France, May-June 2019
It is the last day of May and it is time to write again. We arrived end of the morning in Collonges la Rouge, a town, as the name suggests, entirely built of red stone. Outside it is 82 degrees and the sun shines in a clear blue sky. The perfect moment to sit outside.
We started our trip on Monday May 13th, picked up our RV at the Fiat workshop in Utrecht, packed it with all the necessary stuff, loaded some food and our bicycles and left home. We are on our way to France. We should make this trip earlier in the year, but unfortunately about the middle of February our auntie Ank passed away at the age of 94. It caused that we had to prepare her house in such a way that it was suitable for sale. This week, the real estate agent is advertising to sell her house so now we have some weeks to go out. Our first day brings us to the town of Conty, where we arrive at 3 pm. The RV parking is large and despite the many RV’s, there is enough space on the lawn near the center of the town.
Of course we walk into the town and search for some caches. Unfortunately, an icy cold wind is blowing, so sitting outside is not an option, but with a glass of wine and later a delicious kebab meal inside the RV, it is also good. The next day it’s good weather, in the afternoon the thermometer touches 68 degrees. A good day to visit Rouen, 73 mile further south. Next to the river Seine we find a nice parking and around noon we walk across the bridge to the old center of Rouen. You can’t even pass another person in the narrow alleys. Rouen has a beautiful mediaeval center, when you wander around you get a picture of the ancient times.
When we take a break on a bench in the center I am so stupid to leave my GPS. Too late to get it back. A man already picked up my GPS, looked at it in wonder until someone else grabbed the GPS (his friend supposedly left it behind) and disappears into the crowd. I’m kind of sad. Even though this GPS is 5 years old, it still worked well. Now I know that it is better to break something than to leave something behind. We continue our discovery trip through the center of Rouen, but the joy is less although the magnificent cathedral makes up for a lot. End of the afternoon we are back at the parking where we sit outside on the banks of the fast-flowing Seine before the clouds prevail the sun.
We get up at half past eight on Thursday May 16th. Yesterday we had quite a few miles in our legs. After getting some bread half a mile away.
(In France a bakery is on every corner) we have breakfast and drive to Bayeux where we want to visit the famous carpet that represents the Battle of Hastings. Unfortunately when we arrive in Bayeux around noon it’s so busy that we cannot find a parking spot for the RV.
Every place, suitable for our RV, is taken so we drive on. In 3 weeks the commemoration of D-Day will be in this region so everywhere the Tombs de Guerre are maintained and already now it is very busy. Neither in the town of Sainte Marie du Mont nor at Utah Beach (and actually anywhere along the coast) we find a place to stay overnight. It’s a pity because I would love to stay here.
Soon we are on our way to Barfleur, we arrive at 2 pm and there is an empty spot next to a wall. Climbing the wall you look out over the sea and the tall lighthouse of Gatteville. Of course we walk into the town.
It’s low tide so in the harbor is no water and the boats stick in the silt. Unfortunately the sun is no longer shining and a cold seawind is blowing (it is only 55 degrees), but that does not detract the nice ambiance of this town. After a simple diner in the RV, I walk to town to see the rising water. And yes, the sea, at first half a mile from the coast, is now lapping against the quay, the boats are floating around in the harbor and the first fishing vessels are already sailing out. It is fascinating to see the ocean rise and fall. When it finally getting dark we enjoy the light tracks, the lighthouse spreads over the sea and our RV.
The next morning, it is now Friday May 17th, it is only a short drive to Cherbourg (18 miles) and since we are early birds we arrive before 9 am in Cherbourg at the ” Cité de la Mer ”where the RV parking lot is located. Arriving so early in the morning means place and we park in the front row with a view of the deep-sea port of Cherbourg. The early arrival also means that we can have a coffee before walking to the Cité de la Mer. This museum was still closed in January.
We are the first to buy a ticket and immediately walk, in front of the crowds, to “la Redoutable” a large French nuclear submarine. Impressive! We walk all the way through it and experience what it was to stay in here for 70 days.
Still impressed by this atomic submarine, we visit the departure hall of the Titanic. This famous ship left Cherbourg in April 1912 for its final journey. At this place you feel like one of the immigrants who undertook the journey to America. In a separate room the story of the last days of the Titanic is portrayed through sound clips and we get goosebumps. It feels like we are going through this last boat trip ourselves and when we hit the iceberg I grab Dick’s hand. This sound presentation of the last trip of the Titanic could not have been more impressive. It ends when it plunge into the depths on April 14, 1912. We cannot talk about it because the movie concerning the liberation of Cherbourg is coming up.
Walking through the modern arrival hall of cruise ships we arrive in the cinema and dive into the event that changed the face of Europe 75 years ago, D-day and the liberation of Cherbourg, 20 days later.
Full of impressions we want to have a meal and find a restaurant in the Cité. The menu looks attractive so we order. We are not alone here. French don’t skip a lunch and all the tables are taken. The quality of the food offered is excellent. Tonight we won’t have dinner anymore after this great meal, only a piece of baguette. In the afternoon we visit the exhibition about the exploitation of the sea and the underwater life and are back at our RV at 5 pm. We are glad that we visited this Cité de la Mer. We decide to stay another day because we want to visit the “Batterie de la Roule”, a block house high above Cherbourg on a mountain with, only during weekends, guided tours.
Saturday is a beautiful day and after having a good breakfast with freshly baked baguette we walk into Town. Of course we stop at the harbor where fishermen unload their catch, mainly crabs and some lobsters. Many of them are taken directly to a shop on the quay where you can buy the fresh shellfish. We are not so fond of crab and lobster and I also do not know how to prepare it, so we only look at it. Slowly we continue walking towards the mountain where the tour will take place. After Inquiring at the fort on the top of the mountain we find out that the entrance to the Batterie is half way the mountain so we walk back but arrive in time.
Nobody shows up, only the guides, so we really get a private tour. The guide talks in rattling French, I understand 70% and Dick half of it.
We are glad that yesterday we saw the movie “the 20 days of Cherbourg” so we get a good idea of how this block house worked at the time of the German occupation. Subterranean passages connect the various places where the cannons were placed and the high viewpoint shows us the entire bay. Our guide want regular confirmation or we really listen and understand him because he repeatedly asks control questions and I have to explain what I think he means. At such moments Dick retreats into the darkness beyond the reach of our head lamps. It’s a bit strenuous. After wandering around this underground tunnel system for almost an hour and a half, the warm sun and blue sky feels wonderful, even though it is only 14 degrees and we slowly descend the hill to our RV.
We walked almost 18 miles and feel our legs so the rest of the evening we sit inside, eat some baguette, drink a glass and talk about the events 75 years ago. When I walk to the bakery in the town on Sunday morning, it is still dry, but after filling clean water and dumping black and grey water it starts to drizzle and during our drive to the town of Carteret it stays gloomy with occasional rain. The distance is only 25 miles so we arrive early and take the place of a departing RV.
It is a beautiful spot on the edge of a dune and looking at one of the many cliffs in this town. After a cup of coffee we take our bikes and explore the area. We were here in January too, but then it was freezing cold and very unpleasant outside. Now we don’t have much luck because after an hour of cycling it starts to rain. We cycle back and just before the worst rain showers we are in the RV.
Fortunately it stops raining in the afternoon so we can walk on the reclaimed beach (it’s low tide). It is busy on the beach because there are polo competitions and we see the riders play a ball on their galloping horses. A spectacular sport to watch.
During the break we take a walk on the huge beaches, climb rocks that normally are flooded with water, to find a cache we unfortunately cannot locate. Eventually we walk back, tired and under the sand where Dick makes us a hot chocolate. That tastes great because it is currently not warmer than 50 degrees. In the evening we walk back to the beach to see what remains when it is high tide and find out that the entire beach as well as the polo playing field is taken by water.
Monday May 20-th we get up at 8 a.m. Large groups of people are standing in the parking lot next to the harbor building from where the boat leaves for the English Island of Jersey. The weather is slightly better than yesterday, it is dry and there are some traces of blue sky but it is not really nice weather yet. After breakfast we drive to Pontorson. We have to wash our clothes and there are washing machines in the parking lot at the Carrefour. There is enough parking space at the supermarket and because it is noon and everyone has lunch time, we immediately can fill our washing machines. Drying goes very fast because of the huge drying machines so at 3 pm everything is stored and we have a clean bedcover.
Time to have a nice bike ride to Mont Saint Michel while searching some caches along the way. A good idea because the sky is getting blue and the sun shines bright.
Around 6 pm we arrive at the causeway leading to the island of Mont Saint Michel. From here we have a magnificent view of the island with the impressive church and mediaeval town. Despite the fact that you are allowed to cycle on the causeway from 6 pm, we decide to return, because all the shops on the island are closed now and we are hungry after our bicycle efforts. We buy some food at the supermarket and enjoy the rest of the evening with a book. The next morning we are ready at 8 am, but we have to wait till 9 am until we can buy fresh bread and I don’ t want to walk to town to find a bakery. That means that we leave Pontorson at 10 am, but we have a small trip today, the distance to Saint Malo is only 39 miles. We still arrive in the morning. In the town of Saint Malo is no place for an RV but 4 miles outside town, near the town of Rotheneuf, is a gravel parking, where an overnight stay is allowed. We are alone on the gravel parking because a little further is a carpark with bitumen where other RV’s are parked.
But we love this place, at the sea and cycle to the center of Saint Malo, 4 miles away. Almost 40 years ago, we were just married, we visited this town, but I don’t remember much.
We park our bikes in front of the big city wall and walk through the impressive gate into the walled city of Saint Malo. It is busy.
After a short walk through the mediaeval streets we climb the wall because that’s why you want to go to Saint Malo, walking over the wall.
On the west side is sea fog and the sun disappears so it is not really hot, only 55 degrees.
Ships and offshore islands emerge like a ghost from the fog.
From the wall we see an attractive restaurant and, behaving like real French people, we have lunch at an empty table. The sun appears because the sea fog is slowly disappearing.
After an excellent lunch, we continue our walk over the wall, bordering the sea. It is low tide on the beach, people use the seawater swimming pool, supplied with fresh water at high tide, and we see many people walking to islands, only reachable at low tide. It is nice to look at it from the high city wall. Of course we also search for some caches, not always easy in this stone environment. At the end of the afternoon we cycle back to the RV.
Because we stay next to the beach, I cannot resist the temptation to sit on the edge of the dunes, sheltered from the cold sea breeze, and watch the sunset. It is still low tide but the sea is gradually rising. I love looking at the sunset, Dick doesn’t (you can see the sun every day) and stays in the RV.
Wednesday morning May 22nd, we drive deeper into Bretagne. The blue sky is covered with clouds and along the coast a cold wind is blowing. We drive over the Barrage de la Range where a power plant uses the difference between high and low tide and then we are on the road to Cape Frehel.
In the village of Plevenon we find a beautiful parking where it’s allowed to stay overnight, a lawn with plenty of room to park an RV.
We take the bikes and ride to another cape where Fort de la Latte is built. This fort on a rock point stretching out into the sea, we want to visit. After buying a ticket we cross the two drawbridges that separate the fort from the mainland and enjoy the ancient architecture that made it possible for such forts to stand the test of time. We wander around at ease, take pictures and enjoy this environment. Of course we also climb the steep tower where we have a magnificent view of Cap Frehel. It’s a little scary. After a few hours we leave the fort, climb back to the place where our bikes are parked and ride slowly back along narrow roads to the RV. Looking for caches of course because they are everywhere. In town is only a creperie and we don’t want to eat that now, so we prepare our own meal and enjoy the evening outside. We’re the only ones outside because all the RV’s around us have their antenna lit up, their windows blinded and watch TV.
After buying a fresh baguette in the village on Thursday morning and having breakfast, we drive further along the coast. We skip Cap Frehel because we don’t want to pay 5 euros only to park our RV. Next time we come here we take our bikes to the cape. Along the narrow coastal road we arrive in Hillion, 20 miles to the west. The RV parking in town is taken by a gypsy family so we continue to the coast to Lermot where we find a beautiful spot at the cliffs along the water. We talk to our neighbors, English, who spend a few months a year on the mainland. The weather on the mainland is better and travels in England are unaffordable, too expensive. When I ask them what the Brexit means to them, I immediately notice that this is the wrong topic of conversation. Just like in America, you should not bring up politics or religion. We get an hour-long tirade about Theresa May, the prime minister (he does not like her) and the wish of the English people to leave the European Union. England can easily manage alone, without the European Union. The English want to be autonomous and independent. After all Britain is an Empire and ruler over the seas, just like the old days.
We end this conversation as soon as possible, say goodbye to our neighbours and then walk the narrow path over the cliffs. Searching for caches and enjoying the views. However, we do not start with cache 1 of a serial hidden along the coast, so regularly we have to walk back and forth. But we enjoy the view of the sea below and climb the narrow paths that wind over the cliffs. At the end of the afternoon we are able to find the bonus cache (an extra cache that you can find if you found all the caches of the serial after calculating the required coordinates for the bonus). We are tired, we walked almost 8,5 miles. We take a chair, eat a snack and drink a glass of wine. Nevertheless, I still want to look for two caches in the evening. I am back 1.5 hours later after a 3 mile walk. Dick is worried so he phones me. Fortunately we have telephone coverage everywhere.
Unfortunately I don’t find the caches but I do enjoy the rising water from the cliffs in the bay below.
I do not have to say that at 9 pm we are in bed and sleep like a baby. Friday May 24th we get up at 8 am. A cold wind is still blowing, but there is a break in the clouds and the sun and more blue sky appears. After breakfast we drive through Bretagne to the south and stop in the center of Carnac, an old town known for its megaliths, large stones like those in the strips of Asterix and Obelix.
The RV parking is right in the center and after parking, not easy because of the low branches, we take the bikes to ride around. Of course along the large and smaller stones. Now you can only walk between the stones with a guide, but from October to April it is free for everyone to walk around the stones. We cycle along the side of the miles long fields with stones. It is impressive. How did these stones end up here and who put them all together so nicely?
We do not think about those questions, but continue our cycling and enjoy. Dick knows the way perfectly. On his GPS he has a miracle map that indicates all the narrow paths and flawlessly he leads us through swamps, on narrow forest paths and through a dune area. Finally after 10 miles we are back at the RV. In town we found a nice eatery with an attractive menu so after refreshing we walk there. The food is delicious and the weather allows us to sit on the terrace. The next morning the entire parking lot is occupied, so newcomers are happy we are early birds. After one last glance at the menhirs we take narrow roads and arrive before 11 am in Guérande, an old medieval town. Here too, just on the outskirts of town is a beautiful motorhome parking and we find a spot from where we have a good overview of the entire site. Of course without trees because we love the heat. Unfortunately the sun is currently hidden behind a thick cloud cover.
Again this is a busy parking lot filled with French RV’s, so it make sense to drive short distances and arriving before noon.
After a cup of coffee we walk to the walled medieval town with an impressive entrance gate. We love to stroll through the alleys and look at the market stalls. We are amazed at the huge numbers of terraces in town. Every table is taken, everyone is eating because eating at noon is sacred in France.
We had an extensive breakfast and at this moment no appetite so after 2,5 hours walking around, Guérande is not really big, we go back to the RV.
In the afternoon I like to cycle to the salt fields where this area is famous for. It is not far away although a strong wind is blowing, but the bright blue sky and the shining sun compensate a lot. Not much can be seen of the salt fields in the sense that they are not white. Everywhere around us small basins can be seen, made of earthen walls in which a layer of salt water that, when it evaporates, leads to the gold of the earth; that is how these salt pans were seen in the Middle Ages.
Here and there men are busy removing a layer of salt with a kind of wooden rake. It’s a lot of work to get some salt. Of course we buy some salt in a stall, although we never use salt, my sister Hannah and her husband Henk may like it. By 6 pm we are back at the RV. We have a sunburn caused by the strong sea breeze and the bright sun and eat a baguette with cheese and goose liver paste. We forgot how to eat much. The sky is cloudy on Sunday, a huge difference from yesterday when the sun was shining. Actually a day to wash, it’s time again, so we decide to stay here another day. I buy bread in town. It feels very special to enter the mediaeval gate and cycle completely alone in this mediaeval town. After breakfast, Dick shows me the way to the laundry. He found the place at the internet and with my bike packed with dirty laundry I cycle to the center where the laundromat is located.
A busy one, there are three shabby men using the washing machines, but luckily I can put my laundry in 4 small washers. The wait starts. But time passes quickly with a pleasant chat with the Frenchmen.
However I open the door to the outside because the body odor inside makes you suspect that more than just clothing should have been cleaned. Around 1 pm Dick arrives by bike, just in time to help me with folding the laundry and buried by bags of clean clothes and bedding, we cycle back to the RV. Everything is in the closets before 2 pm and our bed has a fresh cover. After a coffee with a delicious cake, we take the bikes again to explore the area. The weather does not really look good, heavy clouds with occasional drizzle, but everything is better than hanging around in the RV. With the help of geocaches, Dick find a nice cycle tour of only 10 miles, over quiet paths and through meadows. Back in the RV we eat simply (baguette). It tastes good with cheese, pâté and a glass of wine. We sleep before 10 pm.
Monday May 27th we get up at half past seven and after breakfast we drive to Nantes. We want to visit the “Machinerie de l’Ile”. Along the way I find out that the chosen parking lot on the southern edge of Nantes is too small for our RV so we drive to the north side of Nantes to the “Aire de camping cars” . Once there, I cannot get a ticket. I am not the only one because a Frenchman also has great difficulties, he even has to pay a second time to open the barrier, so we decide to leave Nantes and drive on.
Soon we find an alternative destination: Maillezais, a place with ruins of an old abbey. And yes, when we are almost there, we already see the ruins contrasting with the sky. We park the RV on the parking lot, between beautiful ponds and walk inside. Immediately we are immersed in the Middle Ages and experience how pilgrims and monks stayed here centuries ago.
Even though only ruins are left, if you walk between them, history comes to life. For a long time we wander around the grounds of this once powerful abbey. At the end of the afternoon we leave the grounds of the Abbey and look around in the area. We always want to know where the bakery is, or there are promising eateries and where we can buy some food. However, there is not much to do in town so we are back at the RV after a couple of hours.
This parking lot feels luxurious standing between ponds, filled with frogs. Unfortunately, there is only one restaurant open that has no appealing food, so we cook ourselves. At night we are repeatedly treated to a frog concert, but that is something different than cars passing by. The next morning, after buying a baguette at the bakery, we enjoy a good French breakfast and then continue our trip over narrow country roads to the city of Cognac.
The weather has changed and drizzle varies with rain. It’s a pity because there are beautiful vineyards in this Cognac region. Unfortunately, the RV parking in the town of Cognac is full, actually overcrowded. Instead of the permitted 3 RV’s there are 9 RV’s and we no longer have a place. So we drive on to a wine estate nearby. It is beautiful here but also remote and with this rainy weather not really attractive so we drive on and stop in Barbezieux at the supermarket Leclerc.
It works out well because now we can supply our food and drinks. With a packed shoppingcart we return to the RV and the rest of the afternoon we walk around in this town. There is a beautiful castle which, unfortunately, has been nailed up. Maybe in the future it’s possible to go there because now the surroundings are being completely renovated. We walk further over steep streets. It is certainly not a bad town to walk around. But as everywhere in France, all shops are closed, after all it’s lunchtime. The next morning I don’t have to walk far to get bread because we stay next to the supermarket.
The overnight stay on this parking lot here has many similarities with Walmarkt. Here too the parking lot was swept clean in the middle of the night with noise machines, so we were wide awake. But you get used to noise and at some point we slept through it. After dumping our black and grey water we drive further east.
Over narrow roads across the countryside because there are no large west-east connections in this area. On the map I see that we pass Les Eyzies and our final goal is immediately determined. That is where we are going. This is the town we drove to almost 41 years ago during our honeymoon. We find a beautiful RV spot with an enormous amount of space and after Dick has determined the right place (we want to be in the sun during the afternoon) we park our RV and walk into the town. I don’t remember much.
Only the overhanging rocks, where the prehistoric people sought shelter, seem familiar. We walk around, eat ice cream, really good in this temperature, and walk over small and narrow paths under the overhanging rocks,
the path to the shelter of the Cro Magnon, the first human being found here. Certainly we know one thing and that is that we never walked here. Unfortunately there is no tempting restaurant to find, it’s either very expensive or the menu consist only of Canard (and we don’t want to eat duck) so again we prepare our dinner at the RV and have delicious bread with seeds (bought at the local delicacy shop because the bakery is closed on Wednesday afternoon).On Ascension Day, every shop in France is closed. We leave at 9 am to Sarlat where we find a large deserted parking lot on the outskirts of town. We park our RV and walk to the center of Sarlat. Again we are back in the Middle Ages. The “Jours de Terroir” are celebrated so there is a party. The entire mediaeval center is filled with stalls selling Paté de Foie Gras, Nuts and Canard. These ingredients also form the main menu of the restaurants here. We taste some of the canard and I must say that it is not bad but a meal consisting of Canard is not necessary.
After a few hours of wandering through narrow alleys and of course around the market stalls in this pleasant busy and crowded center, we also look for some caches. We are assisted by one of the agents of the “Police Nationale”. He points us where the geocache is and is satisfied when we show him that we found the cache at the other side of the square. Then all the terraces are filled and we also look for a place to eat. However, we don’t want to eat a full duck menu and after some searching we find a kebab restaurant with a few tables in the sun. Not a bad choice because the food tastes great. After lunch we walk around a bit and then decide to return to the RV and drive on to Rocamadour, not far from here. It is even busier in this town, glued to the rock face.
The parking lot at the castle, which is built high on the rocks, is completely full, but with some manoeuvres Dick manage to park the RV and we walk down a narrow zigzag path to Rocamadour.
Despite the fact that it is now 3 pm and some people are climbing back, it is still very busy in the town of Rocamadour. We are looking for answers in a geocache but unfortunately we cannot found them all in the crowds. So we enjoy looking at the shops (all open), buy an ice cream on the square in front of the cathedral and at 6 pm we return to the RV. It is warm, at least 80 degrees and we are sweaty. Not strange when you consider that we walked at least 9 miles. There is more space on the parking lot and Dick park the RV on a better spot. Whether we can stand here, along the road, we do not know but there are a few other RV’s so we will see. Friday May 31 we wake up at 8 am. Here, on top of the rock, it was very quiet and we slept well. After having breakfast with old sandwiches, I will not descent to town (500 feet below) to get bread, I climb to the place where we calculated the geocache must be hidden (based on the answers we found yesterday).
It takes me over a steep, stone-strewn path halfway between Rocamadour and the castle and with the help of a picture I quickly find the cache.
At 9:30 am we leave Rocamadour. Due to a blocked road we cannot follow the road indicated by Garmin, our navigation, but over very narrow mountain roads, scary with our huge RV, we end up on the other side of the valley. I love it because from here you have a magnificent view of Rocamadour. My camera makes overtime. It is extremely busy everywhere, many people have apparently taken a long weekend and the beautiful Grotte de Padirac is overcrowded. Glad we already visited this cave. After 40 miles we arrive in Collonges la Rouge and before noon we find a nice spot on the RV parking within walking distance of town. Again it’s warm and for the first time we enjoy the shade of the trees.
After a cup of coffee we walk to this special town. It is beautiful, all buildings are made of red stone and with the steel-blue sky and the bright shining sun it forms a wonderful combination.
The town is small so we spend part of the afternoon at our RV in the shade and walk back at 6 pm to eat at “Les Pierres Rouge”. Of course having diner is not yet possible. All restaurants are closed until 7 pm but walking around here is not a punishment. It is also clear that restaurants are not used to receive guests at 7 pm, when we take a seat on the terrace. It takes at least another half an hour before someone comes to ask what aperitif we want and we get our starter at almost 8 pm. But it does not matter. Outside it feels good, it is a sultry summer evening and we enjoy the surroundings and watch the people walk by. At 10 pm we finish our diner and walk back to the RV. A wonderful evening and a delicious meal. And again great weather because even at this time the thermometer still shows 77 degrees. At night I wake up because of light falling through the roof hatch. It’s a clear starry sky.
Immediately I am wide awake and with Dicks T-shirt on I step outside. For the first time I see the Milky Way on European soil. How beautiful and what a fantastic starry sky above us. I enjoy it for a while before I go back to bed.
The June month starts well because at half past seven in the morning it is already 68 degrees. On my way to the bakery, two French people tell me that it’s better to return as the bread depot (there is no bakery in town) does not open until half past nine so we decide to dump and fill the water first before having breakfast in a neighboring village. But while dumping our black and grey water we suddenly hear a deafening honking horn and a bakery car arrives so we can buy bread on the parking and have breakfast. At 9 am we leave but halfway to Clermont I suddenly realize that it is nicer to camp outside near the water side than in a city so we change the route in our Garmin. The RV spots in Meymac are either crowded or look like a dusty gravel area without any shade, so we drive on to Felletin.
In the center of the town is a parking area with grass strips where we park our RV. The thermometer now shows 90 degrees, so we put up the awning to catch some shade. After 3 pm we explore town. Everything is closed before that time. It is not a special town and after a few miles walking we give up, sit comfortably at the RV with a view of the church. Apparently on this parking lot it is no problem to behave like a camper (sitting with a chair and table outside, often not allowed on a parking) because the passing policemen say nothing. It’s so warm and the temperature remains high that we eat (for the first time) outside the RV. We enjoy the evening. Sunday, June 2nd, the sun is early in the sky and it is warm. After we eat a good fresh “baguette” we drive on.
Over narrow roads, across high plains through the interior of France. The granary must be located here, we drive hours through grain fields. At 12 pm we arrive in Moulins.
Here we find a former campsite on the banks of the river. Probably because there are frequent floods, the campground was not profitable and is now transformed into a place for RV’s. The parking costs are 10 cents an hour. There are spacious lots and we take a beautiful one. Next to us is a special tree, probably a poplar, whose branches bend all the way filled with fluffy flowers. If there is a gust of wind, it looks like it’s snowing. We walk into the town of Moulins. Unfortunately we are just too late for the Sunday market; nevertheless we enjoy this old city center.
The large cathedral is special and we spend some time admiring everything and of course we light a candle. Moulins also consists of old, narrow medieval streets where it is wonderful to walk around.
When we are outside the heat feel like a blanket, it is 95 degrees, so we search for a terrace and have a drink. Moulins is a big city so we walk almost 8 miles. A long time it stays warm we don’t go to bed before 10 pm. At night we have a few drops of rain. The contrast on Monday, June 3rd is huge because it’s clouded and there is no sun to be seen. It’s still warm, the temperature does not fall below 67 degrees. We have to wash our clothes so we look for a laundry and in Ainay le Chateau we find washing machines on the parking lot of an Intermarché. What an invention, without such machines we would have to look for a campground. After two hours washing everything is clean and we drive on. This place next to the supermarket between the grain fields is not really special. We continue to Cosne Cours sur Loire.
Nobody is parked along the banks of the Loire and to get to the parking area we have to ignore two prohibitory signs (the road is not allowed for more than 3.5 tonnes) but then we have a beautiful spot along the fast-flowing Loire in the center of town. Slowly the sun breaks through and the temperature rises, really ideal conditions for exploring a city. We find another beautiful church and enjoy walking around. It’s getting warmer during the afternoon, so then we take a chair in the grass along the Loire in front of the RV. It is a great place and of course we have a chat with our French neighbors. Topic is their Mercedes RV. We would also like to have such a motorhome because it has rear-wheel drive and makes it possible to drive better in the mountains. The sun keeps shining for a long time and the temperature remains high so we also eat outside and enjoy the reflection of the evening sun in the Loire.
Early in the morning on Tuesday morning, June 4th, it is warm and nice to walk to the bakery to buy some bread. Because the weather is so beautiful we want a parking lot with grass so we can sit outside and we find it in Chaource. We arrive just before noon and still have plenty of choice to find a nice spot with shade. Soon this RV place, a large lawn in Chaource, is completely full. After we have a baguette we walk into town.
Thanks to a cache (we cannot find this until we first answered a number of questions) we end in an old church. Again a special church because a nice group of statues can be seen in the basement under the church. We admire the statues, look for answers to find our cache and also light a candle for Auntie Ank. Unfortunately the museum of the Chaource cheese (famous in France) is closed so we cannot go there and have to buy the cheese at the bakery. After 5 miles walking around we arrive again at our RV, enjoy a drink (it’s really warm, almost 90 degrees) and stay under the trees.
There are beautiful overnight spots in France. Of course with these temperatures we have diner outside and love it when the wind rises at 9 pm. Although it is not cold on Wednesday, we notice that the temperature dropped and as we drive further north, it’s really cloudy and some drops fall.
We want to go to Epernay in the middle of the Champagne region. It is a beautiful drive, first between the grain fields but soon we are surrounded by the vineyards of the Champagne region. As far as the eye can see, slopes are covered with grape vines. When we arrive in Epernay, the RV parking looks a bit desolate. Also caused by the drizzle. In any case, we decide not to stay here, but continue our drive and we determine quickly our next goal, 80 kilometers to the north: Laon. To find the parking where it’s allowed to stay overnight, we have to search. At first we are in the wrong place, but soon find the right parking, parallel to the city wall. Thick clouds cover the sky but it is dry. So we climb the city wall and arrive in the center of Laon.
There are tours to the catacombs of Laon and as we are curious about that, we buy a ticket and within 10 minutes we walk through an underground tunnel system. The tunnels originated here, at the foot of the hill, because stone blocks were cut away to build the town of Laon. It is a special experience to walk underground and with light images we are brought back to the time of the stonecutters. But it is also cold down here and we are happy to get out again one hour later.
A faint ray of sunlight illuminates the impressive cathedral in town and we are surprised at its size. It’s huge. Eventually we walk back to the RV, have a drink and walk back to the center around 8pm to have a nice diner in a restaurant.
Just in time we are back in our RV, when we step inside the first raindrops fall from the sky and the thunder is heard. Soon after, a cloud burst follows, hailstones hammering on our RV and a flood of water descends on us. So much water and hailstones come down that the road around the camper turns into a fast-flowing stream. Fortunately this bad weather does not last long and after half an hour we can have a walk outside. The river dries slowly and the piles of white hail melt away. Thursday June 6th, D Day, is also celebrated here. Some houses have the American and Canadian flags. It is considerably cooler and the clouds are almost hanging on the ground but it is dry and after a breakfast with fresh baguette we drive further north over narrow roads. The grain fields are regularly interrupted by Tombes de Guerre, large war cemeteries from the great war (1914-1918), but also the second world war and in particular 1944.
It is a region where during the wars fierce fighting took place. At 1 pm we arrive in Thieu in Belgium. In this area are the differences between the various navigable waters so large that ship elevators have been built. It’s dry now and the sun appears so we park the RV on the quay and walk around.
We are lucky because we can follow a tour boat that has to go from a highwater level to a lower water level and will pass two elevators. It is interesting to see the ship elevators in operation and we spend quite some time to look here. Back at our RV, black clouds get the upper hand so we have diner inside, but during the evening it’s clearing up and with jackets on, the temperature is not warm, we can sit outside and enjoy with our neighbors Koos and Monique from Noord-Holland the sunset over the canal. Friday June 7th we are awake at half past six so we leave this nice place just after eight am.
It makes that we arrive home before noon. That’s good because the forecast is not good, bad weather is coming with strong gusts of wind. After unloading all our stuff and cleaning the RV, Dick take the RV back to the storage and is home before the storm. Again we had a fantastic journey.