La Rochelle

A few wonderful days in La Rochelle. We stayed in the Port Neuf area, which is to the west of the town. We found a cracking site for about 10€ a day including electrical hookup. We got set up and got the bikes out. The first evening was punctuated by the sounds of rugby – the stadium was nearby and there was a big game on!

Day one we mooched around, we did a circuit of the harbour – no mean feat, it’s about 20 km in all. Looking across the harbour, there is a massive sea of masts, there must be a thousand boats at least. Day two we we visited the Maritime museum, the famous towers, the aquarium and a few other things too. It was clear that two days does not allow enough time to do justice to the wonderful town so it became a four day mini adventure in all. 

The maritime museum has a meteorological research ship, a trawler and a tugboat to look around plus a whole bunch of land based artefacts celebrating La Rochelle and her most famous maritime sons and daughters.

We expected the aquarium to be a bit of a tourist trap but ended up spending a few hours looking a various denizens of the deep. They have a couple of grey sharks and one highlight was walking on a rope bridge over a tank of piranha.

Over the few days we also fitted in the F1 Grand Prix. We worked our way around a french launderette (losing 4€ in the process) and we even had a meal in a restaurant: Moules frites for T and a burger for S. When we planned the big adventure we agreed that restaurant meals are a treat and not the norm!

One trip that T dad recommended was a boat trip to Ile de Ré. The boat will take bikes, but the timings in late September didn’t really work for us and it was pretty expensive, so that’s our next stop – rather than visiting by boat we’ll visit via mothership!

Coulon

The area around Coulon has has the nickname of ‘Green Venice’. There are hundreds of km of canals originally dug to help drain and farm marshland. It’s possible to rent canoes, kayaks, punts, and electric boats, but we opted to splash out €1.50 on a ‘Carte Velo’ and cycle around the area. Selina was game and did 50km having not been on a bicycle for 40 years.

Next stop is La Rochelle – we do like to be beside the seaside!

Niort

We left St Amand Magnazeix about midday as we spent about two hours working with the layout of the bikes on the rack (yes, it’s a tough life) – but we do now have a rear view from the camera – thanks to Toby’s dad!

Our first bit of péage as the section of the A10 from Poitiers to Niort cost 14€. Normally we will avoid toll roads, but today it suited us to get to Niort and get sorted.

A quick trip to the Tourist Information Office and we know what the town has to offer. An uneventful evening, Selina made some headway in the ‘European Scrabble Challenge’. Scottish smoked salmon in the van and the Gendarmerie came by at 9:15 in the morning collecting the site fees.

Wandering around plus visits to museums and churches the following day and a huge omelette in the van for dinner. Friday we head over in the direction of La Rochelle taking in ‘Green Venice’ on the way.

A week in St Amand Magnazeix

A great chance to catch up with Toby’s dad and unwind. Not that we had anything to unwind from, but it was great to be chilled out for a week. We took the Kayak on the lake, we cycled about 80km during the week and we even got a drone shot of the Mothership. We also reminded ourselves that we are rubbish at ten pin bowling!

Limousin is very brown at the moment – the area has been very short of rain this year. Just a couple of pictures to show of the week. We went out for a few meals: of special mention, the Restaurant Le viaduc at Busseau-Sur-Creuse: www.restaurant-leviaduc.com We had a wonderful meal and an awesome view of the 1863 built viaduct.

Parthenay

Parthenay is close to Poitiers and on the banks of the Thouet. The aire for the night was ten euros which included electrical hookup and toilet. Like many aires, this one is associated with a nice campsite. You can stay in the campsite proper and use all the facilities, showers, swimming pool, etc and pay twenty euros, or stay in a simple spot and get access to none of the facilities for considerably less. In the morning they provided us a code to get into the campsite to use the motor-home servicing point and then we were on our way. Aside from enjoying the wonderful view of the Thouet and the lake, we didn’t get to see Parthenay! — in Parthenay.

Parthenay – scrabble and nibbles by the lake.

Oudon, Loire Valley

A one night stopover in Oudon, Loire valley. A small town that happens to be about a third of the way to Limoges and on the banks of the Loire. We had a nice stroll along the river and a great pasta dinner in the van. The aire de camping-cars here was free, very spacious and although it didn’t have any facilities, it was fine for us.

We’ve gone!

We have been very relaxed about exactly when we would leave. It doesn’t make too much difference to us exactly where we are and when, so there was no pressing schedule.

We heard about some issues at the St Malo terminal for travellers coming to the UK, but that doesn’t really affect people coming out of the UK. So St Malo it was. We’ll worry about getting back later – much later hopefully!

Brittany Ferries don’t inflate the prices much as it gets close to departure date (at least not for the 7.5M mothership), so we booked the day before travel.

A relaxed trip down to Portsmouth, topping up the LPG and diesel on the way and we were amongst the first onto the ship.

The St Malo overnight crossing from Portsmouth means a lot to us – all the times we have been to France over the last few years, we have always tried to book the same ship, Bretagne. It has a wonderful restaurant, Les Abers, and it has always set our trips off to a fine start. The Grand Marnier souffle is bloody fantastic.

This time being among the first on the ship meant that we were first into the restaurant too and were greeted with a sunset over Portsmouth while enjoying a wonderful meal.

Saturday AM and a fantastic sunrise over St Malo & we were among the first off the Boat. The only buttock clenching moment of the day was when the border force in France directed us into a lane that was narrow and low – just 20 cm to spare on the height and probably 10 cm on either side too, including pulling the mirrors in, but it was fine in the end!

Then a drive down to Oudon by the Loire to a free ‘Aire de Service Camping Car’. Yes, free as in beer and speech.

At the moment, we are on a schedule to be in Bessines near Limoge on Monday and then we will relax for a week or so.

Rewind Festival

Rewind was great, three vans rendezvoused close by to Henley and convoyed into the festival. Mothership provided breakfasts, cold drinks and phone charging for the weekend. Charlie was with us, so it gave us a chance to check that the jump seat works ok. This ended up an expensive option for the baby Alpa when we specified it, but carrying passengers was always a must have option for us. 
The inverter and the new solar controller are working great, our voltage on leaving the festival was higher than our arrival, which is looking good for crossing the channel in the next week or so.

Prewind

This is ‘Prewind’ – the few days build up of excitement before Rewind, the 80’s festival. This week our wonderful Dethleffs dealers, Pullingers, sorted all our outstanding niggles, so we are happy campers.

So we now have a 2KVA Inverter fitted and the laptop runs just fine – very low current draw through the inverter. It also means we can run the silly things that you end up needing, an iron, hair clippers, coffee machine etc!

Also the solar panels are now pumping out 15 amps in bright sunlight – thanks to a new solar controller. Thanks to Barrie and the team, we are all set for off grid adventures! (https://pullingers.co.uk/).

While Pullingers sorted the inverter and solar panels we took a quick visit to the Colne Valley Railway who had steam running. They only have a mile of track, but it’s a great couple of hours. http://www.colnevalleyrailway.co.uk/

Travel Map

Just in case you do want to know where we are, here is a link to a handy map that shows roughly where we are and where we’ve been:https://www.turbotas.co.uk/webapps/Locator/map.php

This is pretty rough and ready at the moment, but we might improve if it’s useful! You can’t really use this to steal the beast because it only shows locations that we decide to publish. We built this by reverse engineering the anti theft/tracking device data. 

It’ll be interesting to see how accurate this is as we head overseas. We don’t want to tell you what brand of device is fitted as they were spectacularly unhelpful and would not even give us a manual for the dealer fitted option.  The only interaction we have had is a bill for the tracking and a phone number if the vehicle is stolen – that’s it basically!

Feel free to post a comment if you think it’s great/awful or with feature suggestions!