Showing posts with label burgundy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label burgundy. Show all posts

Sunday 27 August 2023

BONJOUR Vietnam!

Nido's parked up at a very quiet free aire with views into the distance over fields and hills.  Cows are gathered around the oak trees, ready to settle down for the night.  The most birds we've seen anywhere so far on this trip (hunting season clearly hasn't started here yet) are making a noisy fuss as they settle down to roost in the trees. We're in the small village of Noyant d'Allier in the north of the Auvergne-Rhone Alps department.  We've eaten some delicious Vietnamese 'street' food for supper in this surreal little village... but more about that later.  It's very peaceful and it should be another dark, quiet night.

After a very quiet and relaxing sleep at Cravant, we woke yesterday to a still morning.  A couple of fishermen in their cars had joined us on the patch of grass by the canal.  As I walked Salty I wished them 'bon chance'. They took a look at out our licence plate with the Welsh flag and Cymru sign and I told them we were from Pays de Galle.  "Ah - Rugby" one of them said and gave me the thumbs up - that broke the ice!  I hope they had a great day's fishing - one of my favourite hobbies and something I don't do enough of.  

On our drive south we came across a lovely spot with a river on our right and high limestone cliffs rising above the deciduous forest on our left, so I pulled into the car park.  We were in the tiny hamlet of Merry-sur-Yonne.  Rock climbers were already a good way up the cliff face and some were already on the top.  I could see a zipwire running from one cliff summit to the next; I guess they use this to transit across to the next climb or abseil.  We walked along the river for about 2km, turning round at a lock.  Locks in France always seem to have a cottage by it and most are manned by lock keepers, normally only there during the day.


Our next stop was at the aire at Étang de Baye, a large freshwater lake for sailing, fishing and swimming.  We only planned to stop here to eat, but on our post-lunch walk we saw a number of vans parked on a large grass area right on the lake's edge.  On this occasion Park4Night came good, as the reviews on the app showed this was a well used and tolerated wild camping spot.  So rather than move on we returned to the van and, after making use of the free service point, drove to a lovely park-up right next to the lake.  It meant we had the whole afternoon to enjoy the peace and quiet.  Cathy listened to an audio book, sat outside enjoying the sunshine in a fairly brisk breeze.  I had a soft surface (the grass) to lie down under then van and replace the makeshift grey water pipe fix with a permanent solution of a new metal bracket, which has done the job.  This is the fourth thing I've fixed on the van in just over a week.  First the issues with the toilet SOG and flush. Then the water pump kept ticking over even with all the taps closed.  This entailed removing a cover on the front of the pump and adjusting a screw until the tick over stopped.  I'd read this could reduce the water pressure in the taps, but I've not noticed any difference; in fact the water's no longer spluttering from the tap.

Cathy cooked a delicious vegetarian meal while I researched places to visit, walk, cycle and stay in the Auvergne region.  I'd printed off a few circular walks at home and brought my Tour de France stages guide for this year, so I can plan to ride some small sections of some of the Auvergne stages.  The vegetarian diet is going really well.  Neither of us has missed meat in the slightest and we've enjoyed thinking up innovative meat-free meals.  We're feeling better for it and the shopping bill is much less as meat, chicken and charcuterie is so expensive in France - so more money for wine and patisserie!  We'll return to meat at some point, but only in small quantities and less frequently.  And as we'll be eating less we'll buy better quality; we have an excellent butcher in our local town at home.

By 9pm, the sun had set, the wind had dropped and the lake was shimmering in the last of the light.  The silence was almost ear-ringing.  I sat with the door open, listening to the birdlife on the lake.

This morning we carried on south, heading for the town of Moulins, in the northern region of the Auvergne.  Moulins hosted the finish of Stage 11 of this year's Tour de France on 12 July.  There was evidence of this from the many banners still flying from lamp posts and across streets, sadly all them too high for me to grab a souvenir! I'd originally planned for us to spend the night here on the aire, an old municipal campsite next to the river and about a 15 minute walk from the old town.  But it turned out to be be quite a busy and built up place and not really what we like.  So after a quick stop to fill up on food and diesel, we carried on to this stop.

Even stood tippy-toes on Nido's roof, I still couldn't grab one of these!

Noyant d'Allier used to be home to many of the coal miners of the area.  But as this industry waned and finally stopped in 1943 the miners moved away and, like many villages in rural France, it slowly declined over time.  However, this all changed in 1954.  With the fall of Bien Dien Phu in the Indochina war which led to the eventual creation of North Vietnam, over 3,000 Vietnamese refugees moved into the village, to the point that 75% of the village were from Vietnam.  They soon integrated though and after some years the villagers raised enough money to build a pagoda, including statues and both a 7m high gold buddha and a reclining buddha.  This village is a lovely mix of both cultures.

As we walked around, we saw the old terraced homes that used to be occupied by the miners now being turned into fabulous homes and gardens, growing Vietnamese vegetables and herbs.  Many are still in need or renovation but there's evidence much of this is taking place. As I wandered around the pagoda gardens (no dogs allowed), Cathy took Salty for a wander and came across the garden of a lady who also makes homemade Vietnamese food with 24 hours' notice.  She told the lady (in French) she had a lovely garden and they shared a brief moment of gardening harmony and smiles.

Outside one of the restaurants. Cathy would like one..only me pedalling and her sitting!

On the way back we stopped at a small Vietnamese food restaurant with outdoor terrance seating that also has a mobile van selling cooked but chilled savoury snacks.  I bought a few and warmed them up in the Ridge Monkey; they were delicious with a cold beer, sat outside the van looking over the fields and hills in the distance.  This surreal but very peaceful and welcoming village shows just what can be achieved if refugees are given a chance.

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...

Monday 3 June 2013

Catching up with an old friend in Burgundy

Monday 3 June 2013

We survived our first night on an aire and slept until 0700 - late for us.  The bin men arrived at about 0500 to empty the wheelie bins and made plenty of noise, but we drifted off again.  I went out at about 0730 for our breakfast croissants and lunchtime baguette.  The aire didn't say where to buy the Jeton, so I asked at the Tabac.  He directed me to the small supermarket on the corner next to the aire (called The Casino!).  I used this to plug into electricity to charge up the iPad and also to provide water for topping up our tank, soaking myself and the can next door in the process!  After breakfast and with all tanks refilled and emptied, we patiently waited for the commune gang to place flower troughs on the windowsills above us with a cherry picker.  After a friendly wave we pulled off and headed into Epernay to fuel up, before plugging in the satnav coordinates for our next stop - Vandanesse en Auxois, about 40 minutes south east of Dijon, where we planned to meet up with Jacqui & Andy.

Soon after leaving Epernay we were deep into champagne country - lots of family owned companies - most of which appeared to be Father & Daughter(s).  We passed a very strange building, with half a car embedded half way up the building wall, a deep sea fishing trawler and an executive jet on a stick!  The country roads were lovely and quiet and when they become even more 'tumbleweed-like' we realised all the locals had headed home for lunch. So we pulled over on the side of the road, next to a sunny hillside of vines, for our usual lunch of baguette, pâté, rillette and salad, with a brew of course!

Heading off again we topped the hill to look down on Lac de Panthier, a large freshwater lake with an ACSI campsite if we couldn't anywhere in the village to park.  Audenesse village spans the Canal de Bourgogne and, luckily for us the 'port' (a boat berthing area next to the bridge and lock) had a large parking area in which 3 motorhomes were already resting - it appears to be an unofficial aire.  We parked up between two to 'bags' our pitch.  We had a slight list to starboard but decided we could live with that.  We walked the 100m to the bridge, crossed the road and met with Jacqui at her Salon de The.  It was lovely to have a fresh brew sat in their tea room garden. Another English couple came along and sat with us.  They keep a boat on the canal (more like the sort of floating gin palace you see on the sea!) and were several weeks into their trip.  They last visited the tea room 4 years ago, but remembered the lovely, homemade cakes.  This they enjoyed with a pichet of cold rose - I could hear the cogs turning in Cathy's head - cake & wine, a winning combination!  We arranged with Jacqui to head back to their house - which is what used to be the village store and next to the tea room- at about 1900 and want for a stroll along the canal.  Heading back we crossed the bridge and a car pulled up alongside - it was Andy just back from work in Dijon. A quick chat and wave and we headed back to the motorhome for a sit in the sun and to get ready for tonight.  One of the vans had left so we moved into their vacant and level space.

Andy and I were in the Royal Navy together, both Writers who were later promoted to officer.  Although we never served together, our paths crossed a few times. On the last occasion he and his family had just returned from a tour in Naples, they had already moved to France and Andy was seeing out his final few months working in the Fleet HQ in Portsmouth, where I also worked.  He came over for dinner one evening and we swapped addresses, never thinking we'd meet.  When I realised we'd be heading close to their house I got in touch and we were kindly invited to stay for dinner.  I asked if they wanted anything from Blighty and the only thing was crunchy peanut butter!  I'd also bought a bottle of champagne so took that along too, the 3 minute walk from motorhome to house didn't warm it too much!

You see some funny sights!
Our lunch stop view
Our first spot - before moving across the car park
Jacqui & Andy's home - the old village shop
Our first ever time wild camping