Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Hello Again ...

Hello again, well we're back in the land of the internet now so I will try and catch up with the last week and what we've been doing!

Thursday 12th November 2014

We left our campsite at Camping Village du Lac near Bordeaux and headed for the nearest supermarket which happened to be a L’Eclerc - and it was massive, resulting in the shopping taking a very l………….ong time.  The choice of goods was huge and finding things was difficult, and to add insult to injury, the fruit and veggies were well past their best - certainly not the best shopping experience we've had since being in France!  

From there we toddled on our way looking for a place to stop for lunch.  John had picked out an Aire at St. Estephe which overlooked the Gironde estuary/river

- and it seemed as if fishing was probably their main industry - there were lots of little fishing huts with cranes lining the banks, although we didn't see anybody selling their catch so we had to make do with the last of our tomato soup instead with lots of crusty bread. 

Then we were soon back on the road and heading through wine country proper.  Apparently, there are 1000 square kilometres of vines around Bordeaux, we drove for miles and all we could see were vines with the odd châteaux  (5000 of the in the region) thrown in.  But these were not the mightily palatial affairs, rather they were properties where grapes are raised, picked, fermented and matured into wines, and some of them accept visitors for tasting. However, as John was driving and wouldn't have been able to participate, we didn’t stop.  

Our journey in total was about 150 kilometres which resulted in us arriving at our next Aire  - Grayan Et L’hopital - in the early afternoon.   It is located right outside the municipal camping ground but that was closed - so we parked up on a strip of land at the side of the road, but it was very quite because the road ended a couple of hundred yards further on at  the mighty Atlantic Ocean, and although we can’t see it from where we are parked, we (or at least I) could hear it!

Once we had settled in and had our obligatory cup of tea we walked down to the beach and in the sunshine, it was something special to behold.  The sand was fine, pale and powdery and the waves were crashing up the beach with the incoming tide.  We also found these old World War 2 bunkers that the sea is trying very hard to clam - but it would seem that the graffiti artists have staked their claim first.  Some of it was very artistic!.

We returned to the T4rdis just before the light had completely faded for an early tea - we try to cook while there is still a bit of day-light when we’re not connected to electricity because having too much stuff switched on in the van saps our battery if we’re not careful, and then, to preserve more electricity, we had an early night ready for another cycle ride tomorrow.

Friday 13th November 2015

Tongue and mustard in case your wondering!
Today dawned a bit grey and overcast but we wern’t deterred.  We had a quick breakfast of croissants, and then I set too and packed our picnic lunch - mind you, I am a bit fed up of religious bread - I cut into a new loaf and found it to be holy! - I had to patch it with lettuce!

After that the bikes were soon dismounted from the back of the van and we set off on the cycle path which was just outside our front door. We headed for La Pointe de Grave, a heel of land that sticks out between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gironde estuary. 

The trail was completely off road, and most of it was much  like a mini highway in it’s own right, with white lines to divide the lanes and road signs to inform us of junctions etc.  

Also, in places it was as straight as a die and almost entirely flat - it was lovely really, because we could cycle side by side without having to worry about traffic - and for the whole ride we only passed one other person (about 44 kms).  We had our coffee break in this little outlook post -  

and then our lunch on the point itself, and the only down side was, that for quite a bit of the way, the ocean was hidden by forest or sand dunes, but the sound of it kept us company all the time. However, sadly the weather wasn’t up to the standard of the last few days, and we did get a bit wet on the way back, but by the time we arrived at the T4rdis we had mostly dried out.  Then it was another early tea (steak, jacket potatoes and salad) and probably another early night so that we can be up and ready to move on a bit further in the morning.

Saturday 14th November 2015

We left our Aire at Grayan Et L’hopital knowing we would need water before parking up for the next night.  We headed to an Aire near Carcans beach (another Atlantic Ocean Beach) but this proved to be closed, however we weren't to put out because it was a long way from the sea so it wasn't really a very good spot for us anyway. 

From there we headed to Maubuisson and it’s beautiful lake, we paused there for coffee and a little walk, and then continued on towards a town called Le Porge where there was a supermarket with  alleged free water from it’s Aire de Service.  However, a sign informed us that water wasn't free, it would cost '2 pieces of 1 euro' - therefore I duly inserted said pieces, turned on the tap - and nothing, not even a drip!  Very annoying.

At this stage we consulted our trusty Aires Bible again and discovered that there was another Aire a bit further up the road at Claouey where the water should be free.  We pointed the T4rdis in that direction and Mrs Snoopy soon had us there - and yes, we turned on the tap and the water gushed out and our tank was soon full.

We stayed put for lunch and then continued on along very straight and forested roads until we reached Parc Naturel Marin du Bassin D’Arcachon where we knew there was another little Aire almost on the water’s edge at Taussat.  

It took a while but eventually we found the Aire, but it was tiny, had no services and it was also a bit crowded and tatty. Additionally, the cycle paths in the area where well past their best, and despite the site being identified as a bird haven we could only spot an odd heron. However, to be fair, we didn’t really see the area in it’s best light; when we went for a short walk in the evening the tide was right out and the area smelt quite fishy, so although we'd planned to stay for a couple of days we changed our minds and decided to push on again in the next morning.

Sunday 15th November 2015

This morning dawned bright and sunny again so it was perfect for our next port of call - Europe's largest sand dune.  It’s called Dune du Pilat and it is located just below Pyla-sur-Mer (near Arcachon)  

This colossal ‘sand castle’ stretches from the mouth of the Bassin d’Arcachon southwards for almost 3km, and apparently, it's still growing - eastwards by 4.5 metres per year (even though there are numerous people taking shoe fulls of sand away with them).  It also has the dubious notoriety of having swallowed whole trees, a road junction and even a hotel in the recent past!

We parked the T4rdis and walked back to the dune and commenced our climb to the top, but it was really hard going - remember how hard it is to walk through deep dry sand on any beach, then add a 30 degree angle!  For every step up that we took we slid at least half a step back down, but we did eventually achieve our goal and it was well worth all the effort.

The dune is absolutely immense and rises approximately 114 metres above sea level - and the view from the top is breathtaking - and impossible to do justice to with photos, but we did try.

All to soon it was time to start our downward trek - and this time it was much easier - for every step down you slid at least an equal distance forward, and by the time we got to the bottom our shoes were so full of sand there was hardly room for our feet.

After our adventure we returned to the T4rdis for lunch, and then continued on to our next Aire for the night. This time we parked beside another lake near the town of Saint-Eulalie-en-Born

along with about a dozen other vans, and it's another lovely spot so we think we'll be staying for at least 2 nights. And happily, it is another place where there are lots more excellent cycle paths so tomorrow our plan will be to cycle from the Aire back to the sea - therefore fingers crossed that the weather will continue to be as glorious as today.

Monday 15th November 2015

Well we mostly got our wish, and although the day dawned a bit dull, by the time we'd eaten our breakfast the sun was beginning to peep through the cloud, and as the day passed the weather improved until we had clear blue sky's by early afternoon.  We've really been extremely lucky so far because we've seen the sun on most days.

We left the T4rdis and were straight onto a cycle trail EV1 which wound it’s way through the little village of Saint-Eulalie-en-Born and then into a forested area by another lake. After that we found ourselves cycling through Mimizan-Palge, and it was here that we caught glimpses of the Atlantic Ocean, but we didn’t pause because there was no proper way down onto the beach with our bikes.  We continued to follow the trail through more forest and it eventually  lead us to Plage de L’Especier - a large concreted area that overlooked the beach and the sea - perfect - another truly lovely picnic spot.
We relaxed for about an hour and then returned the way we had come - covering about 60kms in all, so by the time we arrived back at the T4rdis we were well and truly ready for a cuppa and a bicci.

Tuesday 16th November 2015

Another moving day, this time inland and across to the Mediterranean, but not all in one day. Our goal today was to cover about 200km, and John had identified a little Aire at Sarrant as our resting point for tonight.  

We set off at about 10.30, and initially our drive took us through more flat lands and forest - mile after mile of very straight and mostly empty roads.  However, eventually we noticed the terrain changing, it became much more rural and with lots of signs of agriculture - huge ploughed fields and more vines, the grapes from which are apparently used to make cognac!  This was supported by our fairly frequent sightings of distilleries rather than chateaux (although there were still a few), and the other thing that was very well advertised was Foie Gras - a pate made from duck livers.  We haven’t indulged in either yet but we might be tempted with the former the next time we go shopping, however I don't think we'll be bothering with the later because we know how it is made!

We eventually arrived at Sarrant, and it really is well out in the sticks.  It turned out to be just a sloping car park area with nothing around it, and again we are all alone.  However, as the area is very rural, and as the village is just around the corner it feels quite safe and will certainly do for just an overnight stop.

Wednesday 17th November 2015

We left our lonely spot by about 10.30 knowing we needed to do shopping, and that we had about 235 kms to cover. We set Mrs Snoopy to find the nearest Lidl which she did with the greatest of ease - a mere 20 kms down the road, so our cupboards are bulging once again.

After that we reset Snooper to find the campsite we were aiming for - Camping de la Cascade at St Rome de Tarn in the Midi Pyrenees near Millau. And maybe it was our fault that we went in a very round about way because we'd set Mrs Snooper to avoid toll roads. Therefore, she took us by the very scenic route - literally up hill and down dale, around hairpin bends and through some very VERY narrow village streets. At one point John noticed a sign saying only 2.5 metres wide, and as we're 2.3 we had to ask the T4rdis to breath in quite sharply! We made it through and as we came down the hill from Montjaux on the D993 a view opened up that took our breath away. There it was in all it's glory, displayed in bright sunshine - The Millau Viaduct

The cable stayed bridge that spans the valley of the River Tarn near Millau was designed by the French engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Forster. It's the tallest bridge in the world with one of the mast summits reaching 343 metres above the base of the structure. It is also apparently the 15th highest bridge deck in the world - measuring 270 metres between the road and the ground below, and it is consistently ranked as one of the greatest engineering achievements of all time.

We plan to visit the bridge and investigate the area properly tomorrow, but for tonight we continued onto our campsite, which proved to be steeply terraced, and right on the side of the Tarn. Our pitch turned out to be right at the bottom of the site, and although the T4rdis made it down quite easily, we thought longer vans may have struggled!

Anyway, that's it for now so goodnight to you all xx

Click here to see our camping spots in France