After leaving Caunes Minervois in the far south of France, and an arty interlude, we set off north. And while we’ve journeyed up through France many, many times it’s still a pleasure to meander up through the country and experience the differing landscapes, the changing crops, the divers architecture. We’ve crossed the fantastic bridge at Millau on numerous occasions but it continues to inspire awe, even though this time there is work being done.
We opt for autoroutes for a good deal of the way on this occasion. We head up towards the Loire. We’re constrained, now by campsites that are still open this late in the season but there will be enough places to stay on the way home. It helps, too, if there are sites near to towns or villages where we can enjoy an evening, perhaps get a drink in a bar or a meal.
There’s a likely place across the bridge at Chateauneuf-sur-Loire. We think we’ve stayed at the site before but once we arrive and enter the long avenue that is their driveway we realise it isn’t the one we thought it was. This happens often- either we think we’ve stayed somewhere and haven’t, or we think it’s new to us and then remember we’ve been at the site before. This is a combination of memory loss and sheer number of sites visited!
We park on the long avenue/driveway and go to reception, where there is a lengthy wait while someone booking in enjoys a chat with the receptionist about where they’re from etc and the receptionist tells the someone how much she enjoys speaking in her fluent English. Once we get our turn in the small office, the young woman is determined to use her English once more, even though it is not so fluent and we’d have got on better in French. Still, we eventually book in and can choose where to go except not near the river, where it is decidedly soggy.
There is still enough sunshine to sit outside the van, although we’re accosted by an English couple from the VW van opposite who are keen to talk about their grandchildren and how they’ve had to go home and return in order not to fall foul of the 90/180 day rule. This rule is news to us, and when we check it transpires we’ve used 87 of our 90 days. Phew!
We wander across the bridge to the town, which is pleasant enough, with a tiny chateau and park. The shop windows are full of autumn displays. Nothing restaurant-related pops out, but a riverside bar has tables in the sun so it seems churlish not to take advantage for a beer in the sunshine.
Next day we’re unable to detect anything resembling a hosepipe for water filling and the waste emptying is coyly concealed. We make an exit and embark on the next hop- up to Falaise, which holds some pleasant surprises! The municipal site is beautiful, with excellent, modern services and a stunning view of the stand-out castle- William the Conqueror’s castle, no less! By the time we get up the hill to look at it there’s only about half an hour of visiting time left, so it’s not worth buying tickets, but the exterior is lovely and boasts great views of the surroundings.
It’s just as well we’re on our way home, since the van’s leisure batteries have now given up and there’s no point in hooking up as nothing seems to happen when we do. So we’re without electricity.
Then we’re off up to Caen-via a supermarket, of course, for a good stock-up. The trusty campsite at Ouistreham is open and, best of all, the lovely canal-side restaurant has a table available. Husband drops me off to rush in and do a booking. It’s all getting end-of-trip now and I’m experiencing my usual mix of regret and anticipation. What kind of state will the house be in? And the garden? We’re limping home with some van problems to sort out. There will be plenty to do!
Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her latest novel, The Conways at Earthsend is 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, Novelist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.