Yes indeed, we are back on the road. One brand new right hand drive wiper motor has been installed and is working perfectly so time at last to start the journey South, but slowly as we are very much loving France.
We had a last overnight in the aire at Deauville then headed South on Tuesday morning. We have set a maximum of 3 ½ hours driving in any one day, realistically that’s far enough to drive and also stops us hurtling down towards the sunshine and missing too much on the way. We have struggled with the scale of France, I look at the map and see somewhere a short drive away, over 2 hours later we get there – I must check distances before I plan routes. We plan to limit the use of toll roads as a) they cost money b) you get there quicker but don’t see as much on the way. We avoided the toll and used the A roads down through Lisieux and Alencon to Le Mans, a very panoramic route which brought us throught vineyards and little villages with very little traffic. The ring road at Le Mans was considerably easier than Caen (and no we didn’t get stuck on it for 24 hours!) straight round to La Suze Sur Sarthe for the nights stopover. A small village on the river Sarthe, there are 10 or 12 shops, 4 of which are Patrissierie, and a small aire on the side of the river, very quiet and ony a couple of French neighbours. Whilst there was nothing on at the Le Mans 24 Hour circuit we decided to stop by and have a look. We went for the cheap option of missing out the museum and just visiting the circuit (£2.50 each). On a chilly November morning it was a bit bleak and lacking in atmosphere but the worth the trip just to see the scale of the place, absolutely massive. We went to the top of one of the grandstands, my vertigo was not impressed so quickly gave that up and got back down to terra firma. I have to share that Iain experienced an “off” at Le Mans, slippy wooden steps on the Dunlop Bridge resulted in up, over, off and down in quick succession. Luckily it was Dunlop and he bounced – big ouch but he is fine if a little battered and bruised (you just never have the camera ready at the right time 😳
The French roads are really impressive and surely made for Le Camping Car, they meander through village after village but they are wide enough for our camper and well surfaced. The drive down from Le Mans to the Loire was spectacular, mile after mile after mile of dead straight roads, broken up with the odd village and the whole route framed by the amazing autumnal display that is still everywhere despite the lateness of the season. As we came into the Loire the we were treated to our first view of a chateau at Le Lude, we thought we couldn’t be more impressed, a few miles later Saumur came into view; this area is going to be Chateau heaven. We decided to stop here for a few days at the campsite at Montreuil Beally. This late in the year there are very few campsites open, so its use what is available when you can. The campsite is part of a vineyard, it surely is glorious in summer but right now its a bit glum and sad looking. It would seem the other residents are all workers from the nearby quarry, they drive off at gravel spraying speeds in the morning in an array of white vans, and return in the evening at even higher speeds.
We walked the couple of miles into the town, through the vineyards and not a soul around all the way. When we arrived in town it wasn’t much busier, just us really pottering around so we had the place to ourselves. The chateau was closed so we made do with a wander around the town and a look inside the 15th century chateau church. Everything about the town was ‘totally French’ (quelle surprise), from the pavement cafes, quaint shops, old garages, cobbles, steep stone steps, the Chateau; it was all exactly as a French town should be, all that was missing the a few French gents playing boules and it would have been perfect.
We have successfully completed two weeks washing, at last. Sadly there isn’t a dryer here so we have had washing strung over lines, bushes, tied to the van in fact anywhere we could find and we are just about at a stage where its dry enough to hang in our tiddly bathroom to air it, then its fold and put away – there will be no ironing on this trip!
Next stop currently unknown, we head out to the coast in the Nantes direction or continue South East to Rochelle, will see how things look in the morning. We are loving France way too much to rush, whilst we are looking forward to some sunshine in Spain its going to be another 10 days at least before we get there so will keep wearing the warm clothes for a bit longer 🙂