Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, Ardèche

We stayed near the village of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc at the head of the Ardèche Gorge, created by the River Ardèche cutting a dramatic canyon through the limestone. Vallon was the centre for camping, kayaking and cycling and the surrounding area was mainly vineyards and lavender fields.

We found a popular bar restaurant in the village, called Le Chelsea where we had supper. It was 1.5 km from the camp site and a welcome walk after two courses and a pichet of local red wine.

The weather forecast was poor so and we decided to leave the Ardèche after a couple of days and head towards home. The drive up out of the valley was spectacular with hairpin bends climbing through the craggy limestone cliffs. Unfortunately it was raining so no photographs.

We spent one night north of Dijon at a fuel station and another night in Calais at Cité d’Europe before catching Eurotunnel to Folkestone.

Blog Ends!

Homeward Bound

We didn’t linger travelling north through Spain and France.  It was mid November and, although it was warm enough during the day, at night the temperature plummeted to 0°.   And Europe was an hour ahead of GMT so it was dark by 6pm which discouraged us from taking our long evening walks into town.  We found ourselves eating our main meal in the middle of the day and spending the evenings watching DVDs or reading and, of course, early to bed!

La Campiña At Santaella – Last Warm Days

In Spain many camp sites stayed open throughout the year, especially along the coast but in France (the home of “camping cars”) sites were closing for the winter like sleepy eyes after dark.  Our planned site at Le Mans advertised a closing date of the 19th but when we rocked up on the 16th the gates were already locked and the site deserted.  We parked up outside for the night but I was disappointed that I couldn’t have a shower or a fresh baguette in the morning.  A better overnight stop out of season would have been at one of the larger Aires next to a fuel station where truckers took their obligatory rest.  We always found those Aires safe enough overnight – although a bit noisy with lorries coming and going

As we approached Calais we stopped to fill up with diesel.  Driving out from the fuel station we noticed cars overtaking us had put on their hazard warning lights and were indicating that we should slow down.  Assuming there was something amiss with the van, we pulled on to the hard shoulder and a couple of the cars stopped too.  We were careful as we could have been victims of a scam but it turned out there was a man – an asylum seeker, we assume – hanging off our rear, clinging to the bike rack as we sped along at 50mph.  As we stopped he jumped down and ran off.  It looked as if he had been trying to conceal himself under our bike covers.  He could so easily have fallen off and been killed and maybe we would have been none the wiser.

We had had a similar problem in Tanger in stop/start traffic where groups of youngsters were continually running beside our vehicle, trying to climb on the back   I don’t think they had any sinister intentions but were just joyriding.  Tony reckons our new van will have all round camera surveillance and a big klaxon to frighten off any boarders!

Last Night In France, Cité Europe At Calais

October 2017 – France, Spain and Morocco

We planned to leave the UK in mid October via Eurotunnel and travel south, hoping to get to Morocco and to be back in time for Issey and Ame’s baby, expected in mid November.

We spent our first night at Le Mans where there was some kind of gymkhana event going on.  There were several very fancy horse boxes travelling with us on Eurotunnel and I assumed we were mistaken for one of the horsey folk because the man in the check-in booth politely enquired whether we had any horses on board.  “No, just the wife!” quipped Tony.  Hilarious, huh?  Tony thought so.

As we travelled south, the day time temperature was getting quite warm (20°+) so we decided to spend a couple of days on the Ile de Ré near La Rochelle.  It had rained all night but the sun shone during the day and we enjoyed cycling around the island, sitting outside in the sunshine and having some delicious oysters for lunch.

St Martin, Ile de Ré

We continued driving south as the weather broke on the west coast of France and it was still raining as we passed Bordeaux and on into Spain.  We stopped over night at Orio and strolled into town about half past seven, hoping to get some supper in one of the excellent restaurants – but we were far too early, restaurants in those parts didn’t get going until 9 pm.  We were hungry as we hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast so we retraced our steps and grabbed a quick meal in the café next to the campsite.  It turned out to be an excellent meal and cost €25, including a couple of glasses of rosé wine.

One reason things happened so much later in Europe was that it was an hour ahead of the UK – GMT+2 meaning that in October the sun actually didn’t rise until almost 9 am and set soon after 7.30 pm.  The clocks were due to move back the following weekend, which would make it a little easier to synchronise our British body clocks with European time.

Camp Site at Orio

Our next stop was Tordesillas and, again, we walked into town in the early evening just to stretch our legs.  We had a beer in the central square enjoying the evening sunshine before returning to the campsite to cook supper.  Overnight the wind changed and blew from the north and when we woke up the temperature was only 4°.

Tordesillas

The River Duero at Tordesillas

As we drove south the thermometer had climbed to 27°.  We settled in a sunny pitch at the camp site in Cáceres.  It was a lovely site, each pitch had its own shower and toilet BUT . . . it was full of Brits and we could not but help overhearing everyone else’s conversations.

We cycled into Cáceres (sounded like Cather-ez) for a cultural tour which consisted of a swift view of two churches, a beer in the sunshine and a climb up a tower.  By this time we were ready to retire to a restaurant for lunch.

One Of Many Beautiful Churches In Cáceres

Homeward Bound

The journey home was hampered by the heavy rain which turned the busy Autobahn into a river of spray.  The volume of traffic, roadworks and accidents added almost an hour onto our journey each day.  We were used to travelling in short daily hops so it was not really a problem and we were able to find somewhere to stay by mid afternoon – first near Berlin, then Hannover and our final stop before Calais was in Belgium.  The rain eventually stopped and we were able to enjoy a glass of wine in the evening sunshine.

Bad Pyrmont, Lower Saxony

Enzklösterle

We spent a couple of nights at a campsite near Besançon, eastern France on the River Doub.  The large camp site was just off a dual carriageway next to an industrial area and it wasn’t particularly attractive or well looked after but it was surprisingly busy with French, Dutch and German campers.  We guessed they used the site to visit Besançon, with its 17th century fortifications and citadel.

One Happy Bunny at Unimog Museum

We continued our drive north and reached Germany a couple of hours later, making a brief stop en route at the Unimog Museum in Gaggenau.  I am not quite sure why we stopped – I suppose one of us was interested. . . . .

Our next campsite was in the village of Enzklösterle (pronounced something like Ens klers te le) in the Black Forest.  It was a fabulous drive through the mountains, we climbed to 3,000 feet before going down to 2,000 feet into the valley.  We had a warm welcome from the owner and were soon settled in his beautiful and well kept site.  We walked into the village later to find something to eat.  They were early diners in those parts and dinner was normally served between 5.30 and 8 pm.

Camp Müllerwiese, Enzklösterle

This was hiking country (ski in the winter) and we were given a leaflet suggesting various walks we could make from the campsite, most of them seemed to take four hours or more and were described as uphill – you can guess how we didn’t spend our time!   Tourists were valued in the Black Forest and we were given complimentary passes to the local bus and tram services.

There was a continually running water pipe near our pitch marked “No Drinking Water” but I noticed several campers filling up kettles and jugs from that tap.  I was told it was spring water from the mountain, untreated but certainly drinkable.  I made tea with it and it was delicious.  We were so used to the taste of chemically treated tap water or, even worse, water stored in plastic bottles and it was a real treat to have the pure thing.  But I did boil before we consumed it as I didn’t want to risk getting a tape worm or some other nasty disease.  We seemed OK – so far.

RIP Anne Wright x

Lyon

We were staying near Lyon in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France.  The campsite  was in the countryside a few miles from the village of Montrigaud.  It was the weekend and the site was busy with laughing families enjoying the warm (hot) weather.  The restaurant, with its wood fired pizza oven, was unsophisticated but popular with the locals and appeared to be open at all times.  The site was attractive and very uncommercial, the owner found us to a shady pitch, secluded and surrounded by mature trees.  There was a small swimming pool, well used by families staying on the site and a boules area where several groups were playing, while others were spectating enthusiastically.

Campsite La Grivelière, Montrigaud, Drôme

We spent two lazy days at the site and resolved to return when we were next in the area.  Our next stop was Besançon, about four hours’ drive northeast.  Motorways formed a triangle around our point of departure and we followed our satnav cross country through farmland and heading north to join up with the motorway towards Dijon.  We didn’t realise we had taken a wrong turn until the satnav announced we should make a u turn, which we ignored.  The drive was so beautiful, rolling hills with fields of wheat, lavender and sunflowers and deep forests of walnut trees.  We drove for an hour and eventually reached a motorway and realised we had taken a huge detour and were further away from our destination that when we started out.  Hey ho.

Narbonne

We had a very good reason to return to the Narbonne area – we wanted to stock up on wine.  We had stayed at the campsite three years earlier and, whilst having a meal in the campsite restaurant, we enjoyed two pichets of the local rosé wine, served very cold – it was dry and very delicious.  We were so enthusiastic about the wine that the patron recommended we visit La Cave de Gruissan in the nearby town where the local wine was sold by the bottle as well as in 3, 5 and 10 litre boxes.  You could also buy the wine dispensed from a pump to fill your own container as you would fill a petrol can with fuel.  On this occasion we bought rosé and red wine in 3 litre boxes and paid the equivalent of £2 a bottle.

35° and trying to find some shade

Les Mimosas Camping, Narbonne

We met a charming family at Les Mimosas – Jackie and Tony who were travelling with their grandchildren.  They were camping in a couple of tents and we were impressed how stoic they were as it was extremely hot, the wind was strong and especially noisy at night.  Isabella was a teenager and her sister, Amelia was a few years younger.

Isabella and Amelia were due to be flower girls at a family wedding in September and I asked them to send me a photograph.   So Jackie, Tony, Isabella or Amelia – if you are reading this on a dark winter’s evening, my email address is mmorg3@btinternet.com.  We would love to see a photo of the flower girls!