Jour de Fête

Ste Sévère sur Indre is another delightful French village, welcoming to motorhomers with dedicated overnight free parking including water and disposal facilities and one unmetered electric point (not that I need it as my inverter is sufficient for my electrical needs).

The village’s claim to fame is that the famous French director Jaques Tati used it as the location for his 1947 film Jour de Fête. It seems to support the tourist trade here very well with a small museum about Tati and the making of the film and weekly open air showings of the film. Many of the local shops have names which evoke the film – “Jour de Fleur” for the small flower shop for example.

As far as I’m concerned the village also has a claim to infamy. The church clock bell bongs the appropriate number of bongs for each hour and then, in case you lost count, it bongs the appropriate number of bongs a second time. Kind of sweet during the day time – not so much after 10 pm when you’re trying to get to sleep …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Tracking the R. Ardeche

Dragging myself away from the Domain la Pellegrine vineyards I continued north, firstly dropping down to the Nyons to Pont D’Esprit road so that I could pick up the Ardeche gorge route. Well worth the slight detour south; it’s a wider road than my previous excursions through various gorges, far less trees to mar the spectacular views, frequent stopping places with balconied view points and the Lumix got a bit of a workout!

 

 

I planned to overnight in a campsite at Vallon-pont-d’Arc, beautiful place, full of white water canoeists, but at €30 per night that idea was rapidly kicked into touch. Trouble is its now high season and all these kind of places and the pretty routes are full of French vacationers and prices have sky rocketed. I’ll reluctantly grant the French the right to holiday in their own country …

Anyway, continuing to follow the R. Ardeche I stopped instead at the free Aire in Meyras, a small village just outside Aubenas, not to be confused with either of the other two Meyras’s within 20 kms! This Meyras was hosting a pétanque convention (what is the difference between pétanque and boules? Anyone?) and every available square centimetre, including one of the car parks, was being utilised. The motorhome Aire (€0) was also not exempt but pétanque was played only in the unoccupied bays! The air was filled with oohs and ahs and ooh la las (yes the French really do say ooh la la!) and the clicking and clacking of metal balls!!

This morning I continued to follow the N102 which now continued it’s windy twisting way up into the Ardeche mountains proper. Le Puy-en-Velay had been on my route going down to Provence but I gave it a miss as it took me too far east too early and postponed the visit til the journey back.

Quel domage! I was gutted (not) to discover I’d missed all the bikes by 24 hours, and my regular reader knows how much I love bikes! The Tour de France was in Le Puy yesterday and the day before. Frankly, apart from using the McD to get on the net, Le Puy was not worth stopping in. However I have finally managed to see a lavender field in full bloom whilst driving high up on the Ardeche plateau. The colour was stunningly, intensely purple but sadly the track leading to it was totally unsuitable for R0X1 and there was nowhere to park – but I have finally seen what I wanted to.

I’m glad to have discovered this region, it’s gorgeous, and I’ll definitely be back – in low season, when most of the grockles have gone! Tomorrow I start searching for a vet (don’t tell Daisy) as it’s time to get her inspected, tableted and passport stamped ready for the ferry on Sunday.

🙂 🙂 🙂

It’s all over …

Travelling up the A9 motorway on my way to Gordes on Sunday R0X1’s right hand indicator failed. I know this as the dashboard makes a very fast click to inform one something is wrong. My first thought  was “Oh good, it would’ve been worse had the left one gone”, my second was “Oh shit, it’s that new wing mirror unit. I’ll need to find a Fiat dealer.” Musing over how much this little lot was going to cost and the legality of driving without a right hand indicator kept my anxiety levels high for the remainder of the journey. Not that it spoilt a pretty drive, the motorway was just getting me where I wanted to go but there was an awful lot of French holiday traffic cluttering up the road.

Arriving at the Aire just outside Gordes (free) I parked under the shade of a large tree and was joined an hour or so later by a lovely friendly German couple. We spent quite a while putting the world to rights and sharing similar opinions of the current state of politics and politicians. They also told me that the lavender has mostly been harvested. Later, with no distractions, I was mulling over the indicator problem again and suddenly remembered I have European cover with the RAC; doh! I decided to call in the morning. It was an absolutely silent night, not too hot and not too cold and my thoughts were at peace. Like a latter day Goldilocks, I slept soundly.

The much needed decent sleep must’ve done me some good as on waking, I had the bright idea of physically checking all the right side indicator lights. Rear right bulb blown and as it is a legal requirement to carry spare bulbs on the continent I was able to change the bulb and not bother the RAC! Why, oh why do I always assume the worst? I s’pose the best thing about it is that, as on this occasion, I’m sometimes delightfully surprised.

I drove past Senanque Abbey and they hadn’t harvested the lavender but it was well past it’s best and didn’t make the photo I’d been hoping for. Continuing on I found that my German campals had been right, all other lavender fields have been harvested. However the air was heavy with it’s delicious scent, so much nicer outdoors than in.

Lavender past its pick by date.

I comforted myself over the lack of a decent lavender photo with a France Passion overnight stop at Domain la Pellegrine, Montbrison, Côtes du Rhône country. It would’ve been churlish not to have sampled (and bought) some of their wares …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Sleepless in France’nSpain

Rosemary is doing fantastically well. Her latest X-ray showed plenty of new bone growth and she is now allowed two weight bearing steps on transfers – bed to chair etc. Rehab should start after her next appointment at the beginning of August. I am redundant!

The first couple of nights back on the road did not pass peacefully. Anyone who has been to rural Spain will be aware of the Spanish love of dogs – not Daisy-type cosseted house dogs, these dogs are left outside day and night and, no matter the size of the garden they are protecting, they are usually extremely and aggressively vocal towards any sound or movement. This is the start of a chain reaction, by the time your ears have registered the first bark the nearest 10 or so dogs have joined in. Added to this you have the “campo dogs” – these are dogs that have been dumped and roam around looking for food and as dogs do, they form packs and happily join in the general commotion.The first Aire at Pensacola, somewhat overpriced, backed on to a sparsely inhabited tract,  sparsely inhabited by anything other than plenty of both dog types. With overnight temperatures in the high twenties it was a choice of broil or be deafened – the windows remained open. It was a long night.

I’ve got a bit bored with the eastern France/Spain border crossing so just before Barcelona I diverted inland for a slightly more westerly route over the (real) eastern Pyrenees. The journey did not disappoint. The border at Puigcerde was right in the middle of the town and I managed to top up with diesel at a Spanish filling station not 50 yards before the crossing, saving 20 cents per litre! The road on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees is a gentle-ish rise and then I was driving along a green plateau full of wild flowers and bore a remarkable resemblance to photos of Switzerland. The overnight stop was at Mont Louis an old, star-shaped fortress town. I have no idea of the altitude it sits at but overnight it was 15℃ colder than the previous night – about 12ish I pulled the bedspread over me. At 1am Daisy didn’t take too much persuasion to snuggle up close. At 3am I put trousers and a jumper on over my pyjamas. At 5am I dropped the spare bed down, retrieved the duvet and stomped sulkily back to bed – sulkily because I hadn’t had the common sense to get the damn thing at midnight!

Mont Louis and the Pyrenees

I started to realise that the altitude was a tad high when it took 45 minutes of steep, bendy driving, to get down out of the mountains. Loved every minute!

Now at Gordes in Provence I shall find out tomorrow if there is any lavender left unharvested.

🙂 🙂 🙂

What did the Romans ever do …?

Well for the Gauls in and around Orange (which of course wasn’t called Orange at the time, it’s ancient name was Arusio) in the first century CE, the Romans built a triumphal arch to celebrate their own brave soldiers who conquered the Gauls. And in the fourth century they built themselves a nice theatre which doubtless the poor hapless Gauls didn’t get to go to as they were too busy being slaves.

Amazing stuff tho’ and the theatre is actually in use tonight for a free rock gig. When I was there yesterday the roadies were busy setting up.

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Paul, Meriam, the two dogs and I are off to see more Roman architecture tomorrow, the Pont-du-Gard, it’s really more about cooling off beside the river! Temp here today was possibly in excess of 35℃, the sun is down now and it’s still 29 – hoping it cools down some more or I won’t sleep tonight. Can’t believe I’m whinging about the heat …

🙂 🙂 🙂

 

A (small) change of opinion

Moving day again and Orange (the French town, not the fruit, nor the mobile phone company) and the Roman remains were calling. But Mt. Ventoux was calling too, so I came the slightly long way round to Orange.

I do know how to pick ‘em tho’; wrong days, that is. Not only was there a cycle event going on on the route de Ventoux, there was also some kind of hiking event. In the UK the route would’ve been shut to traffic – but this is France and we all muddled along regardless. Safety elves? – stuff ‘em! Cyclists overtaking hikers (some of whom were running …), motorists overtaking cyclists, hikers/runners with motorbikes weaving about in between; then there was the huge truck with an equally huge trailer hauling a double load of trees complete with police escort! I love this country – it’s totally mad, bonkers, off piste!

The summit of Ventoux, at 6,263 ft, was a tad cold and windy and necessitated additional clothing somewhat rapidly. I’ve never been that high before and found the experience exhilarating, amazing and, with that wind, literally breath taking. I can understand why people climb mountains, the feeling at the top is indescribable – and I only drove it (it was a bit hairy at times). And those views …

I have to admit to the greatest of admiration for those hardy souls who walked, ran and/or cycled, not all of them athletic spring chickens either. I apologise to some cyclists for the rant in my previous blog, but only to those whose attitudes were very, to coin a phrase, “cycle and let drive”; indicating when it was safe for me to overtake and getting in single file to let motorists pass.

So far in Orange we’ve seen the ancient Roman triumphal arch (almost as old as you BB). Tomorrow is a visit to the theatre, amphitheatre that is. And excitement later as I shall be joined by Meriam, Paul and Daihatsu Curore, previously known as Cookie, as that was what could’ve been bought for the same price as her two cruciate ligament ops!!

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🙂 🙂 🙂

P.S. I’ve since found out it was a charity event in aid of Motor Neurone Disease. Well done to all!

Parked with the enemy

Monday was moving day. Unfortunately I’d forgotten that it was a holiday weekend, so on arrival at the chosen destination there were only two pitches left. One wasn’t big enough for R0X1 so I took the other. It was too hot to find another campsite having already waited ages for the market to clear the street before I could get to the site, so I made do with the sloping pitch under the pine trees next to the road. After a not very comfortable night, the ramps needed to be twice as big to level out R0X1 and earplugs might’ve helped with the noise, I made up my mind that I wouldn’t bother with the promised pitch change in the morning; I’d change site. However the pitch offered the next day was level, not surrounded by the dreaded pine trees (I don’t know what it is about pine trees but I find being amongst them claustrophobic and depressing) and away from the sporadically noisy road.

I’m parked amongst the enemies tho’. This site is full of mountain bikers, the ones who arrogantly assume they own the road and have the helmet cameras to prove that it is not their fault that they were speeding down the centre of the road or slowly in a dense pack going up it. This is Mont Ventoux country and the little town of Bédoin has almost more bike shops, bike accessory shops and bike clothing shops than it has cafés, bars and restaurants. Bédoin’s probably the capital of Ventoux country being on the route up and around the mountain. Don’t get me wrong, there are some “ordinary” cyclists here that I very much admire also “doing” the route. However given LWD’s nervousness around bikes I shall probably make the stay here fairly short and after I’ve driven to the summit, because I’m sensible and conserve my energies for pressing shutters, changing lenses/filters etc., we’ll be moving on.

The blurb says this site is at the foot of Mt. Ventoux. Why do we say at the foot of a mountain? I’ve seen no sign of Ventoux’s footwear or bare toes, nails varnished or not! Lovely views tho’ and some nice walks along paths that the bikers aren’t interested in.

Today LWD and I are enjoying an apparently only brief respite from the very hot weather. It’s only 21℃ – I’ve had to put my cardi on …

🙂 🙂 🙂