Thursday, 21 July 2016

Swiss Normandy and Around.

Our trip to France was going better than expected despite, fuel shortages and floods!

The second part of our trip took in Deauville on the coast and Swiss Normandy, a part of France we had never visited before and will definitely return to. The weather continued to be "changeable," to say the least. It was beginning to warm up but was still very damp. We managed to avoid most of the rain during the day, so it was packer macs on and off we went. We had decided to stick with Normandy and hug the coast. Etretat had been mentioned in forums as an interesting place to visit and it was where we had intended to go. We found a site which looked as if it would fit the bill. On the edge of a small town, near a beach, picturesque, perfect.

Our jolly little SatNag, did the business and took us safely there, it was very wet. The sign on the door of the reception block, said it all.

 "Too wet for camper vans, closed due to rain. Back at 3 pm!"

 Well, that's my very rough translation of the French, we got the gist. At it was only 11 am we decided not to wait. On a lovely sunny day it would have been fine but as it was, it was damp and dismal. We looked at the Aire next door and that looked even sadder, we decided to move on. 
SatNag did her duty again and raised some alternatives. We decided we needed a bit of luxury so went for a 5 star on the coast a few miles away. Camping La Vallee at Deauville, was the destination, the lady at reception was very helpful, offered ASCI rates and said we could park anywhere. It was wet underfoot but we could park on the road between the pitches if we felt it was necessary. We soon found a nice little spot for April on a nicely hedged pitch. Funny how it takes twice as long to find a suitable pitch on an empty campsite!

The site was strangely quiet, very well kept and really clean. There was a restaurant/bar which was open and we had a lovely evening meal there. The campsite had all the usual facilities including a pool and outdoor gym. 

We walked into the nearby village of Arnault, where there were shops, cafes and a weekly market.

The following morning was dry and the sun was trying to come out. We decided to trek a bit further into Deauville and Trouville Sur Mer. It was a very long walk but we did enjoy it. We skirted the river to the posh part first, Deauville. The path wound through the town past the river and the lovely seating decorated by local children.

We are always amazed how well the French keep their local amenities, wish we could do the same. Deauville is very big on horse racing and we walked past the enormous racing track with the huge banks of stables. Certainly money oozed out of every doorway.

Certainly an upmarket spot for the rich and famous to be seen on racing days. We meandered along the Avenue Strassburg where Gustave Flaubert was entertained in style. A Monument Historique villa built by Baron Henri de Rothschild and lived in by American millionaire Ralph Strassburger in the 1920's, during the racing season. How the other half live.

We continued on, passed the entrance to the racecourse, where stable hands were busily mucking out. The architecture was amazing and you could see why Deauville is the place to be seen and a rival to the Med coast resorts.

We strolled along the boardwalk of Les Promenade des Planches and admired the film star pictures on the bathing huts overlooking the beach. Some looked a little tired.

No takers today for the parasols on the beach, which waited forlornly for the sunshine.It would have been interesting to see how much it cost to sit under one? Would we have bothered? 

Gradually we made our way around the marina gazing at the yachts and had coffee in a tacky cafe before making our way back up through the glamour of the town. Coco Chanel had her first shop here.

We went passed the casino and eventually after a few slight detours found our way back to the campsite. The International Triathalon was being prepared for in Deauville, so there were loads of interesting temporary building projects going on. In fact part of the bike route was passing the front of the campsite, we were mildly tempted to stay and watch but decided to move on.

We now had a full tank of fuel but were running out of days. We ventured about 50 miles south to have a look at Swiss Normandy. Situated in the Orne Valley, Swiss Normandy is an area for hiking, climbing and canoeing. Just what we needed then. We made for our next stop near Clecy, Les Rochers des Parcs. We stopped at another 5 star camp en route Le Brevedent but boggy ground, crowds and slopes put us off. With some apprehension we pulled into Les Rochers des Parcs and got a lovely welcome from the French owner who directed us to a hard standing overlooking the river in a lovely spot. Wet but lovely.

The river ran passed our door and we could watch all the various river related activities from our van. The sun even came out and we managed a BBQ. This part of France is dominated by rocky outcrops of limestone and the campsite is surrounded by wonderful walking countryside. We explored some fabulous places and went on some of the best walks over the viaduct, through the woods and over the cliff tops. Challenging but well worth the effort. This is a place that we will go back to, but not at weekends when it is very busy.

The viaduct, we climbed to the top.

Brilliant views of the river far below. The path up through the woods to the cliff tops was quite a climb. We met a pensioners party on their way these French!

Up through the forest.

Along the cliff edge.

We did get to the very top but we took the scenic route. This area is certainly the place to go for outdoors activities of every kind. There were loads of French school parties around. I would imagine it can get very busy. An uneventful stay at the campsite in Ouistreham, a really nice meal and the bonus of watching a distant view of some old war planes in the skies as part of the D Day Landing celebrations. The weather gradually improved but it was time to go home.

Although the weather had been rather up and down we really enjoyed our 10 night visit and look forward to the next French visit. Very soon.

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