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!