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

Monday 26 September 2022

Autumn arrives in Honfleur

Monday 26 September 2022

Nido's parked up on the very large aire in the fishing port of Honfleur.  There's probably over 100 motorhomes here.  It costs €12 for 24 hours which includes electricity.  It wasn't that busy when we arrived, so were able to grab a pitch in the front row with a view of the marina.  It was raining hard on the way here and when we arrived, but it brightened up into the afternoon although now, as the light starts to fade, the clouds still look threatening with the chance of more rain.  We can't complain; apart from this, we've only had a couple of days rain in five weeks away.

After leaving Écouché yesterday morning, we broke our journey with a stop at a basic aire by a road in Saint Julien le Faucon, which had a free service point, so we were able to fill and empty the tanks again.  This service point had one of the water fittings that, as soon as you attach a male connector, it starts gushing water at a huge rate of knots. I've been caught out by this on an aire in a previous trip, when my trousers and shoes took a right soaking!  On that occasion I stopped off at a Leroy Merlin (French equivalent of B&Q) to buy a double-male fitting with an on/off switch.  This meant next time I could plug into one of these weird fittings with the connector in the off position and not get soaked.  So this came in handy for this trip and we stayed dry!  This aire, although by the side of busy road, did have one redeeming feature - another pizza machine!  

Moving on, I had a small aire plugged in at Merville-Franceville plage which was right by a large sandy beach.  However, it being Sunday and as we were a bit late in the day, it was rammed, so instead I found a place a few minutes away at Sallenelles.  There were only two spaces available and one was already taken, so we bagged the other and had lunch looking out at the estuary.  The sun was shining and it felt warm so we all went for a walk around the estuary, which was now showing muddy sides as the tide receded.  We saw plenty of birdlife and listened to the curlews.  Although the aire was fairly quiet, it wasn't really a decent night stop, so we back-tracked about 17km and pulled into the aire in Beuvron-en-Auge, another 'beautiful village' of France.  We almost stayed here before in 2014, lunching in the lovely Creperie in the village square before moving on as we couldn't buy a token to pay for the aire.  This time a man came around later to collect the money.

We left Salty in the van and had a short walk around the old part of the village, buying a 'chicken roti', turning and cooking outside the boulangerie.  With this Cathy made a delicious Sunday chicken dinner, with boiled new potatoes, carrots, green beans and gravy - something we've been craving!  Salty had a good pile of chicken too and was soon fast asleep on the bed with a belly larger than it was about half an hour before!  Well fed and watered, I took him for a walk as the sun was setting.

The wind outside increased during the night and by morning we had the first spots of rain which became torrential as we drove towards Honfleur.  This is the first proper rain we've seen in months.  We stopped off at Deauville so I could do some shopping at the Le Clerc supermarket and Cathy could get online to do her Welsh language course homework.

Once settled at Honfleur, we took Salty for a walk along the quieter end of the harbour before dropping him off back at the van and wandering into the town, which is only about 10 minutes walk from the aire.  It hadn't changed all that much since our last visit (why would it - most of the buildings are hundreds of years old!), but it was certainly busier, with many more cars driving around and loads more people.  The vast majority of them were off a cruise ship berthed nearby (maybe Le Havre?) and almost all were English or Scottish.  After weeks of being the only UK van in most of the aires and campsites, it was very strange to be able to clearly understand what was being said; I had to be careful what I was saying too!  We mooched in and out of the tat shops just for something to do and looked at the menus of the various restaurants as we had hoped to have some moules-frites.  But the prices were much higher than some places we'd seen elsewhere and the crowds kind of put us off.  So we returned to the van to relax and people watch as the motorhome owners walked past the front of our van on the way into and back from town.  Our licence plate had the old GB and EU stars on the left-hand side and we've replaced with the the Welsh flag and the words 'CYMRU'.  All through France this has really confused people and they've struggled to understand where our van is from.  Honfleur was no different; nearly all the passers-by stopped and stared hard at our licence plate then up at the van, taking no notice of us sat in the cab seats looking right back at them!  

Tomorrow we're going to try and find a beach park-up for the day so Salty can have a well-needed run-out; we could do with a walk too after our massive chicken dinner yesterday!

Top tip - get one of these to avoid wet shoes!



We had lunch in this Creperie in October 2014

Beuvron-en-Auge aire

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

This is what a little dog full of chicken looks like!

View at Honfleur

Still a working fishing port

Sunday 14 July 2019

Berthed alongside the Seine

Friday 12 July 2019
Nido’s parked up at a lovely aire alongside the river Seine at La Mailleraye-sur-Seine.  Each pitch is grassy, facing the river and has plenty of space to spread out.  Our original intention was to head for a wild camping spot on the coast, but the drive in was a bit cloudy and rainy so, when we stopped at Pont l’Eveque for lunch,  some re-planning found this place. There’s about 35 pitches and it’s not too busy, considering it’s the Bastille Day weekend.  

A couple of French old boys were hanging one on last night, talking and laughing loudly until about 0100.  Combined with a late coffee at the restaurant last night, I didn’t get much sleep and was awake early. I wish I’d known who it was as I’d have got my own back this morning!  Still, it’s a rare occurrence and it sounded like they were enjoying themselves - I bet they had a ‘Pen Mawr’ (Welsh for hangover) this morning!

It was about a four hour journey here, broken with a lunch break, and we’ve not done much - just chill out, watch the ships and eat.  It’s still quite warm and the sun returned as we arrived, so we’ve sat outside most of the time.  It was nice to bump into Joanne also staying on the aire, who is @Trundelbus on Twitter and has a very good blog:  It’s always nice to put a face to a name.

A quiet night tonight, then the final run of about another four hours to Cité Europe in Calais tomorrow.

Proudly flying the Anglesey flag

Saint-Jean-le-Thomas - one of our favourite places in Normandy

Thursday 11 July 2019

Nido’s parked up at the aire in Saint-Jean-le-Thomas.  It’s at the bottom of the Cotentin Peninsula, with a huge, shallow bay that completely empties at low tide.  Across the bay is the iconic Mont-Saint-Michel, a place we’ve visited a couple of times.  We’ve stayed on this aire before and it’s one of our favourites.

We made a fast passage to here this morning, a journey of about 3.5 hours.  We’d made the decision to head home early, for no other reason than we’ve seen all the places we wanted to and have a bunch of things we want to do at home.  We live on the beautiful island of Anglesey - Ynys Môn - in a house we love within a quiet village, with lovely neighbours.  We have the garden to tend to and plan the next stage  of its development and it’s summer, so there’s plenty of sea swimming right on our doorstep.  We’re looking forward to getting back with the ‘Silver Slashers’ working in a team of volunteers each Friday to improve and maintain the footpaths and coastal path on the island.  Cathy is also involved with the local botany group, hunting out and recording rare plants.  I’m also become much more involved with the Anglesey Lowland Search and Rescue team - Môn-SAR - a fulfilling role helping find vulnerable missing people.  My neighbour has also just bought a road bike, so I now have a ‘roadie’ to go out for spins with; we plan to train over the year and complete next year’s Tour de Môn.  So, as much as we love France, we’re looking forward to getting home.  We’ve enjoyed this trip, seen some fabulous places and done some great things, like kayaking through the Verdon Gorge and wildcamping on the summit of Col du Lautaret at 2058m, surrounded by sheep and their guard dogs.  But it’s being back at the coast that we love the most - we’re ‘Coasties’!  So I think future trips will be spur of the moment bookings, particularly if the summer at home’s not great, and then it’ll be to more explore Normandy, Brittany, the Vendée and the Charente Maritime regions more.

Despite a cooler forecast, today was hot again and it was in the low 30s when we arrived here.  A quick set up and we were again heading down to the beach.  The tide was almost in so we had a quick swim.  The sea was very warm (it’s a shallow bay) but a bit ‘muddy’ and with large rocks so difficult to find our feet.  We had a bit of a wallow in the shallow water then helped each other out like a pair of oldies (as we probably now are!).  Back at the van for a brew and a shower, we again donned our best clothes - jeans, a loose Moroccan top and leather moccasins (ex-RN tropical footwear) for me!  - and walked back to the beach to the Le Jardin des Dunes restaurant, overlooking the bay and with a great view of Mont-Saint-Michel.  We had probably the best moules-frîtes we’ve ever had, simple and friendly service, with a pudding (cheese for me) in a lovely relaxed atmosphere with families around us enjoying their food and the evening.  If you come to this part of Normandy, I’d highly recommend the aire and the restaurant; there’s also an adjacent municipal campsite right on the beach.

Tomorrow we have another long run to a wild camping spot on the beach, before our final run into Calais on Saturday, with our tunnel crossing rebooked for 0720 on Sunday morning. 

Mont Saint Michel across the bay

View from our restaurant table

Friday 10 July 2015

Allez Le Tour!

Friday 10 July 2015

It's been a cracking day - my birthday spent with the lady I love, watching the Tour de France - a perfect day! 

By the time we went to bed last night there were about 30 vans on our patch - a good mix and all friendly.  I woke up this morning and went out to ditch the gash before anyone woke up.  I also tried to nick one of the Tour arrows for the Tacky Shack, but it was tied on with wire!  I had coffee and half a baguette sat outside while Cathy showered and changed, watching the Tour preps and not quite believing I had slept and was 'living' not 10 ft from the route!  It was a great atmosphere as time went on and more people arrived.  A bit later on a guy called Mark came over and asked if we were on holiday.  We got chatting and he'd lived in France for 14 years but was originally from Leigh Park near Havant and had lived in Gosport - small world!  He'd met and married a French lady and had two daughters who spoke mainly French now.  His French was good and we chatted about immersing yourself in the language.  He was particularly useful when some  completely mad French woman tried to grab everyone's stuff thrown out by the caravan, giving her a good telling off! 

After the caravan it was over two hours before the riders came through - a small breakaway a few minutes ahead of the peloton - fast and furious then been and gone!  For the couple of minutes they they cycled through I didn't spot any famous riders.  We said our goodbyes to Mark - nice guy - then had some lunch before packing up.  I said 'Au Revoir' to our French neighbours and gave the boys my TDF magazine - hopefully it'll improve their English!  Packed up and ready to move, I dialled in our next stop - an aire right on the coast at Veulettes-sur-Mer.  It was about a 3 hour drive, but the satnav didn't factor in the ferry crossing over the Seine at Bac de Quillebeuf.  We'd been here before, travelling in the other direction and panicking that the satnav was playing up!  But this time we knew what to expect.  

We arrived at about 1830, paid up, had a quick visit to the very stony beach, then washed and changed for dinner.  We walked past a little shack doing basic brochette, frîtes and beer - how I wish we had stayed there!  We stopped at a bistro next to the beach which was pretty full with locals -usually a good sign. We had a beer and ordered our food - calamares, then steak for C and Moules frîtes for me.  The calamari was clearly frozen and the tartare sauce tasteless - we told them so and waited for our mains.  Cathy's 'medium rare' steak was burnt to a crisp and like old shoe leather.  My Moules were full of sand.  The worst meal ever in France.  We complained and I only paid just over half of the bill - just shows how they rip off the tourists in Northern France.  We walked back to the van and enjoyed the last of the light before retiring to the warm, cozy interior of the van.

So ends another Birthday.  A lovely day spent with Cathy watching the Tour.  Hopefully in three years time we'll be planning our first long trip in retirement - still, three years is a long time ....... watch this space.

Morning coffee next to the Tour route - perfect!

The excitement builds

Large skies at the beach by the aire

Before our rubbish meal arrived!

Sunday 28 June 2015

Warm Sea at Hauteville!

Sunday 28 June 2015

We made it to Skipper's Bar at Hauteville-sur-Mer and are parked up in a free aire only 200m from the sea. We didn't even know this aire existed, in fact when we last came here about 14 years ago, it was just a normal car park.  It took us a while to get here though, as I tapped the wrong coordinates into the satnav!

We were ready for our beds last night and both slept like logs.  I woke at about 0815, after about 11 hours in bed and a quiet night - no cars, sirens or loud voices.  After breakfast and a brew, we emptied the grey water and loo before heading off.  It was at this point I sent us in the wrong direction and didn't realise it until two hours into our journey.  So instead of getting to Skippers at 1230, it was now estimating 1630 :-( Given that we stopped off at a Super U to buy some food and drove down the road a while before pulling over for lunch.  Something to eat and a brew fortified us for the longer journey.  After a while my eyes were suffering so Cathy took over driving for a couple of hours.  I finished off the drive to Hauteville.

Surprised at the free aire, we pulled into a pitch and wasted no time walking down to the beach for a paddle.  By now it was nearly 1800 and most people were heading home.  Now barefoot, we walked across the sand to the water's edge - the sea was WARM!  It felt very warm in fact, so much so we turned back to get our swimmers on, grab towels and seats and return.  Back at the beach we were straight into the sea - absolute bliss!   A dip eased the stresses, strains and heat of our long drive and after a sunbathe we returned to the van for a brew, shower and change of clothes.  Now we were ready to eat.

Skipper's Bar is run by a French Moroccan man and his French wife. It sits just back from the beach and is a basic snack-bar, but specialises in the Bouchot Moules, the small, sweet, early season mussels that grow just a short distance away.  We first visited here about 14 years ago, when we were on holiday in a gîte in Hudemesnil, just down the road towards Granville.  Mr T and Nicola were with us. That time the family had just taken over the bar and they had young children, now clearly grown up and helping to serve customers.  We always said we'd like to return and I found its website last week.  The Bouchot were as good as we remembered them, perhaps better, accompanied by frîtes and a carafe of chilled rosé.  A young local fisherman pulled up opposite, having towed his fishing boat off the beach with his tractor.  He was a colourful character and stopping off at Skippers for a few drinks before heading home was clearly part of his daily routine - it's just a shame we couldn't understand his raucous banter!  With no room for pudding and tired after our long drive, swim and food, we walked along the promenade for a short while before heading back through the quiet, leafy streets to the van for a hot drink and bed.

Our ultimate destination is still 6.5 hours drive from here, so we'll probably stop somewhere half-way to cut down the driving and increase chill out time.  I think we'll sleep well again tonight.

Our favourite Moules shack in Normandy....

.....and this is why.

Friday 14 June 2013

Final day - "Final Fling"

Friday 14 June 2013

We're parked in an Aire in Calais, next to the ferry port. We need to be here to be up early tomorrow morning to drop fluids and catch the 0720 tunnel to Folkestone arriving at 0655 BST.
We enjoyed the peace and quiet of last night's Aire and had a lazy morning (for us).  The cold water yodel alarm (Cathy shrieking in the shower!) alerted me to a problem - no hot water.  I checked and changed the fuse but that didn't make any difference.  I also checked we still had gas.  We were also quite low on water so I thought perhaps this was a safety feature to prevent the heating element burning out.  But after topping up with water we still had no hot.  Oh well, at least Cathy had her (cold) shower and hair wash.  It's a submariner's dhoby for me until we get home. We had an omelette for breakfast with some of our emergency baguette stored in the freezer, plus a brew.  After a bit of a tidy up we sat outside in the sunshine, mainly to let Cathy's hair dry so she could take advantage of the electricity to burn her hair straight.  Electric disconnected and everything secured, we moved over to the service point to drop waste and top up with fresh water.  There was no thread on the tap so we had our first try at topping up with the collapsible water container and funnel.  It worked fine albeit it a little slow - Cathy managed it well on her own though - I would have soaked my t-shirt and shorts in the process.

We punched in the coordinates for an Aire by the sea and headed off through the countryside.  "That Woman" seemed to be behaving herself today, although some of the roads were a little on the narrow side - I was particularly unnerved when a large HGV overtook me at speed on a narrow, winding country road - as if my driving confidence isn't shot through already :-(

We arrived at Le Crotoy at about 1230 - lunchtime.  The Aire was already busy.  It says it can take up to 50 vans, but I think there were far more than that there, although it doesn't seem too crowded.  We're parked on a sandy but hard surface with a view over the estuary from the port windows.  We took a walk along the harbour wall and stopped off at a restaurant for a lovely seafood lunch, watching the market stall holders pack up from their morning's trading.  We walked back to the van to sit and chill in the sun before heading off for our final couple of hours driving in France, heading for Calais.

We've just had a text from Chris saying he's passed the final test of his Army basic training - a full week out on exercise putting into practice all he's learned in the past 13 weeks - known as Exercise "Final Fling". This is marvellous news and of course we're hugely proud of him. But, more importantly, we're pleased for him.  He's had to overcome some major obstacles to get to this point, some would say from the very bottom of the gutter. That he's achieved this is testament to the grit, determination, courage and bloody self-mindedness that we always knew he had, but he hadn't yet tapped into.  Only one in 30 potential recruits make it to this point, so it's a massive achievement. We'll be very proud to attend his passing out parade at Pirbright next Friday, before he moves on to the next phase of training with his chosen regiment - the 9th/12th Lancers.  I think this Dad, perhaps like others, will have some grit in his eye next week, making them a bit runny!

Leaving Le Crotoy we drove the 2 hours to the Aire in Calais, including our one and only section of toll motorway - for about 5 miles at the princely sum of €1.60 - what's the point? This Aire is a little like those wild places you see in The Waterworld film, or perhaps The Land That Time Forgot! All nationalities, but mostly Brits, and mostly looking like they've been sat outside the front of their van drinking all day.  Or perhaps they've been parked here for a fortnight, slowly turning brown on the outside and pickled on the inside!  This Aire is a definite cul-de-sac, yet at least 10 French cars a minute drive down, gawp at everyone, turn around and drive off. We sat out for a while outside then went for a walk along the sandy beach.  We had a meal inside the van and are now clearing up, ready for our trip back to the Grim North in the morning. See you on the other side......

Aire by the beach in Le Crotoy

A busy Aire right next to the Calais ferry terminal

Last evening of sun

Thursday 13 June 2013

On the road to Marrakesh - via Giverny

Thursday 13 June 2013

We're parked in an Aire outside the town of Forges Les Eaux. It's a small site on concrete for 24 vans, next to a campsite and overlooking open fields with wooded hills in the distance. It's pleasant enough at €7.30 per night including unmetered electricity.  It's about a 15 minute walk from the town.  There are a few British vans here so I wonder if it's a site for those just arrived by ferry from Dieppe or Le Havre, or a last stop for those about to return home.

I was up early this morning and out to grab our lunchtime baguette.  I even beat the Boulangerie, so went for a wander until they opened at 0730.  Breakfasted, secured and emptied, we headed off for our next stop - Monet's House & Gardens in Giverny.  It started to rain on the way and, by the time we parked up at the Gardens, it was raining "chats et chiens".  So we had a leisurely lunch and a chill out and headed out to explore about an hour later, once the rain had eased off.

The house where Claude Monet lived from 1883 until his death in 1926 remains much as he left it - complete with the famous lily pond - 20km south of Les Andelys near the north bank of the Seine.  We paid our entrance fee under the withering stare of thebhumourless staff and first took a look at the art exhibition.  Sadly, none of Monet's original paintings are on display and the viewing of those available we're spoilt by hoards of rug-rats, sat cross-legged on the floor in front of all the paintings, yawning and fidgeting as their teacher tried to force some culture into their minds. So we left there and headed for the house & gardens.

Having again braved the staff (do they all go to "be miserable" customer care school?), we made our way to the water garden and the famous water lilies and bridges.  Despite the rain and the crowds, the gardens were beautiful.  Some plants had already gone over, some were yet to bloom, but some where in their full, colourful, scented glory.  We walked around gazing at the views and taking loads of (iPhone) photos.  We then moved on to the herbaceous borders in front of the house.  These were truly stunning with myriad mixed colours, forms, shapes and sizes.  This is Cathy's perfect planting form and we both loved it. The tour guides and their followers were a bit of a pain, blocking the pathways, but we played the old gits' game and grumpily pushed our way through!

Monet's house was a bit of a disappointment - Cathy said it smelled of wee - I'm grateful again for my complete lack of smell at the moment! The house itself is a long, two-storey structure, painted pastel pink with green shutters.  A few of the rooms, including his bedroom and bathroom have been recently renovated and all are crammed floor to ceiling with Monet's collection of Japanese prints - it just didn't look right. Most of the original furnishings are gone, but you get a sense of how they might have been with the dining room walls and fittings painted a bright yellow.  The huge kitchen range was a sight to see and Cathy even got one over the house guides by breaking the "NO PHOTOS INSIDE THE HOUSE" rule, taking one from his bedroom balcony window overlooking the garden.  Monet's huge studio, built in 1915, where he painted the last and largest of his many depictions of water lilies, now serves as the book & gift shop.  We bought a calendar to hang for next year.

Returning to the van, we set off for tonight's stop - a journey of about 1.5 hours. When we arrived the sun was shining, so hooked up to the electricity, we walked into town to get some dinner.  Forges Les Eaux is well worth missing! A few of the local dropouts were slouched in the main square. We had a walk around and found little of interest, although we did find a Moroccan restaurant - result.  We walked up to a bar near the town square for an aperitif, then back for some spicy food.  The restaurant was immaculate, although empty when we arrived. We ordered starters, which never arrived (and we were not charged for either!), for main Cathy ordered lamb tagine with tomatoes and raisins, I had couscous with a vegetable sauce and a mix of beef kebab, lamb, chicken & merguez sausage.  We had this with a surprisingly good Moroccan red wine.  Cathy finished with an orange salad and I had a coffee - a very enjoyable and filling meal. We walked back to the Aire for a cup of tea.  Cathy's now reading in bed and I've researched places to head to for lunch tomorrow before finding an Aire very close to Le Shuttle in Calais for our final night in France. Time for sleep now.

The Water Lily Pond
The famous bridge

HUGE poppies

View from Monet's bedroom

The House Tradesman entrance

View from the van in the Aire

A spacious Aire

Emptying tanks

Lovely Moroccan food - shame I couldn't taste it