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!
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 !
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!
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.
The beach is large and sandy but the main feature is the large harbour for small craft.
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!
Onward and north towards Home!