Tuesday 30 June 2015

Hot on Ile d'Oleron

Tuesday 30 June 2015

We're at a large aire at Le Chateau on Ile d'Oleron.  It's gone 2200 and we're still sat outside in the very warm, still air.  The temperature hit a max of 38'C today and did we feel it!  When stepping out of the van it was like someone had opened an oven door, fanned by a hot breeze.  This aire is an ex-campsite, about 100 pitches, all with electric hook up, plus toilets, showers and fresh water, and all included in the price of €10.50.  It would cost about 3 times that much in the UK for a similar site, with the beach just across the road.  The aire's less than half full, mainly elderly French, all as brown as berries, eating well and having a good time - and good for them!

We woke at about 0900 this morning and after breakfast packed up the van and pulled up at the service point to empty waste and take on fresh water.  I'd paid €2 for water but the station wasn't working - what a rip off!  So I used the grey waste to flush the toilet cassette and we headed off - today's drive was a long 5 hours, but it would get us to where we plan to spend the next week. We stopped off at a Super U for food, wine and diesel then hit the road.  The journey wasn't too bad, just long and hot.  We stopped of on the way for lunch, enjoyed sat at a concrete picnic table in the shade, just off the busy road - it was better than it sounds!

On arrival at Oleron we realised with the heat that we'd need more water so I stopped off on the way to pick some up.  We arrived at the aire and this time my credit card was accepted for 2 nights; the last time we visited here none of my cards were accepted and we ended up at a different aire, but it was still a good find.  First stop was for a fresh water top up.  I had a banging headache, dehydration I think, so kept the fluid intake going.  We took a pitch quite close to the showers.  I hooked up the electric and when I checked found the polarity (live & electric) were reversed. Luckily I have a special plug in adaptor to correct this so Cathy put the kettle on while I set up the awning, we were going to need it.  Despite the heat, a good cup of tea always hits the spot!  We wasted no time in crossing the road to the beach.  It's a thin stretch of sand and, as we found out, a shallow and very muddy sea!  This whole stretch is where the majority of the oyster beds are located.  So the swim wasn't great but it was very cooling.  Cathy had a read while I went for a walk to the end of the beach and back, up to an old Napoeonic fort.  

Back at the van we had a cold drink then enjoyed the solar-heated showers, although it was still very hot out, so we were still leaking after the shower!  I prepared a Greek salad, which we had with pork kebabs, sausage and some carrot salad, plus a couple of glasses of rosé.  It's cooled down quite a lot now but I think it'll be very warm in the van tonight, so sleeping might be a challenge.  But at least we're chilling out and enjoying making camp for a couple of nights.  We'll probably move on in a couple of days, do some sightseeing on the island and then find another site for a few nights, to take us through the weekend.  But the plans can wait for another day......

Monday 29 June 2015

Beach Time in Brittany

Monday 29 June 2015

We're on an aire at St Gildas du Rhuys on the southern Brittany coast.  It's very peaceful - grass pitches surrounded by pines and on a cliff top overlooking the sea.  There's about 15 vans here; it says there's room for 80 but I think it would be very cramped. As it is, we have plenty of room to put the awning, table and chairs out.

Cathy went for a beach and dunes walk early this morning at Hauteville, while I snoozed in bed - I didn't sleep well last night.  We had breakfast sat outside, before driving off, stopping off in Granville for fuel.  The journey was about 3.5 hours and, although we started in cloud, by the time we arrived here it was 25'C and clear blue skies.  We pitched up, had some lunch, changed and made the short walk down to the beach.  It's a long curved beach, backed by dunes with rocks at our end and what looked like a village at the other.  The sand was soft, white and very clean; it has a very Mediterranean feel. Chairs and blanket out, we had our first swim of the day.  The sea felt cooler than yesterday, surprising given we were much further south, but the deeper Atlantic waters clearly have an effect.  The afternoon was spent swimming, sunbathing, snoozing and reading - perfect.  

We returned to the van at about 1800 and showered, then had a brew.  Dinner tonight was pork loin chops with a Greek salad, some beer for me and rosé wine for Cathy.  Washed and tidied up, by now it was gone 2100 but still warm and sunny, so we walked along the dunes to watch the sunset and take some photos.  It was indeed a lovely sunset over the village at the far end of the bay, cloudless and clear.  We walked back along the water's edge with the tide out and are now ready to sleep.  It's completely silent and still outside, I can just here the surf.  All the skylights are wide open and the quilt has been stowed under the bench, swapped for a single sheet.  Hopefully we'll have more days and nights like this.

Today I noticed the gas exhaust from the fridge has melted the plastic grill panel, perhaps from when the sliding door is open and airflow restricted.  So, with the water leak when filling the fresh water tank, Nido will need to go back into A&E for repairs when we get back.  But apart from that we're enjoying the van and getting used to the space and storage.  Tomorrow looks like another long drive to Ile d'Oleron, but then we should be static for a week, perhaps on two sites, so will have a chance to make camp and really relax......and I can get out on the bike!

Sunday 28 June 2015

Warm Sea at Hauteville!

Sunday 28 June 2015

We made it to Skipper's Bar at Hauteville-sur-Mer and are parked up in a free aire only 200m from the sea. We didn't even know this aire existed, in fact when we last came here about 14 years ago, it was just a normal car park.  It took us a while to get here though, as I tapped the wrong coordinates into the satnav!

We were ready for our beds last night and both slept like logs.  I woke at about 0815, after about 11 hours in bed and a quiet night - no cars, sirens or loud voices.  After breakfast and a brew, we emptied the grey water and loo before heading off.  It was at this point I sent us in the wrong direction and didn't realise it until two hours into our journey.  So instead of getting to Skippers at 1230, it was now estimating 1630 :-( Given that we stopped off at a Super U to buy some food and drove down the road a while before pulling over for lunch.  Something to eat and a brew fortified us for the longer journey.  After a while my eyes were suffering so Cathy took over driving for a couple of hours.  I finished off the drive to Hauteville.

Surprised at the free aire, we pulled into a pitch and wasted no time walking down to the beach for a paddle.  By now it was nearly 1800 and most people were heading home.  Now barefoot, we walked across the sand to the water's edge - the sea was WARM!  It felt very warm in fact, so much so we turned back to get our swimmers on, grab towels and seats and return.  Back at the beach we were straight into the sea - absolute bliss!   A dip eased the stresses, strains and heat of our long drive and after a sunbathe we returned to the van for a brew, shower and change of clothes.  Now we were ready to eat.

Skipper's Bar is run by a French Moroccan man and his French wife. It sits just back from the beach and is a basic snack-bar, but specialises in the Bouchot Moules, the small, sweet, early season mussels that grow just a short distance away.  We first visited here about 14 years ago, when we were on holiday in a gîte in Hudemesnil, just down the road towards Granville.  Mr T and Nicola were with us. That time the family had just taken over the bar and they had young children, now clearly grown up and helping to serve customers.  We always said we'd like to return and I found its website last week.  The Bouchot were as good as we remembered them, perhaps better, accompanied by frîtes and a carafe of chilled rosé.  A young local fisherman pulled up opposite, having towed his fishing boat off the beach with his tractor.  He was a colourful character and stopping off at Skippers for a few drinks before heading home was clearly part of his daily routine - it's just a shame we couldn't understand his raucous banter!  With no room for pudding and tired after our long drive, swim and food, we walked along the promenade for a short while before heading back through the quiet, leafy streets to the van for a hot drink and bed.

Our ultimate destination is still 6.5 hours drive from here, so we'll probably stop somewhere half-way to cut down the driving and increase chill out time.  I think we'll sleep well again tonight.

Our favourite Moules shack in Normandy....

.....and this is why.

Saturday 27 June 2015

Journey to Quend-sur-Plage

Saturday 27 June 2015

We're parked at an aire a short walk from the beach at Quend-sur-Plage, on the north France coast.  The sun's shining but it's quite breezy so a little chilly.  The aire's set amongst tall pine trees and is very busy, mainly French families here for the weekend, although a couple of Brit vans are by us.  This is the second one we tried as the first, at Fort Mahon place, was toppers.  We stopped at Fort Mahon last October; it's a typical seaside grockle place, mainly concrete and fast food joints, so we weren't too upset.  In fact this one is better.  It's €7 per night but we don't have any change so, unless someone comes around to collect the money, it'll be free!

We left home at 0730 and the journey was all motorway, with the usual hold-ups on the M25. We arrived at the Shuttle terminal two hours before our booked time and managed to get a train an hour earlier at no charge - result!  The crossing was as easy as always and about half an hour later we arrived in Calais.  We drove off (with no sign of migrants) and headed for Citie Europe; we wanted some food and cash.  This shopping centre is huge but it only had one working ATM - luckily the CaxtonFX card I'd pre-loaded with Euros worked fine (always a worry with a new card!) and we managed to avoid the many temptations in Carrefour, just buying a few items for dinner and, if we don't eat everything tonight, for lunch tomorrow (we scoffed the lot so we'll need to shop again tomorrow!).  

I tapped in the coordinates for Skipper's Bar, a small place in Hauteville-sur-Mer that sells great moules, then headed off, stopping for fuel on the way.  Skipper's is a few hours drive away (we avoid the toll roads) and we wouldn't make it tonight, so the plan was to drive until we'd had enough then find an aire for the night.  With Fort Mahon full, we ended up here.  We managed to find a small space on this busy aire, another good reason to have a smaller van, then locked up and went for a walk.  The village is very touristy with lots of fast food joints and a small funfair, but there were also a couple of decent looking bistros selling seafood.  We had a short, barefoot walk on the sandy beach before returning to the van.  Dinner was eaten outside but it was a bit blowy and chilly, so we went back in the van for a brew.  It's now 2040 and still very light - why, oh why can't we adopt mainland Europe time?  It would be so much better with an extra hour of light.  Cathy's reading while I write this up, but we're both feeling weary after a long day's travelling, so I don't think it'll be a late night.  We're already quite chilled and looking forward to our first full day in France tomorrow.

On Le Shuttle - France-bound - yay!

Dinner time on the aire at Quend-Plage