Tuesday 22 August 2023

Coucy Le Chateau Auffrique

Thursday 24 August 2023

Nido's parked up in the aire at Coucy le Chateau Auffrique, with a view of Coucy castle on the hill in front of us.  We arrived on Tuesday and originally planned on staying here for a couple of nights to avoid the 'canicule' (heatwave), with temperatures of 43'C in the south.  It was also an opportunity to do some washing and for me to take a bike ride.  It's €8.10 per night, which includes electric hook up and 10 minutes of fresh water.  We've  stayed here before, on Bastille Day - 14 July - 2016.  I remember it well as I walked into the village bar and saw Chris Froome running up Mont Ventoux in the Tour de France!  Having looked at options for the next stops, we decided it would be better to stay here for one more night as we have shade and Salty has a cooling stream to paddle in!  

We left the park up by the Canal de la Somme Tuesday morning and drove to an Auchan fuel station as it had a motorhome service point.  It needed a jeton - a token - to fire up the fresh water and luckily I still had one from last year's trip.  Although there was a push button for the fresh water, as soon as the token was in the water started....and would not stop!  Luckily I'd attached the short hose beforehand but it was a two person job to fill up - one to take charge of the twisting hose and one to fill the 10 litre container and then pour this into the van's fresh water inlet!  We managed the job without soaking our feet but what a waste of  100 litres of water during a time of drought.  As we were there I popped into the Auchan to pick up a couple of things before we drove to Coucy.  There are 12 pitches here and half were taken, but we managed to get one which was shaded by a large tree, with room to put out the awning and sit outside. It was a hot still day so we were grateful of the shade.  Cathy did some hand washing and this soon dried in the heat of the day.  In the afternoon we took a walk to the nearby fishing lake where Salty was able to cool off in the stream and lake - lucky boy!  Back at the van we snoozed in the summer heat.

Later that evening, once it had cooled down, we took a walk around the village before returning for apĂ©ro hour. Having eaten a good lunch we didn't need an evening meal, so some Lays Crisps (the best crisps in the EU!) went with our drink.  The French couple in the pitch to our left started to play Boules (or Petanque depending on which part of France you come from) and Cathy plucked up the courage to ask if we could join in.  We carry six new, shiny boules in the van (never used), buried under the bench, so we had to dig them out.  It was getting dark by then, but they were well prepared with a portable floodlight!  We muddled through with our basic French and Google Translate, but it was great fun and we learnt a few of the rules of the game, although les Bleus stuffed les Galloises by 13 points to 4!  But at least our once shiny boules now have some battle scratches!

Yesterday morning I headed out for a bike ride in the cooler part of the day.  Cathy likes me out of the way every few days so she can give the inside of the van a good 'uck out' - so a bike ride is the ideal opportunity to make myself scarce!  The first couple of miles out of the village were uphill.  I've not been out cycling for a while, so the ascent and the heat soon had me puffing!  But the rest of the ride was enjoyable, past large arable fields, through forests and quiet villages.  I finished the 19 mile ride with a lap of Coucy village before dropping down back to the aire.  We took Salty for a walk around the lake which we had all to ourselves before spending the afternoon in the shade of the van awning.  Cathy cooked a lovely dinner and we then practiced our new-found interest in boules.  I'd looked up the rules and we had the best of three. I won, much to Cathy's chagrin - she hates losing!

Show me your in France without saying your in France

Porte de Laon

We had a brief thunderstorm at about 0330 this morning, with some thunder, lightning and a quick but severe downpour, enough to have us leaping out of bed to shut the van skylights!
Not long after breakfast we could see the clouds building to the west and over the course of a few minutes the wind increased and the storm was overhead.  It rained hard for most of the day so we spent the time in the van catching up on some of the vanlifers we watch on YouTube and watching the lightning.  By about 4pm the storms passed over and the sunshine returned.  It had stayed warm throughout the day but at least it was now less humid.  After dinner we walked around the base of the 13th Century castle before walking around the village inside the walls. Very little was happening, with the local bar and creperie closed and even the hotel looked empty.  By the time we returned for a cup of tea outside, the silverscreens over the cab windows had dried out enough to be put away, just in case we have more rain in the night.

A storm's a-coming!

Salty was most unimpressed with the storm

But all turned out well by the evening

We've enjoyed spending three nights in one place and are ready to move on, heading slowly south towards the Auvergne region. We'll keep a close eye on the weather forecast; more storms are predicted but it's staying comfortably warm in the mid-20s with what looks like plenty of sunshine too.  The heatwave has now peaked so life should be returning to normal for those locals who have endured temperatures of up to 43'C.

Before leaving home, we decided to go meat-free for a few weeks.  Not for any particular reason, but just to have break from eating red meat.  Actually, we'd already unintentionally cut down our consumption at home over the past few weeks without thinking of it, but were eating chicken.  Now we're essentially having a vegetarian diet; eggs are a staple breakfast and seafood is still on the menu.  But the bulk of our meals now consist of salad, vegetables, various beans and pulses, potatoes and rice.  We've not missed red meat, chicken or processed meats (bacon, sausage, charcuterie) at all and are enjoying the challenge of making tasty meals without it.  Hopefully we'll be all the healthier for it.

Onwards south - tomorrow we'll be in the Champagne region.  I have a couple of possible stops lined up but we'll see what they're like when we get there.  As well as the Camperstop and All the Aires books, I use the Search for Sites app and also have the Park 4 Night app, but have struggled in the past to find anywhere other than aires on the latter that appeal to us.  But I'm going to persevere as we move into more remote areas to see if we can find some nice wild camping spots.

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