Showing posts with label vendée. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vendée. Show all posts

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! 

Friday 2 September 2022

South to the Vendée

Friday 2 September 2022

Our plan after Trégastel was to head further west towards Brest, then follow the Brest to Nantes canal heading east, stopping off at a few canal-side aires along the way so we could explore the adjacent small villages.  We had quite a bit of rain yesterday morning though and looking at the forecast, it was sticking around for a few days.  Brittany is a beautiful area and there's more to see than we could ever cover in this one trip. But the beauty of van life is that we're mobile and can change our plans on a whim. So we decided that instead we'd start to head south a little earlier than planned, as the weather further down the Atlantic coast was looking calmer, sunnier and warmer.

After leaving Pleumeur-Bodou in the rain yesterday, we made our way to a lunch-time stop in Josselin. This is a lovely old town alongside the canal, with a large three-turreted chateau which is part of the old medieval centre.  We parked in the large free aire close to the historic centre for lunch.  By now it was sunny and very warm. We were in no rush so took a walk down the hill to enjoy a stroll along the canal, before walking up through the old medieval part of town, with high walls and wooden-beamed houses.  I stopped off at a grockle shop to buy a couple of Breton egg-cups (probably made in China!).  We used to have a couple in the van but took them out a while ago because we hadn't used them. Guess what we fancied for breakfast!  Cathy improvised a couple out of the old egg-box; they were clearly single use but did the job. At least now we can enjoy some boiled eggs and be reminded of our time in Brittany.

Our park-up last night was another 20km down the road in a small village called Montertelot.  Again shown in the guides as an aire, it's in fact just a very big flat, grass field.  There's no services, but there are plenty of bins in the village.  On arrival it started to rain heavily, despite us trying to outrun it!  So we sat under the awning with a cup of tea as it was still very warm and humid; plenty of thunder but no lighting.  Dinner was some chips cooked in the Ridge Monkey and a couple of small bavette steaks (I think the cut is called flank at home), with some tinned veg.  To walk it off we had a wander around the village before taking a walk half an hour up the canal and back.  The village is small but has a lovely feel, with some very quaint cottages and outbuildings. Despite it's small size, it still had a bar/tabac and a restaurant (closed for all August for the holidays - open again on 5 September!).  There were lots of quirky art sculptures dotted around , mainly made of old pots and pans.  It wasn't difficult to imagine this place during the canal's heyday, with shops and artisans selling their wares to the barges as they passed up and down this very wide canal.  We saw plenty of wildlife including a mink or coypu swimming in the canal and when sat outside for our cup of tea later, a flock of about 12 large birds (possibly cranes or storks) flew overhead.  It was a very quiet, very dark park-up and recommended if you want some peace.

Now ten days into the trip, we're into the vanlife routine.  We're sleeping really well and waking up quite late for us - about 0800.  Then it's dog walk, shower, breakfast, wash up, tidy up and prepare to leave.  The journey to the next place may be broken up by servicing the van, food shopping or filling with diesel.  We've had some lazy starts to the day, not leaving until 1100, so haven't bothered with lunch.  I think we may try to get up and about a bit earlier to make the most of the day, particularly as sunset at the moment isn't until about 2030.

Today's transit was longer than we like, to get us past Nantes and St Nazaire and into the Vendée department. Tonight Nido's in a car park at Pointe des Poloux close the village of Bouin and right next to a very wide estuary, with St Nazaire to the north and Noirmoutier en Ile to the south.  We're separated from the sea by a long dyke which was built to protect the marshes from storm surges.  Behind us are miles of wetlands; it reminds me of the Fen Drains where I grew up. There are several French vans here and I have the feeling they're all friends and perhaps meet up every weekend to dig for poulardes (clams) and cockles when the tide is out, then shoot the breeze with an apero and a meal in the evening.  The temperature here is wonderful; warm but with low humidity and it stays warm enough at night to sit out in shorts and t-shirt.  

The drive here was interesting through miles of low-lying marsh and wetland.  Apparently this area used to be an island but has silted up over time, over which the roads were built.  After dinner we walked along the dyke to the small harbour - Port des Brochets - where the small fishing boats and small, family-run oyster processors are clustered.  There's a small and very cool-looking bar/restaurant called Gratt'huitres on the dockside, which serves the local oysters and mussels to its customers; we haven't had moules frîtes yet!. There are very few houses around this area, so their clientele must come from far and wide.  We watched the sunset from this tiny port before walking back along the road, listening to the curlews flying over the sea and the frogs in the marshy wetlands on the other side.  It's lovely being back in this part of France.

Chateau in Josselin from the canal

Beautiful streets

Josselin aire

Quirky art sculptures made of pots and pans in Montertelot

Park up at Pointe des Poloux

Ou est la mer!?


Oyster processors

Port des Brochets

I want one of these!

Sunset towards Noirmoutier en Ile

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