We've been busy! We picked Ji Hye up in Paris on March 22rd, and proceeded seventy miles to a quirky, quintessentially French campsite; no toilet seats, but it was on the banks of the Seine, so no one really cared. That evening we'd decided we would eat out, as there is no experience like just wandering though a village and finding a cuisine treasure. We found such a place, and initially, it looked like we'd be turned away as they were booked for a private party, but the nice woman who met us at the door seemed to change her mind, and let us in. Fascinating, surreal experience; tapas only, so no menu, and we were asked if we'd like to salsa between courses. Huh? We declined on dancing, but took away yet another quirky, French dining story. Frank took a lovely photo of Dougal as he laid on his special dining blanket at our feet - he loves French restaurants nearly as much as we do
Our next stop with Ji Hye was a place we'd visited last year near Mont Saint-Michel, which is, arguably, the most luxurious of the campsites we visit in France, as it provides a private five-star toilet/shower facility for each pitch. Sadly the camp was just as muddy as it was last year - Spring showers bringing May flowers sort of thing - but we enjoyed our five days with Ji at the camp, and although Mont Saint-Michel was off limits to Frank and I due to their new, and I think discriminatory, rule about dogs, Ji visited it and took lovely photos.
The next camp was in the Vendee, which in itself was nothing memorable, but the village was lovely, and two relatively disturbing things happened; the heater in our motorhome inexplicably stopped working, and we woke up to snow on the ground! So...we bundled up and hurried onward, ever closer to Bordeaux, and another favourite spot of ours; Ile de Re.
Again the weather didn't give us a break, and sadly the views of this normally stunning place, were somewhat misty, and didn't represent the beauty of the island as fully as we remembered.
We did have an experience, and it started off as another lovely dining story, but this one ended badly; I fed Dougal 'moules' which is mussels - they were lovely, and a speciality of the island. Dougal ate about half of my portion - he really loved them, and all three of us commented on what a varied palate Dougal has developed. So...about 3:00am Dougal, who sleeps with us, woke me with a furious case of itching - he could not stop scratching. By morning it was seriously bad; his skin was bright pink, and was so itchy he couldn't walk two feet. Frank and Ji walked into the village looking for Benadryl, as I held Dougal trying to keep him from hurting himself by his constant scratching. Turns out Benadryl is not something you can find in France, and as the next day was Easter, we needed to find an emergency vet. Frank found one, who thankfully gave Dougal a steroid shot that cured him almost immediately. So...moral of the story is I don't feed Dougal anymore shell fish, or anything that he hasn't eaten before. Scary few hours, and I gotta say, Ji Hye was wonderful, as always, in helping with Dougal during his crisis.
The next day was Easter, and a sad time for Frank and I, as Ji Hye needed to be at her new Bordeaux French home by 2:00pm. I'd like to say something about Ji Hye; our motorhome is not large, really only sleeps two people comfortably, a third bed can be made by folding down the dining table, and combining cushions, but it isn't exactly luxurious. Ji was, as always, sweet, helpful, kind and never complaining for a moment about anything. Truly, as we've always known, she is an exceptional person in all ways, and as pleasant company as you'd ever hope or want to have.
We're now happily ensconced at one of our favourite sites in Sainte-Foy la Grande, which is owned and operated by a wonderful British family; Bob, Brenda, Peter and his young son, Daniel. The camp is on the bank of the Dordogne (see the picture taken right outside our door) and is idyllic in all possible ways; we're staying at least a week - Frank needs the rest and this is as good as it gets for calm, peaceful moments. But, the really good news is we're within a comfortable distance from where Ji Hye is staying in Bordeaux, so we're hoping she'll come to see us at the weekend for two more days! Hopefully the weather will give her a better experience of our motorhome touring / camping lifestyle that we've come to love so much; more later!
Settled at Camping*** de la Bastide at Sainte-Foy-la Grande on the bank of the River Dordogne. The pictures over the next week will speak for themselves but this is, indeed, one of our very favourite sites. It is small, neat and is owned by a delightful UK couple Bob and Brenda together with their son Peter and his son, Daniel who we have watched grow into a a fun young man over the past few years.
I love the area and we will stay here for about a week.
Time now to talk about the travel over the past few days. When we left the Ile de Re our route took us due south and was planned by the satnav so apart rom the odd 20 mile needed to get off the Island it was pretty much all motorway all the way to Bordeaux. Many people travelling like us seek to avoid the motorways and I entirely accept the fact that it is altogether more interesting to take the lesser roads getting the full value of the French experience. That is my own preference unless of course I have a deadline as was the case heading to Bordeaux. That, however, is not to say that the motorways are boring and unattractive, far from it. The drive was interesting as we spent a considerable time in vineyard country and passed through many different regions that tell their own story, Cognac to mention only one. Then the approach to Bordeaux is interesting as you pass over the Dordogne and the Gironde as they finally make their journey to the sea. All in all an interesting drive. Then onto yesterdays trip from Bordeaux to Sainte -Foy La Grande. Once again we crossed the rivers and were able to make a speedy retreat from Bordeaux and were on the motorways in no time. The trip was a beautiful variation of villages and vineyards by the hundreds and in just over an hour we were entering Sainte-Foy La Grande and our first stop was the major supermarket on the edge of the town where we stocked up and got ready for a nice long resting process.
Setting up at the site was very straightforward…Everything is on hand, water, electricity and drainage all within about 20 feet of the river Dordogne. For the first time this trip we took out the awning, table and chairs and of course the blue lounger that a certain person has long since claimed as “His Chair”. Well, who am I to argue?
What a day! St. Patrick’s day was never like this. The alarm went off at 5:00am and after the usual last minute bits and bobs we got underway with the first leg of our trip. Port Erin to Douglas and the ferry to Birkenhead (Liverpool).￼ It was a four hour crossing but a cabin made it a whole lot more comfortable and I even managed a couple hours sleep. The second leg of the journey was a long haul taking us down to Oxfordshire and, more precisely, the Lincoln Farm Park site in the beautiful village of Standlake. We have been here several times before and have nothing but the highest praise, friendly, helpful and a pretty location.
￼One of the interesting things about the trip was that as we got further south the colder and whiter it got. The temperature dropped to minus 3 degrees overnight (29° F, -3° C) but the van was very cosy so no complaints.
Its always quite challenging for the first few days as you remember the little things you forgot to pack but this time we feel fairly complete; so far so good.
Dougal is adjusting to the van life and, as before, loves it to pieces. His toys are where he wants them so he's happy!
We got of to an early start on St Patricks day and even had a dog friendly cabin on the ferry - so Dougal was happy too! The crossing was smooth and we arrived at Birkenhead around noon. After dropping the car off at our storage facility, we hit the road, arriving at Lincoln Farm Park, in Oxfordshire around 4:00. We'd planned on visiting the local pub, The Black Horse, which is a fairly easy walk from the campground, but decided against it as an early night was a good idea. Up early Monday morning, March 18th, to find FREEZING temps and rain, so the van's gas heater was turned on full, and breakfast is just finished. We'll hit the road again in a couple of hours, our destination; Alderstead Heath motorhome park, Redhill, in Surrey. Cheers!
The preparations have begun in ernest. I went to Liverpool this morning to bring the Vinny Van back to the IOM to prepare it for the trip. A very cold day, but an uneventful drive to Heysham to get the boat across. This is today’s travel map.