Saturday, 26 August 2017

SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE!

Well it's Saturday morning and we are getting the van ready for our first excursion across the water to France!

No idea where we are staying or where we are going .. love it! Pete recommended the Loire Valley so thats the general direction we are going!

Let's see what happens!

----- IN REVERSE ORDER ---
  SUN 10TH SEPT   

The Battle for Hill 122


7000 soldiers died capturing the hill from the Germans.

The memorials were placed due to the work and spirit of Albert Figg.

A Churchill tank like one of many used in the assault.

Hill 122 overlooking Caen




   SAT 9TH SEPT   

Last night it felt and sounded like we were in  Northern Scotland. The rain and wind from hurricane Irma was unbelievable. The van was being buffeted about like a toy!

Been banished to use the "outdoor" mirror on the van for a shave due to "black bits" in the sink!

Our morning view with the tail end of hurricane Irma in the distance.

Just in front of us!
Blowy but beautiful.

Here comes the sun :)

You should have wore a hat!
And you really shouldn't have!

Ohh German gun emplacements!

Fort de la Cité d'Aleth, St Malo

Stützpunkt 230 and on the first of July 1944 it was occupied by 177 men and officers of a Festung-Stamm-Kompanie, 63 Kriegsmarine Artillerie soldiers and officers of the M.A.A. 608 staff and 36 men and officers of the 5./M.Fl.A. 806.

How do we get in?

It will be fun Mand.. I promise!

Just through here...




Ohh!

Wow!

12cm thick steel c

Shocking!

Remains of a US 3" M79 AP shell wedged in the turret.

The way in.. I think!

Going down..



Then crawl through this tight space.
This was the escape hatch for the soldiers.

Looking up through the floor where the turrets gun would have been mounted. The hole in the top of the turret was for a periscope.

Looking at the damage from the inside.
See lower middle of picture where rounds entered the turret.

Close combat loophole in wall looking up steps into the bunker.




Very nice!

The heavens opened again so we relaxed in the van until it passed. We the drove 10 minutes to the center of St Marlo.



Now that's a doughnut!


St Malo church

s it was 1944


A wedding!

French food

French chocolate!





   WED-THR-FRI 8TH SEPT   

The last three days seem to have blurred together with the help of a few splashes of rouge!
We started the day by heading South a little. Mand had control over the Aires app and selected an Aire based on the fact it had a 'pretty little village'. So Oiron here we come!

It was a lovely village.. everything was closed.. as usual but the sun was shining!

Im on the left.

Another very impressive church, although it did smell a bit like my Granddads cellar.

The actual Aire is to the left of this picture, essentially a  car-park!
I decided to fill the tank with a suspicious looking tap on the wall of the Aire.
It tasted of very strong chlorine.. I felt a little queasy and condemned the vans tank of water straight away.
We kept it though for showering but we couldn't drink it, luckily I had brought 25 ltrs of the finest Kirkby spring water for just such an emergency!

Mand didn't like the car-park so we opted for an Aire that claimed to have an abundance of red squirrels in the trees!

Pretending to catch the baguette from the 'baguette vending machine'!!
( I can't catch! )

The local lookout.

It wasn't long before Matt and Claire said hello!
They live Colchester and were making their way back up from the South of Spain!
We joined them for one, two, three bottles of wine and a good natter till the early hours!

We bid them farewell the following morning and thanked Matt for his tip of a nice site in Montreuil-Bellay that sits under the chateau

At the aforementioned site!
And guess who was there :) 

Up the steps to the local village.



Just entering the chateau for a tour and wine tasting extravaganza!

Up on the rampart a loophole!

This is who!
Matt and Claire again.. More wine tasting with them!

Someones happy!
We eventually found a restaurant that had a veggie option.
The food was fantastic.

Good night!

Good morning!
After a little walk back up those steps to the local Super U my morning was complete.
Lots of goodies to stock the van up!

It then rained all day!
So we went through a worm hole/time tunnel or something and ended up at St Malo!


Nighty night!


  TUESDAY 5TH SEPT   

We started the day by returning the euro adapter plug thing that Tom lent us from the next van. Without it we wouldn't have been able to plug into the electricity and Mands hairdryer would not have dried much!


A quick hoover, water change and a top up of the tyres with a bike pump!
Believe it or not this was the best of three options!

Straight back to one of the wine producers we tested yesterday!
Couly-Dutheil where Mand fell in love with blanc fizz!

A couple more rounds of taste testing, even though she knew what she wanted!

K-ching! 
One purchase of various tipples!

The weather was a bit cloudy so we thought we would head south west towards La Rochelle , the route showed about three hours. As ever we only got about twenty miles away in Richelieu, now I know its in the wrong direction but TomTom was trying to take me down another toll road and I diverted at the last minute.

Our parking spot for the day.. and night!
Next to the old city wall.

More coffee in another square!


Another church visit.

This is the Cardinal, he was the second most powerful man in the country after the king.

The Cardinals  amazing grounds!

Some lovely well kept animals in the grounds.


My office with some bubbly we purchased earlier!

Mands office!

  MONDAY 4TH SEPT   

That's the castle I was an about last night! Well it turns out it was a Royal fortress and Richard the Lionheart was born in it!


After a steady breakfast we went for a steady walk around the old town. It was very picturesque!
This was inside the Paroisse de Chinin ( Church). 



We stopped in the square for a couple of coffees each.
I spotted a lady having cheese on toast at the table next to us.
Obviously they had a swanky French name for it but at 12 Euros.. 
Non Merci!


We thought we would try one of the wine tours that are in the castle walls. The caves were originally dug out to quarry the stone to build the local buildings. Troglodytes then lived in some of them and eventually the local vineyards used them to store and mature the wine as they are a constant 12.5 degrees!

But they were all shut,  as everything seems to be in France when you want it :)

So we walked up to the castle.

Found some boys toys!

We then headed for the wine producer Couly-Dutheil. We started in the tasting room and pretended to know we knew something about wine. The lady poured us various tasters and kept shoving a spittoon my way. No way was I wasting any of this lovely wine.. call me a troglodyte but that's not how we do it in Nottingham!

Someones not been spitting all the wine out!

Oak barrels the wine was matured in, its no longer though.
Now its done in a clinical factory with metal drums.


I was eerily cold in the cave.

They have stored up to 800,000 bottles through out the caves.

The vats they get juice from the grapes.

Anyway we left the tour quite excited about going back in the van to make a purchase. We thought though it would only be right to try another wine cave tasting before committing!

Me with a bag?

We strolled straight up to Cave Monplaisir, Mary welcomed us when we walked in. Have a look round then come back for a tasting of some wines she said!




Oh la-la!


Some form of spring inside the cave helped with the humidity.

Mand back at the tasting room.

Me being extremely sophisticated

Mary and I picking 'the one'.. and I still have my bag!

Then it was back to the van for a good sit down and the realisation, we still don't have a cork screw!

Although the second cave was a better experience, the staff were lively and fun, the cave was more impressive. For me the wine in the first was more to my taste.. says the lad from Kirkby!


   SUNDAY 3RD SEPT   



We got up after a great nights sleep, fueled by a little Samaur fizz! After a very, very steady breakfast and relax, we decided to go for a walk as we were surrounded by lovely woodland. We got our middle aged walking gear on and headed down the street and found, on the path a painted direction for the 'Circuit Patrimoine' .. meaning Heritage circuit!

Sounds good! 
Lets follow it!

We manage to follow it to the first point of interest, a natural spring that supplied the bath house.
At this point we went a little off piste and ended up in some woodland in the middle of a Mountain Bike Sportif!

"Pardon".."Pardon".."Excusez-moi!" was all I said for the next half hour :)

Anyway back off the track we went by the Abbey that was used as a prison for members of the Resistance during the second world war.  Twenty four were held here and ten of them shot inside the prison.
 I found some interesting carvings in the stone walls.




Further round the circuit..

Every other house seems to have a tractor on the drive.

This is when we were deep in the woods, that's the Abbey in the distance.

Interesting markings on lots of trees, lampposts and wall!!
Well its interesting if you're me, Mandy wasn't too intrigued.
I thought someone had been painting flags.

Each colour represents a walking route, a horizontal line means 'Bonne' Your going in the right direction. An L shape of your colour means you go either left or right. A cross in your colour means you've made a boo-boo!
Simple and genius!

Our not so 'loopy' circuit!


After a couple of coffees and more pastries in the square we decided to make a definite stab at making it to Chinon, as it was only 20 minutes away.. the odds were good! 

Fizz needed.. No corkscrew! 
Hmmm..

Vwala!


The view from our camping spot, well the empty one to the left of us as I picked the wrong one.
If its sunny tomorrow we will re-pitch, else Mand want to travel further South!

Bonne soiree

  SATURDAY 2ND SEPT   

We started the day by refilling the van with water at the site we were at. We had just gone over 24 hours so the barrier wouldn't lift until I put some more credit on the camping card thing it gave us on the way in!

Anyway food supplies were at Zero and since every time we went to a local store it seemed to be shut we thought we would head o the local supermarket.
Mirrors everywhere at the Supermarche!

After buying too much stuff to fit in the fridge we decided to head for Chinon (25 mins away) , but as ever we didn't manage to get there. As we drove by some lovely vineyards we noticed a sign towards the center of a village and it had a picture of a motor-home on it.. so we followed it!
We ended up at an Aire in a village called Fontevraud-l'Abbaye,
we parked up, had some french stick . cheese and all other manner of things. Then we went for a walk.

Turn the brass thing on top and water comes out of the green thing!

Mand 

In the local church.. very nice atmosphere inside.

The town hall known as a 'Mairie' all villages have one.

Fallen Soldiers.

The square where we had a cheeky drink. I thought I had found an amazing french beer called Panache .. It tasted amazing.. turns out its shandy!

On the way back to the van we found this tired fella just snoozing on the table of a cafe.


  FRIDAY 1ST SEPT   


Sunrise on the Loire..
( I went in my pyjamas to take this!)

No much happened today we wanted to cycle to Saumur but it was a little too far and the roads were quite fast. So we moved about 10 miles closer and pulled up at an Aire  in VilleBernier. After pressing lots of buttons at the gate , inserting cards and scratching our heads, the barrier eventually opened.

We cycled the remaining 4k  to Saumer and had a look round, rode up a hill to view the Chateau, ate some pizza got tired and cycled back.

The heavens then opened up so I went to bed and Mandy read...

"Nothing to see here.."
"move on please..."


  THURSDAY 31ST AUG   

Using Dirks map we thought we would head to the recommended region of Chinon.
Less. Than an hour down the road and the sun was shining again!

On route we thought we would stop, get some water.. as we didn't have to correct Jeton type token for the last Aire.

We tried about three times to get into this Aire  in Chouze sur Loire but a wedding was on in the local church and the road had a barricade. So we followed a track down to a municiple campsite Here.

What a find, right next to the Loire river and no one here!

Since no one was here and the tap didn't have a connector that would fit one of my many adapters I pulled out my weapon of choice.. some pliers!

Anyway after flushing the spiders out of the end of the connector.. didn't seem like it had been used much! I set the van alarm off, thankfully not bringing us too much attention as later that day when we were paying our 9 Euros we noticed a sign saying filling of campercar water tanks is prohibited! Yikes!


One sunny bike ride and donkey petting session later. We got back for some lunch overlooking the Loire.



   WEDNESDAY 29TH AUG   

We had another walk around Honfleur in morning, popped for a crepe at the market washed down with a couple of lovely coffees each.

cafe au lait

Brekky Crepe

I forgot to mention that the Aire in Honfleur was massive! I have never seen so many motorhome in one place. 240 parking spots!! For eleven euros you get to park, fill up with water, drop off your dirty waters and if you have a long enough electric lead you can get power! If you only have a comparatively small one like me, then you sit and wait and snipe a spot once somone moves off.

It started raining so we decided to use the time knocking a big chunk off the journey south and put a pin in the map at Chinon.
A nice place in the Loire valley region recommended to us.

200 miles later, driving through the heaviest rain we had ever seen we arrived at an amazing free Aire in an pretty little area called Villedomer.

The next 'dry' morning

We broke out the genuine French stick and Cooked up a Camembert with garlic and a Mandy made Veg soup!


Bon apetite!


   TUESDAY 29TH AUG   

We got chatting to a couple who pulled up next to us , also in an Autotrail. He looked and sounded very familiar, to the point I googled 'stalked' him afterwards. He looks the spitting image of Paul Hollywood! I googled his brothers to see if he was one of them. He was not although he looked more like Paul then they did!
 I didn't ask for a picture as it seemed too early in our relationship.

I mentioned it to his wife when we saw her in the morning and she said he gets it all the time. Although the twist in the plot is that Paul Hollywood's grandparents had a bakery on the same street where Simon's parents had a green grocers. They think there may have been some cross pollination back before tellys!!

Before leaving we drove to the actual services this picnic spot was attached to and we found a free service spot.. water, electric and waste.. Free :)

How excited to I look!
Hair dryer and Hoover on full chat!

Everything plugged in!

Anyway.. 100k South we hit a city called Rouen.
Parking was a bit dodgy but the city was fantastic.

Somewhere in the 32° heat in Rouen.
Yes our trainers do match :)


We strolled back to the van, in the hope it was still going to be there. There are only two Aires in the center of Rouen and both feel like your gambling as you walk away from your van. 

We grabbed some supplies and some tasty pastries from the local boulangerie (bakery) that opens with fresh bread and goodies twice a day.

We grabbed Dirkys map and stuck a pin in Honfleur on the west coast of us where the river Seine starts it's journey. One hour later we were having an anniversary drink in the harbour!


Cheers and happy anniversary my Mand!


It's a lovely place but don't visit unless you've won the lottery or it's your Anniversary!!!

Night :)

   MONDAY 28TH AUG  

We started the day with another stroll to the village for some fresh bread and veg. Very middle aged! 
Once back to the van we decided to head south..ish.. to a random point on the map!

We stopped at the bay of the Somme,
This is the Estuary observation spot, with cafe and restaurant!

But we will take our lunch here instead!

This is Dirk & Sylvia's van. They are parked up in the same spot as us. Here. They always use this spot on the way home from Spain. Dirk shared some of his best Aires with us and let us have his map and "All the Aires" book. Lovely couple!

We haven't moved on. The sun's setting,it's gloriously hot and we have no plan to follow!

   SUNDAY 27TH AUG   


Good morning!
We are going to leave early and visit the White cliffs of Dover!


Our quick detours to see the cliffs was a (white) washout!
All you can see from the top of the Cliffs is Dover Ferry port!
So here we go!

In one of the hundreds of queue lanes.
Sitting patiently :)

In the belly of the beast!
Lower deck with DiCaprio and the other workers!

Goodbye Dover!

We found a quiet little restaurant on one of the upper decks of the ferry. The prices seemed to keep the majority of folk away! 
Anyway after washing down a beetroot and butternut squash tart with a cappuccino the announcement came to return to your vehicles.

Back in the van, the ferry doors opened to the blazing French sunshine and a whole set of new traffic regulations.

We followed the first car we saw once off the ferry just while we go use to driving on the opposite side of the road and going counter clockwise around roundabouts. 

We used the maps.me app and clicked on the first camping spot South of Calais and near to a beach.

Wissant.. our first Aire ( a parking spot specifically for motorhomes ).
I've never seen so many motorhomes in one place!! Fantastic and Free!

We took a stroll to the beach...

A cow on a boat as a float!

I'm just cooking tea while supping my Doombar! Goodnight and god bless!  


   SATURDAY 26TH AUG   

Getting the van ready!!

Blokes 5 minute packing!
Pants, socks, too many T-shirts and an emergency bottle of Doombar!

Still sat on the drive!
House needs cleaning within an inch of its life apparently!

Canterbury here we meander!

It's not how big it is, 
Its what you do with it that counts.
#VanEnvy 

Arrived at Clip Farm for a quiet night 
After 220 miles. Just filling up with water!
















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