Sunday 24 September 2023

In the Suisse Normande

Sunday 24 September 2023

Nido's parked up at a free aire with eight other vans in Saint Rémy, in the Suisse Normande area, which is in the middle section of Normandy.  It's an area we've not visited before.  The Suisse Normande starts about 25km south of Caen, along the gorge of the River Orne, between Thury-Harcourt and Putanges.  Whilst there aren't any 'swiss' mountains, the region is quite distinctive with cliffs, crags and wooded hills. It's a bit like Devon mixed with Yorkshire.

We left Plestin les Grèves on Friday morning after a peaceful night.  This was the first morning it's felt a little chilly first thing; since then it's only been about 10'C in the van in the morning, so the heating's been on for a while each day just to take the chill off.  Our destination was the Camping Car Park site in Hirel, right on the huge estuary overlooking the Cotentin Peninsula, with a view of Mont St Michel in the distance.  We stayed here last year.  With the recent rain it wasn't so full, so we were able to pick a pitch on the grass that was well drained, unlike some of the others.  The afternoon was spent walking on the vast beach - avoiding the mud flats with the tide way out - and watching the sand yachts zoom along the hard surface in a very strong breeze.  The sun was shining though and with the combination of this and the wind, we returned to the van with colour in our cheeks.  The evening was spent catching up on YouTube.

Yesterday was another fairly long push east to get into this area.  We stopped off at a Le Clerc supermarket in the town of Flers to fill up with food and diesel.  Driving into the town, it was evident it had been part of the recent riots in France, as there were lots of burnt areas of road around some of the suburbs.  Topped up we rolled into the small village of Pont d'Ouilly.  The aire was about 500m out of the town right next to the River Orne.  Each pitch is separated by high hedges and, as we sat outside with a late lunch, we had a good view of the slow moving river, with a fisherman trying his luck from the next-door van, plus many people kayaking down the slowly moving river.  It was a warm, sunny autumn day but once the sun disappeared it was a bit too cool so we moved inside.  There's a Sunday market in the village, so after walking Salty and wandered into town, leaving Cathy to have a clear up.  Previous reviews suggested one of the roads into the village was closed off on market day, so I was expecting quite a few stalls.  Disappointingly, there were only three - a fruit and veg stall (where I purchased a few items), a clothes stall and one selling the sort of tat you find at a car boot sale.  We've noticed that many of the markets are now much smaller than we remember, much like at home.  Perhaps it's the same impact of Covid and the cost of living crisis that's impacting so many towns and villages in Europe; such a shame.

Our original plan was to park up at the aire in Clécy, as I had a circular walk planned from there and it's down as one of the 'beau' villages of France.  The aire has five official pitches but when we arrived, there were a couple of vans and the rest of the spaces were taken up by cars due to a football match on the adjacent pitch.  But I had a reserve aire just a few kilometres up the road, here in Saint Rémy.  It's not as quiet due to being close to a road with many (VERY NOISY!) motorbikes driving past, much to Salty's dismay, but it's flat and free.

It's been a very warm and sunny day, made all the better by friends back home on Anglesey telling me about the horrendous winds and rain they currently have!  The aire's right next to one of the Voie Verte cycling and walking paths, an excellent initiative that has utilised the many miles of disused railway track.  This one is 100km, starting in Caen. It's being well used by all ages and it's lovely to see....UK take note, once again you're far behind the curve in encouraging people to be fit and active.  

I found another circular walk of just under four miles, that took us through ancient deciduous woods and tiny hamlets, although the start point was about 2-3 km from the aire, so we must have walked about 7 miles all told.  But it was good to get out and stretch our legs and have a good nosy at the lovely houses, many with old outbuildings and potager gardens.  Back at the van I made some halloumi burgers with salad and it's now quietened down.  The sun is dropping and the noisy motorbikers have gone home for their for them tomorrow!

Perched on a hill on the walk - Chapelle Saint-Joseph, in Saint-Martin-de-Sallen

Inside of the church. Built in 1871, destroyed by fire in 1890, rebuilt in 1919

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