Posted by: glenswatman | October 3, 2011

20110921-30 FRANCE

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]WEDNESDAY 21 SEPTEMBER – We first stop at Richards to drop off Claire’s old wardrobe; of course we then have to repack the garage. Traffic flows well and we make a good run down towards Dover. Arriving early we head into Canterbury and make full use of the 2-hours free parking at Sainsbury’s. After walking into the city we are a surprised to find it costs £7.50 to visit the cathedral so we opt out. Steve manages to pick up a lovely black dinner suit at a charity shop for £10 so we are all set up now for the cruise. At Dover they say we can take one ferry earlier than our booked one at no extra charge. At 7.30pm we leave England and arrive in FRANCE around 10.15pm local time. By 11pm we have driven down the coast and are parked up at the Wissant motorhome aire and tucked up in bed.

THURSDAY 22 SEPTEMBER – After the time difference and the long journey yesterday it is not surprising that we don’t wake up until 9.15am. After breakfast we walk down to the beach to see where Julius Caesar set off on his trip to England. There are a few motorhomes parked at the seafront but with a strong breeze coming on shore it is not pleasant. Bearing this in mind we give up on our plan to travel down the coast and head inland. Mid afternoon we find excellent motorhome parking in the village of Montville just north of Rouen. They have gone out of their way to make motorhomes welcome with dump facilities, free Wi-Fi and a great location next to a stream and lake. We walk around the village but there is little of interest and watching people feeding the ducks at the lake is more interesting. It’s a nice feeling being back to just the 2 of us in the van and with a whole winter’s adventure ahead of us.

FRIDAY 23 SEPTEMBER- No problem with the ducks but the church bells are a bit intrusive at 7am. Walk up to the square to catch the bus and spot a class of schoolchildren coming along cleaning the streets. We catch the 10am bus into Rouen, €2 (£1.80), on the banks of the Seine and the lowest point where a bridge could be built. It is also famous for the history surrounding Joan of Arc who was imprisoned then burnt at the stake here. It’s a very pleasant city with the centre full of medieval houses. There’s an amazing single hand gilt clock over the main street. In the cathedral Richard the Lionheart is buried complete with his heart. It’s all rather pleasant with the most unusual thing the strange Joan of Arc memorial cathedral shaped a bit like an upturned boat. There are no buses between 12 and 2 so with time to kill we eat a 3 course menu at the Chinese for €9 (£8), then have to run for the bus. It is a pleasant hot sunny afternoon so we sit out by the stream reading our books.

SATURDAY 24 SEPTEMBER – We head south using the free motorway, get lost in Rouen but inadvertently find a better way round. Last time in Europe we had Charlie, our American motorhome, which was longer and 18” wider than Eddie is. Now with the smaller van and Satnav we feel more confident going into cities and tackle Chartres. We find parking on the south bank of the river and walk up into the city, famous for its cathedral. Unfortunately much of the inside and outside is under renovation and overall we find it much more impressive from a distance. Half an hour south of the city is the small village of Marboue with good motorhome parking by the park and opposite the river. It seems a popular spot and many of the people parked up are English. We are next to Steve and Irene from Cannock and sit out chatting with them. Like many other motorhomers they have only pulled up for lunch and early afternoon we are the only ones left. Not for long as the overnighters arrive. Jim & Sheila from near Cambridge pull up next to us and we have a brief chat before retiring for the evening to watch a movie.

SUNDAY 25 SEPTEMBER – Jim & Sheila are a really nice, retired, couple and before they leave insist we call in and visit them next time we are in Cambridge area as they live on a small holding. We decide to stay for the day so I catch up on the washing. Steve joins Rob & Tina from Newton Abbot in their motorhome as they have a satellite dish and hope, but fail, to pick up the Scotland v Argentina rugby. They end up listening to it on the radio. There’s a sort of cart boot sale mixed with a fair and an exposition in the village. I buy some slippers and at the expo we are really impressed with the display of churches made of match sticks. Each one shows which church it is and how many matches and man hours it took to build, most are over 300 hours and 20,000 matchsticks. We spend the afternoon chatting to Rob & Tina and gather lots of info about Spain. This is the part of motorhoming we love, the camaraderie and exchange of information.

MONDAY 26 SEPTEMBER – Chateaudun is en route so we call in there and easily park in the main square. We are unsure of the parking system but a friendly lady explains it is free but you must put a time disc in your window and you get these from the town hall but she offers us hers. I must say we are finding a big change in the French people at the moment; they seem keener to understand our appalling French and to help and much more friendly. Chateaudun is a pleasant town with a nice chateau near the river which is part of the tourist walking trail. Our destination is Beaugency with good motorhome parking by the Loire River. We are close to the old bridge which is very impressive with over 20 arches. It’s another nice town for wandering around, the obligatory chateau and lots of old towers.

TUESDAY 27 SEPTEMBER – With dozens of chateaux in the area we have narrowed it down to just 2 or 3 to visit. Approaching Chambord you enter the estate which is mainly a huge forest previously used for hunting. It’s €6 (£5.40) for motorhome parking and another €20 if you want to stay overnight. The chateau is huge and very impressive with 4 towers along the front behind a moat. €9.50 (£8.50) is the basic admission and you guide yourself around with a leaflet showing a plan of the rooms. We begin with the video presentation which gives a very interesting explanation of the history and architecture of the building. Armed with this information we manage to visit the 3 floors and roof terrace without getting lost. There are numerous impressive staircases, rooms furnished as they would have been and others set up as various museums. It’s a shame that the chateau was barely lived in as all who tried it were put off by the mosquito infested summers and cold winters. On the way out we call into the tourist shops as one offers free tasting and wine sampling. The biscuit samples are amazing with about 30 different ones on offer, no I didn’t actually try them all. The next town of interest is Blois with excellent motorhome parking at €5 (£4.50) for 24-hours including water, dump, hot shower and toilet. The chateau is in the centre of the city and more like a mansion than a castle but still very impressive. Wandering the town we call in to the choclaterie for some samples and also the perfumerie. We get plenty of exercise walking around as the river side towns are built on hills. There’s an English couple on the car park and chatting the them we comment on how nice everyone in France is they tell us just over a year ago the powers that be in Paris asked people to be nice to the English as they needed the tourism.
BLOIS – €5 (£4.50)

WEDNESDAY 28 SEPTEMBER – We drive along the north bank of the Loire enabling us to get a fine view of Chaumon Sur Loire chateau on the south bank. In Amboise we visit Leonardo Da Vinci’s home Chateau du Clos Luce, €13 (£11.50). First we walk around the house then down in the basement there are small models of his many inventions along with explanatory videos. He seemed to really focus on things to make you fly, battle machinery, bridges and life saving equipment. His inventions went on to become the basis for the helicopter, tank and plane. In the garden they have larger replicas that you can “play” on. We had no idea that he was such a genius, an artist, architect and inventor all rolled into one and we thoroughly enjoy our learning experience. Walking down into the town centre we are amazed to see a row of houses dug into the cliffs, these lead onto the chateau built onto the cliff top. We enjoy ambling round the streets although they are rather crowded with American tourists. It’s a short drive to the River Cher with the famous Chenoceau chateau spanning it. This is one that you cannot see from the road and we don’t really want to pay to go round it. An alternative is a 50 minute boat ride from Chisseaux €8.50 (£7.50). We go under the arches of the attractive chateau and get fine views of the building. It’s after 4pm when we get back so we just drive a little further along the riverbank and park up for the night.

THURSDAY 29 SEPTEMBER – The next biggish town is Loches with many points of interest but fewer tourists. From the tourist office we pick up a walking tour leaflet and enjoy looking around. There is an impressive castle and an attractive chateau amongst other nice buildings. Continuing south we make a lunch stop at the aire at Martinez then decide it will do us for the day. It’s a quiet village with the aire next to a park at the side of the river. There’s an English plated American motorhome. Chris and his Indian wife Angie have bought a house in the village and are living here until it is ready. He hasn’t a clue about motorhomes and we enlighten him on a few topics including the fact that the solar panel on his roof will not give him hot water.

FRIDAY 30 SEPTEMBER – We’re getting into a nice routine now of planning a couple of hour’s journey to the next point of interest so we can arrive by lunchtime. Stop en route to shop at Netto which turns out to have a much wider choice and fresher fruit and vegetables than Lidl. Just before arriving at Oradour sur Glane we follow a sign to a monolith then end up walking into a forest to see just one huge standing stone. As usual there is good motorhome parking in Oradour sur Glane, again free toilet and washing sinks. It’s incredibly hot so we opt to walk to the famous site before lunch. Back in June 1944 the original village was wiped out by the Germans. After the men had surrendered they were gunned down whilst the women and children were herded into the church, locked in and then the building set on fire along with the houses. 642 people died of which 192 were children. The murder of the children is what made this worse than other massacres. The town has remained as it was on that day and has become known as the village of the martyrs. You enter through a visitor centre with an optional €7.50 (£6.50) explanatory exhibition. Walking into the village it is amazing just how much has survived. Whilst the roofs have virtually all gone many of the walls of the houses remain and inside them you can see rusted bed stands, tables and chairs in the cafe, pots in the fireplaces and so on. Each house has a plaque saying who lived there, their profession and the type of building if it was a business. At the garage there are lots of old cars rusted away down to their axles. Down the main street you can still see the tram tracks and overhead power line. It’s all very sad and a little bit eerie. The original cemetery for the town has been extended to include a memorial to the martyrs. Today a modern town thrives whilst this remains a village of remembrance. It’s almost too hot to sit out in the afternoon but by evening it is cooling down and we have ring side seats for the village football match being played on the field below us.


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