The Weather Gremlins Strike Again.

In September we went to France and had to keep going south to get away from a wet and cold weather front that chased us all the way from the UK.

On this trip we have been relentlessly pursued by a blast of cold air from the Arctic which has stretched right across France and Spain. It has meant frost, snow and very cold nights all the way south.

Two days ago we arrived at the coast of southern Spain and at last it was warm, although cloudy. The clouds followed us all the way from Salamanca to just outside Cadiz. Last night Storm Ana passed through which meant high winds and torrential rain all night and most of this morning.

Can we now have some of that sun we were promised Mr. Weatherman?

We did have a couple of days of decent but cold weather while in Salamanca thank goodness.

Last Thursday we joined up with Jenny and John (https://jennyandjohngocaravanning.wordpress.com) and got the bus into the historic centre of Salamanca.

We were staying on the Camping Regio site (www.campingregio.com) just outside of town. The large site is behind a posh hotel of the same name and the bus stop is in the hotel car park – very convenient.

Camping Regio

The impressive entrance to the camp site.

The number 20 bus takes you right into the old part of the city and terminates close to the famous Plaza Mayor. The fare is €1.40 and you get the return bus where you got off. Hotel Regio is the end of the return route.

What a lovely city Salamanca is. Everywhere you look is fantastic architecture with towers and bells all around. University buildings, cathedrals, the public library plus the huge Plaza Mayor, there was a lovely view in every direction. It was surprisingly busy, with tourists and locals mingling in the bustling streets and squares.

Plaza Mayor

The Famous Plaza Mayor.

Click on any photo for the full size version.

Elegant Architecture

Such Elegance.

 

Taking a break in the Square

A little rest from all that walking.

On Friday morning we said our good byes to Jenny and John and continued our trek south.

We left in fog but as we drove down the A66 the fog cleared and the sky started to brighten up again. It was a public holiday so traffic was extremely light and we made decent time past Cáceres and Merida to our overnight stop at Monesterio, a small and unremarkable town just off the motorway. There is a free aire just on the edge of town which even has electric hook-up.

After a quiet night we woke to more fog which quickly cleared once we started driving.

On the edge of Seville we stopped at a huge and very smart Carrefour to stock up on food before continuing south towards Cadiz.

Now we are parked under the pine trees at Camping Pinar San José, close to Cape Trafalgar. This ACSI site has all the facilities you could wish for and now the holiday weekend is over and most of the Spanish have left, is nice and peaceful.

Storm Ana has passed, the sky is starting to get brighter, although we can hear the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean in the distance.

I think I can just see a patch of blue sky, things are starting to look up.

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“Go South”, They Said.

“It will be warmer’, they said.

“Spain is the place”, they said.

So we did! The further south we went the colder it got!

We are now in Salamanca, it is almost midday as I write this, the sun is shining but the trees are still white with frost.

Morning frost

Frosty trees and it’s almost midday.

For some time we had been contemplating heading to Spain to cut the long grey winter months short. A couple of months sun and warmth seemed so much more preferable than cold, damp cloudy skies.

We left home a week ago with a pristine clean and shiny motorhome. It had been dry for ages and Celine, our Carthago C-Line, had been washed and polished ready for our long trip.

Predictably, the day we left was wet so my spotless van was mucky before we even reached Folkestone and the tunnel. Our exit also coincided with what the weathermen call an ‘Arctic Plunge’. Weather fronts are no respecters of national borders and this Arctic Plunge wasn’t going to be stopped by the English Channel. Oh no, it marched right on down, across France and into Spain.

We usually stop at aires in France, perhaps breaking our journey with the odd day or two at favoured places. We plan to reach our night stop by early afternoon, so driving for 3-4 hours per day. It can easily take us more than a week to get towards Spain. This time, with very cold weather, we didn’t break the journey with prolonged stays anywhere.

First night, after a late PM crossing in the tunnel, we stopped at Cite Europe, right next to the tunnel terminal. Next day, south for a night at La Mailleraye-sur-Seine, then crossed the Loire at Saumur, stopping at Montreuil-Bellay for the third night. For much of the route the cointryside was covered in a think layer of overnight snow although, thank goodness, the roads were clear.

Montreuil-Bellay aire

Montreuil-Bellay aire.

After Montreuil we headed south west to Blaye, the wine town on the banks of the Gironde river.

Blaye aire

The aire at Blaye.

Blaye Aire and Gironde

The aire and the mighty River Gironde.

Blaye

Blaye.

As we arrived the sun popped out for a while and we wrapped up warm and went to explore the Citadel which overlooks the town and river.

The Citadel

The impressive and very solid Citadel.

Citadel walls

The Citadel looks over the town.

On Sunday we threw caution to the wind and splashed out on the toll road from Bordeaux to Biarritz. There are a couple of diversions off the motorway which avoid the peage but we thought the three payments of €5.40 + €1.90 were worth it for the easier and quicker drive.

We stopped at Aire de Camping-Car Gabrielle Dorziat (Camper Contact 51886) on the edge of Biarritz. With credit card access through the barrier the aire has electric hook-up plus the usual water and dump facilities. It is extremely quiet and right beside a country park, popular with local dog walkers. At €12 it is pricey for an aire but considering the facilities and where it is must be considered a fair price. At last the temperature was a little warmer and the sun once again popped out from behind the endless clouds for a few moments.

Biarritz Aire

Aire at Biarritz

Da rules

The house rules.

After a very quiet night we hit the peage again to cross into Spain. We took the N1 south from San Sebastian, joining the A1 to Vitoria-Gasteiz then the AP1 to Burgos.

The first part of the journey is through quite built up and industrial areas which, combined with the low cloud and wet roads made the drive very forgettable. We drove on into a more rural landscape which was covered in snow, fortunately the roads were clear.

Well south of Burgos the snow had gone and we pulled off the motorway for our overnight stop at Torquemada.

We last stopped there almost two years ago on our way to Portugal. There is a small aire next to an old chapel and cemetery, which means its dead quiet at night. Although the aire is just beside the road on a junction most of the passing traffic is tractors coming and going between the fields.

Torquamada

The aire at Torquamada, complete with storks nest on the chapel.

Torquamada aire

A frosty start to the day again as we left Torquemada with the sun rising in a blue sky. It looked like being a nice day at last. As we started to drive it became more and more misty until we were in a thick freezing fog. The fog lasted all the way to Salamanca and as we parked at our campsite large slabs of ice slid from the front of our mirrors. So much for the blue skies.

So, here we are, high up on the Spanish plains. The sky is blue and the sun is at last shining, although its jolly cold. Not entirely surprising as we are over 2500ft high and have been for the last couple of days. Our friends Jenny and John have just arrived from down south where they have had unbroken blue sky for weeks.

We will be heading that way in a couple of days time.

Back to the Mediterranean Sun.

On Sunday morning we left a very wet Dordogne valley and retraced our steps back to the south east. It was a fairly short drive back to the aire at Moissac which we had so enjoyed a few days before. Unfortunately this time it was damp and drizzly so we didn’t stir from the warm comfort of the van.

Monday morning was still drizzly as we set off for the Med. On the way up to the Dordogne we had driven via Toulouse but the D820 is a dreary and crowded road to the north of Toulouse with endless industrial units and retail warehouses. Once you get round the city the D813 is very ‘Micky Mouse’ with bus lanes and narrow lanes for other traffic. This time we would go across country using the D630 to Castres, then south and over the Montagne Noir range to Carcassonne and turning east on the N113 to Narbonne, then back to Gruissan.

It turned out to be a good choice of route through lovely countryside and small towns with very little traffic. It was certainly less stressful than negotiating Toulouse.

After on-off drizzle most of the way, the sun was shining by the time we stopped for supplies at Carrefour in Narbonne. Having replenished the stores we arrived to find the Aire de Quatre Vents quite busy again but found a quiet spot at the far end backing on to the marina.

The following morning, Tuesday, as other vans left there were some nice spots available so we moved and found the perfect pitch in a corner with nice views over the water, with the hazy Pyrenees in the distance. The wind had dropped, the sun was out and we were very happy bunnies. At last the weather looked settled and the forecast was good.

Our view

Our little corner.

Our cozy camp

Table, chairs, BBQ and some shade in our private corner.

Sunset over the marina

Masts at sunset, taken from our door.

We stayed put for eight days, sitting in the sun, lazy lunches in the shade of the awning, walking round the marina in the evening before lighting the BBQ and opening a beer or two before supper. I went out on my bike everyday for a bimble round the area, including a couple of longish rides.

Gruissan old village

Gruissan old village from inland on one of my cycle bimbles.

Masts, all in a row.

Masts, all in a row.

Roman remains

A Roman dig, found on one of my bike rides.

Sea salt

Not snow covered Alps or even Pyrenees. These are mountains of sea salt waiting to be cleaned, bagged and sold.

Nets, shacks and boats

Fishing nets, shacks and boats on the edge of the lagoon.

Fishing boats

Fishing boats.

After the mixed and unsettled weather of the previous three weeks this was just perfection.

All good things must come to an end and we had to start heading north and home. The weather forecasts were again looking a bit unsettled so we left lovely Gruissan a day earlier than planned and drove up the excellent A75 and up onto the high hills of the Massif Central.

Our overnight stop was at the lovely small town of Le Malzieu-Ville, just a short way off the motorway.

We stopped there once before and thought it was a delightful spot with its beautifully restored walled old town. The free aire has room for about 7-8 motorhomes but there is lots of parking space either side. Water and dump facilities are also free and although the aire is just on the roadside it is very quiet and peaceful.

(GPS 44.85509º  3.33353º Beware of sat-nav trying to take you down a very narrow turning to the aire, take the previous right turn while in the one-way system. Watch the video in the link below.)

https://youtu.be/uxTYcuZa_Ec

Towers

Towers.

 

Imposing door

An imposing door.

Door knocker

Interesting door and knocker.

Fountain of truth?

Children drinking at a fountain.

As we were at about 3,000ft it was a chilly morning so the heating was deployed while we had breakfast but we were rewarded by a hot air balloon taking off close by and drifting right over us. A lovely sight in the cool clear air.

Hot air balloon

Early morning balloon.

We continued north on the A75 to Clermont-Ferrand then on to the D2009 to Moulins, N7 then D2076 through our usual stop at Sancoins and on to Dun-sur-Auron, just south east of Bourges.

I had circled Dun on the map ages ago as someone had recommended it so we really should go and have a look. As we drove through the town it looked very nice and we found the aire between the old Canal du Berry and the old fortified town walls. However, there was construction work going on and one ore two slightly unsavoury looking characters hanging about in cars plus the road was quite busy. We stopped for some lunch then drove back down the D2076 to Sancoins with its peaceful and free aire where we have stopped so many times before.

We enjoyed a lovely afternoon in the sun but the forecast for the next day wasn’t too hopeful so next day we were back on the road and the long drive to La Mailleraye-sur-Seine where we stopped for three nights.

After our three peaceful nights beside the Seine we returned to Cite Europe for our last night. We stocked up with some wine and beer plus a few other goodies at Carrefour then had a meal in one of the restaurants.

Wednesday morning was breezy and chilly as we went round to Eurotunnel and our crossing home. It seemed even colder when we arrived home, the central heating was quickly turned on and we changed out of shorts and tee shirts into something much thicker and warmer……..we were well and truly home.

Total distance driven was 2334 miles at an average fuel consumption of 25.9mpg.

The Dordogne and Domaine de Soleil Plage.

The Carthago Owners UK ‘gathering’ was being held at a site right beside the River Dordogne , near Sarlat.

Carthago Owners UK say they are not a ‘club’ but a group of ‘like minded owners’. Also, they don’t hold ‘rallies’ in the same way that many clubs do but have ‘gatherings’, the thought of everyone carrying their chairs across the site to sit around the ‘flag’ while various incantations are mumbled by the leader is not quite their thing. It is far more likely that those incantations are shouted across the busy bar while ordering the G&T’s when everyone meets in the evening.

Anyway, we navigated our way up into the maze of twisty roads that leads into the valley of the Dordogne, through village streets and as we reached the river the roads turned into lanes winding along between cliffs and river. Our Garmin decided to take us right past the lane leading to the site and along an ever narrowing lane with sheer rock cliffs on one side and a stone wall on the other, through blind bends and into narrow village streets. Having got through that lot the bonkers Mrs. Garmin told us to turn around and go back…..aaaaagh!!!

After squeezing back through and meeting a large delivery van on the narrowest corner we eventually arrived, unscathed, at Domaine de Soleil Plage.

Steps to reception

Imposing entrance to reception

It was a very smart looking site with a quite imposing entrance up a flight of steps to the reception area. There we were given a friendly welcome from a staff member, our pitch number and code for the entrance/exit barriers and a thick wad of info about the site and the local area.

Pitches were a reasonable size with trees above and high hedges each side for privacy. All very well in the middle of a hot August but dark and gloomy in a cool and damp September. We much prefer to have open outlook and nice views from our pitch. At least there was 16a electric plus a water tap by the pitch.

There were 40 Carthago’s there, which meant about 80 people who we had never met but some I had chatted to on-line through Facebook.

There was nothing organised for Wednesday or Thursday but everyone met on the terrace by the bar in the evening where there was lots of chat and we started to meet a few other owners. I must say they were a very sociable bunch and easy to get to know even for newcomers like us.

Evening drinks on the terrace

Evening drinks and chat on the terrace

On Friday two coaches waited to take us on a trip out for the day. We drove a short distance along the river to the lovely village of Beynac where we were taken for a cruise along the river in a traditional Gabarre, the flat bottomed working boat of the area. It was a gentle and slow cruise upstream against the current with the boatman giving a most interesting commentary on the history of the area and the river, before turning and drifting back to where we started. A blue heron took no notice of us as we drifted close to his perch on a branch, more interested in looking for his lunch. For once we were lucky with the weather as the sun lit up the lovely honey coloured stone of the buildings.

Beynac

Beynac from the river

Beynac from the gabarre

 

After landing and a short walk round the village we had a terrific lunch in a restaurant beside the river while the heavens opened and soaked those who followed us onto the boats.

We returned to the coaches for a very quick visit to Domme, another very attractive and rather ‘touristy’ village before heading back to the site and getting ready for an organised dinner in the evening.

After another dinner on Saturday night we left the Dordogne on Sunday in yet more rain and set the sat nav to take us back to the only consistently sunny part of France, which meant going back to the south east corner.

Montfort

Montfort

Chateau at Montfort

Chateau at Montfort

Fossiles R us

Could that second word possibly be describing us?

What happened to the weather this year?

For several years now we have come to France in September but have never had weather as bad as this years.

It seems that we arrive somewhere to nice warm sun but within a day or two it gets cold, windy and wet.

We had a pleasant three days at La Mailleraye but the forecast looked poor so we went south to Sancoins. A pleasant couple of days there and it looked dodgy again so another big hop south to Lac de Pareloup. We arrived to nice warm sun but after two days the cloud took over and so we consulted Meteo France again. The only part of the country with good sun appeared to be the far south east between the Spanish border and Montpellier. So, back to the A75 and out of the high hills and down to the coastal plain to Narbonne. After stocking up on fuel and food we returned to another favourite aire at Gruissan.

We arrived at the marina to find the aire very busy but for the first time on this trip it was really warm, around 30ºC……….lovely.

Evening boules game

The evening game of boules on the aire

It had to be too good to be true. The beautiful weather just had to change and the following day was drizzly and grey again. Things improved for Sunday and Monday when the sun came out to play again but, as often happens at Gruissan, the wind howled and whistled through the rigging of the yachts moored behind us.

Out for an evening stroll around the marina we ran into David and Ann who we had met here last year. The following day I joined them for an excellent bike ride to Narbonne Plage and back along the foot of the Montagne de la Clape.

We also again met a couple, plus Jack the dog, who had been following exactly the same route as us from northern France.

When at La Mailleraye I noticed a Brit van on the aire with a distinctive reg. plate. En-route to Sancoins we passed the same van parked in a layby. I had the daft thought that they might also be going to Sancoins but as it was miles north it must have been almost one in a million chance. Blow me if I didn’t see the same MoHo just about to leave Sancoins aire the next morning – I just had to go and have a chat. It turned out that they are readers of this blog and were following my recommendations. They were heading to Gruissan via Lac du Pareloup, just the same route as us as it turned out.

They seem to have enjoyed all the aires so that’s another ‘brownie point’ for the blog and another reason to keep it going.

We only had a few days at Gruissan because we had booked a place at a Carthago Owners UK gathering in the Dordogne. On Tuesday 12th September we headed west to Toulouse then NW to Moissac in Tarn-et-Garronne for an overnight stop.

Moissac aire

Moissac now has a brand new and very nice aire set between the Tarn river and the Canal Lateral a la Garonne. The aire, Aire de Camping-Car Les Berges du Tarn, (GPS 44.09792º 1.09280º) has barrier entry and exit and costs €8 per night, paid by credit card.

Instructions

Instructions in French and English – very welcome.

There are marked out double bays, separated by shrubs, electric hookup plus the usual water fill, waste and toilet dump and rubbish bins. There is loads of space to manoeuvre and the area is very quiet. There is even a picnic/BBQ area beside the entrance.

A few steps from the entrance and you are on the bank of the Tarn, go through the small gate at the back of the aire and you are beside the canal. Although I didn’t try them I understand there are excellent cycle routes from the aire.

We did though, go through the back gate and stroll beside the canal and into town. It is a lovely town, narrow streets, wide open squares and the delightful ancient abbey church of St Pierre (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moissac_Abbey). We entered the church to find a small group of white clad nuns singing what I presumed to be Matins. The enormous entrance to the porch has spectacular carving depicting scenes from the bible.

Abbey Church of St. Pierre

The Abbey Church of St Pierre

Entrance carving

The magnificent carved entrance.

The old town

Lovely townscape.

Narrow streets

Narrow streets.

 

On the Road Again.

Here we are in France again. It is September and already the leaves on the trees are starting to change colour and drop. Where did summer go?

Following my last blog entry we haven’t been entirely static.

After arriving back from France in early July and spending a few days at home we went to Gloucestershire for the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford. Like the last couple of years we stayed on the C&MC rally field just outside the airfield. We drove down on the Tuesday before the show and stayed until the following Tuesday. Plenty of time to see the arrivals and departures as well as all of the flying, most of it right over our heads. Highlights for me were seeing some American aircraft I hadn’t seen before, including the U2 spy plane, the B1 (Bone) bomber and the star was the B2 Stealth Bomber. The B2 flew across the Atlantic from its base in Missouri, flew through, turned and flew past again, then returned to its American base. It really did look like something out of Star Wars. Incredible!

B2 Stealth bomber

The eerie sight of the B2 Stealth Bomber. Like something from another world.

BBMF

The BBMF. Music in the sky from seven Merlins and a Griffon.

Reds and Thunderbirds

The Reds escort their American guests, the Thunderbirds.

We had a very pleasant week of jet noise, had some visits from old Vulcan friends and the weather played ball most of the time too.

Back home from RIAT and there was a list of jobs to do around house and garden. One job I may live to regret was improving the lawn. The grass on our lawn has always been poor and it easily gets infested with weeds and moss. The advantage has been that we can go away for several weeks at a time and the grass hardly grows. A quick whizz round with the mower has the lawn looking neat and tidy again. Over the last year or two we had accumulated a large amount of garden compost and soil so I thought it would do the lawn good to spread a few barrow loads over and brush it into the grass. A few days of manual weeding and spreading compost resulted in the grass looking darker and healthier than it ever has. I think I might regret that decision when we return home to waist high grass after this trip.

Celine the motorhome went into a local company to have VB full air suspension fitted while we were home. We got fed up with crashing and banging along British roads and felt that the interior would eventually be shaken apart. A combination of hard commercial tyres and springs, plus pot holed roads, is not good for comfort.

After just over three weeks at home we got itchy feet again so took a short trip up to Lincolnshire and a few nights at Jasmin Camping (https://jasmincamping.com), just outside Sutton by Sea. The site is owned by Jim Brown who runs Motorhome Fun, the web forum and club. It’s a small CL type of site and is right next door to the C&MC Club site but at half the price per night. While there we managed to get a couple of days at RAF Coningsby for another dose of jet noise.

Jasmin Camping

Jasmin Camping.

Another few days at home and with our list of jobs complete we once again headed down the A12, this time with a more subdued and comfortable ride, and the Channel Tunnel for our late afternoon crossing to France.

The aire at Cite Europe was much busier than usual, there must have been 30 vans parked up.

We bought a few essentials from Carrefour, filled with fuel and after a quiet night headed south to our usual stop at La Mailleraye-sur-Seine.

As it was the end of August we expected the aire to be quite busy but even over the weekend it was only half full. I wonder if the new credit card barrier is putting people off?

The Seine

The Seine

After three nights on the Seine and the weather forecast looking a bit ‘iffy’ we headed south again and another favourite place in the centre of France. The free aire at Sancoins is always busy but there is plenty of room and most people seem to just use it for a night stopover. It is quiet and peaceful with pleasant walks beside the disused Canal du Berry or into the town. We usually stop for a few days as it’s the sort of aire where you can get the chairs and awning out and enjoy the sun beside the water.

Sancoins aire

Sancoins Aire

We arrived to find it very busy and were a little concerned to find a family of itinerants, complete with roaming dogs and children, had set up a long term camp with motorhome, van and car. Although we stayed two nights the place didn’t seem so relaxed and easy going as usual, likely due to our prejudices. Whatever the reason, we were aware of being more vigilant than we usually would be so didn’t feel as comfortable.

It seemed that unsettled weather was covering most of France after the very hot spell that had lasted several weeks. South seemed a better bet so on Tuesday we once more hit the road for the 400km drive south to Lac de Pareloup.

After driving across country to Clermont-Ferrand we joined the fabulous A75 motorway south, stopping for a lunch break at a rest area overlooking one of Monsieur Eiffel’s lesser known erections, the Viaduc de Garabit. Perhaps not so perky and erect as his better known one.

Viaduc de Garabit

Viaduc de Garabit

We arrived at the lake in brilliant sunshine. Hooray!

Evening sun by the lake

Evening sunshine by the lake

Over the Hills and Far Away.

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.

Devils Bridge

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.

 

Pont Diable

Pont du Diable (Devils Bridge) from the viewpoint.

 

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.

Sunny pitch

Our sunny pitch

Lunchtime snifter

Lunchtime refreshment

Sunset

Sunset over the lake

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.

Abbey Sainte-Marie

Abbey Sainte-Marie

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.

Camping de Sologne across the lake

Camping de Sologne from across the lake

 

River Sauldre at Salbris

River Sauldre at Salbris

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.

The Seine

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.