Arrival to Sardinia

Arrival from Corsica to Santa Theresa Galluria port in the north of Sardinia is less dramatic than the other way around but is pleasant and simple enough and Husband only needs to drive off [without the shouty instructions this time] and wait for me to catch up. Then we’re off, out of town on the Sardinian roads. It’s a pleasant surprise that they are quieter and more spacious than in Corsica, which is relaxing for me, the passenger, travelling in the centre of the road where the opposing traffic swooshes past, often centimetres away. This is the curse of the left-hand drive vehicle! [But this assessment of Sardinian roads is to change later on!]

We are heading for a pre-selected site, at Villadora. First, though to a supermarket, and we happen across a ‘Eurospin’ on the roadside en route. It’s perfectly adequate for our needs and much like a Lidl. Recalling Italian supermarkets, we remember a few big names, including the Tesco-like ‘Conad’, which- in a typically puerile moment we’d renamed ‘Gonad’- a name which has endured…

The days are still blisteringly hot, stepping out of shade or the van feels like walking into an oven and I’m in a queue to check into our site, but it’s spacious and shady under the ubiquitous eucalyptus trees next to the site’s pool. We’re one of just 4 units as we pull up and plug in, Czek, German and Italian vans being our neighbours here. We’ve still to spot a single British vehicle among the tourists in either Corsica or Sardinia. The electricity is unreliable and we must try several sockets before one works.

The site is on a lagoon which leads out to the sea via a channel and there’s a free ferry service to the beach. There’s a restaurant with a view so we opt to eat there, dining in the open when it’s cool enough to be hungry. I select melone con prosciutto for a starter but when it arrives it looks like a sharing plate for about 6 people, with huge slices of melon and what seems like an entire pack of ham. I’m consistently mystified by Italian meals, since you are expected to consume about 6 courses, one of which will be pasta! I wade through as much of my starter as I can, bearing in mind that I’ve a seafood spaghetti coming. Help! In the end I eat the monster prawns and the mussels and some of the pasta. It’s all delicious and a shocking waste!

There’s a comforting breeze next day as we decide to try the ferry to the beach. It’s a cute, flat-bottomed boat which goes backwards and forwards all day. The ferryman also has a small boy to look after and it’s clear he becomes bored stiff with all the to-ing and fro-ing as he whines and grizzles throughout the 5 minute voyage.

This is a popular spot for windsurfers and kitesurfers and the sky is alive with them, such that you wonder they don’t become as tangled as knitting.

We can’t hang around at Villadora, lovely though it is and after 2 nights it’s time to move on. We’re keen to see more of Sardinia than we had a chance to last time. We’re heading off down the west coast to Alghero, via Sassari, which is said to be worth a look. We’ll see…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Calvi-Solenzara- and Au Revoir for now-

We spend three nights at Calvi, spending our first day wandering the old city, which means more climbing in extreme heat, although near the top of the citadel there’s a strategically placed ice cream shop with shady seating. The views are worth the effort, the harbour full to bursting with some of the most expensive boatage to be seen on the Med.

We’re less ambitious on our second day, opting to do a late afternoon stroll on the boardwalk that runs along the railway line. A tiny train putters back and forth around the bay. In the evening we go and find a harbourside bar for a beer and a people watching session- always a pleasant way to pass an hour or two.

We leave Calvi in the morning to head south via some ancient excavations, a journey which becomes frustrating. The ruins are next to a Basilica- elegant from the outside but tickets are required for a glimpse inside- tickets from some museum or other located elswhere! I wonder how many visitors the church receives! Likewise, the remains of the ancient village- medeival perhaps-who knows?

There’s an annnoying search for a site after this, and we end up checking into an enormous ‘beach village’ with 3 or 4 pools, huge bar, restaurant and ‘entertainment’ area with gift shop etc. I’m interested to see that their FB page is telling everyone to cut down on electricity use when their multiple pools and splashparks are fully functioning! It’s ok for 1 night though and next day we pootle on south to a site near Serenzola on a beach, which couldn’t be more different- a ramshackle bar/reception and choose pitch where we like. It’s bohemian and we spend an afternoon on the beach, although when I attempt entry to the sea I’m stymied by my feeble water skills on the steep ledge and have to extricate myself by shuffling backwards, thus filling my cozzie with gritty sand; then I have to remove it by pulling it out of my pants area- not a dignified look, but one that entertains Husband, of course.

We’ve only one more night on Corsica for now so we head on down towards Bonifacio where there’s a site near the port city, in an old olive grove. It’s still too hot to do much but we attempt a walk along a footpath towards the town which quickly becomes overgrown and impassable. There aren’t many people daft enough to attempt walking into Bonifacio. But we’ve already visited. If you haven’t visited, reader I heartily suggest you do. I’d put it in my top 10 European cities and Number 1 most beautiful harbour!

It just remains for us to get to port next morning and get on the ferry, navigating around the narrow streets and down a very steep road to the marina. I’m glad we’re going down, not up, but we’ll have to on our way back! We get a coffee and settle down to wait, discovering later that we need a barcode for our tickets- not something we knew. I go to the ticket office then a battered, ancient ferry comes wheezing around the limestone cliff. We, the passengers must get out of vehicles and Husband has to reverse into the hold, being shouted instructions at. It may be as well that he’s so hard of hearing on this occasion. Then we’re off! And just across the water, Sardinia awaits!

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Coast to Mountains in Corsica

We relax for a couple of days at Baie de Voies, near Porto Vecchio, following our arrival to Corsica. It’s a sheltered bay, the sea glassy and flat with a roped off area for swimming so I take advantage here, where even my lack of swimming expertise can’t lead me into difficulties. But the water is deliciously warm and there’s nobody watching my undignified floundering about.

There’s little else here except for a restaurant opposite our site entrance. When we wander up there, we join a long queue to enter, but we’re soon in and sitting outside. I’m fascinated by the meals at the next-door table, where one of the starters appears to be an enormous bone, halved lengthways, from which the lady diner scoops the marrow.

Next day we’re off up north, aiming for Calvi, but deciding to break the journey at Corte, in the mountains. a city which used to be the capital of Corsica. To begin with the road is busy and especially snarled through the small towns but when we leave the coast road to turn inland it becomes quiet. It’s still hot- the low 30s- as it has been almost since arriving to France.

Along the winding road there are wandering cows grazing and as we round one bend there’s an enormous, bloated corpse of an animal, feet sticking straight up. It’s a wild boar.

The site we’ve found at Corte is tricky to get into- accessed by a very narrow bridge over a river, but we make it. There are only 2 pitches available. It’s rustic, converted farm buildings providing the services, but it’s pleasant enough- and handy for the town. We’re only here for one night, but early enough for a climb up to the citadel, which we can see glimpses of through the trees on our site. It’s another stiff climb up and up and when we reach the entrance we must pay entry to the museum to continue.

I’m not interested in reading the verbose passages in the museum- a few short sentences of information would have been fine, but the views from the very top of the fortification are breathtaking- mountains crowned with wispy clouds and the old towns terracotta rooftops.

It’s a fine, handsome old town with crumbling facades, bust with tourists and locals alike. We get a beer in the square- reward for our climbing efforts, then meander back to our site.

In the morning we pack up and set off towards Calvi, on the north coast, a city with a reputation for tourism. When we arrive, we locate our site, although it’s an inauspicious entrance, like the track into a recycling depot, but we get to reception and duly ring the intercom, to be told to enter through the barrier and cross the site to the ‘second reception’, which we do.

Here it’s hotter than ever, with shade at a premium so we opt for a spot under the eucalyptus trees where one or two others have parked. The site seems unprepared for vans and motorhomes and when I DO find a water source it’s a grubby hosepipe on the dusty ground, the water brackish and unpalatable.

As with most of Corsica so far, the site is crammed with mainly German tourists, a smattering of Dutch, one or two Swiss and not one single British vehicle have we seen. But we’re a step away from Calvi city centre and it’s outrageously picturesque, which is good news if we can summon the effort to go and look in the searing temperatures!…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Over the Med to Corsica

On the quayside at Toulon, waiting for the ferry to load we become listless in the oppressive heat of the evening. By 10.30pm we’re still not going anywhere, even though we’ve moved Heaven and Earth to find our way here, to check in and follow all the gabbled instructions. In the next lane there are motor bikes and some ageing bikers who provide some interest. We make tea and continue to wait. In the terminal building a counter is doing furious trade in croque monsieurs and baguettes and I push through the crowd to get 2 bottles of water for the night.

At last a stream of vehicles begins to come past in the opposite direction and foot passengers dragging wheelie cases stagger past looking exhausted. I wonder where they can go at 11pm?

We’re waved on, up the ramp and into the hold. Hooray! We clamber up the inevitable numerous flights of stairs to the passenger decks and flourish our cabin sticker at a crew member. There’s a long series of corridors like a Premier Inn then we’re at our door, although without a key. We’re rescued by a man wielding key cards and we’re in. The cabin is tiny but has two narrow beds, a window and a shower and toilet. Hooray again! We dump our overnight bags and head for any kind of bar we can find and everything is open and serving; the restaurant food looks good but it’s late and we’ve eaten. There’s a wait to get a drink but we do, then sink down into seats, grateful to be on board and on the way. The lights of Toulon slowly recede as we glide out of harbour into the dark.

The ship is busy. Families, couples, singles, dogs- all life is here, passing by, queuing up, bustling, but it all settles down and there’s nothing else to do except get a quick shower and turn in. In spite of my poor record of sleep on overnight ferries, this time I sleep as if drugged and wake to see it’s already 8.30am. There’s no rush because we won’t dock until 12.00midday. When we surface, heading for the bar’s ‘express breakfast’ [orange juice, croissant, coffee] it’s almost as if the bustling has continued throughout the night, with people and dogs everywhere.

This is a ferry with aspirations of cruise ship. On the top deck there’s a tiny pool surrounded by deck chairs, a pool bar serving drinks and snacks. A couple of islands pass by- Elba perhaps?

We wander around the side and I sit down next to an elderly French lady who is going to visit family. We enjoy a chat together, both of us proud grandparents.

Sure enough, as midday approaches, so does Corsica and we’re pulling into Porto Vecchio in stately fashion, turning down along a lengthy inlet, motor and sail boats racing past. Then we’re told to return to our vehicles. we drive off, making for a supermarket first before driving a few kilometres up the road and out of town to our first site, at ‘Baie de Voies’. Down a long track to a beach there are terraced pitches facing the sea. It’s a peaceful setting, small boats moored up and a roped off swimming area. We check in, park up, plug in and relax. It’s been a long old journey!…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Onwards and Southwards

We opt to spend some of our rest day at Chatel de Neuvre looking at the small town [or perhaps it’s a village?]- either way it’s a one street place, some commerce along the road and houses off the side roads. We have a stiff climb up to the top of the town, which takes considerably longer than seeing the sights. There’s a small shop, a bar and a salon, though nowhere to get a meal. We wander down a side street and happen upon a 13th century mill down a farm track. It’s a magnificent, half timbered building but we can get nowhere near it as appointments must be made to view it. It’s a luscious irony that there’s nothing to see in Chatel except this…and we can’t see it.

We move on and our next night is an unremarkable one in a site in the Rhone Valley at Anneyron, although too far from either the town or the river for any exploration. Next morning’s drive starts with a beautiful journey following the mighty Rhone, a magnificent, wide river, decaying ruins of towers and castles dotting the hillsides on either side. there are swathes of vineyards like a sea of vines stretching away and terracing the hills. It’s Cote du Rhone country. I’m thrilled to see a sign to ‘Crozes Hermitage’ which used to be my favourite red wine when I could drink it.

The RN is scenic but progress is slow and we opt for the motorway to get us down to Avignon, not having clearly decided whether to stay or not. Once we’re approaching the city though, we decide to stop over, at a site we’ve stayed in before, La Bagatelle. It’s on an island in the Rhone and we only need to cross a bridge [not the bridge] to get into city. The site hasn’t changed a bit and is just as antiquated and confusing as it ever was. Once we’ve managed to locate our pitch we wait a bit to go sightseeing. The heat is fierce.

This visit I’m much more impressed with beautiful, elegant Avignon; its marble pavements, grand, creamy architecture, vast squares and stunning views. The Rhone provides a wonderful setting. We manage a creditable wander around before settling under a cafe sunshade in front of the huge papal palace, where we can people watch and sip a cold drink. Sunday is an excellent day to walk around. The gardens above the palace are shady and provide great views of the river and surrounding countryside.

In the morning it’s time to move on again- to a seaside site at Sanary-sur-Mer, typically Riviera and with a sweeping quayside of restaurants and bars- a poser’s delight. We walk down the steep hill to explore the town, where stallholders are setting up for a night market. There seem to be large numbers of slender, elegant, smartly dressed single ladies here, Husband’s suggestion being that they’ve ditched their rich husbands, mine that perhaps they were never married to begin with. Husband thinks perhaps he’ll become a gigolo and I tell him that then I can ditch him, too…

We have one day left before we must leave mainland France, the ferry departing from Toulon. We’re in close range and get there in an hour or so, locating an aire where we can park to look at the town. But it’s hot and hard work and Toulon is not such a tourist draw as we’d imagined, so much of this stifling day is spent in chairs in the shade of the van until we go across the road to a fast food cafe and get burgers- greasy but essential. We won’t be embarking until 11.00pm.

The port of departure is close but seems impossible to get to. We follow another motorhome and they seem as confused as ourselves, there being a dearth of signage. At last I spot a ferry sign which appears to point the way through a sunken car park and though unlikely this is actually the way to port check-in. I flash my downloaded boarding pass and somehow we’re in the ferry queue and in for a loooooong wait for them to load. Eventually we’re driving up the ramp and into the mouth of the ferry…PHEW!!

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

A Long Trek South

It’s that time of year. Once upon a time I’d have been looking in the shop windows and scowling at the ‘Return to School’ posters- or ‘Rentre d’ecole’ in France. I’d have been making reluctant moves towards dragging myself into my classroom and making attempts to sort it out, to install displays, to cluster tables, to assemble materials, to familiarise myself with what I’ve planned [seemingly eons ago at the end of last term], to prepare for the new school year. There was always a tiny frisson of anticipation mixed up with the heavy-heartedness of end of holiday feelings but overall there was always a regret; end of summer, like the finish of a riotous party where the empty bottles and glasses roll about, leaves beginning to drop and heavy morning dews.

Nowadays, though, it’s just the grandchildren welling up into excited anticipation at the prospect of new teachers and challenges. For we dropouts from employment it’s escape. Hopefully the most extreme heatwaves will have subsided, although there have been hefty storms crashing about the Med. Today, as we make preparations of a different kind, a soft, mizzly rain is enveloping the parched garden as if to say: ‘Go on- off with you!’ and so we’ll be obliging, heading southwards for a solid block of travel that will take us right into October.

So it’s an early start on this Wednesday morning, a roll on to the ferry [and we’re lucky to live so close to port], a coffee and down to the couchettes to relax the hours of the crossing away. It’s the busiest ferry this year, with many families of young children, toddlers galluping around the ship trailed by their weary parents. The salon is not as tranquil as it should be.

We make a brief detour to collect a SIM card from the Orange shop at Cherbourg then we’re off, making use of the easy motorways and packing in a half a day’s motoring before we search out our first stop- an aire in the countryside, the back of beyond. It’s quiet, an ex campsite, the dilapidated shower block half hidden in the trees. But there’s water and emptying and we’re sharing with just one other van, French.

The night is hot, sticky and restless but it’s a cloudy start as we prepare to move, although by the time we’re filling up with water the sun is out again. We’re in for a long haul of driving today- south and east, on route nationale for the first part then motorway. Husband has planned the route but has been ambitious, since the morning;s motoring is not swift. We press on in spite of the heat, stopping for combined coffee and lunch.

A long drive across a country is endlessly fascinating: the crops, the homes, the tiny villages and grand towns, chateaux, rivers, canals, vineyards. Often it’s tempting to stay instead of passing through. One village is advertising a ‘Feste de Boites de Lettres’. Who wouldn’t want to stay and attend a letterbox festival? But we need to press on for onward travel commitments.

There are a few irritants, like diversions and road works so that we’re obliged to revise the plan and find a nearer site for a rest day. I plump for Chatel de Neuvre, on the Allier river, but as we near Chatel we encounter a major road overhaul which throws us off course. I search frantically for an alternative crossing of the river, managing to spot a tiny back road just in the nick of time.

We find the site. It’s a little old campsite by the river, low on modernisation but strong on charm, the gravelly voiced receptionist showing us to a pitch overlooking the water. It’s warm and we eat outside watching the river roll by. Tomorrow we’ll take it easy, explore the town and stretch our legs…

The Rest of the Fest…

On our second day at Wickham Music Festival we’re aiming to spend longer in the arena but we’re still not going over there too early. There’s little shade until later and the heat is punishing. But we’ll peruse the food stalls and see what they have to offer. Festival food tends towards a wide variety of cuisines and can be delicious, although they’re a bit short on fresh items like salad, which I begin to miss after too long.

We stop by at the Magic Teapot for a cup of their excellent tea, paying what we think we should, as requested. The inside of the wooden building is cute, with benches built into the hexagonal walls but the ash from the wood fire is annoying and as you would expect, it’s hot! By the time we get up to the top of the hill inside the arena everything is, of course, in full swing.

Much of the festival music is being provided by folk bands, many of whom are Irish and while this is not necessarily a bad thing I’m yearning for something rockier and heavier. Today we’ve brought chairs- the lightest, easiest to carry chairs we have, which also happen to be beach chairs. They are very low and tricky to get up out of, especially for we mature types, but we manage- even if we look somewhat undignified lurching out on to the ground and heaving ourselves up. The chairs, awkward as they are prove to be a godsend and we can plonk down in a bit of shade outside a marquee and move when we wish. The marquees are packed inside with standing audience, although there’s a large screen outside stage 1 for close-up views.

Something about a festival seems to imbue the attendees with a desire to exploit their sartorial fantasies, which provides more entertainment of course- although the explosion of kilt wearing is excessive and while it may be cooler than shorts, kilt fabric is thick and woolly and surely sweltering?

During what I like to think of as a lull I go to browse the stalls and return with small gifts for the grandchildren. There are many, many children here at the festival in various states of excitement or boredom, both of which manifest themselves in different ways, from tearing about amongst the sea of recumbant humanity and spraying various substances picked up from stalls [eg ‘silly string’] to sitting, ear-defender clad, with small screens, to eating copious ice-cream/doughnuts/candy floss/chips, to sleeping. There are tiny babies and recalcitrant teens. The festival goers are as entertaining as the music.

Day three passes in similar fashion, except that it’s Saturday and the festival population increases to madness level as those with day passes arrive. By now the portable toilets have become a little un-fragrant in the heat, although the volunteers are doing stirling work on emptying bins and picking up litter. We’re glad of the camp-site trailer showers which are efficient, roomy and clean and save constant filling of our van’s tank. We’re also doing four days without electric hook-up and although we have constant sunlight it’s debateable whether we’ll cope. We’re turning off the internal fridge at night and using the gas fridge [outside] for anything crucial like medication. In the evening we get to see The Levellers.

The last day, Sunday is more laid back, with fewer people, though it’s as hot as ever. I’ve promised myself a visit to the Storyteller tent, where some children and their parents are gathering. The story is for the children and in truth- they are the most entertaining part as they respond to invitations to contribute.

In the late afternoon sunshine we get beers and relax. This evening is mostly about seeing The Waterboys and we’re not disappointed as they launch into their set with numbers familiar and unknown to us.

By the time we get back to the van the electric gauge is on red, but we’re off home next day. And there’s only two days until we’re due to go for a local, family camping get-together-

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Festival Fever

It’s years since we went to a music festival, not counting, of course, our own local festival which we were involved in running in various capacities and which has now become a casualty of the plague, never to rise again.

Years ago, as a teenager and then a twenty-something I went to see a lot of bands. In the beginning there would be one major band and a support act. Then festivals started up with venues like Isle of Wight and Reading among the first. Nowadays they’ve become a vast industry, corporately run and, for the most part on a much bigger scale.

So we take the plunge and set off for Wickham Music Festival- an hour or so away, featuring a few bands I’ve heard of [at least] and offering campervan facilities and all the rest.

We arrive on a Thursday, the first official day of the festivities and after waving our tickets at the blue-vested volunteer we’re directed, and directed, and further directed to a place in a row at the top of a huge, mown field. At the end of our row there is drinking water, some flat, black tanks for loo emptying and grey water for rinsing. So far so good! We’ll be here for 4 nights and will be relying on solar power plus our gas fridge. At the bottom of our field there are trailors with showers, which helps!

Once we’ve settled in I lend a hand to our neighbour, Lisa, who’s travelled all the way from Grimsby. She’s bought a dinky Quechua tent en route but is confused about how to put it up. I know these tiny tents have a release mechanism which allows the tent to spring into action so the problem is soon solved. Lisa’s partner is coming to join her tomorrow.

We’re not in a hurry to rush to the festival field on this first day, preferring to make a meal and stroll over there for the evening. It’s quite a trek to the arena- down across our field, along past the showers, through a shady [and very dusty] lane, dotted with helpful lights for later and to the main road, where there are temporary traffic lights and volunteers. Then it’s across the road, past the farm shop, turn right and across the tent field. At last we’re at the gate and get our wrist bands, but there’s still a hill to climb to get up to the 2 huge marquees and all the other paraphernalia that belongs to a festival.

Inside the gate is The Magic Teapot, serving tea, coffee, chocolate and various treats from pots and kettles on a wood burner- a hot job for the staff. It’s opposite the storyteller’s tent, which I’ll visit later in the festival.

We go on to the top to familiarise ourselves with the layout- the 2 stages, the merchandise, the loos, the drinking water, bars, food outlets. Best of all though, one of my favourite bands from the 70s is on tonight- 10cc. I was lucky to see them in their original lineup in about 1975 at Hammersmith Odeon, a concert I still regard as one of the best I’ve ever seen. Tonight’s show is brilliant- even if only one original member is left- Graham Goulden. The sound, though is still pure 10cc and a wonderful start to the festival…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Last Gasp at Caen

It’s the morning after the ice storm at Moliets Plage. Stepping outside at the beachside site of Le Saint Martin there is not too much to show for the night’s deluge of ice and most of our neighbours seem to have survived the storm with little or no damage except for soggy tents and awnings and a fair amount of foliage from the trees. Once again we’ve cause to be glad of our trees, which almost certainly sheltered us from the worst hits.

At the service point we wait while a father and son clear the water from their VW camper. When they open the back doors of their van a torrent of water gushes out like a geyser. Not everyone has been untouched by the storm. Once they’re clear we empty and refill our van and drive off out of the site, first to get groceries ahead of our long journey north. We begin to see a little of the devastation resulting from last night’s bombardment. A huge weeping willow in the centre of a roundabout has been toppled. As we travel on there is evidence of many more trees down and we learn later that a few lives have been lost, as well as businesses such as vineyards. Vehicles and homes have also been damaged.

Temperatures are back to summer normal, although I wonder what normal is for temperatures now. We journey on towards the north without incident, mindful of the cracked windscreen which leads us to use mostly motorways, which we wouldn’t always use.

For a swift, convenient return it works best for us to return to Parthenay, where we stayed en route to the Dordogne and where we can get a serviceable meal outside the bar. Then we’re off again towards Caen, and the port at Ouistreham, from where we’ll return to the UK; except this time we’re allowing ourselves an extra day and Husband suggests trying out the campsite, for once instead of the aire we normally use, next to the ferry terminal.

It’s overcast now, here in this northerly part of France, but not cold or raining. There’s an excellent cycle path along the river that skirts our site, the Orne, and we’ve cycled a little of it before while staying a short distance along the coast. It isn’t far along to the Pegasus Bridge, a facsimile of a world war 2 bridge, now a substantial tourist attraction with war themed cafes and gifts for sale. We’ve visited one of the cafes before and been unimpressed by the welcome from the staff so we avoid it this time.

We cross the bridge and slip down the opposite side of the river, which leads to the estuary- and it’s beautiful and wild with many foraging seabirds. Further on there’s a short stretch of nature reserve and we arrive at Merville, the tiny town we stayed in before, which has a broad beach and a few cafes. On our last visit we’d anticipated getting a meal here only to discover the bars and restaurants were all closed on Mondays and Tuesdays- commonplace in France. On our return the Pegasus bridge opens right up to allow a sailing boat through, an outstanding sight!

For our final evening though, we walk into Ouistreham and get a fine meal at a canalside restaurant, watching massive vessels glide past and through the lock gates- a fitting finale to our trip.

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

From Heatwave to Ice Storm in one night

One of the great advantages of staying at Le Saint Martin, Moliets Plage is that you can turn left out of the exit and be able to get just about anything you need. A bakery, a delicatessen, clothes outlets, surf outlets, newsagent, beach items, gifts, rotisserie, a comprehensive supermarket, a cash machine, bars and an assortment of restaurants and all in easy walking distance outside of the campsite gate. To the right of the exit and up the slope are still more bars and restaurants en route to the beach.

In high season the bars and restaurants are busy, especially when people are leaving the beach, but there’s always somewhere to get a meal, beer or a cocktail in the evenings. Later or earlier in the year there’s a reduced choice and the supermarket may not be so well stocked, but now, at the start of the season we don’t need to travel anywhere to get anything.

Inside the site there is no commerce except for an ice cream kiosk, new for this year, overlooking the extensive swimming pool complex- also very different this year, new pools and slides having been added to the domed indoor pool that was here previously.

If all this sounds like publicity for Le Saint Martin I must add that our first impressions are of slight dismay- we’re not fans of holiday park type sites, on the whole. But as we settle in most things seem like the old, familiar site we love, so we’re happy enough- and besides, it is in a stunning location between the forests and the ocean, with a comprehensive network of flat cycle paths. Perfect!

When the punishing heat subsides enough to allow us to cycle we pedal out on a favourite route to Leon, a few miles away. It’s not an arduous cycle, with only one steepish climb into the village, which has one or two bars around a square and very little else. We’ve been a couple of times before, once hving to stop in the square for a puncture. This time we don’t pause for a drink, but lock the bikes and have a short wander, though there’s not too much to see.

It’s still too hot for daytime beach and although we opt to go at 7.00pm it’s still very warm indeed, with little or no breeze.

Towards the end of our week something extraordinary happens. It’s late afternoon and the temperature is around 40ish- something we’ve come to expect on this trip. Then it starts to plummet, becoming noticeably cooler. In ten minutes it has dropped ten degrees. It feels incredible- like being released from a hot bubble. The evening becomes cooler still and clouds bubble up.

It’s a more comfortable night and I get off to sleep quickly, only to be woken by a crashing, hammering, clattering noise, so loud I’m prompted to leap up to close the rooflight. Water is splashing in from a monumental deluge of ice showering the van, melting and pouring off the exterior. I hurry to close all windows. The windscreen is a falling sheet of water and the sound is ear-splitting. The raging, icy torrent lasts for several minutes then slows and subsides. We are nonplussed. What just happened?