Monday 19 September 2016

The Twenty-Eighth Week

Monday 12-9-16

This week takes us into our seventh month away and we're happily wandering around France. As it's now September our ACSI camping discount card now gives us discounted fees at campings again. We also have French motorhome aires and Camping municipals to choose from, so we're spoilt for choice. Today we followed the Loire valley all the way to the sea. And a sunrise over the Loire was what greeted us when we got up on Monday morning.

This is the first coast we've hit since leaving Greece so we both got a bit excited. We looked at a couple of Aires but they were in towns and busy, we wanted sea views seeing as we'd made it to the coast. At Piriac Sur Mer we found them on an aire that charged 7 euro a night.

We wandered on the beach and then when we went to bed we listened to the waves, like we'd done in Greece, what seemed like a long time ago.

Aire at Piriac Sur Mer, France. N47.39680 W002.51245

Tuesday 13-9-16 and Wednesday 14-9-16

The idea now was to wander around the coast of Brittany. So in true Van Brian fashion today we headed inland. The coast had been busy and I really couldn't be bothered to traipse around aires looking for a place to stop. We also needed reliable internet to upload last weeks blog that was already two days late. We found a 14 euro a night camping with a heated swimming pool and free internet at Pont Scorff.

The weather took a turn for the worse and it started to rain. I got the blog sorted and we decided to have another night there. We had beer, wine and meat, the basics for survival so we wouldn't perish. I cooked kebabs in the rain that evening.

The next day was miserable too so we had a lazy day in the van, not even a game of boule due to the weather.

ACSI Camping Ty Nenez, France. N47.82084 W003.40550

Thursday 15-9-16

Feeling a little stir crazy after two days in the same place we plotted our route north with a list of four aires to look at for our stop tonight. We never got further than the first one. It was in a town with campsite like hedges separating the pitches and picnic tables for each bay. And it was free.

The town was nice, stone houses and shops and a huge fancy church in the middle. The Roman Catholics built a few of these big fancy churches in Brittany in an effort to tempt the Brittany Catholics away from their type of god which wasn't as good as the Roman Catholic one. I didn't take a photo of the church but I took a photo of the nice Bar Tabac next to it.

I'd seen a few Pizzerias in towns we'd driven through today and was gutted to find this place didn't have one. It had a creperie restaurant which always confuse me. How can you base a business on selling pancakes? Seems such a niche market to me, a little market stall maybe but a whole restaurant? But then just as we were getting the salad out for dinner a pizza van turned up in the car park opposite us. There were cheers from the Van Brian crew. I think I captured the excitement in this terrible quality photo out of the windscreen.

Note also the tent pitched on the aire, another first for us.

Aire at St Thegonnec, France. N48.52244 W003.94572

Friday 16-9-16

Today we'd arranged to stay at the house of some friends who live in Brittany. On the way we stopped for lunch, finding a park with a picnic area. It also had a replica British phone box that they used as a lending library, a similar scheme with a phone box is ran in our village. They also had fitness equipment which Liz tried but soon got bored of.

We found our friends house and abandoned the van for comfy settees, a power shower and red wine.

That evening they took us to a restaurant by a lake where I had more red wine, moules and frites and a very large brandy.

Back at their house the red wine thing continued till we'd seen off all we had in the van and all they had in the house. At some point we went to bed.

Friends House, Laniscat, France.

Saturday 17-9-16

I woke up on Saturday afternoon. My friend called me a few names for the state of his head and we sat drinking tea. We consulted the big map and big book of aires and chose one not that far away and late afternoon we left them and by teatime we were there. A nice aire at Prestin Les Greves with a sea view. But even better was what we found parked there. Another van the same make and model as Van Brian.

We've had ours for nearly four years and Bert and Kathy from Rotterdam had had theirs for ten years. Nether of us had ever seen another one on the road till today. They made room for us in front of them and we had a good nose about in each others vans. He'd had exactly the same three mechanical faults as we'd had on this trip, wheel bearing, turbo hose and leaking radiator.

And then it was an early night after dinner, no wine was required today to help me sleep.

Aire at Prestin Les Greves, France. N48.68137 W003.63486

Sunday 18-9-16

We swapped emails with our new Dutch friends and then pottered around the Rose Granite coast. Being Sunday most of the supermarkets were shut but we did find a Netto open, and I'm glad we did. They were doing a buy one case of Burgundy get one free offer. Which worked out at one pound forty a bottle. One small town had two aires at it, the first we looked at had been taken over by gypsies but the second which was just above a beach was just the ticket.  And free as well.

A French lady told us the beach was good for cockleing so we grabbed our bucket and went off in search of some lunch.

We got enough for a pan full but, as we later found out, they should be left overnight in seawater to spit out all the sand they'd ate. My lunch was a gritty affair.

In the evening we watched some strange sand machines driving back to the coast. I presume they're some sort of shellfish collecting trucks but there was nobody to ask.  And luckily the Netto Burgundy was lovely.

Aire at Lermot Plage, France. N48.53147 W002.66379

And so that's our penultimate blog post for this trip, the next one will be uploaded when we get home.
Below are the numbers so far for 194 days away.

Cheers, the Van Brian Crew.

Wednesday 14 September 2016

The Twenty-Seventh Week

Saturday 3-9-16 and Sunday 4-9-16

So we were camping on an allotment close to the town of Jockgrim who were having their two yearly beer and wine festival.

Last nights festivities had took their toll and we slept till mid morning. The town has a lake with a beach and we met some of our friends there and laid about chatting in the sun. After a power nap in the afternoon we donned our very orange festival tee shirts and met up with everyone. We found them in one of the courtyard bars and commandeered a table.

After drinking and eating there, we moved on to the town square and mingled with the locals, but it was hard to loose our mob due to their orangeness.

We made it back to the van in the early hours of Sunday morning in a very happy mood. Sunday was painful though and we took it easy until I got the bbq out and made a pizza using some ready made pastry and a pile of toppings for lunch. My mate and his wife were also stopping on the allotment with us in his van and they came over with a bottle of German champagne and we shared our pizza. Then it was back to the festival for the last time and then a very good Italian meal with everyone. After the meal we had one last drink at the last bar still open. We sang a song for the barman and he served us beer and wine but wouldn't take any money in payment. What a nice man.

On an allotment near Jockgrim, Germany.

Monday 5-8-16

We said our goodbyes to everyone and then mid afternoon wandered off back to France. This was going to be a quiet day of rest and recuperation. At a town called Blamont we found a camping municipal, bagged a pitch near the lake and started to recuperate. There was us and one French caravan stopping on the site.

I fried up some sausages for dinner and that was about as exciting as things got. An early night was called for.

Camping Municipal at Blamont, France. N48.58821 E006.85075

Tuesday 6-9-16

Refreshed and starting to feel human again I was up early. Which was a good thing or I'd of missed a lovely sunrise over the lake next to our van.

We were slowly heading west now, with a plan to hit the Atlantic coast and then follow it north. So the big map was consulted and a place found a couple of hours drive away. We decided to use French aires on the drive west and today's was a good one. The town had allocated an area next to the canal as a motorhome overnight parking area.

The town itself wasn't that interesting, we walked around it and the only thing that caught my eye to take a photo of was this chap and his lad on the back of his bike.

The aire filled up that night and we slept well as it was quiet even though we were in the middle of the town.

Aire at Ligny en Barrois, France. N48.68779 E005.31945

Wednesday 7-9-16 and Thursday 8-9-16

So another day and another aire was picked out of our big book of aires. This one was a surprise when we got there. In a very pretty old town they'd given over an grassy area to us motorhomers.

It was one of the best we'd stopped on and as they allowed you to stop three nights we decided to have a couple of days here. We found a great looking bar but typically for France it was closed with no sign to say when it would open.

There was a footpath at the side of the river running through the town and we wandered down it. There was also a boule area on the aire. I played Liz for a while and a French guy wandered across and asked if we'd like a game with him. Two hours later we'd played 20 games and he'd beat us, but not by much so I didn't feel too bad. We did find an open bar and had a beer with a group of French skinheads. Doc Martin boots and neck tattoos seemed a bit out of place in the town, when they wandered off with their beer the barman shouted them back and they sheepishly gave him the bottles back. I think they were good boys really.

Aire at Chaourcy, France. N48.05998 E004.13933

Friday 9-9-16

My favourite shorts had finally given up after six months hammer and they'd started to fall apart. So on the way to tonight's stop I spotted a Decathalon and dived in. I successfully found a new pair of favourite shorts and a rather natty little bag for my boule balls. The camping we found that day was yet another virtually empty municipal. No body was in the reception but a sign said they'd come around in the evening and take payment for the pitches.

I found some hooks in my bag of useful tat and made a home for our boules. Note my posh new boule bag.

Camping Municipal at Coullons, France. N47.62341 E002.48618

Saturday 10-9-16

Nobody ever came for the money but at six the next morning I heard someone walk by. When we got up later there was a note on the table under our awning that just said “11.20 euro pour le emplacement” When we left we wrapped the money in the note and pinned it to the door of the still closed reception. I hope they got it. Our laundry bag was full and I was sick of shifting it out of the bathroom in order to use the crapper so we looked in our ACSI camping book and found a site with washing machines. Being September the ACSI off peak discount scheme was back. The site we picked was in a town with a big river running through it. The site had been flooded by the river when France had the heavy rain in June. It still showed signs of the flood but the washing machines had survived. We filled our pitch with drying laundry.

We shopped in the town and while walking back heard the sound of car horns. It was Saturday and a wedding had taken place in the town. The tradition in France is to have a procession of honking cars between the church and the Mayors office where the couple have to sign the wedding papers. We found the bride and grooms car in the parking next to the campsite.

ACSI Camping at Montbazon, France. N47.29048 W000.71582

Sunday 11-9-16

We were following the river Loire now, all the way to the sea. The Loire valley is famous for it's chateaux. And we found an awfully pretty one on our drive today.

And then I got a treat. At the awfully pretty camping municipal at La Fresne a group of French car nuts had had a weekend camping with their old cars and old camping kit. They were sat together having lunch and we asked if we could take some photos. No problem but don't put them on Facebook was their reply. So I presume it's ok to put them on my blog. I was most impressed with the micro caravan with a boat on top, but to be honest they all looked great.

Camping Municipal at La Fresne, France.  N47.39900 W0.93373 

47.399, -0.93373And that's another week done, only two left before our crossing back to the UK. So we're making the most of France for a bit longer.

Below are the numbers so far for 187 days away.

Cheers, the Van Brian Crew.

Thursday 8 September 2016

The Twenty-Sixth Week

Saturday 27-8-16

So we were having our second day at Goncourt on their very nice municipal camping inside the medieval walls. The walls can be walked, so that's what we did. But we waited until two o'clock when the sun was at it's hottest and we were sure to be hot and sweaty. Even with the heat it was nice to walk the whole way around the town on top of a wall.

We had a wander around the town too and bought stuff for dinner, a big meaty salad.

After dinner we had a bit of spectator sport watching a German pitching his caravan on the road around the site. Seems he didn't fancy a proper flat, grassy pitch. This was his final effort at leveling it before giving up.

We got the big map out and plotted our route for the next five days. A loop of French camping municipals that would end up near the German border and our next weekends beer festival destination.

Camping Municipal Goncourt, France. N47.86052 E005.32883

Sunday 28-8-16

Our next municipal was at Saint Marie Sur Ouche, to get to it the road narrowed over two bridges, one over the river and then one over the canal.

The site was small and quiet, our kind of place. The reception was closed but a sign said to find a pitch and pay later. This we did.

A lady came around at six and collected the money for the pitch, 16 euro. She said the town didn't have a bakery for bread in the morning but there was a great machine that dispensed bread on our way out. I dragged the charcoal and bbq out and burnt some pork and cooked some tomatoes in foil for dinner.

Camping Municipal at Saint Marie Sur Ouche, France. N47.28455 E004.79631

Monday 29-8-16

I had to find this bread machine, which we did in a car park. It did exactly what it promised and dispensed us a baguette after putting money in it. Problem was it was artisan bakers bread. This means oddly shaped and with a crust like a wood rasp.  I'm not a fan of artisans.

Something else we needed today was LPG. After a few laps around a few French petrol stations we eventually found one flogging gas. It was self service which I prefer as the attendants give up too quick and we never get a completely full tank. By waiting after the pump slows down I can normally get a couple more liters in. So far in the trip we've used 95 liters over 180 days.

At a big town called Gray we found the camping and made ourselves at home again.

Camping Municipal at Gray, France. N47.45219 E005.60168

Tuesday 30-8-16

And the week carried on much the same, drive for a few hours in nice scenery, a wander around a supermarket and then find the next camping on our list. Not that interesting but very relaxing after our previous months adventures. France is so easy to tour in a motorhome. Today's camping was again a small quiet one with a lady who collected the money in the evening, this one being just 11 euro.

Camping Municipal at St Maurice Sur Moselle, France. N47.87766 E006.77944

Wednesday 31-8-16

On the drive today we passed through Colmar. On one of its traffic islands we came across a 12m high replica of the Statue of Liberty. Latter with a bit of Googling I found out sculptor Auguste Batholdi, who was born in Colmar had created the original one.

Our plan was to stop at the camping municipal at Obernai, another medieval city. There was a closed barrier and the reception was shut when we got there. But the barrier wasn't a problem as I just followed a car through who had the code. We pitched and then when the reception opened we went to pay. The lady was unhappy and non too friendly, asking us to move to a gravel part of the site where motorhomes had to be parked. I didn't want to, so we asked her to lift the barrier and left. In the middle of the town was a free motorhome aire. It was just a gravel car park but not much different to where the snotty cow at the camping wanted us to pay 20 euros to pitch. We found ourselves a space.

The town was right on our doorstep so we had a good walk around. I forgot my camera so early the next morning I got up and went to take some snaps. The market stall holders were setting up everywhere so instead of pictures of nice old buildings with no tourists I got them in all my pics.

Aire at Obernai, France. N48.45972 E007.48607

Thursday 1-9-16

We wanted to be as close to Germany as possible today. The most easterly town in France is right on the border and that's where we found our last camping municipal of the week. From the outside it looked French.

But once in we felt like we were back in Germany, all the other people camping there were German and the signs were all in German. It was also the most expensive nights camping we'd had in 180 days at 22 euro a night.

It was next to a big lake with a beach so Liz topped her tan up there in the afternoon. They were setting a stage and some huge speakers up on the beach for a party at the weekend.

Camping Municipal at Lauterbourg, France. N48.97047 E008.16430

Friday 2-9-16

As we packed up the van in the morning they started sound checks at the beach, my coffee cup rattled on the table in the van. I felt a bit sorry for the campers stopping here over the weekend, it was going to be noisy. But we were off to a noisy event ourselves. Every two years my friends town in Germany has a beer and wine festival. This would be the fifth time I'd been to it and we were meeting my friend and 16 others there. He'd sorted us out a pitch on an allotment ten minutes walk out of the town. It was ideal as the town had no camp site or stellplatz for motorhomes. We found it down a gravel track and tucked the van under some trees for shade.

We walked into the town in the afternoon and met up with everyone. The idea was to have a few beers then go back to the van and then meet up again that night. That didn't happen, we just stayed out drinking. First in the bars....

Then up at the festival....

Friday night was supposed to be the quiet night at the festival with Saturday being the busy night. It wasn't that quiet for us. At 2am in the morning we wandered back to the van, it took over an hour rather than 10 minutes to find it in the dark with blurry eyes and wobbly legs.

An allotment near Jockgrim, Germany.

Below are the numbers so far for 179 days away.

Cheers, the Van Brian Crew.