Mareuil-sur-Ay, Marne Department, Wednesday 9th July 2014

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Parking under the trees by canal in charming Mareuil-sur-Ay aire.

Parking under the trees by canal in charming Mareuil-sur-Ay aire.

 

We are parked by the charming tree-lined canal that runs alongside the river Marne, just south of Reims, but unfortunately it has been raining all day, quite heavily at times, and I don’t really feel like going for a long walk like I normally would. I took Beano out for a quick trot when we arrived here just before 2 pm and Adonis took him for a longer one after our siesta. It’s a real shame as it’s really beautiful and I would have loved to enjoy it in the sun, eating out, etc like we did this time last year. Truth be told, we’ve only had one day of sunshine and hot weather on Sunday at the Vivier des Carpes campsite, so we are getting really desperate for some sun and warmth and, therefore, we have changed our original plan of going to Brittany for week or so in favour of heading south east, where the weather is bound to be better. We might go to Brittany on our way back in mid- August, but for now we are very much playing it by ear.

 

Walking Beano by the canal in the rain

Walking Beano by the canal in the rain

 

The lovely canal walk

The lovely canal walk

 

We visited the Caverne du Dragon on the Chemin des Dames, which was the scene of bloody fightings in 1914, 1917 and 1918. The Caverne itself was an ancient quarry turned into an underground barracks during WW1 and it shows many galleries used by soldiers, both French and German, even sharing it at some point! We followed the guided in French as we didn’t want to wait until 12 for the English one, but we managed OK and got the gist of things. It felt cold under there – 17 metres underground – in July, so I hate to think what it must have been like in the winter all those years ago. It was certainly interesting and well worth the 6entry fee.

 

Caverne du Dragon

Caverne du Dragon

 

The view of what would have been the battlefield behind entrance to cave

The view of what would have been the battlefield behind entrance to cave

 

In memory of the fallen in the Caverne du Dragon

In memory of the fallen in the Caverne du Dragon

Some gruesome remnants of WW1

Some gruesome remnants of WW1

 

A sad reminder of the true cost of war

A sad reminder of the true cost of war

 

The soldiers' cooking area inside the cave

The soldiers’ cooking area inside the cave

 

There are numerous Champagne outlets here and we were hoping to visit some and buy a couple of bottles, but perhaps not today. I hope it’s a bit drier tomorrow so that we can enjoy a walk into town and along the canal.

 

Bruyères-et-Montberault, Aisne Department, Tuesday 8th July 2014

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The charming motorhome aire at Bruyères et Montberault

                                           The charming motorhome aire at Bruyères et Montberault

We left the UK on Saturday and managed to get a slightly earlier train, so instead of staying at City Europe’s car park as planned(which I didn’t fancy at all) we got our big shop out of the way at Auchan in Calais thanks to the TomTom. We did notice that everyone looked a bit ‘odd’, perhaps it’s the Ch’tis, about whom we have a film to watch yet. We then left towards the aire at Gravelines, where we stayed last year. We found a good spot amongst a whole line of British vans. Unfortunately, these started leaving for ferries at 4 am, which disturbed Adonis’s sleeping, but not mine!

 

A lovely sunrise at Vivier aux Carpes campsite

                                                       A lovely sunrise at Vivier aux Carpes campsite

 

 

A lovely sunrise at Viviers aux Carpes campsite

                                                    A lovely sunrise at Vivier aux Carpes campsite

Despite his bad back and lack of sleep, Adonis managed to walk Beano while I was clearing after breakfast and we then took mainly national and D roads past Lens towards Le Vivier aux Carps, a campsite in Seracourt-le-Grand. This is a nice site and we spent 2 nights there, although the ‘lake’ is more of a pond and it was packed with other British vans. Adonis didn’t catch anything, but as his back was hurting, he didn’t put all that much effort into it.

 

Camping le Vivier aux Carpes

                                                                  Fishing at Camping le Vivier aux Carpes

 

We left there at 10 am this morning to visit The Chemin des Dames, whose sides have been beautifully planted with corn flowers, and the Dragon Cave and after a bit of fiddling around on roads, we got to the Caverne-du-Dragon only to discover it is shut on Tuesday mornings. How typical is that? I just couldn’t believe it!!! We then tried to stop the night at a couple of lakes nearby, but they seemed to have been taken over by leisure/park type business and they didn’t allow dogs and we had no choice but to keep on looking. We also tried the motorhome aire at Chavignon, which was too close to the motorway and cost 6€, so we parked by a canal and had lunch, being disturbed by lorries on the weighbridge. Still, the view was good.

 

Corn flowers lining the road along Le Chemin des Dames

                                         Corn flowers lining the road along Le Chemin des Dames

From there we headed for our 4th night, the free aire at Bruyères-et-Montberault, and very good it is too!  It has four pitches separated by very well kept hedges and the little lane that runs through the park and there is also free water from a nearby fountain.  The town itself is very quiet and tranquil and we enjoyed an afternoon walk around it with Beano.  We’d definitely come here again if or when we return to these parts.

The weather is warm but cloudy. Tomorrow, we’ll try the Cave of Dragons again and then to a France Passion site in Champagne.

 

 

Pirates of Bognor Regis, West Sussex, Sunday 15th June 2014

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Pirates fighting on Bognor Regis seafront

Pirates fighting on Bognor Regis seafront

Today, our lovely town held a summer carnival based on a Pirate theme and we were all for a wonderful surprise when Jack Sparrow himself landed (or more like it, was hoisted) from his modern day Black Pearl – read speed boat – to the delight of all, big and small.  

Spirit FM on stage

Spirit FM on stage

 

The event started at 11.45 am, courtesy of Spirit FM West Sussex, outside the Regis Centre and Alexandra Theatre, and we were kindly advised to look out at sea for the momentous event. We obediently followed and were rewarded with the arrival of the most famous (should that be infamous?) pirate in the history of film making.

Pirates waiting for their captain, Jack Sparrow

Pirates waiting for their captain, Jack Sparrow

 

Where is the Captain?

Where is the Captain?

 

The Captain arriving on Bognor Regis Beach in a modern age Black Pearl

The Captain arriving on Bognor Regis Beach in a modern age Black Pearl

 

A little help from the pirates

A little help from the pirates

 

On dry land at last ready to lead his team of cut-throats

On dry land at last ready to lead his team of cut-throats

 

Jack Sparrow (or rather his official double) had the tall task of leading a mob of cut-throats and a very excited crowd of locals and visitors on the parade along the promenade to the pier.  He proved to be a great fun-loving character with a marvellous people’s touch and he made sure he took time to pose and have a laugh with all those who called him and even those who didn’t.  I must admit I could not resist the temptation (why should I, anyway?) and had something better than a ‘selfie’, as I went for a proper cuddle! I was later punished for my daring behaviour and was abducted by another and equally charming pirate. Glad to say I lived to tell the tale!  I felt flattered when later on Jack approached me and said to me: “You’re crazy, you are!”  Well, it takes one to know one!  Love him!

Jack Sparrow leading the parade along the promenade

Jack Sparrow leading the parade along the promenade

 

Posing for the crowd

Posing for the crowd

 

The Samba Band

The Samba Band

 

The crowd!

The crowd!

 

A mean pirate!

A mean pirate!

 

Some wonderful outfits from the locals

Some wonderful outfits from the locals

Jack Sparrow being a good sport posing for me

Jack Sparrow being a good sport posing especially for me!

Having a cuddle with The Captain

Having a cuddle with The Captain

 

Being abducted for my insolence!

Being abducted for my insolence!

 

Some innocent bystanders

Some innocent bystanders

 

There were loads of events on the schedule, including the Nyodema Drummers (fighting poverty through music) and a dancing group from the local Laburnum School, as well as spontaneous pirate fights all over the seafront and a Zumba dance session which required audience participation and yet another fun event I was unable to resist and, of course, joined in.

The Nyodema Drummers

The Nyodema Drummers

 

The Nyodema Drummers

The Nyodema Drummers

 

Dancer with the Nyodema Drummers

Dancer with the Nyodema Drummers

 

Dance group from the Laburnum School

Dance group from the Laburnum School

 

Dance group from the Laburnum School

Dance group from the Laburnum School

 

 

Captain Sparrow mingling with the crowd

Captain Sparrow mingling with the crowd

 

 

More young dancers

More young dancers

 

Having proper seafront fun

Having proper seafront fun

 

There was also a sea rescues demonstration show from the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution).

RNLI sea rescue show

RNLI sea rescue show

RNLI sea rescue show

RNLI sea rescue show

 

The carnival ended with a presentation of prizes to the best pirate outfits presented by Jack Sparrow himself at 4 pm. A fabulous and fitting way to finish a fun-filled day. And a good time was had by all!  Can’t wait for next year!

Prize giving and closing of events

Prize giving and closing of events

But the pirates still fought on!

Will these pirates ever have enough?

Will these pirates ever have enough?

 

I am also very proud to say that the whole event was filmed by my son’s film and video company’s crew Storms Edge Productions: http://www.stormsedgeproductions.co.uk/

Storms Edge Production team member

Storms Edge Production team member hard at work

 

My son with Storms Edge Production hard at work on the stage

My son with Storms Edge Production hard at work on the stage

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Camping de L’Ile des Trois Rois, Les Andelys, Eure Department, Sunday 25th May 2014

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Les Andelys on the river Seine

Les Andelys on the river Seine

 

Shock! Horror! I’ve left my digital camera behind and I’m kicking myself: How can I possibly write a travelling blog without pictures? Is it worth doing at all, I wonder? Well, luckily 21st century technology has given us mobile phones with in-built cameras, some of them very good and, between Adonis and I, I think we have captured some beautiful images, even though my laptop is refusing to upload mine, just my luck!

 

Our overnight stop at Escalles, Pas de Calais

Our beautiful overnight stop at Escalles, Pas de Calais

 

We decided against stopping at Wissant aire on Friday night, as we weren’t very impressed with some motorhomers’ parking on our last day of the Easter holidays, causing mayhem with the buses, as quite a few vans did not respect the buses parking lanes and the whole thing seemed overcrowded. So, instead, we opted to stop at the bus/motorhome car park in Escalles, just a little up the road from Wissant and it turned out to be much more pleasant. We were the only ones there till about 9 o’clock and we enjoyed a lovely evening walk up the hill of Mont d’Hubert, which commands stunning views of both, Cap Blanc-Nez and Cap Gris-Nez, with Wissant in between. I think we’ll probably make this our future overnight stop before our crossing back to England on the Eurotunnel, even though it has no facilities at all.

 

The magnificent view from Mont Hubert over Cap Blanc Nez and Cap Gris Nez and Wissant

The magnificent view from Mont d’ Hubert over Cap Blanc Nez , Cap Gris Nez and Wissant

 

Stunning sunset on Mont Hubert

Stunning sunset on Mont d’Hubert

 

Yesterday morning, we did our usual shopping at Auchan in Boulogne-sur-Mer (J. 31 of A16), topped up with diesel and followed the motorway all the way to Beauvais (23), which meant we were there for just after 1 pm, including ½ hour coffee stop on the way.

 

View from car park & Motorhome aire at Beauvais with Cathedral in background

View from car park & Motorhome aire at Beauvais with Cathedral in centre

 

We stayed at the free motorhome aire (N49º 25.455′ E002º 04.810′) with adjacent car park which overlooks the cathedral and with steps down into town. The view from these steps is quite impressive and this seems like a popular place for people to pose and take pictures of the town and cathedral below, as we did too.

 

Beauvais Cathedral

Beauvais Cathedral

 

Front of Beauvais Cathedral

Front of Beauvais Cathedral

 

 

We had a quick look inside St Étienne church, where a wedding was about to take place, and then we carried on into town for a beer and a walk to the cathedral and the Galerie Nationale de la Tapisserie, which has the same stature as Gobelins and Aubusson and where you can see tapestries being made. Both places well worth a visit and free of charge. We also enjoyed a walk through the rose garden near St Étienne Church, even though is was raining at that point.

 

The impressive aisle inside Cathedral

The impressive aisle inside Cathedral

 

 

This morning we followed the D927 straight south to Auvers-sur-Oise, where we stopped for about 90 minutes to enjoy la Irisiade or Iris/Flower Festival at the Château, which was absolutely lovely with some unusual and amazing flower arrangements all around the château’s gardens and we were particularly impressed with the school children’s efforts and the melon carvings and table-top flower dressings for special occasions: absolutely stunning!

 

The Chateau at Auvers-sur-Oise

The Chateau at Auvers-sur-Oise

 

The gardens at Chateau de Auvers-sur-Oise

The gardens at Chateau d ‘Auvers-sur-Oise

 

I must mention the horrible road leading to the campsite at Auvers-sur-Oise. We knew the campsite would be shut, but were hoping to park outside, which we did, but the road is in desperate need of repair and not one we would like to travel on again.

 

Artist at work on the flower festival/Irisiade

Artist at work on the flower festival/Irisiade.  Painting on plastic

 

Children's work for the Flower Festival

Children’s work for the Flower Festival

 

A bin covered in flowers.  I love this idea!

La Fleurbelle:  A bin covered in flowers. I love this idea!

 

Stunning table flower arrangements

Stunning table flower arrangements

 

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Amazing Melon Carvings

Amazing Melon Carvings

 

Street Art too!

Street Art too!

After battling with the traffic to get out of town and through Pontoise, we had an easy drive to Les Andelys on the N14, D14 and D125, so we were here for 1.30 pm and lunch was a bit later than usual.

 

The lovely L'Ile des Trois Rois camping

The lovely L’Ile des Trois Rois camping: Chateau Gaillar above our motorhome

 

L’Ile des Trois Rois camping is just as lovely as it’s always been and I always feel happy to be here. The staff are very nice, helpful and friendly and the views of Château Gaillard beautiful and almost surreal, especially at night when it’s lit. We have pitch No 14, as the receptionist recommended it for fishing and Adonis is very happy with his ‘swim’. Let’s hope he catches something…

 

our generous pitch No 14

our generous pitch No 14

 

I love to walk around this campsite and photograph the mobile homes’ gardens, as the owners seem to take great pride in adorning them with beautiful flower displays, tubs and sculptures. I could easily make this my home. We have booked for 3 days, but we might squeeze another one in if we can.

 

Chateau Gaillard

Chateau Gaillard and excercise area at l’Ile des Trois Rois Camping

 

Bridge over the river Seine seen from l'Ile des Trois Rois

Bridge over the river Seine  at Les Andelys and l’Ile des Trois Rois Camping on left

 

Some elaborate garden display at l'Ile des Trois Rois Camping

Some elaborate garden display at l’Ile des Trois Rois Camping right by the River Seine

 

recycled boot!

recycled boot!

Broglie, Le Crotoy and Wissant, 16th-18th April 2014

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Bhe Bay of the Somme at Le Crotoy

Bhe Bay of the Somme at Le Crotoy

 

We finished our Easter escapade staying at the usual reliable motorhome aires. Broglie’s aire is an excellent base to take Beano to the vet’s for his check up before returning to England and to have a relaxing walk along the Charentone river. The aire is beautifully kept, with hard standing, but grassy areas for picnics and is still only 5 a night (same price as 4 years ago), which is collected by a guard in the evening, and it has a borne for water and electricity that works with a jeton or token. It has room for 8 vehicles, but we were the only ones there for most of the day. It is just a little gem of a place and the village is also quaint and picturesque, with all the facilities one could need.

 

The charming aire at Broglie by the Charentone river

The charming aire at Broglie by the Charentone river

 

Quaint and charming Broglie

Quaint and charming Broglie

 

We spent a hot day at a very busy aire at Le Crotoy. We had never seen it so busy and it felt a bit crowded, but with such wonderful views of the Bay of the Somme and the town itself, it is hardly surprising that it’s so popular. We went on our usual walk around the bay and, as always, my camera seemed to be working overtime, as it is a kind of place that seems different every time we go due to the light changing. I just can’t get enough of this place.

 

Broglie to Wissant April 14 014

 

The forever beautiful, Le Crotoy

The forever beautiful, Le Crotoy

 

This gull crossed my path just as the camera was shooting

This gull crossed my path just as the camera was shooting

 

Broglie to Wissant April 14 004

 

My favourite photo of the holidays.

My favourite photo of the holidays.

 

At Wissant, we were surprised and disappointed to see how many motorhomers show complete disregard for local residents and rules, parking in the zones clearly marked for buses, even when there wasn’t any more room in these either, and causing total chaos when the buses finally arrived at the end of their day. We watched in amazement and dismay as the buses struggled to get in the aire, as it had been blocked by one of the ‘illegally’ parked motorhomes, and felt sorry for the bus drivers knocking on the vans’ doors, but the occupiers had gone into town and there was nobody to move these vehicles. Totally shameful and unacceptable, in our opinion. I fear that this kind of inconsiderate selfish people will spoil it for the rest of us in the long run and tighter measures will be introduced. I hope the aire won’t shut altogether, but it wouldn’t surprise me either. We might stop up the road at Escalles on our next trip, as we keep seeing in on our way down and it looks more spacious. We’ll see.

 

Unacceptable parking at Wissant aire

Unacceptable parking at Wissant aire

 

Buses struggling to get into aire due to bad parking

Buses struggling to get into aire due to bad parking

Bognor Regis 10K Road Run, Sunday 18th May 2014

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Bognor Regis 10K 052

It’s a glorious spring day down here in the West Sussex south coast and we have come down to give some moral support to the brave people who are taking part in this race. I have run it twice before to raise funds for a couple of charities, so they certainly have my full support, as I know most of them will be doing just that.

I understand that Paul Wells, our Mayor, is taking part in order to raise funds to restore Bognor Regis Pier, a subject close to my heart too and which I am proud to sponsor.

Bognor Regis beach and Pier in the background

Bognor Regis beach and Pier in the background

 

I took my son to join the St John’s Ambulance volunteering team earlier in the day and then Adonis and I returned with our puppy, Beano, half an hour before the race started at 10.30 am to enjoy a stroll along the lovely sea front we are so privileged to have so near our home.

It was lovely to see so many people along the way to support the runners. These are some of the shots I took. I hope you like them.

The first runners and their escort

The first runners and their escort

 

Slowly building up

Slowly building up

 

More and more

More and more

 

Nice to see some people make the effort to dress up

Nice to see some people make the effort to dress up

 

Good on you!

Good on you!

 

Bognor Regis 10K 053

 

Some other pursuits on the seafront

Some other pursuits on the seafront

 

Strolling back through the Marine Park Gardens

Strolling back through the Marine Park Gardens

 

Beautiful irises

Beautiful irises

 

And the fountain is on!

And the fountain is on!

 

My son as a volunteer for St John's Ambulance.  So proud!

My son as a volunteer for St John’s Ambulance. So proud!

 

The most important people (and dog) in my life: Adonis, Pepo and Beano

The most important people (and dog) in my life: Adonis, Pepo and Beano

 

Pepo giving Beano a much needed drink of water on a very hot day

Pepo giving Beano a much needed drink of water on a very hot day

 

The entertainment at West Park

The entertainment at West Park

Vaas, Sarthe Department, Tuesday 15th April 2014

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Vaas seen from bridge

Vaas seen from bridge

 

We didn’t go as far as Richelieu yesterday as we had originally planned, for it was getting a bit late in the morning after doing our shopping at Vivonne, just south of Poitiers on the N10, so we decided to drive the 4 kms east out of town to Château Larcher instead.

 

The very efficient motorhome aire at Château Larcher

The very efficient motorhome aire at Château Larcher

 

We were very impressed with the motorhome aire there, right by the football grounds and with an easy walk to the Château ruins and round the lake, all very picturesque and with the usual charm these small villages tend to have. The aire is only 4 a night, with electricity and water included in the price, to be paid either at the Mairie or to the guard that comes round in the evening (he came about 7 pm), who speaks good English. There is also a bread service van in the morning and that’s how we got our baguette today for just 90 C. The area was very quiet and, although there is room for 10 motorhomes, only 4 vehicles spent the night there, including us.

 

A very pleasant walk around Château Larcher

A very pleasant walk around Château Larcher

 

The ruins of Château Larcher

The ruins of Château Larcher

 

I just liked this building

I just liked this building

 

Enjoying a stroll around lake at Château Larcher

Enjoying a stroll around lake at Château Larcher

 

We left Château Larcher after 9 this morning and made the mistake of sticking to the national road bypassing Poitiers, but this turned out to be incredibly slow due to so many traffic lights and roundabouts, so we must remember to use the motorway next time. So a bit tired and exasperated with such slow going, we joined the A10 at J. 25 south of St Maure-de-Touraine after a coffee stop at Dangé-St-Romain, and stayed on it up to north of Tours, where we came off at J. 20 looking for the France Passion site at Parçay-Meslay (Domaine de Vodanis), but there didn’t seem to be enough parking space, which would have been by the road anyway, so we decided to keep going north to find something more attractive and to our liking. We joined the motorway again at J.19 and took A28 north. After a quick look at our new ‘All The Aires in France’ Vacarious guide, we opted for Vaas, just west of Château-du-Loir and only 4 km off the A28 at J.26, only paying ₤6 for the privilege of such good road.

 

Vaas

A hot afternoon walk in Vaas

 

We made it here at about 1.15 pm and, again, we are very impressed with this aire by the camping and Espace Culturel. It’s free and has an Euro Relay bourne for water if needed.

 

The motorhome aire at Vaas

The motorhome aire at Vaas

 

 

The River Loir at Vaas

The River Loir at Vaas

 

We’ve just been for a lovely walk along the river Loir, past the campsite both ways east and west and stopped to admire the ancient water mill and the views from the nearby bridge. It’s still quite hot (24 ºC inside van) and the sun’s still shining and, although the holiday is slowly coming to an end, we can’t complain about the weather or the lovely spots we’ve discovered so far.

 

The ancient water mill at Vaas

The ancient water mill at Vaas

 

The Water Mill wheel

The Water Mill wheel

 

 

It’s Broglie tomorrow, where we have an appointment at the vet’s for Beano at 9 am and after that it will be Le-Crotoy and Wissant, as usual.

We’ll be back on the road again at the end of May, when we’re hoping to visit Van Gogh’s grave, Rouen Cathedral and stay a few days at Les Andelys, if time.