There is still snow visible on the higher mountain ranges, but it is lovely and sunny with fresh mountain air down below.

On Sunday when we arrived we walked into the town and sat watching a jazz band playing, while having a few beers. The village has a really relaxed feel to it and we were looking forward to coming back to explore it further.

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17 June 2009 – Bolquere Aire

We left Nefiach (after Dean washed the van down) and headed for our next destination. It was our first journey into the Pyrenees and we were lucky to have such good weather to enable us to enjoy the spectacular scenery.

Photographs do it no justice whatsoever, but we made the effort!

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The Aire we were heading for had disappeared under a load of new ski chalets being built. We carried on further into the village and spotted another couple of motorhomes parked up, so we followed suit. Having checked with the French chap who had been there for three days, we decided we wouldn’t be moved on and got settled.

We’d been to Carrefour so sorted out all our goodies.

Bolquere was like a ghost town as it is a ski-resort and thus out of season. It was strange seeing the pistes without snow, the chair lifts just swinging there…

This shows the bottom where three pistes meet, we think of varying levels of difficulty.

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As you can see from the picture below, we had a wonderful view out of the motorhome and all for free!

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As the afternoon wore on we kept hearing bells, so Dean went out to investigate and came across a herd of cows complete with bells hanging from their collars. We’d already seen goats with bells in Clermont-Ferrand (lost the photos) but not cows. Anyone who knows Angela will know why she did not accompany Dean on his investigations…

During the evening we spotted a few birds flying around. A Linnet, A Bullfinch that Dean filmed on the camcorder eating the seeds from a Dandelion and a bird that is a scarce visitor in the UK, a Black Redstart.

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15 to 16 June 2009 – Nefiach
This ended up being a lovely relaxed family run campsite, just to the left of Perpignan. It was a bit of a haven as we were able to get a load of washing and cleaning done – not easy in a motorhome!
We had the duvets hanging from the awning, washing dangling from the cycle rack strung up to a tree, Dean getting stressed as we were under a False Acacia tree that was covered in bugs that spat all over the van! I guess secreted is a better word…
All we needed was a couple of milk churns and a scabby dog, a large propane bottle and some coils of copper wire and we would have been moved on in Britain!
However, jobs all done we then discovered that we were parked opposite a Hoopoe nest (a scarce visitor to the UK). The two parents kept coming back to feed the babies with grubs, and it was lovely to sit and watch them going about their business along with a glass of wine.

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On site there was a bar/restaurant run by the owners so we treated ourselves to a pizza, a jar of aoilii (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aiolii) and chips! How fantastic was that?! We loved it then drank some more wine and beer.
We were so quiet the owners forgot we were there, so we had to go and interrupt them to ask for the bill.
The next day we walked into the village to buy a few provisions…..but as we keep forgetting the French close between 12 and 2pm, the other shops we needed were closed this day also!
We walked through the side streets of this lovely little hamlet and came across this lovely church. Attached to it was a post office where we purchased some stamps for our post cards (sorry if you have not received one yet!). Walking around the side streets we noticed a lot of houses had the Catalan flag flying.

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13 t0 14 June 2009 – Port Barcares
The bicycles were finally dusted off and we went for a couple of rides, the first being along the designated cycle route that took us out to the other end of the village.
Some of the route was parallel to the Mediterannean Sea, and on the other day we took a ride out along the river that merges with it called the L’Agly. There were quite a few jellyfish in the harbour and we managed to get a couple of good pictures…and that prompted us to watch Finding Nemo that night!

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When we got back we braved the beach, and Dean took a dip into the Med whilst Angela got comfy with her E-Reader!

12 June 2009 – Port Barcares
we’re using campsites from a Dutch camping club called ACSI, where you get discounted rates off season. One of the good things about it is that it states the campsites that will accommodate the larger vehicles, i.e. us!
However, this was the first case where we think they may have over-estimated their ability as the trees were low and the lanes very narrow.
We found one pitch that had plenty of shade, but shade means no satellite access! Shade was more important at the time as we were right by the Med (100m) and the temperatures were in the low 30s.
This was all after we’d caused a bit of a traffic jam as nobody told us we had to park up and wander into the site, so we ended up stuck at the barrier without the code to get in and two cars behind us so we could not reverse! We sorted things out in the end but it did not endear us to the site, and they didn’t seem to cater for motorhomes.
The only reason we stayed was we’d wandered down to the Med and it looked like a nice place to visit….and there were two cycle rides we’d spotted that we wanted to do. We stopped off at a little bar and had ourselves a beer and wine then wandered back to chill out.

11 June 2009 – Gruissan

The last couple of days were spent pottering about, reading and getting sunburnt! We both put sun cream on but were unaware how hot it was as there was a breeze coming off the Med.

Today, we went for a walk around the village and were pleasantly surprised. All around the edge of the chateau they had a designated foot/cycle path so we meandered along that then stopped for a coffee in a lovely little side street. You had to breathe in when any cars came through but it had a really relaxed feel to the place, and the shop opposite was owned by an ex-pat who warned us to get the factor 50 out as a heat wave was on its way – too late!

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8 June 2009 – Gruissan
Not quite the first people there at the Caves, but nearly! We had been warned that the tour was in French, but they kindly gave us an English translation to follow as we went round in the group.
It was really interesting as it explained how the caves were formed in the first place, and how the natural vents (fleurines) were created that allows the airflow to be maintained whilst the cheese matures.
We were allowed to go into the working caves which were great as we were concerned it would just be a simulated model. Then the best bit – tasting!! Roquefort did very well out of us that day as we bought a selection of three different cheeses, but it was a real bun fight to get served as nobody bothered to queue…

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This took up our morning, so we then set off towards a place called Narbonne-Plage very close to Perpignan about lunchtime. It took us longer than we thought and towards the end of our journey the directions we had were about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

Dean had been driving for about four hours by now and it seemed as if we were going round in circles, in an area that was less than inviting but luckily we saw a sign for an Aire and just went for it! We didn’t care what it was like, we just wanted to park up, relax and cool down…

It was a real bonus as we ended up in a village called Gruissan, just below where we were headed. The Aire was equipped for 100 motorhomes and you could just park up where you liked and everything was easy, and it was right by the harbour so you could look at the boats that were moored up.

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7 June 2009 – Roquefort (via Millau Viaduct)
We headed first for the viewpoint for the Viaduct and were not disappointed. Although it is a modern structure in the midst of beautiful countryside, somehow it seems to fit in perfectly. As you approach it in a vehicle it looks like the pipes of a Church organ.

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As it is so high, on a cloudy day sometimes the bridge looks like it is floating in mid air as the clouds are underneath you. We were lucky as it was a clear day, albeit cold so we could see for miles.
For the ‘experience’ we decided to drive over the 2.5km length of the viaduct, paid our nine euros and ‘experienced’ a very mundane journey over it as you cannot see anything! When it was originally built they did not have the full barriers at the sides, but so many people complained of vertigo and side effects they had to put them in.

Roquefort was our ultimate destination, where we found the Aire at the Tourist Office and were the only ones there. The views around us were spectacular, and the sunset was amazing – such brilliant shades of pink, through orange to deep red.

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We wandered into the village of Roquefort to visit the cheese caves but as this was France and a Sunday it was shut! Hence, we went and bought some cheese anyway (from the one shop that was open) and made a promise to visit the cave tomorrow.

1 – 6 June 2009 – Millau
As we had such a good pitch at Millau, and after our escapade with the fuel kiosk we decided to stay for another week. The time was spent relaxing, and we went for a walk along the Tarn one day.

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One evening, Dean captured a fantastic video of a heron catching a trout and its subsequent devouring. There was also a resident red squirrel that we ‘adopted and called Scamper’ that used to visit us most days. We had previously bought some bird feeders that we put outside, and we could watch them all coming and going. We think it was something of a novelty for them!

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The weather took a turn for the worse later in the week, so we decided it was time to move on at the weekend. As we were leaving, six car loads of Dutch people were travelling to Ibiza in ‘Ducks’ – known to us as Citroen 2CVs – to be hired out over the summer season and the proceeds raised donated to charity.

 

30 May 2009 – Millau

Bit of a bad start to the day. We merrily set off to the gas station and the 3 euros of gas we managed to put in has cost us probably a few thousand pounds.

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We had a bit of a ‘meeting’ with the fuel kiosk. No damage to the kiosk as it was covered in metal grilling, but metal grilling and glass reinforced plastic (GRP) motorhome sides do not gel well.

Dean stated he was going to throw himself off the viaduct this very day, but we went and found another store and stocked up with alcohol, chocolate and other goodies. He’s chatted to a few other MH’ers who have all experienced the same thing so he feels a bit better now although his wounded pride will take longer to heal.

The roll of duck tape came out when we got back, the damage is sealed and we can continue our trip. Nobody died or got injured so onwards and upwards!
29 May 2009 – Millau

Big market day! We got up early today and were in the market by 9.30, collecting a load of goodies, and stopped off at the Boucherie for some chicken for tonight’s dinner.

Dean did his magic again and cooked a fantastic dinner of chicken stuffed with wet garlic and some of the Roquefort cheese we bought today – absolute heaven, all washed down with the red wine we bought for 2 euros a litre.

It was an extra bonus today as our part arrived from the UK so we’re off tomorrow to get some gas. We’ve decided to stay another week so we can enjoy having some outdoor cooking.

28 May 2009 – Millau

What a lazy day! We’d planned to go for a walk along the edge of the Tarn but couldn’t be bothered. It was such a warm day we just sat by the river, read, slept and day-dreamed.
Dean ventured off to the swimming pool, whilst I pottered around. It is frightening how we are getting used to ‘doing nothing’ every now and again. When we were in our old lives we couldn’t stop and relax but we’re finally getting there…

It was a day of odd jobs, laundry, cleaning, tidying but that doesn’t take too long over eight metres of vehicle….just organisation!

27 May 2009 – Millau
Market day today! I managed to buy my wicker basket at last from a beautiful little shop called Clementine Creations.

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French markets are a feast for the senses – the scent of the strawberries, cheese, garlic and herbs are to die for and they take such care in displaying all their wares that they are a work of art sometimes.

The hustle and bustle of both the sellers and buyers is really exciting, and on one stall they were weighing someone’s baby! All the coffee bars are open, musicians are playing and invariably the sun is shining which makes the setting complete!
On our return we went for a little wander left out of the site and got a glimpse of the viaduct.
As we had nearly run out of food we visited the restaurant on site for dinner. The guy was lovely, educating us on our French and we enjoyed a lovely meal (Dean had duck) and dessert…even the desserts taste better…then wandered back to the ‘van and enjoyed a glass of wine outside before retiring.

26 May 2009 – Millau

The weather has been a bit overcast today, so we went for a cycle ride along the Gorge du Dourbie.

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We were out for about two hours so we were glad to come back, have a nice shower and get cosy in the van – it’s amazing how cold 18 degrees feels…

Gas has now completely run out as trying to warm up some Pain au Chocolat and the oven gave up the ghost. That part better come tomorrow…

25 May 2009 – Millau

As we needed some provisions, we walked into Millau centre today and have planned to come back on Wednesday to explore the town. That will coincide with market day so that will keep us amused.

There was a greengrocer shop in the town where we stocked up on loads of vegetables, and we finally bought some strawberries as they smell gorgeous! Laden with loads of fruit and veg, we stopped off and purchased five litres of red wine… for 10 euros… then found a nice bar to sit outside and have a drink, watching the world go by.

24 May 2009 – Millau

What a great campsite we’ve just turned up on! Got here just before midday and were greeted by excellent staff. They let us waffle on with our bit of French then saved us and helped us out in English – we’d sent them an email earlier in the week as our replacement gas part is being delivered here.
Found a lovely spot right on the edge of the tarn, the showers are heaven and we plan to spend a week here cycling, walking and just chilling out.

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The journey to Millau went through the National Park Cevennes. We couldn’t go through the Tarn du Gorge as some of the bridges were a bit low (we could have done it but Angela’s nerves wouldn’t stomach it and Dean gracefully gave in!) and the journey we took was picturesque but rather tranquil.

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As we forgot all the shops were shut, we stayed on site and sat reading and watching the wildlife on the river. Some fellow Brits stopped to talk to us so that was another hour gone, so just time for a shower then bed.

23 May 2009 – Florac

We are now very low on gas, so all it is being used for is the fridge and fingers crossed it lasts until tomorrow when we’re going onto a campsite.

The journey looked normal enough on the map, but we ended up going on the equivalent of a fairground ride – up and down a mountain with hairpin bends – at the end of it you could smell the clutch, the brakes were red hot and the handbrake would not work when we got to the bottom until it cooled down!

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We stopped at the bottom to let everything and everyone cool down, we then spent ages going through Florac trying to find the Aire. Once we found it, we wandered into the very pretty village and mooched around for ages buying some goodies on the way.

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Luckily we got there early and found a nice spot, as by the end of the evening the 20 space Aire accommodated nearly 30 ‘vans.

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The gas is still holding out but we had to endure a very cold shower at the end of the day…but the couple of glasses of wine made up for it! Any shower is better than no shower!
22 May 2009 – Coubon

We are heading on down to Millau for the weekend and decided to Aire the next couple of days, as it seems silly to waste money on a campsite when they are just going to be stopovers. The views during the drive to Coubon were amazing. We stopped off at a view point ‘Parc des Volcans d’Auvergne’.

Our first job of the day was to find an LPG station and fill up our one remaining gas bottle. It seemed easy as the adaptor you need to use in France is a doddle, unlike the UK where even the attendants cannot work the blasted thing!

There we encountered a rather large problem – not to bore anyone but we now need a blanking plug as when we tried to fill up the gas escaped from the hose that attaches one bottle to the other. Sat by the petrol station, Dean got on the ‘phone to the UK and they’re supposedly sending one out that should reach us in three to four days…

We gave up on that job and continued on our way to the Aire in Coubon. It was fine but the local lads were playing football until 11pm in the car park….and the car park was the Aire!

21 May 2009 – La Pessy

As it was a boiling hot day we went for a walk into the countryside and then onto the nearby village of Murat-la-Quaire.

We were gone for a good few hours, but managed to get some really good photos and just relax. When we got back to the ‘van we discovered our gas has nearly gone so off to experience the LPG gas station tomorrow…

20 May 2009 – La Pessy

On to a campsite called La Panoramique that had terraced pitches and we could see across the Auvergne mountain range including Mont Dore. The cable car was operational but as getting to Mont Dore involved a long hike once you got to the top we didn’t bother getting on it!

It was a case of pitch yourself, so we promptly went down a dead end and ended up reversing up a hill (smell that clutch burning out!). However, we were lucky in the end as we ended up with a brilliant view.

We went for a walk and spotted the farmyard animals, that included geese, donkeys, goats and what we think was a small boar. Both boar and goat kept trying to head butt each other. On the other side of the fence were about twenty cows…so we did not hang about!

Back to our wine and cheese…

19 May 2009 – La Bourboule

We plumped for another place called La Bourboule (http://www.france-for-visitors.com/massif-central/auvergne/la-bourboule.html) which is 6km from the nearest mountain Mont Dore.
Having found the Aire we wandered into the town and it was beautiful. It is surrounded by mountains and is a spa town renowned for treating children’s ailments. The weather was beautiful and there were lots of little shops that we had to venture into.

We had never heard of this part of France but it is an absolute jewel. The people have been really friendly and the buildings are very impressive.
On our return to the Aire, we had the enjoyment of watching a bunch of French motor-homers turn up and make a complete hash of the whole things – free entertainment!

18 May 2009 – Oradour-sur-Glane

On recommendation from friends, we visited the Martyred Village of Oradour-sur-Glane (http://www.oradour.info/) just outside Limoges.

There is a display outlining the build up to the tragedy, and details of the subsequent rebuilding of the village adjacent to the ruins. In short the SS murdered 642 people, by shooting to incapacitate them then setting them on fire allegedly all in the name of pure misdirected revenge.

After this experience, we found the Aire in the village that was a diamond and ended up next to a fellow MHF’er (website we belong to). This was about 2pm and having chatted for about three hours the Aire began filling up, we were joined by the Dutch and French.

Having shared our experiences we have changed our planned route somewhat and are now heading down the middle – leaving out the Alps to go through the mountainous range of the Auvergne.

16 May 2009 – Limoges

After a well deserved day of rest yesterday (Angela could hardly walk… no bath in the ‘van) we got up EARLY (6am) to catch the 7am bus into the main city of Limoges. The bus route took an hour and a half so we kicked our heels for a bit then went into a lovely cafe and were pleasantly surprised as we were not stitched up like before!

We were worried as the only other bus home was at 5.30pm so we had a lot of hours to kill, but Limoges is a beautiful city. It has a really friendly feel to it, and we visited the medieval bridge, the old butcher’s quarter, the botanical gardens and the amazing indoor market. You had to be there to appreciate the smell of the fresh strawberries and cherries!

We missed loads of stuff like the main cathedral and the Resistance Museum but we ran out of time. However, we were brave and ventured into a restaurant and had a lovely meal of lasagne, red wine and cake! Job done!

At the appointed hour we got the bus home, along with our friends from Brackley John and Sue. Supper of cheese, salad and bread – what a great day!

14 May 2009 – Chalus

In a mad moment we decided to walk the other way along the disused railway line towards the village of Chalus. It was about 9km to the village and along the way we were treated to frogs (v. v. noisy!) horses and lizards but not much else…

It was an easy walk in so much as you could not get lost and it was flat, but after the first 6km it got a bit boring. The good thing to look forward to before we came back was a flask of coffee and a croissant! We met a number of lovely French people at Chalus who were going for their daily constitutional, and thought we were mad as the heavens opened and we had to walk back the other 9km in the rain….hmmmm.

12 May 2009 – Champagnac la Riviere
Now we have really started to enjoy France, and we’re not sure if that’s because we’re getting further south?
We were all ready to go for a cycle ride along the disused railway line about five minutes away from the site, but we got chatting to an RV owner as they spotted Dean’s Cropredy top and they happen to come from Brackley!
An hour later (in the middle of the day) we set off and it was lovely as a lot of it was in dappled shade. We went past the old railway station too that is all now faded and overgrown but it still looked great. You then come into the village of Oradour-sur-Vayres that we cycled around, and spotted the restaurant we will visit later in the week…aptly named ‘Dino’s’.
Thunderstorms are forecast again tonight – must try and get out and sit in our chairs before the heavens open…

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11 May 2009 – Champagnac la Riviere
we were heading for a campsite that had been recommended to us by friends we’d made in Taunton, but first we wanted to go back into Limoges to go to the big Carrefour supermarket to try and get some blasted chairs!
Old Jack (Sat Nav) got us there but there was no way of deciphering how you got into the car park, and Jack had already sent us up and down the same road three times so we gave up and drove back to one ‘we’d seen earlier’ in St Junien.
Success at last, as we are now the proud owners of two La Fuma chairs that only weigh 6.5kg in total (weight is a very serious issue for us)!
Back on the road again, we finally turned up on site around 4pm to be greeted by the English owners (Bob & Di) who were absolute angels. It was surprising considering we had not been there more than an hour when we developed a serious gas leak from our ‘van – this was from the system that is supposed to be one of the safest and easiest to use! A couple of ‘phone calls to the UK later, Dean had to disconnect one of the bottles, go ‘up field’ of everyone and release the gas…at least now we’re safe!
Dean had been driving for quite a few days so he was really looking forward to a restful evening, but we had the mother of a thunderstorm that came back twice! The electric went off twice but we survived and our plan of getting up early to take advantage of the cool morning never materialised…

10 May 2009 – Bonnac-la-Cote
Well, we’re now getting a bit adventurous and decided we’d pluck a campsite out of the other book bought from the Caravan Club. All was going well because we had blind faith in the directions, and when the campsite did not appear we just kept on going! This was a good strategy as it turned up in the next village along….alas, to still be closed.
We appeared to be going round in circles (as during these last few days we’ve been trying to buy two chairs so we can sit outside. This is not as easy as it sounds as they need to be all things to all men, and as light as a wafer) so out came our trusty ACSI book and we plumped for a site as close to Limoges as you can get.
We picked a blinder – you pulled up and called into reception where a beautiful cat was soaking up the rays. The gentleman behind the counter was everything you would expect from a Frenchman – elegant with a scarf round his neck, faint smell of cigars and a lovely friendly smile. One night was paid for and we were able to choose our pitch.
The site was in the grounds of a 9th Century chateau, and you were able to walk around the gardens. The chap came out and showed us where there was a lake so we wandered down there, then came back and there began another leisurely evening.

9 May 2009 – Bourges
first time on an Aire!!
These are areas set up by the French where motorhomes can stay the night for free or a nominal charge, say €3 to replenish your water etc. You really are looked after over here.
When we arrived there were about five ‘homes there but by the end of the evening another ten had turned up. It was sandwiched in between the rugby stadium and the skateboard rink, but not one drunken idiot or any trouble at all.
As we were new to this scenario we hadn’t left the van, which was a shame as when we left the town of Bourges looked well worth a visit.

8 May 2009 – Les Andelys
Today we donned our walking shoes and went off in search of the view point over Le Petit Andelys. When you got to the top you could see the Seine in all its beauty, the hospital and the wonderful village below.
When we got back we had new neighbours – two couples from Yorkshire who were on their way back home. They told us about the large river cruiser that would be departing Les Andelys later in the afternoon back to Paris. We had seen it arrive the first day we were here, but we thought it might be nice to see it leave….the allotted time of 5.30 came and went and frankly, by 6pm we couldn’t be bothered to wait!

7 May 2009 – Les Andelys
Armed with the camera this time, we ventured off along the Seine again and as the sun was shining we captured some amazing scenery. The local hospital cum retirement home is a magnificent building, and we just wandered around the village taking loads of photos. Coming back we got the picnic blanket out, sampled some local cider and read our books!

6 May 2009 – Les Andelys
Set off fairly early for Les Andelys, just south of Rouen and what a bonus that turned out to be! Having stocked up at Carrefour on food and drink (decided against buying some camping chairs, paying for it now) we originally booked in for one night.
The backdrop to the campsite was of the Chateau Gaillard that was built by the English…to keep the French out! Good job we did not succeed.
Then we went for a walk along the River Seine that backs onto the campsite and it is beautiful – the old houses and street lamps that are along the bank are a real treat, then as you walk into Le Petit Andelys there is a florist, butcher and baker that are very picturesque. On our return to the campsite we booked for a further 2 nights.

5 May 2009 – Amiens
Woke up this morning to the news our English neighbours had been broken into during the night. They and three other units had the rubber seal removed from a window, and whatever was nearby stolen. Sadly for them their spare keys were pinched which leaves them pretty vulnerable.
We spent the day tidying up the van ready for moving on tomorrow. Our neighbours misfortune made us have a rethink about storage of all our stuff. We had got a bit complacent, thinking we were safe on a campsite so it has been a wake-up call.
In the evening we raised a glass to Ivor (Dean’s dad) in the evening as it was the 5th anniversary of his death. How time goes by!

4 May 2009 – Amiens
we ventured into Amiens town centre today on the bus. Everything was going smoothly right into town until the bus inspectors got on to check tickets. Nobody told us you had to validate the ‘ticket’ in the machine, so all we handed over were effectively two blank pieces of paper!
Luckily, we were at our stop and as we showed them we had come from a campsite he just let us get off. As none of us could communicate I think that was his only option.
We visited the Notre Dame Cathedral that amongst other things hosts the ‘Weeping Angel’ statue. It was made famous in WW1 when the Allied soldiers sent postcards of it home – apparently it struck a chord with them at the time.
Then we wandered along to Little Venice (St Leu quarter) where all the bistros were, past it to the Les Hortillonages (floating gardens).
In reality it was a riverside allotment, but every year in June they ply their trade on the river in traditional costume. On our walk back we met two couples from Durham and spent ages chatting putting the world to rights.
Having been fleeced €7 for two tiny coffees (15% service charge from a grumpy old sow!) we made a visit to the local supermarket, and then had fun trying to find the bus stop to get us back home!

3 May 2009 – Amiens
we started the day with a very leisurely breakfast of croissants and pain au chocolate, delivered by the local baker.
The rest of the day was spent chilling out reading and pottering about. We now had a full fridge so felt a bit more relaxed.

2 May 2009 – Amiens
Today we set off for our next destination of Amiens. It only took about an hour and the staff when we got there were really friendly.
They gave us directions to the local shops, but they ended up being a bit rough and you knew you were being watched. We’ve since found out we should have carried on a bit further as we ended up on an estate – felt a bit like home!
When we got back we laid out our picnic blanket and got settled as the sun was out.

1 May 2009 – Le Crotoy
Dean collected our croissants and baguettes, and we had our first breakfast in France! Then we cycled into the village of Le Crotoy along their cycle route that was heavily used.
We didn’t think anything would be open as it was a Bank Holiday here but it was heaving! There was a market going on and loads of fish, vegetable and clothes stalls to tempt you. As we had no food to speak of having dumped most of it as we were overweight, Dean plucked up the courage to try and buy the last chicken only to find out it was reserved!
There was one vegetable and cheese stall left open so we ended up with a vegetable stir fry, followed by cheese and bread in the evening – very nice…

About Dean

Angela and I decided that there was more to life than working hard to keep up the payments on the mortgage, to pay the gas, electric, phone bills etc. etc. SO............ In 2008 we sold our house, I initially took a year off (Unpaid) and Angela handed in her notice! We bought a motorhome and set off for a year of travelling! This was the best thing we had done in our lives (Apart from getting married) and we have no regrets. During the year I managed to secure a redundancy package which felt very strange. Almost sad as I had worked for the same company for 19 years (BT). It was always our plan to have a whole year off before thinking about the 'W' word. We began applying to the Camping and Caravanning Club (CCC) for the position of Holiday site assistants in August 2009. After the interview, work experience and induction we were finally given a contract at the CCC site in Inverewe (Scotland). Our plan is to work through the summer in the UK then head to Europe to overwinter before coming back to work the following summer season. Hopefully these few words and our blog will inspire others to get off the hamsters wheel and see that there is more to live than having a house and material things. A cliche I know but this is not a rehearsal, life is too short!!! Since our first contract in Scotland we have worked a winter contract in Oxford (never again!) not Oxford but a winter contract. Hereford for two years, living in a yurt for one! And Cornwall. In between our working we have also travelled a bit. Hopefully this website will give you an insight into our alternative lifestyle. Get out there and live the dream!
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