Not All Uncharted Territory

It was strange to be on the road again after such a long stop, but we soon got into the swing of it. Driving was pleasurable in the main with clear, well maintained roads.
Our first stop was the unfamiliar site in Libourne and although it was in an ‘industrial estate’, it was the type that had an Ibis hotel and a Buffalo Grill eatery. It was also next to a park with a large lake that boasted of water sports. There was also a local (free to camping car parks card holders) bus service.
We passed a small, permanent travellers site on the way in, but were soon a good distance from it, only to find a huge site on the other side of the lake! “OK I thought” we’re only here for one night and there are other motorhomes here. Jasmin found the TripAdvisor review that described how the travellers emptied their toilets directly into the lake!! I didn’t bother getting out the water sports toys and I pitied all the children playing in the water. The lake is also used to stage and train triathletes and has swimming lanes marked out!

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The lake in Libourne

We did stop at the ‘restaurant’ for coffee. I asked for a ‘café allongé(e)’ in my best French, (the French equivalent to an Americano – if you take some mind-bending drugs) which has so far come in many different styles (but no type as available in, for example, ‘Starbucks’). The waiter, who had already taken an age to attend to us, said something to me which I didn’t quiet catch, so I said “Pardon?” I then realised he was speaking English “Would you like a towel with that?”. I said I didn’t understand and he proceeded to explain that  ‘allongée’ also means ‘to be laying down’, not only ‘long’. I’m sure the look I gave him let him know that I wasn’t impressed!
Later in the afternoon I could hear on the wind an odd music, a sort of cross between opera and folk? That ‘cats chorus’ went on until the early hours and was the travellers idea of karaoki !

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Spot the encampment in the background!

Alarm went off as usual at 0730 hours and I was just going to sleep in for a while, but next thing I heard the fridge alarm? Sure enough we had lost power. My first thought was that the water-heater had come on and tripped it, so I got dressed to reset the CB at the power point. Looked and ‘not tripped’ ? I thought this may be a bigger problem, so went over to the entrance machine and sure enough there was the message stating it was on UPS power. Well that should be OK for 5 minutes and yep, off it went! UPS are generally useless without huge battery power.
Spotted the electricity board workers up the road looking into the boxes, so there must have been an area fault. Also spotted several people outside their premises with ears to phones.
We had been up first, but soon some other ‘campers’ discovered they had no power and I tried to explain there was a power fault. One lady went to the machine and discovered she couldn’t pay, so I told her to phone the office. She came back to let us know that there wouldn’t be anyone to the site until 1000 hours and was a bit upset because they wanted to get on. I went over to the barrier and lifted it, because I recall speaking to camping car parks in the past and they explained that when the site lost power the barrier could just be lifted up! She said “Merci beaucoup!” and drove off with her husband. Next I think another couple thought they could get out for free and hurried up to get away lol! I’m sure they will get a bill!
I phoned the office because I also knew that if I left without telling them, I couldn’t get into the next site. I phoned and she started to say the I had to wait until their rep turned up at 10’ish. I said, “But the barrier is up!”, not letting on that it was me that raised it. “In that case I will manually fix your card so you can enter the next site!” she replied. “Merci and au revoir!” was my jaunty response.

A couple of hours later and we were at the next unfamiliar site – Taillebourg. I had decided to stop off here because it boasts of a château that dominates the centre of the ville.
First impressions were not good as the site was tiny and looked narrow to get into. The places were separated by hedges which was good. It was the sprawling arrangements of two caravans, tents and tarpaulins, plus a couple of work trucks. Travellers and caravans on the site? I phoned the office to find out if this was normal and he replied that “while the ‘toilet’ block remained open, caravans were permitted”. I asked if it was safe to stay and he assured me it would be OK. The one remaining motorhome left and I did feel a bit nervous especially when another truck turned up with more men.
Another large English registered ‘Rig’ turned up and I could see them looking nervously at the travellers – they lasted 10 minutes before they drove off.
Ignore the travellers and carry on I thought.
The Château of Taillebourg was definitely dominate because we were in the shade of the 15m walls that bound one side. Richard the Lionheart destroyed this supposedly impregnable fortress in 1179 on the orders of his father. It only took 5 years!

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Chateau wall
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Ruins … in the background!

That evening we were making dinner to the racket of what I thought was the workers continuing work and then a procession of the women off to the shower block to get changed. I expected the worse, with them all departing for a boozy night, followed by an all night party. How wrong I was …
I popped out to the toilet block and on the way back noticed that all the caravans and tents had vanished, along with the vehicles! That was the noise and why the women were getting changed. Wandered down to where they had been and there was no evidence that they had been there – not even any rubbish! Well, apart from the two taps that had been left running and formed a small riverlette down to the railway track. Guess the kids did it on the way out. So I switched them off – this is the only site that doesn’t have the standard ‘Services’ point which have push taps. These switch off after a variable delivery time. I say variable, because some switch off as soon as you let go, some deliver 2L of water and some just over 5L . This can be irritating when I’m trying to fill my Rig with 65L. Someone has to hold in the button!

That night we had the site to ourselves.
The next day the cleaner turned up along with another more official guy. He was posting the typical notice used over here to describe official changes to property. A bit of a hangover from the revolution when notices were put up around the towns by the local committees. I tried to talk to the guy to find out what the notices meant, but it seemed to state that caravans were no longer permitted (in about 2 days time). Whether the town does this during the summer months I don’t know?

One task we did do was to replan the final stages of our trip. Dropped off some of the more unfamiliar places that didn’t look too attractive  and added days onto the beach places further up the coast in the Vendée

Next day off to Châtelaillon Plage, a site we visited last year, but this time for a couple of days. The site is next to the Hippodrome and as I quipped last year, not the one in London! The hippodrome is the Horse Racing (Flat) course – learn your latin!
The beach is a cycle away past the boulodrome/ tennis courts and over the railway track. As the sign says “the sound of one train could mask another so be careful!”
We decided to cycle to La Rochelle as it was only about 15 km away and somewhere that we hadn’t been to before.

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Yet another selfie, on the way to La Rochelle

The beach is large and sandy but the main feature is the large harbour for small craft.

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La Rochelle Harbour

There is a solar-electric Sea Bus from La Rochelle Vieux Port to Les Minimes. I couldn’t work out if you could take a bike on board, but the journey was only €3 a trip.

There was a large British contingent at the site (south of the Vendée you see few), all ‘old chaps’ with a couple that were members of the FICC an organisation I hadn’t heard of. They had done some extensive tours around Europe and appeared to be rarely in the UK.

Tomorrow will see us leave Nouvelle-Aquitaine and head into Pays-de-la-Loire …


 

Dear Monsieur President Macron,

I am very disappointed that you have not contacted me to discuss the arrangements for the return of British lands. Time is running out (as the EU dictators keep mentioning to the UK about Brexit) to settle this amicably. You don’t want us repeating what Edward the Black Prince – check here – had to do!  I think we can spare a troop of Light Infantry to do the job!
Regards,
Paul


 

Onward and north towards Home!

Au revoir!

 

 

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More Biscarrosse

Another week and we will be moving on for the hops home 😦 There are about 3 weeks of hops 🙂

The weather has changed for the hotter (matching the weather change in the UK) and the only plus side is that in the evening it does cool down to a better temperature and in the morning it is cool.

The start of the French holiday season is here and this weather has brought out all the campers. The Aire here is pretty packed. Our saving grace, as usual, is that the awning opens out on the wrong way. I don’t know why the French don’t just reverse into the gap so their door doesn’t open towards ours? It’s not like they have issues with private space like the English do. At many sites they are quite happy to be a few feet away? The other saving grace is that the spot in the Aire we are at only has an 8-way electricity board, so all are taken. That didn’t stop a couple of Belgian vehicles turning up and before you know it there is a 3-way 16A socket plugged into the board. No fires resulted!!
Bizarrely one morning our electricity ‘vanished’, so I went outside expecting to have to remonstrate with some £%&”, but only found the circuit breaker had tripped. Can only think a bit of damp from the over-night rain caused it? Have since learnt that it is dodgy wiring by the site manager who has wired two CB’s to one set of input cables. I’ve since moved off this circuit to another and had no problems.

Our other source of amusement is that the area by us is a ‘blind’ spot for satellite TV due to the high fir trees. A Rig turns up and parks next to us and the first thing the French seem to do is switch on the satellite to search for channels. The dish rotates several times before retracting – a sign of no signal, this is attempted several times. OK lets move a few metres away and try again. After several failures they move further up the aire.

No sooner had we visited the girls than we found out Zoe was off to Barcelona with the BF! She luckily got a lift with someone else to Bordeaux airport where the BF flew in. It was actually cheaper for him to fly to Bordeaux and then to Barcelona, than a direct flight to Barcelona from London? Seen some photo’s on FB and we are still here when she returns, so looking forward to the stories.

As we couldn’t co-ordinate a joint get-together, we visited Lauren on her day-off at La Rive. Lauren took us out on the lake in a motor-boat, towards the military side, where there is a beach nick-named Tahiti.  You can see why!

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Off to Taihiti
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Messing about in Taihiti

This lake is much nicer that the one in Azur because it is sandy, as good as any tropical sandy beaches. And with no nasty spiky seed pods which means no shoes needed. The water is also crystal clear!

That evening we cycled around to Port Maguide and had dinner at the very good restaurant ‘Histoires De’…

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Dinner at Histoires De

Water Sports Update …

Finally got the energy to pump up the SUP! First couple of times I carried the board about 400m to the beach, which is OK using the strap Lauren presented to me last year.
Then I found out that I could launch from the boat ramp in the ‘port’ . Everything in France is public access! I can imagine in England – firstly, the lake would be private so you wouldn’t be allowed on it and secondly, some jobsworth would be telling you the port was private “so get out!”

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Balance and poise!

The one downside to this lake is its size (12 km long) which means that the wind can build up the waves to make for tricky SUP’ing.

As the lake is so clear, snorkeling is a pleasure. Not quite the Red Sea as you’ll be lucky to see any fish.

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Where’s that fish gone?

I also pumped up the kayak and launched from the boat ramp. All was OK for about 5 secs until I discovered that one of the sides was deflated? We had a quick paddle around and found that the kayak was still very buoyant. I remember the sales guy saying that it was still buoyant with 2 out of the 3 chambers deflated!
Back to camp for investigation…
I removed the inflatable ‘innertube’ and took it over the the lake to search for the hole and couldn’t find one? In the end I had to assume that the boston valve (which don’t have a good rep) was leaking. Re-inserted the inner and put some of my Go Pro silicone grease around the valve and pumped it up again. Left it for a while and voilà remained inflated.

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Paddles in perfect synchronisation!

Just to show you that I possess other colours in board-shorts and t-shirts! Oh, and of course, that one of the paddles is still strapped to the kayak!

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You can see who normally does all the work!

We have biked around a lot here. The journey to the supermarket is a 10 km round-trip and to the grand-daughters site is a 16 km round-trip. We have been to Biscarrosse Plage (14 km) and Biscarrosse Bourg (12 km). The trip to Biscarrosse Plage was a shock because we turned off into the forest, as directed by the signs, and suddenly found HILLS!! Up to then all the tracks were fairly flat. The only saving grace was that on a hot day we were shaded. On the way back I decided to go along the road and that had less inclines and a ‘cycle lane’, so not too bad.
Took Jasmin’s bike down one morning and found a flat tyre. Out with the gear and fixed in 10 minutes – it was a thorn!!

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Biscarrosse Plage

One thing about living by a lake is the biting insects.  The youngsters working for Rockley have bites all over their legs, including the grand-daughters. None of them take any precautions or relief medicines and as a result scratch until the bites become inflamed!

When I’ve been at La Rive I’ve killed a couple of mossies biting me, but unfortunately the damage has been done. After about 24 hours they produce a large itchy lump. At our site I have been bitten by something else. I haven’t seen a single mossie, but there are small insects about, so I guess it’s a type of midge? I have never seen them and I suspect its happening while I’m asleep despite putting on repellent (probably sweating it off as it is so hot).
So I use an antihistamine for itch relief and the other morning I was so dizzy that I was lucky not to fall down the ladder getting down from the sleeping area! Jasmin suggested that it was a side effect of the Citirizine antihistamine – sure enough the literature suggests this.  Felt dizzy on and off all day but was OK the next! Now I will take one of Jasmin’s if needed, as she gets posh prescription ones with few side effects.

Have you noticed that the World Cup is on? Managed to watch the England matches  (and some others) using my VPN on both iPlayer and ITVPlayer.
About TV service providers …
Sky really wind me up! I tried to watch a programme one night and discovered that to use Sky Go you must use their App, rather than just a browser (like the terrestrial channels). Expect that it must be very heavy\poor app because all I get is a spinning circle while it buffers. I recall using Sky Go before without a problem?
I then used it over the network without the VPN as a test and now receive mails from Sky stating that I should now “prove that I am a UK resident or you will have no further access to Sky Go”?
That made my blood boil, so next day I am on the phone to them – call centre in India – First person a complete waste of time, as was the second and the third. To get rid of me he finally said I could ignore the mails.
I did point out that despite Sky being all-powerful I thought that it was the UK Government that decided on residency!
I did drop a mail to the Sky Go app department as suggested by the Customer Services Centre. Their response – you must phone us so that we can check your security responses or we are unable to help you. WHAT !? Further blood boiling, so a reply explaining that I had spoken to three Sky representatives so far and provided each of them with my security details. Given that my details are held by Sky I should imagine they are freely available over the internet by now!
I also mentioned 1) How poor their customer services are and 2) How poor their Sky Go app is.

Farewell Navarrosse …
Lauren decided there was only one way to come and say goodbye on the last evening …

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Farewell …
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Lauren, Danny, Luke and Zoe

 

We have really enjoyed our stay here and I can see us coming back regularly. The lake is a real draw and the other towns\ shopping easily accessible by bike.

Wildlife update …

This absolute beauty was found by my assistant Jasmin in Biscarrosse Plage, next to what looked like a dead Cicada (not shown)

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European Rhinoceros Beetle (Oryctes nasicornis)

Last job before leaving was to roll-off the blocks and give them a clean prior to stowing. Found this cutey hiding and he didn’t want to come out …

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I’m NOT coming out!!

Managed in the end to push him out from through a hole on the underside, where he hopped into the bush where ‘our’ lizard lived …

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Southern Common Toad (Bufo bufo spinosus)

We all know that the youngsters don’t listen, but along with the mossies there are many of these fellows around due to the volume of snacky foodstuffs in their tents …

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Can’t reach 😦

I know I said there were no fish, but nearer the port were small ‘balls’ of black juvenile  fish. This one found itself alone and was caught by Jasmin …

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Small black fish with barbels …?

Au revoir!

Biscarrosse and Grand-daughters

The planned shortish drive from Moliets to Sanguinet took longer than expected due to driving through small villages continually. We did pass the other Rockely site at Mimizan and saw the new lot of kids getting ready for activities. The other delay was trying to find the Aire. There were three aires near the girls and I had chosen the nearest one even though it had no electricity, but I expected to switch between them as one did have all the Services. I finally decided that we had passed the aire we wanted and therefore had to take a tortuous route back round the one-way circuit. We stopped in a holiday site carpark to check directions and I noticed that it took motorhomes for about €15 per night. Always useful to know as I thought about wandering between the various sites to find somewhere else with Services to stay. We finaly arrived at the co-ordinates and I could see why we missed it first time around. A small track into a wooded area with some ‘parking bays’ that I could just about fit into. A small toilet block was nearby, but in the end we decided to try another. We drove to the Aire de Services Navarosse and this looked more promising from the off. The App stated about €16 per night, but when we turned up it looks like the first week is about €8 and then after that it’s €12.50. There is also a free wifi spot! Parked up and we are about 100m from the lake and about 200m from the beach where I could launch my SUP, if the weather improves. The wifi spot is the weakest I have ever come across, so I can’t tap into it and re-broadcast. In the end, as we are internet addicts, I purchased wifi from the nearby campsite which is broadcasting a booming signal. They just don’t know my single device happens to be my router!
First order of business; cycle over to see the girls, so out with the garmin to plot a route. Seemed to be straight forward with plenty of tracks to follow and only about 7 km away. Cycled out to the rear of the aire and onto a track and suddenly I’m off route? My mapped track appears to want me  to cross a grassy patch. OK then, off I go and at the other side is a small dirt track. The mapped tracks would have been OK for walking, a jumbo bike or perhaps a decent mountain bike, but I have a hybrid with narrow tyres. The tracks often disintegrated into sand, so the back wheel was sliding all over the place but I persevered. Then I had to cross two swampy areas and had to carry the bike round and though the bushes! Did I ever say that my bike is not light-weight! This was followed by further broad tracks used by the French Forestry types, but in the end I came on the road leading to La Rive (5-star Holiday Site) where Rockley have their site. All-in-all a tough, slow journey.
I’ve only been here once before, but recalled Rockley being at the far end of the site past the swimming pool, so casually cycled in (unchallenged) and struggled to know which way to go.
Spotted a Eurocamps girl so in my best French, “Pardon, où est Rockley, s’il vous plaît?”
“Oh Rockley, they are down there somewhere, I think?” she replied.
“That’s not a French accent”, I said
“No, I’m Irish!” was her reply. Found out later that the girls know her and she is one of a set of twins!
Her directions weren’t great and I ended up at the beach. Did I mention that my bike doesn’t cycle well on sand? So carried my bike again from the beach to the tented area and propped it up against a tree.
Lauren was in the office and came running over when she saw me, hugs and kisses (and a few tears).
Zoe is on night duty this week, making sure the kids don’t play up over-night (and the Rockley staff!). So decided to wait around until about 1300’ish to give Zoe a chance to sleep before cycling back to see Nanny as Lauren was on day off. In the end Lauren had to do the petrol run so gave me a lift back. Nanny (the shorter one) was pleased to see the girls …

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Reunion with the Grand-daughters

The next day, after the rain subsided and with revised cycle route notes from Lauren, Jasmin and I cycled to La Rive to see the girls and take them to lunch.

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Early morning rain

Still got lost around the Mayotte camping area and ended up having to cycle partly down the main road. Did however rejoin the ‘voie verte’, so it was only the middle bit that needed sorting. Thought it would be easier to find the middle bit on the way back.
No! Still lost the cycle path signs! Bear in mind that the sign stating ‘La Rive 6.5 km’ is at the exit of the aire and that is the last sign!!
So next day Lauren was on day-off and I cycled across to bring her back over to the aire and also so she could show me the route. However, in Mayotte I spotted a cycle sign painted on the road and thought I would just follow that. Well I kept following and although it didn’t seem to be a direct route to La Rive, I eventually came out on the ‘voie verte’ that I did recognise. So route complete!
Collected Lauren (was going to bring Zoe, but she was too tired and decided to stay in bed) and we cycled back …

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Lunch in the Rig with Lauren

Next day a familiar pattern of cycling, but Zoe was less sleepy and Lauren was working …

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Lunch with Zoe in the Rig

I think most days I have cycled about 30 km.

Wildlife Update …

Zoe spotted this beauty in La Rive. It is a member of the Longhorn Beetle family …

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The  Lesser Capricorne (Cerambyx scopolii)

The Holiday Park that the Aire backs onto has one of those unpronounceable French names consisting of vowels Camping Les Ecureuils. Not a word that I recognise and then the other day this fellow popped over to say hello! Ah, so ‘ecureuils’ means ‘squirrels’ …

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Eurasian Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

We haven’t seen a grey squirrel since leaving England.

Au revoir!

Lac d’Azur – partie deux and Moliets-et-Maa

I had assumed that there would be plenty to report in the last few days of our stay at Azur. This was squashed by the number of rain showers that we had leading to us ‘hiding’ in the Rig. The weather reports were useless in terms of timings, so when we foolishly decided to walk into Soustons during ‘a dry spell’ we had only got 1/2 km before the heavens opened. Even the dodgy golf umbrella wasn’t going to help so we sheltered under a tree for 20 minutes.
I got up at 0200 hrs one morning having been woken by what sounded like an airliner passing overhead, but it was loud for too long. There have been some military helicopter convoys around recently so it could have been some night flying military jets? What did surprise me was, that after all of this rain and associated cloudy skies, there was not a single cloud. With the street lights out, the night-sky was stunning. The milky-way stretched across the sky and two very bright planets low in the sky. One was obvious – clearly red, so Mars. The other not so, but being that bright was probably Jupiter. I tested my new App and discovered that indeed it was Jupiter.
You forget living in London that Ursa Major consists of more than  the ‘saucepan’ stars. The Great Bear has to have legs! In a dark countryside sky it is difficult to ‘see’ the constellations, because they not only consist of the brightest stars we are familiar with in Town, but all of the fainter ones as well. Some of the fainter background stars aren’t part of the constellations.
The ISS was spotted moving slowly through the sky as well.
Did I mention that I thought Jasmin would want to see this, so I woke her up and dragged her outside to see. It was appreciated honest!!

I’ve mentioned that we have camped in an aire full of Cork trees, well in Azur there is still a cork maker!

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Cork Maker (Fabrique de Bouchons)
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Cork tree bark in the yard

The bark can be completely removed from around the tree without killing it!

Home update …

We received some bad news on Thursday evening – Timmy the Tortoise had vanished from our garden 😦
Our son Kris had searched high and low, but could not find him. He is secured or so we thought from getting out of a set area of garden, but I thought he may have managed to climb over something. Kris was sure he couldn’t have got out and thought someone must have come in and taken him. I also said he might have buried himself because he did that once before and it was only when I noticed the disturbed soil that I found him. Kris checked that area but just got down to ‘solid’ earth.
I downloaded 143 security files to see if I could see him and eventually spotted Timmy Thursday morning at about mid-day coming out of his cave and walking into his garden to his favourite sunning spot. I didn’t see any evidence of anyone entering the garden.
So this narrowed down his disappearance from Thursday, about 1300hrs until 1900hrs when Kris had gone round to check.
Food was left out just in case (and put into the greenhouse to stop the pigeons eating it) and Kris asked the neighbours to keep a lookout.
Jasmin and I were both feeling pretty miserable the rest of the night, thinking that if he had got out of the garden there are lots of Foxes around. They have the teeth and jaws to seriously damage or kill him.
So Friday morning I put on the live camera feed to see if he would appear, but no sign. While I was watching a pigeon landed in the garden and I though “good call to put the food in the greenhouse then!” I was amazed as the pigeon crawled through Timmy’s tunnel into the greenhouse to get to the food! Of course, I realised that a pigeon would be too stupid to find his way out. Next the neighbours cat had spotted the pigeon flapping around in the greenhouse and made his way over to see if this was easy prey! The cat couldn’t work out how to get in and quickly got bored and went off to lay in the sun.
It was warm enough for the automatic window openers to do their job, but the pigeon was again too stupid to work out that if it flew carefully up the the strut, it could get out. Why doesn’t natural selection always work Mr.Darwin?
Kris went back round with a search party (and better light conditions) of Amanda and Isabella Violet T******-J**** as she likes to be known as 🙂
First was releasing the pigeon from the greenhouse – quite a mess to clear up when I’m next at home! Second was looking for Timmy.  I was watching on the camera feed and I could see Isabella searching everywhere. Good girl! . Next thing is a What’s App photo of a small piece of shell surrounded by earth. Don’t panic! – what I mean is Timmy had buried himself. Kris was surprised by how deep he was and this was the ‘solid earth’ he had discovered the previous night. Beers all round, or it was here in France.

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Timmy playing ‘hide and seek’

As Timmy was filthy, Isabella gave him a nice bath, followed by some of his favourite cucumber and dandelion pellets, before going into his cave to sleep.

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Mucky Timmy!

 

Wildlife update…

There are clusters of these male members of the scarab beetle family along the road to AzurRivage. Is this metallic blue colour, which makes the beetle very visible, a strange quirk of natural selection? I guess it’s a ‘mate attraction’ tactic!
(For reference; just smaller than a little finger nail).

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Hoplia coerulea

I didn’t get much response from the ‘Quiz’ in Lac d’Azur – partie un!!!!!!!! HELLO?

Can’t believe that 10 days in Azur has gone so quickly and without me unpacking my paddleboard 😦
But on to Moliets-et-Maa, which have cycled to from Azur several times. The beach is lovely here and the waves are slightly smaller than say Vieux-Boucau, which means more chance of swimming.

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The beach at Moliets (on a dull day!)

Yesterday got down to the beach for a stroll and sunbathe. Even got to go in the water but not completely swimming. The notice does say you are not allowed to swim if the lifeguards are not present. You can surf though? Unfortunately the sun didn’t stay out, which was good for my skin!

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What’s afoot! Lol!

The very artistic single footprint in the sand. Not the perfect constituent of sand for this shot, but who cares! (I expect Lauren PJ would be critical!).
Notice the lack of arch, well I only just got into the Army, as you fail the medical for having the condition of having ‘pes planus’, which is fallen arches of the feet, but commonly known as ‘flat feet’.

The rain started during the night, not too heavy and I think we can now sleep through the lighter showers. Rain is very noisy on the roof, as you may know if you have camped in a tent during a rain storm.
Not great this morning, so I connected to the VPN and we watched the ‘Trooping the Colour’ parade live on BBC iPlayer. What a great British tradition, steeped in so much history – “Happy Birthday Ma’am!”.
Am I being over-critical if I say that some of the lines formed by the guards weren’t particularly straight. At the Army college we did that type of parade every Saturday morning and I eventually ended up leading my Squadron (so out in front shouting the commands for the unaware). I would have been very unhappy if my guys had had such crooked lines. Perhaps drill is less important in these more difficult times.

Wildlife update …

Spotted this bird climbing up a tree and at first thought it was another European Nuthatch as we had seen in Vinça, but it didn’t climb down. It flew down in a spiral around the trunk. Very methodical as it flies to the base of a tree and climbs up, often in a spiral around the trunk looking for insects in the bark …

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Eurasian Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris)

Distinctive curved beak and white ‘eyebrow’.

Tomorrow morning we are off to Sanguinet to see the girls! Over half the trip gone 😦
Please let the weather improve.

Au revoir!

 

 

 

Lac d’Azur – partie un

The camping-car parks site that we normally spend most of our time at when on holiday these days, however Lauren P J isn’t here this year 😦 , she is at another site towards Biscarrosse that we are visiting later.
So far the mornings have been damp/ rainy, but then that is the weather in France generally at the moment.

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Lac d’Azur

It was dry enough for me when we arrived to check out the improvements to the cycle track to Soustons that AzurRivage have been advertising and WOW what a difference. Gone is the soft sandy, narrow start along the edge of AzurRivage, followed by the two narrow bridges across the streams (narrow in – handlebars just fit!) in the woods and then the gravel track.
This has been replaced by a ‘Voie Verte’, which is a tarmac ‘track’ about 4 m wide and HM Gov take note: perfectly flat tarmac, better quality than the UK motorways! I thought it would stop up by the farms, but no, it is the full route to the road in Soustons. There are a couple of sections that have always permitted residents to use it for cars and these have the ‘slalom’ curbs used in this area to slow traffic.
That means that all the main routes to local nearby towns have tarmac’d cycle tracks. Bizarrely there is a 40 m stretch by the ‘old plaque morgue’ building in Azur that remains gravel?

When the weather cheered up Jasmin and I went off biking to …

  1. Show Jasmin the new cycle track, as she was never keen on the old one and then,
  2. Cycle out the ‘back road’ towards the other side of Soustons. In the end we did about 31 km.

Vieux-Boucau is another favourite place of ours to visit by bike and is a bit nearer than Moliets-et-Maa …

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The ‘Maypole’ outside the Vieux-Boucau Marie

This is a popular tradition in France to celebrate le premièr mai.

Preparation for the summer season is still underway as we have noticed that in most of the sites, grass-cutters are out in force. Same here! There are a few holiday makers in La Paillot and some are from the UK as it is half-term. The Vival shop at AzurRivage is empty of the normal goods.
Yesterday they were working in the ‘Dinosaures Parc’ next door, testing all the sounds and speaker systems.

So the days have rolled by since I started this chapter.
Weather is still the same; sunburnt yesterday from Moliets-et-Maa where we had our first swim and rainy this morning. It always rains when I have to cycle to Soustons for supplies 🙂 Plenty of cycling done, Moliets two days running; that’s a 30 km round-trip, which I try to pace at about 18 kph.
The Dinosaur Parc has had their first kids visiting – think it opened on 1st June.

Just outside Azur on the way towards the coast (West), the forest is nearly all Pine which is harvested from time to time. We stopped to watch some felling because this is a one-man/ one-machine job. The machine grabs the tree trunk and in 3 seconds it is felled. Next the tree is cut to the desired length and then the cutters rotate and the branches are cut off. The trees being felled here are probably cut into about 4 lengths. The end task is to gather the branches and place in the machine path, as it rolls over them on its way to cut the next tree, I suppose it provides a base in the soft soil and crushes the branches down at the same time. I want a go!

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The ‘Tree Destroyer’ lurking in the woods!

Wildlife update

Our cycle through the woods towards the coast is usually very noisy from the cicadas, but it is noticeably quiet at this time of the year apart from the crickets and birds. Perhaps too early in the year?

Of course there is the sound of the Cuckoo in the aire. At very random times of the day it sparks into life and always gets the time wrong!!! Never seen one in the wild yet!

There is a resident Kite in the trees across the road and from the noise I think there must be a fledgling in the nest as there is a lot of noise from time to time. The woods are in private property so I can’t pop over and take a look.

Jasmin just spotted a Stoat running across the aire. I didn’t see it because I was trying to take pictures of …
Quiz!

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Guess what ?

C’mon readers what is this?

On the first cycle ride to Soustons this beasty was crossing the path. Nice spot Jasmin!

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Goat Moth Caterpillar (Cossus cossus)

Not welcome by the farmers as this caterpillar doesn’t eat leaves, but bores tunnels inside the tree and eats the wood. With cellulose being hard to digest, the caterpillars take 3 to 5 years to grow fully. Fruit tress are a favourite and several caterpillars can destroy a tree over their lifetime, hence their unpopularity.

Still haven’t had time ti finish my French homework – bad boy!
Off to get wet in Soustons, but I am going to buy a couple of sets of boules (and this time not give them away to the kids when I get home!).

Au revoir!

Seignosse

What a difference from last year when we arrived during the August holidays. We had to book to get a space and this site takes at least 100 motorhomes. We arrived to an empty site!
It is a nice aire set in a wood and being the first there meant we had the pick of the spaces – flat, hard-standing and not under the trees. The dripping from rain off trees is sometimes louder than the rain directly onto the Rig. In all we were only joined by three other Rigs.

The weather hasn’t been great for a few days now and the forecast isn’t much better for a while, but we cycled into Cap Breton along the coast road (past the Naturists beach that we visited last year) and then back round by Hossegor Lac. The waves were gentle for this part of the coast and there were hardy youngsters getting into the water by the ‘Bathing Prohibited’ signs. There was a flurry of surfer dudes leaving the beach when we passed, so perhaps the waves had disappeared.

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Hossegor Plage

Next day, because of the forecast, we thought (well Jasmin did) we would walk into Hossegor via the D79 a direct route. Bad idea as for the first few kilometres this road has a narrow dashed-line separator to walk in and the speed limit is 90 kph!
Got into town just in time for the shops to be closing for the customary 10 hour lunch-break!


Dear Monsieur le Président Macron,

Please encourage the people in this region to work harder and be more productive. I don’t want the British efficiency and hard working ethics to come as a shock to the people of British Aquitaine when it is returned to us.

Yours sincerely,
Paul


Hossegor is a lovely surfer village with shops by Roxy, Billabong, Ripcurl etc. A bit of class in this town and a pretty one when the sun is shining.

We found a place to have lunch – Jasmin opted for pizza (veggie so I can share!) while I had a salmon salad. The (I guess) owner/ waiter seemed a bit stressed. There was only one chef working in the kitchen and all the clients had turned up together. An English couple entered soon after us and asked for a ‘table for two’ and when directed to a table about 30 cms away from another occupied table I could see their discomfort. The woman did ask if they could sit on the table near to us, but he refused because it was set for four. I had to hide my amusement!
By this time he was turning away other guests for being full and said they would have a long wait. In this congestion Service wasn’t prompt, but not the worst and the English couple got up and walked out. ‘Garçon’ clearly wasn’t amused and muttered something about ‘not speaking French’ lol.
Our food turned out alright, but several people appeared to end up with the wrong order! All of these turned out to be English-speakers, again lol. The couple behind us could speak French and complained about the lack of chicken in the tagliatelle, so he checked in the kitchen to get a sauce sample for comparison. Not sure they were impressed by the one bit of chicken in the meal perhaps?
Cheered me up anyway!

The walk back via the lake was damp as there was a steady drizzle, but all counts as exercise! Well, that’s what I tell Jasmin.

Wildlife update …

One thing I have noticed at the past few sites that are wooded or close to wooded areas are the number of cuckoo’s. A pleasant call, if it doesn’t go on and on and on 🙂

There were several Egrets paddling about searching for food …

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Great White Egret (Ardea alba)

Spotted this bad boy (about 7.5 cm long) …

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Southern Common Toad (Bufo bufo spinosus)

Tomorrow we will be back in Azur. First stop E. Leclerc hyper-market for Beer and other goodies!

Au revoir!

Back in British Aquitaine

I feel that ‘British Aquitaine’ is a suitable modern name than the original ‘English Aquitaine’ as it was known in the 14th century. I do mention this regularly, but in case there are new readers …

The three lions that are famously sung about in the football anthem are from the Royal Coat of Arms. How did they arrive on our Royal Standard? Well, two lions date back (11th century) to William the Conqueror as they were part of his banner for the dukedom of Normandy. The other lion arrived in the 12th century when the duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry II bringing Aquitaine under English rule.


Dear Monsieur le Président Macron,

Please hand back all lands belonging to England immediately. That’ll be, but not necessarily all after compensation … Normandy, Aquitaine and much of Pays-de-Calais.

Yours sincerely,

Paul

P.S.  I’ll be in various parts of Aquitaine for the next month or so for negotiations 🙂


 

Currently we’re in Labenne or more precisely Labenne-Océan. There are often subsidiary villages, that are coastal and typically holiday areas, attached to the larger ones along the coast. While I washed the Rig, Jasmin popped down to the very sunny beach …

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Labenne Beach

I like this site – generally quiet (I’ll mention more later), set in a wood, of believe it or not, Cork Oak Trees (Quercus suber) …

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This bark will make plenty of corks!

It’s always a worry when you turn up to an aire and find barriers around the Services point. We had turned up with a full tank of water, an empty waste water tank and a clean toilet, but we were here for 3 nights. I looked at the vidange display and all seemed OK?
At about 1400hrs the workmen turned up, I guess, yes – you have it … after lunch!
A fellow motorhomer walked over to the workmen and I could tell the type of conversation …
“Will you be long as I need water?” said the motorhomer.
Workmen, much laughing and sucking in of breath and pointing in hole, “Yes, this is a big problem”
Motorhomer, “Is there anywhere else to get water?” to which the workmen replied and pointed “Yes, at the old aire services in that direction”. There was an old toilet block with sinks that had belonged to the old municipal aire before Camping-car Parks took over.
I couldn’t figure out what the workmen were up to, but there appeared to be stripping of cable? Couldn’t be power as the display had been working? Another work person turned up and initiated a long discussion and I got the impression he told them what needed to be done. Not long after packing-up preparations were underway and one guy was left to shovel the hole contents onto the truck and cover the hole with some dodgy bits of chipboard.

Once he had gone I thought I would find out what was working – this type of Services requires you to tap your Pass ‘Etapes card against the reader. (This prevents wild campers from using the Services without paying).
All was working OK? Excellent.
The next day I hadn’t seen anyone turn up to finish the work but we had been out for long periods. Then I noticed the ‘dodgy ply’ covering the hole had been replaced by a single substantial piece of wood. Quick peek then!
A hole, some panelling to the interior of the Services stand and a plastic mat covering something, but I could see a sizeable lump of copper multi-strand cable – ‘Earthing’ was my first thought, but beyond that I lost interest. I know not like me!! So mystery not quite solved.

The first day we planned to cycle to Cap Breton as someone had said it was a charming village – probably Lauren P J?
The weather wasn’t promising, but off we went. About 75% of the way there (total journey was only about 5 km, along cycle roads) a steady drizzle started. On with the ‘rain proof’ jackets and continued as we are British! Chained up the bikes at the first stand we came to, placed some plastic bags over the seats and headed off to look around.  The drizzle turned to persistent rain, so in to a cafe for coffee and hot choc. I always ask for a ‘café allongé’ but the product can turn out to be quite different. It is never close to an ‘Americano’ and more often than not, is a smallish cup into which they pour a ‘café expresso’ and add hot water. Oh well, coffee is bad for you!
Cap Breton is a lovely place and would have been much nicer in the sun! The other problem is that by the time we turn up all the shops are shut for lunch!

One point to note is that Cap Breton has a church with lighthouse combination! I don’t know many of those …

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Cap Breton Lighthouse Church

There was a steady drizzle for most of the way back and of course it ceased when we arrived at the Rig! Blue skies arrived and we walked down to the beach – about 10 mins.
The beach has some unusual features …

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WWII Gun Emplacements Labenne Plage

These two had sunk into the sand whereas others had been destroyed.

Saturday we woke to grey skies, but decided to walk into Labenne and find the Intermarché to buy some milk and bread. The rain really arrived when we were ready to leave so we stood around for about 10 minutes. No sign of it stopping, so up with the free golf-sized umbrella (free with motorhome) and set off for the 3.5 km journey home. The rain got heavier and turned into thunderstorms. I wasn’t too happy at walking along holding a lightning conductor 😦 , but we made it safe and sound. Of course we arrived back and the sun came out, but it did mean we could get everything dry. It was so hot it only took 30 minutes and you wouldn’t have known it had rained 🙂

Saturday night was the end of the evening quiet as about 100 m away there was what appeared to be a single room building, not particularly large. Cars started turning up in the evening and the barbecue/ party carried on into the early hours. To be fair it was nowhere near as bad as Royan last year.

Other motorhomers turning up here insisted on parking on the roadways? Whether they couldn’t tell the difference between the roadway and the parking areas, don’t know?

This is an aire I would return to!

Wildlife update …

The small birds around here are very tame, I expect because the motorhomers feed them bread. House Sparrows, Chaffinches and Great Tits. This particular one was very tame, but didn’t like the curry left-overs …

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Hungry Great Tit

 

In a previous blog I had asked “how many spiders in here?” …

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Nest of ?

Well the answer is – None!
This is a nest belonging to the Pine Processionary Moth (Thaumetopoea pityocampa). Several hundred caterpillars all cocooned and warm. Their name stems from the behaviour of the caterpillars which all march nose to tail in a long column.

Next is a strange one. This appears to be a Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth normally found in North America and Canada?

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Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth (Malacosoma americanum)

Finally this poor fella, who I don’t think will make it through the night …

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Crested Tit (Lophophanes cristatus)

Next stop Seignosse from where last year we took a couple of bus rides to Bayonne and Dax. No need to go back to either!

Au revoir!