Showing posts with label Brittany. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brittany. Show all posts

Thursday 21 September 2023

On the north coast of Brittany heading east

Thursday 21 September 2023

Nido's parked up on an 80 pitch aire in Plestin les Grèves.  It could get quite claustrophobic if all the pitches were taken, but today there's only about half a dozen vans here.  Although sunny and warm when I took Salty out for a walk this morning, the return leg of this afternoon's walk was in heavy rain and the showers continue to pulse through now.

After Trégarvan, we stopped off at a Super U to do the laundry.  Next the outdoor laundrette was a motorhome service point, so the van was serviced after lunch, whilst waiting for the dryer to finish.  It was then a short drive down to the aire at Roscumunoc.  It's right on the coast, with a good view of Ile d'Ouessant (Ushant).  We took a walk past the 'chiens interdit' beaches and on to a cove where they're allowed on a lead; Salty enjoyed some beach time.  The Fiamma awning winding handle broke today as I wound it in, so that'll need replacing when we get home.

Dhoby Day!

The following morning we walked in the other direction, along the cliff top coastal path.  We were able to get down on to one beach via a large number of steps zig-zagging down the cliff face and had it all to ourselves.  It was some great off lead time for Salty, who was caught out a couple of times by the very large waves as they washed further up the beach!  Back on the cliff top we walked on a little further until reaching La Pointe de Corsen.  This is the most westerly point in mainland France - next stop America.

King of the beach

You can see all of our paw prints

Sadly it wasn't open

Back at the van, we had a quick lunch then hit the road towards the inland town of Saint Thégonnec.  It was a free aire with the pitches separated by low hedges.  On a quick mooch about I noticed a pizza van on the car park on the opposite side of the road, so fifteen minutes later we were having an early tea!  The rest of the evening was spent chilling out.  In the morning I walked to the boulangerie for a baguette and to get one of the free jetons to allow us to fill up with fresh water.

On the way out yesterday we made a quick stop at the Decathlon in Morbaix to pick up a couple of things before driving down to the aire on the fishing quay at Plougasnou Le Diben.  There was plenty of room and we bagged a spot overlooking the sea and rocks.  It rained heavily all day, so we didn't venture far, until later in the afternoon when we went to the local bar - Kfè du Port - on the port, for moules frites.  We arrived at 5.30pm and found out food didn't start being served until 7pm.  So do we head back to the van through the rain and come back later, or do we stay in the bar and have a couple of drinks until it's time to eat?  By the time our food arrived I was about three glasses of Leffe in!  The moules frites were really enjoyable and a great treat; we've not had them since our 2019 trip to France so they were long overdue.

This morning was the first time I felt some chill in the air, but it's still shorts weather.  As we were finishing breakfast, we felt the van being nudged from behind.  If we had a YouTube channel, I could have done the 'scream' shock-horror face in the thumbnail, with a "An A class smashes into the back of us - is this the end of van life!!?" clickbait title! I went out to find the huge A class motorhome that had been parked behind us had driven (albeit very slowly) right into the back of our van.  I was completely perplexed as to how the driver managed it, as there was plenty of space for him to reverse before moving forward.  The driver seemed as perplexed as me; his wife refused to catch my eye, and just stared straight ahead, probably in sheer embarrassment!  Once he reversed off I could see he had hit the bike rack.  A quick check showed no damage though and he apologised before driving off at haste.  I think he was trying to avoid the Police Municipal Officer who arrived about 15 minutes to collect the (very reasonable) €5 night fee!

There was a Super U on the way to this stop, so I pulled in to top up with a few essentials before we settled in to this aire.  Salty and I took a walk in the morning to give Cathy some peace for her online Welsh lesson.  We took the GR34 path down to Saint Efflamm  With the beach out of bounds to dogs (although a few were running about on it) we walked along the promenade in warm sunshine, before returning for lunch.  This afternoon's walk was in the opposite direction to a small harbour and a tiny beach.  The return leg was in heavy rain, so we're now back in the van, drying off coats and chilling before our evening meal.

Morning sunshine - Plage Saint Efflamm

Inbound rain in the afternoon

With about ten days left of this trip, I've pretty much mapped out our return route to Calais, including some stops in the Pays d'Auge and Suisse Normande areas of Normandy.  Salty has his vet appointment a week today for his worming tablet, then we'll be ready for our return on the tunnel.  But until then we've more to explore.... whilst dodging the showers.

Sunday 17 September 2023

Plonévez-Porzay and Trégarvan

Sunday 17 September 2023

Nido's parked up on the old quay side by the estuary in the tiny hamlet of Trégarvan.  It looks very much like similar estuaries found in Cornwall.  It must have been a port at one time given the many bollards along the jetty, but time and silt have clearly made it impossible to now moor alongside.  The parking area is noted as an official aire, but there are no facilities here except for a couple of bins.  

We stayed another night in Kerhillio on Friday, mainly because the forecast was decent and we fancied another sea swim.  Salty had a good walk in the morning, including some beach time but also excitedly investigating the many rabbit burrows in the low level sand dunes - one of his favourite pastimes!  He then stayed in the van in the shade while we walked through the huge municipal campsite and on to the beach; by the late afternoon the tide was in so we had an hour of alternating between swims and drying off in the warm air and hot sunshine.

Yesterday was a Super U shopping day and a diesel top up.  Super U is one of my favourite French supermarkets; the variety and quality of produce is always good and at a reasonable price, although most supermarkets in France (except Lidl and Aldi) are more expensive than at home.  The pile of live crabs and lobsters on the ice table in the poissoniere section were very tempting, but would be extremely messy to dress in a small campervan!

Last night's park up was on the free aire in Plonévez-Pornay, a few miles inland from the coast.  It has space for about 20 vans on grass, although by the end of the day they were tagging on the ends or any space they could find.  Again, all were French vans except for us.  We've seen very few British vans over the past month, not even many Dutch, who are usually around in large numbers. We took a walk into town to get our bearings, having noticed there would be a market the next morning.  This is the first time a night stop has coincided with a village market, so we were keen to have a look.  The town has all the usual shops, plus some selling Bretagne products to tourists.  I cooked a fish Thai green curry later.

This morning was showery although still warm - in the low 20s - and a couple of times we had to take shelter from heavy downpours at the market.  There were some lovely fruit, vegetables and cheeses on sale, some from local organic producers.  There was also the usual olives and saucisson stall, another selling hot cooked couscous and another selling rottiserie chicken; at €14 per kilogram though it was a bit too pricey for us. We were already topped up with food, so nothing was bought.  

On the way to Trégarvan we visited a couple of beach park ups to see if Salty could have a bit of a run around.  The first now had a sign banning all motorhomes from parking at any time and the second had a sign banning dogs from the beach at any time, so we just headed here instead.  This part of Brittany is very much like Cornwall (and Anglesey), with small fields enclosed by hedgerow and rolling hills.

On arrival I sat on one of the bollards with a pot of tea and just watched the wading birds in the estuary mud and the skies as dark streaks of cloud marked the blue sky.  The tide was on the turn and on its way in. After a quick lunch the idea was to take a walk along the estuary, but we had an hour of very heavy rain, so chilled out in the van instead.

Eventually the rain cleared and we set off along the path running by the estuary.  It took us through temperate rainforest, which was now steamy and humid with the hot sun shining through the greenery as we walked.  Salty managed to get in the flowing stream which runs into the estuary and enjoyed himself pawing at and biting the waterfall!  The route took us up and onto a lane for a circular walk back down into the village and the van.  

Dinner was eaten overlooking the still water of the estuary at high tide and as the sunset, peace and quiet followed.  And what a sunset it was.

Thursday 14 September 2023

Sea, sand and jazz in Brittany - summer's still here!

Thursday 14 September 2023

Nido's parked up on an aire in Kerhillio at the northern end of the Quiberon peninsula.  We're on a grass pitch under the shade of a small tree.  There are about thirty pitches, although a few are still empty.  It's €15.30 per night, including services and electric hook up - that's about £13. The aire is just outside a huge municipal campsite, where vans, caravans and tents are spread all over the sandy areas, separated from the huge beach and sea by dunes. Just outside the aire is a square comprising surf shops, artist galleries and a couple of hipster-like cafe bars; it's a lovely, laid back place.  Right now Le Coota bar's playing some live music, it sounds like laid-back jazz with guitar and cello.  Its wooden decking is lit by coloured lights and there's a friendly buzz of chat over the music, with children laughing as they ride their bikes around the square.  We like it here.

We left La Pommeraie-sur-Sevre yesterday for a long haul towards the coast.  This included an unplanned tour of the docks area around St-Nazaire.  For a number of years I've used a Garmin satnav in the van.  Over time I've loaded it up with a number of Points of Interest - aires, campsites, wild swimming spots.  But I've never really used these.  The Garmin is OK, but it's constantly trying to shave off a couple of metres or minutes from the journey.  As a consequence we often follow it to turn off down narrow roads to cut off a corner, only to rejoin the decent road we were on before.  Yesterday it directed us down past the Airbus factory and towards the cruise liner berths and the docks, down to a dead end!  I now remember it did the same last year, when we were heading south. So this time we plugged our destination coordinates into Google Maps on my phone and ran this in parallel.  We ignored the Garmin's plea to turn off down single lanes and rat-runs and instead followed the sensible route of Google Maps, which was more direct and actually shorter.

We arrived at the Camping Car Park aire at La Turballe.  It's actually in the Loire region, but it feels like Brittany.  It was busy; with the recent heatwave, clear blue skies and warm sunshine; summer was still here and people were naturally making the most of it.  We took one of the three remaining pitches, right next to a road which, although busy, did quieten down at night.  The first thing was to take a walk to the beach for a long awaited walk on the sands and a paddle.  But no - it was not to be.   Approaching the beach we came up with the 'les chiens interdit' signs, even when on a lead.  Salty was not a happy hound!  He could smell the sea, he could hear the sea, he could almost see the sea.  But he was not allowed to go there.  I'd not done my research and with a bit of googling soon realised that Brittany beaches are - in the main - dog unfriendly.  I get it, they want to keep their beaches clean and pristine and people want to be able to enjoy their time on the coast without dogs running around and doing what dogs do.  But it seems a bit strange that dogs are so unwelcome in a country that has one of the highest percentages of dog ownership.  But we're responsible owners and follow the rules, so we just walked along the sandy path that runs parallel to the beach before returning to the aire.  

I'd looked at a few places to stay on the southern and western Bretagne coast, but last night was spent replanning, looking for the few dog-friendly beaches so we could at least walk him in some nice places.  As much as we love having a dog in our lives, it has changed how and where we travel.  Now we have to think about where he's allowed to go.  We have to ensure the pitch is cool and shaded if we want to leave him in the van for any period of time.  It's just a different way of travelling.  I found a few places online where dogs can still go on the beach (albeit on a lead, which is fine), mainly in the far west and north, so our travel plans have been adjusted accordingly.

This morning we stopped off at the Super U supermarket in La Turballe for a top up.  I like this brand of supermarket; it's reasonably priced and the quality of the produce is very good.  In the Auvergne, it was mostly Auchan supermarkets, but Super U reign supreme here. The fish counter was excellent, with some of the freshest seafood I've seen anywhere. The mackerel were stiff-fresh and the brown shrimps I bought (look away now if you're squeamish) were still wriggling, the bouchot moules (our favourite) were glistening and the whole squid white and opaque.  Our drive (thanks to our recent conversion to Google Maps (sorry Garmin lady!)) was easy and enjoyable, with a mix of A roads and drives through small Bretagne villages lined with thatched houses with white lime-wash walls and sea-blue shutters.

Once we'd paid and pitched, we had a tasty lunch sat in the shade of the adjacent tree before packing a rucksack and walking through the municipal campsite to the beach - Plage de Kerhillio. It's a huge sandy beach.  The southern end - towards the tip of the Quiberon peninsula - is mainly used by the kite surfers and the naturists.  Dogs are 'interdit' on that side, so we were glad of a reason to avoid it! Salty had a lovely splash around, a few zoomies and a drink of the very salty water; he always does it and always gets told off for doing it!  Once he settled down lying on the sand watching the world go by, we took it in turns to swim in the exceptionally clear and warm sea.  It was idyllic and we made the most of our first sea swim of this trip.  

Back at the van, showered and changed, Cathy sat in the sunshine listening to an audio book and I prepared the seafood paella (the shrimps had stopped wriggling!), which we ate sat watching the sun set over the dunes.  We've decided to stay another day here.  It's quiet, with a laid back atmosphere that reminds us of Tarifa in southern Spain, with weather to match.  We'll definitely enjoy some more beach and swimming time tomorrow.

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