Fromage et Vin. And much more…
France is the perfect country for motorhome touring! The facilities are second to none and there are ‘Aires de Camping-Car’ just about everywhere, as well as campsites and many wonderful ‘France Passion‘ locations. For this reason, we decided to take a little bit of time travelling through France on our way back to the UK, whilst hoping that the weather would be kind to us.
Our first stop was Sare, in the foothills of the Pyrenees just across the border from Spain. A beautiful and characteristic village that could make you quite confused about what country you’re in. We enjoyed a quiet night here in beautiful surroundings, but without a plan for what to do in France, we weren’t sure where to go next so we decided to take it day by day for now.
We had a vague intention of visiting the Dune de Pilat near Bordeaux, setting off in that general direction, ending up in a small village called Pissos. A popular, but very small, seemingly unofficial spot behind the church. The locals didn’t seem to mind however, as there were about 7 motorhomes squeezed into the small space, only just about not blocking the road (which wasn’t marked out so it was hard to tell really…).
At this point there are still a few weeks until our tunnel, and we decided to slow down our travels and select a region to spend a few days looking around. As we’re near Bordeaux and we like wine, that seems like the obvious choice and we start looking for vineyards to stay at. Luckily for us, many vineyards welcome motorhomes (with many listed in France Passion) and we visit a few for wine tasting and buying. Our first choice to stay was hosting a wedding that day and although one of us was keen to gate-crash the wedding, in the end we decided that our big lump of a motorhome might be in the way of the wedding so we moved on.
The next vineyard was in Vayres, a small town on the bank of the Dordogne river. As we were tasting some more wine, the lady helping us was telling us about Le Mascaret, a tidal wave coming up the river once a month, which people try to surf. And it was happening nearby in about 1 hour. We quickly packed up our newly bought wine and rushed back to get our bikes to try to see this tidal wave. After a 10 minute bike ride, we came to Port de St Pardon where quite a few folk were getting ready with surfboards, SUPs, canoe’s and kayaks to ride this wave. It certainly didn’t disappoint! Although apparently it was a tough one to ride on this occasion, two experienced surfers gave a great show and we’re really pleased we got to see it!
On a previous trip, we’d driven through the Dordogne region and we’d said at the time that we’d like to visit it properly. Now that we were on the edge of the region, it seemed like the perfect opportunity! A quick google revealed a number of lovely places to visit, so we moved on via Bergerac to La Roque-Gageac, Sarlat-le-Cañeda and Perigueux. It’s true to say that this region is absolutely stunning. We enjoyed views of the Dordogne in a village built onto the cliffs, the many châteaux making it look like a fairy-tale country. In Sarlat, the town centre looks medieval and is remarkably well-preserved with many nooks and crannies to explore, and if you like Foie Gras, you will find it everywhere in this town. Final stop in this region is Perigueux, which was simply beautiful with it’s amazing church! Even though we’ve spent a bit more time, we will have to come back again to visit some of the prehistoric caves, as they look like great fun!
Next, the plan was to move on to Cognac, but after a day that didn’t go to plan, with the thetford toilet lit being flushed down a chemical disposal hole (followed by us getting to the nearest MH accessories shop 10 minutes after they shut for a 2 hour lunch break), we ended up in a little Aire near Angoulême in Le Pontil. We just needed a place to stay at this point so we pretty much crashed out.
We got to Cognac the next day, but somehow we weren’t really in the mood for another town. We decided to find a quiet spot to chill out for a bit, and a diary farm from the France Passion book was just the ticket. In the middle of nowhere, seemingly far away from any town, village or hamlet, on a lane called ‘3 farm lane’ (in French of course), we found (you’ll never guess), three farms. Once we’d figured out which farm was the right one, we quickly got parked up to enjoy the peace and quiet. The cows on the farm were inquisitive ladies which was great fun except Luna was a bit scared. Once the dairy shop opened, we were straight in there. 15 minutes later, and after a challenging conversation across language barriers, we came out with some wine and two different types of cheese although we didn’t know what types… It turned out to be cottage cheese and goat’s cheese. All good stuff! The wine was delicious and there really was nothing for it but to have a cheeseboard for dinner.
By now it was getting to that time where we really have to start making our way up north. The Loire Valley seemed like a good place to go and we found a nice little free aire in Champigny sur Veude. Another sleepy French village with plenty of history, it’s close to Richelieu and great for cycling. As we do really like to be near water, we decided to stop in Saumur as well, right on the river bank. What a treat this town turned out to be, with its wonderful food market on a Saturday! Continuing with our waterside stops, next up was La Flèche where we arrived just as they were setting up for the Carnival parade that afternoon! Of course, we couldn’t miss out on that experience so we were pleased we choose that stop!
After all that, we hadn’t made much headway going North and it’s our last week, so it was time for a big drive and some planning. Many miles yet to drive and a vet visit to be done this week, we planned 4 more stops with a spare night in case we need it for a vet appointment for Luna.
First up was a stunning spot in St Ceneri de Gerei. This place reminded us of the Cotswolds, and was again seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We really loved it here with all the wildlife around. We always enjoy being woken up by birdsong, and here there were owls and woodpeckers as well. Plus we saw red squirrels, and what we thought were funny looking otters but which turned out to be Coypu (never heard of these before, no wonder we couldn’t recognise them).
Next it was time to get Luna’s passport stamped so she can travel back to the UK without problems. This means finding a French vet who will do a health check and who will administer or watch as I administer Luna a worming tablet. People had recommended a vet in La Mailleraye sur Seine, so this is where we headed. The aire was nice, overlooking the busy Seine with the barges travelling up and down with the tide. The vet visit was soon arranged and as it was a rainy day, I decided to spend the afternoon in the hair dressers to get my hair cut while Stuart and Luna chilled out indoors.
We’re now getting so close to Calais that we end up travelling along familiar places. We always enjoy the Baie de Somme and this time we revisited Le Crotoy with all its seafood shops and the views over the bay. It was cold and wet, not great for going out. A quick walk around the town and some time spent overlooking the bay and that was enough adventure for the day.
As I write this, we’re in Wissant. We’ve been here before as well. It’s a free aire in a nice seaside village. Yes, we’re back by the sea and we can even see the White Cliffs of Dover from here. We’ve met up with our friends Sarah and Andy who we’ve met several times on our trip, and who are getting the tunnel back on the same day as us. So as a ‘last hurrah’, we’re together again in Wissant to finish this tour in style!
Thank you France for yet another amazing trip! France simply never disappoints! We’ve been unbelievably lucky with the weather and we’ve seen some amazing new places again, and yet there is still so much more to discover.