Down to Pyrenees and back
After a few mishaps with photographs being put in I have added an album relating to this blog so there should be no need to click the links which I have left in there because I have
Hopefully this is it all done and I will know what I am up to after Provence in July
This blog is from the notes i made en route round France in Valerie the van which is a Carioca 625 on an 05 plate in diesel.
The tourists are the wife, Paula and the author, Jon aged 48 and 46 not respectively, both in work and motorhomers for nearly 5 years.
Our second trip to France and 3 weeks in the Dordogne region last July. We are not experts and i make plenty of mistakes some of which are so bleeding obvious.
First mistake was booking the ferry for the very first possible opportunity so I took Dunkirk which meant i had to drive back past calais after being on the ferry longer. have relooked at Portsmouth Le Havre and it makes sense after time and diesel are considered especially as Pompey is only half an hour away from home.
Landed in Dunkirk 2300 hrs having not bothered with sorting out the light deflectors with the intention of making Rouen.
A few flashes from lorries pointed out that maybe i should stop driving so looking at the Aires map Montreuil seemed like a good place. Couldnt find the Aire however we thought that looked like a lovely place to stop so we made a note for the way back. Also made a note that a Satnav would be useful (We have since bought the Chinese lorry satnav and are impressed by checking the aires out we have been to)
We carried on along the road and hey ho a car park appeared on our right with a couple of caravans and a motorhome in it so we stayed there. Wild camping !
So we headed to the dread Rouen on a Saturday morning and followed teh instructions in MMM and by jove we made it through quickly and easily. Those instructions were great and onto the open road ((the wrong one but it was an open road) NB Satnav) We noticed the Pont de l'arche aire on teh way through and thought "noted" onwards and downwards towards Orleans and thinking about a spot of lunch but nothing appeared until just before Dreux on the right hand side. First decent picnic spot for ages and not much after.. The wife got the drive round Orleans only I was navigating. The signs werent that good (Satnav NB) and I m sticking to that version. Anyway Dont drive through Orleans. On the way down we spotted a couple of Aires at La Ferte St Aubin which isnt in the Aires book and Lamotte Beuvron which is and both looked like goodies.
We had a later stop in teh town of Figeac and a wander around it looked quaint with a big car park opposite teh aire with probably little traffic at night but i formed the opinion i would need to get away by 1000 hrs the next morning if we were to stay.
We wanted to make Rocamadour http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/013_zpse148e776.jpg.html?sort=3&o=57 purely because we went there last year and knew we would be able to get in (and I lost my waterproof camera in the Dordogne the year before and i wanted some photos). http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/006_zps42f1e663.jpg.html?sort=3&o=58 Made it to the pub just before darkness had a Pelforth and took the desired photos. It was at this point the wife realised we hadnt got all the bits for the cadac and that paella dish is great for using as an oven (her mistake not mine TAKE NOTE)
Next night was down to Boisse Penchot http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/024_zpse2014f08.jpg.html?sort=3&o=54 which is described as a prefect little post by the river and probably very difficult to get into in the summer http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/022_zpsbe179efe.jpg.html?sort=3&o=55 . There is an aire about 2 miles previous to it on the main road. Lovely walk round the village and along the river.
Rodez, very difficult to find the aire http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/028_zps817a69c3.jpg.html?sort=3&o=53 from the directions given and a map but we got there. Another perfect aire by the side of a lake with a 15 minute run round the lake and about 30 minutes walk UPHILL to the town. Seriously uphill however seriously downhill on the way back. Office de tourisme was difficult to find but again we survived. The town was nothing to write home about though but had everything.
Next day was to Millau. We saw the suspension bridge but I fancied stopping in Millau. Going down (or rather up) the main road reading the altitude signs was good and then over the brow of one of the hills appears this bridge. Bleeding awesome (I m going over that i said to myself even if i have to pay) so we find Millau aire http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/034_zpsa51d3b52.jpg.html?sort=3&o=51 without too much trouble but then I have to pay, me pay ? that aint happening, Ok she convinced me even thoug I wanted to complain that in last years aire book it was free. Anyway the Dutch the French and the Germans struggled with that system more than i did. It was great entertainment watching everybody struggle to get to the barrier raised and wonder how much they spent (9.60 euros) but it included weefee as they say en Francais.
Millau was beautifully clean, loved walking round http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/031_zpsbcab4e3e.jpg.html?sort=3&o=52 , you could see the bridge from different positions in town and night was good as well (though we did run for cover as PSG were beaten by Chelski that night on the telly in the quarters of the Champions League)
So we plan the next day and I look at this road which is yellow and windy and it says something about gorges do de la jonte and think, thats where we are going (forgot about the bridge) so off we go, what a great decision http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/058_zpsc0c0c194.jpg.html?sort=3&o=45 http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/051_zps59b29f47.jpg.html?sort=3&o=47 i made, (definitely my decision and not the wifes) stunning drive and we stopped at this point along the road for a cup of tea and spot of elevenses and take some photos and see that it is a vulture zoo or vulture apiary and i think "I m not paying to go in and see that" so we sit there with our cup of tea and hey ho about 40 vultures flying about 500 metres above us and I have 16x zoom on the new camera. Job done http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/037_zpsba188f90.jpg.html?sort=3&o=50 http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/041_zps8a3202bf.jpg.html?sort=3&o=48 . Its at this point 2 weeks later i remember we have binoculars in the van, not only that but we have a pair each ! We went on to Le vigan and intended to stop at Aveze but i refuse to stop with non paid up members of the caravan club or "Itinerants" as the non PC refer to them. Bit of a shame because it looked lovely but we would have gone for a bike ride and I sort of needed the van to be there intact when we got back. From Ganges we went and stopped at St Maurice Navacelles and to be honest i havent made any notes and cant remember it but there were 2 lovely waterfalls http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/066_zps6dca12a4.jpg.html?sort=3&o=41 http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/064_zps39601b92.jpg.html?sort=3&o=42 http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/061_zpsd0f6301a.jpg.html?sort=3&o=43 http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/005_zps721847a3.jpg.html?sort=3&o=62 http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/004_zpsce03d7fa.jpg.html?sort=3&o=63 http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/003_zps7e89511a.jpg.html?sort=3&o=65 (I remember these as they were stunning, just read a book alongside them and got tanned though April isnt the time to test out your new speedos. Then we were at Arianes with no signs but we found out that pompadier is a fire station and the aire is behind that. At first sight it looks to be behind a council estate with a wondering dog, however when walking into the town and passing the houses they are really nice. small town with little to do but pleasant, there have been better aires but there was nothing wrong with it.
The next morning was breakfast at the pont de diable http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/105_zpsf5fffda2.jpg.html?sort=3&o=40 which is a great picnic spot with upper gorge and lower lake then we stopped at St Martin just north of Montpellier with an aire not in the book by the sports fields with what appeared to be free electric. We received teh information that Montpellier is not for Motorhomes nor are the park and rides. we ahd wanted to stay at Montpellier but local advice was against it so we settled for Sete and we went through the centre of Sete http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/124_zps466892f3.jpg.html?sort=3&o=38 where a car park had been taken over by those non paying caravan fee people and I must admit Sete looked lovely. Couldnt find the aire (NB Satnav) and getting frustrated so off towards Agde where we found the aire about 5 miles out of town. Bleeding busy even in April. Not our cup of tea however in hindsight we bboth wish we would have cycled in to Sete for the day. Dipped out toes into the med http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/120_zpsee559311.jpg.html?sort=3&o=39 to prove we got there and joined a few others to make a "little england" of motorhomers. Next morning up to Beziers but one bad sign post sent us through the town (NB Satnav) and up some nice yellow roads to Lagrasse http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/130_zps4b8e1e7a.jpg.html?sort=3&o=37 which is one of Frances "most beautiful villages" They charge 3 euros off season and 5 euros in season (if they pick it up which they didnt) and the aire is in an olive field http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/137_zps4266f8a0.jpg.html?sort=3&o=35 . 4km away (there is a hill involved both ways)is Ribaute with beautiful cascade and good reading time by running water. http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/146_zps008bce33.jpg.html?sort=3&o=33 http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/142_zps4172f6c1.jpg.html?sort=3&o=34
Then took the D212 which is a horrible road. There arent many in France but this was the one. then took the D40 to thermes and stopped before the tunnel, http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/162_zps771dd484.jpg.html?sort=3&o=29 walked back 300 yards and followed the path down to a beautiful waterfall. Back onto another horrible road to Rennes Les Bains which was stunning and if you walk down river 300 yards from the swimming pool there is a hot shower coming out of the wall from sulphuric heated water http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/170_zpsa8228636.jpg.html?sort=3&o=28 . It was just about the right temperature.
Onwards to Quillan but i got a bit snobby about the aire which was in the station car park on the main road. Didnt fancy it so moved on up the D118 to Les Angles. DO NOT TAKE THIS ROUTE I have put down in my notes we averaged 20mph. I reckon it was 20 KPH half the mountains are over your head and no views as too many trees, HOWEVER it was worth it to get up to Les Angles http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon...er/media/186_zps90f2b535.jpg.html?sort=3&o=25 http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/185_zpsaba69d86.jpg.html?sort=3&o=26 and the snow capped pyrenees and couldnt believe we were at the bottom of a ski slope paying nothing with such stunning scenery and probably enough space for 50+ mortorhomes. Fantastic scenery and did i mention the scenery?
The aire is about a 20 minute walk to the town but I dont begrudge that at all. We then moved on to Plats Balaguer - You may want to make notes here - we followed the signs up there and after about 3 miles there is a right hand hairpin which you can park at, or nearby to it. then you ll see a pathway going downhill which you follow until you get to the stepping stones, go over teh stepping stones turning left following the river downhill for about 300 metres. Ignore the couple having sex on the left hand side then you ll see a tiny opening on the left with steam coming out of it. there are a series of rock pools and quite a few naked people and if my memory serves me right there were at least 5 stunning attractively young ladies all pretending to be the 2 of spades at a fancy dress party. Anyway the reason we went there was for the hot springs. the top rock pool is not possible to bathe in as it is too hot. Start at the bottom and work your way up (or go straight for the pool with the totty) Anyway this is the "Holy Grail of the Hippy Trail" or so it says in "Wild Swimming in France" Book. remember that you will probably inhale some the weird stuff that they were smoking. For the more body conscious nobody minded if you kept your big swimming trunks on (thank God) http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/201_zps27e4f4ee.jpg.html?sort=3&o=21 http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/200_zpse945d102.jpg.html?sort=3&o=22 http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/199_zps75431c97.jpg.html?sort=3&o=23
We passed Mont Louis and onto Egat for the night but snobby old me didnt fancy it. A Super U on a roundabout in the middle of nowhere so we descended to Ax Les Thermes. When or if you are given a choice here do not take the tunnel as the scenery http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/206_zps291f620d.jpg.html?sort=3&o=19 on the long road is to die for http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/203_zps13bd77a7.jpg.html?sort=3&o=20 . numerous stops here just to intake breaththen we stopped at Les cabannes http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/213_zps9a367909.jpg.html?sort=3&o=17 for 4 Euros and they did check in the morning to see if you had paid (Phew got it right that time) excellent views of the mountains and well worth the money (even for tight fisted me) it was a very good aire.
Carrying on to Mirapoix http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/223_zpsbae25c00.jpg.html?sort=3&o=13 http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/222_zps7fcfc5c0.jpg.html?sort=3&o=14 http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/221_zpsdd2ef523.jpg.html?sort=3&o=15 http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/220_zpsa65e30bd.jpg.html?sort=3&o=16 and stopped there. Its alongside a main road but we werent disturbed at all so dont let that put you off. This town is stunning, heaped in history and beautiful square stunning shops, very tudoresque and a river walk. Went on through Fanjeaux and probably should have stopped there but we had Carcassonne in our sights. Got there http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/253_zps1327cccf.jpg.html?sort=3&o=12 paid for the confusing motorhome park, 5 euros i think and it is probably worth it as the citadel is good, but i refuse to pay 15 euros to go into their inner sanctum to see/hear something i m not interested in so we didnt. Nice walk round though and beware the belgian ice cream flower sellers. 3 euros for a teaspoon of ice cream which is made in the flavour of flowers. Yes the lavender was nice, yes the price was a complete rip off. Stopping at Mazemet the next night, my notes say nothing to write home about. Past Castres and Albi http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/259_zps6a4f68f2.jpg.html?sort=3&o=10 we stopped at a small aire in St Juste http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/265_zpsa0013ce3.jpg.html?sort=3&o=9 by the viaduc du viaur with a great view. The air was prefect but there is literally nothing there apart from a lovely little river. no boulangerie ! So we go again and found a little village called Estaing and this was lunch and we jsut hung around as it was exquisite. Parked at teh north end of town and just watched the river flow for ages
There was an aire sign there but not in the book and dont know if you can stay.Through realmont and the parking wherever you want indicated there was a market. It is a big market, it just keeps going and its on a wednesday. Then we stayed at Mandellaise st Julien halfway up the mountain. Walked to good cascade. sat with our feet in the river. really worth stopping here. Little shop and a pub but great views. Left teh next morning ignoring all teh signs that said the road was closed to Puy St Mary, guess what ? anyway we turned round and went to Aurillac, found the aire TAKE NOTE HERE and parked. however check which tree you are under by looking at the amount of pigeon poo there is about. There is a car there and i dont know what colour it is its not good to leave it there for long. Nice town though. Through Mauriac and onto Meymac where the signs pointed us up to a lake but somehow we got the town aire which was pleasant enough but we didnt look at the town at all. We then made the Limoges to Vierzon in one foul swoop of FREE motorway (You knew i d do that road didnt you?) and I really must stop next time to see that imposing cathedral at Chartres that you can see for miles away. Couldnt spot the previous spotted aire at Lamotte Beuvron even though we were looking out for it (NB Satnav) so stopped at La Ferte St Aubin opposite the Chateau . Remind me take the boules in July ! Next to river and a little walk about. Somehow the next day we went through the centre of Orleans again only i was the driver this time (NBS) (I have shortened NB Satnav now !) and stopped at Nonacourt which again is a stunner next to the pompadier (please see earlier text) 20 minutes free leccy and next to the marie, good walking along river. Stopped at Pont de larche<a href="http://s92.photobucket.com/user/Jon_Carver/media/294_zpsc6553d14.jpg.html" target="_blank"><img src="http://i92.photobucket.com/albums/l17/Jon_Carver/294_zpsc6553d14.jpg" border="0" alt="Pont De Larche with the Seine behind photo 294_zpsc6553d14.jpg"/></a> which is a great stop by the seine but we just stayed a few hours and onto Montreuil which we couldnt find earlier so we stopped at teh main square and consulted the village map and found it (NBS) beautiful town with cobbled streets and lovely walk round the ramparts. I even forked out for a half bottle of red (3rd time we had a drink at a pub that holiday) We then stayed at Winsatt just 25 minutes from Calais which is on the beach and certainly worth stopping out here rather than cite d europe and number 4 drink was had at Chez Nicole. Rather nice little village but reckon you might have to get here early for a spot. Not one for turning up at midnight in order to catch the morning ferry.
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