After two more days of buffeting winds howling around the van we started heading back north and towards more potential problems. What with fuel shortages, broken water pumps and poor weather surely things couldn’t get more complicated, could they?
While we only had strong winds to contend with, the rest of France was soaking under several days of heavy rain. A huge low pressure system came to rest over Europe and stayed there. The result was wide spread flooding around the rivers in the north with Paris constantly in the news. Our usual route home would be through Orleans but we were warned that roads were flooded and even the A10 motorway was closed.
We drove north on the A75, back through Millau again, and stopped the night at a small town just off the motorway. Massiac looked a pleasant town when we drove through in April on our way to Blesle. The Aire de Camping-Car has some pitches on grass beside the river and five on hard standing beside the sports centre. After all the rain the riverside looked wet and risky so we, and everyone else, played safe with the sports centre. Although there wasn’t much to look out on, concrete walls and tarmac, it was peaceful and well tucked away. Five marked pitched soon became ten in the best tradition of French camping caristas, to be joined by two white vans towing twin axle caravans. The first van came to a halt, the side door slid open and at least five children, plus adults, poured out. Seat belts and child seats? I don’t think so!
Despite our initial fears the families sorted themselves out in a corner and didn’t disturb the peace and quiet.
The town itself was pleasant but really didn’t have a lot of interest to look at. There were a few old buildings in paved and narrow streets but half an hour of walking and we had seen all we wanted to see. It is certainly worth driving a few miles further on to Blesle for those who like to look around historic towns.
The following morning, after topping up the tank with diesel, we once again joined the A75. The weather looked brighter and we planned to drive across country to a lovely aire we stopped at once before at Villerest, just south of Roanne and overlooking a lake/reservoir in the Loire Gorges. After a few miles we ran into drizzle which became thick mist and rain and showed no sign of stopping. A quick stop in a lay-by and the route was re-planned to take us away from the murky hills to what we hoped would be better weather further north.
We ended up back at Sancoins, yet again. Although it was damp and a bit misty, at least we weren’t sitting in thick cloud. We spent two days walking and watching the resident heron patrolling the banks of the canal looking for his supper.
The floods in Paris and elsewhere in northern France were getting worse, our usual route north was blocked at Orleans, so we would route to the east and north of Paris to try and avoid the problem areas.
Our new route took us towards an aire that several people had recommended at Briare. It is there that the celebrated Pont-Canal carries the Canal Lateral la Loire right over the River Loire and allows it to join with the Canal de Briare. It is a spectacular piece of 19c engineering that is still in everyday use.
The free Aire de Camping-Car is just a few steps away from the river and Pont-Canal and at the same level as the pont, so thank goodness it was well above the raging Loire. The weather continued to be damp and murky but during a bright spell we set off to walk around the town and look at the sights. It struck us as a pleasant small town with canals and boats everywhere, if only the sun had come out to brighten things up. We completed our walk in steady drizzle but we treated ourselves with a stop at the boulangerie for large and squidgy eclairs to have with supper.