Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Sojourn en France Part 2

We left Parc Verger to set off on the next part of our journey quite excited that we were able to travel about relatively easily. Part of the reason for changing  from our previous large van for April was being able to meander down the highways and byways and see the real France. Our next destination was the lake at Saint-Mathieu only about a 30 minute drive away. We had spotted the municipal site last year and thought it would make an interesting stop off point for a few French days! We stocked up en route and arrived at the camp site around 11.30 am, which is a good time to arrive in France. Most of the French leave around this time and you can usually find a spot before the site shuts for lunch.

Saint - Mathieu is a great municipal site with a variety of large pitches by a lake which has a small beach. The camp site is around 22 hectares with 52 emplacements. Some of the pitches require a long electric lead and the toilets are excellent with really hot water. We were soon happily settled in and the sun was shining!

Saint Matthieu

The camp site was not too full mainly French families and another British couple who had been going there for years.

A two minute walk to the lake. Our first night passed quietly with a nice bottle of red and a BBQ. As the sun set all was well with the world.

The next morning we took the bikes out for a ride around the lake and thought we might make it too the village by road. Wild animals barred the way, a large French spotty dog put us off and we turned back, still it was a lovely ride along very quiet country lanes.

We set out for an afternoon ramble, the camp site is surrounded by way marked footpaths, this time we made it all the  way to the village where we stopped for a beer and a bit of shopping before we hiked back. A great walk mainly on paths with a few hikes up through the trees.

We followed the green circles!

That afternoon as we were sitting in the sun I heard a strange tapping sound, it continued and we began to realise it was coming from under our bonnet. I though it may have been more wild life but no evidence of anything except the noise. We attracted a bit of French attention and our very nice French neighbours and the British couple we had met earlier all came to inspect ! The noise became a clicking and a sizzling but eventually stopped. Strange how you always image the worst. We called Fiat Assist ( eventually) who said they would send an engineer. A few hours later he arrived with a low loader, the noise had stopped ! We experienced all the Gaelic charm of French lorry drive who was not a mechanic but wanted to take the van away to the garage to be checked! We said NON! Toys out of the pram time! He was not a happy bunny, after a few well chosen French phrases he left and we hoped the noise had gone away! Some hope. At 4.00 am I woke up to the now familiar sizzling and clicking noise accompanied by the distant sound of a car alarm, yes it was us. A few rapid thumb movements on the alarm control and turning the engine on and off shut it was  the alarm! Our French neighbours appeared not to notice. As we were wide awake we decided our next trip would be back to Parc Verger to see if anyone there could help or if they knew of a local garage, the worst scenario would be that we would have to go home, although how you get on a ferry with a van that sounds as if it's about to catch fire I don't know ? Fiat Assist would be no help now as the van alarm was fitted by IH.

Back to Parc Verger we went. Luckily they could still fit us in. We had a few happy campers giving advice but we knew we had to do something as the alarm kept going off. Den kept his cool and eventually IH tracked down the electrician who had fitted the alarm. Faulty component he said, as Den followed instructions for removing bits of the dash board to find the right fuses. Eventually silence reigned! The fuse was out!

Moral of the story make sure you have good breakdown insurance even with a new van!! Make sure you enable international calls on your mobile.

April would be making a trip to IH to Knottingly for her alarm to be fixed and  few other bits and pieces to be put right after all. Our return would be the time to try out Nick Whale's customer services again! The joys of owning a brand new van continue, report to follow.

We continued with our holiday. Next stop Montmorillon city of writing.


We were a bit spooked and slightly stressed by the saga of the alarm but set off the next day early. After a few mountain tracks and three point turns, April and Den were getting in their stride. We arrived at Camping Municipal  de l'Allochon. The camp site has spaces and although it did rain the night before the ground was firm.The camp site is a short stroll from the town on the banks of a river. A really cheap site and a municipal open air pool next door.

We wandered into town for a beer and sat by the square watching the world go by. Montmorillion is a really quirky place, there is the medieval city at the top of the hill and the newer square at the bottom. Loads of cafes and shops. The bridge to the medieval city goes across the river with viewing places. 

There are evening markets in the summer. Everywhere you look are strange artefacts to do with writing, old typewriters, printing presses and loads of bookshops. There were also some antique shops and we spotted this restored MG complete with leather bonnet straps.

A lovely place for a day out.

After 2 days we moved on. Travelling back up through France to the East of Tours to Amboise. We had not been to this part of France but will certainly go again. The camp site was obviously a tourist hot spot beside the river and overlooked by the beautiful Amboise Chateau   

Chateau Amboise.

 The weather had changed and although it was warm there was sunshine and heavy showers. We avoided the worst of the rain and had a quick scoot around Amboise. We did not have time for the chateau but will save that for another year. We did have a very nice meal in the camp site restaurant at this popular spot and will definitely pay another visit.

The camp site at Amboise is huge so plenty of space and very cosmopolitan, loads of Dutch and Germans. The camp site is tidy though basic. There are lots of biking opportunities including a bike track that skirts the river which we would have liked to try.

Onwards and upwards, we stopped for the night again at Beaumont Sur Sarthe and then made for Caen and the municipal at Ouistreham  Les Pommiers, just around the corner from the ferry. A group of French trekkers in  their Land Rovers turned up and gave us a taste of what out next adventure in Africa holds. After a very nice meal in a local restaurant our holiday en France 2015 was almost over.

More 4 wheel camping to follow.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Sojourn En France 2015 Part 1

This year we decided we would take April on the long run from Dover en route to France and return via Caen. It actually worked out not a bad run or would have been if it had not been for migrants at Calais and "Operation Stack" at Dover. Following Lady Satnag and not my directions, we did a mammoth detour via the Kent countryside. Still, it gave Den plenty of practice driving April over numerous roundabouts and country lanes. We eventually found ourselves at Dover and arrived fairly efficiently in Calais after a pretty uneventful crossing which only took an extra hour than it should have on the ferry.

Aire 2 Caps our first stop just the other side of Bologna on the A16 was pretty empty and we settled in for a good nights sleep.

We have used this aire a lot and it has some spaces on the grass and has always seemed pretty safe as its well away from the coast. 

 Parked up on the Aire at 2 Caps.

It's a very convenient stop off point and easy to fuel up in the morning. It always amazes me how some people manage to actually get to France from England all on their own! We had a guy stop us in the morning and ask us to program his Tom Tom for the Effel Tower. Wonder if he ever found it??

We jumped on the auto route and it was time to try out our new toy, the Sanif Liberty Tag. Now anyone who has ever had to manage the French toll booths knows what a fine performance it can be and now the booths are usually automated it's even more fun...NOT! Hanging out of the window, trying to put cards in the slot and watching for sticky out bits, all adds to the stress levels of driver and passenger. With a tag, just a PING and your through! No ticket to collect and driving through the tolls becomes a highlight of the holiday. It worked every time and apart from the bill in the next month it was worth every penny!

Soon we arrived at Beaumont Sur Sarthe our first stop. A neat little municipal by the river on the edge of the town, just south of Alencon. We have been using this camp site for many years and it has recently got new managers. It is a beautifully run site very clean and in fact we have spent a lovely week there in the past. Sadly the town itself is suffering as many French towns are with many shop closures and it is not the thriving place it once was. The new camp site managers closed for lunch from 12.30 to 3.00, so we spent a pleasant hour at the car park in the town having lunch. To be fair it wasn't really a car park more like a mini aire and we could have spent the night there.

The car park is right next to the camp site in a lovely spot at the top of the hill.

At 3.00 pm we were first in and soon settled in a very large hedged pitch. A glass of wine and a snooze in the sunshine.

The river Sarthe runs through the side of the site we declined a riverside pitch as we find the mozzies love it there. Lots of fishing goes on here.

The beautifully maintained sanitaire block. Everything is inside and the water is HOT! Easy facilities for motor homes too. There is also a good comfy animation room or lounge where you can get breakfast, watch TV ( in English) and pick up free wifi. We tried our TV here and it worked beautifully.

As it was a Saturday night we were invited to the camp site soiree. 3 courses for 8.50 Euros and some fascinating company. I even got to try my French!

The food was really good.

The next morning saw us off early on the way to our next stop in the Limousin area Parc Verger. Really the drive was too long and we should have stopped for another night en route. We made a comfort break at another aire by the river in some little town, it was very hot!

We needed a break and so did April!

Finally arrived at Parc Verger. We were given a lovely pitch under the trees which was just as well as it was very hot, hot, hot! Parc Verger has new owners Franc and Lisa, so there are lots of exciting new developments afoot. The new disabled toilet in the sanitaire block being one of them and a camp shop. It will be interesting to see how things change over the next few years.

Camping Parc Verger

The next three days were spent in reading, sitting, bike riding and chilling! We did the whole of the nearby Voie Vert, a bike track on an old railway line which runs from Oradure sur Vray to Chalus. 30k in all , although we did cheat a bit and did it in sections, twice for good measure.

The Voie Verte ( Cycle Path)

We had a lovely meal in the village at Dino's but were soon ready to move on.

Drama to follow in Part 2.