Amboise, Indre et Loire, Sunday 3rd January 2016

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Lovely Christmas decorations and lights in Amboise

 

At glorious Amboise again!  We got here just before 2pm yesterday after doing battle with the SatNav leaving Châtillon-sur-Loire and a shop just north of Orléans at Saran North Shopping Centre, which was very good, and then continued on the A10 to junction 18 for Amboise.

 

We had a lovely afternoon and early evening in town, all fabulously decorated for Christmas, and enjoyed a beer sat outside one of the bars by the Château, as it was very warm for this time of year and dry, as well as watching the world go by and taking pictures of the illuminated street with its various Christmas trees, fairy lights, etc.

 

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Fabulous Christmas decorations in Amboise

 

We then strolled gently along the Loire back to L’Île d’Or, where the motorhome aire is and our usual stop here at Place Gaston Pailhou (€12 a day with water and electricity).  We finished the evening with a very tasty king prawn curry we’d bought at Carrefour and a game of cards followed by another episode of Boardwalk Empire before bed: only one more episode to go before the final installment of the series, and very enjoyable it has been too!

 

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Strolling gently back along the Loire

 

This morning, we walked into town again and had a lovely coffee and hot chocolate à la ancienne (traditional) at the quaint Bigot Patisserie and tea room in the corner of Place Michel Debré. It filled up very quickly and all the tables were taken only a few minutes after we got there: I am not surprised, as it really is a very special place.

 

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Christmas decorations by the river

 

We were very glad to discover that the Sunday market was on and bought some black pudding and vegetable fritters for lunch and a tub of paella for tonight.

 

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The brilliant paella stand!

 

On arriving back to the aire, we found our next-door neighbours’ motorhome stuck in the mud and tried to help them using our bread crates, but that didn’t work and the neighbours on the other side joined us too and tried pushing the motorhome all together, but sadly to no avail either.  In the end, the unfortunate motorhomers had to call the rescue service to get out, who came quite quickly, thankfully, and finally our fellow travellers were on their merry way to Normandy as we sat down for lunch.

 

It’s been a very wet day, so Adonis has moved the van forward so that the front wheels are on the tarmac and not on grass in order to avoid being stuck in the morning.  He also took Beano out this afternoon while I caught up on social media and poor Beano came back wet as a drowned rat and covered in spiky seed pods, which were obviously distressing him, and I just had to cut his fur off, as I could not pull them off.

 

After such an eventful day, we are looking forward to our paella tonight and plan to stop at La Suze-sur-Sarthe aire tomorow to make use of their electricity suppy, as our leisure battery seems to be on the blink and we don’t want to take any chances. We will probably use aires with electric hook-ups for the rest of the holiday and have the battery replaced when we get home.

 

 

 

Châtillon-sur-Loire, Loiret, Friday 1st January 2016

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Lovely mural by Motorhome aire and Marina at Châtillon-sur-Loire organised by the Arterial Association

 

We spent a very quiet New Year’s Eve at this superb motorhome aire by the Marina in Châtillon-sur-Loire and we liked it so much, we decided to spend New Year’s Day here too.  The aire is on gravel, with hard standing access and paved areas with picnic tables between the parking bays, all facing the canal with its charming boats and barges, some beautifully decorated for the Christmas festivities.  The payment of €9 for 24 hours is at machine near the Capitainerie on entrance to Marina and it includes water and electricity, for which you first need to know your bay letter in order to activate the electricity power.  There were 3 other motorhomes here last night, as well as people in some of the boats, but is was so quiet you wouldn’t have known it.

 

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Superb motorhome aire by Marina at Châtillon-sur-Loire

 

Our arrival here was a bit of a labour of love, as access to the town for high vehicles over 2.7 metres is only available from the north due to a height barrier on the south side.  As we were coming from the south east, we were obliged to carry on the D2007 and D952 all the way to Gien, just over 6 miles, to cross the river there and back down south on D951, adding a total of 12 miles to the journey, as well as time.  Still, we were here for 1.30pm and were delighted with the location and thought the extra mileage and time were definitely worth it.

 

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Festive boat on Marina at Châtillon-sur-Loire

 

We didn’t make it to Chiddes, as we had planned, simply because we needed to do our food shopping for last night and today and we didn’t see a supermarket on the outskirts of Château-Chinon after leaving Les Settons.  Therefore, we continued our way west on the D978 and found an Intermarché Contact in St Benin-d’Azy, where we bought some sakate and cooked crevettes for our New Year’s Eve meal, which were absolutely delicious, and two rump stakes for tonight.  I cooked the skate simply à la Romana and served it with new potatoes and we enjoyed it with a bottle of Blanquette de Limoux and a bottle of Touraine and we had a jolly good time with a game of Cribbage and an episode of Boardwalk Empire before retiring for an early end to the year at the tender hour of 9.30pm!!!

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Another charming mural by Marina, Arterial Association

 

Today’s been a lazy day, as it is meant to be, and Adonis enjoyed a spot of fishing in the morning while I did some crocheting, read my Marie France magazine and revised a bit of German on my new app.

 

 

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Depiction of Canal by Arterial Association

 

After siesta, we went for a stroll into town and enjoyed the lovely old houses, Christmas decorations, the stained-glass windows in the church St Maurice and St Posen, dedicated to a 6th century shepherd and hermit, and the original murals all over the town, part of a project to decorate the locality, “Decorer la ville” organised by Arterial Association in order to bring local artists together and closer to the public:  all very attractive and interesting.

 

 

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Quaint old houses in Châtillon-sur-Loir

 

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Église de Saint Maurice and Saint Posen

 

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Beautiful stained-glass window depicting the Adoration of Baby Jesus by the 3 Kings, very appropriate for the season

 

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Street Mural by Arterial Association project ‘Décorer la Ville’

 

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Mural of Robert Louis Stevenson, who spent some time in Châtillon-sur-Loire

 

 

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Mural of Postman

 

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Mural of St Posen outside St Maurice and St Posen churcchurchh

 

Tomorrow, AMBOISE!!!

Les Settons, Nièvre, Wednesday 30th December 2015

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Les Settons

 

We woke up to a beautiful frosty morning in La Porte d’Alsace on Monday, with icicles hanging from the wheel’s arch below the heating outlet, with the thermometer saying -2°C.

 

We set off on the D419 again and A36 past Belfort and Montbéliard to junction 7, as we needed to do a shop, and tried our luck on the national road D633 and got lucky at L’Isle-le-Doubs, where we found an Intermarché to buy provisions for the next 3 days.  From there, it was a short drive to Baume-les-Dames, which we found covered in frost and were spoilt for choice of pitches at this large aire, as there was only one more van getting ready to leave.  We hooked up and filled up with water and, after lunch, had a lovely long walk along the canal and river Doubs.  The Reception hut at the motorhome aire opened at 5.30pm for payments, by which time there were about 8 motorhomes to stay for the night.  The fee was €9.90, which is a fair price to pay this time of year, as it is good of them to keep the water and services running in freezing weather.

 

Our spot at aire in Baume-les-Dames

Our spot at aire in Baume-les-Dames

 

Motorhome aire and Marina from far side of canal

Motorhome aire and Marina from far side of canal

 

Beautiful colours in Baume-les-Dames

Beautiful colours in Baume-les-Dames

 

Baume-les-Dames and bridge

Baume-les-Dames and bridge

 

I loved the original Christmas decorations outside this house!

I loved the original Christmas decorations outside this house!

 

We left in the morning a bit later than usual to give the frost a chance to melt and carried on the A36 past Besançon and Dole to Seurre in the Saône-et-Loire, where we stopped for the day yesterday.  The aire here has been moved to behind a line of alpine trees and it is not on the Marina itself and, as there was an old caravan parked there, we decided to park closer to the Capitainerie to enjoy the view of the Marina and the river.  This is a very pleasant stop with a nice walk along the river and into town, but not much to do there, as the museum and church were both shut, which we thought would have been interesting to visit. Maybe some other time…

 

The lovely walk on the river Saône at Seurre

The lovely walk on the river Saône at Seurre

 

Pretty Seurre on river Saône

Pretty Seurre on river Saône

 

From Seurre, we followed the D973 past Beaune to Autun, where we had anextended coffee break this morning at the aire by lake and Roman Theatre.  The lake had been drained to get all the fish out, but the walk through the Roman Theatre was quite a treat, despite the heavy fog, and we thought it might be nice to return in spring when the lake has been filled again and to visit the rest of the town.  On the way out, we saw the two Roman Gates too, which are quite impressive.

 

A very atmospheric Roman Theatre in the fog, Autun

A very atmospheric Roman Theatre in the fog, Autun

The Roman Theatre at Autun

The Roman Theatre with stage at Autun

 

You have to admire these ancient walls

You have to admire these ancient walls

 

Close up of Roman bricks

Close up of Roman bricks

Roman gate at Autun

Roman gate at Autun

 

Roman gate on our way out of Autun

Roman gate on our way out of Autun

Still seeking a lake, we headed north on the D960 to Lac des Settons, near Montsauche-les-Settons, part of the Grands Lacs du Morvan, where we finally stopped for the day and night.  It really is beautiful here and I can see this would be a very popular summer holiday resort, as there are various outlets for boat rides around the lake, as well as bars, restaurants, hotels and a campsite.  We went for a long walk around the lake and both sides seem perfect for a family summer holiday.

 

Walking around Lac Settons admiring the beautiful colours

Walking around Lac Settons admiring the beautiful colours, motorhome aire in centre background

 

Light and shade contrast

Light and shade contrast

 

This gorgeous building houses the Tourist Information Office

This gorgeous building houses the Tourist Information Office

 

It’s been a bit warmer today, temperaturesrising to 7°C, and we’ve had a lovely sunset.  Tomorrow, we are heading for Chiddes, about 18 miles south of Château-Chinon.

Chavannes-sur-l’Etang, Haut Rhin, Sunday 27th December 2016

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Motorhome aire in Chavannes-sur-l’Etang, La Porte d’Alsace

 

I am happy to report that Christmas dinner was a great success and that the chicken cooked perfectly well in our Andrew James multi-cooker, even if I had to cover it with some foil before placing the lid on top. It only took about 90 minutes and this was followed by the roast potatoes and parsnips, which only took about 15 minutes. On the vegetable front, I boiled some sprouts and carrots and even managed to to make some gravy with some Bisto granules I brought from home. It all turned out rather well and we have proved that it can be done without great difficulty and just a little bit of organisation. The pumpkin soup we bought from the Traiteur was also very tasty and we had this with some fresh pretzels we bought from one of the bakeries in town. Not bad for our first Christmas in the van!

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Preparing Christmas dinner in Hymer

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Chicken looking good in Andrew James multi-cooker

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Enjoying Christmas lunch in festive Hymer

 

The weather was sunny and bright, around 12°C, and that made the day even more special. The night before Christmas Eve, we enjoyed a lovely view of the full moon and all the other motorhomes decorated for Christmas around us. The temperature dropped yesterday and we needed our hats and scarves to walk into town, but it was still sunny and bright: just perfect for this time of year. It dropped even further last night to freezing temperatures and there was frost on the ground this morning at last!

 

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Full moon on Crhistmas Eve

 

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Other festive motorhomes and full moon at Obernai’s Camping Municipal Le Vallon de l’Ehn

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You’ve got to love some people’s festive spirit!

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icicles formed overnight above wheels!

 

The veal pie we bought in the same shop as the chicken was also very good and we still have some left. This was a bit trickier to warm up in the multi-cooker as it was very thick and compact inside and, as I didn’t want to burn the crust, I cooked at No 3 for 20 minutes, but this wasn’t enough and I then tried again for another 15 minutes at No 4; the crust at the bottom burnt a little, but the rest was lovely and hot. Next time, I will cut the pie into quarters and see if that works better.

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Reception area at La Porte d’Alsace on a frosty morning

 

We left Obernai this morning after finding out that barrier at campsite needed a magnetic card to exit, which we didn’t have, and had to wait until someone turned up with one, which thankfully didn’t take too long. That must be a problem for people who wish to leave early in the mornig as, if they have a card, there is nobody to give it to. Being a Sunday, Reception didn’t open till 10am and we were ready to leave for 9.30am, as we had paid the day before. There is a slight flaw in the system, me thinks.

Finding an open supermarket today was our second challenge of the day and we decided to leave the A35 motorway at junction 28 south of Colmar to try our luck in the villages along the national road N83 to Belfort, as we are only about 10 miles east from there. We found no supermarkets open, however, but were lucky to find a bakery on the south sid of Cernay where we bought some orange juice and water, as well as the daily baguette.

 

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Map with walking tours at La Porte d’Alsace

 

We got here at La Porte d’Alsace for 11.30am and it’s been a lovely sunny day again, reaching 12°C outside and 26°C inside, so no heating needed. We are the only ones here, so it’s been very quiet except for the traffic on the D419, which has been quite busy today. The motorhome aire is open, but the electric hook ups and the water taps have been turned off. Still, it is a lovely spot.

I enjoyed my walk with Beano around the field adjacent to the motorhome aire, except for the final 100 metres or so, where there is no path and, as I didn’t want to walk on the busy road, I stayed on the field and my trainers got clogged up very quickly, making it very difficult to walk. Thankfully, it wasn’t far to go and I rinsed the mud off when I got back to the van: the trainers are as good as new!

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Bautiful frosty landscape at Chavannes-sur-l’Eetang

 

The sun’s going down, as is the temperature, but still blue skies all around. Adonis is putting the windscreen cover on the outside for the first time this holiday, as forecast is 0°C tonight.

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Frozen Chavannes-sut-l’Etang in glorious mornig light

 

I might cook a Spanish omelette to go with the rest of the veal pie tonight and tomorrow we are heading for Baume-les-Dames, about 40 miles south west of here on the way to Besançon.

Obernai, Bas Rhin, Alsace, Thursday 24th December 2015

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Pretty Obernai

We made it to Alsace for Christmas as we intended and we are certainly not disappointed with our choice. We loved Obernai when we came here in the summer a couple of years ago and we just knew it would be beautiful at Christmas. The whole place’s got a very special atmosphere, all made possible by the Christmas market stalls, the street and houses decorations, the festive people and, of course, the mulled wine!

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Our first view of the town

We arrived at the Camping Municipal Vallon de l’Ehn yesterday morning and, after hooking up and giving Beano a little walk around the campsite, we set off to explore the town and soak up the spirit of Christmas, so beautifully done here. We loved the whole thing: the various wooden huts selling all kinds of goods, the Manger with life size figures and real sheep and donkey, the train ride and carrousel for children and seeing everyone enjoying themselves sipping a glass of mulled wine and munching on roasted chestnuts, which added to the seasonal atmosphere with the lovely scents.
We bought a couple of bottles of Crémant and Cordon Bleu Snitzels for tonight and came back to the van for lunch and Beano’s afternoon walk.

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The life size Manger with real animals

 

We returned to the town in the evening to see it all lit up and enjoy a glass of Bière de Noël and, of course, the ubiquitous mulled wine to make time for dinner.

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Beautiful and original Christmas decorations

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The town in full swing

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One of many lovely seasonal stalls

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You just have to love this!

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We tried a couple of restaurants, but they were fully booked, but struck it lucky on our third attempt at La Halle aux Blés, where we had a hearty meal of spare ribs and chips for Adonis and Escalope Viennoise for me, all accompanied by a lovely pitcher of Riesling. We were delighted with our choices and the generous portions and felt a bit too full for pudding, which we decided to leave for Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

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Wreath over our heads at La Halle aux Blés

So we staggered back uphill to the campsite and had a good night’s sleep with just the slightest threat of a headache that, thankfully, didn’t go full blown.

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We sat here on our way back to enjoy atmosphere before bed

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This morning, we took the bus into town and bought a chicken for tomorrow and a veal pie for Boxing Day. The idea was to buy an already cooked chicken, but as we hadn’t seen any outlets yesterday and we didn’t want to risk going without on Christmas Day, we bought a fresh one from the local Traiteur, only to find later on that the full-on market was on with no less than 3 outlets for ‘Poulet roti’!!! We had a good laugh about that and now we know for next time.

It’s a lovely sunny day with blue skies today and, although it is not frosty, it is just perfect for Christmas. We’ve just taken Beano for a long walk along the stream and are enjoying a refreshing beer in the sun.

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Aire at Catillon-sur-Sambre

The drive here went without a hitch, stopping at a very empty Wissant aire the first night, by the canal at Catillon-sur-Sambre east of Cambrai on D643 on Saturday and 2 nights at Stenay, the first night by the Capitainerie, as there was no-one to give us the code to enter the proper aire, but the guard came in the evening and gave us the code for the next day after paying our €9 fee. Stenay was also cheerfully decorated for the season.

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Parked by Capitainerie at Stenay

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Festive lights at Stenay

Finally, we stopped for one night at Harskirchen by the Port de Plaisance, all very quiet and peaceful and free this time of year.

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Aire at Harskirchen

Le Crotoy, Somme, Thursday 5th November 2015

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Le Crotoy Bay at low tide

Le Crotoy Bay at low tide

Our stay at Broglie was very quiet and peaceful, with only one other motorhome staying for the night. We enjoyed our usual walks around the water gardens, where we fed the ducks, and along the Charentonne river to the old water mill, with Beano off the lead now, as he is getting very good with his recall, long last!

After our visit to the vet first thing in the morning, we set off from Broglie at about 9 o’clock and followed our usual route to Le Crotoy, still one of our favourite spots on our return journey.

 

Too many potholes at Le Crotoy motorhome aire

Too many potholes at Le Crotoy motorhome aire

We were a bit disappointed, however, with the poor state of the motorhome aire, which is in desperate need of repair, being as it is full of potholes, made a lot worse by the recent rain, and one needs to constantly change direction to avoid them: it really felt like a mine field. Given that the aire is always busy and that the fee has increased to €6 a day, there is no excuse for such poor maintenance and it seems a bit complacent on the part of the local council, as motorhomers also spend a fair bit of money in the bars and restaurants in town, which no doubt helps the local economy. We can only hope that Mayor will take notice and carry out the necessary repair work.

 

The entrance to the motorhome aire: simply not good enough

The entrance to the motorhome aire: simply not good enough

Our walk around the bay had a totally different feel to it today, as the tide was completely out and the landscape looked completely alien. It was lovely, though, and we thoroughly enjoyed it, as usual.

Walking around bay at Le Crotoy

Walking around bay at Le Crotoy

 

Bay of the Somme

Bay of the Somme

Bay of the Somme and Le Crotoy

Bay of the Somme and Le Crotoy

In the evening, we went to the Restaurant du Port and enjoyed a most exquisite seafood dinner of mussels in Roquefort sauce, fresh prawns and sole. I can’t wait for next time!

It’s shopping at Auchan in Boulogne-sur-Mer and Wissant for the rest of the day tomorrow, with our Eurotunnel crossing on Saturday. We’ll be back on the road on 18th December for our Christmas holiday in Alsace!

St Germain de la Coudre, Orne, Tuesday 3rd November 2015

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St Germain de la Coudre

 

No matter how small a place is in France, it always has something different and wonderful to offer the visitor.

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Attractive bridge by motorhome aire

 

We have found another lovely free aire at this pretty village on the D7 slightly north west of La Ferté-Bernard, right by the little stream and pretty bridge with easy access to the shops and restaurants. The aire has a borne for water and electricity, but it is out of order at the moment, maybe because the area is under renovation and they are still laying gravel in the aire, which is by a brand new recreation ground for football, basketball, tennis, etc, as well as a children’s playground. All in pristine condition, very clean and tidy.

 

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Motorhome aire at St Germain de la Coudre by new sports grounds and stream

 

As usual, we went for a walk around the village to get our bearings and we admired the quaint old houses and the stream going under some of them. We wondered if they ever get flooded in heavy rain! Still it is a charming little place with a very good boulangerie, which has won a golden award in the last 2 years and where we’ll get our baguette and cake in the morning.

 

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Quaint old houses and a stream runs under them

 

It’s back to Broglie tomorrow for Beano’s check at the vet’s and Le Crotoy on Thursday.