Week 10 2nd to 8th November
Chasing the sun
Having left CH early on the Monday morning we were heading to Chartres a town to the west of Paris where Ellie had wanted to see some geometrically designed stained glass windows at the cathedral. Seeing that there was nowhere that close to park over night we decided we would do a flying visit and just park in a regular parking bay and stay for the maximum 3 hours. The cathedral and the windows were impressive but as was often the way we arrived in the town during the closed season (September-April), the day when most things are closed in France (a Monday) and for the few business that were still open… the closed part of the day (12-3pm) so it was rather like walking around a ghost town.
So having felt that we had seen all we could see we walked back to Heidi to head off to somewhere we could park for the night. This was to be a campsite on the outskirts of Tours called the Acacias. It was a nice little site with electric hook up, wifi and water and although it was only 8km from the centre of Tours to get there meant walking or cycling on a busy road which ran through a massive industrial estate which somewhat put us off and having spent lots of time over the past few weeks being very sociable and adventurous we decided to hang around the campsite, recharge our batteries and just relax for a couple of days.
Having made arrangements to meet Kenny in Duras on Friday evening I split the distance we had to travel over the following 2 days and looked for campsites that were near the points that would break the driving into nice equal chunks. We had started to realise that driving in Heidi for much more than two and a half hours a day was a little uncomfortable, and because of the fairly slow travelling speed of Heidi (55mph) and our sat nav’s insistence on us driving on the narrowest windiest roads it could find, 2.5 hours would only get us abou 100-150km down the road!
We had managed to find a campsite that was open just south of Poitiers run by an English couple called Helen and Ian. It was slightly off the beaten track to say the least, but worth the effort as when we arrived we found Helen and Ian to be a lovely couple who were very warm and accommodating and as we were the only ones on the site at that time we had the pick of the pitches. They warned us however when we pitching up that the farm next door had a hornets’ nest and that, that evening at 6pm the farmer would be destroying the nest so therefore we should keep the doors and windows closed just in case any managed to escape. At six pm safely shut up in Heidi we found out that to remove the nest the farmer took a 12 bore shot gun and shot at the nest about 100 times this lead to Heidi being covered in the little bits of shot that came falling from the skies (which was rather disconcerting to say the least)! The rest of our stay however was the quietest we had had since being on the road, which was very pleasant indeed.
The next morning we went on a 20km bike ride around the local villages, which was very nice as the area was almost perfectly flat but again we realised that as lovely as France is, you can go hours without seeing anyone at all. We travelled through several villages and had only seen about 4 people and a couple of dogs!
That afternoon we headed further south to a campsite run by a Dutch couple just south of Angouleme. The pitch we had been given was not the most level and was tucked under a large Oak tree, which we knew from experience if it rained that night would cause droplets from the tree to create a drum of Heid’s roof and yes of course it did rain for pretty much the whole of the night so not much sleep was had. Having managed to get up and organised early the next morning we had decided that instead of heading straight to Duras we would stop off at St. Emilion and have a look around the famous home of some of the finest Bordeaux wines. Although we had been there about eight years previously as opposed to the last time when it had been freezing cold and raining, this time it was 20 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, which somehow made what I had remembered to be an ok place actually rather magical. We sat in one of the squares and had a beer overlooking the old town and then meandered around the cobbled streets soaking in the culture and history of the town, whilst looking over the miles and miles of surrounding vines which were now all a golden yellow colour.
We left St. Emilion that afternoon and headed south to Duras arriving at almost the same time as Nick and Chez and a little bit before Kenny and Alice who had had to drive an extra 50km having missed a motorway exit and then found the next exit was not for another 25km!
That evening we had a few beers and some lovely food cooked by Chez and made a plan of what things needed packing and where they would be stacked to make it as easy for the removal men as possible on the Monday morning. On the Saturday the six of us set about boxing, clearing, sorting, wrapping and disassembling a plethora of possessions. The day went well and what started out as a rather daunting task slowly showed signs of light at the end of the tunnel as one by one rooms were cleared and decisions on what needed to be taken or left were made. The only question now was not whether we would get everything done in time but whether the items would fit in the two removal vans that were coming! But that night we all definitely felt that the back was broken of the hard work so a couple of Nick and Chez’s friend were invited over for a few drinks, which turned into quite a few drinks!
The next morning Kenny and Alice had to leave pretty early as the ferry they were booked on that evening was a good seven hour drive away, so after breakfast we waved them off and although slightly jaded from the night before we continued with the packing and clearing if not at a slightly slower pace than the day before! I had noticed that whist I was lugging heavy boxes around the place Nick had found a slightly less vigorous job and had become the pool boy and happily spent a couple of hours vacuuming the bottom of the pool! That evening to thank us for our efforts we were taken out for a meal in Seyches about 20 minutes down the road. The restaurant is a fairly typical rural French affair with plenty of meat, cheese and red wine and a slightly 80’s feel to the decor. That night thankfully we all got to bed a little earlier feeling the extra sleep would help the next day when everything would need to be loaded carefully onto the” back of the trucks”.
Note on our budget.
Having now completed 10 weeks on the road I have gone through our travel budget to make sure we are on track and am happy to report that although we are slightly over on motorhome repairs (because Heidi broke down so early on our travels) and on our supermarket spending (Ellie’s gluten free items have been a little more expensive than we had thought) but we are below budget on everything else giving us a budget surplus of just under 60 Euros per week or about 600 Euros in total which is enough to extend our travel by an additional week or maybe pay for a week’s ski pass when we cross the Pyrenees in March!