Holidays ’16 – France – week 2

Monday 18th July

Its even hotter today, with a high of 34C forecast, and not a cloud in the sky.

We’re running short of food and are being eaten alive by the mosquitos so its off the the local supermarket to get provisions and something to keep the nasty flying things away. We’re also running short of cash so need to find an ATM, then its off to Saumur by bikes. The journey there was hard going as it was 12 miles of off-road cycling in the baking heat, but being off road meant that there was no traffic to contend with.

After a stop in Saumur for photos, a cool refreshing drink and to replenish our water we set off for the campsite. It was so hot in places that the road surface was melting, passing cars sounded like they were driving through puddles of water. On arrival back in Gennes at 5pm we sought the boulanger to get some bread to go with our dinner. A display outside the local pharmacy showed that the temperature had cooled to an oppressive 37C, time to go back to the campsite and get in the shower.

Saumur centre, umbrellas but no rain

Tuesday 19th July

This is planned to be our last day in Gennes so we’ll take an easy cycle ride up towards Le Thoureil on the beautiful and quiet banks of the Loire. All was going well until Fiona managed to get herself a rear tyre puncture. Our puncture repair kit didn’t work, I think the glue had gone off years ago so after 3 attempts to fix the puncture I was left with no option but to cycle back to Gennes and try and get a new repair kit. 20 minutes later I was in the Super U, had purchased the new repair kit and a replacement inner tube and a large bottle of cold water. It was getting hot, but I didn’t bother to look at the temperature readout at the pharmacy. Another 15 minutes and I was back with Fiona and set about changing her tyre inner tube. As we’d lost a good few hours and I was shattered, we decided to return to the van and chill out for the rest of the day. We cycled back to Gennes later that day for some more provisions (Fiona had finished off all the cider). It was hotter than before, the roads were melting, and Fiona was retching from the stench of the tarmac. This time we did look at the temperature reading outside of the pharmacy and were horrified to see that it was 41C. Bring on the cold cider.

Wednesday 20th July

We are woken at 06:15 by what sounds like a gas burner blasting away. I’m worried. We have about 15 litres of propane onboard. I deactivate the alarm and jump out of the van to see what is happening. There was no need for me to worry. Looking up, it was obvious where the noise was coming from, as shown in the photo below.

Saumur Champigny

Chillout day. And for good reason. I hardly slept a wink due to the temperature and to sheer heat exhaustion so today all I did was drink plenty and keep out of the sun. This was nothing to do with the cold cider nor with the wine. Fiona did much the same as I. Thankfully, at 32C, the day is much cooler than yesterday.

Thursday 21st July

We depart Gennes and head back to Saumur en route to St Cyr en Bourg while trying our hardest to avoid driving anywhere near Saumur Centre. Finally we arrive at ‘Robert et Marcel’, which used to be known as ‘Cave de Saumur’. After a few tastings we make our selection, pay up and set off in the general direction of Angers where we hope to stay the night before heading back towards Normandy. We end up at a campsite in Rochfort sur Loire where we stay only one night.

Friday 22nd July

It rained overnight – fantastic – its cooling down. Oh no, its not.

We’re up early and soon on our way once we have played with the sat nav, heading around Angers and heading for Laval. The countryside here is fantastic, its like Devon but only warmer and on a much grander scale with its countless fields and woods. We deposit ourselves back in the Aire at St Jean sur Mayenne which only charges €9 per night for a pitch, electric and unlimited showers. We chill out here and plan the next stop as we intend to depart tomorrow to see something of Normandy before we go home and I hope to buy a bottle of Calvados.

Saturday 23rd July

Up early, well 8 ish, and then head off by around 10 o’clock. We have decided to head for Bagnoles De L’Orne in Normandy. We have been there before when the kiddies were small, but all I can remember is that it rained heavily all day long – let’s hope for a better visit this time. We arrive at the camp site at around noon and wander in for a look and quickly decide to stay.

Camping du Vee is a short 4 or 5 minute cycle ride from of Bagnoles, and has the best sanitary facilities we have yet seen at a campsite, they even supply the toilet paper! We park up, set out the table and chairs beneath the awning and then head off on bikes to explore the town and to take a few photos. There is nothing ‘traditionally French’ about Bagnoles, it dates from the late 19th C so has none of the usual ‘lived in’ looks.


Sunday 24th July.

Its church day, well it is for the locals, the damn bells have been ringing for a while now. Despite this, the local small supermarket, boulanger and other shops are open for business and we spend a few hours in the afternoon drinking and ‘people watching’ to while away the time. Fiona gets her second bike puncture and has to walk the last 200 metres to the campsite where we are able to repair it.

Monday 25th July.

It rained for about 2-3 minutes this morning – well, it is Normandy isn’t it?. Anyway, it soon dried up and became a nice hot day. Bagnoles has a ‘velo rail’ on a disused railway so we decided to cycle over there and give it a go for the afternoon. It took us around about 50 minutes to complete the outbound and return sections after which we dillied around in the centre of town enjoying a mojito and a beer while people watching – all in all it was a great way to spend our last full afternoon in France.


Tuesday 26th August

We slowly meander our way from Bagnoles towards Le Havre, taking a number of wrong turns but we still get there in time for the ‘economic’ ferry crossing and home by 23:00. We take the opportunity to fill up with diesel at Lisieux, with the price of €1.04 it would have been stupid not to. This works out at £0.87 a litre which is far more palatable than the UK price of around £1.12.

Holidays ’16 – France – week 1

Saturday 9th July

Off to France on the ‘fastcraft’ in the morning, I do hope the sea is calm. The damn fridge in the ‘van is now sounding an alarm; let’s hope it stops sometime soon – its probably something to do with me putting 2 bottles of ice in it in an attempt to keep all the Hobgoblin, Hobgoblin Gold and King Goblin nice and cool. I bought a ‘top-up’ for my mobile broadband dongle so that we could access the internet while away; we are all set to go.

Sunday 10th July

Our alarm wakes us at 5:15 in the morning, the ‘fastcraft’ departs at 07:30 and we need to be there in Portsmouth 45 minutes earlier. Its raining at home. We don’t make the 45 minutes earlier bit, and we’re second to last to board. No-one told me that I’d have to reverse onto the damn boat!.

Three hours and a bit later, at 11:30 local time, we drive off at Cherbourg and its raining here too; we head for some cheap French diesel. We stop in St Maire Eglise for fuel, we should have stopped for a look around as this is one of those towns that was a key objective on the first day of the Normandy invasion, but its still raining and we’re in a hurry. The prices are marked up as €1.12 per litre and the exchange rate is 1.16 so its less than £1 per litre, brilliant.

We have no idea where we will spend the first night, but are heading down towards a camp site called St Jean sur Mayenne, which is just north of Laval.

We had to stop for 30 minutes or so and get off the road in Domfront to allow a local cycling event through – it wasn’t the Tour de France but it gave us a welcome break anyway.

Strangely for Domfront, it had stopped raining (our previous visits here have generally been in the wet).

We arrive at St Jean at around 5pm and load up with fresh water then find an ‘emplacement’, plug in the electricity and get the table, chairs and BBQ out for dinner. The damn fridge alarm sounded all the way down there; every couple of minutes 33 beeps – the only way to drown out the noise was to drive faster and turn the music up. The good news was that all the Hobgoblin, King Goblin and Hobgoblin Gold were still nice and chilled, as was the food.

We decided to ‘google’ how to sort the fridge out, and after a very short while figuring out how to enable the mobile broadband to work while roaming we had some ideas on what to do. I didn’t want to switch the fridge off for obvious reasons – warm beer, stinky cheese etc. We found that disconnecting the fridge light & door switch connector stopped the alarm and had no adverse effect on the fridge operating, phew.

Now it’s time to relax. Our pitch is nice and level with plenty of space, its not too far to the toilet & shower block and there are sinks for washing up, we’ll not have to use our ‘van facilities at all!.

Parked up at St Jean

Monday 11th July

After relaxing in the sunshine in the morning we got  active and cycled to Andouille, which seemed to be the biggest local village…it was uphill a lot, which caused Fiona some sweary moments. On driving in Andouille, we found…it was closed! The Boulangerie had skipped off for their annual holidays,BUT there was a bank with ATM, so we got some cash.There was a Butchers shop- closed of course- and there was a whole cow/ horse? carcass just being delivered- avert your eyes, vegetarians! We then cycled up the Mayenne tow path to Montflours in search of somewhere to buy fresh food. Its Monday – it looks like all local shops are closed on Monday, thankfully we have brought just enough food with us. Its also a bit grey to start with, but it soon warms up nicely.

Tuesday 12th July

The shops are now open in St Jean. I say ‘shops’, but I really mean the boulangerie (bakery) as its the only shop, however, as its a short walk from the campsite it allowed us to have fresh croissants for breakfast. We cycled to La  Guingette restaurant at Montflours,  on the Mayenne towpath where we had a four course lunch for €12 and that includes a carafe of wine. We had discovered La Guingette last year, so knew how good it would be.

La Guinguette along the Mayenne river

No rain again, I’m starting to like it here, but we have decided to move further south for the sun and wine.

Wednesday 13th July

We pack up and move off, first to the ‘service area’ where we empty the toilet, dump our waste water and  then dump our fresh water to lighten the load and then head south to Chinon. On the way we call in at a supermarket and stock up on fresh food and a couple of bottles of wine. Bugger, we end up driving through Saumur centre. There are height restrictions (we’re just within them!)  and a great number of really narrow roads, but thankfully I only clip one kerb, however the stress levels are at maximum.

On arrival at Chinon we book into the L’ille d’Auger campsite right across the river Vienne from the fortress and within about 5 minutes walk of the town centre, ideal. A quick bike ride to the Super U supermarket, looking for an extension lead for the electric hook up, instead we bought a mini laundry line, and kitchen rolls. No extension leads suitable for us.

Thursday 14th July

We wandered around into town in the morning, going to the weekly market, in the company of Wendy and Mick, who we’d met the previous evening. They are quite new to MH holidays, though they are planning a trip to New Zealand soon, hiring a MH there. We also caught the tail end of a band, matching through the town centre, for 14th July..We warned Wendy and Mick about M. Sausicce, who had ripped us off a few years ago, with his wares..sure enough he was there again..after the market, we indulged in coffees whilst people watching in the main square. Back to the campsite, just in time to see Wendy and Mick leave, en route for home. Our afternoon was spent cycling the vineyards of Cravant and Panzoult in the summer sunshine. I think we cycled about 20 miles, as far as  L’ille Bouchard, the real purpose of the ride was to identify those vineyards where we might buy some local produce, but most of them seem to be closed.

It’s Bastille Day, only they don’t call it that, they call it National Day, but its still a good excuse to have a damn good fireworks display just outside the campsite. A fabulous Spectacle, with music, set against the backdrop of the Forteresse. Enjoyed by hundreds of people, for free. Its a real pity some repugnant God instructed a twisted believer to spoil it for so many people in Nice during the evening celebrations.

Friday 15th July

Another hot day and another cycle ride, we attempted to leave Chinon a different way, but we didn’t see cycling signs and the road was busy, so we instead did the Cravant route again. As we were getting ready to go to our favourite Chinon restaurant in the evening,a couple of Brits popped over to see us- they were fellow Hymer owners. We show them around Elsie, and they were mightily impressed, apparently.

Saturday 16th July

Hot again. On the spur of the moment we decide to move on and head up towards Saumur stopping at a supermarket for provisions and to try and get a 16Amp extension for the van as ours is not long enough. Fiona managed to twist her ankle  while jumping out of the van and is in a lot of pain.

Back on the road we drove up from Saumur towards Gennes, which is a nice scenic route that we found a few years back. The route follows the Loire river on its south bank. I really don’t remember the roads being this narrow, stress levels are rising again….thankfully the roads are quiet.

As we enter Gennes we see a camping site sign and decide to take a look. If it turns out to be rubbish then we’ll keep moving towards Angers, but we don’t need to. The site is lovely and quiet, its called ‘Camping au bord de La Loire’. We find a pitch with some shade, electric hookup and  easy access to the toilet/shower block and settle in. The shade is welcome, the temperature is rising with 31C expected today. Warmed up (in the BBQ) tomatoes farcis for dinner, with the obligatory salad , pain, fromage etc. ..oh, and some vin rose and rouge.

Fiona is still hobbling, I hope she recovers soon or I’ll be out cycling by myself – situation normal, eh?

Sunday 17th July

Ah, not a cloud in the sky today, hardly a breath of air and temperature forecast to be in the early 30’s. There’s no need to walk to the Boulangerie here, the baker’s van comes around at 8.30am with croissants, pains au choc and baguettes for sale.

Sunday in rural France, everything is going to be closed so its on the bikes today. Fiona has donned a stretchy ankle support thingy, and dosed up on Ibuprofen- what a trooper! We cycle a part of the ‘Loire a Velo’ route towards Angers, covering 15 miles before we stop at a small restaurant for lunch. Starter and dessert, soft drinks, no alcohol, perfect. The sun is scorching, there’s no wind and not a cloud in the sky; it’s sun factor 50 weather. The roads are very quiet and there are very many cyclists out, I really could stay here. In fact, we often point  houses we’d love , en route. We were out for around 4 1/2 hours, with 3 of those hours spent in the saddle and we covered a little over 30 miles in all.

One church stop for Fiona- a candle purchased and lit, for €1…a beautiful stained glass door leads into the main church, which is also a welcome refuge from the baking heat outside. Home just after 5pm..Fiona could no longer resist the call of the laundry sinks…laundry line? bike rack! Steak, baguette and salad for dinner. Oh, and there is probably some wine to finish off!