Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Day 11 - Bouchemaine to Le Coudray Macouard

Monday 13 October 2014

It was very, very windy last night - all outside.  Apart from the wind waking me occasionally I slept well, although Cathy didn't.  It was a still, clear morning though and I was up by about 0830, shaved, showered and out to get breakfast.  I could hear the children playing in the école across the road and the bridge was quite busy - must be Monday morning commuter traffic!  I walked into the village and bought a Bluette, the equivalent of a banette here, a croissant and two small pear tarts.  Across the road was the bar/tabac, so I walked in, offered a "Bonjour" to all inside and ordered un café.  The TV was on and I caught the weather forecast - not bad in our area but bad floods in the south east of the country. Coffee paid for, I walked back to the get the kettle on and prepare breakfast. We opened the blinds, skylight and windows to let some fresh air and sunlight in to the van.  All done, Cathy did some washing while I disconnected and stowed the EHU cable and dropped the vans off the levellers.
Once all secured we drove over to the exit, Cathy punched in the code and we drove under the raised barrier and over to the service point.  We planned to drop waste and take on fresh water - two out of three wasn't bad I suppose.  Our fresh water jinx hit us again as the pressure was too low to make it through the hose pipe - if only we had a water container and funnel!

So we headed off to our next stop, the riverside town of Saumur. We found some parking about 5 minutes walk from the town centre and adjacent to the School of Cavalry. Saumur is the HQ of the French equivalent of the Royal Armoured Corps and Household Cavalry.  It was lunchtime so most of the shops were shut; even some of the restaurants were shut! We walked up the hill to take a look at the view from the walls of the chateau, but there wasn't much to tempt us to stay in town.  Our original plan was to use an Aire just outside the walled medieval town of Richelieu, but now all 'towned' out, I looked for a quiet, peaceful alternative - I'm so glad we changed our minds.  We ended up at an Aire de Service on the outskirts of the village of Le Coudray Macouard.  This is deep wine country and the Aire is in an isolated oak tree glade, surrounded by fields of maze and vineyards.  It is so quiet.  We were the only ones here and we parked on the grass, under the huge oak trees, but still in hot, bright sunshine.  Cathy sat in her chair to read and I took a walk a walk into the village looking for a shop, but only found a bar, hairdressers (open) and a butchers (shut).  But in the walk back to the van I found some rosemary to throw on the charcoal to flavour our Bavette steaks and also loads of ripe walnuts.

Back at the van, I decided to combine victuals hunting with exercise, so prepared my road bike, changed, grabbed the rucksack and headed off towards the next village called Bron.  I rode past vineyards and fields of ripe maize. Bron was a small hamlet with no shop, so I continued on to the next town, which also has an Aire - Montreuil Bellay.  I stopped at the river bridge to take some photos and eventually found a large Super U.  I'd forgotten to take my bike lock, so I quickly skidded around in my cycling cleats collecting some bread, butter, tomatoes, shallots, water and wine. The red wine, I discovered when I opened it back at the van, came from a small producer in the town I bought it from, bought in a large supermarket in the same town.

Thankfully my bike was still in the rack and I enjoyed a fast ride back on empty country roads, albeit with a heavy rucksack.  On my return I prepared dinner, sampling the red wine which was smooth and delicious.  Cathy had cracked the walnuts so we had a small bowl of fresh, oily, tasty nuts. I used these to make a salad, with mixed leaves, fried lardons and goats cheese.  I also made a sauce with the shallots, butter, garlic and a splash of white wine.

The steaks had been marinating in a little oil and rosemary and I threw the remaining sprigs on the BBQ so the smoke infused its flavour into the meat, which only took minutes to cook. We enjoyed this with a glass of wine and some bread, before leaving the washing up and heading out for a walk around the fields as the sun set in a clear, cloudless sky.  It was lovely, quiet and peaceful.  Back at the van Cathy washed up while I coaxed the BBQ back in to life with some dried oak twigs and small branches.  It smoked for a while (we now both smell like a bonfire!) but the flames were soon up and we sat in the dark with a cup of tea, watching the flames and listening to the owls and frogs. We were next to a sewage works, which sounds dreadful, but it was an eco-friendly reed bed style so attracted the frogs to the ponds.  It's now just past 2100 and we're back in the van.  The quiet outside is deafening, the night is very still and I hope we both sleep well.  We'll decide on where to next to tomorrow, but I suspect we'll make an early start and sprint for the coast again - we miss it too much!

School of Cavalry at Saumur
Free parking close to Saumur town centre
Nice view on my bike ride
Looking back towards Bron
View from the bridge at Montreuil Bellay
A lovely, peaceful overnight stop
Chillin' in the peace and quiet
Quiet reading time
Free food!
Bavette steak on the go
Preparing our salad
Almost time for dinner

Time to eat!
Beautiful, quiet sunset

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