Showing posts with label ardeche. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ardeche. Show all posts

Tuesday 2 July 2019

It's cooler up north!

Tuesday 2 July 2019

Nido’s parked up at a municipal campsite on the shore of Lac d’Issarlès, in the top left corner of the Ardeche department, bordering the Haute-Loire department.  We booked in for a couple of nights to escape the heat of the south and to get some laundry done - both accomplished.

The heat of the south coast became too much for us.  Given the exceptional heatwave over the past week, the temperature hadn’t reduced that much and the forecast was for more of the same.  Poor old Nido’s metal skin and insides had heated up, such that everything inside him was redders - cupboards, drawers, bathroom, garage.  We just couldn’t keep cool and Cathy in particular was suffering from heat exhaustion, so we took the decision to move north and leave this area and The Camargue for another time; it’s not going anywhere.  Most times, we’re looking to leave cold, wet weather and find some warm sunshine, but this was the opposite. But that’s the beauty of travelling in a campervan - we can change our plans at the drop of a (very sweaty!) hat.

So this meant a fairly long run of three hours to our current destination. It was a hot journey, but we’d resorted to using the cab aircon to keep us cool.  We stopped at one of the outside laundrettes at a Le Clerc supermarket in Nimes, but it was broken (as were most of the roads for getting in and out of the city!).  We had another hold up not far from here, when a HGV piled high with hay bales realised it would not make it under a bridge.  It pulled over but had no way of turning back or around.  This coupled with roadworks on another bridge soon brought all traffic to a standstill.  There was nothing to do except switch off the engine and watch everyone getting out of their cars to gesticulate or try to unsuccessfully turnaround.  Anyway, the lorry must have found a way out because half an hour later we were on the move again and arrived at the campsite at about 1730.    Checked in, I sussed out the washing machines and we found a suitable pitch and set up camp.  With the first load in, we enjoyed the much cooler air, watching a thunder and lightning storm roll over the hills towards us, which led to some rain later in the night.

This morning I was up early to get the second load of washing in, ready for Cathy to collect and hang out later, before heading out for a bike ride.  The roads around here are excellent for cyclists, with long sweeping hills and some good hairpins.  I was soon puffing up the first of these, but enjoying the views of the rounded wooded hills and valleys and the wild flower meadows.  I rode through some lovely villages, before realising I’d gone about 17 miles and didn’t really know where I was.  The day had started off a bit misty, with some cloud on the hill tops where I was at around 1,000m above sea level, but this burned off to leave a hot sunny day with a nice breeze.  I really enjoyed pushing up the steep roads and then free-wheeling at speed down the hairpin bends.  By this time I was running a bit low on water and hadn’t found any shops to buy a cold drink, and if I had they’d have been shut for a few hours for lunch!  So Google Maps was employed to provide directions back to the campsite.  Mrs Google Maps, however, decided I wasn’t on a road bike and sent me on a short cut across the hills on what started as tarmac, then turned into the sort of white, dusty tracks seen in the Italian Strade Bianche professional races in Tuscany!  This turned into sharp lumps of cinder, so I had no choice but to dismount and walk across about 200m of this, carrying my bike on my shoulder, cycle-cross style, before rejoining a tarmac lane.  An hour later and I was back at the van, where my Soigneur sorted me out with a can of fanta and some food!

I was ready for a swim, so we walked the two minutes down to the lake edge, set up our stuff on the small, sandy beach and enjoyed a refreshing dip in this very large lake.  By now the thunder and lightning was building, and later a few spots of rain.  So back to the van, a long, hot shower in the campsite facilities then an omelette, patisserie and a cup of tea, I’m refreshed - and have probably put back in all the calories I expended on my bike!  A bit of research as to where to head for tomorrow and it looks like directly West, looking to mooch around the The Lot region for a bit.

Nice shady pitch

Up above a village I road through

You want me to cycle up there Mrs Google Maps!?

Nice lake beach

Thunder and lightning starting to build

Thursday 6 June 2013

Cathy's wild about swimming

Thursday 6 June 2013

We're still parked in the Aire at Vallon Pont d'Arc.  I popped into town this morning to buy our baguettes and the weekly market was on, so I also bought some oranges, apricots and a kilo of local cherries.  Today we planned to achieve Cathy's dream of wild swimming in a river.  We have a great book called Wild Swimming in France, which has hundreds of locations to choose from, including lat/long, parking area and directions to walk to them.

Today was easy as I had already recced the route yesterday when out on my bike.  We packed our bags and picnic and headed off down the road that follows the Gorge.  It's a 3 mile walk along a fairly busy road  and two tunnels through the rocks.  Along the river there are loads of campsites, snack bars and canoe or kayak hire companies.  We eventually reached the sign for the Plage de Pont d'Arc and dropped down to the water's edge, very close to the arch.  It was early so only one other person was there, the water was flat calm, the sky clear blue and it was very quiet - bliss!  We unpacked and went for a paddle - it felt chilly, but no worse than a warm day in the Solent.  So we eventually braved a full dip.  There was quite a current flowing right to left but close in it was quite safe.  We spent some time swimming, sunbathing, reading and watching the kayaks work their way down the river.

After lunch we decided to move to the beach on the other side of the arch.  This was busier, but there was still plenty of room and loads of soft sand and shade under the trees.  We had a snooze which was lovely.  I'm feeling the effects of hay fever at the moment so just had a chill out, but Cathy went for another swim and sat at the water's edge soaking up the view.  It's always been her dream to enjoy more wild swimming and so today was a special day for her.

We started the hot walk back and, on reaching the Aire, she went off to open up the van, sort out and shower and I headed into town.  I wanted to buy a Jeton token to top up water tomorrow but the tourist office was already shut (it was gone 6pm).  I bought a few things for tonight then decided I'd earned a beer, so sat in the square with a small but very refreshing Kronenbourg for 15 minutes of 'me' time.  Back at the van all was sorted, washing done and hanging to dry in the hot sunshine.  After a shower I prepared dinner then we sat out with a Pastis and chatted about the day.  I BBQ'd the Toulouse sausages, which we had with an onion & tomato salad.  As always, we were the only ones sat out in the warm evening air - everyone else was in their van watching TV - what's WRONG with them!  We're now all washed up, cleared away and ready to sleep after a hot but very relaxing day.

We're ready to move on now after a relaxing day with no driving. Tomorrow will be a shorter transit as we startbto head west. We hope to get  in some more wild swimming before deciding where to stay. It may be another day or two before we have wifi access to update the blog, but we're in no hurry.  We're well into holiday mode now.

Random thought of the day.  There were quite a few dogs around the gorge.  I noticed (as you do) that all the male dogs were 'intact', unlike most British male dogs that are done at an early stage.  I wondered if this is a French thing? Maybe the average French man thinks this is too much, even for a dog!

Wild Swimming at last!

Quiet reflection
Burning, I mean BBQing the Merguez

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Back to the 80s

Wednesday 5 June 2013

We're parked in a large Aire in the town of Vallon Pont d'Arc, at the northern end of the Ardeche Gorge and only 3 miles from the famous Pont d'Arc, a 54m high arch spanning the gorge that the river itself has cut through the limestone.

We left the campsite after an early breakfast, having dropped and refilled liquids.  We didn't really enjoy the campsite life, it was too regimented and it felt like everyone was watching us, especially the weird caravan dwelllers!  Why do they all shout at each other across the site, instead of walking to each other to converse normally?  It's made us realise that we are more Aire and wild camping people, campsites being used once a week for longer showers, washing clothes and recharging electrical items.

It was another long drive today, but we plan to stay here for 2 nights, then keep our daily transits down to about 2 hours, as we slowly head clockwise.  If the middle of France is a clock face, then we're currently at about 5 o'clock.  The temperature gradually climbed as we headed south and peaked at about 83'F when we arrived at Vallon. On the journey we crossed a few mountain ranges, mainly on very long, hair-pin roads, with fabulous views.  We also saw a few mountains still capped with snow.

I was able to pay for this Aire with my credit card - €6 - which saved a trip into town to find somewhere to buy the Jeton tokens.  This made life a little easier.  I even used my card to pay for a German couple in exchange for Euros - see, I can get along with other nationalities!  On arrival we had a brew and then I decided to go for a bike ride, mainly to see how far it is to the Arch, but also to suss out the town, as we've decided to act like real holiday makers tonight and eat out.  Cycling in the hot sunshine was bliss and I was soon flying down the road that runs alongside the Gorge.  It's very touristy with loads of campsites, grockle shops & fast food joints, but the view more than makes up for this.  I carried on for about a mile past the Arch then turned and headed back into town.  Vallon is a lovely town with some old squares with bars and restaurants. We'll certainly find somewhere good to eat tonight.  After a couple of circuits of the one way system, I acted like a local and went down a one way street to get back to the Aire.  Cathy was reading, sat in the shade behind the motorhome.  I drank some water, had another brew, sorted out my bike and kit and then relaxed in the sun before getting ready to eat out.

It's been great getting back to the 80s - in degrees Fahrenheit!  Tomorrow we plan to walk to the beaches by the Arch and spend the day there, relaxing, perhaps swimming if the water's not too icy and maybe having a canoe trip.  When we left the Aire for dinner at 8pm the sun was still high and the temperature in the 80s. We walked up the hill and had a walk around the shops, looking for something for the Tacky Shack.  We came across a great, hippie, boho bar, lots of plants and fairy lights - Cathy loved it! See the photos below.  We decided to eat at a buzzy restaurant down a side street.  I had a starter of smoked salmon and foie gras - I'm sure if I had any sense of taste or smell it would have been wonderful. Cathy ordered Caillette Ardechoise, which was a local speciality of pork and herbs faggot.  I had a rare steak.  Both came with an aubergine salad and 'La Truffade' a local speciality of sliced potatoes fried in lard then mixed with some local gruyere-type cheese - sounds horrible but was delicious.  We accompanied this with a local Cabernet Merlot red.  Whilst eating this, Cathy was shat on from a bird at a great height - we should have bought a lotto ticket there and then!  We finished with Isle Flottante for C and a coffee for me.  Full and tired after a long day, we walked down in the warm evening air back to the motorhome.  It's very quiet and dark on the Aire; I think we'll sleep well tonight .  This is the life!

Pont d'Arc - Ardeche
Vallon Pont d'Arc Aire

Cathy's type of bar!