This is my original blog – all my blogs  since I started in 2009 - are here including those from The Ale Archive – all the beers I’ve sampled at home and on our travels since 2012.
 
Since 2012 most of our travel has involved a caravan. I now have a specific caravanning blog called (Get Your) Legs Down which not only documents all our trips but includes product reviews, site listings, storage locations, mobile service engineers and much more. It too is on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, 28 August 2015

France Part 16 – Au Revoir

Saturday was forecast to be the last good day weather-wise, so we decided to make the most of it by doing next to nothing – for most of it anyway. Early evening we took a drive out passing the nearby Abbey down in the village at Jumiéges and winding our way around some lovely country lanes with the Seine occasionally coming in to view. More prosperous than a lot of France we’ve seen judging by the houses. We ended up at Duclair, a little town right on the banks of the Seine and opposite one of the ferry crossing points near to which a River Boat sat awaiting departure. We wanted to do one of the ferries but I was virtually out of cash. We zipped around, eventually finding a cash point, only to discover that the ferry was free. Thank you the French tax-payer.

A short drive along would bring us to another ferry that would take us back on to the right side for our short run back to the site.

Sunday brought with it the expect rain, but also a respite soon after 1pm so we fired up Rosie and headed into Rouen.

This is one of the few places in this trip that we’d actually been to before. Again on a cruise – although not the same one – this one travelling up the Seine to dock right beside the city centre. The cruise up and down the river was truly delightful but we didn’t get to see much of the city other than it’s hospital. You can read about the fun and games we had HERE.

Parking was easy – plenty of street parking and being Sunday it was free. The sun was out, but it was clear it wouldn’t last so we marched straight to the Notre-Dame Cathedral – one of the places on our list to see.  Aug 23 (5)

Impressive and massive, but something rather less imposing Aug 23 (41)attracted our immediate attention – a little road train, offering all the main sites in Rouen in a 45 minute round trip. Perfect. It took in the Palais de Justice, the Gros Horloge (a very large clock), the old Abbey and weaved it’s way through some delightfully ancient streets to the Place Du Vieux Marche where dear old Joan of Arc met a rather hot and agonising end. It was well worth it and as soon as we arrived back we scurried off to see as much as possible before the weather turned. The cathedral was first and was mighty impressive. Sadly I couldn’t get far enough away from the facade for a decent photo but you’ll get an idea.

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Aug 23 (31)The gold leaf plated Gros Horloge was next on the way back to the Vieux Marche. Normally you can get inside an up to see the clock’s workings and some views over the city – yes, even on Sunday. But not today for some reason not offered by the hand written note on the door.

Dominating the Viuex Marche is a rather odd structure – some say it’s meant to represent an upturned boat. It rather impractically acts as a covered food market during the week – except Mondays - but a rather modern church nestles in it’s front.

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Surrounding the Pláce are many of Rouen’s iconic wooden framed buildings now mostly given over to restaurant's and cafés.

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It couldn’t last though and soon the heavens opened and we ducked into the nearest eatery for some sustenance before heading back to car.

The rain looked set for the rest of the afternoon, but, predictably the skies cleared on the way back so we decided to dart in to village of St Martin-de-Boscherville. We called here on our Saturday evening runabout but was glad to come back when the sun was out to get some photos. As you can see it’s very pretty.

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The Abbaye looks equally impressive from a distance back on the road as it does closer up.

Monday morning was predicted to be reasonably dry so first port of call was the Abbaye de Jumiéges down in the village. Easily walkable – but we didn’t – the threat of rain giving a convenient excuse for our laziness.

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Founded in 654 originally although development was disrupted by those pesky Vikings, most of what remains is from the 11th-13th centuries.

The Abbots lodge sits up the hill and gives a commanding view back towards the Abbey. There was some weird wooden stick sculpture in the grounds between, by whom, what and why I have no idea.

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We went for another drive around, dodging the showers and finding ourselves back on the ferry across to Duclair. Another River Boat was tied up there.

Our last couple of days in France were a bit of a jumble. There was the inevitable packing up to do – and to divide up what would be staying in the ‘van once it went back in to storage. But we also wanted to get out and about when the weather allowed. Which wasn’t often.

For our last run out we headed north and back just past the Brotonnne bridge stopping at a pleasant little town called Caudebec-en-Caux for some lens clicking.

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The church provided some opportunities for that – heavy on the gothic with 333 carved figures keeping watch outside, it is – according to the information board – one of the most beautiful churches in Normandy. Quite a statement but I’m not going to argue.

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It had to come I guess – after seven and a half weeks it was time to head home. The journey to Dieppe was easy and despite getting there in good time there was still a sizable queue to check in. Security had a nose around inside the ‘van to ensure there were no extra ‘passengers’ and he even commented how nice it was. WP_20150827_006

With formalities completed it was time to board and Patsy took her rightful place right at the front of the boat.

Our departure from Dieppe was a little soggy as you can see, and a rather drizzly end to a great trip. A glimpse of a traveller encampment by the docks showed that some things don’t change wherever you are.

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The crossing was a little lively at times be we still arrived in Newhaven on time, and we were first off once the doors opened.

So, our first trip abroad with Patsy is over. It was a great experience, though I admit it took a little while to get in the swing of it. Having not been abroad for three years it reminded us why we like travelling so much, seeing different countries and cultures – and France & the French are certainly different to the UK and us. Frustrating at times early on – mainly because of the language barrier, but it became a challenge to be embraced rather than shirked. I’ll definitely go better prepared next time.

It’s an easy country to get around because outside the major cities the roads are empty. As a tourist the one, two or sometimes three hour lunch breaks can be frustrating but you learn to go with the flow. The pace of life – certainly in the largely rural parts we visited – was much more relaxed and you can see why people retire here. Property  being dirt cheap helps as well!

The food we’ve bought – mostly in shops but when we’ve occasionally eaten out, has been superb. Supermarkets are dominated with fresh French produce – the ready meals section is tiny. The wine. Ah yes. You certainly appear to get more for your money – we never spent more than five Euros on a bottle and were rarely disappointed.

A few facts and figures: Whilst in France we covered 2,756 miles, averaging 36.2 m.p.g. although Patsy – weighing in at about a tonne and a half – was only on the back for about 950 miles, when we averaged 28 m.p.g.

We were away for 54 nights – one of them on the ferry over – the 53 nights on the six sites averaged £18/night inclusive of water and electric. Wi-Fi was free on all sites except the last one where it was €15/week.

Right, that’s nearly it, but before you go quite a few videos:

And slide shows:

You’ve got a break now – until the end of October when we heading to the Midlands for the second Twittercamp of the year. So, until then – Get them legs down!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

France Part 15 – I gotta eat you know….

Well, as I type, just a couple more days and we’ll be back home in - hopefully sunny, but probably soggy – Saltdean. And it’s looking like a rather soggy conclusion to our time here too. Lots of showers has meant getting out and about has been rather sporadic. There’s more to come over the next couple of days too. Anyway, we’ll get up to date and see what happens.

Thursday was our last night at Forest View and we had our last evening meal at the restaurant on site. Three evenings a week, homemade pizzas are offered – which we had on the first night and were delicious. On alternate nights there is a ‘plat du jour’ two course special created, prepared and cooked by Sarah and Thursday was one of those nights. Everyone sits together and you get a chance to meet other campers.

Well, quite simply, wow! Sarah is a stunning chef. The main course – Carbonnade á la Flamande – was simply divine, equalled only by the Tiramisu which followed. Fantastic food and great company made for a very enjoyable evening indeed.

With around 100 miles to travel on Friday, there was no rush but we were hitched up and ready to go by the time the bread was delivered. We collected our fix, said our goodbyes to hosts Peter and Sarah and were off.

It was a largely easy journey, on mostly straight roads, at least until we got to the small town of Bourgtheroulde. A narrow high street, clogged with traffic and cars parked on pavements made for an extremely tricky traverse. Later we were to discover a long black mark along Patsy’s offside which we suspect was a rather too close encounter with a wing mirror. Thankfully most of it has come off but you can still see it if you look closely.

It got easier again after that and for a brief while we joined a road that we’d travelled on on the way down over five weeks ago, turning off just after crossing the Brotonne bridge in to one of the Seine’s ‘U’ bends towards our site in Jumiéges. From what we saw it looked an extremely pretty area and one we were looking forward to exploring.Aug 23 (62)

The site wasn’t logged on the sat-nav app but as we turned off from the main road, there were signs directing us. It seemed Camping de la Forét warranted ‘official’ streets signs and that got me thinking. A rare thing I know. The only other site on our travels to benefit from official signage was the second one down in the Vendee – Camping La Grisse. All the others had to put up their own. Why? Well, la Forét and la Grisse are French, all the others are British. Just saying. It COULD be a coincidence….

We’d guestimated we’d arrive at around 12:30pm and weren't too far out pulling up at about 12:45pm I’d checked and there was no arrival time listed so thought we’d be okay, but a sign on the door indicated that reception was closed for an hour for lunch from 12:30pm. Great. There was a bell on the side of the door though, so I pressed it, realising almost immediately after that it was marked ‘for emergency use only’ Oops.

The door was soon answered by a VERY cross looking woman who launched into a rant that it was lunchtime, the office was closed and she had to eat. A glance up and down suggested that eating wasn’t a problem but I though wise not to mention it, instead listening as she went on and on. And on. The bell was CLEARLY for emergencies only – the last woman to press it needed the hospital. A bit drastic a punishment I thought but again didn’t say so. Although I fully expected the door to be slammed in our face, she did open up to check us in, pointing out that opening times were on the website. Had I been 100% sure I would have argued the point but wasn’t so didn’t.

We’d splashed out for a larger pitch as it was our last stop, and very nice it was too, although no bigger than most of the others we’d had. It had water and waste hook up too, but the ‘van would have had to have been at a very odd angle for the waste hose to reach, the drain being at the front corner of the pitch, so we didn’t bother. I though briefly – very briefly – about complaining but it didn’t really matter and I certainly didn’t relish another session with the Sales Prevention Officer at reception in case she hadn’t finished her dessert.

Anyway, that aside it was a lovely site. On the edge of the village of Jumiéges in one  of the bends of the lovely Seine river and about 14 miles from Rouen. It’s quite a tight site with pitches nestled quiet close together, some in little alcoves, but offered all the usual facilities, as well as a communal bbq area, swimming and splash pool and bar and snack bar. Some pitches on the far side are occupied with chalets – some rented some owned.

Our afternoon stroll around the park concluded, not surprisingly at the bar for a pint – sorry, half-litre - of very strong lager. The Sales Prevention officer was clearly thawing and doing her best to repair Anglo-French relations as she came over for a chat. I had checked about the lunch hours – and WAS right – there was no mention of it on the website. However, it appeared from our chat that many of her bookings from Britain come through the Caravan Club rather than direct from their website and maybe this was what she was talking about. She was expecting some more arrivals that were late and we pondered the problems at Calais. It had affected her business she said and had many cancellations in recent weeks.

Entertainment was offered that evening – a magician that neither of us fancied so we stayed on our pitch enjoying the warm evening. The family opposite us though went and said it was well attended and great for their kids, so well done to the site for putting stuff on like that.

Right, just one more part to come – a look around Rouen and the local area and a bit of a summing up of  this, our first trip abroad with Patsy. In the meantime a look around the site:

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And and video:

Thursday, 20 August 2015

France Part 14 – What a whopper!

Just  a week to go, then it will all be over. No more blogs for you to to endure then until at least the end of October when we’re away next. In the meantime, our jaunt around France continues:

Sunday saw us on the road again – not with Patsy – we’re still at Forest View – with a rough idea to see some of  the north western wedge of the Perche Regional Park. The roads were quiet – as they have been in most places - making the notion of a ‘Sunday drive’ much more pleasurable. The addition of attractive landscapes and delightful tree lined roads helps too. This is certainly a pretty little region of France.

First up was Longny-au-Perche – based around a centre square that was actually a car park - it was a very attractive place – and get this – there were actually people about! Ok, mostly in the bars and cafes but at least there was life and it didn’t feel like a ghost town. Mind you it was before lunchtime so may be that helped. Flower boxes adorned the Hotel de Ville and railings and kerbsides and this is something we’ve seen a lot of in this area. Very pretty and on a bright sunny day they looked fantastic here.

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A gentle trundle west brought us to Mortagne-au-Perche, one of the larger towns in the region. There was no centre square but several smaller ones and in one, by the cinema, was a display of metal men seemingly in the process of making a film.

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There were a few buildings around worthy of a snap or two including the ever present Hotel de Ville. In our naivety we wondered whether at one time they were actually a hotel – some ancient requirement for all settlements to have a stopping place. But the correct translation is City Hall - they have always housed the local council offices and the ‘Mairie’ – effectively the town or villages’ Mayor. In looking this up I came across a story about a woman who got locked up in one for the night after wandering in thinking it was a hotel. Some people. Oh, hang on…

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A pleasant enough place but it was very quiet, with a only a few bars and restaurants ticking over. The idea of going out for Sunday lunch doesn't seem as popular here, maybe because it seems like they go out for lunch every other day!

With a sunny afternoon in prospect we decided to head back and press the recliners in to service, but as we were travelling back we spotted this in the distance:

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Definitely worthy of a closer look of course, so we did.

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It’s official title is the Basillque Notre-Dame de Montligeon, built in 1911 and (checks pamphlet) a place of pilgrimage and a sanctuary devoted to Prayer for the Dead. Very laudable. To heathens like us it was a stunning piece of architecture made even more impressive by it’s location.

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The village nestled beside it and was pretty enough too.

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And that was Sunday’s sightseeing excursion completed. The BBQ was once again fired up for another cremation and we adjourned to the bar later for some er, office work. Oh and research. The WiFi is only available there you see….

Monday was a little cloudy and certainly cooler as we headed north and east, first to La Ferte-Vidame. The arrival is quite impressive – avenues of trees to your left and the ruins of a large chateau on the right:

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The main street – there wasn’t much else – was attractive enough – but pretty much everything was shut and there were very few people about. Whether that was due to Monday closing or some extra day in lieu because of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary falling on a weekend I don’t know. Whatever, I’m beginning to think the French have got it right.

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Senoches was next (and last) on the list. We’d meant to call here on Saturday after La Loupe but took a wrong turn. To be honest, we didn’t miss too much – another rural town just getting on with it – although not on a Monday of course.

Tuesday saw us head west stopping first at the Manoir de Courboyer. Not the most impressive of Chateaux you’ll find in France but in a lovely location nonetheless.

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There was another metal man posing as an artist in the grounds and in the field were a trio of extremely powerful looking horses. Their breed – Percheron – originated right here and are noted for their strength. These ones appeared to be spending their retirement giving rides to tourists.

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The village of Noce appeared next and another pretty little place worthy of a few photos. Again, they’d really gone to town with the flower boxes, particularly on the Hotel de Ville. I wish I’d started snapping these earlier in the trip – I’d have quite a collection now.

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Belleme, out to the west was furthest on the list, and there was actually a real life traffic jam when we arrived and the town was in full swing – well the shops were open and there were people bustling about. Within minutes of parking up though things quietened down and one by one shutters came down and doors were locked. No, not because they’d heard we were coming. It was lunchtime. The sudden change in atmosphere was quite stark, but mildly amusing.

With a couple of decent days promised we planned to go nowhere but soak up some rays and catch up on some reading. The fishermen amongst the campers got their rods set and settled back in their chairs, probably expecting another un-productive day. Having had our fix in the morning (bread) we settled down in the recliners and eyelids were soon drooping.

I’d probably had my eyes shut for about five minutes – I wasn’t asleep, honest – when I became aware of an alarm going off in the distance. There was some activity just along from us by the lake and it transpired that a rod alarm had gone off. Someone actually had a fish on the line! Grandson was duly despatched to fetch Martin from his morning ablutions in the shower block and a short while later it was reeled in, netted and weighed. A big ‘un it was too. 28lb allowing for the net. I’d tried to get a picture of the fish on the scales but, quite rightly, it was returned to the water as quickly as possible.

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Within an hour, the same thing happened again – this time Martin was away emptying the loo! He rushed back but this time the fish was smarter and snapped the line.

And that was really the days excitement – not that the rest wasn’t enjoyable. Plenty of reading and the odd snooze or two meant that the day went really quickly and it was soon time for another cremation on the barbie.

This morning as I finish this up it’s rather damp and drizzly after rain over night. We’re on the move tomorrow and it’s becoming something of a habit that our last days are wet and miserable. The skies should be clearing later though and we’ll get everything packed up before dinner over in the restaurant.

We hope to be away tomorrow morning, as soon as the bread has been delivered – it’s only just over 100 miles to our next site – just to the west of Rouen, but there appears to be no arrival restrictions so hopefully we can get pitched and set up nice and early.

And now the end really is near. This time next week we’ll be at the ferry ready for the crossing home. That’s still time for another couple of blogs though……

But, before you go, some slideshows:

And a couple of videos: