We left Burgos in Spain and headed north for France taking the easy route, the Motorway, which avoids the twisting road through the mountains north of Vitoria de Gastiez and heading towards San Sebastion and the border. Kit gave me a spell off the driving by taking over, think I will have to get one of those toy steering wheels so I have something to do whilst sitting in the passenger seat. We stopped for coffee and croisant on the French side and entered the real world with a bang, just short of €8.50, ouch! It is hard to find a cup of coffee under €2.50 in France which after Portugal and Spain makes you wonder why. Having said that buying a chicken in France can cost around €8.00 or if ready roasted €12.00. Guess all chickens must be hand reared and brought up with the Farmer's family.
We were aiming for Castets a nice village where we have on other occasions used the Campsite and the Hotel but never got around to spending time having a nosey around, this time we spent two days on the campsite and called in at the Cafe/Bar/Hotel, in the centre where we had the cheapest Cafe au lait at €2.00 up to now from a grumpy Landlord who was not best pleased when I handed him a €20.00 note and he spent the next couple of minutes muttering to his other customers about it. Next day was VE day, for those of you who are a lot younger than me it stands for Victory in Europe and is a national holiday in France to celebrate the end of WW2 in Europe.
Walking towards the Village that morning we came face to face with three very mature (at my age I don’t use the word elderly anymore) ladies riding their cycles 3 abreast on the footpath, as they got close I held my hands up to surrender which brought a smile to their faces, who said the French have no sense of humour. We found ourselves passing some very large houses set in their own grounds, not quite Chateau's but pretty near that size and we also came across old style wood framed houses some lived in and some not and left to rot. The walk to the nearest Intermarche was about a kilometer along a wooded road with small information boards explaining what the various features you could see were or had been.
Our next destination was Pons, once ruled by Richard the Lionheart as part of England and when he found out the peasants were revolting (pun intended) decended on the Village with a heavy hand, or maybe sword. Anyway we are friendly with Piet and Caroline who own the site so we like to call in and see them if in the area plus I wanted to find out how they were getting on with the training schedule I had done for their Rhodesian Ridgeback last year. Just a couple of days then we headed for the Conflons area about 60Km's east where two good friends from Oakworth, Cath and Bill, now live and to spend a couple of days with them, we always feel at home there plus it is nice to catch up with news about friends we have in common.
Leaving Cath and Bill we headed for a campsite at La Rochelle, the one Kit had picked down near the harbour opens start of May except we discovered on arrival the place does not now open until the start of June. A quick look in the book and Kit found another site a few kilometers away but by the beach so we headed for that instead and found it was a good choice. We asked directions to get a Bus into Town were told turn right out of the campsite and it's about 1Km. Trust me it must be an Skye Km because it was a lot further than 1Km. Still the next morning we were in La Rochelle and it is a favourite place with yachtsmen/women, all sizes and shapes and so were the yachts but we made our way into the old part of Town and did the tourist bit. If in the area it is worth a visit with Colonades to to protect you from the rain or sun which is in very short supply at the moment. The main entrance to the harbour is still guarded by two large towers and part of the original town wall. In Town we found ourselves in a huge street Market which was thronged with people, we bought a load of Crepes from one stand and had them for dinner whilst walking around.
The rain had definitely caught up with us and just after we returned from Town it started and continued all night and most of the next day. Another holiday in France on the 20th so once more all the shops etc will be closed as the Country again almost comes to a stop, we think this is the last one until August when France closes for a month :-)
On to St. Nazaire further up the west coast, as a youngster after WW2 I remember the town was famous for the raid by British Commandos on board HMS Campbelltown and the destruction of the Lockgates into the harbour where German Submarines were hidden safely away from Allied bombers inside a huge Fortress made of concrete Pens for the Uboats. Of the 600 hundred Commandos and Naval personnel that took part just over 200 made it back and this is celebrated by a Monument overlooking the sea. We stayed on an excellent campsite about 5Km south of St. Nazaire it is huge with both cabins as well as pitches for Campers and beautifully kept.
We decided to split the journey to Euro Tunnel in half as we had a couple of days in hand and chose a campsite in Alencon to stay, not so 'posh' as the last two sites but well laid out though the facilities were a bit tired. The showers were a bit strange as you had to hold onto a chain for the water to flow which left you with one hand to do the necessary, unfortunately the handles were missing from the chains which made it uncomfortable to hold, all a part of the adventure !! We were able to walk into town via the riverbank, about 10 minutes and after a stop for coffee we explored the center and admired the old timber framed houses as well as the large Church with it's carvings. Again we found ourselves 'walking in the rain, getting soaking wet' but not singing about it as we took a wrong turning and did an extra 2Kms in the wrong direction.. One of the bonuses of the campsite was free WiFi so we were able to catch up with emails etc.
On to Neuf Chatel a campsite we have used many times in the past 10 years, very handy for those arriving from the UK from the Train or Ferry and well laid out. One of it's advantages is the three Supermarkets within five minutes walk of the campsite which has recently been extended by an Aire laid out for 12 units to stop over for a night at a slightly cheaper cost than the campsite.
Our last campsite on French soil was near Wissant at Escalles another really good small site with views of the cliffs of Dover. Only 15 minutes from the Euro Tunnel so we were a bit early arriving and ended up going straight through Immigration and Customs and onto the Train, arriving in the UK an hour before we left.
Best regards to all, Jack n Kit.