Saturday 26 August 2023

In Burgundy

Saturday 26 August 2023

Nido's parked up by a Halte Nautique (boat marina) on the canal du Nivernais in the town of Cravant.  We have a lovely view over the water with vine covered hills in the distance.  However, views can be deceptive, as the nearby road was fairly busy to start with (although it's very quiet now) and there's a railway line a few hundred metres away.  Still it's a lovely wild camping spot and I wish I'd bought my coarse fishing gear!  There are two other vans parked here, so we should have a peaceful night - safety in numbers.

When servicing the van at Coucy yesterday the metal bracket holding the grey waste pipe to the chassis sheared, so a quick fix was made with a trusty cable tie!  On the route down we spotted a Bricomarché, so I popped into buy a few metal brackets and some wire to make a more permanent fix. Lunch was taken in the village of Esternay.  The aire was closed as the area around the church was being landscaped, but we found a place to park up and eat not far from there.

Lunch stop

Esternay is typically quiet like most towns and villages

I had a couple of aires in mind to stop over, but neither was suitable - one was closed for refurbishment and the other was overgrown with low hanging tree branches.  We headed for Plan C, but that turned out to be more of a HGV parking area, although it did have a new free service point.  So on to Plan D - it was fourth time lucky.  Sometimes this happens but at least in France there are multiple options, but there does seem to be a dearth of aires in this area, mainly because it's off the usual tourist route.  Having said that, we drove for quite a lot of yesterday along the Champagne Touristic Route, although I expect that's aimed at coach trips and those staying in expensive hotels, not scruffs like us in a little campervan!  So our day was spent ping-ponging from one place to another, but we did get to drive through some lovely little villages.

Our eventual stop was a delightful campsite in Aix-en-Othe, called Aire du Moulin à Tan.  It comprises a number of grass fields and a small hardstanding area.  If you don't need EHU (we didn't) then you can park pretty much anywhere you like.  The site has toilets and showers, a communal outdoor cooking and dining area and full servicing.  It's €10 per night with an extra €4 if you want EHU. The owner - Francois - was great fun and very helpful.  He has developed a beautiful place to stay, with a lovely woodland walk that meanders around various small waterways, each crossed by myriad wooden bridges, all individually named.  It was a shame we didn't come straight here as we didn't arrive until nearly 6pm and by the time we'd set up, had a cup of tea, eaten and walked around the woods and waterways, we were totally pooped.

This morning after breakfast we walked along a grassy footpath into the town centre, about 1km away.  There was a boulangerie with a queue outside (always a good sign) and a covered market selling local fruit and vegetables, as well as cheese and seafood. Guess who forgot to bring his wallet out on the walk!  

The Marie's office in Aix-en-Othe

At the service point the campsite's little black kitten called Belle came along to take a look and disappeared under the van.  I made a mental note to make sure she was safe before we left, but before I could do so I saw the owner's son crawling under the front of the van; Belle had climbed up onto one of the front wheel arches!  Cathy grabbed some dog kibble and joined him at the front of the van.  All she could see where two little white eyes! But eventually she came down to scoff the kibble, was safely rescued and carried away.

After a food replenishment stop at Le Clerc in Tonnerie, we arrived at the medieval village of Noyers-sur-Serein.  It was quieter than I expected so we were able to easily park close to the centre.  The village has retained its fortified gates, towers, ramparts, half-timbered houses, narrow streets and squares.  Artists and sculptors have taken over many of the shops and houses in the village, giving a bohemian feel to the place. The walk up to the old ruined castle was up (and eventually down) almost 300 steps through steep woodland, but it was worth the journey.  They run an apprenticeship school to teach the ancient stonemasonry skills, so that gargoyles and stones can be replaced with new carvings.  It would be amazing to see them in action but there was nobody working over the weekend, although we were able to wander around and admire their work. One of the top 100 most beautiful villages in France, Noyers is worth a visit.

Our final destination for the day was only 30 minutes' drive from Noyers and we were soon settled in with a cup of tea, watching the locals cycle and roller skate along the canal towpath on the opposite bank.  After dinner we enjoyed our first patisserie of this trip.  The delay was due to us forgetting to unpack the chocolate birthday cake we bought for our daughter, which needed eating first....we're terrible parents!

It's been sunny and a bit breezier today and feeling much less humid, which is welcome.  We're settling into van life routine, enjoying a lunchtime break (we don't often each lunch at home), a visit and dog walk somewhere, then driving on somewhere else and making camp for the night.  Once Cathy's in bed reading I'll do some research for places to visit over the next day or two and look at possible places to stay, coming up with a shortlist of options in case the first couple aren't what we like.  And of course research, prepare my photos and write up this blog. I haven't yet fixed the grey waste water pipe.  The cable tie is holding up, but I need to do it soon before this fails.  Maybe á demain...

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