Sunday 18 September 2022

Not much water in the lake and the best baguette so far

Saturday 17 September 2022

Nido's parked up with a couple of other vans at an aire in the village of Romagne, in the Vienne department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. We're next to some excellent sports facilities for such a small village, although I suspect it's used by the surrounding villages too.  There's a full-size rugby pitch, football pitch, tennis courts, pavilion (village hall) even a toddler-sized running track.  This is yet another free aire - free services and free 5A electricity.  I don't know how they do it but thank Monsieur Mairie and the people of the commune of Romagne.

We left the lakeside aire and continued or slow meander north east.  On the way we went through and got lost (because the satnav took around the place a few times!) in the Cité de Clairvivre, near Salagnac. It was a strange looking place that had lots of small apartments spread around a number of huge, multi-storey buildings.  At first we thought it might be some of old holiday camp (think Butlins in the 1970s) or perhaps a university campus.  The title on one of the main buildings confused us even more - 'Centre de Re-Education Professionelle' -  what is this place?  A bit of googling solved the mystery.  It was built in the 1930s to accommodate those (and their families) affected by lung damage during the First World War and also tuberculosis. It had 200 single rooms, 175 apartments to accommodate 340 patients and their families, a hospital and pharmacy and all the amenities necessary for small town life. In 1937 it also helped wounded Spaniards from the Civil War.  In 1980 it changed its purpose and now supports disabled adults.  It provides them with assisted living accommodation, helping them to learn to live independently, as well as teaching them the skills they need to learn a trade and find a job.  Today it has 220 housing units, helping 450 disabled adults with a staff of 330 professionals.  What an amazing service to provide and we'd never have known about it if the satnav hadn't thrown a hissy fit.

Another very positive note for Cité de Clairvivre is it provided us with our best baguette so far on this trip!  Cathy spotted the boulangerie sign down a small lane as we drove out, so I pulled over and popped in to buy 'une tradition.'  The baker uses a wood fired oven and this made a real difference to the taste and texture of the baguette.  The crust was crisp and the inside light and tasty.  All baguettes will now be measured against this one!

We stopped at a lake near Saint-Mathieu for lunch but there wasn't much to keep us there (apart from scoffing that amazing baguette!) so we moved on to another lake - Barrage de Lavaud (aka Lac du Haute Charente) - parking up with several other vans.  This is a man-made reservoir and when full holds up to 40 million cubic metres of water - that's a LOT of water!  However, with the prolonged drought in this area, the level looked to be about 25 ft below the norm, so perhaps only at 30% capacity.  We walked down the sloping sides of the reservoir, most of which was now covered in weeds that had taken advantage of the lack of water to grow and seed.  When full I would imagine it's quite a sight, but its emptiness made it look sad and neglected, with no sign of the wildlife that you'd normally associate with such a vast expanse of water.  Nevertheless we walked some of the perimeter before returning to the van for supper.  Somewhere close by a farmer had set up a bird-scarer, which fired off like a cannon about every ten minutes; Salty is petrified of any loud bangs so he spent the rest of the day cowering in the van and even treats couldn't entice him out.  Only once the bangs stopped at sunset did he move from his corner to eat his supper, he wouldn't even leave the van last thing for a wee.  

This morning it was chilly as I woke before sunrise and took him out (finally) for a walk.  The bird-scarer hadn't yet started and as the sun started to rise, the mist over the water drifted and slowly dissipated. A quick granola breakfast and we were on our way further north.  We had just under half a tank of diesel so I used the Gaspal app to find the cheapest source of fuel.  France currently have a nationwide 30c per litre reduction on fuel and Total have increased this by another 20c, making their fuel effectively half-price.  I found a Total fuel station on the app about 20 minutes up the road, selling at €1.569 per litre - bargain!  The trouble with such a deal is that everyone wants to benefit and as a result, Total garages have been fuel-less and closed for several days!  This must have hit their profits as now they're not making any money on fuel.  Sure enough, when we got there wooden pallets were blocking the entrance.  The next cheapest was an Intermarché supermarket at €1.719 about 9km further on, so I filled up there.  It took us about another hour to reach Romagne.

We parked up in one of six pitches, separated by low beech hedges and I unpacked the EHU cable to plug into the free electric supply.  The socket was the standard 2-pin socket found in most French homes, but I have an adaptor cable for this.  But one thing I've learnt is that these sockets sometimes have the polarity reversed.  Because of this difference in wiring, any of our appliances connected to the mains socket outlets in the van will be live even if switched off at the socket.  For this reason I also carry a plug tester, which I plugged into one of the 3-pin sockets in the van; this showed that on this supply, the live and neutral were reversed.  I also carry a reversed polarity adaptor cable so plugging this into the 2-pin adaptor and then into our EHU cable sorted the problem out.  When checked again all 3 lights lit up on the plug tester to show all was now correct. Some say reversed polarity isn't an issue and won't affect appliances or safety.  But I'm not a qualified electrician and I'd rather err on the side of caution.

Once set up and lunch eaten we headed out for a walk.  Wandering around the sleepy village  we soon found the church and village square.  As well as the usual Mairie's office, there was a library, a community-run shop (open Friday - Sunday), boulangerie, hairdressers, bar/tabac and auberge (restaurant).  All of this plus extensive sports facilities.  We took a route out of the village before turning off onto a rough track running through empty, dry, dust-bowl fields and then forest.  Although the wind was cooler than we'd felt recently, the sun was hot so we were glad of the breeze.  Back at the van, Cathy made a tortilla while I researched where we might head for tomorrow.  Showered and fed, we retreated to the van for a tea/coffee and patisserie.  This time it was mille-feuille - very tasty with crisp pastry layers, rich custard filling and a sweet icing toping - a good 7/10 on the Patt scoreboard.  

So another relaxing day and hopefully a quiet night.  We're certainly sleeping better now the nights have cooled down.  I wear a jumper when walking Salty in the morning but am still in shorts and have been every day we've been in France.  I wonder for how much longer...

A very low reservoir

They'd normally be swimming by now

Just at sunrise - mist in the valley

Free park-up, free water, free electricity

2-pin adaptor and reversed polarity adaptor

A doer-upper in the village square

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