Le Crotoy, Somme, Friday 31st October 2014

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Marina by motorhome aire

Marina by motorhome aire

 

I just can’t seem to get enough of this place on the Bay of the Somme. We always end up here on our one but last day of travelling before crossing back to England and I never tire of its simple beauty, serenity and how the changing light plays on the water and buildings alike.

 

The Bay of the Somme and Le Crotoy in the background

The Bay of the Somme and Le Crotoy in the background

 

It was a lovely morning and the promise of a great day, so just after breakfast, while Adonis was walking Beano on the Bay, I couldn’t help myself and grabbed my camera to try and capture that wonderful morning light in this most charming and soothing town. Let the photos speak for themselves.

 

An old fishing boat

An old fishing boat on the Bay

 

The replica of the old fishing boat

The replica of the old fishing boat

 

The large Motorhome aire right on the Bay

The large Motorhome aire right on the Bay

 

I so would like to see this kind of thing in the UK: a welcoming stopping place JUST for motorhomes on a beautiful spot at a very reasonable price!

 

I so would like to see this kind of thing in the UK!  Stopping places just for motorhomes

 

 

Camping Des Bords de l’Eure, Chartres, Tuesday 28th October 2014

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Stunning Chartres Cathedral

Stunning Chartres Cathedral

 

We have spent two lovely days at this charming and convenient campsite by the river Eure, enjoying all the space around us under oak tress and with a superb walk just outside along the river which, will take you all the way to the city, a mere 3 km away. As usual, the pitches are very generous and the shower and toilet blocks are immaculate, which makes any stay all the more pleasant. We’ve only paid €30.44 for the two nights, electricity included, thanks to our ACSI card.

 

Our generous pitch at Camping Des Bords de l'Eure

Our generous pitch at Camping Des Bords de l’Eure

 

We came here, of course, mainly to visit the famous Cathedral, which is very impressive indeed, with some jaw-dropping architectural features, not to speak of its intricate carvings inside and outside, especially around the choir. The most amazing thing about it is that it was built in only 30 years, during the first quarter of the XIII century and thus, it has great architectural unity of the Gothic period. I was very impressed by the flying buttresses and the triple portals on three of the entrances, with stunning detailed stone carvings, the stained-glass windows, in particular the amazing blue of Notre-Dame de la Belle Verrière (or Blue Virgin Window), simply exquisite, but they are all superb, all 172 of them, almost all of which date back to the XIII, forming one of the most important samples of medieval stained-glass in the world!

 

One of the Triple Portals of Chartres Cathedral

One of the jaw-dropping  Triple Portals of Chartres Cathedral

 

Close-u of Portal stone carvings

Close-u of Portal stone carvings

 

Stone carvings above door

Stone carvings above door

 

Stunning Notre Dame de la Belle Vierge or Blue Virgin stained- glass  window

Stunning Notre Dame de la Belle Verriere or Blue Virgin stained- glass window

 

Magnificent Rose Window

Magnificent Rose Window

 

Exquisite choir stone carvings

Exquisite choir stone carvings

 

Flamboyant flying buttresses

Flamboyant flying buttresses

 

A sun dial

Angel holding a sundial

 

Another sundial?

I love this clock

 

 

Near the Choir there is another religious wonder: The Sainte Voile, or Holy Veil, safely kept in an elaborate guilded frame, said to have been worn by the Virgin Mary when she gave birth to Jesus. Belonging first to the Imperial Treasury of Constantinople, but offered to Charlemagne by the Empress Irene when the Emperor proposed marriage to her in 802, it has been in Chartres since 876, when Charles the Bald presented it to the town, and the Cathedral was built because the Holy Veil survived the fire of 1194. Amazing!

 

The Holy Veil (worn my Mary when giving birth to Jesus)

The Holy Veil (worn my Mary when giving birth to Jesus), the reason behind the building of the Cathedral

 

On the way back from the Cathedral, we stopped briefly at the Church of St Pierre, a former Benedictine Monastery of the VII century , which also exhibits very impressive architecture.

 

Church of St Peter's

Church of St Pierre with beautiful flying buttresses

 

Since leaving Étang Neuf last Friday, we have stopped at various motorhomes aires, the first one being Les Roches l’Évêque in the Loir-et-Cher department. This is a very pretty free aire by the river with some lovely chrysanthemums at the edge of an allotment, but I would have liked a better walk nearby for Beano, as we couldn’t walk along the river bank because both ends of the aire were closed off. Still, it was quiet and peaceful and we had a lovely view of the river and cliffs above.

 

A very pretty location for motorhome aire at Les Roches l'Eveque

A very pretty location for free motorhome aire at Les Roches l’Eveque

 

We spent Saturday in beautiful Amboise, at the gated motorhome aire (€12 a day, but can be paid by the hour too) on Ile d’Or, right in the middle of the river Loire, with stunning views of the Château and town.  As always, we enjoyed a walk in the town and watching the world go by whilst having a coffee and a delicious cake at Bigot Café and Patisserie, founded in 1913 and just exquisite.

 

Gorgeous Amboise seen from Ile d'Or on the River Loire

Gorgeous Amboise seen from Ile d’Or on the River Loire

 

Amboise Chateau

Amboise Chateau

 

As the clocks went back on Sunday morning, we enjoyed that extra hour in bed, still getting up at around 8 o’clockish by the new autumn time, and after breakfast and dog-walk, we joined the D952 east, past Blois and followed diversion signs south of Blois to continue on D951 to Lailly-en-Val, about 12 miles south west of Orléans. Here, we stopped for the day at the pretty aire by the lake, where Adonis enjoyed a spot of fishing after lunch and even managed to catch a 17 lb carp, which really put the icing on the cake.

 

Driving past Blois

Driving past Blois on the River Loire

 

This aire is also free and has free water and public toilets. The area around the lake proved to be very popular with the locals and, being a beautiful warm and sunny Sunday, there were quite a few people fishing and walking and children playing in the playground.

 

Motorhome aire at Lailly-en-Val

Motorhome aire at Lailly-en-Val

 

Enjoying a walk round the lake on a sunny Sunday afternoon

Enjoying a walk round the lake on a sunny Sunday afternoon

 

Round the lake at pretty Lailly-en-Val

Round the lake at pretty Lailly-en-Val

 

We left yesterday morning to join the A10 at J.15, just south west of Orléans to J.12 to join the N154 to Chartres, where we arrived for 10.30 am, after a very bumpy ride on some sections of the road that had been prepared for resurfacing.

 

We have made an appointment at the vet in Pont de l’Arche for tomorrow afternoon, so that’s where we’ll spend the day. After that, it will probably be Le Crotoy on the Bay of the Somme, still one of my favourite stops in France, followed by Escalles and home on Saturday morning.

 

Étang Neuf, Neuilly-sur-Eure, Orne Department, Thursday 23rd October 2014

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Beautiful Etang Neuf at Neuilly-sur-Eure

Beautiful Etang Neuf at Neuilly-sur-Eure

 

We have enjoyed five fabulously lazy days at this marvellous and peaceful carp fishing lake just north west of Chartres and it is with a heavy heart that we’ve just packed all the bulky stuff prior to our departure tomorrow. There are some places that you just simply don’t want to leave and this is surely one of them, so I expect we’ll come back next Easter.

The pitches are enormous, at least 20 metres across and about 15 m. from the lake, so we estimate we’ve had 300 m² solidly for our use. There is also a hut with a shower and a toilet, both immaculately clean, and a sink for washing up with a hosepipe to fill up the tank.

A very spacious pitch at Etang Neuf

A very spacious pitch at Etang Neuf

 

 

We have also benefited from a couple of very sunny days and just one rainy day and today has been overcast but warm. Adonis has caught 2 carp so far and he still has a couple more hours before tonight’s dinner, so he might yet catch another! All in all, it has been a wonderful 5-day break and we are already looking forward to our next visit.

The first carp!

The first carp!

 

And the second!

And the second!

 

I developed a morning routine of walking Beano after breakfast, followed by a shower and a cycle ride to the village for baguette and croissants, which took me around 12 minutes each way, making that my daily exercise. I really love the walk around the lake with Beano, watching the herons and the coots gliding in the water.

 

Walking around lake.  Our pitch from the far side

Walking around lake. Our pitch from the far side

 

We spent our first day, Saturday 18th, at pretty medieval town of Pont-de-l’Arche, just south east of Rouen. It was a very hot day (25°C outside) and sat on the grass by the river Eure, as well as walking along it to Les Damps and enjoying a beer in the sun outside one of the bars in the town square. This is another wonderful free motorhome aire with a charming view of the church of Notre-Dame-des-Arts and the river. We noticed that the access to the green by the river had been blocked by big boulders, perhaps to stop the New Age travellers from camping on it, like it happened at Easter.

 

Notre-Dame-des-Arts Chuch at medieval Pont-de-l'Arche

Notre-Dame-des-Arts Chuch at medieval Pont-de-l’Arche

 

Medieval Pont-de-l'Arche

Medieval Pont-de-l’Arche

 

I will mention that we were badly delayed leaving England at the Eurotunnel terminal, as we sat inside the train for 45 minutes due to a technical fault and we didn’t arrive in Calais until 9.10 pm, which is a bit too late for our liking, for we still had to heat up our usual pizza and had to content ourselves with some crisps during the crossing, being rather hungry by then. I suppose we travel so frequently that these things must be expected from time to time.

Tomorrow we’re heading for Les Roches l’Évêque near Vendôme and then to Amboise for a couple of days.

Dinan, Ille-et-Vilaine, Tuesday 19th August 2014

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Charming Medieval Dinan

Charming Medieval Dinan

 

This is our second, and sadly, last day in Brittany, as there has been a slight change of plans and we are returning home a couple of days earlier than anticipated.

 

Soaking up the atmosphere in Dinan

Strolling on the cobblestone streets in old Dinan

 

We have enjoyed our short stay in this stunning region very much as it hasn’t been as crowded as we feared this time of year and neither has it been too hot to make it uncomfortable, so we’ll probably come back at some other time in the future and go further west, as I would have liked, as far as Finisterre, the most westerly point in France. Still, that leaves us with something to look forward to in the future.

 

Chateau Dinan

Chateau Dinan

 

Dinan is a beautiful medieval town with half-timbered houses and cobblestone streets as well as a very impressive castle, Château Dinan, which contains a collection of traditional Breton lace headdresses, but we preferred to walk around the charming old streets and have a drink at one of the many bars. I really enjoyed my Kir Breton, which contained cider, a very refreshing and delicious drink indeed.

 

The Chateau walls

The Chateau walls

 

We are staying at the Municipal Campsite for only 15.10 a day and I have to say that I’ve just had the worst ever shower on my travels (now on our 5th year): only a trickle of water reached me from the high shower head and perhaps I should have moved to the next cubicle, but not knowing if it would be any better, I stuck with it till the bitter end. The funny thing is that one of the reasons why we like to stay in campsites is to have the ‘luxury’ of hot showers without having to use up all our water in the van, so if these facilities are not good, there’s little point in coming. Well, I suppose we also have electricity and we can charge up our mobile phones and Kindle, so let’s look on the bright side!

 

Savouring the local flavours: Gorgeous and refreshing Kir Breton

Savouring the local flavours: Gorgeous and refreshing Kir Breton

 

Yesterday, we visited another charming medieval town with an impressive castle: Josselin, and again, we went for a long walk around the town, along the river Oust and the town’s gardens, with a trail for children to follow and stunning hydrangeas with conical flowers, the like of which I had never seen before. Funny how neither of us was in a mood for visiting the castle, but sometimes a gentle stroll getting lost in a new place is just as much fun and, after all, we have seen and visited our fair share of châteaux!

 

Josselin Chateau on the River Oise

Josselin Chateau on the River Oust

 

I love how these castles were built on natural rocks and cliffs

I love how these castles were built on natural rocks and cliffs

 

We stayed at the free motorhome aire by St Martin’s Church, which was a tad too busy for our liking, but still quiet at night and we both had a good night’s sleep.

 

The busy but free motorhome aire at Josselin by St Martin's Church

The busy but free motorhome aire at Josselin by St Martin’s Church

 

View of Josselin from the town bridge

View of Josselin from the town bridge

 

Half-timbered house in Josselin

Half-timbered house in Josselin

 

Josselin en Fete

Josselin en Fete

 

Amazing conical hydrangea flowers

Amazing conical hydrangea flowers

 

The gorgeous hydrangea bush with conical flowers

The gorgeous hydrangea bush with conical flowers

 

 

The day before that, we stayed at the motorhome aire at St Philbert de Grand Lieu by a lovely lake, around which we took Beano for a long walk. It had no electricity, but it did have free water, it was peaceful and on hard standing. There was a huge municipal campsite nearby which might be useful for future reference.

 

Motorhme aire at St Philbert de Grand Lieu by the lake

View of Motorhme aire at St Philbert de Grand Lieu by the lake

 

Wakling around lake

Walking around lake at St Philbert de Grand Lieu

 

Tomorrow, we’ll be heading east again to the lovely La Ferté-Macé before moving north again to Broglie and our usual visit to the vet.

We’ll be back on the road during the October half term!

Soubise, Charente Maritime, Saturday 16th August 2014

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Charming Soubise

Charming Soubise with motorhome aire visible on right of picture

 

Alfter spending 5 very lazy days at the tranquil municipal campsite of Fontaine du Pre St Jean at lovely Dompierre-sur-Charente, we are now ready to make our way to Brittany, which we intended to do on the first week of our travels, but the weather changed our plans then and we thought we could do it on our way back north instead.

The tranquil Fontaine Pre de St Jean

The tranquil Fontaine du Pre St Jean on the banks of the Charente river

 

We didn’t do much at all at Dompierre other than fishing, reading, crocheting and walking Beano along the river. The weather was a bit temperamental and nowhere near as hot as last time we were here and visited Cognac in the sweltering heat. This time, we had a combination of sun, wind, showers and storms, maybe because of Hurricane Bertha coming from the west, but we still managed to lounge around outside the van and eat outdoors everyday.

 

the idyllic river Charente by Dompierre

the idyllic river Charente by Dompierre

 

We really like the simplicity and laid-back feeling of the place and watching passengers on the ‘bac’ (barge) crossing the Charente river on their cars and bicycles, all the more enjoyable for being the only working ‘bac’ left in France!

 

The 'bac' on the Charente, the last of its kind

The ‘bac’ on the Charente, the last of its kind

 

 

The campsite itself is basic with adequate toilet and washing facilities and just by the river with direct access through a back gate. It only costs 11.16 a day for a pitch with electricity, so what’s not to like?

It certainly seems to be getting more and more popular as, despite the dogey weather, it was fairly busy with campers, caravanners and motorhomers, but still very quiet, peaceful and idyllic.

 

A flooded reserved pitch due to unseasonal weather

A flooded reserved pitch due to unseasonal weather

 

This morning, we left heading for Rochefort, past Saintes on D24 and D137 and did our weekly shop at Super U in Toonay-sur-Charente, just east of Rochefort. We then joined the motorway for just one junction (32 to 31) and south on D733 to Soubise’s motorhome aire. This is another wonderful aire for only €7 a night, with electricity, water, showers, toilet and washing facilities, all included in the price! There is plenty of shade, a charming pond with fishing and a lovely dog walk. Weird to think we are so close to the mouth of the river Charente, just a few kilometres north!

 

Motorhome aire at Soubise, with lovely walks around

Motorhome aire at Soubise, with lovely walks around

 

The fishing pond at Soubise

The fishing pond at Soubise

 

There is also a restaurant here right by the Capitainerie on 2 Rue Henri Drouet called Lestran and that’s where we’ll be eating tonight as it looks absolutely lovely and authentic. I’ve seen they’ve got ‘Moules Frites’ for only €7, as well as crêpes!!!

 

 

Enjoying a walk around motorhome aire

Enjoying a walk around motorhome aire

 

The 'Yacht' park

The ‘Yacht’ park at Soubise

 

Old cannons by Marina

Old cannons by Marina

 

Tomorrow, we’ll be heading towards Nantes and hope to stop at the motorhome aire at St Philbert De Grand Lieu.

St Christoly de Blaye, Gironde Dept. Sunday 10th August 14

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The swimming lake at St Christoly de Blaye

The swimming lake at St Christoly de Blaye

 

It’s been quite an interesting ride since we left Pamplona yesterday morning. There was no problem following the Carretera de Irún, or N121A, north, which is wonderful, but no good if you don’t like tunnels, of which there are many and long on this stretch of the road. We enjoyed the mountain landscape again and the lovely Basque country houses or Caseríos, very pretty and picturesque. We also did a very cheap shop at Mercadona just down the road from the campsite on the way to Pamplona to stock up on Spanish products to bring home.

Once in France, we followed the A63 past Bayonne to junction 7 and D810 towards Vieux-Boucau-les-Bains. This was a terrible mistake on my part, as the stretch of road from Capbreton to Seignosse-le-Penon was jam packed with traffic, not made any easier by the absurd number of roundabouts that seem to appear every 200 metres or so and made the experience even more tiresome and irritating. Add to this pedestrian and cycle crossings and you’ll get a picture of the frustration of not getting anywhere fast!

We somehow arrived at the aire at Vieux-Boucau-les-Bains for midday and had to take a ticket to get in at the barrier. A quick drive around showed us that there were hardly any spaces available and we squeezed ourselves between 2 vans parked parallel to the access road, but after taking Beano out for a quick trot and putting van on blocks, we realised we couldn’t connect to the electricity hook-ups, which was supposed to be included in the price, as they were all in use. Taking everything into consideration, – being packed like sardines, parked by a busy road, no chance of getting table, chairs or awning out and no electricity – we decided to leave, but to our dismay we still had to pay the 12 daily fee, as we had stayed there longer than 5 minutes! We found this terribly unfair, as just driving around to find a space takes longer than that and feel like writing to the Council about it. Surely there should be a longer period before they start charging, at least 15 minutes, to give people a chance to have a good look around and decide whether to stay or not.

Annoyed, we put it down to experience and decided to go back to reliable and trusted Étang de Léon, about 10 miles north east, and were pleasantly surprised to find a much emptier road (D652) and motorhome aire, with loads of space, shade and right by the lake at the lower price of €10 a day, but no electricity. Much happier then, we had our late lunch and rest before walking Beano in the woods and a swim in lovely lake.

 

The roomy motorhome aire at Etang de Leon

The roomy motorhome aire at Etang de Leon

 

This morning, we joined the A63 at Castets (J.12) all the way to north of Bordeaux and paid the €15.62 toll, just like last year. After crossing the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, we joined the free A10 to J40a and D137 to St Vivien-de-Blaye’s motorhome aire, which stands by the church and a lovely pond and seemed quite adequate, but Adonis thought the bells ringing might be a problem and, after going for a walk round pond, we thought we could try this other aire just 3 or 4 miles north and we are delighted with our choice.

 

 

Pretty and tranquil motorhome aire at St Vivien-de-Blaye

Pretty and tranquil motorhome aire at St Vivien-de-Blaye

 

The motorhome aire at St Christoly de Blaye is free, with toilets, a shower and free water and, again, right by the lake and a wonderful woods walk around it. There is also a sort of ‘animal farm’ nearby with exotic creatures like camels and llamas, as well as horses, pigs, geese and chickens, and offering pony rides and pedal cars for families. We love it here and I wouldn’t mind staying another day. In fact, I would be very happy to pay £12 here instead of that awful aire at Vieux-Boucau-les-Bains!!!

 

Shady motorhome aire at St Christoly de Blaye

Shady motorhome aire at St Christoly de Blaye

 

Some exotic animals near the motorhome aire

Some exotic animals near the motorhome aire

 

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Dompierre-sur-Charente 14 017

 

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Dompierre-sur-Charente 14 026

 

And the old fashioned gypsy caravan

And the old fashioned gypsy caravan

 

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Camping Ezcaba, Valle De Ezcabarte, Pamplona, Friday 8th August 2014

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Embalse de Yesa a Pamplona 136

Beautiful Pamplona seen from the Cathedral’s Bell Tower

 

We have spent three very hot days in Spain, the last two at this wonderful campsite just outside Pamplona, and I’ll be sad to leave tomorrow to make our slow way back north through France, although we still have Brittany to look forward to as a proper final destination.

 

Heading south for the Pyrenees

Heading south for the Pyrenees

 

After leaving the motorhome aire At Sévignacq-Meyracq by Arudy, we went straight south on the D934 to Fabrèges in the Pyrenees National Park, just 10km north of the Spanish border, where we were able to stop for the day and night by the lake, which was utterly beautiful and heavenly and where we enjoyed a cooling swim with Beano as well as a walk around the area, popular with walkers, trekkers and tourists waiting for the funicular and the mountain train. We didn’t go on these, as we didn’t want to leave Beano alone for too long and most round trips took 3 hours, so we enjoyed a quiet day by the lake, admiring the mountains and making the most of the pure clean air.

 

Our stopping place at Fabreges, Pyrenees National Park

Our stopping place at Fabreges, Pyrenees National Park

 

The lake and mountains at Fabreges

The lake and mountains at Fabreges

 

Feeling excited about Spain being just on the other side of those mountain behind me

Feeling excited about Spain being just on the other side of those mountain behind me

 

The Funicular ride up to the mountains

The Funicular ride up to the mountains

 

We carried on south on the Spanish A136/N260 to Sabiñánigo and west on N330 to Jaca, where we did a small shop at Mercadona and stocked up on some Spanish goodies like Manchego and Galician cheese, membrillo (quince jelly) and Colacao (drinking chocolate) to take home to Pepo.

 

At last!  Welcome to Spain after a 4-year absence

At last! Welcome to Spain after a 4-year absence

 

From there, we carried on west to the campsite on the north side of Embalse de Yesa, where we stopped for the day. This was a basic campsite with adequate and clean facilities and lovely views over the lake and, more importantly, direct access to it, although we thought the 27.40 daily price was on the steep side, but one supposes you pay for the privilege of the location and because there is nowhere else around to stop for the night.

 

Lago de Yesa

Embalse de Yesa

 

Embalse de Yesa

Embalse de Yesa

 

Sheltering from the heat at our pitch at the camping of Embalse de Yesa

Sheltering from the heat at our pitch at the camping of Embalse de Yesa

 

The Reception area and Bar at camping of Embalse de Yesa

The Reception area and Bar at camping of Embalse de Yesa

 

Yesterday morning, we continued slightly north west towards Pamplona and north from there on N135 and arrived here just after 11am to enjoy another hot day and the large swimming pool, This is a very large campsite, although only half of it seems to be taken up at the moment and we presume that its size it to accommodate all the visitors during the Feria of San Fermín on the second week of July.

 

Camping de Ezcaba, Pamplona

 Charming and roomy Camping de Ezcaba, Pamplona

 

The site has very good facilities, including a large area for bbqs, showers and washing blocks, all very pristine and attractive.

BBQ area for campers at Camping Ezcaba

BBQ area for campers at Camping Ezcaba

 

This morning, we took a taxi to Pamplona for only €10 and enjoyed a stroll through the city’s old quarters (or Casco Viejo), which is absolutely charming, with its old buildings with beautiful balconies, the jaw-dropping Townhall and its magnificent Cathedral. We paid €5 each to get in, which included a visit to the Bell Tower that commands impressive views of the city below: definitely worth a visit.

 

Enjoying the sites in the Casco Viejo in Pamplona

Enjoying the sites in the Casco Viejo in Pamplona

 

La Plaza Mayor in Pamplona

The attractive Plaza Mayor in Pamplona

 

Pamplona's Cathedral

Pamplona’s Cathedral

 

View from the Bell Tower

Views of Pamplona from the Bell Tower

 

Views from the Bell Tower

Views from the Bell Tower

 

Views from the Bell Tower

Views from the Bell Tower

 

Ornate chapel inside Cathedral

Ornate chapel inside Cathedral

 

Tombs of Charles III and Eleanor of Castilla

Tombs of Charles III and Eleanor of Castilla

 

Beautiful Gothic Cloister

Beautiful Gothic Cloister

 

Again, as we didn’t want to leave Beano alone for too long, we had a beer and a tapa in a bar just outside the Town Hall and took a picture where people usually stand behind a wooden fence during the running of the bulls in San Fermín before taking another taxi back to the campsite.

 

The superb Town Hall in Pamplona

The superb Town Hall in Pamplona

 

Some interesting roads in Palmplona's Old Quarters (Casco Viejo)

Some interesting roads in Palmplona’s Old Quarters (Casco Viejo)

 

Charming buildings in the Casco Viejo

Charming buildings in the Casco Viejo

 

Charming buildings in the Casco Viejo

Charming buildings in the Casco Viejo

 

Waiting for the bulls!!!

Waiting for the bulls!!!

 

It’s been a hot day, but the weather has been threatening with thunder on and off for about an hour, only to produce a lot of noise and a few drops of rain. We have put our stuff inside just in case, but the sun has just begun to shine again…