Showing posts with label france. Show all posts
Showing posts with label france. 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.

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Through the Limousin into the Vendée region

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Nido's parked up in the village of La Pommeraie-sur-Sevre in the Vendee region.  It's a lovely little village that's provided a free aire with free services. There's not much in the village; a hotel (not sure if it's still open, the obligatory huge church and marie's office and a baguette vending machine. The signposts here show how the village children helped put up the aire signs and plant a lovely herb garden.  The feeling of community is strong; it's now nearly 8pm and on the green next to the aire there seems to have been an after-school club going for the past four hours.  The children are aged from about 4 years old up to 10.  They seem to have a great time, with sports, treasure hunt and games to music.  They (and the adults) must be absolutely exhausted!  But it's been lovely to listen to the laughter.  After some earlier rain, it's a bit cloudy now but still plenty warm enough to sit outside in shorts and t-shirts.

Yesterday we left the lakeside where we'd spent the past six nights and hit the road again.  First stop was in Montmorillon, to top up with food at Le Clerc and fill up the van with diesel and LPG.  Although promising cooling temperatures, it was a hot journey and we spent most of it with the cabin air con cooling us down.  Our route took us through Poitiers but thankfully the satnav did its job and popped us out the other end back on to the quieter roads.

Our park up last night was in the town of Nieuil L'Espoir in the Limousin region.  It was another free aire and quite busy when we arrived, but still with plenty of room to park up.  After lunch we took a walk around the lakes, where Salty had a cooling dip, although he might not have been so keen had he seen the coypu swimming in the middle!  We carried on a circular route past some large sunflowers before returning to the van for apero hour, followed later by a cup of tea with some patissierie.  I did a circuit of the town centre with Salty later; nothing was open.  It was stifling hot and humid late into the night and none of us slept well in the heat of the van.  A thunderstorm and rain arrived in the early hours, which cooled things a little, but we were still a bit bleary eyed this morning when I walked Salty, then wandered along to the boulangerie to buy a couple of baguettes.

We arrived at La Pommeraie-sur-Sevre at about 1pm, so had a late lunch before following a well marked 6km circular walk that took us into the village and the surrounding countryside.  We walked past the old mill of l'Audriere, including the old castle, to which someone had innovatively attached a barn.

Salty finally gets a cooling dip in a stream

Having had a good lunch, we only fancied a cup of tea and (yes) some pattiserie for supper.  As I finish this off, the children are running around on the green playing some form of chase game.  The adults seem to have lost control and look absolutely shattered...I'm wondering if I should go over and offer them an apero!