After several days of warm sunshine and cool mountain air we tore ourselves away from the lovely views of the Vercors mountains to head west to the high hills of the Aveyron.
We retraced our route down the mountain and back to Grenoble, this time keeping to the west of the city and through the valley to Valence and the bank of the mighty River Rhone. We left the Rhone south of Valence and took to the hills of the Ardeche, driving through Privas to our intended night stop on the aire at Aubenas.
We arrived in time for lunch at a very hot and rather dusty car park (GPS 44.62585º 4.39713º no services) on the bank of the Ardeche river. The pictures in our aire guide showed plenty of trees for shade but in the middle of the day all the shady spots were filled by cars. We has some lunch and then decided, as it was so hot and the old town was a fair climb up the hill on the other side of the river, to go on and find another aire that might be a little more shady.
We continued west along the N102 to the small town of Thueyts where there is a quiet and shady aire tucked away down a side road (GPS 44.67247º 4.21912), beside tennis courts and football pitches. Access to the aire is down one of two roads, one little more than an alleyway and a very tight turn if arriving from the west but OK’ish if coming from the East. Far better to use Chemin de la Condamine (set GPS 44.67468º 4,22003º into the sat-nav for the junction) which is a few hundred metres to the East.
A short stroll from the aire is a viewpoint looking down on the Ardeche river far below and the famous Pont du Diable, the Devils Bridge. On a hot afternoon people were jumping off high rocks into the river and swimming across to a small stony beach.
The following day, 21st June, we continued West on the N102 following the Ardeche on a spectacular and twisty road high over the hills. The scenery is dramatic, wild and lovely as you climb and climb before crossing the River Ardeche where it is little more than a rushing stream.
Through Pradelles and then follow the N88 to Mende and eventually the A75 motorway. Turning off the A75 we went down some rather narrow and winding lanes to go cross-country to Salles-Curan and Lac de Pareloup.
We found the aire at Lac de Pareloup (GPS 44.20027º 2.77601º) in September 2016 and loved it (more pictures and description here:- https://motorhomemoments.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/simply-sublime/). This time we spent almost a week just lazing in the sun, enjoying the views across the water and the sunsets.
The end of our trip was by now fast approaching so we left our lake and started the journey north. After stocking up with food and fuel at Pont-de-Salars we headed to Rodez, then North West towards the Dordogne and our overnight stop at Souillac.
There had been mutterings on Motorhome Fun forum that there was now a charge for stopping on the aire (GPS 44.89152º 1.47653º) that has always been free. Although there is a charge, by credit card, for water and toilet disposal, the aire is still free and shows every sign of staying that way.
We have stopped at Souillac many times and the aire is usually very busy and can be packed tight by evening but this time there was stacks of room. It is still a lovely town to wander round with lots of narrow streets as well as the famous domed Abbey Sainte-Marie which dates back to the 12th Century.
Continuing north the next day we hit the free A20 motorway which took us round Limoges and on to Vierzon where we joined the D2020 as far as Salbris and another regular stop-over. There is always a cheerful welcome at Camping de Sologne (GPS 47.43025º 2.05457º) and although there are a couple of free aires just a few km up the road we just like it there. With a good view over the lake with its ducks and resident goose and a reasonable meal in the restaurant plus bread in the morning it makes a first class nights stop.
More driving the next day, through Orléans, round Chartres & Dreux then South of Rouen to make our way to La Mailleraye-sur-Seine for a couple of nights on the river bank.
By this time the weather forecast wasn’t looking good, with rain forecast for several days. Rather than sit and look out at miserable weather I got on-line and brought our tunnel crossing forward by a day. Sure enough, on Sunday as we left La Mailleraye the rain started and didn’t stop until we were past Bologne. We drove to Cite Europe and after filling with fuel and stocking up on essentials (beer) spent the night on the aire/carpark (GPS 50.93282º 1.81111º) before crossing for home the next morning.
Considering we had started out on the trip with the intention of going to a wet and windy Scotland it had been quite a contrast. We had certainly seen our share of hills and mountains although they were a fair bit higher than the Scottish ones. Without doubt the weather had been a lot warmer and sunnier and we had had the good company of Jenny and John for part of the time. As trips go it was 10/10.