Bluebell the motorhome is parked up around the back of a large souvenir store, overlooking fields and next to a Spanish motorhome. The weather was lovely earlier, however this afternoon has gone more overcast and chilly.
We had a lovely lazy morning sat outside the van on the aire in Cancale. The sun was everso hot, we had created our very own private sun trap. About 11 ish we hit the road for an hour and arrived at the pretty town of Dinan. There was a fabulous aire just under the viaduct and below the walls of the town, however we were only visiting for a couple of hours so parked in the central car park. Luck was on our side as we arrived at 12:00- the exact time that it was free parking until 14:00. We soon found the tourist office and got ourselves the free map with a walking tour on so we could see the best of the town. Dinan itself is very pretty. It reminded us of a cross between (a small) Edinburgh and Lincoln. There were lots of old houses that were made of timber, and cobbled streets. We enjoyed walking around part of the ramparts and there was a fab view of the river, viaduct and the aire.
We found a cafe on the main square and sat and people watched for a while. Keith wasn’t allowed a beer in the cafe as he wasn’t eating a crepe?! Weird rule, but I think he enjoyed the coffee in the end!
I had read lots about the “pink coast” so suggested we headed on the 2 hour journey. We had a good journey and arrived at Perros Guirec about 3:30. We had a bit of an explore, stocked up on lots of very cheap Bordeaux wine in Super U, followed the coast road back to Lannion. We were heading for a France Passion site (we actually had 3 to choose from in this area). We soon found it, but both weren’t sure we liked the look of it. It’s always our number 1 rule wherever we go, if we dont feel comfortable, move on. So we did, and ended up at the third one!
We’re going to try and have an earlier night tonight, we’ve been going to bed way after 11, unlike us, and rather merry!! Tomorrow we wave goodbye to the English channel for a few days and head to the Atlantic side of Brittany. First stop Quimper for lunch,then Concarneu for the night and I’m going to attempt to buy some fresh fish from the fish auction….
Bluebell the motorhome is parked on our own private glade in a beautifully landscaped aire overlooking the bay of Michel, and Cancale, amongst about 20 other continental motorhomes. As far as we can see, we are the only Brits.
We had a fantastic evening on the France Passion site last night, and slept like logs. We didn’t wake up until after 9:30, and the sun was beating down on us already rather hot.
We made our way to Cancale, stopping at Le Mont St Michel for a couple of hours en route. We had both seen pictures of Le M ST M, however they don’t do it justice. It is truly spectacular. We were lucky to be visiting on a glorious day, the blue sky backdrop made the rock stand out even more.
We paid the €12:50 to park (ouch) almost a little bit begrudgingly, and not knowing whether we would have to pay entrance fees once we had walked the 40 mins up the causeway. We were also slightly concerned whether we could even take Jazz in, as we saw signs for kennels on our route. However, we carried on anyway, hoping for the best. Once we got to the entrance we happily discovered a) we didn’t need to pay anymore, and b) Jazz could come on with us!
The island itself is a maze of tiny streets, with bars, restaurants, shops, hotels and absolutely oozes character. It reminded us Carcassonne, and we enjoyed wandering the streets for an hour or two. It was lovely and warm, and we felt like we were a million miles away from England – despite only being 20 odd miles across the channel!
After lunch, we hit the scenic route towards Cancale. It took about 40 mins, and we passed through some lovely pretty French villages.
We easily found the aire in Cancale, and were impressed to see it was only €6 for the night, with services. We settled in, had a nap and then walked the short distance down to the town. The town itself isn’t as pretty as we had anticipated, however it is famous amongst foodies for its oysters. We had a beer in a bar overlooking the sea, and I debated whether or not to try an oyster whilst here. They are selling them everywhere, in restaurants, bars and also on market stalls fresh off the boats.
I’ve tried an oyster before in Sheringham about 13 years ago and it didn’t go well, but I decided that I would give it a go whilst here- Keefy on the other hand was not keen at all so passed!
I asked in my best French at the market stall how much one would cost to try there and then. The kind man took pity on my dodgy French and said I could have one as a gift. He prepared it and off I went. I tried to be brave, and I almost got it in my mouth 4 times, however in the end it was just too much and I ended up vomming it out! That’s me and oysters done, if I can’t do it here, in oyster country then there’s just no hope for me!
We’ve had a great evening chilling in the evening sun outside Bluebell, Jazz is completely zonked out and behaving incredibly calmly for him!
Tomorrow we are heading for Dinan, and we’ve heard the weather forcast is good again. 🙂
We set ourselves a challenge. How much of France could we see in 2 weeks. The answer: just under 2000 miles worth!
Have a look at our map- I think we did a rather good job, don’t you?!
I’m going to try and do this methodologically: Here goes…..
Day 1- Calais – Champagne Region. Stayed at a France Passion site- CHAMPAGNE COUVENT-PARENT
Fab journey down and a very exciting experience pulling up onto our first official France Passion site. We didn’t really know what to expect, we just knew we had to say hello. I set about in my best french, and managed to get us some water and a pitch. I was quite impressed with myself. We also managed to establish that they made their champagne in their back garden and we could meet “monsieur” for a tasting at 6pm. It was so exciting. At 6pm the man knocked at Daisy’s door and off we went. He spoke a little english, and I attempted some french. Between us we coped and before we knew it we had done a tour of the factory and were sat with his family in his tasting celler trying out all the champagne. MAN IT TASTED GOOD. REALLY GOOD!!! We bought a few bottles, at a bargain price of 10 euros each. Keefy reckoned it was better than the stuff he had had in Claridges back in his old life. I thought it was the bees knees. Monsieur picked us some fresh figs off his fig tree to take on our onward journey, we slept like a log and it was an absolutely perfect start to our adventure.
Day 2- Champagne region to Dijon.
We stopped at another French Passion site somewhere near Dijon. I was absolutely hanging from the champagne tasting but it didnt stop us pulling up at another vineyard. It was LASHING down with rain, so we thought the best place to hide was the tasting cellar…. hehe. Hair of the dog and all that. My goodness, the wine was to die for. We purchased a few bottles at the bargain price of 4 euros each I think. Absolutely yum tastic!! There was a massive storm that night and we watched an English family attempting to slide there way onto the field at about 10pm. They had done the journey from Dover to there in one. The looked KNACKERED poor things. They were even crazier than us!
Day 3- Down South…..
To cut a long story short. This was the BEST DAY EVER. The reason is because we missed the turn off on the motorway in the pouring rain. Yes you read that right. We may have had a light disagreement as to who#s fault it was that we missed the junction.. but this soon was forgotten when we saw, on the map, a place called CHATEAUNEUF -DU PAPE. It was only the name of our absolutely FAVOURITE red wine int he whole wide world!!! A quick Wiki later and we realised it was indeed THE place, and not only that there was a France Passion site on one of the vineyards. ABSOLUTELY WITHOUT FAIL THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD!!!! I cannot convey how totally awesome staying there was…..
Day 4- Day – Pape to Cap D’Adge
As soon as we turned off at Chat.. du pape.. the temperate and climate totally changed. Up until then it had been chilly and wet. Suddenly it felt like the med. It was hot and dry and there was that cricket sound you only hear when you are abroad. It was fab.
We moved onto Cap D’Adge for a few days on a site soaking up the rays and the sea. It was nice to just stop for a few days and chill. As you are probably working out from our posts, we don’t do that very often at all!!
We had some surprise visitors on the middle night.. my dad and Jenny who were also in France but further north and not having much luck with the weather rang to ask if we fancied going for a bite to eat that night. They drove an entire DAY down south for a lovely meal by the harbour, and then drove back oop north the next day. It was lovely!
Cap D’adge to Carcassonne
We had read about a French Aire in the heart of Carcassonne, and had decided to give it a go. I’m so glad we did. It was brilliant. I think it was 5 euros for the night and was 5 mins walk to the centre. What a magical place it was. We had a fabulous day exploring the streets, and chilling in the bars. Gosh, I love France.
Carcassone to Sarlat
We headed north to the Dordogne and had a great night on a Duck Pate Farm. It was on the banks of the Dordogne, had its own private beach so you could swim in the river and was fantastic. Sarlat is just wonderful- I’ve been there many times on tour and it was every bit as good as I had remembered. The weather was really hot, and it was just amazing!
Sarlat to La Rochelle (via La Rocque- Gageac)
We had a fab time exploring La Rocque- Gageac and were itching to get on the river canoeing, but alas we didn’t really have enough time so settled for a quick cold beer and a wander and vowed to go back someday!
La Rochelle was a lovely town. Unfortunately the weather turned at this point, but we still enjoyed wandering the town, old and new.
La Rochelle to Amboise
I had been here before, and knew that Keefy would enjoy the pretty little town, with a fairytale castle and the home of Leonardo da Vinci. We stayed on a rather random vineyard that produced great wine but was fairly new, and a bit of a walk to the town centre. Couldn’t complain though. We had more than got our moneys worth staying at France Passion sites so far on our trip!
Amboise to Versailles
Versailles had been on Keith’s bucket list for ages, and he was desperate to go, so we defied everyone’s advice and hit PARIS in Daisy… gulp. We made it, but surprisingly, despite France being a very motorhome friendly country, and Versailles being the most famous tourist attraction in the country, motorhomes were not allowed any where near!!
Thankfully we found a helpful soul who directed us to a campsite nearby and we pitched up within walking distance.. no thanks to the staff at Versailles..
We then queued for about 2 hours to get in! Bless Keith, he was like a kid at Christmas, couldn’t wait to get through those gates! We enjoyed a full day there exploring, my goodness it was so busy!!! Very impressive hall of mirrors and lots of very expensive painting and decor. I have to be honest. It wasn’t my cup of tea. I found it all a bit TOO MUCH! Too indulgent. Too fancy. Too chintzy. TOO BUSY! But Keith, loved it. And I was so happy to share that with him!
We had THE MOST AMAZING trip!! We fit in so much, we covered so many miles and we spent a fortune because we were driving a petrol motorhome……. but it worth every penny and I think we can both truly say we have the best memories. Chat… pape was obviously a highlight, mainly because we hadn’t planned it. Carcassonne was a treat, and so was Versaille for Keith. Swimming in the Dordogne will be a lasting memory, as will sitting out til 1am watching the clear skies and shooting stars in the Dordogne
Above all this trip highlighted the reason why we own a motorhome. We love the freedom it gives us and wouldn’t change it for the world! Can’t wait to go back! 🙂
France. I love it. I love everything about it. The food, the drink, the people, the countryside, the cities, the fashions, the language – everything. Ever since my first trip to France aged 13, I’ve been hooked.
I couldn’t hold off any longer, February 2011 was the time for us to hit the ferry to France. I was so excited! We had a few things we were wanting to do once over there:
1) Visit Hornfleur and eat Moules and Frites over looking the harbour
2) Visit the Bayeux Tapestry
3) Visit the Thiepval Monument in the Somme (my Great Uncle died during the Somme and is listed at Thiepval)
Our itinery was fairly loose, and we were going to “wild camp” as often as we could, something in which the French were reknowned for, and well equipped for. I’d been telling Keith ever since we got Daisy how we should get our selves across the water and do some motorhoming, French styleee.
The French have this awesome awesome system called “Aires”. An aire is usually an open space/car park area specially set aside for motorhomes, or camping cars as they are know in French. Often they have services such as a water tap, maybe electric, waste dump etc, and quite often they are free or a minimal charge. The aim is to attract campers to the village/town, they stay for free, and then spend money in the area on a meal, in a bar, at the market- wherever and whatever. What a great idea. UK needs to wake up to this, sooner rather than later in my opinion.
Anyway, I subscribed to this fab website http://www.motorhomingfrance.co.uk/ which list all the aires in France, and exactly where they are and what they provide. I had even marked them all on our road atlas for france. Talk about being prepared. What I failed to realise was that a) February isn’t a very popular time to motorhome in France, therefore b) hardly any of the aires that we visited had any fresh water or electric available. More on that in a sec..
First stop in France was the glorious St Valery Sur Somme. What a gem. We arrived in time to park up in what we would learn to be the best aire of that trip. We managed to park up, plug in to get eleccy, fill with water and wander down into town for a Croque Moseur and a litre of red all before 2pm. All was fabulous in the world, we were happy as larry. We had a lovely afternoon exploring the town and headed back to Daisy later on. We had a perfect night on the aire and couldn’t believe we had waited so long to come and do this! Next morning, Keith went for his shower in Daisy and discovered we had no hot water. This later developed into no gas. Bummer. One thing we had been told- make sure you have enough gas, as the french system is different and incompatable with English vans. Crap. We had no gas on the first day of our holiday, and the gas powers the hot water system, the cooker, and the heating, and we are in the middle of winter in Northern France. Our lack of organisation on the gas front was made up for by our over organisation on the things we had stocked under out seats. A quick delve and we felt reassured- we found our electric heater, our old camping stove that we thought we’d cart with us “just in case” and athough we couldn’t do much about the hot water system, we decided just to grin and bear it and book on a site a couple of times for a good hot shower.
One thing I hadn’t quite realised is that in France, in February, pretty much every single campsite is closed. I mean it, we called loads and could not find a single one within the whole of Northern France! So no hot shower for us then this week. Oh well we kept saying, we are camping!
Back to the camping and the tour. Hornfleur. Magical. Especially when it was sunny, which it was when we visited. The aire there is great. 5 minutes walk to the centre of town. You just can’t complain at that. I think we paid 3 euros. Try finding a b&b for that much.
Bayeux Tapesty – one of those moments when you think, yes, I can cross that off the bucket list. AMAZING
Normandy Beaches- especially Arromanches- what a great place. So erie, we sat having a beer in a bar and it felt like we were there in the 1940s. It was so atmospheric, the landing crafts still visible in the water, you could easily imagine the soliders there. Fab
Omaha Beach and the American Cemetry. I have to be honest, this wouldn’t have been my first choice of places to visit, but my Keefy wanted to, and my goodness am I glad I did. It was very interesting. And so unbelievably emotional. We stood on Omaha beach and I just couldn’t help myself, I was so overcome with emotion I found myself crying.
Rouen. Now- this is where we had a slightly unfortunate/worrying incident in Daisy. I was driving. If you have never driven to/in Rouen- here’s a thought. Dont! Seriously the worst place I have EVER driven. EVER. The ring road was like the M25 mixed with Spagetti Junction x 100. To cut a long story short, I had an argument with Sarah (the sat nav), disagreed with the directions, swerved off the duel carriageway to get to road I was SURE we needed to go down. I was so busy “being right” I missed the height barrier signs, and then of course the height barrier, and bammed right into it at 40mph. Even this didn’t stop me, I carried on and then realised- what is the height barrier protecting. The underpass of course. So I had to reverse up a duel carriage way, the wrong way, back through the height barrier that we were too tall for (all with traffic coming our way of course, pipping etc). Screeched onto the main ring road again and hoped and prayed that nothing had fallen off the top of our roof. As sods law would have it, we couldn’t actually pull over for about 10 minutes to check everything. The worst 10 minutes of my life. I wasn’t sure even if the roof was still there. THANKFULLY it was and all was ok. Or so we thought. Later that night we discovered a leak, and unfortuntely that was the beginning of the end! We needed a new roof vent for a start and over the next year we would discover more leaks. But at this point we were blissfully unaware so after several stiff drinks, we could see the almost funny side and were ready to carry on with enjoying our week in France.
Next day we headed to the Somme. We had an incident where we had to stop on the toll road and use the side barrier for Keith to get onto the roof to fix the roof vent. (oops) Luckily we had the right equipement with us, including the high vis jackets, which I was enjoying wearing since we’d bought them specially for the trip (it’s illegal not to have them when you drive in Europe)
The Somme was a great place to visit too. Thiepval was another moving experience as was the circuit of Remembrance that we took part in having found a leaflet with the driving instructions on.
We ate so much lovely French food, and drank some fantastic wines. We survived without hot water and heating for a week and we didn’t have electric either. We showered in cold water using bottled mineral waters as the taps had frozen up and we spent a fortune! But, we had a great week, despite the fact I nearly killed Daisy. Would we do it again? It’s taken me a whole year and a new van, but now we have Bluebell, yes I really think we would. Although I don’t think Keith would let me take Bluebell back to Rouen….