Saturday, September 11, 2010

To the end of our first year of motorhoming...

This entry is a summary covering the whole of our trip to UK in August 2009 and again at the end of the year.

Once again all the Aires visited and referred to are detailed on the Club Motorhome website.

End of July  2009

So once again we pack up and head off towards the UK, this time for a family wedding.

Our route takes us up towards the Pyrenees and our usual first night stop in Morella. This time we arrive after dark and the sight of Morella all lit up in the distance was both wonderful and timely.

It had, as I recollect, seemed a long way up that day. Having set out rather later than usual, our arrival this late, might have been, for a first time visit rather daunting but as we have got to Morella so well, we happily pitched up in pitch black except for the distant town floodlights enhancing Morella's lovely architecture. After paying a bill in town the next day we make a promise that we will return and visit the town properly as it has so much to offer.

Onwards we go and stop overnight in the ski resort of Artouste Fabreges a dramatic and beautiful drive up to this highpoint reveals still, some snow (on the last day of July) and a lovely lakeside setting on which we would spend our second night.

Motoring on down the following day you have to be aware of the rocky overhangs - ok in a car but much closer to the roof of the motorhome so we make the narrow drive down carefully avoiding them and the on coming traffic - interesting!

Arriving at Mimizan Plage on the first of August is fun. With no attention being paid to 'aire' rules we find a campsite with awnings, tables and chairs, BBQ's laundry etc. People take more room than they need and the overflow car park is also packed. Still, a good little earner for the Mairie, the police seem to overlook this, collect their money and point out that we seem to have an overflow problem which is totally frowned upon and we (he) makes a rapid repair before we are pointed at and have any more fingers wagged at us. Of course we should not have a leak, we appreciate this but we do find it strange that a culture who find it acceptable to take a 'leak' anywhere have such a problem with a little soapy 'grey' escaping????

We stop off at lovely Nersac and the peaceful and relaxing Montoire sur Loire before heading to our pre ferry stop at La Touquet
which was totally full. So off to the second La Touquet aire where we are moved along to allow for some equestrian event and we couldn't find it's third aire. We head off to Equihen Plage which has a wonderful beach. We were a little put off by the proximity to the sewage plant next door but in honesty it wasn't a problem.

For the duration of our stunning family wedding we stay at Coleford in a little campsite and it was very clean and well kept. We are a little surprised not to find a launderette on site so before we deapart we call into a little launderette where Doris and Ros share with us their many secrets of launderette life - French and Saunder's surely could do something with this!

On the way to Dover we drop in, quite literally, on some friends whom we have not seen for three and a half years and I think Andy was just about to tell us there is no room for travellers down their little lane, before realising we were not going to set up home just outside his front lawn. So a quick catch up and we head for our ferry, a quick crossing and the first night of our return leg which we have planned will take us along the Normandy and Brittany coasts before heading back 'home'

11th August our jouney begins - we leave the little town of Le Portel and head for a reasonble stop and find ourselves at Le Treport - just a reminder that all of France is not beautiful. We are at an Aire with a sewage plant which this time does make itself apparent and a trading estate. The weather is gloomy and so even a walk to the beach and prom do very little for us. We do however make some new friends in the shape of Pauline and Margie who are also enjoying the newly found pleasure of MH'ing.

We are told that Vueles le Roses is better than our next intended stop of St Valery en Caux, so we dutifully check it out enjoy a stroll round, spending a fairly cramped night before moving on to St Valery which we loved.

OK you are crammed in, yes it it is busy and you run the risk of losing your space if you have to use the services. BUT what a fab location and what great friends we made. It really is superb here and we stay a few days with the other one of us learning from our new German friend the art of selecting and eating oysters. I am not so sure that buying his own is a good idea in the confines of a MH notorious are they for their potential for food poisoning if they are not selected carefully. 

Time for us to leave our little holiday and head further along or we will stay here for the duration - we head on to Etretat which is a lovely but extremely busy seaside resort - people, promenading, playing and posing so not really our sort of place although we spend a comfortable night there before heading on to Honfleur.

Lovely location, rip off prices and beside leHavre gas works. We spend time at Courseilles sur Mer (Juno) and to Arromanches before heading on to Bayuex where we are delighted to spend a couple of days, seeing both beautiful gardens and the peaceful but startling and stirring commonweatlth war memorial and of course the amazing tapestry which suddenly brings to life those boring history lessons I remember from when I was around 10 or 11.

We wake up on our second day here surrounded by the market! Say no more but we stick around before going to the launderette. When half way through the cycles we realise the loads are on 60 and 90 degrees! Surprisingly we take all of our laundry having survived the extreme temperatures with us when we head off to Isigny sur Mer (famous for its butter) which we have a cycle around and a decent nightstop. It is a pretty little town with shops and restuarants although not sure how near the sea it actually is as we couldn't find a route to it by bike.

We travel up the Tjaerbourg peninsula to Siouxville Hague which is a very quiet little place although a surfers paradise and we being as adventurous as we are assembled our new power kite - good as an arm workout apparently - to spend the next hour using our legs more to collect and re fly it. After just as much swearing as we can bear it is put away (probably forever) and we return to the aire and dinner after a very worthwhile photo shoot. Back down the peninsula we find Granville which we love. It is a grand seaside resort with the usual war history and plenty of shops and restuarants.

Moving on finds us at the hugely touristy spot of Mont St Michel. A huge car park serves as the parkign place and it is teaming with people - the only place we found like this during all our travels so far.Making the most of its popularity everything is expensive even by France's current statndards.

Beautiful but too busy for us we move on to the little harbour town of Pleneuf Val Andre where we enjoy a lovely long walk around the coastal path to the town very pretty and a great place to have a stretch.

We do another long walk to St Brieuc from the aire at Port Pleurin the next day but we never quite make it to the town. A good walk along the marina though and the place is shrouded in this smelly old mud aroma as the river is very tidal.

At this point in the journey we realise that we simply do not have time to do the Brittany coast justice on this trip and make the decision to cut across to Pays de Loire. On the way we stop off at St Barnabe where having parked at the local leisure spot we are treated by the locals to watching a long game of boule - what a lovely social way to spend an afternoon / evening.

Ah Quiberon! We just love it, cycling around it and spending a couple of days at the seaside and enjoying the local cuisine - yep more seafood. I settle for a tuna roulade but the oysters and mussels were of course much fresher.

At La Roche Bernard we find a very unofficial place to stay - someone's side garden which is apparently OK according to the tourist office and take a stroll along the marina which has used a very interesting and novel idea for advertising it's commerce and a walk round the historic town.

At our next planned stop we cannot stay on the small island were we are keen to as the aire is full to bursting. Moving on...

The little town of Le Barre de Monts has a nice little aire but is a long walk from the beach especially in the pouring rain. so we sit inside and eat and people watch. The next day we head further down the coast to a little seaside town which we really like, another fab beach and a red squirrel that we saw in the woods alongside the aire - how sweet and fab to see something of what we imagine to be quite a rarity.

Our next stop was a lovely but oh so windy beach, at Angoulins. The kite and windsurfers were having a ball and putting on an amazing show for the spectators. Sadly it really was just too windy and cold to be comfortable to be on the beach for too long. The following day we turn inland along the Gironde and find a lovely marina spot which has an aire and is well set up for the visitor with electrics, water, cafes, restaurants and of course, sharing the marina many boats to watch.

Back to our old favourite Mimizan Plage and Capbreton where I was dramatically reminded of the power of the sea - scary! Laruns in the Pyrenees gave us a home for our last night in France before we once again drop in on Morella before arriving home 11th September.

28th November  Onwards again to Morella and wondering why we don't live there:-) Once again it is only a stopover as we have to make the trip fairly quickly in order to arrive at the ferry port by Dec 10th - honestly that is quick for us! This time we are towing the Harley back to its new home in UK.

So we make quite a careful journey up to Hendaye Plage where we manage, just, to get on to the end of the car park outside the station. Rain prevents anything like a walk although we are a little nervous anyway of leaving the bike unattended. After another blustery night along the coast we head inland. It ends up being only a wet and windy drive along some new and old Aires - passing through we stop off at a troglodyte village which is now a large basket making village.

Upwards we head towards north French coast after a quick drive around Rouen. All of the aires we stop at have some appeal in the way of a river, nice safe location or just a pretty town. We are really getting into the swing of aires. Le Portel is our final stop on this leg of our journey and we were instructed how to use the new services by the attendant - a good job too! Although we are now mastering a little more French I am not sure we would have known where to start.

Our UK trip takes us firstly to Norfolk before we head to Wales and Treffaldu Farm. We chose this farm as it was near some family we wanted to visit our trip to this campsite was an event. Taking the wrong turning along this muddy and very dark lane we come across a barred gate and trying to turn around landed us well and truly stuck in the mud! Croc's of course are perfect shoes for camping but when you are ankle deep in mud it tends to seep through the holes making a complete mess of his socks, the floor, the rugs, and the bathroom mat ended up with strategically placed footprints.

All this in the time it took for the farmer to arrive in his 4x4, scratch his chin worriedly and decide that his tractor is required. Some scary moments later with both of us getting this definite sinking feeling we eventually see the light - of the tractor that is and what a welcome sight. We are hoisted by the back end around until we face the right direction and are escorted safely to the correct field.

How beautiful and different it all seemed the next morning, the sun shining, sheep in the field next door, horses and gun dogs getting exercised and some lovely fresh farm eggs for breakfast. Superb!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

27th June 2009

Home! Back in our beautiful holiday home and in our other, own bed!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

26th June 2009 - Peniscola

We arrived at Peniscola (1) and there being no 'room at the inn' (definitely homes, camping gear, awnings the lot, parked up for the summer me thinks!) we find Peniscola (2) a large car park with a place for MH's at the back. it was late when we arrived so after a fairly uninspiring look around we head back to the 'van' for dinner and an early night ready for our final leg tomorrow! We sleep comfortably as there is electricity and so a fan! It was also the most expensive place we stopped this trip. Spain could do a bit better with it's Aires - that said this one did have all facilities including a clean and modern, loo and shower block!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

24th/25th June 2009 - Leucate

How many love affairs can you have on one trip? This place is perfect for us at least and we decide to stay a second night as we would like to explore a bit and we are parked beside the beach and the weather is perfect and it is just too idyllic to move.

We spend a leisurely couple of days cycling, relaxing, walking along the shore, insulting our neighbours! Sometimes his humour could get him sunk! A perfect end to our French adventure!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

23rd June 2009 - Sete to St Pierre sur Mer

We arrived in our chosen place for a spot of wildcamping! Someone along route had told us about this wonderful 3 km stretch of beach almost fully lined up with motorhomes and indeed it was every bit as fantastic as we had been led to believe.

We spent a great day wandering onto and along the beach. After a beachside lunch we decided, due to the potential for traffic noise along this seemingly very bus and quite fast highway, against staying and would find a different Aire along the route of our way home. After an almost divorce (OH and TomTom!) and a long and confusing trail round towns and villages and a road straight through a river with no sight of the salt lakes - well maybe a brief glimpse we finally arrived, nearly dark, at St Pierre sur Mer. What a brillian place! It looks like a really smart little resort with I guess all the facilities for a short holiday break. We will come back here but as we are running short of time we decide to visit another couple of places before arriving in Spain. Both Sete and St Pierre sur Mer were having works around the aires and we will of course put full reports on the Club Motorhome website when we have re-visited.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

22nd June 2009 - Balaruc les Bains

The aire we stayed at was in the car parking area of the spa. We witnessed some of the selfish behaviour that seems inherent at popular aires. Camping, careless parking and reserving places with the use of camping gear. I think we are so careful about following the rules that it seems a little unfair when others don't. However this is a nice place full of people taking the water which looking across the bay to a fairly heavily industrial area amazed me that it has beneficial properties - minerals of some sort I don't doubt! There was clearly some long stayers here so it must be regarded as doing some good. The spa itself did appear very relaxing - from the outside! I'll just get in the sea tomorrow.

Monday, June 21, 2010

21st June 2009 - Millau

A stunning drive! Millau is just a wonderful place. A big city full of historic buildings a well attended music (possibly quite famous) festival and naturally the magnificent and awesome Millau viaduct made this a lovely stop. The aire was very busy and a little cramped to be honest but there was a great atmosphere. I guess this was mainly due to the festival but I imagine we will return to get a good look around the town. We made the little trip up to the viaduct visitor centre which provided us with our first view from right underneath it. Spectacular!

We treated ourselves out to a Pizza in a little street cafe. Full of charm and a really good pizza. A favourite and memorable little stop

Sunday, June 20, 2010

20th June 2009 - Boisse Ponchot

We had intended to stop at Cayrols for the night and after once again travelling through stunning scenery we made it and decided it really wasn't for us. It was not like being in the France that we had so far come across. A suitable substitute for the night turned out to be Boisse Ponchot. We were right beside the Lot and the amenity area. The town was quite busy enjoying what seemed to be similar to an English village fete. Various things going on at the school and a big barbecue party down by the lake.

There is a huge weir just along the river and we had a very pleasant stroll before popping to the bar for refreshment and where for the first time during out recent travels in France we were confronted not with unpleasantness but indifference for sure. This came as a bit of a surprise to us as we have always found the French people along our way to be charming. We are still lucky enough to be enjoying fabulous weather.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

19th June 2009 - Crandelles

We did not have very far to travel to this pleasant little stop by this leisure lake and set beside the ancient church.

Once again we were treated to fabulous scenery. Rolling hills and  green of every shade and luckily for us still sun without which we would not have seen this region in all it's glory.

After a short walk as this is a very small town we had a drink at the lakeside bar and then dinner was accompanied by our favourite evening pastime birdwatching. It really is fascinating to see the birds catching their supper. The next morning there was a fishing competition and lots of people otherwise enjoying the lovely lake!

Friday, June 18, 2010

18th June 2009 - Turenne

Turenne we found out is one of the official 52 most beautiful villages in France and it certainly lived up to its status. A wander through the village (not for the feint hearted) up to the monastery (undergoing restoration when we were there) rewards you with simply stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

After dinner we were invited to our new pals Jan and Mike to partake of some wine tasting. Sitting at the foot of the floodlit village created a wonderful ambience and added to the enjoyment of the evening. The wine definitely tasted good and after many tastes we went to bed totally relaxed and having learned more tips from our new friends.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

17th June 2009 - Objat

Tom Tom takes us on an interesting journey through pretty villages and over breathe-in bridges. This little place was lovely and we cycled some fair distance to search out a 'madonna' for our archway at home! Not to be had and I was a little glad - not entirely sure how we would have got it back on the bikes;-) she needs to be 1 metre high so it would have been heavy.

On the way back to our nightstop we stop by the lake which is a super leisure facilty with gardens, boating, a swimming pool, petanque court restuarant - well you could do so much there and we opted for a cycle ride around the lake. Very pretty!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

16th June 2009 - Uzerche

Today after doing the chores we spent a couple of tourist hours wandering around in this delightful town. Churches, crypts, viewpoints it really does have enough to keep you busy. As usual the town is well kept and clean.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

15th June 2009 - Uzerche

For people not looking to move house we do keep bumping into towns and villages that we could happily live in and Uzerche is no exception.

We had a couple of short walks between rain showers some of which were very heavy. On the footbridge to town we were a little surprised to bump into a Ninja turtle! No we had not been drinking! We did however enjoy the company of Jean and Robert tonight and over a few glasses shared some stories and tips. Of course at this point we are still very new to all this it being our longest trip so far!

Monday, June 14, 2010

14th June 2009 - Oradour sur Glane

Happy birthday grandson Jack! So off we go again to find Oradour sur Glane. It is possibly the most powerful place I have ever been. At one point after being in the martyred village only a very short time I did wonder if I could turn the corner into the main street. Really steeling myself I did this and let out a small gasp. I really do not have the words to explain. For personal reasons I struggled with this 'reminder' of the horrors of war but would not want to have missed it. The journey back to see it was worth every mile. If you have time I would just say you really must go!

For obvious reasons the Aire here is very busy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

13th June 2009 - Treignac

We pulled up by the riverside to enjoy a night in the company of some German fulltimers who had the hugest motorhome we had ever seen. They seemed, despite having superior facilities aboard their 'home', to be enchanted with the idea of bathing in the nearby lake. Maybe something was lost in translation and they meant swimming, but I definitely would have gone for the soft option as it was chilly in the water despite the fine June weather we were having.

The Aire is by a stream just up from the lake and a fairly long up hill walk to the town. On our way up from the Aire we were truly plagued by flies. A combination of the sudden very fine weather, being close to water and trees possibly all I can say is that they made what could have been a pleasant walk became a bit of a strut to get out of their way - and we were not looking forward to the journey back!! Rubbing salt in the wounds our fulltiming neighbours came flying past on their little scooter and waving as if really pleased to see us. Maybe they too were just waving the flies away? The town however was lovely with loads of cafes bars and stuff.

12th June 2009 - Meymac

We decided that we would make a move today and go and find a laundrette. The tourist office had advised we would find one in Ussel and so this became our destination where we would also stop the night if the aire there was to our liking. Of course when you find the laundrette its really handy but after several attempts to ask we spotted the local tourist ofice. The building works round the college did not make it easy to reach even the information - parking once we had established its location proved impossible. So a long walk carrying two very large loads of washing we found the place and the washing commenced. The motorhome was, at this point, quite along way away parked in a fairly quiet area a bit away from the main town. We were not too happy about this so I stayed with the washing while OH babysat the 'home'.

Our admin needs did not allow us to do the town justice but it seems a very pretty place with (at that time) a buzzing little centre.

The washing all done and now slightly heavier it seemed, we headed straight back to the 'home' and made tracks to the aire. Placed right outside a campsite we decided against staying as it was a quite a long way from town and really nothing much there when compared to Meymac, so that is where we returned to for another night at this lovely lake location. We aired our washing, went for a walk around the lake, had dinner and settled down for the night. ready for our return journey back north! We really did fall for Meymac it is a wonderful small town with lots of interest around.

Friday, June 11, 2010

11th June 2009 – Meymac

On our way to Meymac we called in at a municipal campsite with a view to stopping and maybe getting the laundry done. The pitches there however were very boggy so maybe another time in less wet weather. On our visit to the town centre which is a good walk from the Aire we found out to our embarrassment what we had missed at Oradour sur Glane. Particularly embarrassing for us is the fact that we had been discussing this very place (but not by name) with my father before our departure. So it was that after Meymac we would return and visit. Quite literally onwards and upwards. Slightly odd on a journey south. Oh well , only a few kilometres north again and the beauty of this way of travelling comes into its own again.

Anyway back to Meymac.

What a wonderful medieval town and yes we think we could live here. The first falling in love of this trip!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

10th June 2009 – Felletin

We found this place by accident after not really liking the car park that served as the Aire in Aubusson.  We very nearly stopped by at the municipal campsite as it was getting time to do our first lot of washing and it had a washing machine. So on we went until we found Felletin.

It had not been on our list which just goes to show how wrong you can be to ‘judge a book by its cover.’ Although of course this can work both ways as in the case of Aubusson.

We will most certainly visit there some other time as our drive through showed a very attractive town.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

9th June 2009 – Bourgeneuf

Well we got settled in and were completely puzzled by people who kept driving up and then leaving – perhaps we got it wrong but there is another aire around here?

Had a little wander round and came back and still they drive in and straight back out again? Another turns and stays, so it must be right- right?

Waking up next day we are a little surprised to be hemmed in by the market, now we understood. So two new pairs of shoes, eggs and cherries later we vacate a little after one, although in fairness we are not ever going to be first on the road.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

8th June 2009 – Oradour sur Glane

Is a lovely little town if the source of much embarrassment to us. Our only excuse for missing the point of this incredible part of WWII history was that it was pouring with rain and we didn’t venture too far when the heavens opened. The Aire is very well set up for the significant numbers of visitors arriving in ‘camping cars’.

Monday, June 7, 2010

7th June 2009 - Les Salles Lavauguyon

Seems the answer is – no, we will never actually get it. Here we are in Les Salles Lavauguyon and we have no drinking water, no dinner and yes you guess it no shops open that we can find. Those that had been opened were by now all shut up. We have no excuse except we simply forget which day of the week it is (again!). The downside of our fortunate lifestyle – oh well!

So we went to Rochechouart to get some lunch out and of course it was a fiesta so the only hopeful bar was closed for a private party. Sometimes you do feel you are up against it! We did, however,  find a salon de The and managed to secure a sandwich and a bottle d’eau. Tres bien, one’s tastes become so simple when in fear of being hungry!

Anyhow when enjoying our evening back at the Aire we were treated to the sight of a beautiful deer proudly strutting by our ‘home’ putting all frustrations firmly to the back of our minds. Although the Aire was absolutely fine we were there alone and the little village seemed sadly to be suffering in the recession. None of the bars or shops appeared to be open – ever!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

6th June 2009 – Lhommaize

We were on our way to our next stop when we came across our first view of a nuclear power station - unsurprisingly we were treated to a night of free electricity! I think we would have felt affronted if they had made us pay with the source being so close. Although we have our own views on nuclear power it does make you look at the rivers with some suspicion! One of our favourite things about France is the omnipresent running water. Another pretty little town although arriving on Saturday afternoon meant it was very quiet.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

5th June 2009 – St Clement des Levees

What a superb little Aire on the banks of the Loire just perfect for a walk to stretch a little before taking front row seats to watch plenty of birdlife diving into the river for  their evening feed, nicely accompanied with a glass of wine - us that is, not the birds!

Services were a bit remote from the Aire so it was lucky we were full / empty when we arrived as we had to watch several ‘homes’ leave due to some thoughtless parking by cars which were actually not allowed. We did end up wondering if these locals were not as positive about camping cars as we had previously found. Too much paranoia!

Friday, June 4, 2010

4th June 2009 - Brezolles

We had a lovely day driving through pretty villages just west of Centre until we arrived at our first planned night at Brezolles. Once again there was just a flutter of nerves.

It seems that whenever you drive into the villages at towns inland you always spot some what we have gotten into the habit of calling ‘ne’er do wells’. We don’t mean it to be unkind but the recession had taken its toll on unemployment in France and there did always seem to be a handful of people hanging around who didn’t seem to be up to any good. There we were suffering from reading too much about bandits and robbers who were waiting to pounce on us every time we stopped or left the van for just a few minutes. We certainly have no evidence of being targeted and I think this is simply because France has a very positive view of ‘camping cars’. The Aire is well positioned and attractive and best of all was an enormous rabbit that seemed to live in the Aire much to the annoyance of the little dog that was staying in one of the motorhomes.

A lovely sunny day too which allowed some good photo opportunities of the attractive church.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

3rd June 2009 - La Touquet again

CLEAN (us and the van) and ready for the off including a new shower tap and everything we were excited to commence our summer tour of the Limousin and Auvergne. Being lucky enough to be hurried onto the earlier SeaFrance ferry meant that we arrived back at La Touquet earlier than expected where we spent just a night eager to get down to the Limousin.

Friday, May 21, 2010

21st May 2009 - You are joking??

Local Swift dealer says they can get me a new shower tap 90 odd quid... and... 3 weeks wait - WHAT? No time for all that - £60 on Ebay saw precisely the right tap, on my doorstep, ready to fit within a couple of days.

Enquiries via my insurance company put me in touch with AutoWindscreens for replacement glass. Frustratingly they had no idea what the screen was from as Swift Bel-Airs do not appear on their database. With time being important I contacted Swift direct and established part numbers and yes, they had a couple in stock BUT one would have to be ordered via a dealer and... you guessed it, it would take 2 to 3 weeks!!!

Now this may be a bit of a rant but, I cannot believe that companies can be 'authorised dealers' and not carry decent levels of stock. I realise the windscreen is for a 'rare' model but the shower tap?? Come on - it is NOT acceptable to have to wait so long for parts! Rant over :-)

It was established that there would be no replacement in time for our next departure. So it would have to wait until we were back in the UK later in the year.....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

18th May 2009 - Cristal d'Arques, glass experiences....

En route to Arques a large stone was thrown up by an oncoming lorry hitting the front of our motorhome - hard! By the time we could stop and check for damage a large crater in the base of the wndscreen had started to crack upwards - bugger!

We visited Crystal d’Arques and managed to get three items for 3.50 euro in the huge outlet they have there before moving onto La Touquet for the night – well what is there to say? A very efficient and well placed Aire for the ports of Calais and Boulogne.

Expensive by comparison to our recent stops, this Aire is set on the side of a very upmarket seaside town, so posh in fact, that we even saw an Afghan hound! The beach is in easy walking distance so we took a leg stretch before settling down before our ferry the next day and a house with a much needed and very overdue shower!

Monday, May 17, 2010

17th May 2009 - Champagne!! or, maybe not as it's Sunday :-(

Maybe our smell arrived before we did in the Champagne area, stopping at Mareuil Sur Ay, who knows? By then we had forgotten the tap by switching off the water except when we needed it and were both looking forward to tasting some of the local produce – not open on a Sunday then? Whenever does a traveller have to know which day it is? Well that’ll be Saturday so you can be prepared for total shutdown on Sundays! We are learning fast. The Aire was however delightful and we met a few more people, enjoyed a lovely canal side walk and a great Pizza and local beer. That’s us - champagne tastes, beer budget!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

16th May 2009 - Elusive, these shower taps....

Thaon Les Vosges is very busy but very scenic on the side of a canal.

With just a short walk to town. Sadly the dealers we went to visit, obviously on foot as we didn’t want to lose our pitch, was on the outskirts of the town in an industrial zone. We made it by 5.50 on Saturday afternoon and were amazed to find it open. Turning to desperation that they did not have a stock of the Whale tap fitting we needed to mend our by now furiously dripping frost damaged tap and equally importantly get ourselves a shower. Prevention of frost damage becoming increasingly important.

May sound amusing but, with no working tap, putting an amount of water into the plugged shower tray and using it as a human bird bath was getting quite tiresome now!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

15th May 2009 - Into the Rhone-Alps

We continued north and were now venturing into Rhone Alp land. The scenery at once became both dramatic and beautiful. Known as the Lake District we were treated to some truly stunning scenery.

Our trip to Nantua and its beautiful lake was where we met our first ‘British friends’. Hi to Maggi and Clive if you are reading and thanks for the offer of a shower! It was great to speak to them and exchange our first experiences with people who had enjoyed their motorhome for a similar period of time but who had been very adventurous with a trip to Morocco during their first year!

We loved Nantua and this area and again we are certain to make this another trip for the future, spending a little more time instead of long travel every day which we were doing this time. So we finished the day overlooking the lake with a lovely bit of steak – sheer bliss

Our view of the lake:-)

Friday, May 14, 2010

14th May 2009 - The search for a new shower tap begins

A long wet journey north further frustrated by the sudden lack of motorhome dealers. After three attempts to get the shower bits we needed, we ended up by blocking up the pipe holes – a reminder of the very old mice joke! A little Spanish trick of clamping the pipes tightly bent back on themselves stops the increasing flow of water. Well we can’t blame Laudun for the weather. It just poured with rain so hard our only real memory of this pretty little village was the mad dash round for super glue to add permanence to the earlier major repairs to the tap. Very good tip - don’t travel without some! It didn’t mend the shower tap but helped stem the flow (for future information - prevention of frost damage can be found on Club Motorhome website!!!!!!!)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

13th May 2009 - Beautiful French gorge

Lucky (13th) for us we just didn’t take to Bolquerex, our first choice for this night stop. It left us feeling a little uneasy so we moved on (one of the great benefits of using Aires with no booking) to Thues Entre Vall our second choice and were very glad that we did.

Set in a beautiful gorge in the Pyrenees , the cascading white water soothed us into a very comfortable night stay – extremely privileged to stay for the princely sum of 2 euro! Should have been 4 euro but the entrance barrier went up with the first coin inserted - so who were we to argue?

Only real problem was that our water pump kept ticking away on its own for no apparent reason. A quick check of the plumbing revealed water running down the back of the shower from below the tap housing - another leak and probably more bloody old frost damage by the look of it!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

12th May 2009 - Out of Spanish storage and onwards to the UK

We woke Trevor (that's the motorhome!) from it's 'siesta', loaded all our gear and set off, mountain bikes included this time.

Here we are back at Morella en route from Spain to UK. This time we had time to visit the little town and although takes around 30 minutes to walk up to it is time well spent. There are sightseeing, shopping and photography opportunities a plenty. Once again a great first night for our trip up the eastern side of France.

Friday, February 26, 2010

26th February 2009 – into Spain

So let’s try Morella, one of the few and far between ‘Aires’ in Spain along our route ‘home’.

How impressive this little town is? Perched high on a hilltop in amongst what we regard as the most dramatic scenery in the Castellon province of the Valencian Community. It is a great first or last stop for us on our journeys back and forth to the UK.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

25th February 2009 - Valanjou to Mimizan Plage

On our travels down to Mimizan Plage we witnessed the terrible devastation of the pine forests all down the Atlantic coast. The result of the violent storms experienced some few weeks earlier. Glad we missed that!

On the contrary we had delightfully sunny days in which we experienced Mimizan as it should be empty, sunny and the day finishing with a stunning sunset!! Just gorgeous! We feel an extended stay coming on.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

24th February 2009 – That’s it... we’re off!

Setting out for Spain on our first trip down the west side of France since riding our motorbike down a year before (another story) we had a beautiful drive from the ferry port of Le Havre to Valanjou for our first night stop at an Aire de Camping Car.

There is room for five vans and it is by a river, a delightful night stop. As is the case with all Aires we mention in this blog, full details can, or will soon, be found by members on Club Motorhome’s website. Naturally it is with some trepidation that you take to your bed for the first night in a ‘foreign’ country. Will the ubiquitous ‘ne’er do wells’ come and gas us? Will the heating gas us? Will the gas explode? Will the nearby sheep and goats gnaw through our cable – yes we had hook up! Of course none of this happened and we went merrily on our way the next day. Mmm this free stopover lark is looking good!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

17th February 2009 - Plans are made

We've done what we planned to do which was to spend as much of January and February in the UK to find and buy a suitable motorhome. To then try it out and to become familiar with its workings. Then to carry out maintenance jobs following the try-out.

We now have an overnight crossing booked with LDLines from Portsmouth to Le Havre on the 23rd February.

Final purchases are made, except for last minute food items, and everything seems to stow away within the vehicle very nicely.

The next week will go very slowly while we wait and make quick visits to relatives and friends before the off.

Friday, February 12, 2010

12th February 2009 – How cold is COLD?

The fact that we were toasty warm when we woke showed us that our quilt worked a treat. Two numb and freezing noses alerted us to the fact that the heating wasn’t working a treat - in fact, at all! Ok, what now? Seems like the two gas cylinders provided by our dealer had not actually been full ones(well, I hadn’t actually asked the question) – phew! Or brrr as it actually was!  Oh well, a few problems to sort out and very grateful we had a try out before setting off to France and back ‘home’ to Spain.

Although our supplying dealer was happy to sort out the waste blockage and frost damaged surge damper it was going to cost more to take the Bel-Air back to Devon than to fix the problems ourselves. Anyway being ‘forced’ into doing repairs is a great way to understand the workings of this new machine. Scrabbling around in the freezing cold and a dismantling of the waste pipe from underneath revealed the blockage – yuk! Don’t let anything except water go down the plughole became our first commandment! Anew surge damper was eventually sourced locally and was quite easy to fit.