Showing posts with label loire. Show all posts
Showing posts with label loire. Show all posts

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.

Wednesday 21 September 2022

Fantastic Caves and an empty river

 Tuesday 20 September 2022

Nido's parked up on an aire in Dampierre-sur-Loire.  It used to be a municipal campsite, so there are no pitches, just park where you like, under the trees or in the sunshine.  Its €6 per night including services (no electricity); the servicing point to empty the loo and grey tank and fill up with fresh can be accessed without entering the aire.  It's about a mile east of the town of Saumur.

The last couple of days have been fairly quiet, with short hops to the next park upa.  Sunday was admin day.  Before we left Romagne Cathy emptied out the mats and covers and gave the van a really good clean, while I did the emptying and filling when we moved over to the service point. We found a Super U with a laundrette to do our fortnightly (and last of this trip) laundry session.  What should have taken about an hour took three times as long though! It's great having so many outdoor launderettes in France, many available 24/7.  The downside is they all seem to have their own, unique complex instructions as to how they work!  This wasn't helped by my thinking the 18kg washing machine was a dryer, so we sat there for half an hour waiting for the other washing machine to finish.  Once I'd worked this out I then realised these machines were cash only payment.  So we had to drive off to find an ATM!  Luckily there was one just around the corner so, once the instructions had been translated , we fed our €10 note into the machine, received our change and all was good.  Forty minutes later, the washing was in the dryer and turning.  I'd pressed the button for medium heat, but it took a couple of drying sessions to finally work out there was a particular sequence for selecting the heat, which entailed starting the dryer first, then stopping, then selecting the heat!  But three hours later the washing was all done, folded and put away.  

Sunday night was spent on a free aire at Saint Loup-sur-Thouet. It was a good spot in a long grassy field, but with some road noise, which died off later.  The next morning Cathy and I had a walk around the town and its medieval buildings and narrow lanes, before he moved on.  The plan was to spend the next night in the town of Thouars and explore the medieval walls and centre, but Salty was starting to get a bit freaked out by the noise of the vehicles (he pretends to be tough with other dogs but really is a bit of a softy!), so we opted for a much quieter stop in the countryside at Le Coudray-Macouard, parked up amongst the trees.  We've actually stayed here before - back in October 2014.  

After lunch and a snooze we all went for a walk, along some lanes then into explore the village.  This is another lovely place to wander around, with honey-coloured sandstone buildings, narrow lanes and high walls.  Some of the houses even have caves underneath.  Back at the van we ate and spent a quiet night, waking to a chilly morning but again with clear blue skies and the promise of a warm, sunny day.

This morning we stopped off at a Decathlon store.  We'd never been in but had heard good reports from others using them in Europe.  This was a large store that had pretty much everything you need for outdoor life - clothing, boots, climbing, kayaking and canoeing, cycling.  We've been looking for some outdoor and walking clothing for some time and found everything we needed at a reasonable price - think Go Outdoor prices but much better quality.  Cathy prefer to buy men's tops and jackets as they're longer in the body and have loads of pockets!  A huge Le Clerc hypermarket in Saumur - within a big shopping centre - was next door so I popped in for a couple of things.  It also had a Culturel Centre (technology stuff) and, if we've been at the start of the trip, I'd have bought a REGLO data sim to go in the Mifi - 120 Gb for €15.99.  We're getting by on the SMARTY SIM with 12Gb per month (plus our Tesco phones with 12Gb each) but are having to watch our usage and we have no capacity to catch up on our favourite YouTube channels.  I've had a couple of online meetings with Môn SAR and Cathy has two online Welsh lessons before we go home  We should have enough data, but some additional interweb juice would have made life a bit simpler.

After lunch we took a walk along the cycle path that runs alongside the Loire, heading east towards Saumur.  It was quite shocking to see how low the river is.  On the section by the path it was completely dry and we were able to walk on the riverbed which, in normal times, would have been 6 - 8 feet underwater.  Even the navigable section of the Loire looked very low.  Worrying times in this year of drought and a further indication of climate breakdown.

The rest of the afternoon was spent reading and snoozing, watching the tree creeper birds and a couple of lively horses in the field next to us.   We enjoyed a lazy dinner tonight will be halloumi burgers, sauté potatoes and green beans.  We still have a craving for pizza and/or chips; we're still looking for the next pizza machine!  We'll also be tucking into moules-frites when we get to the Normandy coast in a week or so. 

Our evening walk took us in the opposite direction to this afternoon's along the cycle path running adjacent to the road.  There was a low wall that dropped down about 20 feet, with steps down at regular intervals. It was clear this was once the original quayside with ships tied up alongside and the steps down to lighters to move goods around.  The houses on the opposite side of the road were made mainly of sandstone and some were built into the cliffs and caves.  We took one path up and disappeared into an amazing maze of cave tunnels, with houses tucked away, the path slowly making its way up until we came out on a huge vista of vines as far as we could see.  As the sun started to set, we stood and soaked in the atmosphere. We had no idea these paths and caves were here; sometimes it's good just to follow your nose.

Saint Loup sur Thouet

A long-closed boulangerie

Dampierre sur Loire

There should be about 6 ft of water in there

Even the main Loire channel is well down

Now I know why the people in Le Courdray-Macouard are so happy!

We found these amazing caves on our evening walk from Dampierre

House with a pool and caves!
















Wednesday 12 June 2013

Parks and Gardens

Wednesday 12 June 2013

We're parked in the Aire in the village of Villandry in the Loire region, about 20 kilometres south west of Tours.  The Aire doubles as a car park for the Chateau during the day, although there are 50 flat motorhome pitches, so I expect it will empty out a bit when the Chateau closes.

Cathy said there was a minor earthquake last night - the earth moved for her but I didn't notice a thing, although I did dream about being on the top of a really high building that swayed in the wind, so perhaps I did notice it.  We were awake early this morning and heated up some pizza we bought from the market for breakfast.  I know it sounds a bit weird but it was delicious! After topping up water and dumping fluids we left the lovely Ile d'Oleron - we shall certainly return.  It was already sunny and very warm - typical for us to be on the road on the best days!

We had about a 4 hour trip to our next stop at Villandry.  This time we had both sat navs running and checked one against the other.  The Garmin still kept trying to take us through town centres and off onto minor roads, whereas the iPhone couldn't work out which roundabout exit we should take before we were on it. We stopped off at a roadside Aire at about 1230 for a lunch of chicken sandwiches and a brew. We finally arrived at Villandray at about 1445.

The main reason for stopping here overnight was to visit the Gardens of Villandry Chateau, which is about 2 minutes walk from where we're parked. Built around 1536, it's the last of the great chateaux built along the banks of the Loire during the Renaissance.  Through several owners (bet they didn't have to deal with slow, inefficient solicitors when selling on), the 19th Century marked a turning point: the traditional gardens were destroyed to create an English-style park around the castle - looking at the design it must have been done by a local British council 'parks and gardens' workman on a foreigner. The gardens are designed and laid out in a number of different ways: Ornamental, Woods, Water, Sun, Maze, Herb and Vegetable Gardens.  All of them were a bit formal, not really to our taste, but I think in another couple of weeks when the majority of flowers are blooming, it will look much better. We didn't go in the chateau - big walls, pointy turrets, little windows, moat - you get the picture.

It was very warm and sticky today - mid-70s F - with sunny spells and a few clouds and it feels like thunder storm weather.  We decided to eat in today.  We had some chicken left over from yesterday, plus some chorizo, so we cooked up some pasta with plenty of garlic, onions and tomato - I should have taken a few cuttings from the Herb Garden!  I would have liked to get out on the bike but felt really tired after the long drive, so decided to just chill out on my chair under the trees instead, helped by a small aperitif of the Oleron Grimbergen beer, nicely chilled from the fridge!

After dinner we went for a walk around the village.  It's a very still, warm evening, so we strolled around going up little side streets, listening to the birds, having a quiet sit down and moment of reflection by the war memorial.  We also like noseying in the courtyards, gardens and potagers! We also stopped at the primary school noticeboard to read the school lunch menus posted in advance - those children eat really, really well! See the photos below for their menu.  A couple of the old bars and restaurants were still open with one or two people sat outside in the warm air chatting and enjoying a glass of wine.  We walked down to the river Loire, about 400m from the Aire and watched its wide expanse moving slowly downstream from right to left, but the many mozzies soon had us moving on.  It's 2130 as I write, still warm and light, with the local blackbirds singing to protect their territory.

I suspect we'll be up quite early again tomorrow to get to our next destination in time to make some use of the day. We haven't decided where that will be yet, but Monet's Garden in Giverny is about half way between here and Calais.  It's somewhere we've always wanted to visit, but I'll need to check out the local Aires and the travel time to see if it's achievable.  I'd also like to find somewhere to clean the outside of the van - it's filthy and I don't really want to return it like that.

Thought for the Day:  We have a British-owned van conversion parked one van away, which has got us thinking. Our friends have one with a fixed rear double bed, half garage, wet room, decent galley and seating area.  It's winterised with heating and a good sized fridge - and it's about half the size of the one we've rented.  We'll have to do some research, but it looks promising, particularly as we want to explore the Lakes and Cornwall, difficult in a large coach-built motorhome.

Cooking on a wonky pitch!

Aire at Villandry

Used to be men's and women's entrances - which is which?

That's what you call school dinners