2018/09/19 – France – Giving it another try


Wednesday 19th September

Decided to give France another try as we have not had great experiences in this country in the past. 

Think any Aussie travelling through France should have clearly marked BIG  stickers on their WoMo stating they are from Australia – the more the better. 

We sit and watch as people in French Mohos look at our GB number plates and then move as far away as possible and as quickly as possible. 

Brexit is a sore point here not to mention the centuries old dislike of the British.  When we make our Aussie nationality clear – the air changes – for the better.

Again we experience a change as soon as we cross the border.  No border checks again. 

The French countryside is really beautiful but once you hit the towns, most are woeful and depressing and have done little or nothing to create pride in their towns or homes – no repairs or paint for a very long time!

Our first stop was to visit the Citadelle Montmedy but were turned back half way up the hill and advised it had closed in August for refurbishment – not sure when it will reopen. 

Had to back down the hill as there was no opportunity to do a several point turn – ugh! – this is our second time past Montmedy and still haven’t seen the Citadelle.

Next we found the prettiest little CP ever.  Parking Quncy-Landzecourt GPS N49.494961 E5.300020.  – it only holds four Mohos but the setting is beautiful. 

Nice arrangement

Just at the edge of the village, colourful flower pots line the bridge at the entry and each pitch is divided by shrubs and flower pots. 

The outlook is across green pastures and a stream.  There are no services here (we don’t need them anyhow).  The village is very small with no shops, only a few houses and farms but all of these well looked after and a credit to this small place.  My driver opted to move on.

Should have stayed here as the next few options were not good and we seemed to drive forever until we arrived at a suitable place.

Our campsite for tonight:  Aire de camping-car, Lavoir du Bourget, Louppy sur Loison – GPS 49.442310    E5.349570

This was smaller again with only two gravel pitches but we had the most magnificent view across to the Renaissance Castle and church on one side and green pastures across the valley on the other side.  No services here.

Renaissance Castle and church

Very small village so only took an hour to explore before the night set in.

Thursday 20th September

A great day travelling today with this CP certainly being off the beaten track taking us though some magic rural countryside.

Our campsite for tonight:  domaine du Vieux Moulin, Lachausse – GPS 49.0355530.   E5.817170

The CP is again gratis with no services.  It is behind a restaurant, a local  produce store and a working farm which is serviced by the handicapped.

Takes only about 5 Mohos but there was a selfish French Moho with trailer and motorbike who parked sideways to the water view which left little or no room for anyone else.  We fortunately were able to squeeze in and had a beautiful view across the huge tranquil lake where fishermen sat and sat and sat for hours without a bite – other later arrivals had to park at the back.

Ventured into the restaurant for some lunch but no one spoke anything but French and the menu was in French only (surprise surprise).  Eager to support the farm and the handicapped, we stayed for lunch.

Using google translate on an Ipad and showing it to the waitress, we ordered one meal to share and two drinks.  Ended up with two meals instead but given the language problem, opted to grin and bear it as we always seem to have to do in France.

Walked around the farm where there were hundreds of chickens and other weird looking fowls in outside coups and then ventured into the small village.

The CP setting was really special so we sat and watched the most glorious sunset across the lake.

Friday 21st & Saturday 22nd September

Our campsite for two nights:  Pont de Plaisance, Pont-a-Mousson – GPS N48.902939.  E6.061160

Had two wonderful days here.

The CP is right on the town’s edge with the Moselle lapping at the front door.  There are two parts, the first being right on the river with the second part on the marina.  We chose the marina as there were only four pitches near the marina office that got internet. 

All services here with great showers and WC facility and one gratis washing machine and dryer.  Couldn’t believe my luck to get one load in before the CP filled up, then there was a queue of baskets lined up in no time.  Internet is provided for one device only and each day you have to queue up to get a new code for the day. (French customer service?)

The Gothic Eglise Saint Martin built at the beginning of the 16th century is the main attraction in the town and stands tall at the end of the bridge that leads to town.  Major refurbishments of the internal statues were underway but we were lucky enough to gain entrance.  Great town to explore with bikeways running along both sides of the Moselle.  Too cold for this little duck to bike it, so we walked forever.

Saturday mornings, there is a local produce market in town until midday.

Sunday 23rd September

Miserable wet cold day today so not much fun travelling today. 

Our campsite for one night:  Aire de Camping-Car, Hombourg-Haut – GPS N49.123890.   E6.778720

This CP is set on a mixed parking area adjacent to a soccer field.  No cost to park and any services required are at a small cost.  Well laid out large pitches with a grass break between each.  There is also a Netto supermarket next door.

Nothing is open today and the showers continued throughout the day.   Mid afternoon the cars started to pile in to the soccer ground car park next door and soon the carpark was full.  Couldn’t believe they would play today but they did and as the squalls became heavier and the wind got stronger, we were not surprised they didn’t finish the game and headed for the shelter of the stands.

Some very cold and miserable players and spectators left the ground later in the afternoon.  Our entertainment for the day.

Monday 24th September

Our campsite for one night:  Aire de Camping-Car, Bitche – GPS N49.054409    E7.433860

This was a great find and so very interesting.  A must to visit.

The CP is set in the parking area for the Citadelle de Bitche.  Separate area dedicated for six Mohos with full services again gratis with a fee for water and electricity if needed.

Back end view of Citadelle

The Citadelle sits high on a plateau with panoramic views across to the North Vosges Mountains.  The Citadelle tour cost is €10 pp and is worth every cent.  You receive headphones (spoken in English???) which lead you through the inside of the Citadelle to 13 stations where stages of the film “Men in War of 1870” are projected onto different surfaces.  It talks of the war between the Prussians and the French (another French loss) and the fight to save the Citadelle from occupation.  Several museums have been set up within the Citadelle and are very interesting.  The views are amazing from the rampart walls.

On the Citadelle Tour

It is a short walk downhill to the City of Bitche to the Garden of Peace.  The gardens and vegetal creations are throughout the city centre and make for a pleasurable walk.

One of the many decorative street art pieces in the town square


2018/01/01 France – from the Med to the Mountains

Monday 1st January, 2018

We had waited in eager anticipation to end the 2017 year and the start of 2018. Ten minutes before midnight, the rain came bucketing down which seemed to end the activities planned for the city. Fireworks start was delayed by five minutes and only a small number were let loose before more rain saw the end of the celebrations and guaranteed a very quiet New Years Eve.

The morning brought with it perfect cloudless skies, so packed down and headed off for Marseille.

Beautiful scenery along the way as we headed further into the hills and then back down the other side to Marseille. Saw the Port looming as we came down the mountain and cargo ships way out to sea waiting for their time to come into Port. The Port was full of ships being loaded and unloaded and cruise ships so tall, they looked like they were top heavy with cabins.

Our NAVIE took us through the Port area where people were everywhere enjoying the waterfront cafes and being a public holiday, was extremely busy. We ventured through some scary narrow streets and under some really low bridges – the signage not being very clear about where the low bridges were so my driver was really tested and had heart in mouth for several kilometres.

Central Marseilles

Ziggy is 3.3 metres tall and most of the signage had height warnings of 3.2 metres -we gambled on the fact that there was a fudge factor involved and got through – it was either that or try to reverse up with a lot of frustrated drivers behind us.

Happily we arrived at the campsite (the only one in Marseille) and drove into the driveway with a sigh of relief. We were stopped from entering by three policemen and behind them some very angry looking motorhomers. We were not permitted entry and have no idea what was happening but probably some sort of result from New Years Eve. That was the end of our planned trip to Marseille.

We needed fuel desperately (the low warning light had been on for a while) as we had not planned on using so fuel much getting through Marseille. Our credit cards do not work in French Express fuel stations and as we had no choice, we pulled into one and waited for someone else to arrive before asking them to use their credit cards in exchange for cash (with a bonus of course for helping out). Spotted a young couple in a German registered car so opted to approach them. Turns out they were French with a German registered company car and they spoke German but they were super and helped us out big time and refused to accept a cash reward.

Headed out to the hills asap just to get away from the big city congestion, narrow lumpy roads and people everywhere.

Our campsite for tonight: Aire de Camping-Car Le Jardin, de la Ville, Cuges Les Pins

 Hurtling down the highway now leaving all that big city congestion behind, we soon drove through some magic natural countryside. This camp spot is part of a Natural Parc or to us seemed like our national parks. Surrounded by hills, woodland and very few houses, it was just bliss. We were greeted at the entry gate by three very fat goats who followed us right until we parked and then stuck around for a long time waiting for a feed. Didn’t think they needed one so sadly they missed out. Total serenity and beautiful natural woodland walks is what we needed and we certainly took advantage of this. Only shared this spot with about six other motorhomes.

Our type of camping – not another person around – in a pine forest

The town itself is nothing more than an old country town but just outside of town, a new estate was being built.

The sun hid behind the mountainside fairly early in the afternoon and soon it was quite cold. Thought back to being home and the camping we really love and this fit the bill, except we couldn’t have a camp fire – ugh!!

Tuesday 2nd January, 2018

Slept in this morning and had a leisurely breakfast before heading off through the countryside again and then back to the seaside.

Our campsite for tonight: Aire de Camping-Car, Saint Maxine

The campsite is just outside of town, about a 2km hike to the seafront and town. Because it is close to the beach the campsite was packed with motorhomes.

A really great walk but very windy and cold. People were everywhere enjoying all the outdoor restaurants and of course because of Xmas, the harbourfront became a theme park for rides and shows to keep the little and big ones happy. Xmas lights and decorations everywhere were fabulous. A very touristy town with no old town that we could find but hundreds and hundreds of very expensive looking yachts and cruisers were packed into the Marina in the harbour.

Sunset on the Saint Maxime waterfront

When we arrived back, the campsite was filled to capacity, with even a centre lane started where there was no space for a centre line – could be interesting in the morning.

Wednesday 4th January, 2018

Having been to the French Riviera before, we agreed to stay clear this time around so back to the hills for now. Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo etc. are places we really enjoyed on a previous trip, but in Ziggy would not be easy.

The scenery today was one of the most beautiful and picturesque we have travelled through. We travelled through the vast Grand Canyon du Verdon. Just amazingly beautiful mountains and rock formations towering over a stunning icy blue lake and river. The roads weaved in and out of the mountainside and after every corner another magic view appeared. Little hillside towns appeared out of nowhere all built into and forming part of the landscape.

Our campsite for tonight: Parking de la Gare, Entrevaux

The campsite is situated in a mixed parking area right beside a train line, but with only one train every hour, and only during the day, was not a problem at all. This is one of the most interesting medieval towns we have ever seen.

The town is split into two with the train line, a road and a waterway separating the two sides. The new side is not very interesting but on the other side, you access the medieval town by crossing the waterway via a drawbridge.  Once in the town, the narrow cobbled stone streets showcase a maze of beautiful old buildings. It is so hard to believe people still work and live here – but they do.

Entrevaux Medieval City

Set high on the hill above the old town, is the citadel. How these are ever built, we cannot imagine as they are built on sheer rock faces. We started up the steep hill but were blown apart by the massive winds sweeping through the valley. Got halfway up and retreated when the winds were too strong – we were actually blown off our feet not fun on a sharp incline.

The Citadel – the access via a zig zag cobblestoned street is a real challenge

Enjoyed a few ales with the locals in the newer part of town before handing back to Ziggy. We were the only ones there – not surprised but this was a very safe spot but unfortunately open to the windy conditions.

Access to the medieval city via the drawbridge

The Citadel was fully lit up high on the mountainside and was spectacular as were the lights and the Xmas tree in the medieval town.

Today was a truly special and wonderful day from start to finish.

Thursday 5th January

The winds were very gusty throughout the night so we were not unhappy to leave the campsite to escape this the next morning.

We were still in the Grand Canyon so really enjoyed the scenery again. Would highly recommend the trip to Entrevaux, though it is a tough drive.

This seaside part of France is extremely congested and the roads in and around the major cities were a nightmare. We opted to avoid these roads after a couple of horrific hours. No wonder all the cars here have bashes and gashes and busted side mirrors. We soon gave these roads a miss and took to the A8 tollway for a breather. When we left the A8 and headed inland to our next destination, we only had 22kms to get there – a breeze, one would think. Wrong – zig zag up the steep hill all the way through hairpin after hairpin bend.  Got halfway up and really wanted to give up. There were no places to stop so had to move on. Fortunately the road got better (a little) and eventually we reached our destination.

Our campsite for tonight: Aire de Camping Car, Sospel

 Another quiet spot set just on the edge of town. Room for only 6 motorhomes and fortunately we were no 4.

There were two parts to the town separated by a river bed but this time with an old town on both sides. We visited the tourist office who were really helpful and armed with maps, explored both sides.

A drawbridge over the moat to the medieval city

Very similar to Entrevaux where one part was over a drawbridge with a stone archway and tower leading into the town. The entrance was so narrow, only very, very small cars or bikes could get across to this part of town.

There were several Roman baths like these scattered around the City

On the other side, the small square’s cathedral is the focal point. Not what we would call a spectacular exterior, however, on the inside, it is really beautiful. These places are what interests us the most and we just adore exploring and being part of their heritage.

The Cathedral interior

Shared a drink with the locals in the pub before heading back for a well deserved rest.

12/27/2017 France from Roman Empire to 2017


Wednesday 27th December

Back to France again today with no one at the border to check passports. Shops on both sides of the border were extremely busy as this was the first shopping day after the Xmas holiday.

We could see the Pyrenees in the distance with a heavy layer of snow on top of the mountains.  Had absolutely no thoughts of heading in that direction – not ready to ski yet – will leave that till next winter.

As we travelled further into France, the mountain tops on one side hosted dark green thunderous clouds – looked seriously like hail – and in the far distance, heavy rain or snow and through the middle of this, a rainbow. Looked like all seasons in one ahead.

Soon light sleet began to fall and the wind howled and was seriously pushing Ziggy around. My driver had both hands on the wheel to steady the Ziggy bus and keep her on the road. We decided to find a campsite ASAP.

Our campsite for tonight: Aire de Camping Car L’Anse des Tamarins, Port Vendres

A great little harbour front campsite, tucked in behind a hill so thought we were protected here. The rain had stopped for a short while so took the opportunity to take a walk to the town which by all reports was really great. Only got 50 paces away and looked across the harbour to see those green black clouds rolling in from the sea straight for us. Took a couple of snaps and back home to ride out the storm.

Not looking good in Port Vendres

Several hours later after being buffeted around with wind and rain, it cleared long enough to go for a short walk. This is a working Port and is quite busy. The view across the harbour to town is very picturesque with lovely homes and apartment blocks scattered over the hill facing the harbour. Didn’t make it all the way round as the rain came back so unfortunately cannot report on the town.

The wake up call next morning was a treat, with two young gendarmerie collecting the camping money.  I was ready with money in hand at 8am, my driver was still recovering from the drive the day before. Got to say the gendarmerie were lovely and very easy on the eyes!!

Thursday 28th December

Must have had a huge snowfall on the Pyrenees overnight, as the mountains were covered in snow this morning. Still an overcast windy day today so the view was not as special as it could have been.  The hillsides and valleys are full of vineyards. None have any green on them and all look ready and waiting for spring.

Overnight snowfall on the Pyrenees

Our campsite for tonight: Aire de Campingcar de la Narbonne, Narbonne

The campsite is just on the outskirts of town with just a short 30 minute walk to the beautiful historic old town. Markets were set up leading into the old town. Xmas goodies being the main items. Once into Old Town, it was party time with stalls and restaurants selling fast food and drinks on one side of the canal and just over the bridge, a fairyland of rides including a huge Ferris wheel delighted young and old.

Canal boats moored in the middle of town – they can navigate from northern Europe through the Midi Canal into the Mediterranean Sea

A short walk from there took us into the main square. The building was wrapped in a huge red bow and fairy lights dangled down each huge fascia. In the centre of the Plaza, an ice skating rink delighted young and old.

Open air ice skating rink in the middle of town

Xmas themes donned every nook and cranny along the cobbled stone streets. The first area was themed and sponsored by the French Canadians and had tepees and squaws, a mountain man cooking up toffee on a camp stove and delighting the children with toffee on sticks, a two piece Canadian band, farm animals and of course a nativity scene.

The Canadian Mountain Man giving the kids some toffee

One that delighted the children (including the navigator) was a very minor version of Disney’s “It’s a small world” – just wonderful watching the faces of the little ones.

Nativity scene in the Cathedral

Finished the day with a glass of Vin Chaud (hot wine with cinnamon- I think) which certainly warmed up the cockles before heading home.

The payment system at the Aire was another piece of French engineering ingenuity aimed at favouring the French and sticking it up everyone else.  One of the main reasons to stay in an Aire is to gain access to the service facilities such as emptying the grey water tank, emptying the toilet cassette and filling up with drinking water, sometimes at additional fees.

The entry gate had a barrier and a machine for payment to enter the Aire – this machine accepted international credit cards and so we paid 12 Euros on our credit card to enter the site – all well and good. 

However, when we went to access the service facilities the payment machine would not accept international credit cards – it accepted French cards only and payment in Euros was not available either – French trick No 23B!!!!!

Our Australian Mastercards are not accepted as “smart cards” in France – when we go to supermarkets and other retailers we need to sign the sales voucher – when we go to automatic service stations to get diesel they will not accept our cards at all – we have nearly run out of fuel a couple of times because the only service stations that were open were the automatic type ie no staff at all.

On one accession we had to pay a young couple Euros in cash so they could use their credit card for us to get fuel – we were so grateful.

Friday 29th December

Woke up to a miserable cold wet day. We had such perfect weather for nearly the whole month in Spain and Portugal and have had the opposite since arriving in France.

Our campsite for tonight: Aire de Camping Car, Carcassonne

Had read lots about this place and just couldn’t wait to explore it. Our campsite is about 20 minutes walk to La Cite but it is wet and miserable so on with the wet weather gear, neck warmers, gloves, beanies and three layers – feel like Mrs Michellin!

The City of Carcassonne is the largest medieval fortress in Europe and is a masterpiece of military architecture. Its grandiose appearance, the complexity of its defence system with its double walls, castle and Basilica, all make the Cite de Carcassonne one of the most unique sites we have experienced.

La Cite from a distance
Walking around the ramparts

Walking around the ramparts was an indescribable experience. The inner city is full of restaurants and souvenir shops. There were so many, it was hard to choose one for lunch.

This is such a must do and unfortunately we could only see it in miserable weather and can only imagine how wonderful it would be in fine weather.

Not very cold at all – the Navigator has all the cold weather gear on

Came back to a couple of shots of vodka to warm up and dried our clothes in our heated drying cupboard.

Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st December

Watched in amusement as everyone leaving here was having difficulties in getting out. We had watched someone leaving the night before so had a heads up start.

Every Aire has a different type of payment machine and system – some Aires are run by the Local Council and some are commercial operations.

Certainly makes it more of a challenge when the instructions are in French only.

Got through with no problems at all but as it was so early, we stopped outside the gate and had breakfast there and sat and watched in amusement as others were tearing their hair out – even the French motorhomes were having problems.

Our first choice of campsite was at an Oyster Farm and is a French Passion site. We were the only ones there and because it was so windy and there was nothing to do, we decided to travel on.

A very long drive today and too many roundabouts left my driver exhausted. “Don’t care if I never see another roundabout” were his words, though I might have left out a few descriptive adjectives here.

Our camp for two nights:  Aire de Camping Car, Quai Kalymnos, Arles

This motorhome campsite is set right on the River Rhone, directly across from the Old Town.  Too late in the day to venture out so sat and watched the view across the river to the Old Town until the light disappeared.

Had a really quiet night with around 30 other motorhomers here. Think most are staying around for tomorrow night (New Years Eve).

Ventured off soon after breakfast (and a little sleep in). Had some early sunshine so have learned that you make hay while the sun shines!

A short ten minute walk across the bridge and we were in the centre of Old Town.

Arles dates back to the second century B.C. and has lots of Roman ruins etc.

Part of the Amphitheatre and Bull Ring

It has an Amphitheatre that is fairly intact and still hosts bull fights and a theatre, in ruins, which still hosts alfresco performances.

Part of the renovation work that has been completed costing around 107 million Euro
A section of the theatre that is 2000 years old

11/16/2017 Lazing in the Loire

Thursday 16th November – France

Wanted an early start to head south now towards Spain and Portugal.  The fog was so thick, it delayed our start until 10.30 am.

A long day travelling today with fog most of the way, so very little could be seen of the countryside.

Camp for tonight:  Aire Municipale, Bessines sur Gartempe

A great little Aire in the centre of a small village just off the highway.  Very little here with just a few small shops.  Spent a few dollars in the local bar and then had a very quiet and restful evening.  The church bells began to chime at 7am and not long afterwards it became really busy with traffic in and out of the parking area.  Mothers and dads dropping off small children to local shuttle buses ready to take them to the nearest school – not sure where.

The Municipale provides complimentary water and electricity, however the locals park in the spots so you can’t get to them.  Several motorhomes here overnight and we learned that the locals are unhappy about the Municipale providing these spots and try to sabotage the motorhome facilities and even park in front of the motorhomes to stop them exiting and then walking away for hours.  Not many good things being said about the French from motorhomers here many different countries. The Gendamerie pulled into the car park in the morning at peak hour and sat and watched and did nothing about the locals parking illegally.

We had no issues at all and found the spot to be great for an overnight stay.

Friday 17th November

Blue skies and a perfect day for travelling.   We are now heading towards the north end of the wine region.

Camp for tonight:  Chateau du Haut Pezaud, Monbaziliac

Castle at Monbaziliac – camp site for the night

 Vineyards are now appearing everywhere and Lonely Planet tells us that we should visit lots of vineyards and sample wines and local produce – no argument for the driver or navigator so we pulled into just that kind of place for the night.

A great little winery just south of Bergerac with camp spots for 10 motorhomes.  Again when we pulled in around 2pm, we were the only ones here.  Wine tasting starts at 6pm so after a quick and late lunch we headed off for a walk through the vineyards to the small town a couple of kms away.  Apart from the hairdresser, little else was open so we continued on to the beautiful Chateau on the hill overlooking the town.  Just magnificent views over the valleys and the big town of Bergerac below.

The Castle

Arrived back just in time for happy hour but found we were the only ones here for the wine tasting – just the wine maker and us – bummer and double bummer.  We didn’t stay long but bought two great bottles of white wine and headed back to Ziggy. 

We have found the whites here to be on the sweet side – even the driest white was a little too sweet for us. – did not like the reds at all but then again this area specialises in whites.

Thoroughly enjoyed the walk and the temperature today was heaps warmer than it has been over the last week or so.

Saturday 18th November

Another warm sunny day. Travelled across country today so not a huge amount to see.  Countryside was not very interesting with little farming and agriculture.  Mostly bushland with scrub.  Towns were only very small which became a problem as we were needing fuel and no sign of fuel stations for a long way.

There are normally heaps of stations, however the remote ones have no attendants and use only credit card 24/24.  We have found many that do not accept foreign cards which annoys my driver no end.  A number of the large supermarket chains have fuel and LPG but the lanes are very narrow and then channel into a cashiers booth for payment.  In a lot of cases impossible for Ziggy to manipulate the bends to get to the cashier – again annoying my driver no end.

Camp for tonight:  Villeneuve de Marsan

Another small spot for around 7 motorhomes but beside a reasonable size village.  We have tennis courts beside the Aire which provided a little entertainment from the novice players.

We noticed on the way in, that the town centre was packed with cars so took the opportunity to pay a visit into a village that seemed to be alive with activity for a change.  We stumbled across a massive flea market taking up every nook and cranny on every street.  You could buy anything from an old stove top iron (the kind great grand mother had) to an old Olivetti typewriter.  Mostly old clothes and shoes but most popular were stalls with kids used toys and clothes.  Did not need any of those so could not contribute to the local economy today.

Found some really interesting trees in the town square.  Very hard to describe but here goes – giant tree stumps with very short stubby limbs with what looked like warts on the end of them.  No leaves or branches, but maybe did have leaves in the summer season.  The photo may show how very strange they were.

The upside down trees

Sunday 19th November

Very peaceful quiet night but again chilly.  Didn’t put the heater on last night but woke up to a chilly 7 degrees (inside Ziggy) at 8 am with fog outside.

No rush to get out in this weather so had a leisurely breakfast.  As soon as we ventured outside, our neighbour who came in late last night grabbed us and started talking to us in French.  Totally caught us unaware as this was a first for us for a Frenchman to actually approach us to talk.  Grabbed our trusty Google translator and discovered he had a flat battery and was looking for starter leads.  Couldn’t help him but Rob went to other motorhomers and found an Italian who could speak French but no English 😀.  The Italian and the French gentlemen got on like a house on fire while my driver looked on in amusement.

Help for him was on its way so we packed down and took off at 11am – again in heavy fog.

More interesting countryside as we get closer to the Atlantic Coast with forests and avenues of stately trees lining the streets as we enter the towns.  Houses are taking on a new look with the hacienda style now appearing as we get closer to Spain.  Even saw restaurants with signs out for Paella.

Our camp for tonight:  Aire de Camping-Car des Consaires, Anglet

 The town itself was very large and busy and we had trouble negotiating around it but finally we came to the ocean side and our camp for tonight.

View of Anglet Beach from the Biarritz headland

Normally a cost involved to stay here but no cost from end September to 1st April.  This huge camp spot was taken over by massive motorhomes all towing huge trailers and or cars.  Most taking at least three normal spaces.  Felt like a convention of maxi motorhomes was in town and they were all here.

Great spot adjacent to Anglet Beach.   Here there was a magnificent blue ocean with real waves and board riders and a great beach though not as white as ours.

View towards Biarritz Beach

We took off along the beachfront and walked along the boardwalk where there were restaurants and beachside bars for kms.  Such a beautiful day and brought back memories of our beautiful beaches back home.

Waves crash into the walkway to Biarritz Beach

Left the oceanfront boardwalk and headed up the hill (quite steep and difficult) towards Biarritz.  The view from the top was breathtaking and from there we ventured down to the town itself. Magic place with another beach where the locals gathered at all the oceanfront restaurants and enjoyed a really wonderful sunny Sunday.  A really trendy seaside town obvious by the hundreds walking and eating on the beachfront here.

Biarritz locals out for a stroll

Time to head back as we had already been walking for about two wonderful hours – not tired I said – but my driver reminded me we had at least two hours back. He was right because with about half an hour to go, the bones were really struggling and the light was fading.  We were really happy to see the last hill to climb to the waiting doors of our Ziggy.

Leftovers and a bottle of good wine was all we needed before entering into a well deserved slumber for the night.

Our last night in France was a good one and we looked forward to entering Spain tomorrow.



11/11/2017 Loire Valley France

Saturday 11th November

We were parked under a tree overnight and were woken up by the sounds of little feet on the roof – think maybe a squirrel.  The wind had sprung up again and rain was falling down.  We left Aire Municipale La Cucerne, d’Outremer soon after a dance troupe had arrived and cars starting to pile in – the Hall adjacent was beginning to fill up.

One of the worst days for travel and we struggled to keep Ziggy from fogging up.  Mostly travelled on highways today so was reasonably easy going except on roundabouts.

As we travel further south, the roads are getting better, towns are getting larger and the housing on new estates is becoming more modern.  Still love the old stone and mortar country houses – they have so much character.

It is such a beautiful country and while not much seems to change here, everyday is a new adventure with new places to go and new towns to explore.

Our first stop for lunch is a little quiet.  We are deep in the country on a river lock system.  There is not enough to hold our interest and it is still raining so we headed off again.

Camp for tonight:  Port de Folleux, Beganne

Not far from Rennes, we found this great spot at a marina in Beganne.  Room for about 10 motorhomes with the Marina office adjacent which is now closed for winter (October to March). 

Our overnight spot at Beganne

We arrived after 4 pm and it is now getting dark by just after 5pm.  The marina houses at least 100+ yachts and there is a height of activity with boats and people coming and going.  The weather has cleared for the moment so time for a short walk before dark.  Will explore more tomorrow (weather permitting).

There are two great restaurants here and the menus look great – sadly both are closed – probably for the winter so back to Chateau La Ziggy for a home cooked meal and a first class New Zealand Sav Blanc followed with a great night of music.

Sunday 12th November

A little ray of sunshine today, strange feeling but appreciated a bit of Vitamin D.  Since we arrived back in France, we have been lucky to get a few minutes on some days but never lasts long.  Today reached the dizzy heights of about 50% of sunshine.  We are so spoiled back home with our weather.

This part of France is really beautiful as we head toward the Loire Valley.  Bought some new e-books from Lonely Planet today specially for road trips (they were offering a special for a few days at 60% off).  The ones we have are not dedicated to road trips and are more for backpackers.

Camp for tonight:  Aire Municipale Champalud, Champtoceaux

The Loire valley view from here is spectacular.  The Aire was a little hard to find as it is situated right on the top of the hill behind the magnificent old church built in 1793.  The Aire is provided compliments of the local Municipale and has everything here.  It is free to park and only €4 for power and water if you want it.

Our overnight view of the Loire Valley

Lovely little place including the ruins of a medieval town, perched high on the hill and overlooking the spectacular view of the valley and water below.  The medieval city was built early in the 12th century with the Chateau-Caux (meaning elevated castle) its major feature.

The sun had disappeared and was replaced with really cold winds and threat of rain.  Again, we went in search of a restaurant/bar to have a drink and dinner but all three were closed (it is Sunday after all and it is off season!).  Found a sports bar open packed with locals all watching and betting on the horse harness racing (the ones we saw were in New York of all places.  Best they could offer for meals was sandwiches so had a drink at the bar and then back to Chateau La Ziggy for a home cooked meal.

Monday 13th November

Woke up to a chilly day but with perfect blue skies (no wind yet).  Have no idea how cold it was overnight.

Opened up our e books and spent quite some time researching the Loire Valley and its attractions to explore over the next week or so.

Scenery along the river is fabulous and we pass many Chateaus some in ruins and others fully restored and probably owned by the rich and famous.  Hard to find spots to stop and take photos.

Camp for tonight:  Parking, St Clement des Levees

Another great spot with armchair views of the river.  The free camp spot was set on the lower level of the levee with the small village and a gigantic church on the upper level.  Only a couple of cars to share this great spot.

Our overnight spot with the view of the beautiful Loire Valley???

Again everything was closed – sign said “closed on Mondays” – should have been here yesterday, we joked!!   Watched the beautiful sunset and really grateful for a beautiful and rare sunny day.

Tuesday 14th November

Happy birthday Renee hope you had a super day.

Bright blue sky and sunshine – again!  The temperature overnight was a cool and crisp 0 degrees though nice and toasty in Ziggy with the heater on low overnight.  No ice on the windscreen as the silver screens and heater on inside seemed to do the trick.

Watched the ice being scraped off the windscreen off the car next door – obviously a local using this spot as his personal overnight car space – would probably have to dig it out in a few weeks time!

Travelled through lots of villages today.  There seem to be so many in the valley – you leave one and then within a few metres, the next appears.

Obviously very flood prone in the valley.  The road running along the river is on a levee set high above the valley floor.  Parts of the river are almost dry and look like mud flats and other parts are full of water.  Mid morning and still there is frost on the grassy banks and mist rising from the river.

Camp for tonight:  Parking Chateau, Langeais 

As we pass through this village, we see houses built into the rock face – literally the front door is in line with the rock face.  Hard to believe anyone could live in there but they do.  Must be very dark but obviously no problems with snow on the roof or at the front door!

Houses built in to the rock face at Langeais

Six very narrow spots here are located right behind the Chateau De Langeais and right in the centre of town.  The Chateau looms directly above us – such a great sight and we have a small waterway (with ducks) behind us.

This medieval castle is one of the best examples of this type of castle in the Loire Valley, so we are keen to get the walking boots on and explore it.

So worthwhile – a real gem which took a few hours to explore.  Not only the chateau itself but the beautiful grounds which included Giant sequoia trees with tree houses and also the  remains of a fortress wall.  Great little shop at the exit with souvenirs so bought a couple of small items here.

Just another castle/chateau

Time was getting on and after leaving the chateau, tried to find a post office to send these and other goodies home for the grandkids so our first stop is to the tourism office and then the post office.  It is now 2pm and sadly the tourist office closed at 1pm.  Found the post office which had just opened after a 2 hour lunch break and the customers were hanging out the door.  Gave this a miss and tried to find a lunch spot.  Not having much luck here as the two lunch spots we found – the kitchen closed at 2pm.

Had a quick lunch at our Chateau Ziggy and headed off for a long walk.  Went back to look at the houses built in the rock walls mentioned before – truly amazing.

Headed back on dusk, it was getting cold and we were not decked out comfortably to linger longer.

Wednesday 15th November

Three in a row!!  Another beautiful sunny day so we were eager to explore another three prime chateaus on the “best of Loire Valley Chateaus Lonely Planet list”.

We drove through and photographed Chateaus in Azay, Amboise, and Blois.  Tried to stop at a few of these but not a lot of luck with trying to fit our Ziggy bus in spaces made for small cars.

Our camp for tonight:  Domain National de Chambord.

Located just outside the village in a National Park, Chateau de Chambord is listed as the largest and most impressive of all the Chateaus in the Loire Valley (and there spare so many).

It has 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, 84 staircases and a double Helix staircase designed by Leonardo Da Vinci himself.  The outside structure is massive and so many different turrets and spires bobbing up everywhere.  Hate to have been managing the household and directing the staff to the various rooms.

Now that is a chateau!!!

24 rooms have been reconstituted over 4 floors.  The original stables are there with equestrian events held here regularly. The gardens and waterways around the Chateau can be viewed from the top floor.

My navigator inspecting the artwork

Obviously a very well protected historic landmark as while we were there, four military personnel armed with sub machines guns, gendarmerie on horseback with guns, security guards at every corner and helicopters hovering overhead were a reminder of security risks in this country.

One of the double helix staircases – hard to explain but if two people go up the staircases at the same time they may never see each other

Really enjoyed our visit here – though massive and very impressive and well done, not in our opinion the standard of Schonbrunn in Vienna, Austria.

Unusual architecture – don’t really understand it

Our campsite overlooks the castle and we are accompanied by 3 other motorhomes for a change.

View of part of the lawn at the rear


11/08/2017 Normandy Beaches

Wednesday 8th November

Another cold and wet day so fed the ducks and headed off again to yesterday’s coordinates.  The navigator, the driver and NAVIE all cross checked “to be sure, to be sure”.

Visited the WW2 bunkers at Longues sur Mer.  The tourism office here has closed for the winter (November to March) so we braved the elements and the hillside alone.  Here there were four well preserved bunkers complete with original heavy artillery guns.  The camp spot is located adjacent to the bunkers and sits on top of the hill overlooking the WW2 Normandy beaches but was very open and really windy with no protection so decided not to stay here.

German bunker on cliff top

Camp for tonight: Ferme de la Rouge Fosse, Englequeville La Percee

An hour or so later took us to this farm with six super, level, gravel camp spots each with large lawn plot beside – lawn that would make you proud to own at home with shrubs for privacy in between spots.  No wonder it is rated 8.8 and all for €5 including electricity.  Highly recommended and a great spot for overnight after viewing the WW2 Normandy landing beaches.

Our over night spot at “the farm”

The farm house itself was amazing.  Large enough to be classified as a Chateau.  Two storeys high with stone walls.  Outhouses the size of a normal home.  The barn itself was massive.  The farmer spoke a little English and told us he farmed grass and maize (corn).  Many tractor loads of grass and maize came in and out all day.

Thursday 9th November

Drove through light rain again today – with no signs of letting up.

Backtracked a couple of kms to the landing site at Omaha Beach.  Hard to imagine what happened here and along the miles of beaches as far as we could see. 

Monument in the sand at Omaha Beach – one of the D Day landing sites

Bus loads of tourists and school kids seem to follow us wherever we are.  The monument erected on the beach is really special.  We have seen bunker after bunker along all the miles of beachfront we have travelled.  Very moving to be on this beach.

A monument dedicated to the Americans at Omaha Beach

Camp for tonight:  Vuutoren Fermanville, Fermanville

Right on the edge of the ocean for the night

Wanted a water view so found this most magic spot at Fermanville.  Great little town but parts were only 2.3m wide in total.  Ziggy had to tighten the belt as she is 2.25 wide , so holding my  breath and only with the skills of my driver managed, with only an inch to spare to get through town.  So pleased nothing was coming the other way as I don’t think my driver would have been able to reverse out.

Up the hill to the lighthouse and just below it was a parking spot for several motorhomes.  Again here we were the only ones (guess the 2.3 metre road width would have scared most off).  Just like being at the top of Point Danger – ocean views for as far as you could see.  It was very windy so after a short walk around the headland, headed back to the front seats and took in the view in warmth and comfort.  

Parking but no camping

This sign above explains the rules regarding the difference between parking and camping – you are considered to be parking if there is nothing extending from your motorhome and therefore legal – however if you have any of the items shown in the lower image hanging off, next to or under your motorhome that is then classed as camping and is illegal, at this site. Wake up Australian LGA’s and State Governments.

Friday 10th November

Woke up around 1am with the wind howling outside.  Ziggy was gently rocking but my driver assured me all was good and he went back to sleep like a baby in a rocking bed.  I listened to him gently snoring and with that and the noise of the wind found it hard to sleep.

Morning did not come quickly enough.  We had three other motorhomes come through the night so we had company, all sharing the mighty wind.

Maybe a farm view for tonight would be good 😄.

Did not look forward to the trip back through town and held the breath again going through the narrow bits.

Soon we were back into the countryside.  The wind was still there and today we had the rare patches of sunlight (max 5 minutes at a time).  Had heard November was wet and windy in these parts – so true.

Arrived in the lovely town of Gavray and parked in the Aire which was right across the road from the Police Station.   Had planned to stay here for the night – quiet and safe.  Took only half an hour to walk around the town and with nothing else to do, decided to head off.

Our camp for tonight:  Aire Municipale, la Cucerne d’Outremer

Another little town but soon discovered there was less here than Gavray.  Beautiful Chateau next door which is now a restaurant and function Centre.  Apart from a bar (we were going to have a well deserved beer here – but it was closed), a restaurant, a hairdresser and town hall, there were only a few houses.

Back to Chateau La Ziggy for dinner and drinks and a beautiful, restful, calm night – well needed by the navigator.

The small Chateau next to our overnight spot


11/03/2017 Back To France


Friday 3rd & Saturday 4th November

Transition back to other side of the road looked easy (from the passenger side) and soon we were well away from the port of Calais.

Had passed through this part of France previously so the aim was to go through this part quickly to new territory.

The countryside here is just so special.  Green rolling hills and beautiful fields dotted with cattle here and there – mostly white cattle not the brown we are used to back home.  Their hides also seem to be thicker with fur and from a distance sometimes look like large sheep.

This must be the potato capital of the world as everywhere we travel, there are acres and acres of potatoes growing and then occasionally beside a ploughed field – mountains of freshly harvested potatoes which are loaded on to trucks by bulldozers – quite a sight seeing a line of several mountains – all potatoes.  Reminds me of a Beatles song “Potato fields forever” or is that “strawberry”.

Camp for two nights:  Boulogne-Sur-Mer

The campsite is set high at the top of the hill with views across the Strait of Dover and the seaside town of Boulogne-Sur-Mer.  Great spot with only a short 15 minute walk down the hill to the harbour front which is a Mecca for tourists with a beautiful harbour front boardwalk leading to a new aquarium and currently under construction next door is a massive new casino. 

View of Boulogne harbour from our camp site

It is really cold today drizzling with a strong wind making it even colder so we are fully decked out in warm coats, beanies, gloves etc.

Boulogne harbour front with fish markets on the left

We walked for miles along the boardwalk past fisherman selling the ugliest fish we have ever seen and the French buying them.  Then into the town centre with every second shop being either a patisserie (really tempting with all the delicious pastries in the window) or a restaurant.  Really busy and interesting town.

Boulogne street art

Headed back up the hill tired and with mildly sore feet (had our new fur lined waterproof boots on).  Turned on the heater and sat in the front seat and watched as daylight went to darkness.  Such a lovely view with the town and harbour-front lights on.

it was nice of the locals to put the welcome sign out for my Navigator

Rain again next day so took time out to read and relax.

Sunday 5th November

 Camp for tonight:  Parking, Cayeux-Sur-Mer

Another great Aire adjacent to the beach.  The beaches in France seem to go forever and the distance from the edge of the beach to the water is huge particularly at low tide.  Tides changes are of around 9 metres so there are warning signs on most beaches.

The boats bob up and down about 9 metres

We are on the Bay of Somme where the largest colonies of seal lions are reported to be.  We saw rubber duckies taking people out around the headland but did not sight any seals ourselves.  Not a nice day again so no reason for them to be basking in the non existent sunshine!

Only a very small village consisting of a few houses, two restaurants and a pub so did not take long to do the “must do” walk we try to do at most destinations.  They did however have a stall on the waterfront selling more of those “ugly fish”.  Didn’t buy any!

Checked out the menus at the two restaurants.  Seems like they all specialise in Mussels cooked any way you want – tomato, cream, curry and many other ways.  We want to try these but only on a nice day so we can sit outside.  Oysters were a cool $40 a dozen so – not today thank you!  White bait is also popular and could not help watching someone eating a plate of these micro small whole fish crumbed – heads and tails included! – not today thank you.

Typical of this area – bunkers and pill boxes left over from the war

When we arrived it was high tide and the yachts in the harbour were fully visible above the dock.  By the time we had lunch and a walk, only the tops of the masts were just visible – massive drop in the tide.

Monday 6th November

Bit of sunshine today – certainly feels good to get a bit of Vitamin D for a while – though still cold.

It is a real pleasure travelling through the countryside and not on the motorways.  Certainly the country homes are huge and most are of three storeys.

Camp for tonight:  Aire de Camping-Car St Valery en Caux

 Could have thought we were at the “White Cliffs of Dover” as this Aire is at the base of the white cliffs and similar cliffs everywhere along the coastline as far as we could see.  

Oceanfront Casino at base of white cliffs with bunker in cliff face on far right

Interesting town, again on the oceanfront, with just a couple of minutes walk to town.  All the buildings on the harbour front were three storey townhouses, interesting and colourful (for a change) and most renovated.  The town is separated by a waterway and a bridge with yachts on the inland side requiring the bridge to be raised and lowered to allow the boat traffic through to the ocean front.

Unusual architecture

There are communal hard stand areas with hydraulic cranes on both sides of the waterway allowing boat owners to carry out repairs and anti-fouling etc – these areas are not even cordoned off.

One of the many interesting lane ways

Only a small town square with a few shops.  There is however a casino at the far end of town and this was the only place with signs of life – the car park behind was full.

My Navigator wasn’t very cold at all – glad it is not winter yet

High on the hill above the casino, lay a well secluded bunker left over from the war.

Tuesday 7th November

Not a good day today.  First selection for a camp spot was not what we wanted for the night so selected another about 50kms away.  Keyed in the co ordinates and set off for the next destination.  About 10 kms from our destination, we discovered we were heading in the wrong direction.

This navigator certainly did not read out the incorrect coordinates and my driver certainly did not key in the incorrect co ordinates and our new Garmin NAVIE has not yet let us down – so who’s to blame!

What should have taken 2 hours took nearly 5 hours. Both driver and navigator remained calm and headed for the nearest spot to spend the night.  After all, we had travelled through some magnificent country roads and scenery, which we would not have seen otherwise!

Camp for tonight: Parking Vieux Port

 One hour of daylight left when we arrived here, so stretched the muscles and went for a short walk.

The town must have some sort of building caveat and all houses look like something out of Hansel and Gretel.  Beautiful big homes all with thatched rooves on large blocks with sculptured lawns and gardens.

Unusual architecture

We are right on the bank of the River Seine now and boats are passing by only 15 metres or so away from us.  The beautiful town’s stone church is the only building towering over our waterfront spot, with a few houses just around the corner.

The not so beautiful River Seine where we are camped on the banks near the river mouth

Had the most peaceful night here only to be woken up to the sounds of church bells followed very closely by quack, quack, quack.  Three families of ducks were just outside our steps, obviously used to being fed by the motorhome visitors and were loudly telling us it was feed time.

More unusual architecture

10/22/2017 Our French Love Affair – Not

Our French Love Affair – NOT

Sunday 22nd & Monday 23rd October

Still have just over a week to go before heading across the English Channel so decided to head for the French Coast.

The French Aires (if not free to park at) are very inexpensive compared to Germany and Austria and most are based on a “user of services only basis” and charge for water and electricity, generally with grey and black water services free.

Stopped at a hardware store to get a short length of food grade hose and fittings – couldn’t find any so asked the shop assistant for help after saying “non Francais” – well she threw her arms up in the air, made some sort of strange noise with her mouth and walked off – had to get help from a customer.

Drove a few klms and stopped in a Carrefour to stock up on groceries and had our second altercation with the French.  I went in first to start the shopping and shortly afterwards was told to head for the checkouts.  It was only 12.30 on a weekday and I didn’t understand why.  Rob tried to come in the entry door about 10 mins later, tried the doors but they were closed.  He followed someone through the exit door and was all but man handled by security.  He didn’t want to shop but help me at the checkouts.  Turns out they close their shops around midday for a period of time.  He stood his ground and they let him help me but we could feel all eyes watching us.  Not very friendly as we were in their lunch time, apparently.

Camp for tonight:  Aire de Camping-Car, St. Valery sur Somme

This is a very touristy town right on the Port with a marina and restaurants galore.

Saint Valery street scene

The camp itself is really great.  Takes around 100 motorhomes and is perched high on a hill just above the town.  Security barrier entrance which is always good and for €10 provides water and electricity at no extra cost.  We were needing water and most French Aires are now charging around €4 for. 100 litres.  Electricity was a bonus so over the next two rainy days we watched a lot of movies and chilled out.

A short 15 minute downhill walk to town, took us past some really old and run down buildings. Once we reached town we headed for the Port and Marina.  We were rugged up with coats and hats as it was really windy and cold.  The boardwalk followed the ocean around forever and we passed the huge Marina with so many yachts – though none out today.  It is so surprising how dull and drab things look in these conditions, particularly the ocean which was also a dull grey.  Interesting town with so many old buildings – many with little or no work done on them for decades.

St Valery architecture

Picked up some brochures from the tourist bureau and learned of the medieval part of  town.  It was only about a km away but decided to leave that until next morning when hopefully the weather might improve.

Back up the hill for movie night and on came Clint Eastwood with one of the Dirty Harry movies.  We settled in with a few warm toddies and watched a few more movies.

Rained all night and by mid morning the weather cleared enough to hit the medieval part of this town.  With the promise of a nice French lunch on the boardwalk (had seen the restaurant we fancied the day before and looked very promising), we eagerly set off for today’s adventures.

The Driver at Joan of Arc Gate in the medieval city

Focus point for the Medieval part is St Martins church, made of sandstone and believed to have been built in the mid 12th century.  It was built on the top of a cliff on a flat base supported by a large retaining wall shaped as a curtain wall.  It has been damaged a number of times throughout history.  Many dates are inscribed on the inner and outer walls dating back to 1338.  It is still used as the working church in the area.  Took a couple of hours to walk through this unique part of town and found it so interesting.

St Martins Church

Next for the long awaited lunch so off to the boardwalk.  It was nearly 2pm now on Monday and the restaurant had around 20 people inside.  The restaurant was split in two sides at the entry, we quickly noticed a large group with several small children (some of whom were screaming) on the right hand side and no one else so opted to head left where there were two tables of adults well into eating their lunch.  The waitress tried to usher us to the right hand side at a table next to the children  but we said (in our very best French) “no” and headed left and sat down. The waitress then totally ignored us for about 15 minutes, finally a waiter came to our table.  “No” – he didn’t have a menu with English translations – and “no” we couldn’t sit on this side as it was for drinking customers only.  Eating customers were to sit on the other side “with the children” – we were not happy with this as the other two tables next to us in this area were all eating.  Well – we just got up and left.  French experience – number 2 in two days.

Bought a fresh baguette on the way home and had a gourmet lunch with French duck pate, Polish anchovies, Polish pickled red cabbage, jalapenos, avocado, Camembert, Polish pickled gherkins and lots of other goodies and opened our one litre bottle of German white wine which we demolished while watching our Ziggy movies.

Now that’s a lunch

This town is about 100klm south of Calais and without patronage from the British would die in a heart beat yet they make no attempt to speak or have signage or restaurant menus in anything but French – we must have been to at least 15 countries by now and this is the only country with that attitude – other countries have the home country language, plus usually English and either German or Dutch.

Tuesday 24th & Wednesday 25th October

Again raining through the night and another overcast day ahead. Had done some washing a couple of days ago so no sign of getting these dry anytime soon.

Next task was to tackle the exit gate from the Aire just after watching an English couple spend at least 10 minutes trying to pay and get out.  Couldn’t be that difficult could it?  Didn’t want  another French experience so went up for a sneak preview while they were getting out.  Yes, it would have been difficult so was pleased we checked it out first.

Camp for two nights :  Aire de Camping-Car, Stella Plage

An absolute beachfront camp with only a large sand dune between us and the beach.  20 spots for motorhomes and no fee.  A dead end street with a resort at the end which has seen better days.   Very popular with most spots taken up mid afternoon – supposed to be low season now but still motorhomes everywhere.

Watched kids with toboggans slide down the dunes and dads with sons building sand castles.  We were protected from the wind by the sand dunes so happily enjoyed the bleak weather in doors.

Better day next morning so over the sand dunes we went and onto the beach.  People were everywhere for miles enjoying a relatively wind free day.  Really enjoyed the beach walk though we had the wind behind us.  Miles and miles of hard flat sand. (The Driver called them mud flats)

Brighton Victoria or NW France???

Arrived at what appeared to be the main part of town so off the beach into the town to explore.  Looked like a place ready to demolish.  This town took no advantage of the seafront – nothing on the seafront except car parks and run down old buildings.  Headed away from the seafront and hit “MainStreet” .  The longest street you have ever seen – went for miles at right angles to the beach.  Lots of apartment buildings all with metal shutters at every window and door.  Not sure if it is a security issue or weather issue but very odd.

Highly recommend the camp spot as quiet and seemed very safe.  Highly recommend the beach but the town has nothing interesting to offer.

Thursday 26th & Friday 27th October

Got up really late and didn’t head off until lunch time.  Only travelled about 30 kms today.  Little bit of blue sky with lots of cloud so does not look promising.

Feeling like not much to write home about and has been difficult to get excited about writing the blog.  North West  France has not been at all inspiring to say the least so excuse the lack of exciting things to write about. 

We are only going back to the UK to service and re register Ziggy and then back over to Europe and looking forward to seeing the countries we have not yet been to in our previous visits.

Camp for two nights:  Parking Avenue Joseph Lesur, Neufchâtel-Hardelot

We passed by relatively new beachside estates with beautiful homes (which was a nice surprise) with landscaped gardens.  Shutters are on these as well, maybe to keep the cold out in winter?

Much more inspiring town.  The camp spot again is only a short walk to the beach and town and is in a very quiet location amidst quality homes.

It is overcast but no wind and no rain so headed to town.  Just delightful to see well maintained homes and buildings and a town with a sense of pride.  Very touristy again, and the restaurants are full and there are signs of life here.  First time we have seen restaurants with outside glassed areas and would be a real buzz in the summer season.

Hardelot beachfront – the nicest by far we have seen in this area

We are sharing the camp site with two French and one British motorhome.  Look forward to catching up with the Brits tomorrow.

Still windy and cold today but no rain so off to the beach.  The sand is firm and a wonderful playground for land yachts.  Like wind surfers on wheels, there were 40 – 50 colourful yellow sails flying up and down the beachfront.

Land Yachts on Hardelot Beach

Strange to see families wearing Eskimo fur lined jackets and knee high boots building sand castles and playing on the beach.  Walked for miles and thoroughly enjoyed the time (though really cold) but looked forward to heading back with the wind behind us.  Strolled back into town which was alive and watched the fishermen opening fresh sea scallops shells and mussels and oysters in an open fish market in the middle of town.  Prawns are very expensive here and look very glum compared to the ones back home so have not as yet bought any though really hankering for a feed of fresh prawns soon.

Caught up with the Brits on return and spent a couple of hours discussing everything and more including the rude, arrogant French.


10/19/2017 The Somme – Lest We Forget

Thursday 19th October

A really peaceful quiet night though given some of the comments on the Parkings APP we were very surprised.  So many times we have found just the most beautiful place but because it is so great, seems that the younger generation love it too and come out to play at night and continue playing till the wee hours.

Fully rested we moved on through the countryside passing again through green fields of potatoes – hundreds of kms of potatoes and when the harvesters come in – these become mountains and mountains of potatoes ready for the trucks to come in and take to market.

Camp for tonight:  Aire de Camping-car, Rocroi

Rocoi (Rocroy) is a unique star-shaped fortified town.  Our camp spot sits in a grassy and treed area just outside the moated (though now dry) and walled entry to this town.  The stronghold was first constructed in the 1660’s during the reign of Henry II and modified several times since then.

Rocroi – Ramparts and Moat

It features an inner fortified defence wall with five different bastions projecting from the wall.  There is also an outer wall for both protection and attack.  On this outer wall are demilunes, projections and angles to the walls.  It is a remarkable example of one of the oldest fortified bastion towns in France.

Rocroi – Ramparts and Tunnels

Took most of the afternoon to explore both the outer and inner parts of the town – just truly amazing and really worth visiting.

Friday 20th October

Rain and wind and a very cold morning greeted us – such a surprise given the five days of picture perfect weather we had had.

Passed through Saint Quentin looking for our camp for the night but entrance to the campsite from the bridge was blocked by roadworks and couldn’t find a way around it so stopped for lunch and decided to move on.  This large town had no street appeal at all so we were not unhappy to move on.

Back into the countryside now and headed for our first French Passion stay.

Camp for tonight:  Les Canards de la Germaine, Sancourt

Not quite a farm stay as it was located just a couple of kms outside of the town.  Only has spots for around 5 motorhomes.  The entry has a fenced farm yard including a herd of goats, turkeys, chickens and chicks, a pheasant and numerous other farm animals.  As the name suggests, they also have a duck farm adjacent and stock lots of duck products which are sold in the shop opposite the camp spot.  Very busy during the day with locals coming and going to purchase these goods.  They are also happy to provide fresh water if you need it (we didn’t).

Krys feeding the goats at Sancourt

There is no cost for camping but they are very happy for you to visit the shop and hopefully buy some produce.  We did of course buy fresh farm eggs and some super duck pate which we will no doubt enjoy soon with some fresh baguettes.  They also had apples, cheeses and smoked duck etc.  They didn’t speak any English so could not understand what the other produce was.

Fed the goats which were no more than a metre away from Ziggy before retiring to a very peaceful and quiet night with only the noise of farm animals in the background.

Saturday 21st October – The Somme – Lest We Forget

Roosters woke us up bright and early so we were keen to get going asap.

Today was going to be a long day as we wanted to see the memorials and cemeteries and pay our respects to the Aussie fallen soldiers in the many WW1 battle grounds in this area – the Somme, which is both a river and an area.

We spent a couple of very sad, moving and depressing days driving around the farmlands and fields of the Somme and in particular the areas of Villers Brettoneux, Amiens and Pozieres.

Just before leaving Australia , our son-in law Glen lent us an excellent book written by the Australian author Peter FitzSimons titled Villers Brettoneux and whilst in Germany our friends Michael and Pam lent us a book written by the Australian author Mat McLachlan titled Walking with the ANZACS.

Both these books gave us some background information on where to go and what to expect but the extent of the slaughter doesn’t really hit home until you drive along the quiet little village roads and come across war cemetery after war cemetery with thousands and thousands of either little white crosses and or headstones marking the graves of known dead and unknown dead.

Entrance to the Australian Memorial at Villers Brettoneux

In the area near Pozieres there are cemeteries every couple of hundred metres – some are communal in that they have graves for Australian, New Zealand, British, Canadian and South African soldiers whereas there are a few dedicated to individual countries.

The Villers Brettoneux Cemetery suffered from gunfire in WW2 as well

The Australian cemeteries are maintained by the War Graves Commission and they are kept in first class order – beautiful green lawns, lovely gardens, headstones well marked and easy to read and not an inch out of position.

The Villers Brettoneux Cemetery is beautifully kept

Each cemetery has a register and a Visitor book.

More than 330,000 Australians served in World War 1 – 61,000 were killed – 46,000 on the Western Front – the dead lie in 523 cemeteries across France and Belgium.

The size of the Cemetery and the number of graves is staggering

Mat McLachlan, the author of Walking with the ANZACS has a tour company – “Battlefield Tours” which organises tours through the battlefield sites – we saw some of his mini vans running around whilst we were there.

The first big Battle of the Somme commenced on July 1, 1916 when the British attacked the Germans across a 30 kilometre front – the British lost 60,000 men either killed or wounded on the first morning alone.

The Australian AIF First Division were introduced to this area at Pozieres on the 23rd July – this battle was the most costly battle of WW1 for Australia losing more than 23, 000 killed or wounded over a 6 week period – a lot for a young country with a small population.

Krys looking at the main Australian Memorial at Pozieres

More than one million soldiers on both sides were killed or wounded between July 1 and November 1916.

The Australian Cemetery – The Windmill Site near Pozieres – the white crosses are laid out to represent the AIF badge
Aussie Digger Restaurant in the main street of Pozieres

We also visited Thiepval Memorial which is Britain’s main memorial to its missing soldiers in France – it is a very high red brick monument and it bears the names of 73,000 British and South African soldiers who died in the Somme and have no known grave, including 7 VC winners – 55 Aussies who were killed while serving with British Forces are commemorated along with 10 Diggers who are buried there.

The massive Thiepval Memorial near Monquet Farm

We visited most of the sites on a Saturday which was freezing cold, with a strong wind and light rain – sadly there were only half a dozen people at the Aussie sites but at Thiepval there would have been around 10 coaches each holding around 60 people.

We hope to be able to visit some Belgium sites late in 2018

 Camp for tonight:  Aire de Municipale, Bapaume

Strangely, there were very few camp spots available in this area and as it was getting late took the first available camp spot available.

Only four designated spots one street back from Main Street right next to a large mixed parking place with a skate board park at the end of it.  Had reservations about staying here, but it was still drizzling so thought the little skateboard demons might not play tonight.  The Police also patrolled the area so felt quite safe particularly with the other motorhomes here.

Took a walk around town looking for a place to eat.  Boring town to say the least and not a thing open on a Saturday night except for a kebab shop.  Didn’t look good so opted to have dinner in La Ziggy – nothing flash but good enough to get us through to the next day without starving.

The only item we found of interest was the plaque below which was dedicated to about 26 Australian soldiers who were killed by a German booby trap mine which had been hidden in the Bapaume Town Hall – the rest of Bapaume had been either destroyed or set on fire.

Bepaume Town Hall Plaque honouring the Australians


10/17/2017 Multicultural Day

Tuesday 17th October – Multicultural Day

Sadly we are leaving western Germany today and within a couple of hours will be travelling through 4 different countries as follows:-

1            Germany

              Population around 85 million

              Area – 356970 sq km

              Principal language German with English spoken by most people

              Currency – Euro

2            Luxembourg

              Population around 600,000

              Area – 2586 sq km

              Principal languages – French, German, Luxembourgish

              Currency – Euro

3            Belgium

              Population around 11.5 million

              Area – 30518 sq km

              Principal languages – Dutch, Flemish, French, German

              Currency – Euro

4            France

              Population around 70 million

              Area – 543965 sq km

              Principal languages – French, French and more French

Currency – Euro

At least this time we had consistency in the currencies.

Not a sign of any border guards anywhere which surprised us, particularly into France where we had heard of strict border patrols.

Again we found towns near these borders sadly neglected (particularly France) with very little done to them since WWII.  Some still with bullet holes as a reminder of the past.  Colours disappeared once out of Germany with buildings all now predominantly grey and stained concrete.

One of the better maintained streets near the French Belgium border

It was another day with a cloudless blue sky – the fourth day now in a row and temperatures during the day are just fabulous – even wearing summer shirts for a large part of the day.  Nights are still crisp.

Using Mr Google, we polished up on our limited French words as we drove through the countryside.  Certainly felt a little uncomfortable again from the lack of knowledge of the language here.  Our inter-personal communication experiences on past tours through France were not good but people we have met on our travels have said things in France have improved now.

Once out of the dreary border towns, the rolling hills and lush green countryside were refreshing with agriculture consisting of mostly patchwork coloured fields of potatoes, other crops and grazing cattle.  The soil is a rich red which contrasts beautifully with the hues of green.

Perched high on a hill in Montmedy is the amazing Citadel of Montmedy and its museum.  The parapet walkway is approx 1 km long and provides a panoramic view of the countryside.

Camp for tonight: Port de Plaisance, Stenay

Only a very small village with not much happening.  Some of the towns we travel through look like ghost towns with little or no signs of habitation.  Everything happens behind closed doors we have realised and the only way one can find if a business is open is to open a door.  Very different to home where everything is so open and visible.

Stenay Harbour??? Our site for the night

The Aire (French campsite) probably was a sports ground on a canal (couldn’t call it a harbour really) where there are still massive overhead lights in the centre – once were probably tennis courts or similar.  Now converted to an Aire and spots for nearly 70 motorhomes.  The sign at the boom gates request registration and payment with the Harbour master called the “Captainere”.  Looked like an old school marm and the office looked like something out of the forties with just her desk and a couple of chairs in a dark dismal room.  She didn’t speak any English but we got there in the end and after parting with €8 and receiving the password for the gate happily nestled in.  Really beautiful spot on the Meuse River and for our dollars, free electricity, water and Internet (but only at the Captainere’s Office).

Took a walk around the sleepy quiet town and ended up at the Musee Europeen de la Biere.  What a fantastic old building that consisted of three floors of beer making memorabilia.  The building itself took up a whole block and its architecture of stone walls and floors, worn old timber steps and timber beams that could hold up the Eiffel Tower, was in itself so interesting.  Learned a lot about beer making and the art of taking the cloudy look out of the final product.  Purchased a cloudy beer from the restaurant at the end of the tour – just horrible, tasted like beer with lemon juice and struggled to get it down quickly.

The Beer Museum

Came back to Ziggy and had a real Polish beer while watching the local folk play boules on a rink at the far end of the Aire.

Wednesday 18th October

Again another blue cloudless day with the trip through the countryside really beautiful.

Camp for tonight:  Aire de Camping-car, Charleville-Mezieres

This is a free Aire and backs up to a Camping Resort now closed for the winter season.  We are finding more and more camps closing now and by end of October heaps more closing making it more difficult to find spots coming into Winter.

Again we have spectacular views across the Meuse River and are right on a marina    5 star view and only 7 spots in total.

Our view for the night from the front seat of Ziggy

The twin towns of Charleville Mezieres are only a short 800 meters away along the river into the heart of town.  We strolled down the Rue De Moulin – the Main shopping street into the main square.  Massive square with the regulation restaurants and bars around each side of the square.  The building architecture is all the same – three storey brown brick all butted up.  Stopped for the usual beer in the square and people watched until the sun started to disappear. 

The Town Square and our venue for a beer and a people watch

Can’t believe the men’s hairstyles – shaved heads leaving only a small tuft of hair on top or shaved except for massive braids tied with rubber bands on top – a few feathers would give them a part in the latest western movie – playing an Apache.

The Winston Churchill Clock??? Doesn’t look much like Winston to me

Tattoos are also very popular with each tattoo parlour full as if the “sale of the century” was inside.

Main Street memorial

Beautiful clothes, shoes and bags everywhere so zipped the purse tightly on the way back.

Arrived back on dusk to find another boules competition in full swing on the harbour front.  Certainly quite an aggressive sport with drives at the winning steel balls causing others to scatter in the head.