28th January 2019 Walk into La Rochelle, France

We had our van completely re-upholstered in September last year so when we woke up this morning to the sound of dripping in the van mass panic set in!

Our van (in my opinion) has a design fault with the roof. The exterior area above the main roof light sags in the middle. What this means is that during and after rain instead of the water running off it just sits there. We have found out that the sealant around the window is a weak point and we manage this by parking up with the rear of the van slightly higher thus allowing any water to run off. I have read on a few motorhome forums that this is an issue with this model of van and some others.

The annoying thing is that I have a spirit level on the dashboard and knew when we parked up yesterday that we were not leaning forward enough. Lesson learned.

After my little tantrum (I am prone to the odd one or two!) we had breakfast, put on our waterproofs as the weather wasn’t looking too good and set off. The town centre is approximately three kilometres away and took us half an hour to walk in.

Due to the time of year and not being a weekend it was very quiet on the tourist front. Not all of the shops were open either but his didn’t bother us because we were only interested in window shopping, exploring the harbour, old passageways and the odd coffee shop which we found. We also noticed that like in Royan there was a central market. Unfortunately they were almost finished for the day and packing up so we didn’t get to go in.

While we were enjoying our coffee we noticed this lovely little Scotty dog enter with it’s owner. Our reactions made it clear that we loved dogs and in particular this breed of dog. He reminded us of Hamish, our lovely friends Al & Isabel’s dog. The owner spoke good English and told us that it was only a year old.

After our coffee we decided that the weather was looking at bit iffy so we headed back to the van happy with our days exploring.

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27th January 2019 La Rochelle, France

Destination:- Aire de camping car Port Neuf, La Rochelle.

1 hour 20 minutes drive, 50 miles and toll free 🙂

We last visited La Rochelle in July 2009. The city is in southwest France, has a large seaport and is on the Bay of Biscay, a part of the Atlantic Ocean. The locals have been trading fish since the 12th century.

We were looking forward to exploring the old town with it’s half timbered medieval houses and renaissance architecture as well as meandering through the passageways covered by 17th century arches.

Angela returning with her choice.

On arrival our normal routine is that I fill up with fresh water and empty (if needed). Angela sets off to see which pitches are available and would suit us. One of the things to consider is wind direction. It was windy on the drive today and the forecast is for more wind and rain. The last thing we want if we can help it is to be parked side on to the wind. This is Angela coming back with her choice made.

Once we had parked up and got sorted we had a walk around the site to stretch our legs. It is quite a large site (172 pitches) but at this time of year there were only a handful of vans. I should imagine that in the height of summer you may struggle to get a place! There are some advantages of travelling through the winter.

Tomorrow we plan to walk the 3km into town for a good look around.

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26th January 2019 Church and Market visit. Royan, France

We spotted this church while walking around the harbour the other day and thought it would be worth visiting.

Like most of Royan it was heavily bombed during the 2nd world war and had to be rebuilt. The church was blessed on the 10th July 1958 and iIt has become the symbol of this seaside town. Unfortunately it suffers from waterproofing issues which have been accelerated by the marine environment all around it.

In my opinion it is not the most impressive of churches but once we were inside the first thing that we noticed was how calm and peaceful the atmosphere was. The size of the nave that is free from any supports gives it a very spacious feeling.

After walking around it we sat for a while enjoying the peace and tranquillity before heading back out to explore the local shops.

Once outside we stumbled upon the Central Market (Marché central).

It was built in 1955 by architects Louis Simon, and Andre Morisseau and engineer René Sarger, it is a round concrete shell with walls 8 centimetres (3 in) thick. It rests on thirteen peripheral support-points, and has no internal pillars. The displays of fruit, veg, cheese, meat and fish to name but a few were amazing. Outside we spotted a stall dedicated to chillies. It really is a foodies delight!

After walking around what must have been two or three times and taking many photographs we were in need 0f a drink. How handy then to find a little bar outside where we enjoyed a beer whilst listening to the various conversations of what we think were a mix of stallholders and locals. It was a lovely atmosphere and everyone seemed so happy and friendly.

Tired and hungry we decided to head back to the van for a something to eat and an early night as we were leaving in the morning for our next destination.

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25th January 2019 Phare de vallieres walk, Royan, France

A bit overcast today but at least it was dry for our planned walk to the lighthouse in Saint-Georges-de Didonne.

Not knowing exactly where it was or how far we were going to go today we made a packed lunch and a couple of flasks of coffee for a break somewhere (hopefully) with a view.

We set off along the boulevard Frederic Garnier once again admiring the lovely architecture on our left and on the right the 2km beach of La Grande Conche. There were not many people around today. Possibly due to the weather or maybe because it was a Friday and the majority of visitors come for the weekend or day trippers.

We eventually found the lighthouse and the added bonus of a bench for us to sit and have our lunch with a view out to sea.

Just before we sat down we noticed a memorial sculpture in front of the bench. It was dedicated to the Royal Marines who took part in operation Frankton (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Frankton) which helped to break the allied blockade. It is one of the most remarkable events of the second world war.

We sat for a while looking out to see thinking about those brave men who sacrificed everything on that night in 1942.

Fully refreshed after our lunch and hot drink we retraced our steps back to the van completing a total of 10 kilometres.

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24th January 2019 Harbour & Architecture, Royan, France

Royan is one of the main French Atlantic coastal resort towns. It is situated on the mouth of the Gironde estuary (often called a river) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gironde_estuary

It has five beaches, a marina for over 1,000 boats, and an active fishing port. It is a tourist and cultural hub and has up to 90,000 visitors each summer.

We picked a beautiful day to explore the lovely harbour and walk alongside its longest beach. La Grande Conche is a wide sandy cove that stretches south from the town for about 2 kilometres.

During the allied bombing between September 1944 and April 1945 Royan was destroyed and it was known as the “martyred city”. It was declared a “Laboratory of research on urbanism”, and now has some amazing examples of the modernist architecture of the 1950’s. We saw some of these as we walked along the boulevard Frederic Garnier which is right next to one of the famous beaches (La Grande Conche) where you can see the traditional beach tents. on our way back we decided to explore some of the back roads and side streets again seeing amazing examples of architecture.

Royan is definitely on our list of places to re-visit!

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