“And now it’s time for the feature presentation…”- FRANCE SUMMER 2011

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! 🙂

 

 

Sun, Sea and…… ADNAMS…. It could only be “Southwold”- MAY 2011

We headed to Southwold for a weekend with my Dad and Jenny in May 2011. The weather was glorious and the Adnams was even better. Did you know that they did Adnams gin?? For me this was like a red rag to a bull.. Yum Yum.

We had a great weekend exploring the sophisticated seaside town and enjoyed some rather lavish fish and chips, washed down by some Broadside of course. Life doesn’t get much better than than IMHO

Heres some piccies…

Chasing the Easter Bunny all the way “ooop north” – Easter 2011 – Scotland and back up the East Side *PART 2*

Apologies for having to do this in two stages- I managed to loose the latter half of my blog rather annoyingly. I’ve had a good day though so I refuse to get moody about this now!

Whilst in Edinburgh we spent some time doing the normal touristy things like the castle and the mile etc. I have to say I really like Edinburgh, it’s got such a great atmosphere. I was lucky enough to have a month there playing at the fringe in 2007, so it was good to be back and in true muso style, visiting some of my old haunts!

After a couple of days in Edinburgh (and an ALMIGHTY hangover on the middle day- by the way, we climbed Arthur’s Seat, accidently taking the proper hardcore route and not the mamby pamby route up that we discovered once at the top!- not the best activity when you are rough as a badgers bum bum but a flipping fab view at the top!) we headed for a few days around Braemar. We visited the Falkirk Wheel which we both found interesting- I first became interested in this after seeing a programme on the mechanics of it whilst at Uni- I surprise myself sometimes…! We also visited Scone Abbey, which was great! I sat on the throne.. oops, I mean the stone of Scone, otherwise known as the stone of destiny. It was used by Scottish Monarchs on their coronations. I’ve just wiki-ed it, and found out that the one at the Abby that we saw is actually a replica- I hadn’t realised that- never mind, I still enjoyed my time on the throne.

At Braemar itself, we did another really awesome walk up a large mountain, and were once again really lucky that when we got to the top we had clear views and my goodness, what views they were. We stayed on a camping and caravan club site for a few days, and to be honest we were ready to move on when we did. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but it just wasn’t our cup of tea- wardens too-ing and fro-ing constantly and a hi-de-hi feel to it.

We headed south via The Trossachs, Hadrian’s Wall, Goathland and then York. We loved every minute. We walked for miles, we had fantastic weather, we even ran out of shorts and summer tops, so had to do an emergency charity shop run in York.

Below are a snap shot of some of the photos we gathered!

Chasing the Easter Bunny all the way “ooop north” – Easter 2011 – Scotland and back up the East Side *PART 1*

Following on from our Scottish trip in 2010, we could not wait to return, but this time we were determined to avoid the dreaded Midges, cos poor ol’ Keefy got EATEN ALIVE on our last adventure. In true Daisy fashion, we wanted to make sure we saw lots of places before we hit “the main feature” so decided to work our way up the East side of England and then spend a week or so meandering along the Braemar valley.

First stop- Sherwood Forest! A lovely day trip to see Major Oak, and a good stretch of the leggies round the forest, and the dreaded council estate too…

We then worked our way up to Dracula’s old haunt, Whitby. We decided to splash out on a DELUXE pitch at the Whitby Holiday Park, with a promise that we would have the best pitch on the rather large site. And boy did it deliver. When we pulled onto the site, we both looked ahead with trepidation- there was a club house, loads of statics, and all the other things that we would usually not go for and run a mile. We persevered through the lengthly check in procedure and was shown to our pitch.

Pretty awesome, huh?

One of the things we were determined to do this time round, was travel early, pitch then explore. So off we set to Whitby, and enjoyed a mosy round the streets, a couple of beers and the BEST FISH AND CHIPS IN THE WORLD. Hells bells, I can still remember. Yum- tastic! It was precisely after these fish and chips, and during a pint to wash em down (rude not to eh?) that I had a geographic moment of inspiration (these don’t happen very often). I realised we are about as far on the east coast as we could be and, doesn’t the sun come up on the east? As a keen photographer, I decided that I, Lydia P, hater of early mornings, was going to attempt to get up in time to watch the sunrise. Ha, Keith scoffed. YEAH RIGHT. Off we tottered back to Daisy and I eagerly checked sunrise times on my iPhone, set my alarm and fell asleep to Keith going on about how unlikely it was going to be, blah blah blah. What were the chances of a) me waking up, b) me getting up, and c) if I had managed to overcome a and b, what were the chances of being able to see the sunrise- it was early April and you know what British weather is like!

Well, I did, and this is how it was: (I actually took over 200 photos that morning, before 6 am, thats a record for me- these are my favs)

That was one of those moments where you just stand, in humble silence, everyone else on the campsite was fast asleep other than one guy who was snapping away too, and it was just awesome. I even blubbed.. !

Anyway, I was far too pumped to go back to sleep, so sat and went through my photos time and again until it was a reasonable time to eat, and bugger on off, both well chuffed we had splashed out and for once the good old english weather had been kind to us!

Next stop- Holy Island (Lindisfarne). We’d both been here before, but very much enjoyed it this time, driving across the causeway in Daisy with a great view from our high driving position! We were treated to a spectacular sunset that night from our campsite, a perfect end to a perfect day!

Next stop, Edinburgh- time for me to meet Keefy’s cousin Simon- unbeknownst to Keith, Simon and I had shared email conversations earlier that month, as I was in the middle of organising a surprise party for K’s birthday. We had lots of fun trying to be discreet, as we got drunker and drunker and drunker!

Daisy crosses the Channel – Feb Half Term 2011 – Northern France

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….

Until Next time!