Showing posts with label charente. Show all posts
Showing posts with label charente. Show all posts

Thursday 8 September 2022

River Charente Wild Camp

Thursday 8 September 2022

Since we were last here three years ago, France seems to have become a lot busier. On previous trips I can remember driving around and hardly seeing another vehicle, never mind  people walking about. But now everywhere seems so busy.  I realise we've been staying in mainly tourist areas - so they will be busier - but even allowing for that I've been surprised at the increase.  Having left Ile d'Oléron this morning, we crawled through 13km of traffic to get off the island, an almost constant flow of vehicles going both ways. It was never like this before. The last time we visited St Denis, we walked along the narrow roads mainly undisturbed, but this time car after car passed us.  The bars, shops and restaurants have been really busy too.  Perhaps it's the same everywhere since the Covid Pandemic; people are staying and holidaying closer to home.  Certainly on the campsite, it was almost full, mostly with French motorhomes and the odd Brit and German van (very few Dutch vans have been on the road, which is unusual).

Nido's parked up in the shade of healthy looking ash trees right on the bank of the river Charente, in the pretty village of Dompierre-sur-Charente.  There's a small aire and a campsite a little distance behind us, but we've pulled up in a wild-camping spot, next to the tiny ferry that crosses the river when hailed.  It runs on chains and moved by human power, with the ferryman turning a huge handle, not unlike those you find at canal locks, to move the ferry across the river.  We sat in the sunshine to eat our chicken sandwich lunch before taking a walk along the riverside track.  This river seems to be busting with wildlife and is clearly popular with fishermen; there were several parked up or camping alongside the river.  When I chatted with them, they seem to be after carp; I wished them 'bon chance'.  We're fully topped up with fresh water and the black and grey waste are empty, so we can last 2 or 3 days off-grid.  But there are plenty of aires with free servicing around these parts, so fettling the van will be an easy task.

On the way out we stopped at the Super U in the town of St Pierre on the island. I popped in to top up our victuals.  Another change I've seen in France (apart from price - the same everywhere) is the quality of fruit and vegetables doesn't seem to be as good as it was.  For example, I wanted some red peppers but they were all wrinkled, soft and showing their age.  There were only a couple of sad looking melons.  This isn't a criticism and perhaps I'm remembering all the wonderful produce on past visits through rose-tinted spectacles.  Or perhaps it's because we always used to holiday in France in June or July, when produce was at its best.  I think Covid, the current cost of living crisis and this year's drought are really starting to bite.  We've read in the news that many French farmers are on suicide watch due to a dreadful wheat harvest.  Everywhere there are huge fields of corn, but all is stunted, burnt to a crisp, the cobs hard and shrivelled.  I don't know if there's been a national push to grown corn, perhaps to turn into maize oil to replace the sunflower oil normally imported from Ukraine.  Or perhaps it's for animal feed or even bio-fuels for vehicles, but it's everywhere, from the northern coasts all the way down to this region.  Similarly the sunflower fields are devastated.  I think it's going to be a hard winter and a very difficult food-production year in 2023.

Prices in the supermarkets seem similar to home, although I am buying the same types of food, with the odd weekly treat of Crevettes, plus the more than weekly treat of patisserie!  I shop for food every two or three days and we're averaging about €15 per day, which seems a lot but storage is limited so I can't buy in bulk.  Our grocery cost is also lower than previous trips because I'm not drinking alcohol, although I buy a bottle of wine for Cathy, which lasts her about four days.  Having said that, I've veep enjoying the myriad non-alcoholic beers now on sale.  In France, Grimbergen 00 is my favourite. 

Diesel prices are fluctuating almost daily. When we arrived on Oléron on Monday, we found it at €1.66 per litre; today the cheapest was €1.74.  I use a French app on my phone to track diesel and LPG prices called Gaspal, which was mentioned in a blog post by Jay from Our Tour.  It's pretty good although not always up to speed with the latest price changes.

We're still in the Charente area but slowly making our down towards the Dordogne.  The weather's very pleasant; warm sunshine, some clouds and a cooling breeze. I'm now in the habit of only planning a day ahead, looking at a rough direction of travel and finding two or three possible park-ups about 1 - 2 hours drive from our current stop.  This is being much easier as we move inland, with many of the lovely villages providing small, quiet aires, many with free services.  We need to thank the Marie and community for that and can repay by using the local shops to buy our groceries from now on; I'll certainly try to do that.

One Ferryman Power

One cool Patterdale


Saturday 6 July 2019

The Coasties are back on the beach - and loving it!

Saturday 6 July 2019

Nido’s parked up at an aire in the seaside resort of Saint Vincent-sur-Jard, in the Vendée region. We’ve travelled a long way north since my last post and it’s SO much cooler and more comfortable.  We’ve walked, swam and relaxed more since we arrived late this afternoon than I think we have at any other time during this trip - we belong by the coast!

After leaving Le Malzieu-Ville yesterday, we drove to Vieillevie and stopped at an aire by the river Lot.  It was really still very warm and, despite a quick dip in the river, it wasn’t somewhere to try and cool off, so we decided to move on and keep heading north to escape the heat.  The cab aircon helped as the temperature climbed into the high 30s again.  I’d plugged in a point way up towards Brittany as a point of aim, and when we’d had enough driving, I pulled in and took a look at the Search for Sites and Park4Night apps, to see if any aires were close around us.  I found one in Chirac about 30 minutes away and we eventually parked up in this lovely quiet village, the only ones there.  The aire had a couple of picnic benches outside and some meadow and trees, so plenty of birds and wildlife.  It was still very hot - in the mid-30s at 7pm, so dinner was eaten outside at the picnic table, with a bottle of Languedoc red.  Cathy took a walk around with her camera while I caught up with some Môn SAR emails, sitting outside well into the darkness of the night.

At about 5am the next morning there was a massive storm with almost constant thunder and lightning and heavy rain, but we were safe and dry in the van and both drifted off to sleep again once it moved on.  Once up, we serviced the van and got back on the road.  In the village of Champagne Mouton (what a great name!), we found an excellent artisan boulangerie and I hopped out to buy a breakfast baguette, some bread and a couple of café eclairs - our naughty but nice treat.  There was a lovely little aire in the village so we stopped there for breakfast, before carrying on towards Aulnay, in the Charente region.  Several years ago (probably about 12 or 13 - I can’t remember), we holidayed in Aulnay, in a lovely little one-bedroom gîte with a wonky first floor!  We had a lovely time there so decided to return to the village.  As always, it looked completely different to how we remembered it.  It was stifling hot on the aire - 39’C - so we had a quick cup of tea, keeping the engine running to benefit from the air con, before deciding to punch on north to reach the coast.

This eventually brought us to this aire at Saint Vincent-sur-Jard.  This is very much a seaside holiday town.  The aire has 60 pitches but there were only about 8 vans when we arrived.  I paid the €9.20 fee and we parked up; within ten minutes we were changed, across the road, through the dunes and on the beach!  Although a little cloudy and breezy, the 32’C air temperature felt so comfortable after the stifling heatwave in the south. We so enjoyed that first sea swim in water that, to us, felt quite warm (we swim regularly in the Irish Sea!) but to the locals was decidedly cold.  At least we have a good tan, compared to some on the beach who I guess are on their first outing of the summer.

Back at the van I made some babaganoush and a tomato and garlic sauce to top the sliced bread I bought earlier - a tasty, vegetarian bruschetta meal eaten outside in the warm evening air.  Later we took a long walk along the beach, paddling in the sea and sitting on the sand watching families play, barbecue and enjoy the sunset.  Although a bit breezy, I’m sat outside in the warm air past 10pm, with plenty of light still in the air, listening to the waves crash on the beach.

Our plan over the next few days is to follow the coast slowly up towards Nourmoutier-en-l’Ile and then on into Brittany.  We’re loving being back by the sea.  We’re Coasties - we always have been and we always will be.

Vieillevie aire

Walking down to the River Lot from the aire

All quiet in Chirac

Preparing for dinner on that picnic bench

Breakfast in Champagne-Mouton

On the Beach!

Aire at Saint Vincent-sur-Jard. Beach just over the road