Tag Archives: Auvergne

And so it ends (day 18)

27th September (Day 18)
Spoonbills and Avocets

This will be our final full day in France for 2018 – I’m sure we will be back next year (I feel Brittany calling – out of season).
Janette has identified a nature reserve on the North Coast – Le Parc du Marquentierre – from what we could gather the land belonged to a tulip grower who turned it into a nature reserve in the 70’s and 80’s. We have brought along a spotting scope I recently purchased second hand, so we are hoping to see some decent ‘oisans’ close up (25x maginification).
We turn up before midday and learn the long route (6kms) with 13 hides will take about 2hrs (I usually add half on again) so we decide to take some supplies with us. The first section was a little uninspiring but later on we were treated to some pretty good birdwatching. Spoonbills galore – throughout the day we counted about 120 in 2 different flocks (a first for Janette) – I had some pretty decent binoculars that I’ve had a couple of years but the scope is just fantastic – 3 times the magnification of the binoculars and with a large front lens not much loss of light. We then went on to see Avocets (another first for Janette) and later on some Moufflon and wild horses grazing near the scrapes. We were told by one of the wardens of a rare vagrant bird which had arrived from N.America – a Pectoral Sandpiper – just the one (and we managed to spot it!). To top it all as we were leaving a wild boar mother and 5 piglets crossed Hilma’s path. Not quite a black cat but we thought it was lucky 😊 A great way to spend our last full day – now we are off to top Hilma up with some wine to take back.
All good things must come to an end (or do they) – well maybe temporarily, “we’ll be back”.

Highlights and lowlights
There are so many memories of this holiday we will both take away with us. Passion France was an eye opener for us – you still have to be a bit choosy in terms of where you would like to stay, vineyards, market gardens, working farms or Chateaus. My favourite was meeting the old boy at Chateau Sury – I’ll never forget helping him fix his curtain and his wonderful smile when we said goodbye.
Aubusson was the next highlight for me with it’s inspiring art and tapestries – somewhere I’m sure we will go back to (hopefully to see the rest of the JRR Tolkein tapestries).
Noirlac Abbey was a peaceful interlude where the ‘light’ will forever stick in my memory. In between we have passed through many villages and towns which we have noted we would like to visit some other time – France is so large we will never see it all.
Cycling to Troo and seeing the Troglodyte caves was another little adventure which was fun – such an unusual place situated on the Loir.
Then the most amazing ‘visual indigestion’ trip to Giverny to see Monet’s house and gardens, what can I say? It was beautiful day and a beautiful place.
The ‘pièce de resistance’ was our last full day in France at Le Parc du Marquentierre mentioned above – 200 hectares set aside for nature and nature lovers.
Some obvious lowlights if you have been reading the blog was the failure of the water pump and the loss of the lockable Gazole cover – but you know what – that’s all part of motor-homing, it goes with the territory and with a little luck, asking for some help and a little ingenuity you can always get by and motor on.
This was the first holiday where we had planned with a ‘broad brush stroke’ identifying regions we wanted to visit and then ‘homing’ in on places we wanted to see using a French guide book. The only thing is we didn’t want to see every cathedral or church it had to offer so we sought out alternatives – even missing a few we might come back too.
Total accommodation cost for 18 days: £127. If we include the France Passion purchases for our hosts products that rises to a whopping £208 (£11.55 a day) not bad.
A fantastic treat – we are so privileged to be able to do this. Stop work for 3 weeks and really enjoy ourselves. We wouldn’t have done anything different, each day was an adventure, something to embrace and build upon for the future.
Bye for now – until next time.
Ian and Janette xx

The dodgy duo signing off until our next trip

To the Auvergne (now on our way back) – Day 16

25th September (Day 16)
A dash to the coast

With only three days left now until our ferry back to blighty we thought we would head for the coast and put our feet up for a couple of days. We are going to stay near Cayeux-sur-Mer below Bolgne and get the bikes out, a bit of bird spotting, basically chilling before the inevitable horrors of driving on the M25.
Before we set off we look at the route and decide to have a look at les Andelys on the Seine as it looks like it has some fantastic views from a chateau on high. At the back of my mind though is the gaping Gazole hole that needs sorting out. The drive down into the valley is spectacular and we arrive in les Andelys looking for a garage – I pull into one but it really just a tyre outlet but they direct me to a motor spares place in town. This is a very busy place being on a main route to Rouen. Having negotiated heavy traffic we found ACE motor spares and I enquired about a ‘Bouchon Essence’ for Hilma – some strange looks but we get there in the end pointing to a picture of a temporary cap in the book he presented to me. “Aprés-midi monsieur” as they did not have one in stock. I declined, I did not want to wait for a couple of hours (probably more) as we wanted to crack on.

Janettes sweety face – cheering me up after the lost Gazole cap


Next stop was an agricultural supply shop in a town nearby (I had decided it would be better to try and sort this out before doing any more touristic stuff). A very helpful mademoiselle said they didn’t have any but came out and had a look at the size of Hilma’s orifice (most rude I thought) and went returned to the shop with me in tow. A couple of shelf visits later and we came to – the corks! Well, not parfait, but I bought a pack of two and intend to ‘whittle’ one into shape later with a spare in case I make a cock up of the first. All exciting stuff this motor-homing malarkey you know, what with pumps breaking down, lost gazole covers and smaller mishaps like breaking glasses it all adds up to an adventure itself, let alone the touristy bits.
We drive through Normandy content that we have corks to block up Hilma ( will swap the water cover to the gazole cover and use the cork on the water – ingenious I thought and when we get back to blighty order another – unless we see a camping-car outlet en route).
I didn’t realise just how rolling the countryside could be in Normandy with some spectacular views. Eventually we arrive at la Mollière d’Aval opposite a campsite and settle down into the Aire exclusively for motorhomes for €7 a night and €3 for a water jeton. For that we get to use the campsite toilets and showers with a view of the dunes.

La Manche – on our way back to blighty now

France 2018 – to the Auvergne (made it!!) – days 12 -14

21st September (Day 12)
What a day – wine, water, pumps and STRESS

When in the comfort of our homes we tend to take for granted all that happens automatically – like turning a tap on and water comes out. I’ve been on about the water pressure for a day or two now, suspecting the battery bank after being on AC connected power – thinking perhaps the elektroblok was not doing its job properly and the batteries were being overcharged thus affecting the output.
So, this morning the water refused to come out the tap at anything but a dribble and then not at all as a motor-homer that’s just about one of the worst case scenarios – not the worst I’m sure, it certainly focuses the mind on getting it sorted pronto. Before that though we had to say goodbye to Sophie our Passion France host on the ‘Francois Jourdain’ vineyard (Domaine des Moreaux) and of course sample some of their wares (not too much with driving ahead of us) – we tried three whites and two reds spitting out lots (shame) and ended up buying a 5ltr box of red to drink on our travels and 4 white to take home. So one might say that it was an expensive overnight stop at €43 but we would be buying wine anyway and why not from our hosts who have been kind enough to let us stay for free – if we had stopped at a campsite it would be €20 anyway.

My little Sunflower on the ‘Francois Jourdain’ vineyard (Domaine des Moreaux)


A spot of lunch before moving off and I decided I needed some connectors to test the water pump, stopping at a Supermarché I found a few and decide I would have a go at the pump whilst Janette was shopping for supper. Off came the water tank cover, the pump connectors looked a little moist so I thought it might be shorting out. I did a quick test with the voltmeter and when Janette returned got her to switch the tap on – there was current going through but the pump was intermittent or sometimes dead. I decided to renew the connections and try again – same thing, so having eliminated the connection (13.6v was going to the pump) my suspicion was the pump was on the way out. At Blois we called into a Fiat dealer having been told by a garage owner that they serviced Hymers. A very kind gentleman who did not speak a word of English understood my ‘pompe electrique pour l’eau est mort’ pointed me in the direction of a Camping-Car retailer about 15km away. Last chance saloon as it was now getting on for 4:30pm and without water we would have to book into a site rather than an aire. Again my ‘pompe et mort’ managed miraculously to get someone to point me to the pumps on the wall. Bingo – having had the offending article out earlier in an attempt to shake some life into it, I saw the very pump on sale (not a Hymer original but exactly the same shape and size). With my pocket €65.40 lighter (or rather my credit card account) I skipped back to Hilma with a new present – she would think it was Christmas or her birthday – what a treat she was in for but she would have to wait. Time was pressing so we decided to motor to our original aire destination at Montoire-sur-le-Loire and settle in before attempting a pump refit.
We were the last on site (although the French usually manage to squeeze a few extra in when they want) – I really wanted a beer after the stress of the day but prudence meant (actually Janette’s insistence) that I try the new pump before any alcohol passes my lips (didn’t want to wire it up wrong and blow the fuses).
Hooray for Hilma – she has a new water pump – probably the first in her 17yrs of existence – and it worked. Positively blown away with the pressure we took glee in watching it spurt out, then we realised we needed to be careful with the water – it’s not on tap you know!
BEER TIME 😊

Bad, bad, naughty pump (but then it may be 18 yrs old).

You can’t see it but our brand new pump is in there and what power, boy what power she has

22nd September (Day 13)
Hoping for a better day

I arose early and tottered off to get my morning baguette and found the town square getting ready for the market. With moving on every day or two it’s pot luck whether we come across a market or not, so we wanted to make the most of this one. A quick breakfast and we launch ourselves into the fray of ‘combien monsieur or madame’?, attempt to not look like tourists by going to the local’s café (ha ha) – and stand out like a sore thumb!

Montoire-sur-Loir market produce


We get into buying mode with the veggies and discuss the possibility of an evening meal out, finally deciding on a huge slice of tuna and some prawns to cook on the Cadac (gas barby). We did eat out at lunchtime and with all the bread I am eating (I love French bread – how can you not) I’m noticing a little spare tyre starting to appear around the midriff. Since my marathon in April (in 25°C heat) I have only run 2 or 3 times and feel decidedly unfit. This boulangeries and patisseries are not helping!
After lunch Janette had identified a small town within striking distance of our bicycle fitness level – Troo. The guides showed it was full of ‘Troglodyte’ caves? Troo is a village built precariously into a limestone hillside. The village consists of many (and I mean many, many) staircases taking you up and down into different parts of it. Nowadays the caves that were originally hewn out for homes are used as storage cellars – one or two were even used as bakeries and café’s in the past and have been semi-preserved for historical importance (and to attract the tourists like us). When we (eventually) reached the very top of the village after a couple of wrong turns we were rewarded with a fantastic panoramic view over the Loir valley.

Troo – caves and all

Time to head back and work off in advance some of that choue bun (religeuse) that I would be eating after supper – really I ask you – what am I doing to my body!

La Religeuse – more like the ‘devil’s’ cake to me

23rd September (Day 14)
A travelling day

Nothing to report here really. The weather was so awful we decide to make a run for the North and make up a day of travelling so we can put our feet up and try a camp site on the coast. Well, that’s the plan – but this is a fluid holiday so we’ll see. We do end up for the evening in Rugles which has a lovely write up in the Aire book but we felt didn’t really inspire us so we will be moving on tomorrow.

France 2018 – to the Auvergne (maybe) – days 8 & 9

17th September (Day 8)
Journey to the centre of the Earth (well France)

A good night’s sleep at Sury – waking to glorious sunshine we watched a pair of red squirrels attacking the walnut tree (and then Janette had a go and retrieved a bag full of walnuts). Within 15 mins we also saw a Kestrel, a Woodpecker, a Nuthatch and plenty of tits. Walking down the road and saw at least 3 Great White Egrets and numerous Grey Herons – a beautiful walk.

Gourds on a garden fence – a walk from Chateau Sury

We plan our route by looking at the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness book of France looking for interesting places to visit. We then look at which aire’s / passion sites / or camp sites are in the area and hava plan A & B just in case we can’t get in. We then look at the maps and highlight a route and put key parts of the drive into Mrs. Garmin – if we just put the final destination I guarantee she will take us down some narrow farm track with no places to turn – she’s a bit of a meany like that and I don’t know why we employ her. Janette is the voice of reason and will quite often admonish Mrs. Garmin for her stupid suggestions.
Onward we go as the France Passion stopovers are only for 24 hrs – we don’t need to chase the sun as it’s all around us. We are still heading for the Auvergne and tonight’s stop will be at St.Amand-Montrond. We arrive in the late afternoon and don’t like the look of the aire and decide to move on to a camp site in Bruere Allichamps which is the very centre of France – I’ve yet to get my compass on the map to test this – I’ll just have to trust the French they have their measurements correct. The site was unmanned and barriered and we had to purchase a Camping-Car card from the machine (€4) at the entry and load it with €8 for one night’s stay. Toilet block was closed but a bonus was free wi-fi which allowed me to top up the sim card to get online and write the blog (I had been without wi-fi for 4 days so much of this is catch-up).

18th September (Day 9)
Abbeye Noirlac

We had identified Noirlac Abbey as a place to visit en-route to our next stop. We are getting into a rhythm with traveling now – we try and get some walking or cycling in the morning and move on before midday or, if we have a longer drive, try and get away before 10:00am (never happens!). The Abbey was literally only 5km away and the area near the camp site was uninspiring for a walk or cycle so we headed off to the Abbey. This place had massive car parks but very few cars – the time of year was on our side.

Noirlac Abbey – contemporary logo


Noirlac Abbey was home to two communities in the 12th Century; choir monks and their lay brothers. The way I saw it the lay brothers were the go fetch people for the monks – basically servants to the choir monks making sure the Abbey ran smoothly and letting the monks get on with prayers and singing.
The Abbey itself had been in restoration since 1959 and continues to this day. What I took away from this was the sheer beauty of the light within, no darkened stained-glass windows here, as you can see from the pictures.

The Abbey Church

Beautiful windows in the Abbey Refrectory

The building does not hold any special religious meaning for me, rather I am more interested in the historical aspect of medieval times and the architectural wonder and how this must have been a very imposing building. My mind tries to comprehend how people lived in those times and just how much effort went into building such a place. Interesting how in contemporary times the building is being used for choral and music concerts and I imagine would be magnificently lit for those evening soirées.

Cloisters – imagine walking through these in your habit

Not quite as old as the Abbey – these 100yr old Lime trees brought some welcome shade to the garden


We left Noirlac with a sense of well being and motored on towards a campsite (La Perle) near Aubusson. Having eventually found it (the Lat/Long co-ords in the Touring France book published by the UK Caravan and Motorhome Club book take you down some very tiny roads which if you did have a caravan on the back would be very scary and impractical) we had a look around before deciding to put our feet up for 2 nights. Their were two places we wanted to visit nearby – Aubusson (home of French Tapistry artisans) and Moutier d’Ahun.

France 2018 – to the Auvergne (maybe) – days 4 & 5

13th September (Day 4)
Where are we going? What are we doing? What is life all about?

Decision time – no, not about our life, just about the next day or two. That’s what traveling in Hilma does – relaxes us, disengages us from the real world and we enter this world of not wanting to make a decision because that’s what we do in the real world. This is the first time that I haven’t planned a holiday to the nth degree. Quite liberating and if you are an anal retentive person about wanting to know what’s happening next, quite scary. So here we go, a little planning just to keep me happy.
We have decided to visit Chateau Pierrefonds – those of you that followed the ‘Merlin’ TV series will recognise the splendour of the building. Originally built in the 14th Century it became ruined but restored in the 19th Century – it has a faux feel about it as a fortified castle. Fascinating stonemason work and huge – a good 2hours spent wandering and wondering about medieval life in France. It dwarfs the town and must have been an impressive site during those early years (and may I add is still an impressive site).

Chateau Pierrefonds – Entrance, Courtyard & Grand Hall

Pierrefonds – Sculptures & Carvings


Onward to our second Passion France stay – the Champagne producer Mme Leguillette. A very warm welcome from the owner and in no time at all we were parked alongside some of the vines that had already been harvested for this year. We were told we could wander through the vineyards at our leisure – 8 Hectares of them – so we did.

Walking through the vineyards – courtesy of Mme Leguillette


14th September (Day 5)
It’s all about the bubbles!

In the morning we decide to seek out the owner and purchase some Champagne and Ratafia – a particular type of fortified wine like a sherry. Mme, we were told by Bridget, was on a ‘rendezvous’ (sounds cheeky) so we asked Bridget to sell us some. Before we bought we were treated to a tour of the cellars and production areas of the vineyard. Fantastic – in our broken French and her very good English we managed to find out about the different processes and timescale involved with making the Champagne. We reckon their must have been about 20,000 bottles at various different stage – and that’s a small producer (too many to sample).

Fermentation vats, 2nd stage fermenting in the bottles and a sealed bottle for the experts to taste and award their verdict.

The France Passion is really an eye opener for us – you can stay at some wonderful places and this is only our second visit to one of the listings.
Next stop Gurgy on the River Yonne – an aire next to the river that had a great write up in the ‘All the Aires North’ book. We were not disappointed – a beautiful spot. Straight away we decided to stay 2 nights and put our feet up – treat ourselves to a Restaurant meal and chill. At €7 a night we didn’t mind paying for a bit of paradise.
Some unusual sculptures were hung over the stream going through the village – I must admit to rather liking them. A definite talking point with people pointing, talking, shaking heads and generally confused – just what art should be all about!