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Kindogs Euro 2012 Adventure
The horrifying sound of brickwork crashing to the ground at 2:00 am was not the start we had planned for our July / August holiday. Jumping out of our new motor home I ran round to the back of the van, to see our drive wall laying on the pavement. Realization hit me harder than anything I have experienced. The motor home!! What had I done? Turning round in disbelief to see what damage (anguish, shock, anger – nothing words can describe). I had checked and thought l was clear before turning right to park it in the lay-by at the front of our house prior to putting my work van on the drive. The rear nearside back had clipped the wall pillar to the driveway. The moulded rear light cluster was hanging there, a big crack in it. The wraparound corner was on the drive. As I sank to my knees, Mrs Kindogs voice entered my shattered brain: “Why didn’t you wait for me?” I had allowed two hours for any mishaps on our journey to Ashford for our tunnel crossing at 6:10 am. Mrs Kindog said “It’s all fixable. What are we going to do about the brick work?” A double skinned wall with a pillar a metre in length lay there. A sack truck and 30minutes later all was stowed neatly on the drive, some clear 3M all-weather 50mm wide tape had the rear light cluster in position and all working tickerty- boo. If I ever see that bricky again! Cheap mix thankfully or more damage would have been inflicted and there may have been no Euro adventure.
We are on our way, my brain completely scrambled. How I drove to Ashford arriving on time is down to Mrs Kindog and her complete unflappable temperament. “We’ve got insurance. That’s what it’s for. We’ll get it fixed when we are back home. Now let’s go and enjoy our holiday.” Texts sent to relatives on arrival at the Euro crossing to say “We will explain about the wall when we are back”.
Sat –nav co-ordinates set, we opted to miss the toll roads and go for the scenic journey. We are on our way to Beaugency, just south west of Orleans. The drive down through the beautiful French countryside is stunning. We pulled over after about 2 hrs of driving to have a cup of tea and a salad roll. The events of the previous night were now coming into focus and the rationalization process kicking in. Damage is done; get it put right and move on: “Always look on the bright side of life”!
With about a 4 hours drive, wonderful weather and the full expectation of a happy adventure we moved off. A short break for lunch and we arrived at Beaugency. Pulling straight into the Aire there were plenty of spaces, the view of the arched bridge and river is a landscape artist’s dream. There is enough room for about 25 Motor homes.
It has all the facilities for topping up and depositing of the wastes with electrical hook-ups (all main credit cards accepted) if required. There is a standby water tap at the rear of the toilets on the left hand side of the block, with nothing to pay.
The GPS co-ordinance for the Aire at Beaugency GPS N 47.77639° E1.64278°
The walk down along the river is worth it, with a good selection of wildlife. Watching the Sand Martins swoop down skimming the surface to feed on the hover flies was something I really enjoyed.
There were Mistle Thrushes feeding in the ankle high grass with rabbits running around, quite a lot of wild fowl in the distance on the opposite shore, where there is a very nice looking campsite, if that is what you prefer.
From our perspective Beaugency is a very beautiful place. The town has everything you could require, although we did not explore it ourselves as we were very tired from the early start we had made.
On to Cournon D’ Auvergne. ( GPS N 45° 44.397’ E 3° 13.366’ ) We left Beaugency around 10:00 in the morning avoiding the toll roads, travelling through Vierzon, skirting round Bourges, then on down to Montlucon, stopping a few times to have a break and enjoying the superb countryside.
Sitting looking out at the view, drinking a cup of freshly ground coffee, has got to be one of the most enjoyable things in life. The weather was very warm with clear blue skies, the traffic on the back roads is very light and life seems to be unhurried. There is very little litter anywhere, which makes a big difference and brings home just why the French are so proud of their country.
We moved on slowly, winding our way on to Cournon d’Auvergne arriving at about 5:20. The aire is on the small side but can still take around 18 Motor homes and has electrical connections and the facilities for disposal of waste. It has a Flot Bleu token machine.
Cournon d’Auvergne We decided to use the campsite and ended up staying two nights. It’s very well laid out and reasonably priced with lots of entertainment, if you have children of any age. The washing facilities are okay but could do with a clean and a lick of paint. There is a shop and restaurant although we never used either. Bread can be purchased each morning from the restaurant but you have to put in an order the day before.
Topping up with water and disposing of the waste is straightforward and is to be found at the rear of the sanitation block not far from the reception. Electrical hook-ups will require at the most a 25 metre length of cable as the power supply is to the side of the U-shaped camping areas. There is a good sized lake and picnic area where you can have a lovely stroll around, and if you have a dog it is a good exercise area.
I was impressed with the campsite and with the people in reception who spoke a number of languages. There is also Wifi available at 2 Euros a day.
Moving on south to Carcassonne we travelled through some of the most scenic of the French country side, the departments of Limousin, Auvergne. The route we chose took us through Issoire, Saint Flour and Saint-Chely-d’Apcher which then lead us on to Millau.
Having driven over the British designed bridge the previous year, we came off and went through Millau, stopping to admire the bridge and panoramic view of the town, which I think is quite stunning.
Seeing it as you drive in is even more remarkable. We chose to stay at Camping De La Cite, GPS N43° 12.00’ E 2° 21.234’, which is expensive for what you get. It is very clean and quiet, but I suppose you are paying for the location.
We visited the city but I was unimpressed with the tourist tat that was for sale everywhere. The restaurants were expensive, but if you want to eat out in the surroundings of a medieval city that’s the price you must be prepared to pay. The city was a 15 minute walk from the campsite and the climb up to it is fairly steep, so ladies be warned – high heels are not a good idea. We returned to the campsite and had a great meal cooked by Mrs K washed down with a good drink. Overall I am glad we visited Carcassonne. It has a lot of history and is well worth a visit.
On to Spain. We have avoided the toll roads not for the cost, but to see France non motorway style. We set off knowing we had a long drive to Mrs K’s sister and brother in-law’s villa in Cumbre Del Sol but we were in no hurry and if it took us another day, that was fine, we would pull over and rest up. We headed off not really knowing what was ahead. Absolutely stunning views were all around and as we got onto the D118 the Sat-Nav said to stay on this road for 34 km. The mountain road started to get a bit narrow and very winding. The further we travelled along the D118, we realised it was getting even more narrow and pretty soon we would be unable to turn around. Onwards and upwards is the only way, and at times it became quite scary because of the speed of the oncoming traffic. The overhangs and bends mean you have to be prepared to stop immediately. We still had something like 25 km to go and at the speed we were going, it would take us forever. We entered a part of the road that would only allow one vehicle at a time through, and fortunately we had right of way. There was no way back, so we thought “lets go for it”. We got almost to the part of the road where the traffic could pass each other, when we were face to face with another motor home. Both drivers looked at each other with the same thought, but luck was on our side, and unknown to us they had only just entered this narrow section. They put their vehicle into reverse and moved to one side and we were through. We were so relieved, and just around the next bend was a picnic area where we had a much needed rest. There is a quarry that’s mined on this road so locals are aware, but tourists need to take care when travelling on this road. But please do not be put off as the reward at the end is breath-taking. This area is very popular with skiers. We travelled on towards the border with Spain, passing close to Andorra and on to Balaguer , down to Lleida then on to Reus. We then decided that the motorway would be our best option, with a 4 hour direct run we could arrive at our destination Cumbre Del Sol. It would be a long run but travelling in the twilight and into the night the traffic would be light. We would have to pay for the tolls but as this totalled less than 34 Euro we decided the end justified the means. We arrived just after midnight to a very warm welcome. The 5 day journey had been very enjoyable and we had learnt how to stow and use our new motor home and were no longer novices. We weren’t quite hardened travellers but we had learned a lot in just those few days. The decision we made last year about purchasing a good quality motor home was and is the right one.
Destination Cumbre Del Sol
Continued : Saturday 4th August.
After a stay of 5 days we left Benitachell on the Costa Del Sol quite early as we wanted to get across the border into Spain before it got dark. Our stay in Spain was very good. Mrs K’s sister and brother in law made us very welcome and the sun shone all day every day. Mr’s K great-nephews were staying with there grandparents so it was fun as they are great boys with a good sense of humour and sibling rivalry. The drive would take about 10 hours, with a few stops in between to allow Kinnie to do the business and a break for us. It’s a long run to the French border avoiding the roads. Our TomTom started to play up whenever it found a quicker route, and wanted to get us to take the toll roads. We solved this problem by shouting “NO” at it whenever asked. This became more and more funny as it seemed to me she was the only woman that appeared to take any notice when told “ NO” – but I wasn’t going to go there as there was only one outcome.
Our journey to France was probably more than we should have taken on with the heat, but we wanted to get back into France so that we could take our time and enjoy the remainder of our holiday, exploring the back roads and villages. We headed for Ax-Les-Thermes which is steeped in Cathar history. On the way we travelled through Andorra which we were meant to miss and skirt around. Somehow the TomTom suddenly switched itself off and by the time I got it going again we were going across the Spain/Andorra border. It was not long before we were going across the French border, climbing the steep mountain pass with its ski runs and chalets dotted around. Mr’s K remarked that it was the first time she had driven through clouds. The climb was a struggle for some of the motor homes going the same way, but well worth it when you reach the top. We then started to descend and pulled into the ski resort of Soldeu. It must be one of the finest places to go skiing if you can get there in the winter. It has a large car park where you can pull over and stay the night, for a small fee, you obtain a ticket at the barrier and pay on exit, but we were heading for Ascou and a campsite I had seen on Google search, which turned out to be not as good as represented. The time was getting on and it would be dark in an hour’s time, so we turned around and headed back to Ax-Les-Thermes, a lovely village which must be a skier’s dream in winter, if you can get access to it.
I had looked at an aire, entered the GPS co-ordinates and away we went, but when we arrived about 15 minutes later nothing that could resemble an aire could be found. I suggested we continued on up the pass, as it might be higher up, but it wasn’t, so we turned around and started our descent. The light was fading fast and the road narrowed in some places making some of the 180 degree turns very tight. We were approaching one of the turns when we spotted a bull, which I can only describe as enormous, with a head and horns that could do some serious damage. As we got closer we feared that we were entering his territory, which scared us both, but as it worked out he just watched as we swung past him. So it was on down to the main road, where we turned left and looked for somewhere to park.
I have read that it is unwise to wild camp, but as there was not a lot else we could do I pulled into a fairly large lay by and we spent our first night in the wilds.
It was, as it turned out, a good place to spend the night without any mishaps, but we think that aires or campsites will be found before night falls in the future. We woke to a beautiful setting with a castle ruin high up on the top of a nearby mountain side with a river running alongside the road. We really appreciated the amenities that the motor home offered us, soon we were showered and after a nice cup of tea we had everything stowed and we were on our way, 9:30 am is an early start for the Kindogs.
We set off for a place called Souillac which would take us about 4 ½ hours a nice little hop, avoiding the tolls and passing through some quaint villages that time seems to have left behind, you see France at rest on a Sunday and it brings home how a week should start, we don’t seem to know when the week ends and the next one starts with most shops open seven days a week, with the shops shut here you need to make sure you have enough supplies, even though it’s only one day where things are unavailable. We headed up towards Toulouse passing through Foix, St Sulpice-sur- Leze. We were talking about how most of France take Sundays off when Mrs K spotted a Patisserie open as we were approaching traffic lights. I quickly pulled into a lay by and she jumped out in excitement at the prospect of fresh bread and what later when we stopped for the day turned out to be chocolate éclairs which were topped with chocolate and filled with chocolate creme. The little village of St Jory was very busy and the Patisserie (named Stephan’s) had a lovely display of cakes and pastries. We headed on towards Montauban and towards Limoges, and as we approached Cahors we decided to look for somewhere to stop. It was not long after leaving Cahors that we found a little campsite, which was just off of the N20/D820, a place called Quercy Vacances, a little site run by Ange’lique and Jean Paul Pradeaux, it’s very well run with, electrical hook up, WiFi, a small swimming pool, shower and toilet block and a bar with entertainment.
Not long after arriving there was a short thunderstorm which lasted about 15 minutes and gave us a superb rainbow. Mrs Kindog soon had a very nice meal prepared and on the table, and washed down with a good drink. After a really good nights sleep we topped up with water and disposed of the waste. Quercy is well maintained and reasonably priced and the area around is well worth a visit. I had already wound the awning out before the short thunderstorm started so I had to spend about half an hour drying it out before we could wind it back in and get underway. The Belgian and French people around gave me some strange looks as I attached some kitchen roll around the squeegee mop that Mrs K had bought me in Spain for just this sort of occasion. I must say it might have looked strange but it was very affective, even though I used most of the roll drying it out. We were soon on our way and had decided that as we were so impressed by Beaugency we would head in that direction and stay wherever we felt we would like to pull over and spend the night, whether it was an Aire or a campsite. We decided that we would only drive for around four hours or so before stopping for the day. Travelling through the French country side on the back roads is wonderful experience which I would recommend it to anyone. We continued on the D820 and after a while we pulled over at an Aire Du Belvedere where you can stay the night but there are no amenities. The view overlooks a valley of the Dordogne. We stayed for a drink and some food, and Kinnie made friends with a half relative of hers, another Westie.
As we have travelled through rural France there appears to be a lack of people. The villages are spaced around but you don’t seem to see many people or much going on. It’s very clean as I have mentioned before, but overall I have been struck by the lack of much happening. France is a very productive country, but it’s probably because it’s a large country in comparison to the UK and that the people are dispersed over a greater area. The roads are in a better condition, even on the country lanes which makes driving much more enjoyable. We drove on for about two hours and started to look for a place to pull over and stop for the day. We passed through a small village that was so pretty Mrs K said she could quite easily live there. All the houses were so well looked after and their gardens so well maintained with flowers and shrubs of all colours, it really was so pretty. Unfortunately we were looking at the view and not looking at the name of the village.
We talked about the village when we next stopped at Treignac. It has an Aire just outside the village GPS N 45° 32.608’ W 1° 47.949’ with facilities for washing and disposal of waste. There is room for lots of motor homes and it has a river that runs at the bottom. It was about two in the afternoon when we stopped so we had a choice of how close to the river we wanted to be. The ground was fairly flat and there was no need for the levellers.
As the afternoon passed away the bird life around the river became more active. With a good amount of insects to feed on they paid very little attention to the activities of us motor homers. I spent a wonderful afternoon and evening taking photographs of beautiful birds in the most pleasant of surroundings.
As the evening approached the aire started to fill up and there must of been close to forty motor homes neatly arranged in rows, all with there personal space, some with awnings out which with the amount of room available did not cause a problem, most people were sat out with tables a chairs arranged close by with there pets enjoying the early evening sunshine. A Belgian motor home pulled up and slotted in between two other homers, personal space not being one of his concerns, with the room available he could have parked anywhere, soon he had erected a satellite dish that Marconi would have been proud of, his wife was moving the dish to his instructions but, not quite to his wishes, the programme or programmes that seemed so important to him, that he had to have the perfect reception was causing a bit of a domestic, with his dish aligned as best as his wife could get he disappeared into his motor home, the atmosphere at the aire change dramatically from what was a perfect evening into a fraught tense atmosphere the Marconi satellite dish gave off such an ear piercing scream that within five minutes virtually everybody had retreated to the sanctuary of there motor home to escape the horrendous high pitched scream. People were walking around trying to figure out where the source was emanating from, once they had located it stood mumbling about what to do, I personally thought that as we are in France that Le Guillotine would have been the most appropriate solution to the problem, first the cable then the Belgian. Problem solved but as l was not elected, he and the dish survived. The aire was cleared of all outside activities.
I still think that the Le Guillotine was the solution. After about two hours l ventured outside and either some one had cut the cable, or his leisure battery had run out, or his wife had taken things into her own hands. As to everybody around silence had become golden, relief, the evening had moved on and the sun was going down but tranquillity had returned.
We had parked close to the river a beautiful setting, but with all thing there’s a down side the sun had set behind us which meant the it would rise in front of us, the rive bank was lined with trees. When we woke the home was in the shade and even with the sky lights open the motor home had a lot of condensation on the windows, we had not experienced this before, so l soon realised a bit of thought needs to go into where you park, not just a stunning spot with hidden draw backs, still another lesson learnt. We woke early and soon got on the move, I had looked at an aire at St Almand Motrond located alongside a canal it was a four hour drive which fitted into our plan. To move up through France slowly on our way back to the Euro tunnel crossing at Sangatte. It was another beautiful day, sticking to the back roads and crossing the Plateau De Millevaches would put about an hour onto the journey but it was bound to be picturesque. It turned out to be an interesting choice, quite wooded in areas and open in others, we passed a wood mill which was isolated but very active with a lot of cars and lorries around the main mill area. So l thought the roads around must be fairly well used, we had been on the road for about an hour and a half so we stopped for our morning drink, just after we had passed some major road works at a tee junction in a little village. On our next adventure l will note down the places we stop at so l have a reference which will allow me to name these lovely villages.
Soon we were well on our way to St Almand Motrond, passing through a small village we saw a notice saying Entre Ferme, l continued on and came to a point where l had to turn around, the SatNav telling me to do a U turn as soon as possible, did not help. I thought that there must be a way round the closure, so took the next right turn, which led on to some very narrow roads, the locals that use these roads do not expect to meet a motor home coming in the opposite direction or to be on them in any direction. I drove very cautiously after meeting a local travelling at quite a speed, I am not sure if he was as scared as I was when he came round a bend at speed, still we missed each other and no damage was done, the area seemed to be made up of small holding all producing farm produce. We spent the next hour winding our way north, east, then north and east again until I met a woman coming in the opposite direction with no intention of stopping or moving over one millimetre. I stopped and just hoped she miss me, as she passed us I remarked that you would not like to get into an argument with her, she was a big women with a very hard look to her. Finally we managed to get back onto the right road and St Amand Motrond was not far off.
We pulled up along side the canal glorious sunshine two other motor homers already set out, with Barn Swallow flying up and down the canal it was a good choice.
The afternoon slowly faded into the evening. St Amand Montrond has a good cafe restaurant area set off to the right hand side of the town if you are travelling north with a we chose a nice cafe / restaurant to stop and have a few drinks in, we started to people watch and take in the early evening change from work life to socialising with friends. The town seems very active, it has a wide selection of shops with a market town feel to it. With a slow walk through shop lined streets we made our way back to the canal. The house martins were still as active and a few more motor homes had pulled up long side the canal. GPS N46° 43.097’ E 2° 30.242’ the aire has water and a disposal point for the waste, no electrical hookup.
In the morning we set out for Beaugency our final stop before heading home, we had planned to leave France on the Saturday morning crossing, which would give us two days a Beaugency. With a visit to the vets for Kindog and her tapeworm treatment. Mrs K had been telling me to make an appointment at a vet, I was confidant that this could be arranged giving Kindog the necessary time slot needed to meet the immigration requirements. I was wrong the earliest appointment I could get was for the Friday at four in the afternoon not enough time for the tapeworm treatment to be effective. Rearranging the Euro booking cost £83.00 which I think is financial sting by the operators, but it was my fault so I can’t really complain. The up side was another day at Beaugency.
We book into the campsite opposite the aire we stayed in, on our first night in France. I can highly recommend the site, it is excellent value for money, well laid out, good clean showers and toilets, water taps at most pitches, electrical hook-ups and with a shop and bar with WiFi for 2Euros a day. Stunning views of the Loir river and historic bridge.
On Wednesday we booked into the campsite opposite the aire where we had stayed on our first night in France. I can highly recommend the site as it is excellent value for money, well laid out, with good clean showers and toilets, water taps at most pitches, electrical hook-ups and with a shop and bar with WiFi for 2Euros a day. Stunning views of the Loire river and Beaugency historic bridge.
Initially we were only going to stay for two nights, leaving on the Friday but as I had got the vet appointment wrong we stayed another day. The bird life around the Loire is quite diverse. With the river having high sandy banks on one side the sand martins have the perfect habitat, and where the river gets diverted by rocks that have not been eroded away , islands have formed and it’s perfect for wildfowl. The area that the campsite is on has a lot of trees which give shade to the campers and is home to the Tits, Finches, Tree creepers, Blackbirds, Thrushes and Nut Hatches. Near to where we were pitched was a Birch tree that had cracks in its trunk. I was sitting enjoying the view when I saw a bird quickly run down the tree and in a flash it was gone. I got my camera out and waited. After a while it reappeared but by the time I focused on it, it had gone again. This went on for the next day and I was unable to get a clear photograph of it which was in focus or was good enough to be of any use. A tree creeper also visited the same tree but was far too fast for me to get a good picture. Mrs K makes allowances for the time I spend trying to capture pictures of birds. I was determined to get a picture of this Nut Hatch. I thought it had young around because of the frequent visits it was making to the tree.
We had some walnuts in the van, so I crushed up the walnuts and pushed them into the crack in the bark and waited. For the first time in a day and a half the Nut Hatch was still enough to get a series of photographs. What a wonderful feeling I had when I looked at them on the laptop. I also managed to get a photograph of its fledgling chick, that the adult was so busy feeding.
Next day we spent the morning having a good look round the town of Beaugency with its church and museum. The town has a lot of history that goes back to the medieval period. There is an area towards the top of the town that opens up into the main square where there are shops that sell food and drink.
The side streets all lead to the main square.
The area adjacent to the Aire is used for the towns entertainment and can be quite noisy, if there is a live musical event being held.
In the afternoon we had to take Kindog to the vet for her tapeworm treatment, which went really well and if anybody travelling back to the UK and requires a vet in Beaugency I can recommend :
Name : Dr Sylvain, Dr Isabelle Petrus, Dr Julie Gomel.
Address : 2 Rue Des Grattelie’vres. 45190 Tavers. Beaugency. WWW.vetobeaugency.fr
On our way back to the camp site we stopped off and got some supplies, as it was going to be our last night in France. Mrs K cooked a wonderful meal and we sat out late into the evening, enjoying the warm summer night. Our holiday was over far too quickly. The adventure that had started off with an almighty bang had turned into the most fabulous holiday. We set off from Gosport with high hopes and a lot of expectations, not knowing how we would cope with the motor home. We certainly had fun learning and that’s got to be experienced to be able to understand what I mean. When I say fun, life on the road in France (in our opinion) has got to be the best way to spend your leisure time. We have had the most wonderful time touring France, and Kindog herself has had a great time.
Unfortunately it is the end of this adventure, with just the return journey to be undertaken. The next Euro Adventure is in the planning stages already.