It’s been a while since I last posted anything but we finally have internet and time to catch up or motivation in my case to write.
It’s nearly two months since we left the Gers and decide to return to more familiar ground heading towards the Dropt valley, spending the night at the village of La Sauvetat-du-Dropt it’s a beautiful, peaceful place right next to the riverbank, sadly tonight there are no pretty lights, lighting up the bridge but the old shed that last year only housed a few old leaflets is now home to hundreds of books. Overnight the weather changes and it continues to rain well into the following day as we make our way to Miramont de Guyenne.
John had arranged to meet up with the local cycling group again this year. So whilst he is off cycling I spend the afternoon having a walk around the village. Since we were here last year it seems much quieter and a few shops have closed down but they have opened a new aire for motorhomes so we spend the night here.
Next morning we move on to Eymet a village known to have a large number of English living in the area. Lining the narrow roads off the main square we find the market taking place and at times we forget we are in France with the sound of English voices, signs for the Fish and chip van and the English shop where a jar of Branston pickle will cost you €3.45. The motorhome stop here is just a patch of grass which is rather wet and boggy so we drive on.
It seems quite strange being back in the motorhome after spending most of the summer house sitting. So back on the road, we are once again like a snail that crawls over the cushion of the road carrying its house on its back, stopping off whenever or wherever we want and with the now inclement weather, or if our fellow motorhomes aren’t that friendly we can withdraw into our own home-like shelter.
So with our domestic space behind us, we move a little west entering the old land of Berry that is now known as the Indre department of the Loire Valley. Tending to play second fiddle to its more ‘ touristy’ neighbour the Indre et Loire it surprises us in many different ways, with its lovely chateaus, picturesque scenery and quiet villages.
The area is connected to the writer George Sand, who lived in an 18th-century Château in Nohant. Apparently, she was visited by many luminaries of that era, including Chopin. Here she wrote many of her novels, and the house still has some of her furniture and possessions. She is buried in the quiet family cemetery in the grounds of the chateau.
From here we head for Argentina Sur Creuse and it’s our first time in this area. Known as the Venice of Berry we stop off in the small town of Argenton-sur-Creuse to get groceries. It’s a very picturesque town with typical old houses with galleries and balustrades that reflect in the water of the Cruese river. You can see why the area apparently inspired so many poets and writers.
Just a short distance from here is the village of Oulches where we spend the next 5 days. Our friends in the UK have a property here so we are staying in the garden and in exchange we are mowing the lawn for them. It continues to rain on and off over the next 5 days but in between John cuts the grass and I get out walking. The village centre is just a few minutes walk, there’s a post office, church, and a good old book exchange if you want anything else you have to give further afield, but it’s a quiet peaceful place and we enjoyed being there.
Before we leave the area we drive to Saint Gaultier on the edge of the Cruese river. This old Priory walled city was once protected by the Pope. With its wealth coming from the toll bridge over the river, it was apparently the only city in France to be paid in gold florins, the international currency of the time according to the records by the Vatican in the 13th century.
Leaving Indre we head towards the Loire valley and stop at Le Grand Pressigny, it’s a little off the beaten track but with the raining pouring down we just want somewhere to stop.
Next morning and there’s no change in the weather so we skip the market and travel north of the Loire valley to the Sarthe department which seems to be less touristy.
It’s a lovely stretch of the Loire we travel along to the town of Saumur passing the bizarre troglodyte dwellings carved out of the cliffs in the twelfth century some look like they are still inhabited to this day. On one side of the river we pass fields full of grapes, sunflowers and in active windmills whilst across the water cows graze in wooded pastures.
We park at the aire at Saumur and walk over one of the three bridges that cross this part of the river it’s a perfect place for a stroll. At night we have a great view of the beautifully lite Château.
The following morning after stopping at a couple of aires that didn’t look very appealing we finally decide to stop at Saint Paul de Gaultier. We soon realise that we are just a few miles from where we stopped last year so next morning we call in to see a Danny and Mandy who live in the village of Gesvres, it’s lovely to catch up with them and it seems that not much has changed in the mar year.
With the rain once again following us we spend the weekend in Orne department of the Normandy region.
Parked at the aire just above the lake in the village of La Ferté-Macé it seems like a lovely spot with people walking, fishing and cycling and I’m sure there’s plenty of water sports in the summer months. In between the showers we walk the footpath around the lake. Unfortunately the neighbouring golf course have a late night event taking place so it’s a very noisy night.
Looking for somewhere a little quieter we stop at Villers-Bocage. We have a walk along the Main Street that runs through it where most of the buildings look relatively new. The motorhome stop is right next to the roundabout and we can foresee another noisy night so we drive a short distance down the road to Caumont I’ Evente and park between the Caves and farm fields where we watch the farmer late into the evening.
Next morning as we continue driving through the Normandy country side that is rich in so many ways you never know what’s around the corner and today we stumble upon Château de Balleroy. It’s a stunning building that was owned by the American Malcolm Forbes until his death. It’s an impressive building situated amongst a small town.
Our route continues through the historical part of Normandy and it’s a fascinating place filled with museums, cemeteries and memorials. Not far from sword beach we find the British cemetery at the village of Hermanville Sur Mer. It may not be on the same grand scale as the American cemeteries but it as a more personal feel and less of a tourist attraction. We enter the simple gate in to find set amongst magnificently maintained lawns and bright flowers row upon row of tomb stones. As we walk and read the names, each with their own inscription from their families, I feel some are questioning, whilst others are more accepting or forgiving.
Along this part of the Norman coast there are plenty of villages and towns with beautiful beaches full of history and memories.
With the tide out we stop at Saint Laurent Sur Mer and walk along the beach with the wind blowing strong. It makes you think, I am not a great fan of films but we have all seen films depicting famous battles some glorifying guns and war more than others and some probably more realistic than others but up close as we were to the water it makes you wonder, how the ultimate goal was achieved after crossing this cold choppy water.
Men, boats, equipment and horrible, almost insurmountable scenes with obstacles in the water and on land. It offers us a chance to feel and appreciate all that those who put their lives on the line for us, the cost to man was staggering. We both found this area of France very moving and interesting it’s somewhere we should of allowed more time for.
Whilst this area is now very different to what it was many years ago it’s lovely to see some many people young and old, and all nationalities enjoying their time here.
So a year to the day we arrive back in Dives sur mer. Parking at Port Guillame over looking the harbour it’s a popular aire with motorhomes. The town is best known for being the place where William the Conqueror set off for his conquest of England in 1066, although it is now hard to imagine a great fleet setting off from this quiet little fishing port. We walk along the coast to neighbouring village of Cabourg. We think this is a charming place with its ornately decorated medieval half-timbered houses. Along the main Street where amongst the many pretty lights restaurants and coffee shops that are full of macaroons, Madelines and delicious chocolates.
Heading along this stretch of the coast we stop at Deauville, it’s what you might call the ‘Riviera of Normandy’, it isn’t exactly cheap but an interesting place to stop and people watch. It oozes french exclusiveness with its designer shops and plush coffee shops.
In the last 24hrs the weather has changed so we decide to spend 2 days at the site in Honfleur to hook up to the electric so we can use our little heater. This is another place we have been before, a bit to touristy for my liking but still good to wander the alleyways and browse the shops.
With a washing bag that’s in desperate need of attention, well there’s only so many days you can wear the same socks! We find the launderette in Pavilly and spend a couple of hours washing our smalls.
Not far down the road from here we park on the river bank at Saint Nicholas de Bliquetuit from here we have a view across the Seine river to the village of Caudebec en Caux. It’s here that the artist Eugone Boudin captured the moment a boat drifts by on the gentle waves, with the gothic steeple of the church rising from the midst signalling the presence of the town. Today as we walk along the banks of the river its a little more merky and is a hive of activity with freight ships passing by with the assistants of pilots. Later this evening we were joined by another motorhome that as an extremely noisy generator that goes on late onto the night.
Moving into the Pays de Bray area famous for its Neufchâtel cheese we are surrounded by beautiful countryside, dotted with dairy and fruit farms. We stop at Mesnières en bray and have a look at the majestic looking Château that is an impressive site from the Bethune valley. It’s spectacular towers surround the main building that is now a school. Its on the footpath near the Château that we find the old Paris to Dieppe railway line that is now being kept a live as part of the Avenue Verte London – Paris cycle route.
We had spent the previous night at the aire here but with no services and the temperature dropping we so go in search of a site with electric.
And it’s a site on the out skirts of Saint-Valery-sur-Somme that has just what we need. So once hooked up to the electric we have a wander down to the village. Its a charming medieval town overlooking the Bay of the Somme. We have a walk along the harbour wall and watch the old steam train that used to carry soldiers to the war front amble its way over the bridge towards the banks of the Somme. It’s a cold day so after a quick coffee we head back to the motorhome, where we huddled up in our lounge-cum-dining area with the tv and heater on.
We wake to what will be our last day in France for now. Unsure of where we will stay tonight we head along the coast and has we reach Boulgne sur mer the mist starts to lift, we can see across the port with freight ships on the horizon. By the time we arrive at Wissant it’s late afternoon and a bunch of motorhomes are already parked up, so we decide to stay here for the night. This stop was a necessity, not a choice I was overly happy with due to the reviews about break-ins and bikes being stolen, but it does the job.
Wissant, which translates to ‘white sand’ in English, is a thriving village most famous for its vast beach. We walk along the promenade with the rest of the families that are enjoying the bank holiday and stop to watch a large group of people wind surfers that are making the most of the low tide and blustery winds. Walking back through the village you get the feeling that things have stayed the same here for many years.
The following morning with autumn well set in we find ourselves at the port of Calais boarding the ferry back to Dover but this time we will not be returning to our house, so who knows where we will go!