Showing posts with label normandy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label normandy. Show all posts

Saturday 30 September 2023

Clères, Songeons, Le Crotoy and back to Ardres

Sunday 30 September 2023

Nido's parked up back at Ardres, which was our first night stop of this trip back on 20 August.  We've eaten, our passports and documents are at the ready and the alarm's set for 0430 tomorrow morning, ready for our Shuttle train back to Folkestone and the long drive home to Anglesey.

We left our pitch by the river Seine, popping up to use the service point in nearby Yvetot, as the one at Mailleraye-sur-Seine was out of order.  Then it was on to the free aire in Clères, north of Rouen.  It's mainly double pitches, separated by high beech hedges, but there was plenty of room, so we had one all to ourselves.  A quick check of my mapping app showed some GR trails nearby, so we enjoyed a walk through a forest, alongside arable fields on the high ground and back along quiet country lanes, nosying at the houses and choosing which one we'd live in!


Thursday morning Cathy had her online Welsh lesson, so Salty and I had a walk around the adjacent park before going into the town centre.  He wasn't very impressed when I had to tie him outside the boulangerie so I could go in and buy a baguette and some patisserie! Our next stop was the vets in Buchy to get Salty checked out and for him to take his worming tablet and have this recorded in his EU (Irish) passport.  For anyone needing a veterinary practice on the way back to the UK, I can recommend them.  You can book an appointment online well in advance, they speak English (although I continued with my very bad French!) and they allow you to give your pet your own tablets (sourced from your UK vet) to keep the price down.

Not happy being tied up outside the boulangerie!

We continued on to the free aire in Songeons.  This is a fairly new and well kept aire, with generous, level, gravel pitches. Once parked up we took the 25 minute walk, along the edge of a forest up to the ancient village of Gerberoy, with its cobbled lanes, old cob houses with colourful timberwork dating to the 17th century and ramparts surrounding the village.  Out of season it was quiet and only a few people were walking around.  Listed in the 'plus beaux villages de France' it has an old world charm, which although quaint and beautiful, felt a little like the 'set in aspic' equivalent of the Cotswold villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter or Bourton-on-the-water; it must get very busy in the summer season. Back at the van I popped into the village to buy a jeton for the service point before cooking some daal, then a quiet night, listening to the stream flowing past the aire.

Songeons aire

One of the gated entrances to Gerberoy village

Friday morning after breakfast, showers and servicing the van, we drove the 65km to our penultimate stopover at Le Crotoy, on the coast.  It's really just a gravel and sand parking area behind some low sand dunes, leading to a shallow flat bay with a narrow beach, with mud flats when the tide recedes for miles.  We had a walk along as the tide went out, watching the kite surfers and letting Salty have some zoomie time, albeit on a long lead.  The rest of the day was spent sheltering from the sea breeze behind the van, then sat inside for supper and an early night.

Le Crotoy

This morning it was bright and sunny and still warm.  I've been in shorts ever since we left home on 19 August, only wearing long trousers for the one night we went out for moules frites. I have jeans ready for the morning though, as it's about 10'C cooler back in the UK.  Our task for today - on the way to Ardres - was to shop for some foodie items to take home, plus a few gifts for our friend and neighbour who have kindly kept an eye on our house and garden.  I also did the last diesel fill up of this trip, so we're now ready for the long journey home.  On arrival in Ardres we had walk along some of the lakes close to the park up and back along the canal. Cathy and Salty returned to the van and I carried on in to the village to buy a baguette to make a sandwich for tomorrow, plus some patisserie (of course!).  On the way back I stopped off at the village Brasserie to use up my last few Euros and put some more money back into the local community - that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!  After sitting in the warm afternoon sunshine, supper was a quiche lorraine from the boulangerie and some salad.  That's us now ready for an early off in the morning. 


Just doing my bit for the local economy

This will teach me to bid unseen on eBay...just working out how to strap it to the top of the van!

It's been another great trip.  When I look back at these posts, I've already forgotten many of the places we'd visited.  It's the main reason I write this blog; my brain is like a sieve these days!  We've had some great weather with very little rain and explored some lovely places.  Many baguettes have been consumed and plenty of patisserie too!  So it's back home tomorrow after six weeks away.  We're both ready to return to pick up our lives and get back into the home routine.  Cathy has a lot of gardening to catch up with and I have lots in the pipeline with Môn Search and Rescue, including studying for a First Responder Emergency Care medics course in November.  We'll have the usual job of emptying the van, cleaning it inside and out and preparing it for semi-hibernation  We don't tend to travel much in the winter, maybe the odd day out, although if there's a decent weather window, there's nothing stopping us throwing a few things in the van and finding somewhere close to home to spend a night away, combining it with a refreshing winter walk.  Next year's trips are to be confirmed.  It won't be France though; we're taking a break from touring here.  It's our 40th wedding anniversary in November and a present to each other is to do a DNA test to trace our ancestry, then use the results and further research to plan future trips.  So who knows where we'll end up next year.  But it should hopefully make for some exciting and interesting travels, with a purpose and aim of returning to some of our family roots.

Until then, stay safe.

Tuesday 26 September 2023

By the Seine

Tuesday 26 September 2023

Nido's parked up overlooking the river Seine, with seagoing ships occasionally passing and creating a wake and waves that Salty can't see so doesn't like!  We've stayed on this aire in the village of Mailleraye-sur-Seine before, in July 2019.  It's been a hot day and it's still warm and humid this evening, although the mosquitoes drove us inside once the sun had set.  Our original plan was to stay at a different aire, but more of that later. 

We left Saint Rémy and drove to our next stop, in the small village of Courtonne la Meurdrac.  We bagged the last of four hedge-lined pitches, although later on three vans arrived and parked along the fence line opposite, which was fine as there was still plenty of room to reverse out.  Apart from the nearby church and a bar/shop on the opposite side of the road, there's not much else in the village.  But there are some beautiful Norman houses and outbuildings and we enjoyed having a good nosy as we took a walk along quiet lanes with a 'mohican' of grass in the middle of the tarmac.

Pooped after a good walk and lots of sniffing!

Our original stopover for tonight was to be in a motorhome parking area (not really an aire) on the edge of Le Bec Hellouin, a village of ancient houses and a huge abbey - Abbaye Notre-Dame du Bec.  

The Abbaye Notre-Dame du Bec was founded around 1034 by a man called Hellouin, or Herluin, who had previously served as a knight under the Norman Count of Brionne before converting to the monastic life. The abbey quickly rose to become a major Christian centre thanks to two exceptionally powerful religious men. Lanfranc of Pavia, encouraging a great building programme, and Anselm of Aosta, fostering Christian thought, would make this little corner of Normandy famous, spreading the deep spirituality developed at Le Bec much further afield, notably across the Channel to England. These two abbots, having first served at this spot beside the gentle Risle River, would both in fact go on to serve as Archbishops of Canterbury, no less. Back at Le Bec-Hellouin, the abbey’s monks encouraged the growth of the adjoining village, to have workers based close by.

All here turned towards the abbey, living according to its ups and downs, from moments of great joy to times of despair. During the second half of the Hundred Years War, 1417 proved a particularly dark year; the abbot of the time, fearing a devastating attack by marauding English troops, employed a scorched-earth policy that caused the village’s destruction but did not stop the English enemy taking control of the abbey. At the Revolution, the monastic buildings were turned into a cavalry barracks. Monks only returned in 1948, followed, the next year, by some nuns, who had a separate convent built. Le Bec-Hellouin stands out not just for its religious heritage but also for its lovely setting, its peaceful, well-flowered streets and its half-timbered houses.

We parked up and had some lunch, before walking into the village.  The abbey is only open to the public on certain days and I think it's only with a guide.  There are still monks living in the monastery buildings and nuns in a separate convent; all contained behind high fences and gates with electronic locks.  It was free to walk around the abbey gardens and a small covered cloister with pews was open too, but we didn't feel comfortable going in there.  It's a lovely village, easy and peaceful to walk around, but it did feel a little like a film set.  We're out of season so it wasn't busy and it felt a little uncomfortable walking around; we felt we were being watched all the time.  I'm sure we weren't but with the monks and nuns locked away, occasionally glimpsed through the fencing and the strange feeling we had about the place, we both decided we didn't want to stay overnight in the car park.

So we ended up here, next to the river Seine.  Ships and seagoing barges pass now and again, which makes for interest.  The village is also nice to walk around; it has a much more welcoming feel than Le Bec Hellouin.  Unfortunately the motorhome service point is out of action, so I've had to do a bit of replanning to find somewhere tomorrow to service the van; looks like we're popping into Yvetot first thing.  We sat outside in the sunshine, although today I'm feeling tired so had a nap on the bed with Salty. I think the constant travelling and having to find somewhere to stay each night (even though this is really easy in France) is taking its toll.  I've no idea how those who full-time in their vans - especially those who only wild camp - do it day after day - it's exhausting!  As we approach the last few days of this trip I'm starting to look forward to returning home.

Sunday 24 September 2023

In the Suisse Normande

Sunday 24 September 2023

Nido's parked up at a free aire with eight other vans in Saint Rémy, in the Suisse Normande area, which is in the middle section of Normandy.  It's an area we've not visited before.  The Suisse Normande starts about 25km south of Caen, along the gorge of the River Orne, between Thury-Harcourt and Putanges.  Whilst there aren't any 'swiss' mountains, the region is quite distinctive with cliffs, crags and wooded hills. It's a bit like Devon mixed with Yorkshire.

We left Plestin les Grèves on Friday morning after a peaceful night.  This was the first morning it's felt a little chilly first thing; since then it's only been about 10'C in the van in the morning, so the heating's been on for a while each day just to take the chill off.  Our destination was the Camping Car Park site in Hirel, right on the huge estuary overlooking the Cotentin Peninsula, with a view of Mont St Michel in the distance.  We stayed here last year.  With the recent rain it wasn't so full, so we were able to pick a pitch on the grass that was well drained, unlike some of the others.  The afternoon was spent walking on the vast beach - avoiding the mud flats with the tide way out - and watching the sand yachts zoom along the hard surface in a very strong breeze.  The sun was shining though and with the combination of this and the wind, we returned to the van with colour in our cheeks.  The evening was spent catching up on YouTube.

Yesterday was another fairly long push east to get into this area.  We stopped off at a Le Clerc supermarket in the town of Flers to fill up with food and diesel.  Driving into the town, it was evident it had been part of the recent riots in France, as there were lots of burnt areas of road around some of the suburbs.  Topped up we rolled into the small village of Pont d'Ouilly.  The aire was about 500m out of the town right next to the River Orne.  Each pitch is separated by high hedges and, as we sat outside with a late lunch, we had a good view of the slow moving river, with a fisherman trying his luck from the next-door van, plus many people kayaking down the slowly moving river.  It was a warm, sunny autumn day but once the sun disappeared it was a bit too cool so we moved inside.  There's a Sunday market in the village, so after walking Salty and wandered into town, leaving Cathy to have a clear up.  Previous reviews suggested one of the roads into the village was closed off on market day, so I was expecting quite a few stalls.  Disappointingly, there were only three - a fruit and veg stall (where I purchased a few items), a clothes stall and one selling the sort of tat you find at a car boot sale.  We've noticed that many of the markets are now much smaller than we remember, much like at home.  Perhaps it's the same impact of Covid and the cost of living crisis that's impacting so many towns and villages in Europe; such a shame.

Our original plan was to park up at the aire in Clécy, as I had a circular walk planned from there and it's down as one of the 'beau' villages of France.  The aire has five official pitches but when we arrived, there were a couple of vans and the rest of the spaces were taken up by cars due to a football match on the adjacent pitch.  But I had a reserve aire just a few kilometres up the road, here in Saint Rémy.  It's not as quiet due to being close to a road with many (VERY NOISY!) motorbikes driving past, much to Salty's dismay, but it's flat and free.

It's been a very warm and sunny day, made all the better by friends back home on Anglesey telling me about the horrendous winds and rain they currently have!  The aire's right next to one of the Voie Verte cycling and walking paths, an excellent initiative that has utilised the many miles of disused railway track.  This one is 100km, starting in Caen. It's being well used by all ages and it's lovely to see....UK take note, once again you're far behind the curve in encouraging people to be fit and active.  

I found another circular walk of just under four miles, that took us through ancient deciduous woods and tiny hamlets, although the start point was about 2-3 km from the aire, so we must have walked about 7 miles all told.  But it was good to get out and stretch our legs and have a good nosy at the lovely houses, many with old outbuildings and potager gardens.  Back at the van I made some halloumi burgers with salad and it's now quietened down.  The sun is dropping and the noisy motorbikers have gone home for their for them tomorrow!

Perched on a hill on the walk - Chapelle Saint-Joseph, in Saint-Martin-de-Sallen

Inside of the church. Built in 1871, destroyed by fire in 1890, rebuilt in 1919