Posted by: glenswatman | August 15, 2009

200908-1-England France



SATURDAY 1 AUGUST 1 – Richard cooks us a
terrific full English breakfast before we leave, you just can’t beat the great
British breakfast to set you up for the day. 
David is off to France today to Tignes in the Alps where he and Chelsea
will be doing silver service waiting at the hotel for 3 weeks.  We call at Mom & Dads to pick up some
things then using the Daily Mail I start to phone up the flight companies that
guarantee to beat any price.  By doing
this I manage to get the airfare we want down to £715 each and book it with
Dial-a-flight.  We are flying from
Manchester with KLM to Quito (Ecuador) on 6th September via
Amsterdam, and Guayaquil returning from Rio (Brazil) on 2nd April
with Air France via Paris.  Claire calls
and suggests we race over to Haworth to the food festival in the park where
Natasha is about to go on stage with the famous chef Jean-Christophe
Novelli.  There is a huge marquee in the
middle of the park with lots of stalls selling home made food both from England
and France.  Most things are around £3 a
time, lucky for me, as I could have been tempted by dozens of cakes.  It turns out you need tickets to go into the
food show but Natasha and her friends are there because they do cookery at
school.  Steve & I return home so I
can sort out our travel insurance.  This
poses a problem as within our 7 months trip we are doing a 20-day cruise to
Antarctica and probably 5 –8 days cruise around the Galapagos.  Many companies either won’t cover cruise
holidays or charge a higher premium that applies to the whole trip.  Claire returns with the kids and Natasha has
a signed book and spoon from Jean-Christophe. 
Mid evening we get a surprise phone call to say Mark & Netty are up
in Yorkshire and are calling round with Lisa & Mick.  Claire, Steve & the kids are doing a car
boot sale tomorrow so they end up getting all the stuff down to see if anyone
wants anything before loading up the cars.



SUNDAY 2 AUGUST – The car boot sale is at
Airedale hospital so just after 6am they head off leaving me in bed.  Good job I didn’t want to go as the cars are
packed to the gills.  I get a text from
Claire before 8am saying she is fed up and never doing it again, she also says
her friend Liane has set off on her 2 way channel swim.  I manage to sort out travel insurance with
Nationwide for £313.26 per couple including me declaring my pre-existing
medical asthma (thought I had better as we are going to be at high
altitudes).  The car booters arrive back
just before 1pm.  They have sold about
half the stuff very cheaply and are reasonably happy with their takings but
didn’t enjoy doing it.  The washing
machine is playing up and won’t empty and spin.  We manage to restart it a couple of times on the spin cycle but
each time it fills up more water then stops. 
In the afternoon Steve takes Natasha back over to Haworth for the second
part of the festival where her school class is doing a cooking
demonstration.  Late afternoon I get
called down from upstairs to find the kitchen floor flooded and water pouring
out from the washing machine.  Claire
has caught the door walking past and it has sprung open.  We take it in turns to hold the door shut
whilst collecting water in a bowl and mopping the floor.  At least we can get the clothes out
now.  Throughout the day Claire receives
photos of Liane doing her swim.  I go on
the Internet and find a very interesting web site
where you can see the ships throughout the world, click on a marker and find
out all the details.  In the English
Channel it doesn’t show Liane’s support boat but it sure is scary to see how
many ships are in the area.  In the
evening we get a call from Mom & Dad as Steve is picking them up from their
day out coach trip.  Apparently all is
not well as Dad collapsed when they were out and had to be taken by ambulance
back to the coach.  Steve returns and
tells us Dad slept all the way back and doesn’t seem too bad so we will review
it all in the morning.  By the time we
go to bed we hear that Liane has made the single crossing slightly faster than
her previous time and is now heading back. 
Daniel & Natasha leave to stay with Daz for the next few days so we
are released form child minding duties.



MONDAY 3 AUGUST – No news from Liane so we are
hoping her sister Dee’s phone is out of credit and they have arrived back and
gone to bed.  Dad has been to the doctor
who thinks the problem is down to the warfarin he takes so he orders blood
tests later in the week.  When Claire
gets home she tells us Liane finished in around 27-hours.  Inspired by this Steve takes Claire to the
lake where Liane trains so that she can put in a few laps in readiness for her
Windermere swim next month.



TUESDAY 4 AUGUST – The engineer can’t come out
to Claire’s washing machine until a week on Friday so I take a couple of loads
up to Mom & Dads to do.  In the
evening Steve takes Mums car down to Ray’s for an oil change and service and
returns with it pronounced in good health and ready for the holiday.



WEDNESDAY 5 AUGUST – Last minute shopping, tidying up and Steve mowing the
lawn.  Daz calls round to collect the
Jack the hamster and Nemo the goldfish and a couple of plants.  Claire goes to Daz’s for tea after work then
arrives home with the kids to do a final pack up. 



THURSDAY 6 AUGUST – We’re making a leisurely
start but I can’t resist making a bit of noise when I get up first.  Leave just after 9am with Claire and the
kids following us towards Dover on the A1 (M). 
There a bit of a hold up at Tuxford 
but we still make good time and even with a second hold up at the
services on the M25 we make it to Dover by 3.45pm to park up for our rendezvous
with Bev & Norm.  Unfortunately the
town is a maze of 1-way streets and although we can see Penchester Street we
can’t access it.  In another car park I
ask a traffic warden directions and he suggests we walk with him to the other
one.  Bev & Norm arrive trundling
their small bags looking really well and no different from when we last saw
them 3 years ago.  We opt to spend a bit
of time at the beach and find a nice pebbly one behind the beachfront flats.  Natasha and Daniel can’t resist having a dip
but say it is quite cold.  It now makes
us realise the enormity of Liane’s task as we see the constant flow of ferries
in and out of the docks nearby.  In town
we pick up fish & chips for our tea before driving to the port.  We have booked on the LD lines fast
catamaran Norman Spirit that leaves at 7pm (£36 per can and 5 passengers).  It used to do the run from Melbourne to
Tasmania so Bev & Norm have probably seen it a number of times in the past.  We depart on time and with speeds up to
60kph make the crossing in just over 1-hour. 
Dock in Boulogne-sur-mer FRANCE around 9.15pm (1-hour ahead of
BST).  I’ve booked us rooms at a Formula
1 motel and got directions off the Internet so it should be a piece of
cake.  Over 1-hour later we are still
going round in circles the directions being obviously wrong.  Passing the walled city with the funfair is
interesting the 1st time but by the 3rd by pass the
novelty has worn off.  We consider
hiring a taxi to lead us to the motel but can’t find one.  Stop at Dominoes pizza where Claire & I
go in for directions.  The girl speaks a
little English but writing directions down we can see it is a long way and very
complicated.  I am just about to order a
pizza for delivery to the motel on the proviso we can follow the van when the
manager comes through.  He speaks
English, says he is just finishing work and will lead us there.  So off we go following the Dominoes pizza
van to an industrial area out of town that we would have had no chance finding
alone.  It seems the Internet directions
were completely wrong even though I double-check that I keyed in the correct
address.  Anyway the Formula 1 motel is
straightforward, €36 (£32) for a basic triple room with double bed and single
bunk over and a sink.  We have two
adjoining ground floor rooms with windows opening to the car park so pass the
luggage in that way.  The 2-storey motel
is shaped like cross with toilet and shower cabins in the centre, extremely
clean (self clean after each use) but a little claustrophobic.  We are all shattered so Steve settles into
the bunk over Bev & Norm in one room whilst Daniel goes on and air bed with
Claire & Nat in the double bed and me in the bunk in the other.  It is a really hot night and hotter still up
top so it takes me ages to get to sleep but at least the others seem to drop
off quickly.



FRIDAY 7 AUGUST- Steve wakes us around 8am and
we breakfast on cereal bars. We pass the luggage out through the windows
followed by the kids and luckily no one sees us or they would think we were
mad.  Of course our directions for
leaving Boulogne are no use and we don’t even know exactly where we are!  End up on the right motorway in the wrong
direction but after doing a “U” turn things pick up.  That is until we realise we are low on fuel and have to leave the
motorway to buy some.  In Le Touquet the
first garage has closed the pumps due to a delivery.  End up going down the coast to get fuel then continuing for some
way.  Being holiday season there is
heavy traffic congestion everywhere.  Re
plan on joining the motorway and paying tolls to get some miles behind us.  By lunch time we reach Honfleur having paid
€19.50 (£17) in tolls but made good time. 
The town is heaving with motorhomes parked up on the north bank of the
Seine and tourists on foot and in cars milling round the town.  It is a stunningly beautiful town and well
worth the detour to crawl through in traffic. 
With no hope of stopping we take a picnic parking spot further along the
coast and feast on leftovers.  It is a
lovely drive along the coast with fantastic mansions and lots of attractive
beach homes.  In one town the main
roundabout has a huge dinosaur made from plants.  Rejoin the motorway to get around Caen and onwards to Ploermel
where we arrive just after 6pm.  Stop at
Le Clerc to pick up some groceries.  The
cottage is less than 20 minutes away in Le Bourg Neuf and boy are we happy to
arrive.  It looks very small from
outside but inside it is bigger and far nice than we had expected.  Downstairs is a large lounge with dining
table, a modern kitchen, double bedroom, bathroom with toilet then an outside
toilet.  Upstairs a huge bedroom with
double bed and bunks and a bathroom.  We
are going to be very comfortable here for sure.  In no time at all we are sitting around washing down the French
stick, pate and cheese with a nice drop of red wine.  We cook up pizza for tea then settle down for Coronation Street;
yes they have satellite TV from England. 
At bedtime Natasha hops into the shower and seems to be taking
ages.  Suddenly we hear music and go to
see what is happening.  We crack up
laughing when we see her dancing in the cubicle with coloured lights flashing,
water blasting from all angles and music pumping out, wow. 



SATURDAY 8 AUGUST – We wake to a lovely sunny
morning.  Bev & Norm got up early
for a walk and are now having breakfast. 
It has been really peaceful during the night and we have all slept
well.  Have to laugh when Natasha tells
us she can hear a “cockroach” going cock-a-doodle-doo.  After a few attempts I manage to take a
normal shower without lights and music! 
Following our leisurely breakfast Bev, Norm, Steve, Natasha and myself
set off for a walk.  Daniel stays behind
on the computer whilst Claire is studying for her accountancy exams.   The larger village of Guillers is close by
and there we find a bar, restaurant, lovely church with memorials, shop and
boulangerie where we buy more fresh bread. 
It is a lovely place with a very French feel and not at all
touristy.  The village cemetery is
interesting with graves topped by small plaques from relatives and
friends.  Walking back we notice the
motorhome parking area with free dump station. 
It is now really hot and sunny so we sit out for our lunch.  Natasha finds some sheers in the garage and
has fun using them to dead head the hydrangeas and cut the grass.  Daniel entertains us with a power point
presentation song of “She’ll be coming round the mountain” with different words
and funny pictures.  For our evening
meal we cook up spaghetti bolognaise and sit out in the warm sun to eat. 



SUNDAY 9 AUGUST – Bev & Norm return from
their early walk with some French bread. 
After eating breakfast on the terrace we make a late start and head for
Josselin.  Steve and I get twinges of
home sick ness when we see so many motorhomes in the special parking
spots.  We walk down towards the river
for a view of the really attractive castle. 
Everywhere we go there are masses of flowers making the town of old
building even prettier.  Climbing the
138 steps to the church tower gives us a fine view into the castle courtyard
and a good bit of exercise too.  Just outside
Ploermel we settle at Lac au Duc where there is an attractive sandy beach and
swimming in the lake.  The kids are soon
enjoying themselves in the water.  We
reckon almost all the people around us are English speaking but as the
afternoon progresses it is the French who arrive.  Bev, Norm & I set out to walk around the lake where you are
supposed to be able to see many of the different hydrangeas that grow in this
area.  The “Eye witness” guide mentioned
“circuit de l’hortensia” around the Lac au Duc 1km (0.5m) northwest of
Ploermel.  We have walked for about half
an hour and made little progress around the lake before realising that the book
isn’t talking about the distance of the walk but the distance from the
town!  We double back and spend another
hour or so on the lakeshore.  In rural
France all the shops are closed on Sundays so using the tinned food I packed we
manage to cobble together a chilli con carne and rice supper.  There are lots of DVD’s in the cottage so we
pick out a movie to round off the evening.



MONDAY 10 AUGUST – Many shops are closed all
day on Mondays so we have to sacrifice the fresh bread for breakfast and make
do with cereal.  We get a text from Mom
to say Dad is in hospital (they have had to cancel their holidays) but doing
OK.  Unfortunately Lisa and family are
also away on holiday so she has no one around to help her.  Driving off together Claire and the kids
peel off to go to the lake whilst we go on a mini tour.  I have info about a couple of interesting villages
but even with a reasonable map we are unable to pick the correct lanes to lead
us there and get bad directions when we ask so just enjoy a circular
drive.  We’ve found this before in
France that smaller junctions often have no signs or just the name of a village
that is not shown on our map but at least in a car it is easier than in the
motorhome when we often came unstuck, or rather got stuck down narrow
streets.  Returning to Ploermel we pick
up some better maps at the tourist office and also the town walking trail which
guides us past the points of interest. 
There a Lidl and Netto in town , neither are as good as the UK versions,
where we pick up some basic supplies before heading to the lake.  Today is not quite so busy and we commandeer
a picnic table in the grassy area for our lunch.   This morning Daniel & Natasha spent the time in the water
park behind the beach, €5 (£4.50) but found it only contained 2 smalls slides
as was good for about 1 ½ hours only. 
In the afternoon we sit at the beach and the kids are happy in the water
but it is cloudy and when a bit of a breeze gets up we leave.  We’ve found a BBQ in the garage so Steve
stokes it up and we cook our pork steaks and sausages outside.



TUESDAY 11 AUGUST – For the first time Daniel
is the first up.  He is cooking us all a
special French breakfast today and wants to walk to the bakery with Bev &
Norm to get fresh croissants and pain au chocolate.  Just before we sit down to eat someone pulls up at the derelict
cottage next door.  It is an Irish lady
who has bought it to do up and live in and she invites us to look around.  The main room is the only one fit for
habitation and was obviously the place where someone lived, cooked and
slept.  The potential to create
something similar to Karen’s is there but there’s a lot of work involved.  After our delicious calorie laden breakfast
I set out on a drive with Bev & Norm leaving the others to chill at home.  It is a dull day so not the best for the
beach but perfect for exploring the surrounding area.  Armed with the map from the tourist office we easily find the
village of Montertelot and park up to explore. 
It is on the Nantes Brest canal so we walk the towpath and explore that
attractive village.  A little further on
is Malestroit and where we arrive at lunchtime.  In typical French style all the shops are closed but the
restaurants are doing a roaring trade. 
A bigger town this still has many attractive buildings and a nice canal
walk.  On our way back we stop in Loyat
and walk into the town then out to the head of the lake and return along a
boardwalk.  It has been a great day out
but there is only so much you can take of pretty villages and old houses! 



WEDNESDAY 12 AUGUST – Awake to a dull morning
so make it a late start.  It seems that
the days don’t really get going until lunchtime so goodness knows what it would
be like in the winter here.  I take Norm
& Bev off on another mini circuit beginning with a walk around the nearby
town of Mauron.  At the bakery we pick
up cakes and Bev gets the local speciality of a sort of firm custard with
prunes, eaten in the town square surrounded by flowers it makes a perfect
lunch.  I take us on back roads past a
wonderful disused abbey then out to the fishing lake near Guillers before
heading for home.  When we get back the
others have made the most of the hot sunny afternoon to visit the lake.  They arrive back just a few minutes ahead of
our friends.  Sandra and Robert are
Canadians from Montreal and we met them earlier this year in Mexico and toured
together in our motorhomes.  For 2
months they have been visiting friends and borrowing houses in France and at
the moment are based in Anger but have called in on the way back from a tour of
Normandy.  Robert has bought the nearest
French ingredients to make his world famous delicious “pina colada” whilst I
have made a curry for our evening meal together.  Time passes quickly as we catch up with their news and hear about
their trip in France.  Amazing how small
the world is at times.



THURSDAY 13 AUGUST – Tonight Claire and Daniel
are catching the ferry to Poole from St Malo (£112) so we head off in that
direction to do a bit of sightseeing en route. 
We want to stop off in Dinan but even before we get there the traffic
builds up.  It is market day, the
traffic at a standstill, parking impossible and people even queuing up to get
into the market.  It takes about ½ hour
to drive through so at least we all get a good look at a small part of the
town.  Dinard, on the coast, is much the
same but we drop lucky with French style street parking where we have to
straddle the kerb and fit between trees and lampposts.  Walking into town we stop for lunch at a
very popular “creperie” where we are spoilt for choice with main course and
dessert pancakes.  Downhill we reach the
beach backed by old-fashioned changing rooms’ then more modern tent like ones
on the beach.  After the kids have
dipped their toes in the ocean we walk around the adjacent cliffs before
returning through the old town.  Heading
on to St Malo we stop at the barrage to watch some boats going through the huge
locks with the road being lifted up to a 90-degree angle.  Just east of the city at Rothneuf I’ve read
about a walk to some carved rocks. 
Apparently between 1870 and 1895 a partly paralysed country priest
carved about 300 figures into the granite cliffs.    After parking and walking along the cliff top we realise the
area is now fenced off and you must turn inland and around to reach a really
huge half empty car park and the ticket office.  €2.50 (£2.25) gets us onto a path down the cliff where we are
surprised to find many of the sculptures are carved into flat picture scenes on
the rock face or on the ground.  Below
is a kind of man made long pool and the whole place is quite strange but
interesting.  Next we drive along St
Malo seafront but find parking impossible and end up at the port area.  It is 6.30pm so we change plan and have our
picnic out of the car boot.  Leaving
Claire & Daniel to join the Condor ferry waiting area we find parking
nearby and walk back to the town.  Steve
& I visited before in our motorhome and walked the whole of the ramparts
and streets so tonight, with time being a problem; we just walk part of the
walls and the town and still find it very impressive.  Natasha makes me laugh at one point when Steve has walked a long
way ahead, I point him out in the distance and she says “he’s not a very good
sight see-er is he!”  Our journey home
is much easier and quicker and takes just over an hour getting us back in
daylight.  We all plonk down in the
lounge to watch a bit of TV before bed then end up with Steve, Natasha and me
in our bed watching the Bill.



FRIDAY 14 AUGUST – As we now know the weather
format we have planned a lunch at home in the hope of getting to the beach
early afternoon.  With time on our hands
we do a bit of washing and tidying around. 
Receive a text from Claire to say the ferry left ½ hour late but she has
now arrived safely at Daz’s although very tired.  After lunch we drive to Ploermel MacDonald’s to make us of the
free wi-fi to book some motels for our onward travel.  We are a little surprised to find that we cannot get anything for
tomorrow night in the coastal area or just inland so plump for a room in Rennes
at the Etap, €49 (£45) for a double including breakfast.  Natasha is very patient whilst we are
working so we are very happy to spend almost 3-hours at the beach with her.  Back home we make use of lots of leftovers
for our evening meal.



SATURDAY 15 AUGUST – Just typical, we wake to
a dry clear morning and by the time we leave around 9.30am it is a
scorcher.  Back to MacDonald’s to book
our return ferry then onward to Rennes. 
Traffic is terrible backed up on the freeway leading to the ring
road.  Arrive at the Etap Hotel where we
have pleasant rooms with air-con.  With
free wi-fi I am happy for us to have a couple of hours rest.  Late afternoon we drive into Rennes for a
good walk around, noting that it is still 32C. 
There are a large number of attractive timber buildings and a few nice
government ones and churches.  End up in
the main square at a creperie for our evening meal.

RENNES, ETAP HOTEL €49 (£44) room Inc breakfast


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