Thursday, 27 August 2015

France.May & June 2015

Well we left home on the Saturday night heading for Poole. We had to make several diversions round Bath and Blanford due to road closures, so the journey took longer than usual! We dropped the legs on the caravan and had supper along with a few glasses of wine and turned in.

At 6.00am we were woken up by the Brittany ferry men and directed to be in Lane 11 in half an hour. So quick mug of tea, legs up and we moved forward to the ticket office.  Tickets stamped and we were quickly through to passport control and security. For the first time ever we were not checked at the security barrier, just waved straight through.  At 07.30 we were on to the ferry, so it was up onto deck for a good breakfast.  We enjoyed a very smooth crossing of the Oggin and arrived in France at 13.45 French time. Straight out on to the French roads and down to Villeieu-Les-Poeles.  This is a site we often use as our first and last stop in France, as it is about 90 miles south of Cherbourg. It is also in the centre of Town so it is good for shopping.
We arrived, put our sun awning up and enjoyed our first drink in France.

By 10.00 the following morning we were on our way south, heading for a site at Angers. We had a really pleasant run across the wonderful French countryside. French roads really are a joy to drive as they are so empty. The site we had selected from the ACSI guide was Du Lac de Maine. We arrived on site at about 2.30 and within 15 minutes were set up in the glorious sunshine. The site was large and very spacious. It is on the banks of the River Loire, and would make a good base for more than one night if you wanted to tour the area. However as we were heading for real sun and heat it was only a one night stop.

We left at 10.00am the following morning and headed down through Poitiers and Limoges aiming for Camping De Montreal at St Germain Les Belles.  This really is the king of sites. It has individual pitches set on the edge of a lake. We always phone ahead to make sure Hans keeps us a lake side pitch. Hans, the owner is Dutch, but like so many continentals is fluent in many languages. We had dinner in the restaurant, and it was excellent. The following day was a non driving one so we sat in the sun and I cycled round the lake.

Early morning over the Lake at Capmping De montreal

Looking across the lake to the campsite. Camping de Montreal
Again we were on the road at 10.00am on Thursday morning, having a straight run down A20 towards Toulouse and camping Le Rope.  As we went down the A20 it became a Peage (Toll  Road). We had invested in a Tag, that would bill my bank account automatically!  As we nervously  approached the Toll gate we wondered if it would work!  All of a sudden there was a ping from the tag, lights turned green and the barrier rose!  Success!

We found the site, which was behind huge gates, more reminiscent of a prison entrance!  Our pitch was a bit scruffy.  However the toilet block we superb!  We purchased a cooked chicken from the cafe for dinner. The site was very noisy as it was close to the peage and the railway! At 04.00am the site got very noisy as people started getting up and leaving for work. We certainly will not be using this site again!

We left at 10.00am and headed south to our final destination, Camping Floride at Le Barcares. We arrived there at 2.30, and spent time setting up as we were going to be here for over 4 weeks.  Our pitch has its own toilet and shower block. It is 100yards from the beach. Around us were many Dutch people that we have met in previous years, who welcomed us back.  When you are on a site like this where many people stay for weeks at a time you soon get to know people.

We soon fell into a routine of lazy days sat in the sun, enjoying good food and wine!

However things were soon to be disturbed!

After three days or so on camp we needed to go shopping to purchase food and wine. Set off towards the supermarket and the Freelander2 does not feel right. As we go down the dual carriageway, we start to loose power and the engine management light comes on!  Time for a U turn, and we limp back to the caravan!  Large glass of wine and I ring Red Pennant, the Caravan Club break down service!  I explain the problem and say that it needs to go to Land Rover Perpignan!  They say they will get it arranged, and in an hour or so I am called back to say that a big breakdown truck will be with me in the morning to take the Freelander away. Land Rover Perpignan did not want me to attempt to drive it as I could make things worse. The next day at the appointed time the breakdown truck appears and the Freelander, which now also has a flat battery is winched on to the truck and taken away!  Red Pennant say that it is going to be a few days before it is fixed so they have arranged a hire car for me. I duly get a taxi and set off to get my hire car.  A few days later I get a call to say that the Freelander is fixed, it was a split turbo hose, and  I duly set off to return the hire car, get a taxi to Land Rover Perpignan and collect the Freelander.  I pay the bill and return to the caravan and all seems well!
Our first hire car

We decide after a couple of days to go for a  run down the coast towards the Spanish border.  Off we go, stopping for morning coffee at St Cyprien.  We then continue our meanderings and all of a sudden the Freelander stops again!   After a bit of nursing, and some most un Paul like language we reach a small village and call Red Pennant.  Getting to be on first name terms with the brilliant staff there now!  Explain the situation, and they agree to find a Tow truck to take us to Land Rover Perpignan. Alas it is lunch time, and in France that means everything is shut for two hours!  Eventually a tow truck turns up and  the Freelander is loaded. Unfortunately there is only room for one in the lorry so Lizzie opts to travel in the Freelander on the tow truck. We get to Land Rover where the Freelander is unloaded and we get a Jaguar taxi back to the caravan.  As it is now the weekend again we are told that we will here nothing until the Monday. Red Pennant sort me out another hire car and we carry on enjoying the sun and 40 degrees of heat!

 Monday comes and Red Pennant ring to say it is a broken fuel pipe and there is not one in France!  Red Pennant keep badgering Land Rover to get it sorted. They also ring me daily with the latest news! Over a week later Red Pennant decide that if it is not fixed by the Tuesday, a 4X4 will be shipped out to us, and ours taken back to the UK on a truck. Miraculously the pipe arrives and we get the Freelander back!
The moral of this tale is make sure you have Red Pennant looking after you!

Morning Coffee stop!
Meanwhile our life at Le Barcares has continued, with trips to local markets and pretty villages, as well as time sat on the beaches, just enjoying the relaxed lifestyle with plenty of good food and wine.
My sea food dinner

Our Chicken man at the Market.
Freshly cooked chickens for 7 Euros.

Just oneof the market stalls.
The local market is held every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday!

Our beach! plenty of room for all

We decided that before we began our journey home we would undertake a long trip that we had promised ourselves to Andorra. We set off and a couple of hours later after climbing some amazing passes, that made Lizzie quite nervous as the drop at the edge of the road was often over several thousand feet, we reached Andorra.

This is a shopping mecca as everything is so cheap. We spent several hours there just wandering and shopping before wending our way home from the mountainous country.
The route back down

  We did fill up with Diesel before we left as it was 1 euro a litre, about 71p.

Finally our time at Le Barcares was coming to an end. Many of our Dutch neighbours were also leaving as the prices for the pitches were about to double!

We cleared up and left to begin our nervous run home, was the Freelander going to behave. We set off up the Peage, which was very windy towards Narbonne, and then turned inland towards Toulouse.We had decide to stay  overnight at a site on the river at Moissac, a site we have been to before, called de l'ile du Bidounet.  It is an OK site with a very narrow entrance through an arched bridge.  The pitches are quite small and are laid out in a strange way.
Camp site Entrance

The Lake at Moissac

We left there at 10.00 the following morning and headed up the motorway back to Camping de Montreal, where we stayed for a couple of days, before moving north to Camping les Noblis, at Montreuil-Bellay. This was a lovely site with and excellent Bar and wifi.  It really would make a good touring base!

We left there and headed Villerieu-les-Poeles, where we were going to spend a couple of days doing shopping and enjoying our last proper French meal! The weather had changed and instead of burning heat we had a bit of rain.

Our last night in France

Our last proper French meal!

On the Friday we had a leisurely clear up and the headed for Cherbourg for our 18.30 ferry back to England. We landed at 22.00 and arrived home at midnight.

In all we covered 2002 miles! We had an absolutely fabulous time, with fantastic food and weather.
So good in fact that we have booked our pitch in Barcares for most of May and June next year!

As for the Freelander, well she has made her last foreign trip with us as she will be replaced shortly.  Our nerves cannot face another trip abroad in her!

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