Grainville-Langannerie via Falaise

Hmmm. interesting one, this. Falaise was always “the place with the knights on the roundabouts” for us but never visited. Friends of ours had recommended Falaise as a stop and we were happy to locate the aire (or at least free overnight parking) right under the castle walls. There were a few large lorries at one side of the car park..more of that later! Having walked into town, and chosen a restaurant for a lovely lunch, the chateau was next on our “todo” list, but looking over the chateau walls to check on the parking below, we were quite horrified to see more of those colourful trucks had arrived, and we could see some poor camels poking their heads out of one truck..eek, the circus had come to town!

The circus has come to town. More and more vehicles will be arriving over the coming hours and we have no intention of staying here while they set up their “big tent” during the night.

We weren’t sure what was most off-putting; the thought of those poor animals cooped up overnight in the trucks, the noise of the trucks’ generators, the roaring of big cats at night or the fear of not being able to exit the car park due to the behemoth trucks (also would the big cats be taken out for a walk at night??) but we made a decision to get outta town! Andrew asked one of the drivers who told us the circus would be starting the next day. Such a shame because Falaise really did look worth a visit. I hope Falaise enjoyed the circus but it wasn’t for us.

The tiny hamlet of Grainville- Langannerie was our very last overnight stay. In front of the Mairie and post office, there was a fair amount of traffic in the car park but no other vans parked up overnight. The church bells were really the only noise. We were so glad to have avoided the circus in Falaise, it would have been terrible to end the holiday on a “low”. Next morning we covered the last few km to Ouistreham ferry port, via a large E LeClerc supermarket for a few biscuits and cakes for the office (yes Andrew buys biscuits for “his” office too) and gifts for our much appreciated cat sitters. We were able to resist the wines. At the ferryport the van was searched as usual and we boarded quite quickly. The weather was much better than on our last cross channel trip home, but it started getting a bit choppy so after dinner, Andrew and I retreated to our cabin for a lie-down. Soon it was time to vacate the cabin and return to UK soil.

So ended our wonderful 31 night trip. Next will be a summary of our holiday, including our conclusions and some stats.


The final few days of such a wonderful holiday. Ecouche looked interesting and the aire was another free one. Having left Alencon I had a “brave” moment, offering to do some driving. Having changed drivers, the satnav suddenly directed us off the main road onto a country lane where I had to pull over for any oncoming traffic. Yikes, not what I’d hoped for at all. After a few miles of this, the satnav’s instructed us to turn left, but we could see that turning led only to a few homes, so she’d clearly gone rogue.

Having pulled over at the first opportunity, Andrew checked the rest of the route and sure enough, Satnav was about to send us in a loop- no particular reason, we guessed maybe she was bored? Memories of our last return trip through Normandy when Satnav had created a proper zig-zag route for heading North to Caen.

We do have a paper Normandy map and luckily Andrew took over the navigation (I say that because maps and me don’t mix well at all) I was happy to follow his instructions, ignoring satnav’s constant “turn back where possible/ at the roundabout take the 4th exit”- (meaning go back) we returned to “big roads” where I felt much more comfortable.

Anyway, Ecouche was well worth the journey. It’s a lovely town, with a very “prosperous” feel, as well as a WWII Sherman tank and plaque commemorating the town’s role in Operation Overlord and remembering the devastation inflicted on the town. No rows of closed down shops here. They have 3 boulangeries, one of which Andrew visited in the morning, despite the drizzle. Their bakery goods were the cheapest we’d found for some time, so another tick in the Ecouche box, for a longer visit next time. The aire was well placed for town, and free. We were glad to find it, despite the satnav’s best efforts.

Bourges/ Vierzon

Bourges was one of those “passed near but never visited” places so the decision was made to give it a go. There was an Aire near the town centre, which sounded hopeful, but we made the error of not checking the up-to -date information. Hence our arrival at what had been the aire, and was now part of a large area of roadworks, oops! However, there were a couple of other vans parked up so maybe they had the same 2014 Book. Feeling safe enough we walked into town, picked up- yes, you guessed- a walking tour map of the town, and started with a visit to the rather magnificent Cathedral, dedicated to St. Etienne, or St. Stephen to you and me.

St Etienne’s Cathedral was built between the late 12th and late 13th Century and has some rather special stained glass windows, reminding us of Chartres Cathedral. A quick count of the seats indicated that the congregation can exceed 1000!.

Bourges also had some quaint cobbled streets to wander, but we were getting a tad hungry by this time. Now we appreciate that “lunch” in French restaurants tends to be 12 till 2/ 2.30 but we can usually find somewhere that’s open all day. Hmm, not in Bourges, it seems. So our tour was cut short by hunger and we returned to the van. Having now done some research we found the address of the current Aire and headed out to find it. Well, it was quite a way out of town, and basically a very scruffy car park next to some out of town type stores. We had a quick look around and observed a couple of vans turn up then leave and we understood why. We expected it to get “busy” late at night, and just didn’t feel at all comfortable there. So reluctantly we bid farewell to Bourges for this trip. We didn’t even stay to have lunch in the van.

Where to stay the night? We opted for Vierzon, another town we recognised from roadsigns. A few km along we found Vierzon and its Aire- another free one! The borne was out of order, but we had sufficient water for a day or so. No vans were parked in the signed aire, preferring a patch of ground near the footbridge which took us into town.

Vierzon was an odd town, with several shops up For Sale or To Let and quite a few groups of males loitering or sitting outside bars. This would not be a place where we’d extend our stay, one night was enough.


Ahem, after a spot of “writer’s block”, it’s time to finish these posts- we’ve been home a few days now, so it’s time to tie up some loose ends etc. This was now the return part of our fabulous month in France and we couldn’t think of a way around that, sadly.

Hey ho, Sancoins was our next free Aire, in a beautiful riverside setting. Mohos were parked parallel to the water’s edge, and there were some picnic benches too. This, for Andrew, is a sign that “camping behaviour” is allowed, i.e. time to get the BBQ out! Well, it was brought out for me to warm up a quiche we’d bought the other day, at least.

Our walk into town showed it was “shut for lunch” with the exception of a lovely Boulangerie. There were a lot of road works going on and it looked like they were about to have a brand new market square. Or maybe yet more parking.

While parked, one of our “neighbours” approached, and asked if he could possibly see the layout of our van, as he suspected it might be similar to his. Sure enough, his Pilote was very similar. We had a lovely chat with Steve and Maureen, exchanging some stories of our travels. They weren’t due to return to the UK till the end of October and we felt quite jealous. It was also quite a novelty to meet fellow Brits.

Dinner (my warmed up quiche) was enjoyed at the picnic table, complete with tablecloth and of course a bottle of wine. Bliss.


Vouvray next, but en route, we discovered a fab little Aire at the village of St. Georges sur Cher, with free electric hook-up and a borne for fresh water and for dumping waste water. It also had something we hadn’t seen before on an aire. Beside each marked off parking space, there was space designated an outside table and chairs. So much for the usual “no camping behaviour”. Anyway, having gratefully hooked up, we wandered into the village which had a boulangerie, restaurant, supermarket and other shops. All closed for lunch, except the restaurant. If we hadn’t plans to go to Vouvray, we’d have maybe stayed overnight.

In February we’d bought the fizzy and some white wine for Louise and Luke’s wedding and it was so good we wanted to restock the fizzy area of the wine fridge and to report to M. Guertin just how well his wines had been received. The free aire in Vouvray has capacity for 3 vans and there were already 4 on our arrival. However, we’d read reviews stating there had been up to 10 vans during the Summer. We ensured we weren’t getting in anyone’s way and parked up as “overflow”.

Vouvray is a lovely village with handy wine shops and a supermarket as well as smaller independent shops. There’s also a rather good Italian restaurant so we nipped across the road for a couple of takeaway pizzas.

Our return to Guertin’s resulted in just a few more bottles being purchased, certainly not enough for a wedding this time, though.

A couple more vans arrived during the evening and none were moved on so as Andrew says “where would you be if no-one was obeying the rules ?” France!


Ah, after the disappointment of the paid for site at Aix- les-Bains, Vinzelles was, by contrast, an archetypal free to use village aire. Based in an immaculately maintained car park, ours was the first Motorhome to arrive that afternoon. This tiny village had provided parking for Motorhomes and we settled on a parking spot ( admittedly these were all car- sized so we had to be a bit imaginative as to how to use as few spaces as possible.) A walk through the village revealed only a bar, so no hope of a Boulangerie visit in the morning. However, Andrew had spotted a sign for a Wine Co-operative with free tastings, so we hopped back in the van and drove there. It was about 800 metres from the aire. Well, IF we happened to buy some wine, we’d need the van to transport it back , oui?

Guess what? Having done the usual degustation thing, yes we bought some rather lovely white wine ( their local speciality) and even some red too. Oh, and a couple of wine glasses (we’d brought only two to France and I’d managed to break one the other day…tsk) Having loaded these into the van, we returned to the aire, confident it wouldn’t be full yet. In fact, a total of 6 vans stayed the night. It was a perfectly quiet night out in the country, in a village surrounded by vines, leading again to great sleep.

Before we set off in the morning, a quick detour back to…yes, you guessed, the Wine shop. This time, we bought another 4 glasses, and a case of rose wine. Interestingly, though it was only about 10am, there were already a couple of group tastings going on…not just us, then! Let’s raise a (new) glass to Vinzelles.

Aix- les-Bains

Not much to say about this, to be honest. The lake was lovely, with a tree-lined walkway. We didn’t venture into town, just went for a lakeside walk.

Our parking here was at a Camping Car Park- a sort of midway between an aire and a campsite. Now we’ve been to these before, most recently in Seurre, but this one was a real disappointment. Firstly, it was difficult to find, even with co-ordinates, secondly, the actual entrance was very tight, and thirdly, the site itself was a real mish-mash. It had clearly been a campsite in a previous life, but there was little demarcation of pitches (some of which were very small for Motorhomes) and the terrain was unkempt- even neglected. On a Camping Car Park the nightly cost is around €12 for which you have barrier access, Wifi and services such as water and electricity, but it should also be a pleasant place to be.

Anyway, having picked what seemed to be a pitch, we set ourselves up, including hanging out some laundry we’d done en route at a supermarket 24hr laundrette. The laundry was almost dry, having been subject to a few minutes in the tumble dryer. We ventured to the lake, had an ice cream and a drink then returned for an early dinner as rain was forecast and we were BBQing. Andrew had just finished making the “tomates farcis” (stuffed tomatoes- yummy!) when the predicted rain started, a few hours earlier than forecast. Laundry in, we sat outside under the awning as long as we could, before stowing away table and chairs. That evening we were treated to quite a thunderstorm. Great to view from the safety and comfort of the van. The rain continued and we left in the morning, not having seen any more of Aix-les-Bains but vowing to write a not very complimentary review of the site.


Annecy- a place name that stirred memories for us, being the twin town of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, where we met 40 years ago. So we had to pay a visit. Having found the town offered a free 10 space aire, it was even more tempting. Well, this aire provided us with the tightest parking we’d experienced so far. We could practically see what our neighbours were having for dinner. All very chummy. Having squeezed ourselves out of the van, we headed off for a walk to discover more about Annecy.

Well, Annecy has everything, a bustling commercial centre, a lake, and canals crossed by attractive bridges, interesting alleyways joining main streets.

Just lovely, but we were in need of sustenance, so we found a place for dinner before continuing our self-guided walking tour…yip another one from another tourist information office. These are a great way to find the places of interest, as well as some hidden gems.

Annecy’s old town buildings are mainly 3-4 storey tall with covered walk ways beneath, with many built alongside canals. Not what we expected in the Alps, probably more like Venice, but very pretty.

Lake Annecy looked like a great place for watersports, with many boats, dinghys and other sailing craft moored along the harbour.

There had been some “hippy” types who had parked two vans in the middle of the aire, complete with guitars (ready for an impromptu gig?-err, no thanks, Monsieur) and a couple of large, off-lead dogs. Their presence severely obstructed the turning circle for other vans, but by the time we returned from the town, they had gone. We will never know- maybe the other French Motorhome owners had asked them to move on, maybe the Police had been called…the main thing is, calm was restored.

Here is a selection of our other Annecy photos:

Lake Geneva

The ultimate destination of our trip was to be Lake Geneva, or Lac Leman as the French call it. Well, finally after 20 days we found it. This is part of the joy of Motorhoming. We can meander, take detours and just please ourselves. No prior bookings, no deadlines to meet other than for me at least having to return to work.

Having been unable to find any aires in Thonon-les-Bains, we finally succumbed to a campsite. We hadn’t booked but there were spaces as this is nearing end of season. We checked in for in 2 nights, reminding ourselves that we’d get “facilities” for our Euros. Madame at reception had told us it would be 200 metres to the lake, so it was bikes off the rack and off we go! Wow, what a sight! We initially followed a track round the lake. However it became a bit too “rugged” so we instead cycled into the town itself. The “lower” part of town, Rives, is an area dotted with numerous cafes and restaurants and sail boats, but first I had to have a go on the Funicular railway up to the more commercial part of town.

Ooh, I do love a funicular, having used them in the Cairngorms, Scotland and in Bergen, Norway.

The €2 return fare on the funicular was money well spent to avoid the 150ft climb from the port to the city centre! Anyway, whilst up here we wandered around the the streets and alleyways of the old town admiring the architecture of the many medieval buildings. We were also able to view the lake from a much higher viewpoint.

Although Thonon is a small town, there are numerous shops, cafes and restaurants around the city centre and in its many squares, it is all very compact and tidy.

We were enthralled by the scenery and atmosphere of Thonon, especially in Rives, which is the lake port of the town. From here, you can catch ferries to Lausanne, Geneva and Evian.

On our third bike ride into town we didn’t bother with the funicular, instead settling for a Sunday lunch in Rives while watching the many motorbikes come and go, and the Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Porsches promenade the main road.

That said, we didn’t feel out of place in our cycling kit. The atmosphere was friendly and we spent a few hours after lunch exploring further along the lake front and vowed to come back one day.

As for camping, well it made a change from aires. We were able to leave out the table and chairs under our new pop-up gazebo and we used the campsite facilities to justify the cost. We actually extended our stay in Thonon to 3 nights as we were enjoying the area so much and the weather was very warm for the end of September.

Here is a selection of our photos of Thonon Les Bains


Well, Dole market comprised just a few stalls with none of the “livestock” Andrew had promised me, so we moved on earlier than planned. The overnight rain had finally stopped and we wanted to make the next part of our journey before it perhaps turned wet again.

The Aires Book had found us Nantua, in the Ain Department of Rhone-Alpes region. Hmmm…remember the word Alpes. Soon, we spotted a roadsign which announced an uphill gradient of 13% ! Yikes! This was where the “Hill assist” function came in very useful, combined with a damned good driver (Andrew). The satnav, however, was constantly “pinging” with z bend warnings, oh and she also warned us a part of our road ahead would be dangerous as there would be a height and a width restriction, both of which the van would exceed. Ha, sure enough, the restrictions were on a part of road the road just beyond the Aire. Panic over!

The Aire was nothing more than 12 parking spaces, along the side of the lake. The borne had water, but it wasn’t labelled “eau potable”(drinking water) so we didn’t risk it. Instead we would make do with our “50% full ” tank of water for showers, washing up etc- showers being our priority of course. Having spotted a Lidl (woohoo, just like home) along the road, we wandered along to check their opening hours, and further into town. Hmm…not a lot going on here, it seemed most of the town had packed up for Winter.

What Nantua did have was a very poignant memorial to the local residents who’d been deported to Concentration camps in WWll.

We later enjoyed a walk of a few miles along the lakeside, wondering at the amazing scenery, oh and there was an occasional TGV train passing on the track just across the road.

OK, there was some muttering of “not sure why this aire costs €9 a night” and we were quite happy to leave in the morning, not having been visited by the money collector. If they’d asked we would have paid, but…well, like some friends did recently (you know who you are) we just left, keeping our €9 to spend elsewhere. Oh and another turned out this branch of Lidl didn’t have an instore bakery, so Andrew had to go to a Boulangerie in the morning for boulangerie priced croissants. Pah!

Sorry if this sounds a bit negative. Nantua lake is truly stunning with its backdrop of mountains but overall I don’t think we would return here.