Saturday, 17 November 2018

Saint Valery to Villandry

Tuesday 13th November 2018  🌞🌞🌞⛅⛅⛆☂⛅⛅
Mileage about 80 from Park and Ride Aire near Canterbury to the Municipal Aire at Saint Valery sur Somme.
Parking Co-ordinates 50.18277, 1.62887

Well!!!  Yesterday evening it's a wonder we didn't get washed away - just after we arrived in the Canterbury Aire rain of Monsoon quality started to hammer down on our roof and it made such a racket that it was completley impossible to converse, and the parking area soon became ankle deep in water that the leaf filled drains couldn't cope with!!  However, this morning dawned with more sunshine and we were up bright and early to be on our way to Dover Port to catch our ferry over to Calais - but that happened a bit earlier than we expected.  We arrived at the port at about 9.30, so rather than us having to wait for our planned 11.10 ferry they loaded us onto the nearly empty one that left at 10.15, but that was good because it more or less made up for the hour we were going to loose due to  the time difference between France and England.

As planned, once on board we indulged in a full English, and as we had a window seat in the dinning room we consumed it while watching the White Cliffs of Dover receding into the distance.  Then as we got further out to sea the boat dipped and swayed a bit more than we'd anticipated, and quite a few folk were staggering as they strolled, but the swell certainly couldn't have been described as rough and as we were only on board for just under 2 hours it didn't cause us any problems.

Once back on dry land we quickly left the high fences and razor wire of Calais behind and motored on through vast swaths of agricultural land towards our first destination which was to be the Municipal Aire at Saint Valery Sur Somme.  The site is surrounded by autumnal trees and could hold over 100 vans, but at the mo there are just a handful, and at just 12 euros per night and because it's within easy walking distance of the town it suited us just fine.

We quickly decided to stay put for a couple of nights, and have just a short walk into the town today and to stray a bit further afield tomorrow.  So after our cuppa we toddled down through the town which lies right on the River Somme and strolled along the water front prom to the confluence where the Somme pours into the English Channel.

Wednesday 14th November 2018  🌞🌞⛅☁☁⛅⛅🌞🌞
23 🚴🚴 miles today

Today we set off to cycle along some of the immaculate track that runs beside the River Somme - I'm not sure how far it goes but the river is 152 miles long but we were only going to follow it for a little under 12 miles to the town of Abbeville.  To access the trail we nipped back down into Saint Valery and the start of our ride took us past the narrow gauge railway that in summer runs along this part of the coast.   And it was here that we learnt that this town is twinned with the town of Battle near Hastings - apparently the connection is related to the Norman victory over the English Army on October 12th 1066 and images of parts of the Bayeux Tapestry appear on the info boards (which we visited way back in April 2016)!

Once we left the precincts of the town we very quickly appreciated the name of the 'Somme' - it comes from a Celtic word meaning 'tranquillity', and that is certainly what we found as we peddled along it's banks! 

Other than occasional quacking ducks and honking geese, and calls from cormorants and herons there was very little to disturb the peace, so it was very easy to appreciate the 'tranquillity' of the area. However, at times, when the sun ducked behind a cloud, it was a bit chilly but we managed to make the most of our outing by partaking of both a coffee break and our lunch before we retreated back to T4rdis2 for a lazy afternoon of reading and planning for our on going journey. 

Thursday 15th November 2018  🌞🌞⛅☁☁⛅⛅🌞🌞
Mileage 91 from Saint Valery to Etretat
Parking Co-ordinates 49.70016, 0.21583

As we travel through France and Spain we plan to more or less follow a similar route to the one that we took last year - we're going to mostly avoid the toll roads, and also park on Aires that we're already familiar with - thus allowing us to know what to expect.  And as Etretat is such a beautiful place it was no hardship to revisit! 

The town lies on the north coast of France, and probably it's biggest claims to fame are the striking rock formations that are carved out of the white cliffs.  These include the Porte d'Aval arch and L'Aiguille which is a needle like structure that rises up from the sea.  Last year when we visited we climbed the cliff path to the South of the town and clambered over the track above the arch, so today we decided we'd go in the opposite direction and climb the steep track up to the Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde.

The way up to Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde

Sadly we couldn't go in!

Climbing the many many steps up

The Cliffs to the South of the town

Etretat's history also tells how between 1944 and 1946 it became the Pall Mall Camp - it was the transit camp for American troops on their way to Germany and then on their way back home.  Apparently one and a half million soldiers went through Etretat during that period. 

Friday 16th November 2018  🌁🌁🌁⛅⛅🌁🌁🌁
Mileage a whopping 227 from Etretat to Villandry.
Parking Co-ordinates 47.33935, 0.50732

Well, I think ALL I can say about today was that it was a bloody long way!!  Unfortunately, the sunshine has deserted us and taken a couple of days off so all we got  was 'orrible mist and murk, and additionally, I think Mrs Snoopy led us through every small village that she could find along the way.  This resulted in our 227 mile journey taking about seven and half hours (but that did include a couple of quick stops for lunch and shopping) and us arriving at the Villandry Aire in the  dark (which is something we hardly ever do)!  It's also hard for me to think of anything of interest to tell you about our trip, other than maybe our drive on part of the Le Mann's 24 hour circuit!!

John didn't take a wrong turn - this section of road is just included when races take place!
We were  very glad when today's ride was  over, and maybe there is something to be said for the much quicker toll roads after all!!

Saturday 17th November 2018  🌁☁☁☁☁ and cold!
Only about 6 👣👣 miles today.

Villandry is another place we've been before, and our initial intention was just to overnight here.  However, France's motorists are up in arms about the escalating fuel prices and a mass protest was planned for today, thus making further travel for us risky in case we met any of the barricades from the Gillet Jaune (yellow high vis vests).

The map above shows where the protests were scheduled to take place so it would have seemed quite likely that we would have encountered several on our way, and as the next leg of our journey was another 240 miles we couldn't really risk any delays.  Therefore we opted to stay put in the safe confines of Villandry's Aire and continue our travels on Sunday. 

The protest is about the general increase in diesel prices over the last 12 months (22%) which has incorporated a Hydrocarbon tax which has been set by French Government, and to add insult to injury another large hike is expected in January next year. 

The BBC news pages reported :-

One protester has died and dozens were injured as almost a quarter of a million people took to the streets of France angry, at rising fuel prices.
The female protester who died was struck after a driver surrounded by demonstrators panicked and accelerated.  (it seems the protesters were banging on her car roof as she tried to take her daughter to hospital)
The "yellow vests", so-called after the high-visibility jackets they are required to carry in their cars, blocked motorways and roundabouts.
They accuse President Emmanuel Macron of abandoning "the little people".

And we also read about dozens of other people suffering injures, and that protesters approaching the Elysee Palace in Paris (which is the French Presidents official residence) were repelled with tear gas!

Therefore, I think our decision to stay put was the right one - and because we did, we enjoyed another 'tranquil' stroll along the River Cher.  Tomorrow we're going to move on, hopefully to Rocamadour but as snow is threatened our plans may change!!

Bye for now 😙😙