Well, here we are again on the banks of the river Seine at La Mailleraye-sur-Seine (GPS 49°28’59.83″N 0°46’25.99″E). Proper, real croissants for breakfast from the lovely little boulangerie just up the hill in the village, none of the soggy apologies for croissants that Messrs. Sainsbury and Waitrose dish up in the UK. We arrived yesterday evening after a long drive through very heavy rain and an early 7am start from home. That was two early Wednesday mornings in a row after Cycle to the Sky last week, more than enough for this year. We went to bed to the sound of rain on the roof but were both so tired that we didn’t hear a sound until some large boats went past in the early hours. We had driven 300 miles @ 25.1mpg.
Thursday morning and the rain has gone and the clouds are clearing away to the east, the sun is out and we have had a pleasant walk round the village. We were going to head west towards Roscoff on Friday but having put the details into the sat-nav it is a 400 km drive so we are staying put for a couple more days.
La Mailleraye have been spending a load of money on ‘tarting up’ the lower part of the village neares to the river. There was a large area of roadway with a small roundabout in the middle and space to park overlooking the river plus the entrance to the aire. That whole area has now been turned into an open seating/entertainment/ eating piazza with tables and chairs from the bar and restaurant, steps and slopes and water features. The road through the village centre that runs down to the river has also had the treatment with smart new pavements, planting enclosures for trees and all the road edges marked by stainless steel posts. It will all be very smart when they have completed the finishing touches. Access to the aire now requires a little zig-zag round the piazza.
We finally leave La Mailleraye on Saturday but not towards Roscoff and the west coast as planned, the dodgy weather forecast put paid to that plan, instead we are going south. It is cloudy with alternate bursts of sun and showers and we are going a short distance to Broglie where there is a pleasant sounding aire (GPS 49°00’20.67″N 0°31’47.20″E) in a small rural town. It is the weekend of the Monaco Grand Prix, one of my favourite races and we aim to stop by lunchtime so that we can watch qualifying via satellite. We arrive well before we need to and, indeed, it is a very pleasant aire. It is on the old track bed of a long gone railway with only the old station building to show what was there before. There are just eight hard standings well spaced out with grass and trees in between. They could get twenty plus pitches in and it would still not be overcrowded. Our short hop was only 45 miles and because of a strong headwind we only got 20.1mpg.
After qualifying we go for a walk around the town to suss out where I can get our breakfast in the morning and just have a good old mooch. By the river bridge there is a large old mill building with the remains of a water wheel, the mill race still rushing through. Like most French country towns there are small back lanes that give it an almost medieval feel. Many lovely old buildings, some of which are looking a little ‘tired’. There is a pleasant ‘Aquatic Garden’ beside the river with bridges and paths that meander round and give views of the riverside houses. All in all we think it a grand place for an overnight stop and only for 5€ which is collected by the ‘guardian’ at around seven pm.
Sunday morning and we go further south but not too much further. After a chilly night the sun is up and there is barely a sound, save for birdsong, as I walk to the boulangerie for our morning croissants. As it’s Sunday, a special treat, and I buy two pains au chocolate.
By 9:30 we are mobile and and heading for La Suze-sur-Sarthe, just to the south of Le Mans. The roads are virtually empty and it is a lovely drive, even the ring road around Le Mans is quiet. We arrive at our aire (GPS 47°53’21.45″N 0°01’50.74″E) just before 12 and there is plenty of space to park overlooking the river. Again it is 5€ per night, this time by getting a ticket from a machine.