Showing posts with label écouché. Show all posts
Showing posts with label écouché. Show all posts

Saturday 24 September 2022

Pizza Night!

Saturday 24 September 2022

Nido's parked up on a free aire in the village of Écouché.  Now if you've paid attention or have been sad enough to read all of my blogs, you'll know that we've stayed on the Écouché aire already this trip.  The thing is, I didn't know - I'd forgotten!  I picked this aire because it said there's a great pizza van with a wood oven that's in the village on a Saturday night.  I'd completely forgotten that this is the village where we found the 'pizza from the hole in the wall' machine.  It wasn't until we started to pull in to the aire this afternoon that I realised where we were - old age and poor short-term memory is really hitting home right now!  Still, it's a lovely spot and we liked it last time in the hot sunshine; it's not so bad today even in heavy rain.

When I last blogged we were staying in the small village of Le Guédeniau. We liked it so much the decision was made to stop for a little longer, before moving on.  So yesterday morning, I went off for a bike ride whilst Cathy had a bit of a lie-in and a relaxed breakfast before giving the van a really good internal clean, repacking the bench storage and cupboards, ready for a bit of shopping before we return home.

I had no real plan for my bike ride, apart from perhaps an 18-20 mile loop, hopefully with a café stop on the way.  All started well, although the café I wanted to use was inaccessible due to market day and I didn't find another.  About an hour or so into the ride I consulted Google Maps and started on my route back to the van, or so I thought.  After another half an hour I started to suspect I wasn't heading in the right direction; I'd been cycling through thick forest for some time and the road signs weren't what I expected. So I consulted Google Maps again, clicked on the aire and found I had been heading in completely the wrong direction.  I was about 1.5 hours cycling from the van.  There wasn't much I could do about it apart from turn around and follow the Google Maps voice on the phone.  On the return trip I came across a very large field of what looked like cannabis, but was no doubt hemp (I've no idea how to tell them apart though!). With about 10km to go, I was starting to bonk - I hadn't eaten since breakfast and only had a bottle of water, so the cycle back to the van was a bit slow!  In the end I cycled for just over 3 hours, covering 40 miles.  Still, I enjoyed the spin and saw some lovely places in the countryside.  Cathy had some lunch waiting for me and we sat outside enjoying the warm sunshine.  Bike stowed, me washed and changed, we headed off - albeit later in the day then usual - to our next stop.

This brought us to the town of Noyen-sur-Sarthe and a free park-up at 'Le Port' essentially a small marina on the river Sarthe, just below a railway bridge carrying the fast SCNF trains.  On the way in we spied a pizza shop, so at the allotted opening time I walked up to order.  We've not eaten out at all so far on this trip - not even a bag of chips.  So it was with a sad heart that I walked back to let Cathy know the pizza joint was closed until the end of the month!  Junk food will have to wait for another day.

This morning it was overcast with spit-spots of rain but still quite warm.  The 122km journey to Écouché went quickly enough, including a stop at a Total fuel station that was actually open; they've had a sale on fuel for a couple of weeks, pricing 20c per litre lower than other garages, but have been sold out and closed, so haven't sold any fuel at a all!  But this one was open so even though I had just over half a tank of diesel, I brimmed it up with cheap fuel.

We parked up in the aire at one end with our door facing the grass and were soon joined by a couple of other vans.  Later three huge French motorhomes turned up, all getting out to - one at a time - try and direct each other into the remaining spaces - lots of handwaving and arm spinning to the poor unfortunate driver! One A class (double our length) parked so close to us that they couldn't open their habitation door!  I had a little room to my left so I shuffled my van over as much as I could (ie not by much!), still they were grateful and smiles all around. 

The rain continued and I didn't fancy a wet walk out along the main road to find a pizza van that might not be there. So it was time to try out the pizza in the wall machine.  There were eighteen different types.  I chose two from the touchscreen, paid with a contactless card and three minutes later they popped out of the 'letter' pizza box!  To celebrate I bought a bottle of red wine from the boucherie (a butcher that sells wine - winner!) and enjoyed my first glass for about two months.  The pizzas were actually very good - hot and tasty - and we enjoyed our takeaway treat as the rain continued to fall.  There's warning of heavy rain on the north French coast tonight.  We have a couple of days until we arrive there, but I suspect our extended summer is done...but the shorts are staying on!

I was only supposed to do 18 miles!

Cannabis or hemp....?

Le Port at Noyen-sur-Sarthe

This was after I moved left 4 feet!

Les pizzas sont arrivées!

Sunday 28 August 2022

Arrived in Brittany

Sunday 30 August 2022

Nido's parked up in a Camping and Car Park Aire near the coastal village of Hirel, between Mont St Michel and St Malo.  From the beach we can see Mont St Michel, standing proud over a huge estuary that completely empties of sea twice a day, then comes galloping in - don't get caught out!

The Camping Car Park (CCP) concept provides access to aires managed by the company.  I've watched their site numbers increase over the years and now they have a network of over 300 sites, mainly in France but increasingly throughout Europe.  I've also seen their news articles about hoping to break into the UK market; I really hope they do but sadly suspect they will hit the usual 'red-tape' barriers thrown up by local councils and those who own private campsites (not forgetting the big two clubs mafia in the UK).  You need a membership card which you have to preload with Euros in order to use the sites.  You can obtain one at any CCP site, but I would imagine this is quite difficult to do on their automated system at the entrance, where you need to provide your full contact details in order to register.  Or you can register online in the comfort of your home (or van) and have the card delivered to your home address, which is what I did, with the card arriving within a week.  The card costs €5 and is valid for life, but then you need to upload Euros (which you do with a UK sterling debit card) in order to pre-pay for stopovers.  As long as you have enough credit, all you need to do is touch your card to the keypad at the entrance and the barrier opens then do the same when you leave.  Your total stay time is calculated and the costs automatically deducted from your card's balance.  We're paying €12 for tonight, which includes all services (10A electric, water refill and waste disposal).  Some look like traditional aires but others - like this one - are old municipal campsites.  So we drove in, picked a spot on the grass amongst the trees and plugged into the electric to charge up all the things!  I understand it's possible to pre-book a site if you wish.  This is the first one we've used and I'm in no way saying you should get or even need a card, but first impressions are very positive.  They have an excellent smartphone app which shows all the sites, how many spaces are available in them in real time, an easy way to add money to your card and your balance.  

Yesterday we stopped off at the small Lidl in Broglie before heading further west, stopping again at a Carrefour in Argentan as I needed some cash.  Our plan was to have lunch at a free aire in the village of Écouché before carrying to another park-up.  But the aire and village were so nice we decided to make it a 'slow' day and stay there for the night.  The aire's big enough to fit four vans comfortably and is surrounded by grass areas with a couple of picnic benches, which we used for our lunch.  The village was typically French - the church holds sway with lots of small lanes and quiet squares.  I'm always surprised how many facilities these villages have: sports grounds, a couple of schools, library and several independent shops. My favourite facility was the hole in the wall pizza oven; select your pizza from a touch screen, pay with a card and a few minutes later out pops your pizza!  I've no idea what it's like but it's certainly novel.  A few people on Twitter have suggested we give it a try, so if we see one later on in the trip perhaps we'll risk it!

The rest of the day was spent reading and snoozing in the shade of a tree, listening to the church bells, before dinner at the picnic bench and a walk for Salty along some grass lanes by fields of corn.  We'd had the aire all to ourselves all day but on our return had French neighbours, who shared a 'Bonsoir' as they cooked their evening meal.  We sat outside in the warm shade and enjoyed a cup of tea and shared piece of patisserie bought from the Broglie boulangerie that morning.

This morning we had a leisurely breakfast and after emptying waste tanks, drove straight here.  With it being the last weekend in August, there was a heavy stream of traffic leaving Brittany as we entered; it must be the end of the holidays for France which, selfishly, means more room for us!  I waved our CCP card at the barrier keyboard and we drove around a couple of times before deciding where to pitch. Lunch done, we walked through the site, over the road and onto the beach.  The tide was out - way, way out, further than we could see and a few people were on the horizon I guess scraping for cockles or parlourds (clams); I hope they know the tide times!  Mont St Michel was off to the right in the distance and we turned left to walk along the beach.  This area is well known for farmed oysters and the oyster frames and bags could be seen in the distance.  There were hundreds of thousands of oyster shells of various sizes and colours on the beach and Cathy collected a few to take home for the garden.  Salty enjoyed a roll around in the shells and sand but I think was a bit miffed that he could smell the sea but it wasn't there!  

Back at the van we had a lazy couple of hours before Cathy cooked a delicious dinner. I took Salty off for a bit of beach walk so she could scrub out the van and take a shower.  We're now sat outside, bodies and clothes clean, enjoying a cup of tea and the second piece of patisserie I bought yesterday.  Both cakes weren't the best we've had and only scored 3/10 on the Patt scoreboard!  Whereas the coffee eclairs from Le Clerc were about a 7/10 (if they weren't so droopy they would have scored an 8!). The sun's just dropping behind the trees and a stiff but warm breeze is coming off the sea, but we're sheltered by the van, so it's still warm enough to sit out in t-shirt and shorts at 8.30pm.

Tomorrow I need to fill up with diesel, particularly as we plan to head towards the more remote parts of Brittany to the west. I also need to buy some more food.  I really enjoy going around French supermarkets, although the prices have increased quite a lot since out last trip.  So Lidl is getting well used and tomorrow I'll be popping into a Super U supermarket, which I remember as good value in the past.  After that we'll probably follow the northern coast heading west, staying in Brittany for a week or so before heading south.  Or we may just mooch around here for several weeks!

On the health side, we're both feeling a lot better.  The coughs and sore-throats have diminished, but we are quite tired by late afternoon and we're sleeping like logs in the van.  The temperature is a very comfortable low to mid 20s during the day and drops at night to the point that we made need to add a blanket to our sheet and single cover; the duvet is stowed away under the bench seat.

Free aire in Écouché

Hole in the wall pizza machine!

Plenty of room on the CCP aire near Hirel

Ou est la mer!?

The pimple on the horizon is Mont St Michel