Hit and Miss, and Staircases.

The Aire at Mont de Marsan was a Hit; I was able to fill up with water, empty out the grey water tank and have electricity overnight.

The Aire at Mont de Marsan was a Miss; the French Air Force appear to have a base very close, landing and take off was directly overhead and the fast jets were very low and a tad noisy.

We left the next morning; strangely enough not long after flights commenced for the day.

Auch was a Hit! We arrived mid-afternoon parked up and had a mooch. The Pooch was dragged up the 374 steps of the monumental staircase, she didn’t seem very impressed but I was; my knees coped, I didn’t get out of breath and the view from the top was superb. Last time I was in Auch the staircase was being repaired. When originally built to impress (1863), and to improve access to the cathedral, it was made of poor quality stone and had deteriorated to the point where the repair that finished just after I last visited took eight years to complete; the staircase does impress now.

 

The monumental staircase ( these we walked up and down)

This morning we went on another quickish mooch this time using one of the pousterles (narrow steps) built in the Middle Ages to allow the citizens of the city to easily(?) get down to the river for water supplies, but were easily defensible. We entered the citadel via the east steps and left via the steps of the Oumettos (I have no idea, I think it might be Spanish as the street that leads to them is call Rue d’Espagne)

 

From L; Eastern steps (up), Oumettos steps (down), Oumettos with cat

It was all about steps and staircases. I also visited the Maison d’Henri IV as did, tradition says, Henri IV in 1578, and he would’ve walked up the stone and wood staircase. I didn’t.

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Henri VI’s staircase (allegedly)

We are overnighting in Auterive on our way to Mirepoix. The more attentive amongst you may have noted, if you’ve consulted your maps to ascertain my whereabouts, that I do not appear to be heading for Portugal via northern Spain. I have decided to wait to do that until the night temperatures in the mountains there are above freezing, I’m nervous that it will be difficult to get LPG thereabouts and I don’t think these old bones could manage without heating or hot drinks if the gas ran out.

The new plan is to mess about by the sea in eastern France and Spain whilst waiting for the nights to warm up – daytime temps are lovely and loads of sun at the moment.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Little Britain?

I’m back into the habit of picking out the best Aires and villages. This Aire has a lovely view of the river Charante just the other side of a small green park and electricity for only €2 per 24hrs which is wonderful as the nighttime temperatures (brrr) require heating to be on, and the boiler positively gobbles gas. My trusty electric heater is keeping us toasty at night and the daytime temps require no heating at all – wall to wall blue skies and lovely warm sun.

A quintessentially French village, Verteuil-sur-Charante is deservedly on the Beaux Villages list.The village boasts tiny independent shops, restaurants, a weir, two mills, one converted to a five star eatery, a chateau, a splendid church and, I’m reliably informed, six watering holes. 

Well gorgeous!

My reliable informant is one of a strong English community here. He was an early settler 20 years ago; lots more English arrived after some celebrity chef did a programme a few years ago about the restaurant at the mill and it’s chef who’s a whiz at brioche, and showed the village as well. There are now about 50 households of soon-to-be non-Europeans! It’s a beautiful place even in winter, in summer it must be absolutely gorgeous; unfortunately for the local populace, French and English, it’s then not so tranquil – Grockles like mosquitos, in droves!

We’ve been here four nights. I’ve been unable to drag myself away. LWD is well happy, loads of dog friendly lanes to wander off-lead. But we’re continuing south tomorrow …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Somerset area motorhomers meeting!

Bonneval lived up to my expectations. A superb medieval town which grew up around the monastery originally built in 857. The town was eventually fortified and part of the R. Loir (not the famous one with an “e”) was diverted round its walls to make a moat for added security (and doubtless a dumping water for all sorts of medieval rubbish). Of course it was fought over many times, walls torn down, church and abbey destroyed/rebuilt, destroyed/rebuilt, yada, yada. Many lovely old buildings do remain and the Aire is up against the walls of the rebuilt rebuild which was then restored, monastery which was eventually acquired, firstly by a private owner, some Duke or other, whose family either petered out or had money problems and sold it off to the government a century and a half ago; currently in use as a mental health hospital. I decided not to offer my skills!

Bonneval

I got chatting to my next door motorhomers (English) and was invited in for a cuppa, lovely couple, live just 12 miles up the road from Langport, in Taunton!! It also transpires that he vaguely remembers the name Mepstead from his REME days as an electronics engineer, BB would have been the senior (but then he’s older than Methuselah!). Small world – again! We’re headed to some of the same places so we may well meet up again and we’ve exchanged home details.

As can be seen, lovely weather during the day, freezing at night, literally.

P.S. Luvsya BB, mwah!

🙂 🙂 🙂

Docking at Dieppe

It amazes me how these ferry Captains turn it on a sixpence in the small harbour at Dieppe and side it in with unerring accuracy to tie up with nary a coffee spill, I wanted to clap but knew he/she wouldn’t hear. We were first off our deck and I hared off to Intermarche for diesel and a baguette; LWD did her first (desperately needed) pipi on French soil – vive la France, enfin nous sommmes ici!

“ Dieppe? DIEPPE? What happened to Cherbourg?”

Brittany Ferry’s prices are what happened to Cherbourg, dear regular reader. No Old Farts discount, £25 for LWD and she doesn’t even leave the van, and the total came to well over £200 for a crossing that’s only half an hour longer than Newhaven/Dieppe. I did not book. I did the maths on the extra fuel. We crossed for significantly under £100 thanks to DFDS whose staff are lovely, friendly and efficient. It doesn’t surprise me that they win ferry operator of the year; every year.

Newhaven harbour, the Seven Sisters ferry and the RNLI lifeboat

Le (millpond) Manche was so calm we arrived early and I had only one small (unsigned) diversion to overcome before reaching our designated Aire at Bonneval just after dark. The town, from our brief recce of last night, looks picture book. We are off for an explore when I’ve drunk my second cuppa!

🙂 🙂 🙂

Picture the scene …

It is a very dark night, the moon and stars invisible behind thick clouds. The wind is combatively tugging and shoving and the falling leaves are dancing as if in the Strictly dance off, desperate for a place at the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool. Outside the car the lashing rain stings coldly on unprotected skin. I’m driving K back from Castle Cary station where The Smart One has been dispatched on an already delayed by 44 minutes train to visit his father for the weekend (by the time he got there he was 80 minutes late because of speed restrictions, poor lad).

I’m driving at around 40mph as the roads are covered in huge puddles and what part of the road is free of puddles is covered in mushed autumn leaves, all waiting for the unwary to stamp on the brakes. My headlights are dipped as there is a luckily smallish  oncoming vehicle, when on the left out of the darkness at the almost too-late last minute, I spot a large stray hedge/small tree trying to cross the road, I move as far right as I dare to try and avoid it but … BANG!

Storm Deirdre has resurrected the Curse of the  Broken Wingmirror, 4 in 4 years. As the Curse obviously plans to become an annual event, should I pre-order a wing mirror for 2019 and perhaps some canapés and some fizz for the Wingmirror Wake?

Luckily no other damage to either the car or the occupants.

Y’all drive safe now …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Train strain.

The return to Somerset was pretty uncomfortable on an overcrowded train (is there any other kind in the UK these days?). No space for luggage, no space for passengers (or their long suffering dogs), and no buffet (unless you were prepared to trample over the people forced to sit on the floor); the heating however, was working. “Aha,” I hear my regular reader exclaim “result, given the current plunging temperatures outside”. “Not so,” say I “when the heating continues to blast out despite optimum temperature having been reached about ten degrees ago”. I texted an SOS to K to bring large amounts of water with her to the station for my arrival, severe dehydration was kicking in after three and a half hours in cattle class.

At some point in the journey several of us debated why, given the constant overcrowding of trains, extra coaches are not added to services and came to the conclusion that it is because the cost of additional rolling stock might adversely affect the annual profits and bonuses the train moguls’ so desperately need. Magnanimous plebeians that we are, we accept their need for additional millions each year (those tropical hideaways, nuclear/biological bunkers and global warming stockpiles don’t come cheap, you know) … and we sent our sincere thanks to the aforementioned moguls for a journey unusually delayed by mere minutes not hours.

 

The journey did sort of dull the shine from what otherwise had been an extremely pleasant few days with BB aboard the Blue Buzzard. We visited the Denby factory near Derby, shopped in Sutton Coldfield and tasted a few wines and gin at a local (to Fazely) vineyard/distillery. Unfortunately we visited the Denby factory the day after I’d bought a couple of bottles of the rather lovely vineyard product, and there I bought some of Denby’s rather lovely dinnerware products for R0X1 (well I have to make it up to her that I considered selling her). So I was unable to fit everything in my suitcase and be able to lift it.

I’m sure, dear regular reader, that you will be shocked to find out that it was the vineyard product that was left behind … not sure what came over me, I might have to find a vineyard round here …

🙂 🙂 🙂

 

The weasel-eyed hamster is home

As I was feeling so crappy I wasn’t able to travel quite as fast as I wanted up to Dieppe  but that meant I managed to appreciate some rather nice stops.

First was a very peaceful aire at Rignac, it would be hard to find a quieter one, for an overnight.

 

Second was a site at St-Germain-les-Belles by a lake at the edge of a very sleepy and pleasant village. I swear the site’s friendly, funny and quite mad Dutch owners only bought it to have enough room to display all their hoards of junk very eclectic mix of collectibles. I stayed two nights.

 

 

Third was the aire at Mennetous-sur-Cher, picked for it’s convenient halfway-point placement between the previous night’s stop and my final overnight destination in France. I had no preconceptions it was just a place to put my weary and aching head down. It was a lovely treat to find an intact medieval village centre that has not been over-restored or over-touristified and is still thriving. The boulangerie there sold the most divine croissants I’ve ever eaten and M. Bun the Boulanger was to be seen busy baking his bread in the background (apologies if that’s just too much alliteration for your taste).

 

Fourth and final was the aire at Giverny as I couldn’t resist the urge to visit Monet’s gaffe again to see the gardens in spring.

 

La Manche was a millpond, the drive to the car park was easy and by doing my favourite shortcut via Ascot I missed all the M25/4 early evening congestion. My lovely daughter was sitting in her car awaiting my arrival and guarding my parking space in the corner. I got the tea, hugs and sympathy I needed.

My GP agreed that four or five weeks of sinusitis deserves a good helping of antibiotics. Hopefully I’ll stop looking like a weasel-eyed hamster very soon …

🙂 🙂 🙂