France April 2022: à bientôt !

Heading North through France

Having crossed the border through the Somport Tunnel, our first stopover was a free Aire in Oloron-Sainte-Marie, a lovely town in the Pyrenees, with links back to the Roman times. A walk alongside the river takes you into the town and up towards the cathedral. From Oloron-Sainte-Marie, we headed along the foothills of the Pyrenees to Lourdes. Having visited Fátima, in Portugal, it felt almost rude not to visit, however the Grotto and Sanctuary of Our Lady are not dog-friendly! We chose to stop at Camping La Forêt which is a short walk to the Sanctuary – although we couldn’t go in with the dog, we wandered to the Cathedral and peered in from outside the fence!

Leaving Lourdes we headed to the town of Auch. Located in the Occitanie region of France, and the capital of the Gers region, it is another town steeped in history. The municipal aire, is located on the edge of the old town and walking along the riverside Promenade Claude Desbois you arrive at the Monumental Staircase – 374 steps upwards, linked by three terraces with a statue of Charles de Batz-Castelmore d’Artagnan, a real 17th-century musketeer who inspired Alexandre Dumas’ novels and lived in Auch. There are many things to see and do – our inspiration was taken from this blog:

From Auch we travelled to the little village of Roquecourbe and a Camping Car Park site on the river Augout. A short walk along the river takes you into the village with its Mairie, Village Square and local shops. It is also a short drive from the town of Castres. Leaving Roquecourbe, we headed back to Castres and on to Albi, where after a quick lunch we stopped to clean the incredibly dirty roof of Nortia! We’d been hunting for a car wash with a gantry, so we could reach and a day where it was neither too hot, or wet. The car wash at AJP Eco Lavage, was just perfect.

We continued our journey along the D999 to Millau. We chose to stay at a campsite, but although the campsite was nice, it wasn’t much better than the Camping Car Parks and Aires, we’d been using and we opted to stay another night at the Camping Car Park, just along the River, after a very expensive trip along the Viaduct. Just to let you know there are a number of campsites in and around Millau, but the one we chose wasn’t right for us! Be aware this does get very busy, but it is perfect for the town and the river.

Continuing our journey northwards and to the town of Mur-de-Barrez, on the edge of the Aveyron/Cantal regions. Another Camping Car Park, on the site of the old Municipal Campsite, a short walk from the historic medieval town, the Monaco Tower (which was visited by Prince Albert and Princess Charlene of Monaco)

Into the Limousin Region and a region we hadn’t really visited before, another region we will definitely return to, with the Massif Central mountains, cattle and vast countryside. Our first stop was on the edge of Lac de la Siauve, just outside the town of Lanobre, before we headed to the town of Bugeat and a lovely family run campsite, on the edge of the town – Camping aux Portes des Mille Sources This is a site we want to return to. We arrived for two nights over Easter (and left four days later)!

Our next stop was the lovely village of Dun-le-Palestel and the campsite of the same name – It is run by a Dutch family and a relatively new campsite, but it’s lovely – there is a wood next door and the village is a short walk, but follow the back roads and not the main road!

We continued our tour of the Limousin up to the town of Bourges, where we had found an Aire to stopover; however in true Three go Travelling style, the Aire was closed due to an Easter Festival, so we headed north to the Town of Aubigny-sur-Nère, where we’d found an aire in the All the Aires book (our tale is now beginning to sound like Goldilocks – the aire was closed due to falling trees! However, there was a campsite just up the road, so we opted to stay the night there!

What a find! Aubigny-sur-Nère the town and the campsite- Camping Des Étangs Aubigny sur Nère is located in the Eastern part of the Loire Valley and has a long attachment to Scotland and the Auld Alliance (an alliance made in 1215 between France and Scotland with a treaty between John Balliol and King Philip IV of France, stating that if either were attacked by England they would invade English territory). Aubigny-sur-Nère is the only place which still celebrates the alliance on Bastille Day each year. The town is steeped in history and a walk along the Étangs and the river takes you into the heart of the town via the site of the old Lavarie, at the side of the river. We arrived for one night and left four nights later, having spent a day fishing (Ric) and exploring the old town.

We continued our journey north and to another Camping Car Park in Château-Renault, in the Centre Val de Loire region. It’s another old municipal campsite, but right in the heart of the town with the Mairie on top of the hill and local shops and Swimming Pool nearby.

Coming down the hills into Château-Renault, we had noticed a warning light for the brakes and also a grinding noise, which continued as we headed to Le Mans. We had chosen to stop at a free aire on the edge of the old town walls of the City of Le Mans and as we were stopped a further investigation of the brakes, meant a trip to get replacement pads (and discs, ideally). First, we explored the old town, which was an old Roman Town, up the steps to the Cathedral and back down through the cobbled streets with half timbered houses and back to the river Sarthe, through the tunnel, built in the nineteenth century – one of Le Mans’ biggest civil engineering feats.

The next morning we headed to Euromaster, we like ATS when we are at home, so this seemed like a good place to start, but no, they can’t help, but they assured us that Norauto could help, so off we went – no they can’t help, but they said definitely BestDrive would be able to do it, so off we went again, and guess what? No! We were sent to Fiat! Yes they had the pads, but we should also buy the discs too, ok how much? We don’t have the discs in stock!!! So, we bought the pads, declined fitting were advised not to change the discs on their forecourt (the thought had not even occurred to us) and headed out of town (driving around the city four times was enough for anyone, but we will return one day). A quick note, although the Aire is free, they do charge for water, so arrive with some! We used their disposal point and cleaned up with a bottle or two of our onboard water.

Thirty kilometres or so, south of Le Mans, we stopped at another Camping Car Park in the village of Mansigné. Mainly, this was because it was secure and flat and a hardstanding so we could change the brake pads, (it is recommended to change both pads and discs at the same time, but we couldn’t buy them and we knew we were taking the motorhome to be MOT’d on our return and the discs would be changed in a couple of weeks! The Camping Car Park at Mansigné, is right next to a very large Lake, it reminded us of the Loch at Forfar and perfect to walk around. A couple of minutes walk in the opposite direction and you are in the village too!

As we continued our trip north, we felt happier that the brakes were now fully functioning and we would be able to wait for our return to the UK to change the discs. With a slight detour to the Château de la Motte-Husson, in Martigné-sur-Mayenne, home to Dick and Angel Strawbridge, off the telly – where we think, we might have even seen Dick in the garden!

No we didn’t go in, we weren’t invited we stopped at the end of the driveway and took some photos! We chose to stop at another Camping Car Park, in Ambrières-les-Vallées. The site is alongside a very pretty river and a short walk up the hill takes you to the village centre, another perfect stop.

It’s getting close to heading back to the UK and we needed to find a vet to take Reg back with us! Our next stop was a site we stayed at before Camping Sous Les Etoiles, in St Martin des Besaces, Calvados, Normandy. It’s a lovely campsite and if time had been on our side we might have stayed longer, but the tunnel beckons and once Reg has seen the vet we have 120 hours to get back to the UK. If you’re in the region and need a vet, we can recommend Clinique Vétérinaire de la Détourbe There is no need to book an appointment, Monday – Friday 08:30 – 09:30; 14:00 – 15:30 and 17:00 – 18:30 and Saturdays 08:30 – 09:30. It’s a short walk into the village with local shops and a garage and Pizza Vending Machine (which we can also recommend-we bought ours cold and heated it in the oven).

Next stop, the Normandy Coast and the City of Caen, the Camping Car Park is next to the Caen Memorial, but be aware, the service point is outside the gates, so fill up before you enter (or it’s a costly mistake if you try to leave and fill up)! The site is located next to a large park too and a short walk to the city centre. Although you have to pay to enter the museum, the gardens are free and we enjoyed a walk before opening time and the crowds arrived.

Three more nights left of our first post Brexit and post COVID trip, next stop Evreux. Yes, another Camping Car Park Evreux has always been a place we wanted to visit and it didn’t disappoint. It’s the capital town of the Eure region and dates back to the fourth century, as a Roman town. We walked into the town centre, up to the Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace, admired the statues, walked along the Ilton River, which appears under and around many houses and districts a little like a mini Amsterdam!

Two more nights and we headed towards Calais. Our plan was to stop at a campsite in Rang du Fliers for them both, but luckily we only paid for one and left the following morning. The site was very nice and centrally located for the village and shops, but the pitches were a little tight and the shower block, not worthy of the cost, so we headed to Sangatte, not really knowing what to expect. We’d only really heard of Sangatte for the refugee camps and trouble but what a find. The town is located right on the beach and the campsite, Camping Noires Mottes two streets back, lovely open grass pitches and a good shower block, our only question, was why didn’t we come here before? The Opal Coast, does have some stunning villages and is ideal for the tunnel and ports.

Tomorrow, we return to the UK, once we’ve cleared animal control (always a breath holding moment)! We’ll be back soon and let you know what we’ve been up to! As always, thank you for reading and we hope you and your families are safe and well, à bientôt !


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