It’s been a drag cooped up at home after so many weeks in France!
Baby sitting for a while at the daughters house while they swanned off to New York. Followed by a DIY frenzy …
First was the patio, front and back paths jet washed – only been waiting for 10 years! There are red paving stones in the pathway! Then pointing the front pathway slabs, a task that just takes hours because it is so fiddly to keep neat. After that fun, there was plastering the area around the boiler flue and old pipeway boxes – just 5 years in waiting. Managed to keep the plaster flowing for ages by several pre-coats of PVA to stop the water being sucked away, but the area didn’t allow for that long sweep of the trowel so hard to keep neat. In the end a smooth job that now needs painting. That’s a job for next week.
French lessons are going well and as most are complete beginners I am the class swot! The teacher (an Albanian! who studied in France for years) even thinks my accent is quite good – Lauren Pearl Jelley take note!
This week we have got away to Brighton and are at the Caravan Club site just north of the Brighton Marina. It’s a large site that is always nearly full of oldies like Jasmin and I.
A long while ago some enterprising ex-Royal Signaller had produced some decals that could be stuck on ‘things’. The decay references ex-7 Signal Regiment (was based in Herford, Germany) which provided the communications for 1 BR Corp during the Cold War. While, as some jerk pointed out (I’ve done well not to take a more offensive stab on FB at aforementioned jerk), the ‘spear’ icon that the official 7 Sigs ‘flag’ had isn’t on them, that’s not the point. Anyone seeing this decal will know, 1) I’m an ex-Signaller and 2) I was at 7 Sigs during my Service. Small rant over!
First full day was ‘out for a walk’, so had a look at the map and off we went …
It’s always a good walk if you pass a windmill! Just the other side of this windmill is the A259 coast road and the sea.
It turned out to be nearly 12 miles of a walk, so tired legs for Jasmin!
Wildlife watch …
Also found this fine fellow (Ocypus olens) …
When threatened they curl their abdomen up (aka Scorpion) and open their mandibles to look fierce … he he. They don’t sting, but just beware the ‘jaws’ which can latch on to human skin.
Today was a cycle ride along the coast. Cycled down to the Marina, turned right and kept going until the harbour at Shoreham-by-Sea. This is also the major footpath route known as the ‘Monarch’s Way’. The path stops there because of the inlet to the harbour. (I recall in the days of ‘foot and mouth’ and being banned from the countryside we did many coastal walks – turn around and find the bridge into town to get around the inlet). Cycled back for a meander up the remaining Pier before continuing East.
Brighton council have created the ‘Undercliff Walk’ which runs from Madeira Drive (by the Pier) to Saltdean. It was part of our walking route yesterday, when the quiet fierce wind was blowing sea-spray over the wall, but today protected us from the much lighter breeze. It was hot in the sun!
Undercliff Walk is not really a ‘pathway’, but is the sea wall – protection for the cliffs from the sea.
The cliffs stretch from Brighton and eventually join the ‘more famous’ cliffs of Beachy Head etc. There aren’t many places in Europe where Ice Age (that is about 250,000 years ago) cliffs are exposed.
Some Geology …
While the majority of the cliffs are white, which is because they are mainly Calcium Carbonate from the shells of molluscs, there are layers of flint and bands of a dark material. The flint and brown sediments were washed down the Whitehawk Valley during periods of global warming.
All in all, a lovely day out with more tired legs as we cycled about 20 miles!
The first task after getting home was tackling the garden which after 10 weeks was a bit over-grown. Couldn’t believe the SA Acacia tree which has been growing for about 20 years, but because of hard pruning is only 3 feet high. Most of the branches had grown by 3 feet!! Longest thorn was 1.5″ long. Luckily a neighbour had kept the rear access road trimmed so at least we could get the car parked.
It hasn’t been a good start to September, more like the start of Autumn. Think we have been spoiled in recent years by so called “Indian Summers”. That’s certainly what Timmy the tortoise thinks. He’s been hiding in his house most of the time, so someone felt sorry for him and brought him in. He decided to explore every inch including forgetting how he can’t get under some items of furniture. Last straw was him being entangled in the patio window blind cords which resulted in falling over onto his back. Good job I was in the house at the time.
Timmy was put back outside again and on checking one day couldn’t find him in his cave? Eventually found he had dug a hole under a strawberry plant and was hiding there. I think he wanted to hibernate, something he hasn’t done before, but he is big enough now. He needs a visit to the Vets first for his worming and then must be purged of food and water. I’ve increased the length of his cave in the greenhouse and packed it full of straw and stopped him from using the length of his outdoor enclosure. It still gives him a chance to get to food and water if it turns warm.
The climbing trip to Dartmoor had to be cancelled due to lack of participants :-(. Perhaps the weather played a factor in that? That means I am available to assist Jasmin in looking after the grand-children at our daughters house while the parents are in New York. It has been useful to be near the Motorhome storage facility so that I can do some final checks.
Mentioning my favourite subject has reminded me that I eventually got around to using the Amazon vouchers that my colleagues had kindly given me as a retirement pressy, with instructions to purchase something for the van. While I am not much of a barbecue fan these days, there were some days during the summer that I wished I hadn’t been indoors cooking! I had also seen other ‘campers’ using a ‘gas-ring’ type cooker. Bit of research and up pops the ideal item. Marked as a ‘Braai’, fans of South Africa will know that word, it has a frying pan, a griddle pan and the lid doubles as a Wok. Ideal for the type of cooking we tend to do.
The other item we needed was a small vacuum cleaner. The very ancient one discovered at the back of the cupboard (replaced the perished rubber belt) we were using, a Dirt Devil, failed with a broken belt. It also sounded like a small jet taking off. Time for a modern 18V hand-held! Thanks to all once again for the vouchers.
Thinking about future trips, possibly for a longer period after meeting a chap on a two-year travel. Looking into renting out the home for a while, lots to consider. The winter trip might be off as I’ve applied to Royal Mail for some casual Christmas work. I thought Postie originally for cardio exercise but there were no jobs locally. In the end I applied to do parcel sorting which is at the Croydon depot in Beddington Lane. A short cycle ride to work for the early shift! Course I have to get through the interview first.
Did I mention evening classes to learn French? All signed up for a course in Carshalton College with the prospect of an exam at the end. Really need to be able to recall the language more quickly if I stand any chance of having a decent conversation.
We decided to leave Dreux a day early as we had spend 5 nights there and explored sufficiently.
Off North to our starting Aire called Le Tarteron (name of nearby stream) in Le Crotoy. Only one snag and that is the route through Rouen. It is one of the French Cities that doesn’t appear to have a good orbital road? It is also where I ripped the bikes from my car roof-rack travelling down one of the underground round-about roads! In the end the most excellent Sat Nav, Garmin Camper 770 LMT-D, got us through! Another new route where we crossed the river twice? Still don’t like the place.
When we first arrived at Le Tarteron it was during the mini-heatwave and the temperature was around 36º C. It was now 16º C !!! Worse still there was no wifi!
Spoke to the Office – got the usual “Stand near the entrance”,
“I am” is my standard reply, this time followed by “I cannot see a network starting CCP!”
“Are you sure, there should be a network called CCP …”
“Yes and it isn’t there!” I said with excellent vocal control!
“Oh, there must be something wrong I’ll get our local representative to investigate and call you back when it is fixed” the office lady said and the last I heard from them!!
Unfortunately at this site the electricity and the network equipment boxes are locked with proper keylocks, so I couldn’t take a look at the router I know is in there 😦
That afternoon we cycled into Le Crotoy for a recce. The first 100 metres or so is on a fast (90 Kph) road with no cycle lane, but Jasmin did really well. I think she has the hang of this biking now!
The harbour area reminds me of Grangemouth with a huge area of sand exposed at low tide. There is a sea wall that creates a large sea-water lake which at one time was the focal point of the shellfish trade for Cockles. The water in the lake was filtered and used to clean the shellfish before selling. The lake water level is still controlled by sluice gates that close during high tide. An odd point about the Town is that although it is on the Northern coast the beach faces South.
Fascinating place during tidal events. We first arrived at low tide and could see vast expanses of sand and what appeared to be grasslands. The next day we watched the tide come in and in about 10 minutes the sand was under water and after half-an-hour, so was the grasslands! So no grass as such, but some sort of sea water tolerant plant (with yellow flowers). This would account for the numerous warnings in 3 languages about the dangers of swimming within 200 m of the sluice gates and various others parts of the harbour. You could see the water swirling around in all the gully’s cut into the sand.
An unusual World War I memorial can be found in Le Crotoy. I don’t think I have seen a colour painted one before?
Le Crotoy was of course part of England for many years and due to incompetent Kings of England lost during the 100 Years War!
One famous visitor was Joan of Arc in the 15th century. Not great for her as she had been captured and was on her way for trial in Rouen, where she was found guilty and burnt at the stake. Let’s be clear – it was the French who did this!! Napoleon declared her a French ‘National Treasure’ in the early 19th century, I expect to annoy the British!
Le Crotoy would be even better with some good weather, but then all beaches are.
The end of our holiday was nigh. We packed up and headed for Calais and Eurotunnel. As it was only an hour and a half away we took our time and arrived early. Result! ‘You can leave on the earlier train!’ announced the check-in machine. Zipped through French passport control and even the British one! Didn’t even get stopped at Security which I was surprised at! Parked up and went for a coffee and couldn’t help noticing the number of Porsche’s, Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s, Aston’s and a selection of vintage cars etc. Must be a show on in England? Quick google to find out that Goodwood was on at the weekend.
Our letter was called and we drove to the lane to await boarding – only for the familiar announcement … “We are experiencing greater than normal volumes” … what???? When we queued I could see that the train wouldn’t be full and as a cynic suspect that they just remove a train from the schedule to save money. We ended up on the train that we booked so mustn’t grumble 🙂
Drove off the train at Folkestone and knew we were back in Blighty by the road noise and vibration!! The Government had 10 weeks to get the roads fixed and did nothing!
It’s horrible being back home!! Planning how we can get away soon!
Other News …
Booked my evening course to study French and choose a course with an exam?
Lauren phoned me to ask if I knew about the new Crit’Air stickers required by cars for some French Cities. I did recall seeing something but thought I would check.
At the moment they are only required for Paris, Lyon, Grenoble and Lille. In Paris, the Périphérique is the border and literature states that ‘on the Périphérique does not require one’, but the underground through road does. Anyone going to Belgium and other Western European countries from Calais often travel via Lille, so check it out.
In a few years time, other Cities and Towns will be added, including next Bordeaux and Strasbourg.
The Crit’Air stickers only cost a few Euro’s and can ONLY be purchased online. They last for the life of the vehicle, but order early to ensure you receive it before travelling. Beware Hire Cars who don’t seem to be geared up for this yet!!!
Can’t believe that this is our penultimate site before going home. 10 holiday weeks is just not long enough!
This is not the most glamorous of Aires, but it does provide accessibility to Paris and Versailles by train. I cycled down to the local supermarket on the first evening for a recce and then realised I didn’t want to walk through the housing estate – just looked too dodgy with the ‘yoofs’ hanging around. Did spot a bus stop though! Down to the Office de Tourisme and obtained a bus timetable.
Public Service Announcement …
Buses in Dreux …€1.25 a trip (if you purchase a 2 voyage ticket, else it’s €1.30 a single) to any location on route.
Luckily the nearest bus stop to us is about 2 minutes walk (named Bretagne) and on Route 2 which goes to the Gare 🙂
So plan is … Friday – Paris; Saturday – Dreux and Monday – Versailles
What can be said about Paris? Been there many times before. Never arrived in Paris Montparnasse station before, so that was a first. Metro to the Trocadéro and then walked across to the Eiffel tower. Wandered down the Seine and eventually arrived at Galeries Lafayette in time for lunch!
One of the most ornate shopping malls in the world!
Then off to the Notre-Dame de Paris – no sign of Quasi 🙂 Very pleasant trip in good weather and a few wanderings down streets we were not familiar with.
Public Service Announcement, more …
The SNCF tickets from the machine are the size of plane boarding passes and must be validated in the small yellow machines before accessing the platforms. I couldn’t see which platform our train should leave from, so I popped into the Info station. Good job I did as the information boards I was looking at did not show the suburban trains. He then said we would need some small tickets (looked like Metro tickets) to gain access to the suburban platforms!!! Where the hell was that information displayed????
Next day was bus trip into Dreux. A surprisingly historic Town. Got the hang of asking for the 2 voyage tickets on the Bus.
First stop was the Office de Tourisme where the official didn’t seem to know much about history? Did get a map though. There are a couple of historic building in Town, all seem to be ex-Hôtel de Villes.
There is a beautiful church that which we thought was closed until the Priest went in.
The main attraction is the Royal Chapel on the hill, so up we walked. Should have known … during the summer season the attraction is closed 1 hour for lunch, rest of year open all day? I’m guessing this is a staffing thing, ‘cos the visitors should be expected during the summer?
Back down the hill for, yes, Lunch!
The Royal Chapel is worth two walks up the hill! Built on the foundation of the original medieval Fort that protected the Town it was owned by Louis Jean Marie de Bourbon, Duke of Penthièvre. A very, very rich 18th century land owner and as you can see a member of the Bourbon family (nothing to do with biscuits). He created a family crypt in the Chanoines cemetery of the Collégiale Saint Étienne and interred another nine deceased family members. When he died, he was also laid to rest in the crypt. Along came the Revolution who desecrated the crypt and had all 10 corpses dumped in a mass grave! Those peasants definitely did not like the French aristocracy!
Later the Duchess of Orléans, the Duke of Penthièvre’s daughter, had a new Chapel built. King Louis Philip I of France , son of the Duchess of Orléans, enlarged it to use as the necropolis of the Orléans family.
There are reported to be 75 members buried here now, with the latest in 2003. There are about 35 very large marble crypts that are beautifully sculpted, mainly pre-20th century and with some of the older ones carved by notable sculptors.
The stained glass windows are stunning and were made in the Sèvres porcelain factory!
Sunday was a lazy day, but the Rig got a wash and polish!
Monday was another bus and train day for the trip to Versailles. The Dreux-Paris Montparnasse line stops at Versailles Chantiers as the penultimate station (train is a bit of a stopper until Versailles).
The Palace is another place that Jasmin and I have been around before, so this was just a visit to tour the gardens and of course have lunch. Weather picked up as we walked up to the Palace, past the lovely Hôtel de Ville.
“Not very crowed yet” said Jasmin ” There don’t appear to be any queues!”
Sure enough, no queue through the inevitable security point. Wandered around the gardens. Jasmin took a few thousand photos as usual! Lunchtime arrived and we walked back up from Versailles Park (distinct from the Gardens) back to the Bistro we noticed on the way down – Closed!!
“OK, don’t panic!” Jasmin said, “There is another Café near the entrance”. Off we go! Closed!! Went to the Ticket Office for information and saw the notice, a list of Fermetures …
Château de Versailles – ferme Lundi
Le Petit Trianon – ferme Lundi
Le Grand Trianon – ferme Lundi etc etc
So that’s why all the Cafés are closed! The long walk back down to the Park where La Fottille was open. A very nice lunch was taken!
On arriving back at the station we realised that we needed the mini tickets to get onto the platforms again. Over to the information ‘box’ – don’t need the small tickets here, presses a button and let’s us in?
Son and family were on their way back from Spain and popped in for a cup of tea on the way. Isabella was very exited to see her Nanny!
Wildlife update …
The nearby Recycling Plant could be seen from the Aire with their novel grass management system …
We were also lucky enough to be visited by two Green Woodpeckers, who as Ornithologists know feed on the ground …
On leaving Saint-Gérons we again came across a single-track section, this time only about 1/2 Km and again didn’t meet anyone 🙂
The Garmin always estimated the drive to Montrichard was about 6 hours, but given the mileage I couldn’t understand why? Now I do, as the start of the journey was an hour and a half on narrow winding roads up and down the hills. Not too many hairpins on offer like the roads in the Alps and the roads are plenty wide enough. Jasmin does get a bit nervous on the winding roads mainly due to being in the passenger seat of a RH drive vehicle in a country that drives on the wrong side of the road 😉
Eventually arrived at Montrichard and it was pleasant to recognise a place we knew (apart from Azur).
Over the bridge and turn left down the road that was closed last time for resurfacing. That saves going through the narrow town roads and a dodgy left turn at some traffic lights.
To the barrier and present card – problem, ‘phone office’ stated the entrance machine!
I phoned and the girl said, after my standard “Parlez-vous Anglais?”
“This isn’t your first visit to one of our Aires”
“No!” I said and decided to come clean about the manual barrier raise.
Telling off coming, I could tell!! “You shouldn’t do that because the system doesn’t know you have left” I mentioned that there was a problem with the barrier and it was the only way out.
She then said “You should have phoned the office and we would have given you a code. There is a problem with the internet!”
I bit my tongue (I know unusual) – they knew we were there, so why did they not contact me and let me know? Nothing was mentioned when I inquired about the internet. Their customer service is abysmal, but at €10 per night I probably don’t care!
Adjustments made to my account, once she found out I was a Liberte card member, and we represented our card for entrance! Voila!
Up next day for a visit to the Château de Chenonceau. This place was mentioned by the ex-Army chap I talked to in Agos Vidalos and online looked magnificent. Lived up to its recommendation!
It was only 8Km alongside the river Cher from Montrichard, so biking was the way. I’d checked Google Satellite and I could see a track all the way along the river. Bingo!
Well, yes and no! There is a track.
The first section is a grass-way footpath – pretty bumpy for a bike – ask Jasmin about it (and stand well back!). It did eventually give way to a nice tarmac/ gravel cycleway.
As is the custom here (a bit like the UK when you are out in the hills walking) to say “bonjour” when passing others, the ‘old boy’ said something else as well. Went into pigeon French and had a bit of a chat! Really pleased with myself. So “it is sunny and hot” – my contribution, his “have you bathed in the river?” My response was “not yet” and I believe he warned me not to as it was dangerous!! He shook my hand and we parted with the “Au revoir!”
The track disappeared through a gap in the trees near Chenonceau and I was just about to turn around and follow the road route for the last bit when the chap I had just passed and said “Bonjour” to said “you can cycle through to the castle that way”!!
“That’s not a very French accent” I said with a hint of amusement,
“No” he said “I’m English”
Brief conversation led to … he is staying on a campsite just down the road in a caravan, with wife and child visiting the castle.
It was a glorious day to visit the Château de Chenonceau, if not a tad too warm at 34º C. The sun does enhance the colours well, of not just the castle, but the flowering gardens to.
History again …
I guess we all remember ‘Mary Queen of Scots’ and her downfall (probably politically forged in the religious turmoil of the times), but earlier in her life she was married to François II, King Of France. If only he had lived a little longer (they were only married a year before he died) her life may have been somewhat different. Chenonceau boasts of a bedroom in which five Queens had slept, including Mary and on the ceiling are their coats of arms/ emblems …
You can see the Lion Rampant (Royal Standard of Scotland) and the Fleur de Lis (Royal emblems of France) for Mary.
Of other interest to me was the emblem of François I and Queen Claude of France. He was the guy that rebuilt the palace of Fontainebleau and his Salamander emblem is ensconced throughout that palace. Now that palace is Opulence, just one down from Versailles!!
So in the 18th Century and being of noble blood you could have mistresses. You could even get their portraits painted and hang them in your bedroom!!??!! This is what King Louis XV did (his Dad was the self-styled absolute monarch known as the Sun King) …
We finished the visit with a wander around the maze. Not a patch on Hampton Court, but in the Italian style designed by Catherine de Medici in the 16th century.
C de M is worth a look-up – interfered (not good) in the history of France and possibly also England!!
Great day out which ended with Donkeys! Everyone likes a donkey and the cycle back didn’t seem as long, or as bumpy?
Day two saw a leisurely stroll down the river to the Town that is dominated by the medieval castle on the hill.
A real medieval castle that is unfortunately too crumbly to wander around. Reputed to have held King Richard I (Coeur de Lion) as a hostage when he was captured returning from the crusades. Not sure about this, as the stories have him being held in various castles in Saxony (part of modern Germany)? Let’s blame les Français anyway?
So apart from the Keep that was dangerous, what else was there to see? The site now includes a number of museums. Including Paleontology, Archaeology and Milling?
There are many fossils of various types gathered from the local area. There is also a display of stone sacophagi with the bones that were discovered during some building works.
There is another museum displaying the entire household items from a middle-class family of around 1900 donated by Madame Rene Galloux. Clothing, furniture, cooking, mending, the works – very interesting and complete.
Finally, all you need to now about Milling with a model windmill and various mill stones!
Montrichard is a lovely Town and still has some wooden beamed buildings standing.
Wildlife report …
New word – Frelon (Vespa Crabro) which is the European Hornet. Bit of a monster that decided to investigate everyone eating Moules! Some people just don’t like stingy things especially a big French chap 🙂 Moving one table wasn’t going to help lol! I had to chase it away so the waitress could collect the empties – all in a day’s work for a retired person!
The road from La Cavalerie to Saint-Gérons started with the A20, which is an Autoroute I have come to enjoy as it’s one of the rare (mostly) free ones! The only toll section is the Millau Viaduct which is why I was on this bit of that road. The dodgy character in the toll booth tried to overcharge me by asking for €20’ish instead of €15.10. When I queried, he sheepishly looked at the height of my vehicle and requested €15.10. I wonder how many unsuspecting tourists he fleeces?
The viaduct was worth the visit, but on the slip road to the rest stop where you can take some awesome photos of the bridge, I could see the dreaded 3.5T restriction signs, so I just drove past. Next time I will drive down the gorge for a look. Jasmin took some pics, but bridges are difficult to show well while you are crossing them …
A fairly uneventful drive of about 3 hours until we turned off the ‘main’ road for Saint-Gérons. The road became single-track with no passing points? The Sat Nav which had not let us down so far showed a grey motorhome symbol in the top right-hand corner with a question mark?I’m guessing this means the road may not be suitable for a motorhome? The treeline was OK with no over-hanging trees like the lanes in the UK and we didn’t meet any other vehicles 🙂 I wasn’t too worried as I suspected that we wouldn’t be taking this route out. Since checking the map I think a single-track road is inevitable when travelling to this site?
Saint-Gérons boasts of a ‘plage’ by the Lake.
A large lake that has been artificially created by a dam for the EDF managed hydro-electric plant.
We walked around the lac to the ‘Passerelle Himalayenne’ which is a suspension walkway across the lake to save about 8 miles of walking! It also serves as a plunging point for the kids!
I had a great time SUP’ing around this lake and spent many hours just exploring. There are a few motor boats and jet skis that use the Lake so it was fun to get into their wake for a bit of ‘balance and poise’ practice. There was also a bit of ‘showing off’ over-taking the pedalos!
In the Rig one evening vehicle and noticed very large adapted vehicle trying to enter the Aire. It reminded me of the ‘travellers/hippies’ vehicles that frequent the summer solstice at Stonehenge (for a generalisation). As seems usual, an exorbitant amount of time is spent ‘talking’ to the office while trying to gain entrance. How hard can it be to put in your details and pay for a card and one night’s stay? I still suspect the cost surprises people over here! In this case I think it was a technical problem because as I walked over to replenish our water, a girl asked me about getting into the Aire. After some polite interchanges, where I described my lack of French, she seemed to speak good English. It seemed the problem was that the barrier would not rise after the guy had spent €15 for the card and overnight stay. No offer of refund from the office, but a suggestion that they should travel another 20Km to another Aire where they could use the card! Didn’t seem fair to me and a non-starter to the guy? At this point several other adapted vehicles turned up. Some of these were monster trucks with fitted windows and doors, would have liked a look around them. Next thing, one of the guys gets hold of the barrier and lifts it up and all 3 x vehicles drive in.
Another beef!!! Not a usually-named wifi service on offer here and when I spoke to the office the lady said that I should use my email address as the password????????????? I did try to say that wouldn’t work, but hey, what do I know? This site was slightly unusual because there was a satellite dish providing the area wifi and when I phoned the second time,the office lady talked about the wifi being provided for by the local Marie? I gace up at that point. Another reason for catch-up blogging!
The second vehicle in gave the dish a right clump, despite me pointing out “can you get by that dish?” I’ve nothing against lady drivers, just saying! 😉
During that evening several more adapted monster trucks turned up – one was the size of a large furniture removal truck! All chatted to the people on site before heading to the the car park below, where they stayed free for the night. Except one other car and caravan who entered via the manual barrier maneuver and erected a tent! I think they all actually purchased a card from the machine so who cares?
I’m guessing that they were all in the area for one of the local Fêtes and were perfectly behaved. In fact a car with boom-boom music arrived late at night in the lower car park, but within 2 minutes was quiet – Result!!
The next day we were off – just before I could move off however, another three monster trucks queued up to get in. Not good I thought and sure enough it wasn’t long before they were on the phone. I moved out towards the barrier to indicate that I was going, just to encourage them to get a move on or at least let me out first. ‘Fair do’s’ that’s what they did! The truck backed up and indicated that I should go first. Of course, barrier didn’t raise although I could see on the reader that the card was working – stated ‘phone office’. Instead I left the cab to manually raise the barrier so that Jasmin could hold it open. Didn’t have to, as said travellers did it for her. We were offski!!!
Arrived at La Cavalerie – about a 3 hour drive. Has someone been planning these routes? 🙂 There was a lot of uphill to get here and we arrived on a plateau at least 750m high. Not a great height, but most of our trips have been at sea level, but no nose bleeds!
Only one other Rig and that was an English lady travelling on her own on a 5-month tour. Fluid in the lingo, so must make things easier! Wasn’t sure how noisy this Aire would be as it was only a short distance from the Autoroute, a local road and a lorry park. Pleasantly surprised – quiet! and plenty of stars out later as it was dark.
Remembered why I chose this site when I spotted the tourist signs depicting the ‘Crusader’ cross. Bit of history! Read some information signs and found out that just down the road is a very large Military camp for the 122eme Infanterie entraînement. From a viewpoint you can see across this great plateau known as the Larzac and see the training area. Very little vegetation, a brownish scrubland? This area is also famous for the sheep’s milk that is used to make Rochefort cheese, one of my favourites!
This plateau is south of the Massive Central and most journeys from southern France to northern France must pass over the plateau. Hence the Crusader sites in this area. The trips and returns to the ‘Holy Lands’ for many of the French and English Crusaders (and maybe German) would traverse here or nearby.
There were the Knights Templar (aka the Crusaders, with distinctive white mantles and red cross that you will know from all the old movies) and the later Knights Hospitaller who wore black mantles with white crosses. The crux of all the fighting etc was to keep the site of Christ’s burial open to the Christian pilgrims in a land that had become Islamic!
Popped around to the local supermarket for some odds and ends (chain called the Coccinelle, which means Ladybird, based on the latin name for the beetle family they belong to). Found the petrol station, my first visit in the morning when we leave and spotted the Butagaz stand. Doesn’t everyone want to know what type of Gas is available for purchase nearby? Good job I did because when we got back the remaining Propane I had just about boiled the kettle! Back up to exchange my gas bottle. Maybe visiting Lourdes has helped because having Gas just 350m away was damned useful!
Afternoon tour around the historic sites …
French lady turned up asking about the cost of staying in this Aire. I tried to explain in my best French “Quatre Euro’s pour la carte et dix Euro quarante pour un nuit” What could be plainer than that? Well I don’t think she understood/ believed me because she asked if anyone else on the Aire was French. I pointed out to the two other Rigs, one which had a UK registration and the other French – both out! I suggested phoning the camping-car park office and checking – “ah Bon!”. They phoned and then left! I suspect that 14€ is too much for one night in an Aire for a Frenchie.
Tomorrow is another 3 hour drive 🙂 but I’ve changed the route slightly and will pay a toll!! Jasmin spotted during the tourist visit an advertising machine providing local area information and up popped the Millau Viaduct. Just 15 minutes drive away and a €9.80 toll. I’ve changed the route options on my sat nav so I can use this bit of the road without it whinging. After the viaduct, is a junction to a view point, so we will stop there for the photo opportunities which I will show in my next blog.