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France 2013

April 14th to 27th.

Well, here we are again, off to France. We are aiming to get as far south on the first day as possible, then onto La Plagne to see my daughter and grand daughters on the second day and stay there for a few days.

We went by DFDS Seaways this time, not too bad at all and quite a lot cheaper than the Tunnel. Unfortunately we had a puncture on the Motorway which cost us a fair bit of time. However many thanks to the RAC for their help. We stopped for the night on a site not far from Langres to calm my shattered nerves and to bask in the lovely sunshine which we hadn't had in th UK for a few weeks.

We arrived in Belle Plagne late afternoon next day and went off to collect the grandchildren from the Creche.


The reason for our trip here and she's only 2 years old.

I was in my 30's before I had a go at this!!

We stayed for 5 days and the weather was superb until the last night when 15cm of snow fell. One could ski in a T-Shirt with just a light top on and the slopes were in fantastic condition. It was great having lunch at 2000mts in brilliant sunshine and just a T-Shirt. On the Saturday morning I had to dig the motorhome out from the carpark and get her up to the main road.

After topping up with some delicious Beaufort cheese in Aime we set off for Annecy.

This is a very pretty city and the old town is especially enjoyable to walk around. We managed to grab the last place in the Aire on the outskirts and then set off to explore.


The view from the Aire towards Annecy. The approach to the old town with it's cafes and bars on the walkways.


The old jail in the middle of the river which flowed at a fair old rate.. There were lots of shops and cafes to explore.


The walkways along the river were packed with shops and cafes, a pleasant place to while away the time.. A very pretty town with lots of bridges and the Alps as a background.

We moved on the following day going via Morteau to buy some of the famous smoked sausage, which is really very tasty, to Besancon but didn't explore the old town there as the whole city seemed full of road works and we were being forever redirected down tiny side roads. Stayed in a campsite in the middle of the town but moved off fairly early the next day.

We arrived in Thann early afternoon and found a spot on an Aire right by the river in the centre. We spent the rest of the day exploring this ancient town but even though it was a Monday most places were shut.

The old Sorcerer's tower with the cathedral behind. Our second medieval town which was fairly busy considering a lot of the shops were closed.


A shot of the cathedral.

The amount of work that went into the carving of the figures is unbelievable, it must have taken years.

The next day we headed off up through the Parc Naturel Regional des Ballons des Vosges in near perfect weather. It was a lovely drive up through the mountains to the summit of the Grand Ballon and then back down through some old villages and onto to Eguisham.


On the way up to the summit we came across this tiny chapel, it was either a private one for the family in the house next door or one for the hill walkers. There was enough room in it for 2-3 people only.    


The summit with it's cafe and great views. The old abbey of on the way to Eguisham.


The town of Eguisham is absolutely beautiful. It's medieval and it is literally unspolit by modern buildings. We wanted to have a look around this area of France after reading about it in www.lifeon4wheels.co.uk blog as they passed through this part of Eastern France. If you are into medieval history the stretch from Thann to Strasbourg has lots of ancient towns. The following photos are just a small selection of the 3 towns we visited.



The first place you come across when coming downhill from the campsite, the town square with a large church. The other side of the square.






Would you believe that the liquid running into the drain is actually red wine!!!!!!!

I think they were flushing out the fermenting stills.

Now this is the way to set up a bottling plant in the sunshine.


It is a truly beautiful town with the campsite " Camping les Trois Chateaux" (highly recommended) only 5 minutes walk into the centre. There must be at least 40 different companies selling the Alsace wines one of which ( Gaec R Dreyer & Fils) is only 1minute from the campsite gates and their wines are absolutely delicious especially the Pinot Gris.



Another pretty medieval town just to the west of Colmar.

A picture of the outer and inner city walls with the portculis still in place. One of the many cafes/restaurants in the town.


Looking up the main street towards the city walls. Lots of the buildings were brightly painted..


Now this is what I call a chocolate shop, Lorraine had to drag me away from it before I spent too much.    



This was probably the largest of the medieval towns we visited with fairly modern buildings on the outskirts. There was a very good Aire a few minutes walk from the town with a toilet block for Euro7 per day. There must have been at least 20 motorhomes there, some with awnings, tables and chairs out, having a party.


Looking up the main street. About to cross one of the many bridges.


View from another of the bridges. The lookout tower on the old castle walls seen in the background.


A view of the inside of the beautiful church.    


This was another town which had plenty of wine shops offering free sampling. Just think, for Euro 7 per day, one could drink as much as one wished for free (or nearly). You would have to buy a few bottles at some point to take home!!


The Aire at Pont de Mousson could take 30+ vans, was next to a marina with all the facilities and cost Euro 8 per night including electricity. The swans coming ashore before the sun set.


She's enjoying that Gin & Tonic!!!!    


We then headed off towards Calais going via Pont a Mousson, Verdun,, Buzancy, a good cross country route, and stopped for the night at a nice campsite by a lake called Homair Campings Villages Lac de Bouison near Le Chesne. Unfortunately the weather wasn't very nice with lots of rain and overcast so we never saw the countryside at it's best.

As we had both picked up some bug we decided to go home a day early.

All in all, this North Eastern section of France is very beautiful and full of history, definitely one to revisit.


June 9th to 22nd

Until a few days before we were due to leave the weather had been lovely here but then it decided to take a turn for the worse. As we had no particular intinery to follow Lorraine decided to follow the sun.

We arrived via the Tunnel early Sunday morning and headed for Brugge. We found an Aire that had all the services in the centre of the town beside a marina. Unfortunately at Euro 22.50 per day it was expensive but the up side was that we were about 500 mt. from the centre so decided to have a walk into town.


It is a beautiful place with a lot of history and one of the best ways to see it is by boat tour. Some happy sightseers enjoying the trip.



In the old days the canals must have been very busy with all the traders plying their wares. Someone with a sense of humour put these manequins in the windows to catch your eye as you went past.


An alternative method of sightseeing which seemed to be very popular This old organ grinder was a real character and would invite you to turn the handle to play the music whilst posing alongside you.


We stayed there for the night then left to check out another Aire 6k from Brugge in Damme. This was a lovely quiet Aire across the road from a canal that led directly into Brugge and about 400mts from a bustling little town with plenty of bars and restaurants in it's centre. There was also the remains of an old church dating from the 12th century.

In the 11th century, due to a very large storm which inundated the coastline, the Zwin became the main waterway to access Damme for boats so they could offload their wares which were then transported by canal to Brugge, the large trading centre. By the 15th century, partially due to the creation of polders around Damme, the Zwin began to silt up therefore strangling Brugge's position as one of the leading and most prosperous cities in Europe.


A view of the Aire which had places for 2-3 motorhomes plus a small carpark but nothing else. Looking back down the canal to Brugge. You can just see the cathedral spire in the distance.


The 12th century church with a four sided head sculpture in front which was different. A great deal of the building had fallen into disrepair but must have been very grand in it's day.


We then moved onto the Ardenne area and stayed for a night in a campsite that I would NOT recommend to anyone near Erezee. Maybe we just hit it at a bad time but I would never risk going there again. When we arrived there was a lovely bar beside the reception but no-one was interested in taking any details from us and just told us to find a pitch at the bottom of the lake which we did. Someone came up and said he would connect the electricity up for us as the box was padlocked and we never saw him again. The lake would have been beautiful but for the dead fish flaoting around the edges and even some up on the bank. We counted between 20 and 30, obviously a big pollution problem. The showers required a special card to make them work, needless to say we were not supplied with one, nor told we needed one. The site was in a beautiful situation but there were a huge amount of mobile homes on it. When I came to pay the following morning he didn't apologise about the electricity and mumbled something about changing the swipe system for the showers later in the month and that it wasn't working at present. No discount was given for the lack of ammenities nor any apology. It was an ACSI recommended site and I just wish an inspector had been there then. ACSI have been informed and photos sent to them.

We were glad to leave that place!!!

We then headed off to do a tour around Durbury, Hamoir, Comblain, Aywaille and Coo. This is indeed a very pretty area with old towns, busy towns and waterfalls etc.


Durbury was given a charter in 1331 and claims to be the world's smallest town. It has cobbled streets that work their way down to a bridge over the river Ourthe. This square was a great meeting place for travellers. A typical cobbled street in Durbury.


The 18th century chateau that overlooks the bridge and river. The Parc des Topiaires is famous for it's surreally sculptured hedges. This was a good butchers where we bought a delicious pate, tasty kebabs and some lovely pork chops.


Belgium's most impressive twin waterfalls with a drop of 15mts. Loud and impressive. Coo is a lovely little hamlet with a very touristic feel and obviously very busy in high season. It has plenty of bars and restaurants.


The beginning of the 2 waterfalls, placid before the bridge and wild afterwards.    


We left Coo and headed for a campsite, Camping Benelux, in La Roche en Ardenne. What a difference!! This was a lovely site within walking distance of the very interesting and pretty village with an exceptionally helpfull girl in reception. Unfortunately we decided to only stay the one night but it is a place we will come back to for a few days. The town is set on a bend in a deep valley on the river Ourthe.

The ruins of the 11th - 12th century chateau overlooks the town.


We started heading SW for the Lot Valley as the weather was better there. We stopped for the night in an Aire in Gurgy, SUPERB! One we would definitely return to. It's situated within walking distance of a little village, right on the banks of the river Yonne just north of Auxerre, idyllic. There we met 3 sets of British motorhomers, some just back from 4 weeks in Croatia, other just chilling out. In the early evening some wine stalls opened for the visitors to sample their wines and hopefully buy them. The whole place had a really relaxed atmosphere. There was a Service point where a token was required (could be bought at a local bar) but the black waste disposal worked without it. One British fisherman caught more than he could eat for supper using his fly rod.


A view of the Aire and it was free. A great place to chill out for a few days.    


We left Gurgy and headed for Entraygues sur Truyere, Camping Val des Saur, one of our favourite places in France. It's a little town nestling on the banks of the Lot and the Truyere rivers where they meet. The campsite is on the opposite bank to the main town but only a 200mt. walk over a small bridge. There is a municipal swimming pool there or if you like you can swim in the river. It has many medieval buildings to see, bars to visit and restaurants to eat in.


A view of the campsite as you approach on the return from the town. The little bridge that joins the site to the town. People fish from here and families picnic on the banks.


The first square you come to which has a butchers, bakers and a small supermarket. One of the medieval streets where some of the door knockers are high up on the door so you don't have to get off your horse to knock on the door.


A view of the lovely old chateau opposite the site and one of the typical local boats that used to ply the trade up and down the river. This is a photo of the Sunday Bric a Brac market but there is a great food market on a Friday.


Another view of the chateau. They all seem to have these upward slanting roof designs on the locally built houses.    


After 4 blissful days in beautiful sunshine relaxing, we started heading North towards Tours where we were going to meet up with some friends from Canada and Scotland. We decided to break the trip by stopping for a night at Camping La Berge Ombragee in Brivezac near Beaulieu sur Dordogne, another one of our favourites. It's nothing special but quiet and restful, on the river bank and with a basic bar and restaurant. The ammenities are good for the price. A good place to canoe/kayak to or from.


A view of the of the little bar and restaurant. there are always canoes on the banks and quite often people swimming or fishing.    


As we left, Lorraine found out that our 12 volt system had stopped working. I tried to fix it quickly but to no avail so we carried on up to an English run site just outsite Poitiers where I could see if I could solve the problem. Boy did it pour with rain on the journey up. We couldn't complain as this was the first deluge we had encountered on our holiday up to this point.

On arrival, after I had plugged into the mains, everything worked. I reckoned that the 25amp fuse between the battery and the distribution box had blown and needed replacing. However, the battery was sited on a chassis member underneath the body just above a huge puddle. I didn't fancy getting soaked so left it for the time being and had a rum and coke instead. There was a huge thunder and lightning storm during the night and the site was pretty water logged in the morning which made for an interesting departure.

As a matter of interest to anyone reading this, there is a massive Super U in Vouille about 6k west of Poitiers. The fresh cheese counter was at least 10mt long as was the fresh fish section which also had live lobsters and crabs etc. Tesco and Sainsburys eat your hearts out!!

We arrived on the campsite Les Acacias, (well run, friendly and a nice place with all the services) about 6k from the centre of Tours mid afternoon and were assigned a pitch right next to another British Autotrail. We hadn't even finished connecting up when Mike and Barbara came over to welcome us, a lovely couple who we spent the following evening with.

We contacted our friends and arranged to meet at the Restaurant aux Dames de la Loire about 100mt from the campsite. We had a really enjoyable evening there with tasty, basic french cooking. One couldn't have asked for more.


Like two identical twins!    


The cathedral in Tours. Apparently the lefthand tower is taller than the right as this was the one used by the clergy and the rich people whereas the righthand tower was used by the populace. Obviously where the famous artist and inventor ate!


The Basilica of St. Martin. This is where Joan of Arc had her armour made.


A phenomenally long, straight road where the new central tram network will soon be running. Either side had a huge selection of shops. This guy kept on going up and down the roadways all day. I've no idea how he got down from the monocycle.


The main square in the old town full of bars and restaurants. A quaint old street full of restaurants.


An alternative means of transport for those that got fed up walking around.. This is just one of the hundreds of medieval buildings.


Two of the beautiful stain glass windows in the cathedral.  


We left Tour on the Friday and travelled North aiming to stop for the night at the campsite in Neufchatel en Bray but became stuck in the traffic in Rouen for 2½ hours due to roadworks and the main bridge being resurfaced, so had to head for Dieppe instead as the campsite was by now fully booked. We found the little campsite in the village of Petit Appeville just to the west of Dieppe, a quiet and peaceful place.


We drove through Le Mans on the way to Rouen not realising that is was the day before the Le Mans 24 Hour Race. It was packed with fast cars and enthusiasts drinking and cheering on their favourites. There were tents and motorhomes dotted everywhere along the road. This beautiful house was in a lovely little village called Hautot which also had an Aire.


We left the campsite by 7am and headed for the Channel Tunnel. We arrived early for our booking but because of an incident in the tunnel everything was delayed. Home early afternoon to begin the emptying and cleaning process of he motorhome.

All in all a very enjoyable holiday especially the 4 days in Entraygues where we really chilled out. Lorraine did a marvellous job tracking the weather and we only really had 1 bad day of rain and 2 overcast days.

Looking forward to September/October.