Lockdown Week 12: Places we’ve been (Part 5: Croatia, Italy (Monaco and Switzerland) and France

Waiting to get back on the road

We remain in our parking place! We have ventured out, giving Nortia a drive and getting rid of cabin fever. We had hoped to take Reg to the beach, but so had everyone else! We picked the last day of the good weather! Lockdown in England, now means we can go out for the day, but not stay out! and we can meet in socially distanced groups of no more than six.

Positively: Reg’s walks are getting longer; Ric and I are still talking; Nortia, continues to be an ideal home for lockdown, even if our location needs a bit of a view; and we’re safe and well.

Croatia

We travelled to Croatia, primarily to meet my (Sarah’s) mum, who was on holiday there. She wasn’t aware we were going there, apparently she hoped we might, until the day before – we couldn’t surprise her, in case she’d booked a day trip!

  • Ičići / Opatija – although two towns they were joined together in 2006. We stopped at Camping Opatija, overlooking the sea. We walked along the promenade to meet up in Opatija, and had a lovely lunch in a small cafe, before walking back to the campsite.
  • Pula – We stopped at Camping Stoja, on the beach and at the edge of the town. This was the first place we were aware to have a tidal wave warning system on site.

Italy

  • Belluno – despite a major road closure, we found our camping spot for the night at the Agriturismo Sponga. A stellplatz at a restaurant at a fishing pond location. The restaurant doesn’t open on Sunday evenings.
  • Mazzin – a lovely location in the Dolomite Mountains. It was a little chilly at night but the location and the town were lovely. Camping Soal.
  • Lake Garda – Agriturismo Pardiso. Located a short walk from the Lake and within an Olive grove, where you can buy the home produced olive oil.
  • Busana – Located in the Reggio Emilia district, amongst chestnut trees, it was a blessing to find. We ordered bread for the following morning and it was delivered to the door handle! Camping le Fonti.
  • Levanto (Cinque Terre) – Camping Acqua Dolce. We loved it here and would happily return. The campsite has a free shuttle bus (on demand, when we arrived) to the beach and station. It also has a great restaurant onsite, selling home-made pizza.
  • Finale Ligura – we have stopped here before and had a lovely meal in the bistro down the road. This time though, we were disappointed and have decided not to return.

Monaco

We popped into Monaco, on our way past, so we could get Nortia into the Pole Position on the Grand Prix Circuit. We had managed it before in our VW, but its a lot easier to manoeuvre a small vehicle in the small streets. Success, after a couple of trips around we stopped the traffic and took a photo!

Switzerland

Having tried to avoid Switzerland, just because we weren’t certain of the rules regarding tolls and entry, we found ourselves in Geneva and at CERN. We had to take a few photos at CERN, just because!

France

Crossing the border into France, we were searched by border control. We don’t mind too much as it is a necessary precaution against people smuggling and illegal immigration.

  • Villeneuve-Loubet – Birthplace of Auguste Escoffier. We found a lovely campsite just by chance – L’Hippodrome. It was just behind a supermarket – perfect for bread in the morning and close to the town.
  • St. Tropez – after singing, “Do you know the way to St Tropez?” all the way, we stopped at a Yelloh! site under the trees. Here, we tried to decide which way to head along the coast or north. The weather report on the radio, informed us of a RED weather warning. We bit the bullet and headed north. We later found out how difficult it had been for people who had parked up on the Mediterranean, with flooding, wind and rain.
  • Route Napoleon – Castellane (Elba to Grenoble): We followed the route from Castellane up to Gap. The route is scenic and we’d done part of it previously.
  • Digne-les-Bains – we arrived here just before the weather caught up with us. We were just sorting dinner on the barbecue, as the rain started – not too hard at first, but as we found out on the dog walk the following morning – torrential. Water drained out of my boots, Ric moved Nortia to hard ground, and after wringing out my walking clothes (I’d also packed up the external gear, as I was already wet!) we set off further north.
  • Gap – we stopped here for lunch (in the car park of the Casino Supermarket). Not our most scenic place but ideal to get away from the weather.
  • Lépin-le-Lac – What a find! Camping les Peupliers, is not the most up to date campsite, but right on the lake and with amazing views.
  • Col du Grand Colombier – Instead of going through Switzerland, we chose to go up this hill! As you’ll have already read, we went through Switzerland anyway! The Col du Grand Colombier, is the highest road pass in the Jura Mountains and a frequent hill climb in cycling. In the Tour de France it is classified HC  (Hors Catégorie) – meaning beyond classification. The views from the top are magnificent and worth the effort.
  • Gex – on the edge of Parc naturel régional du Haut-Jura (worth noting dogs are not allowed in the national park)! We stayed just outside the town at Camping les Genets. A short walk in either direction gets you to the Supermarket (and bakery) or the town centre. More fantastic views from here.
  • Chalexeule – Although we remember the campsite and the surroundings, not much more springs to mind. It is a short walk to the bakery.
  • Colmar – Just outside the town, a fantastic site. It’s a Huttopia CityKamp site and well worth a stop before walking into the town with its historic buildings and old town. This is on our list to return to.
  • Andelot – In the middle of the countryside, our only neighbours were the cows in the field behind. Arriving out of season, the facilities were mainly closed and the owners were working hard to upgrade the washrooms and toilets. This is a gem – Camping le Moulin and worth a visit.
  • Compiègne – we made a conscious effort to visit here. The Armistice Agreement of World War I was signed here ending the war.
  • Thiepval Memorial – I had visited here before and wanted to show it to Ric. It is a big memorial to the fallen of World War I. However, since I had previously visited, there is now a large visitor centre.
  • Péronne – We chose to stay here for two nights. It was ideal as a stop as there is a vet and it is within the timescale we had to cross back to England. Camping le Port de Plaisance – the town is walking distance along the river.
  • Dunkirk – Another two nighter, at the Camping de la Licorne. A cycle route takes you right into the town centre along the sea front. There is a trail around the town showing the historic sites. A word of warning – the sand hurts as it whips off the shore in the wind.
  • Marcilly-sur-Eure – Heading back south after a trip in the UK, we stopped at a little campsite just beyond Rouen. As we arrived, it looked closed, but it was open! The pitches were arranged in little circles – with a sanitary block in the middle. When we awoke in the morning, the campsite was shrouded by mist, giving it a fairytale feel. Campsite Domaine de Marcilly.
  • Saint-Georges-lès-Baillargeaux – Ideal for Poitiers and Futuroscope, we stopped at Campsite le Futuriste.
  • Oradour-sur-Glane – if you are in this part of France, this is a must! I’d always wanted to visit and had told Ric about it, but last time we were near, the weather was too hot to leave a dog in a campervan. This time, Nortia, gave Albi, the perfect base while we set off. Oradour-sur-Glane is a memorial to those who died, when the Nazis (in response to D Day) destroyed the town on 10th June 1944. The inhabitants were rounded up and shot and set on fire. The village, remains exactly as it was at that time, as ordered by President de Gaulle.
  • Exideuil-sur-Vienne – Camping de la Rivière is an absolute gem and deserves a visit!
  • Urrugne – Gateway to Spain! We got as close to the Spanish Border as we could, as there was another national strike in France this weekend. Camping Larrouleta, is a large site, at the foothills of the Pyrenees and we found sun for the first time, although the temperature did dip at night!
  • Saint-Jean-Pla-de-Corts – in the Pyrenees on our return to England. Campsite Les Casteillets, is in the Languedoc- Roussillon, just across the Spanish Border and has views of the snow capped mountains.
  • Canal du Midi – we followed the canal as best we could the whole way from it’s start at the Atlantic to it’s end at Marseillan Plage and the Etang du Thau. We travelled up to Colombiers via Agde and Beziers.
  • Colombiers – Camping les Peupliers, is situated just off the Canal and an ideal place to pick up the tow path. We cycled along the tow path to Beziers via les Neuf Écluses de Fonseranes (the nine locks) and the Basin de Beziers and around the old town, before returning to Colombiers and the Malpas Tunnel.
  • Le Lac de la Thésauque – we stayed at the campsite on the lake, having followed the canal up around Carcassonne and on towards Toulouse. Due to the amount of rain, France had in the last few months, the campsite was very wet and we had to change pitches to ensure we could leave in the morning.
  • Deyme – what a nice campsite. We stopped at Camping les Violettes, just outside Toulouse and not far from the canal towpath (it is a short walk or cycle on the busy main road first). We cycled north to Toulouse and south as far as we fancied, seeing a sunbathing (and then swimming) beaver on our route.
  • Toulouse – still following the canal and wanting to visit the Aeroscopia Museum, we stayed at Camping Le Rupé. We cycled to the Museum and on another trip into the city. The staff at the campsite were so welcoming. A short walk down the road towards the canal is a lovely bakery, too.
  • Créon – a brief overnight stop on our way up to Bordeaux, still following the canal to its source, we stopped at Camping Bel-Air. The town is about a half hour walk away, or a quick cycle!
  • Bordeaux – Just outside the city centre, in amongst the conference centre and the new Stadium of Bordeaux (currently the Matmut Atlantique) is the Village du Lac campsite. Cycle paths take you right into the city centre and beyond.
  • Arcachon – we drove out to the coast (backtracking slightly) to the town of Arcachon. The campsite was a means to and end for us. Arcachon Nature Camping et Location.
  • Dune du Pilat – the reason we came to Arcachon! We arrived (along with the rest of France!) mid morning on a Sunday, and joined the masses climbing the tallest Sand Dune in the World.
  • Île d’Oléron – We crossed the Gironde Estuary on the Royan ferry, completing our trip along the Canal du Midi. We chose to stop for the night on the Île d’Oléron, and out of season. We stopped at Camping les Gros Joncs.
  • Île de Ré – We stopped at Camping Les Grenettes, having driven around the Island. The weather changed and weather warnings were issued for flood and sea events – a little worrying as the campsite was 300 metres from the sea! We survived!
  • La Givre – we headed further north towards Brittany and stopped at Camping La Grisse in the Vendee. This campsite was another little hidden gem.
  • Nantes – stopping at Camping Nantes, it is ideal for a visit to the town. We wanted to see the Mechanical Elephant, but again the weather changed and brought rain and wind.
  • Piriac-sur-Mer – we stopped at Camping Le Véridet, right on the sea, inside a walled campsite. On our way up we had our wing mirror clipped by a passing delivery driver and managed to find all the bits – thank heavens for mirror protectors. We settled into the small campsite, just as Storm Jorge arrived!
  • Pont Scorff – more rain! We stopped off here at Ty Nenez. It has the potential of being a nice site, in the high season and good weather.
  • Ferme du Bout de Monde – We loved this campsite and the two dogs who greeted us.
  • Locquirec – We headed along the coast to the most westerly point of France and then along the coast to Locquirec. We stopped at Camping du Fond de la Baie, with lovely views of the beach and the English Channel.
  • Dinard – we stopped right on the beach, at Camping du Port Blanc, and the views in the sun were amazing. Having been into the town for lunch, the weather changed and the wind picked up. We managed to see the Statue of Alfred Hitchcock, before battling the wind back to the campsite. We had to try to move Nortia to a more sheltered position as sand was accumulating everywhere – like snow!
  • Saint-Martin-des-Besaces – https://www.sous-les-etoiles.camp/ Have you ever stopped at one of those sites you don’t want to share with the world? This is one of ours!
  • Le Treport – we headed to the campsite so we could be close to the Tunnel. The campsite however is only open until 12:00 on Saturdays, in low season. Luckily there was a nice Aire behind and about half the price.
  • Montreuil sur Mer – close enough to the tunnel, and just outside the walled city ( a quick walk to the top of the site and through the passage in the wall). The campsite, Camping la Fontaine des Clercs, is another gem.

Week 36: France – from the Edge of the World to Montreuil-sur-Mer

On Monday, we awoke to more rain and rain at La Ferme du Bout de Monde, The Farm at the Edge of the World, Kerguidy-Izella, Brittany. We set off to the most westerly point of France, the Pointe de Corsen, where the sun did come out but the wind was bitter. The views were amazing.

We chose a campsite to stop at in Locquirec, right on the bay overlooking the English Channel (or La Manche in France). The view was amazing and when the sun was out.

The following morning we set off on a road trip, recommended by the free guide we picked up in Reception. We headed up to Plougasnou, Saint-Samson, the port du Diben, up the coast to Primel-Tregastel and on to Saint-Jean du Doigt, through Prajou and back to Locquirec. The leaflet called the route the Grand Panoramas along the Tregor protected coastline and it was truly stunning.

Wednesday, we left Locquirec and headed up the coast to Dinard. The views along the coast were lovely and we were only 40 miles from the Channel Islands – we had thought about going there, but campsites don’t open until later in the year and the weather didn’t look favourable for a ferry crossing. Our campsite has fantastic views of the sea and we are almost on the beach! Today, also marked the one year anniversary of our house move, downsizing to fund our adventure.

Thursday, we had chosen to go on a walk around the town of Dinan and down to the yacht harbour, but the weather had other ideas! We walked into the town, stopping for lunch in a little brasserie for the plat du jour! Next, we headed along to see the Alfred Hitchcock Statue, apparently it was put in place for a film festival. As we headed towards the beach, we were sandblasted as the wind whipped the sand off the beach, not wanting to be lightweights, it was impossible to continue our trip, though comfortably.

The change of plans was incredibly fortunate as when we returned to Nortia, she was also being battered, the sand had started to drift over the roadway and was beginning to accumulate in the vents on her side (these are the ventilation points for the fridge). We chose to runaway! We packed up as quickly as we could and sought shelter in a lower and secluded part of the campsite. We have sand everywhere, outside, inside and ourselves – we were still finding sand in our hair and eyes, the following morning.

Overnight the wind did calm and the rain began to ease. We set off up towards the Tunnel and Calais. We have booked our crossing back to England for Monday! We decided to have a longish journey, so we could get to the port with some ease. As we headed up the coast, we found a car wash where we could try to get rid of some of the remaining sand. We drove up to Le Mont-Saint-Michel and although the weather wasn’t good enough to stop for long (and it was high tide), we admired the view.

Our stop for the night was a hidden gem. We pulled into the campsite – Camping Sous les Etoiles, in Saint-Martin des Besaces, Normandy and on first impressions thought it shut up fo the winter, there didn’t appear to be anyone around. We drove back up the drive and pulled over to find somewhere else for the night, when Steve the campsite owner, drove up and told us they were open and if we still wanted to we were more than welcome.

Steve and his wife have only recently bought the campsite, but it is a gem, old buildings some over 400 years old and farmland with grass pitches and the best grass we have seen for ages. There is a bar and a restaurant – used by the locals, and one of the best toilet blocks we’ve been to!

Saturday, we headed off again, this time to Le Treport. The campsite we had found was just outside the town, but when we arrived the Reception was closed (in the winter it opens from 09:00 to 12:00, helpful! We did however stay at the Camping Car Aire just behind it!

Sunday, we wanted to get close-ish to the Tunnel, just in case, but not too close! We had made the mistake a few years before of checking how long it would take us to get to the Tunnel from our site the morning we were supposed to leave and finding the Sat Nav told us it would take 30 minutes longer than we had left! (We did make it, but it was a push)! We’d chosen to stop at Montreuil-sur-Mer.

Montreuil-sur-Mer, is an old walled citadel town and also the inspiration for Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Each year there is an open air performance of the play there too. The campsite is located under the citadel walls and Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav did try and make us do some rather precarious turns, which we didn’t (we’ll try a lot of drives, but a switchback left, downhill with a wall and parked cars, was really out of our comfort zone), we did find an alternative route. From the campsite you can also walk up to and through the wall to the old town.

As we mentioned earlier, we’re off to the Tunnel tomorrow, so find out what we get up to back in England! As always, thank you for reading…

Week 35: The Islands and the West Coast of France

We left the Île d’Oléron and headed to the Île de Ré. We headed back across the bridge to Royan and then up the coast through La Rochelle and Rochefort before heading over the toll bridge. I’ve wanted to come to the Île de Ré, since I read a book based here as a child, and it didn’t disappoint. The island appears to be mainly closed up, but it gives the impression of being lovely in the warmer weather and in season.

We drove up the Island to the top and then over to the Lighthouse (Phare) before heading back to the campsite. We passed some horses, we thought were cows to begin with and then on second look they appear to be big long haired donkeys! As we settled in on the campsite the weather app indicated that there was an amber warning for flood in the area where we were (and the north coast). We apologise sincerely for sending sun photos back to the UK!

The following morning, we hadn’t floated away, nor did we see a lot of water, in fact the sun was shining! There was another weather warning in place though this time a yellow wind warning! From the Île de Ré we headed back across the bridge (the toll covers both crossings), the wind didn’t appear to bad here – perhaps it hadn’t read the warning, but further up the road it did get gusty – the landscape changed to flat open fields and the wind was able to just blow across. We left the Charente Maritime and entered the Vendee. We stayed at a very nice little campsite in La Grisse, near Le Givre.

Moving on from La Grisse, we headed to Nantes, via the Island of Noirmoutier and the “dangerous road”, the D948 – Le Passage du Gois. The Passage du Gois is submerged after low tide, so we duly checked the tide times and low tide for Wednesday was at 12:37. The road is passable 90 minutes before actual low tide and either 60 or 90 minutes after – depending on which web page you read! We chose to keep our timings on the definite and arrived at 13:00(ish). The road is marked with safety towers and as we passed there were a number of vehicles parked and people farming cockles.

Once safely across, we stopped for lunch before heading to Nantes, where we had found a campsite on the edge of the city. There is also an aire next door belonging to the campsite. Having sorted ourselves out we thought we’d go into the city the following day, but in typical fashion the following day it rained, and rained! France has been hit by almost continuous storms since October, some named and some not! We took a short walk around the local area and the campsite, before getting back to the lovely warmth and dryness of Nortia. One of the attractions we wanted to see in Nantes was the Machines d’Ile, some robotic giant animals but they don’t always perform when there is rain and strong wind – we had both!

Friday, we headed off into the storm warnings for today and tomorrow – Storm Jorge has gracing us with his presence! We drove up over the Loire River (twice) once at Nantes and again at the mouth of the river in Saint Nazaire, heading to the picturesque village of Piriac-sur-Mer. We had our wing mirror hit by a delivery driver en-route and had to go back up the road to find the blindspot mirror which had pinged out in the hit. Luckily, before we left England at the start of the adventure we bought Milenco Wing Mirror Protectors and they have now saved us the expense of replacing the whole unit (we believe) on at least two occasions. We parked up on the campsite in what looked like a lovely spot, but when the wind picked up at 03:00 as Jorge arrived, all we could think about was the large tree opposite!

Saturday, we survived the night! The facilities at the campsite are very basic but for 10 Euros with electric, you kind of know what you’re getting! The wind today was due to be gusting over 47 Km/h! We headed up the coast back to Carnac, where we have both stayed before and past the stones, which neither of us had seen before! We were going to the Island of Quiberon, but with the weather – wind and rain, it seemed a little pointless in a giant box! We stopped for the night in a campsite in Pont Scorff, another idyllic Breton village, where the rain was relentless!

Sunday, and we’re off again! This time we are heading, literally to the edge of the world – our stop for the night is at La Ferme du Bout de Monde – the Farm at the Edge of the World! We passed through the village of Gourin, which has a Statue of Liberty in its village square – of course as we got there it had been removed and was due back later in March! We did however stop at the Memorial to the Resistance Fighters of the Black Mountains, a memorial to 59 local people who were members of the Resistance and killed by the Nazis in 1944.

When we arrived at the campsite the farmhouse is a typical french looking building, complete with outdoor bell to summon the owner. We were greeted by two lovely Border Collies, who had our undivided attention playing fetch for a while! We had decided to park up on our Traction Tracks, as the ground was very wet and with more rain due didn’t want to get stuck again. We’ll let you know now, we didn’t get stuck – the tracks worked, although it took a while to clean all the mud off them!

We survived another week of storms, we’ve got our fingers crossed for good weather next week and hope you have some too. We’ll let you know next week what the weather did! As always thank you for reading…

Week 34: Toulouse to the Île d’Oléron via Bordeaux

Monday and it was raining in Toulouse. We had wanted to cycle in to the old town and have a mooch around, but it was that fine rain that will soak you in seconds., so instead we sorted some chores and then headed out to the Supermarket and Garage to fill up with food and LPG (GPL in France).

Tuesday and the sun came out, so we got out our bikes and headed along the Canal de la Garonne to the end of the Canal du Midi, The point where the two meet (along with the Canal de Brienne) is called Ponts Jumeaux (Twin Bridges). We can now say we have been to both ends of the Canal du Midi, although some deem the Canal de la Garonne to also be part of the Midi – known in full as the Canal Entre Deux Mers.

We cycled along the Canal du Midi (we actually thought it was the Canal de Brienne!) until we headed towards the Capitole. We stopped in the square opposite the Capitole, where there was a market and ate our lunch, before heading off to see some sights, including the Monument aux Morts, les Abattoirs and the Pont Neuf, before having a random cycle around and returning to the campsite along the canal.

Wednesday, we left Toulouse and headed along the Canal de la Garonne towards Bordeaux. The landscape changed several times and we passed fruit trees and polytunnels before heading into the vineyards and chateau landscape of the Bordeaux region. We only passed three Convoi Exceptionals, and we didn’t need to drive up any driveways to escape from them! We stopped for the night outside Bordeaux in Créon.

Thursday morning after a short stroll to the bakery for bread, we set off to Bordeaux and a campsite on the outskirts in Bruges. After a quick alfresco lunch in the sun, we went on a short cycle to the city, just to have a brief look. We cycled along the river bank to the Pont de Pierre, along the opposite bank to the amazing Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas, before cycling back over it and back to the campsite. The Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas, was opened in 2013 and has a horizontally rising platform to allow boats to pass under. We had gained a couple of ducks as friends today, although they did get a tad too nosey!

Friday, we set off into the city on our bikes for a proper look and after cycling to the river bank, we headed to the Place de la Bourse – with its square and buildings on three sides (although part of the building was covered for renovations) and its reflecting pool – closed for the winter. Next, we headed to the Cailhau Gate and the Opera building, along with the Big Bell of Bordeaux. We then cycled off on our own random route, before heading back to the river and the campsite. Along the river we saw a barge transporting part of an Airbus A380. Today on the campsite we have another little friend a small black cat who tried to come in to see us!

Saturday, we headed off again towards the coast and stopped in Arcachon. We are going to be travelling up the west coast and this seemed like a good place to start.

Sunday, we started our day with a trip to the Dune du Pilat, the largest sand dune in Europe. We parked up and started the trip to climb it. We think that the whole of the local community and their friends had decided to do the same – it was so busy. After removing our shoes we climbed almost to the top, looking at the amazing views across the bay, but thought we’ll come back another time, when we are more prepared – we needed to take a lunch basket and water to be able to appreciate it better. We also had a ferry to catch across from the peninsula at Point de Grave to Royan.

The ferry to Royan is a brief crossing about 25 minutes long, but it did feel a little choppy – a little like the Solent on a bad day, so not terrible. We carried on to the Île d’Oléron and the campsite we had chosen for the night, but being out of season there was not a lot open and even the one we had chosen, had no-one available to see, so we headed along to another we’d found. The landscape on the island had changed to oyster farms and vineyards. The weather has changed and it’s now drizzly and grey.

Tomorrow, we’ll continue our journey along the west coast. We have a vague idea of where we’re going, but next week we’ll share with you our trip. Thank you for reading.

Week 33: Canal du Midi, France to Toulouse

We decided that our tour of France, this time would involved heading northwest from the Mediterranean to Toulouse via the Canal du Midi – or as much as we could with a 7.4 metre long (8 metres with the bikes), 3.1 metre high (with the Satellite dome) 3850 Kilogramme Motorhome!

We set off from our campsite at St-Jean-Pra-des-Cants and headed to Marseillan Plage, where the Canal du Midi enters the Etang du Thau, technically the end of the route but we’re heading back along it to Toulouse. From here we headed to our campsite in Colombiers, via Agde and Beziers.

The town of Colombiers, is right on the Canal and the campsite about a five minute walk. After a relaxing evening we decided the following morning we would cycle along the canal to Beziers via les neuf ecluses de Fonseranes (the nine locks of Fonseranes). These locks allow the canal to rise 21.5 metres over a distance of 300 metres, and having travelled through Neptune’s Staircase at Fort Augustus on the Caledonian Canal, we felt we should visit.

The weather wasn’t favourable again today, the wind was so strong, but we managed to stay on the cycle path and arrived at the Locks.

From here we followed the new (nineteenth century) section of the canal to the Basin at Beziers, having crossed the Aquaduct. Next we headed up to the old town, passing the statue of Pierre-Paul Riquet, the Chief Engineer of the Canal, then cycled up to the cathedral, and the Palais de Justice. We found the coloured letters of Beziers and a Promenade named after one of the Priests who was martyred in an Islamic terrorist attack in 2016, feeling a little somber, we headed back through the old town over the old bridge (Pont Vieux) and negotiated the one way system, with normal traffic, back to the Locks and lunch.

We cycled back to Colombiers and beyond to the Malpas Tunnel, before returning to the town and having a mooch around. This is one place we will add to the list to return to.

Wednesday morning, having cycled into town for bread, we headed off following the route of the canal up to Carcassonne and Castelnaudary, before arriving at our stop for the night at Le Lac de La Thésauque.

On the way, we met a total of seven Convoi Exceptionnels having had to pull up on someone’s driveway, as directed by the outriders, and subsequently reverse back onto the busy road, to allow three of them to pass! The remaining four we passed in larger towns of parked up in laybys! We passed the Obelisque de Riquet and followed the canal as close as we could.

After spending the night at Le Lac de la Thésauque , where we had to change pitches as the ground was so soft, we didn’t want to have to require a tow out (again), we set off towards Toulouse. We found a lovely little campsite, Camping les Violettes in Deyme, just off the canal and after lunch, we sorted out the bikes and headed off along the canal towards Toulouse, we didn’t think that we would reach it as it looked too far away on the map, then just as the rain started, we were in the city – hiding under a bridge waiting for the rain to pass.

Once it passed we had a little cycle, then headed back to Nortia, before the rain fell again. We had limited battery power left too, so they needed to go on charge and we would cycle in another day.

Friday, batteries charged we headed off south down the canal, but it wasn’t as interesting as the ride north, so we decided to head back, Just as we decided that we saw a creature in the canal, we assumed it was an otter and watched it swim to the river bank. We carried on to the next lock, before turning around and on the return, the creature was on the canal bank, a beaver! A quick stop and sorting out the phone and we were able to take some photos of it in the water. We’d not (to our knowledge) seen a beaver in the wild before!

Saturday, we have decided to head to another campsite north of the city. The campsite in Deyme, was lovely and so well placed – it is an ideal stop over if you’re heading south as just off the main autoroute to the Med, Spain and Andorra or just if you’re passing. We knew there was a car wash further up the road too, with a gantry, which would allow us to clean the roof – something we haven’t yet been able to do and knew we really should – we have a solar panel and satellite dome on the roof, both benefit from being kept clean! An hour later and the lovely Nortia was back to white!

We carried on the the campsite we’d chosen, Camping le Rupe, just outside the city and were lucky to have our lunch outside in the sunshine, after a busy morning, we chose to relax in the sun and plan our stay. We had decided we would go and see Concorde! Toulouse is the capital of French Aviation and the home of Airbus. A short cycle ride away from the campsite is the Aeroscopia Museum.

Sunday morning and chores completed and a quick lunch we set off to the Museum. It is located in the suburb of Blagny, next to the main Toulouse-Blagny Airport and as you cross over the Autoroute there is one of the two Concordes they have in the Museum. We parked our bikes, put the batteries and non-essential bits in the lockers provided and headed into the Museum. Along with the Concordes, there are also an Airbus A300B, an Airbus Super Guppy (used to transport the space shuttle landing stages from California to Florida, an Airbus A380 and an Airbus A400M. You can actually go onto one of the Concordes and the A300B.

As a quick note, there is Motorhome Parking available in the car park and you need to have your passport to visit Let’s Visit Airbus, Driving Licences are not accepted and it’s not open on Sundays. It is a great Museum to visit though.

Tomorrow, we’re heading into the city, so you can follow our journey there and beyond in our next post. As always, thank you for reading and following our trip.

Week 32: Cambrils, Spain to St-Jean-Pla-de-Corts, France

Frost in Prades, Spain

We left the lovely campsite in Cambrils and followed our instincts into the mountains, stopping at a site in Prades. Prades sits in the Muntanyes de Prades, and the area is stunning, just what we needed after the coast.

On our way up, we headed off to Carrefour and stocked up with a few bits, but in the International aisle, we discovered a whole load of English (UK) goodies – crumpets, Aunt Bessie’s thick cut oven chips, Richmond sausages, Cornish Pasties and cottage cheese! We do love Spanish food and some that we have tried has been excellent, but when you crave a sausage sandwich, the Spanish ones aren’t quite right!

On arrival at the campsite, you are handed a welcome pack, which includes things to do / see and there was a walk which looked good. So the next morning we set off to the town and followed the directions up to La Roca Foradada (the holed rock). First we passed the Ermita de Sant Antoni, then a lake with frogs before we found the Rock itself. It literally is a large piece of sandstone, with a hole in it! We headed back down and wandered back through the old town, looking at the architecture. There is also a photo exhibition of people who lived in the town on the walls of some of the buildings.

We have had some more weather here! We arrived with an amber weather warning for wind on Tuesday, it was a bit blustery but after Storm Gloria, seems a little tame! It started gusting in the night and continued until about five o’clock in the afternoon, when as if a switch had been hit, stopped dead! However that night it did get cold and we awoke to frost.

On Wednesday, we continued our journey across, above Barcelona to the Massis del Montseny and the lovely town of Taradell, just outside the town of Vic. The campsite was a gem and is another we will come back to, but the weather has turned a little colder up here and getting back to the coast is on the cards.

Thursday, we set of again up the mountain passes towards the Costa Blanca. We passed through Vic and then on to Osuna, another Game of Thrones location – we really need to get up to speed with GOT and find out what we need to know! Next, we headed into the Parc National de la Zona Volcànica de la Garrotxa, and on to Palamós. Our stopover here is a Camperstop, with amenities but it is well kept and quiet.

The town of Palamós is close by and the following morning (Friday) we cycled down to the Marina and the old town. The wind off the sea was bitter and very cold, so we headed back to Nortia and the remainder of the sunshine, to cook ourselves a curry. Ric had been wanting to cook a beef curry for a while so I duly found what I thought was beef, to discover it is lamb! Knew I should have checked with Google!

We decided we would stay another day at the Camperstop Empordarea, where we felt comfy and there were (limited) services – motorhome service point – also available to drive in and use for 3 Euros – toilets (1 male and 1 female) and 2 showers – 1 Euro for 5 mins. It is also about a five minute walk from the Supermarket and about 15 minutes from the town / beach.

We set off on our bikes towards Platja d’Aro and as the cycle route disappeared in several places, we stopped at the town and returned to Palamós, before heading off on another Via Verdes (green route) towards the town of Palafrugell. After 21 miles, we returned to Nortia and stayed comfy and warm.

Sunday, we had already decided we were going to leave and head over the border to France. We set off along the coast road to Sant Antoni de Colonge and then inland to Colonge, where we followed French cycle training group up the hill, they pulled over at the top and we carried on towards the border and were stopped by a cycle race in progress. We continued to the border, where the number of parked up lorries, service stations, cafe/bars, restaurants, shops and prostitutes increased. At the border the number of Police also increased and once safely over the border and back into the quiet of the countryside we could breathe again! We stopped overnight in Saint-Jean-Pla-de-Corts, on a little campsite with views of the snow capped peaks of the Pyrenees.

Tomorrow, we’re off again on a new adventure, where will we go? Find out next week! As always thank you for reading and following our travels.

Week 23: Sussex to Spain

Having had a lovely two weeks at and around our home and families, we decided to head for Spain and the warmer and hopefully a sunnier climate. We said our goodbyes and set off to the tunnel, stopping for the night at the Caravan and Motorhome Club Site – Black Horse Farm at Densole, Kent. We knew there was a pub over the road, and it would save us having to cook and wash up (more importantly) as we were setting out early (for us)! But in true, Three go Travelling fashion, they were cash only and we didn’t have cash. If the truth be told, we should have been aware of this possibility as, the last time we stayed there, their WiFi was dodgy and the card readers intermittent!

Tuesday morning we set off to the tunnel and were waved through, there were no dramas this time and we treated ourselves to a LEON Breakfast Box – yummy! Once through the tunnel, we headed south west and on towards Rouen and on then on to Marcilly-sur-Eure, where we were going to stop for the night. We arrived in France the sun was shinning and as we headed south west the fog rolled in and stayed, getting quite thick in places.

The campsite at Marcilly-sur-Eure, was surrounded by woods and in the fog looked very fairy-tale like. Each area was arranged in a circle with a shower/toilet block in the centre. From here, we set off towards Poitiers and our next stop for the night. The fog did eventually lift as we headed further south but again in places it was very thick. The campsite we chose to stay at was in Saint-Georges-Lés-Baillargeaux overlooking the Futuroscope site. There had been so much rain in this part of France, that we were asked to park on the roadway between the pitches rather than on the pitches – its not just the UK which is wet!

The next morning we headed off to Oradour-sur-Glane. A place we’d wanted to visit for a few years, the last time we were close by, the weather was too hot (and our camper too small) to leave Albi, but this time the weather (and the MoHo) were perfect – its like leaving him at home, he has so much space to roam and all his comforts.

Oradur-sur-Glane was totally destroyed on 10th June 1944, in response to the D-Day Landings, by the Nazis. The inhabitants were rounded up and the men, women and children, were shot and set on fire along with the village. There were six people who survived. President de Gaulle, ordered that the village was to remain as a memorial to those who died. https://www.oradour.info/

We found it a poignant and fitting memorial and although ageing, it is worth a visit. The cars and metal furniture along with the street names and the buildings are identified by profession and owner. It is free to enter, and despite arriving on a National Strike Day, still open.

From here, we found a remarkable little campsite in Exideuil-sur-Vienne Camping de La Rivière http://www.campingdelariviere.com/en/welcome/ . It’s an ideal spot if travelling to or from Spain. Right next to a river and with a restaurant in the summer.

Heading on towards Spain, and with the National Strike on a second day and the Lorry Drivers threatening to blockade the roads on Saturday, we made a dash for the border, heading on the Autoroute – we fully intend to travel the west coast when the weather is warmer and sites are open! We were stuck in traffic at Bordeaux on the Ring Road, but Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav, did us proud (for once) and found us an alternative and quicker route. As we approached Bayonne, the weather got better and better, the sun was shining and the dash thermometer was reading 15°C – positively scorchio!

The stop for the night was at Camping Larrouleta, in Urrugne, France. It is a large site with a lake and great facilities, including an open, indoor swimming pool. We felt so good, being able to open the windows and doors and feel the warmth of the sun, giving the lovely Nortia a great airing, too. Being in the foothills of the Pyrenees, however, when the sun disappeared behind the mountain it did get cooler, but still not as low as we had the previous week at the Gatwick Club Site, where it had been -2°C! There were a few Spanish people here for a long weekend. We later found out Friday was Constitution Day in Spain, marking it’s Referendum to becoming a Constitutional Monarchy and Democracy and Monday being the Immaculate Conception Day Holiday. Spain has a lot of Public Holidays – national and/or Regional! Another Note to self moment!

We went over the Spanish Border (only realised by the change in Police Name and uniform) in the middle of the river according to Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav, and headed to Pamplona, over the mountains and into the historic town. We were still enjoying the sun, so headed back to the coast and Zarauz, and Gran Camping Zarautz, with spectacular view of the Atlantic and the longest beach in Spanish Basque Country. As the sun set the lights came on in the village below, and the boats in the bay and beyond in the Bay of Biscay, along with the three visible lighthouses from our camping pitch, were lovely.

Heading off on Sunday, we picked up the Camina de Santiago route (a popular Pilgrimage Trail, from Donostia-San Sebastiàn to Santiago de Campostela). It started to rain as we set off, a bit of a shock, after the sun, but we’re on the north coast, along the Bay of Biscay! We travelled along through Bilbao and Loredo, along the Costa Verde. Despite the rain, the sea was full of surfers, the wind and the waves looked spectacular (and cold). We stopped for the night at a campsite, but were thankful for our on-board facilities as those on offer, weren’t up to much! That night, the wind picked up off the sea and pummelled us all night, I might have slept more if I hadn’t convinced myself we were going to blow over. (Luckily, I didn’t see a picture posted online about some Motorhomes in Croatia, which had done just that)!

We’re heading off again in the morning, just not quite decided whereto! As always thank you for reading our post. We’re going to try to be more on time on this part of our trip, so fingers crossed you get to read a regular post! We’ll be back next week with an update….

Week 17: France to England (via Belgium)!

A campsite with a sense of humour and a lifeguard to watch over you!

We left the Wild West themed campsite in France and carried on our trip to Compiègne. When we arrived we went to the site of the Armistice Treaty signing on the 11th November 1918, signalling the end of World War I.

From here, we went on a bit of a trip to the Thiepval Memorial, in Authuille, France. The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens (who also designed the Cenotaph in London) and is a memorial to the missing 72,337 British and South African servicemen of the Somme. We chose to spend the next two nights in the town of Péronne.

We had started to feel, like we’d been on the move for too long again! Things needed to be sorted out and chores (washing) completed! We also needed to find a vet for our return to England – yes, we’ve decided to return, and just before we ran out of tea bags!

Chores completed, vet accomplished we set off again for Ieper (Ypres) heading north through Lille. In Ieper, we headed off to the Menin Gate and the historic town. We didn’t stay for the Last Post, but maybe we’ll return when the weather is a little warmer.

From Ieper, we set off north to Bruges and we stopped at the Tyne Cot Cemetery, outside the village of Passendaele. It is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth Soldiers in the world, for any war. It is one of the best cemeteries we have been to. We were going to stop in Bruges, but Albi has strained a tendon in his foot, so he’s on short walks. We headed to the Belgium coast instead.

We chose Bredene, after a trip to the Dutch Border and slowly heading back towards France. The campsite is one we have added to our list to come back to. (There will be a list of our campsites and stopovers (good and bad) soon!). Here, it would appear our past has caught up with us, with an email entitled “Speeding Etrusco Bloggers”. We have received a speeding ticket from Latvia, we’re not proud of breaking the speed limit, but it did make me smile, imagining the lovely Nortia, flying through the Latvian countryside!

After Bredene, where there was an amazing Chinese Restaurant, almost next door, we set off again and after completing a trip down the coast, we found a campsite on the beach in Dunkirk. Who knew how lovely the beach was here?

We chose to stay two nights, here, and get ready to return to England. We set off on our bikes on Saturday – into a head on wind which wiped the sand off the beach into our faces. We followed the trail and found the beaches where the Dunkirk Evacuation took place – Operation Dynamo – in May and June of 1940.

On Sunday, we made a slow journey to the Tunnel, to return to England. The journey was pretty non-eventful. We made our way to the Pet Check-in and as always Albi sailed through and was able to return to England, now it was our turn! The queue was massive. We were directed to Self-Check-in, something we have always shied away from, but it was easy, you either enter your booking reference or card you bought the ticket on and your boarding pass! Next, Border Control – France easy now Britain, again all OK, we were on our way! We boarded early and arrived in England.

We’d booked a night at the Bearstead Caravan and Motorhome Club Site, outside Maidstone, Kent. We’ve got ideas of where we plan on going from here, but there is nothing set in stone. We’ve got one eye on the weather and our route is in our heads!

Next week, you can find out where we’ve been and what we’ve done. We’re hoping the weather is kind, but it’s England and it’s October! As always thank you for reading, we’ll be in touch soon…

Week 16: France

Col du Grand Colombier

We left St Tropez, with the weather app and the radio giving weather warnings for bad weather for two days. We knew we would be unable to avoid it completely but we decided we would start our trip back to England.

We headed north and picked up the Route Napoleon at Castellane and headed up to Digne-les-Bains, a thermal spa resort in the Alps. The Route Napoleon follows his route from Elba to Grenoble to ready himself for his battle at Waterloo. The weather wasn’t too bad on the drive north and was even sunny when we arrived, but the rain was still due.

The rain did arrive, just as we were starting to cook dinner. Thankfully, the awning was able to provide protection to the chef and his barbecue. Expecting worse weather, we put away the awning before turning in for the night and we were glad we did. The weather got worse throughout the night, including the start of the thunderstorms. Waiting for the gaps in the rain and the storm, in the morning I was able to take the dog out for his walk… but a few steps in the rain started again and even heavier. The paths were flooded and I was drenched through. I was taught an expression in my school french lessons, which I have never deemed appropriate to use before, but today was the day – “je suis trompée jusqu’ aux os.” (I am soaked through – literally to the bone!) After having returned to Nortia, and drying the dog, we decided to move off the grass onto the roadway and continue getting ready to leave. As I was already soaking wet, I continued to do the outside jobs, whilst Ric carried on inside in the dry! Once moved I was able to change, have a lovely warm cup of tea and plan the day’s journey.

We continued up the Route Napoleon towards Grenoble, stopping for a nice warming bowl of French Onion soup in Gap (all cooked in the MoHo in the Supermarket car park – we weren’t the only Motorhome there either)! We continued on to the chosen campsite, but despite it looking open the office was closed and despite ringing the bell as requested if it was closed, there was no response. It was definitely becoming one of those days! As we returned to Nortia and reversed up the steep slope onto the road, a figure appeared at the office but stubborn as we are it was too late we were moving on! We found another overnight stop at Lépin-le-Lac, a small campsite on the edge of a lake in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alps.

The following morning we thought about visiting Geneva, as we were so close. After a lunch on the banks of the River Rhône, we followed signs to the Col du Grand Colombier. Neither of us knew what to expect, but as we got higher and higher, we checked the internet and it turns out that it was a mountain used for the climbs in the Tour de France 2012 and the view at the top were worth the trip, so we carried on. The top is 1412 metres above sea level, not one of the highest we have been up, but the road was very steep and twisty with a number of switchbacks. There were a couple of hairy moments, especially where you could see the drop down, those cyclists definitely have some balls! The climb is rated HC ( hors catégorie) which is the most difficult hill climb.

The view from the top was just amazing, you can see Switzerland and Lake Geneva, the Alps and France. We were even above the clouds.

We headed off to our overnight stop in Gex. We’d told Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav that we didn’t want to go to Switzerland anymore and yet we saw the border approaching. Oh well, another country for the list. We continued on along the outskirts of Geneva and then we had to park up at CERN. We seem to be having an unprepared day, neither of us realised it would be on our route and even better it was free to visit. CERN is the European Organisation for Nuclear Research and it is home to the Large Hadron Collider.

After Gex, we headed to Besançon and travelled up through the Jura Mountains National Park . The National Park does not allow dogs! The signs even say leave your dog at home! We climbed higher up the mountains through the ski resorts and descending down into the valleys below. There is a more autumny feel here and the leaves are turning orange and red. There are more signs indicating activities for Halloween and Toussaint – All Saint’s Day 1/11, a national holiday in France). The french schools also break for the holiday on Friday for two weeks.

Next we headed up to Colmar. Neither of us has travelled along the eastern border of France before and Colmar, was just so beautiful. We headed from the campsite a short walk to the area known as La Petite Venise, with the canals and historical houses. Colmar even has a minature Statue of Liberty on a roundabout on the outskirts of the town, in honour of the designer who was born in the town.

We headed west from Colmar towards Compiègne, stopping at a lovely campsite in Andelot. We were the only people there and there were cows in the field in front of us and behind.

As we continued towards Compiègne, we started to see the World War One memorials and grave sites, the area is known for. There are cemeteries for all nationalities here. We stopped at the Necropole Nationale – Cormicy and then the Berry-au-Bac Memorial to the Armoured Cavalry (tanks). The campsite for the night had a Wild West Theme.

Next week’s adventures will be following shortly – we haven’t had WiFi for a long time and our internet providers say we’ve been out of the UK for too long. We’ll endeavour to deal with this on our return to England, but for now, thank you as ever for reading – we’ll be back soon….