26th July – 5th August
With our friend Shona having left now we made a plan to move on ourselves the following day. There was a small aire not far from Nice airport so we thought that we would go there for one night then decide our onward journey once there. After stopping on route to shop, the sat nav took us to very nearby, but not quite to it and we ended up down a road that was blocked by a diversion at one end. After manoeuvring back and forth several times Paul managed to turn Boris around and as we did so a French man came out through his gate shaking his head and laughing (we obviously weren’t the 1st to make this mistake). He kindly told us how to get to get to the aire, however when we arrived there were no spaces left so we quickly grabbed the books and identified another one around 15 kms away. It seemed though that it was going to be one of those days as arriving at the 2nd aire we found it was now a building site!! Plan C then – without much choice we headed inland to Bagnol En Foret (Aire a Notre Dame Les Merles GPS 43.535792 6.689935) which was in a lovely rural spot with the parking in a field behind the owners house. Not wanting another day like today we spent the evening making a plan of where we should go next and what our final route back to the UK should be. With Paul’s brother holidaying in Southern Brittany in August we decided on a long drive back west the following day in the direction of Toulouse which would then allow us to meet up with them later in August.
Paul has done the majority of driving so far in France as the roads are a little narrower, but as we’d decided to take the toll route to cut down our driving time it was my turn to get behind the wheel. Nearly seven hours later and 68 euros lighter we arrived at tonight’s stopover at Grenade about 18km’s north of Toulouse. As we settled down though it transpired we had parked there on band practice night, being unsure of what time it would go on and in need of a good night’s rest we reluctantly decided to move again. Fortunately there was another aire around 11kms away which when we arrived we found was in a much nicer setting on the banks of a canal (Grisoles 43.828797 1.298036). We decided therefore to stay put for a couple of days and whiled away our days with cycle rides, picnics and utilising the local free gym. After all with all the bread, cheese, chocolate and wine we need to keep active to ensure it doesn’t show too much on our waistlines! Although overcast the weather was still a very pleasant 23-25 degrees.
Dinner that night was a little experimental but turned out to be delicious – a starter of Avocado stuffed with spicy crabmeat followed by aubergines with a tomatoes and garlic sauce with feta cheese.
30th – 31st July
We were on our travels again heading further north to Cahors which is renowned for its Malbec wine of which a couple of bottles were purchased to be sampled at some point (I’m sure they won’t last long). The parking was free and only 10 mins walk to town (44.438902 – 1.439642). After a quick explore of the town and an unsuccessful trip to the orange shop to try and sort out a sim for our dongle we stopped for a plat du jour lunch. A plate of meats for starter followed by confit of duck, although the starter was tasty both the fries and duck were a little too greasy so although I like duck breast I think confit is now off my list. The weather had really heated up with temperatures in the late 30’s, so when back at the parking we managed to sit outside in the shade, struggling with the heat I got a bowl of cold water to put my feet in to try and cool me down. With the temperatures soaring we knew it wouldn’t be long before we had a storm and that night it arrived and we had a good few hours of thunder and lightning. By the following morning it was overcast but had stopped raining so we went out to see Cahors famous sights, other than the Pont Valerie the town was pretty non-descript. Maybe we have been spoilt by all the wonderful towns and villages we have visited so far.
Not inspired by Cahors we moved off to one of the Beau Villages of France St Cirq Lapopie although there is an aire there which charges 7 euros per night we joined a gathering of other motorhomes in a free parking spot just around the corner (GPS 44.468039 – 1.680955), located around 15 mins walk from the village and just 5 minutes from the manmade beach on the river. The village did not disappoint, set high on a hill with an array of beautifully maintained old buildings and stunning views down to the river, we spent a few hours mooching around the streets and sights before stopping off for a plat du jour lunch of camembert baked in a herb crust for starter and for me Seabass and Paul Lamb for main. Neither meal disappointed and we both said it was our best meal out in France so far. Back at the motorhome we got chatting with some French neighbours Phillipe and Christine and were invited to join them for the evening where we shared wine, cheeses and sausage along with stories of our travels.
We arrived at our next destination of Gourdon on Tuesday which just happened to be market day (just perfect) so soon after parking up (GPS 44.734448-1.385151) at yet another free aire we walked into town for an amble around the market. The town itself is a small pretty medieval town with many greatly preserved buildings and a huge church dominating a square at the top of town. Back at the aire we got chatting to some French campers in our basic French who kindly gave us a list of places worth visiting in the Dordogne which was where we were heading next. With the weather still on our side and temperatures of late 20’s we dug out the BBQ for the evening and had a basic dinner of sausages coupled with the last of our Reggae Reggae sauce from back home!
With so many beautiful villages and vistas to choose from we have realised that we will not be able to do them all on this trip, but with us both finding France enchanting it gives us a good reason to come back again in future. So todays chosen destination is Domme another of the Beau Villages of France. Again set on a hill with stunning views down to the Dordogne and well preserved medieval buildings the village did not disappoint. After a walk around the village we went back to the aire with the intention of making tracks onto our next destination, however we got chatting to some fellow travellers Ian and Jill from nr Halifax and decided to stay over for an evening with them. We had a lovely evening of cheese and wine sat out in the balmy summer temperatures.
4th & 5th August
Off to another Beau Village on the Dordogne today Baynac – the parking here is free but without services (GPS44.844579 – 1.145917). Arriving early we had beaten the traffic and had no problem parking in this very popular village. Having made a decision to put an offer in on a property back in the UK that we can let out (my aunt and uncle had viewed it on our behalf) we needed to find somewhere with wifi to be able to send a couple of e mails. After a short walk down to the tourist office we had a coffee opposite whilst we sorted out our business, after which we made the steep climb up to the beautiful castle. The conditions being overcast were perfect for the walk up and the views from the top made it all worthwhile. With the forecast being for rain in the afternoon we made the decision to head to Bergerac as really needed to find an Orange shop for a wifi sim as we needed to access some secure stuff on line. Just after arriving at the aire (another free one GPS 44.87107- 0.504156) the heavens opened and the promised downpour started without relenting for the rest of the day. We hibernated inside Boris for the rest of the afternoon, catching up on jobs and reading. The following day was dry again so we cycled the 3km’s into town. The town is centred around the Dordogne river with a pretty old centre of narrow cobbled streets as well as a modern end of town where we located the Orange store and finally got our existing sim re-charged. Although when we arrived in France at the end of June we were able to buy 2GB of data from them at 14.90 Euros it seems now that they no longer offer that package, we were able to finally re-charge our existing sim for 25 Euro for 3GB.
After lunch we drove to Brantome a small pretty village dominated by its huge abbey. The parking area was only a short walk into the village (GPS 45.360685 – 0.64692) so we enjoyed an early evening stroll stopping to watch the hilarious antics of a group of canoeists attempting to get over the weir, most of them getting stuck. Although I have said to Paul lots recently that I want to go canoeing I think I may do it somewhere else as I’m sure to be one that gets stuck and entertains the tourists on the bridge above. After stopping off for a glass of wine in the square we headed back to Boris for dinner, after which we could hear something going on close by. Not wanting to miss out I went to investigate and found a kind of boat jousting competition taking place on the river, that was the evening entertainment sorted.