Posted by: glenswatman | October 11, 2011

20111001-10 FRANCE



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SATURDAY 1 OCTOBER 2011 – With the hot weather set to last we check out the nearest aire by a swimming lake and this leads us down back roads to the village of St Hilaire Les Place and Lake Plaisance.  It’s low on water and probably not suitable for swimming but makes a nice spot to park up.  Somehow being beside a lake I feel comfortable wearing a bikini, unlike the Dutch man beside us on the car park last night who happily walked around in budgie smugglers.  We do try the water but the lake has a very muddy sticky bottom and we use so much water getting our feet clean afterwards that it’s not worth it.  It’s still a really pleasant spot and we set up to sunbathe on the grassy lawns.


SUNDAY 2 OCTOBER – Weekends are often a problem for us as that is when the youngsters drive out at night to drink and play loud music.  No so here, it was so quiet you could hear yourself breath and based on that we opt for another night.  We notice that in the morning the cyclists come past then the afternoon seems to be families taking a stroll around the lake.


MONDAY 3 OCTOBER – We saw a couple of other motorhomes come in an park on the opposite side in not such a good spot, couldn’t understand why they didn’t join us but as we set out to leave the barrier to our part of the lake is down, are we trapped?  Luckily there is no lock on it so we can get out.  Back on the tourist trail we head to Sarlat La Caneda and fluke parking on the ring round running around the medieval old city.  It’s a charming town to walk around, limited attractions but just nice streets with old houses and lots of restaurants with tables outside.  On the edge of town we pick up free Wi-Fi outside the Ibis hotel.  I book my flights to go back to England in January to see the specialist.  Beynac Et Cazenac looks amazing from a distance with a big castle built onto a rocky hill surrounded by the village.  We park and walk up the castle and get fine views of the River Dordogne below.  There’s a strange set of red glass pyramids and when we get closer we read these are the windows for a house that is dug into the cliff below, they ask you not to tap on the glass.  It’s a very small village so not a lot to see but again nice enough for a wander.  In the evening we spot a couple of hot air balloons taking off just in front of the car park.


TUESDAY 4 OCTOBER – The next town along the Dordogne River is La Roque Gageac and once we arrive at the car park we can see that although it is beautiful to photograph from a distance it is going to be much the same as Beynac.  We carry on to Domme but can’t find access for large vehicles and as it reads much the same as La Roque and Beynac we give it away and continue to Gordoun.  It’s starting to look and feel very autumnal, very cool misty mornings until about 10am and beautiful colours as the leaves on the trees turn orange and red.  There’s good motorhome parking in Gordoun and we do the two walks recommended by the tourist office, nice views from the top and an attractive butterfly hedge. An interesting studio has porcelain sculptures with sections dipped in coloured enamel before firing.  Driving through Cahors we can see it is going to be more interesting, a bigger city and with lots of fountains.  There are only 3 spaces for motorhomes by the river but an Englishman tells us 3 other motorhomes stayed on the entrance drive last night so we check the other vans don’t need to leave and park up.  Waiting until after 3.30pm we still find it hot walking around, a sign shows 32C.  We find some very attractive old run down renaissance style hotels and a hospital building, many fountains and attractive squares.  The cathedral is a different style typical of this area, comparatively plain inside but with lots of frescoes and a really nice cloister with fancy sculptures.  There are also some really weird carvings running round the top of the side door showing naked people being stabbed and hacked at with axes.  Back at the van we chat to John and Jean from Tamworth.


WEDNESDAY 5 OCTOBER – Before leaving Cahors we drive along the river to admire the old Pont Valentre with lots of castle like towers.  Cutting across country we reach St Antonin Noble Val and pick up the tourist office walk leaflet.  There’s a very steep narrow street and the translation of its name means sticking you bottom out!  One old square held all the bread ovens where everyone congregated to bake their home made loaves.  A short drive brings us to the next town along the river Cordes Sur Ciel, marked as a Michelin 3* attraction.  We begin our walk up the narrow twisting cobbled street lined with attractive old houses from the 13th and 14th centruy.  Each time we reach a bend we are convinced we are at the top but it just goes on and on.  Finally we are at the top of the conical hill and visit the unusual sugar museum €3 (£2.70).  There are dozens of cabinets with what look like pottery art works but all are either made of different forms of sugar or chocolate.  It covers many themes including undersea, local history and lots of floral arrangements and it’s impossible to tell they are sugar.  Opposite the old covered market we can see inside a windowless house and there are strange huge wooden sculptures in the windows.  The door is open and you are invited into what turns out to be a cross between an artist’s wood carvings and a shrine to Indira Gandhi.  The house itself is amazing and you never know what you are going to find in each room, one has sand and a rake so you can do Japanese sand garden type patterns, whacky or what?  Back down below the old town we spot an unusual horse sculpture and go in to see the exhibition.  Stanko Kristi, the artist himself is there and shows us around.  He seems to work either making horses from scrap metal or 3 dimensional faces that light up using bottles and tiles, another amazing find.  Arriving in Albi the motorhome parking is incredible, directly below the cathedral.  The cathedral is the most stunning we have seen for ages, enormous, gothic style and with the exception of the stone portico it is all brick.  Entering it takes our breath away as all the walls and ceilings are covered in paintings.  €3 (£2.70) buys you admission to the treasury and an audio guide that allows you to go into the back half which is actually the front.  The is a strange building as the original organ, choir stalls and alter are behind the rood screen and a small area so now in front of the rood screen a new altar, choir and organ have been created basically producing 2 churches back to back within the same building.  The stories about the last testament picture really bring it to life and there are some pretty gory scenes including the sinners being boiled alive in a huge cooking pot.  The old centre of Albi was declared a UNESCO monument only last year so information is scant but we wander round and find a number of very impressive buildings.  Albi is the birthplace of Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec but we are all toured out today and give the museum a miss.  All in all a day that has far exceeded our expectations and the night is much the same as although we are in the centre of the city it is incredibly quiet.


THURSDAY 6 OCTOBER – We are the first to leave at 8.30am; most of the other motorhomes haven’t even opened their curtains, lazy bones.  Castres is the next big city and there we visit the Rimor dealer as we have a waste tank full warning light on.  He speaks no English but immediately recognises what is a common problem.  The waste tank has sensors and one of these is dirty so we must buy some tank cleaner and flush the tank out with that.  It’s another lovely hot day so just south of Mazamet we head to the lake.  I hadn’t paid too much attention to the map so am rather surprised that the 7km journey is all uphill into the mountains with lots of bends in the road.   Luckily Lac De Les Montagnes (should have spotted the clue in the name) is magnificent.  Car park 2 is behind a large grassy lawn leading to the lake.  Unfortunately as we have climbed so high it is not so hot but we do manage to sunbathe until about 5pm.  It gets a little cooler in the evening, think we feel it more as we are watching the movie “Into the void” the true story about some climbers in Peru in the snow clad mountains with wind chill of -80 degrees.  After we go to bed we get some rain and this continues on and off throughout the night.


FRIDAY 7 OCTOBER – Doubling back through Mazamet we spot a sign saying 12C, that’s a drop of 20C since Cahors a couple of days ago.  Again we have about an hour’s drive to get to our friends house but stop for a cuppa en route.  We first met Jo in 1999 in Greece and have met a few times since, Spain, England and France.  Now she lives with a new partner Gordon in a small village near Bezier.   Over a typical French lunch with pate we catch up on her news.  She met Gordon in India as they both go there for long winter breaks.  She sets us up in the little house in the garden which is perfect.  AS there is a washing machine I make full use of the strong winds and get loads done.  In the evening we have a lengthy roast dinner that Jo cooks as we have so much catching up to do.


SATURDAY 8 OCTOBER – Still the strong winds, normal in this area but not normally as strong as this.  After a pottering morning I join Jo for an afternoon ride out.  After picking up a prescription we go out to the coast where she shows me some motorhome parking but it’s like a gravel car park behind an exposed windy beach.  Jo has a holiday flat at St Piere so we look at that and the aire close by.  The St Piere aire is much nicer and also a short walk from the naturist beach so we may well visit when we leave Jo’s.


SUNDAY 9 OCTOBER – Most of the day is spent getting the motorhome put onto the Internet for sale ( Not only in England but we also are happy to deliver it to virtually anywhere in Europe so finding the right type of website takes ages.  We have a girlie pampering afternoon with Jo putting highlights into my hair and me giving Jo a facial.  I have offered to cook tonight and we aim to eat at 7.30pm.  I’m cooking a roast beef Sunday dinner and know the oven needs to go on around 6pm so keep asking Steve the time.  He’s watching TV and although it seems late he says it is still only 5.45pm, I then realise that he is calling out the time on the English satellite TV and we are 1 hour ahead.  Panic stations as I put the oven on and mention to Jo & Gordon that dinner will be a little late.  Half an hour later I realise the oven isn’t warming up and it turns out the oven in the little house is broken.  By the time we have moved everything into the house and got going we end up eating at 8.30pm although it does all turn out rather well.  Having watched a lot of the “Come dine with me” series I pulled out the entertainment early and did a few magic tricks before we ate.


MONDAY 10 OCTOBER – I join Jo for a trip to the docs for her flu jab and follow it up with a bit of shopping, although we are trying to run down our food prior to the cruise I still seem to come back with lots of stuff.  The wind is dying down; Jo & Gordon get the house ready to be locked up for the winter whilst Steve gives Eddie a clean.  I do a little better with my “International” evening meal.  In the little house we start with Spanish sangria followed by a Greek salad.  The Chinese main course we eat in the motorhome and follow it up with English bread and butter pudding.  After a game of Scrabble the men head off and Jo and I stay on putting the world to rights.



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