Alan's Blog

 

Caravanning

     
 

Holiday Tour in France and Switzerland

 

Follow our tour by copying the addresses of where we are staying into Google Maps - and view the sites we stay on by viewing their websites.

Day One – Sunday 21 July 2019

Travelled from Home to Bryning Lane, Warton to Alderstead Heath Caravan Park, Surrey.

Distance: About 266 miles.

Quite a long journey on our first day on the road. Had several stops to give Kanga water and to stretch her legs.

Soon after leaving home and whilst passing a heavy load low-loader on the M6, the nearside trim of the caravan came off needing us to stop on the hard shoulder to remove it completely.

Got a bit tangled up finding the caravan site but got there eventually around about 1755 hrs.

 

Day Two – Monday 22 July 2019

Travelled from Alderstead Heath Caravan Park, Surrey to Dover Harbour, then by Pride of France to Calais, then onto Camping Château du Gandspette, 133 Rue du Ganspette, 62910 Éperlecques, France.

Distance: About 121 miles.

Arrived at the ferry terminal a few hours early which meant that we could get on a ferry 3 hours and twenty minutes before our scheduled crossing – which meant we arrived at the caravan site with plenty of daylight remaining – wonderful. Being in the inside lane on the road out of Calais meant it was impossible to cross to an outer lane to avoid the toll road motorway, but no real problem as it was only a short drive from the ferry to our campsite and it only cost €1.80 for the toll.

The site was fine, albeit expensive – hence we only stayed for one night.

Day Three – Tuesday 23 July 2019

Travelled from Camping Château du Gandspette, 133 Rue du Ganspette, 62910 Éperlecques, France to Camping de la Seine, 2699 Route du Conihout, 76480 Jumièges, France.

Distance: About 140 miles.

First thing in the morning we were able to buy fresh bread from the local bakery who came to the caravan site with a van load of baguettes and other delights.

Somewhere énroute, the trim from the other side of the caravan also came off – luckily, we were only a couple of miles from an Aire so could stop to remove it and have a break. The temperature reached about 40° C today, so necessitated a few stops to let Kanga out for a break and a drink.

Much to Grace's disapproval, I placed the caravan on a pitch furthest from the River Seine. As I explained later, this was to reduce the risk of mosquitoes causing us a problem.

One of the most notable aspects of the French scenery is just how much space there is. One can go for miles and hardly see a house, apart from the odd farm here and there. Quite unlike overcrowded England where villages merge into towns and towns into cities, with precious little countryside in between – and where houses are being built on previously protected 'Green Belt' land.

During the night we could hear quite a lot of traffic on the River Seine – some quite large ships on the move too. Across the river, on the top of the hill adjoining the river, was an enormous chateau; The Chateau du Landin.

The wealth needed to run this property must have been enormous – let alone the cost of the original construction.

Day Four – Wednesday 24 July 2019

Continued our stay at Camping de la Seine, 2699 Route du Conihout, 76480 Jumièges, France.

Visited Rouen where we parked next to the cathedral which we visited, followed by a walk along the Rue du Gros Horloge to see the world-famous clock. From the top of the clock tower, I was able to view a grand panorama of this old city. We ate lunch at Paul's, near the cathedral at considerable expense for what was not a lot to eat. The bill was just over €41 plus the obligatory tip. The bill had started off at a higher figure but eagle-eyed Grace spotted that it was incorrect and we got it changed to the correct figure.

 

On returning to the caravan site, JP wanted to visit a nearby lake for a swim. We also took Kanga and got her in the water to cool down after another exceptionally hot day. Grace stayed with the caravan to prepare dinner. We came back to find the site barrier closed – and we had no passcode to open it. We weren't the only ones! The caretaker refused to open the barrier; supposedly frightened of the manager who wasn't on the premises. Eventually, one of the 'residents' of the site came along with a number and let us in. Later, the apologetic receptionist came along with the number we should have already been given. It was a complete farce and very frustrating.

Day Five – Thursday 25 July 2019

Travelled from Camping de la Seine, 2699 Route du Conihout, 76480 Jumièges, France to Camping Municipal d' Arromanches, Avenue de Verdun, 14117 Arromanches les Bains, Basse Normandie [14-50-61] / France.

Distance: About 100 miles.

Although only about 100 miles, it seemed to take an awful long time to accomplish the journey caused by the meanderings of the SatNav. Again, ferocious heat meant lots of stops for Kanga who was finding all this travelling and heat very stressful.

We arrived shortly after lunch, with both myself and Kanga completely worn out. I lay on the bed for a sleep whilst Grace, JP and Kanga went for a walk to the nearby beach. Kanga was delighted to return 'home' and went fast asleep whilst JP got on his bicycle and went for some milk to the local supermarket.


Day Six - Friday 26 July 2019
Camping Municipal d' Arromanches, Avenue de Verdun, 14117 Arromanches les Bains, Basse Normandie [14-50-61] / France.

As we are finding out, much to our pleasure, the local bakery made a delivery to the caravan site (see above) and with much 'honking' of horn, alerted the campers to be served with delights from her van. Today, I bought one baguette, three pan au chocolate and three raisin pastries for €9.05.

I was still wiped out so slept for a few hours in the afternoon. On recovering somewhat, Grace asked me to drive her to a much larger supermarket. No problem! Until the car wouldn't start! Calling the RAC in England necessitated two 'holding on' for at least 15 minutes each before being put through the European service – who answered very quickly. Within about half an hour someone was here to rescue us. Diagnosing the car battery as being 'kaput' (our rescuer didn't speak any English so I called the European service number again and they acted as an interpreter. He said he would return tomorrow morning with a new battery.

 So much for sightseeing in Arromanches. I haven't left the caravan site yet! I've been far too exhausted to care – not even used my camera since we arrived. Today, Grace has spent much of the time working – there is always a lot to do keeping everything 'ship-shape' and is nearly as tired as me.

Day Seven - Saturday 27 July 2019
Camping Municipal d' Arromanches, Avenue de Verdun, 14117 Arromanches les Bains, Basse Normandie [14-50-61] / France.

The man with the new battery eventually arrived at about 1430 hrs. Battery fitted and engine fired up immediately – success! Albeit at a price – the battery cost €216.50 – a real rip-off. There again, everything costs a fortune here – Fish & Chips for €14.00 – Single scoop ice cream for €2.30 – never mind. A visit to Carrefour later in the day cost us €130.00.

In between times we had a walk to the top of the cliffs overlooking Arromanches where there were some memorials to the D-Day Landing s – but heavily commercialised which I felt was totally out of place and inappropriate considering the massive loss of life in this area. This was my first time out of the caravan site since we arrived two days ago so I was pleased to be looking at something new to my eyes.

Day Eight - Sunday 28 July 2019
Camping Municipal d' Arromanches, Avenue de Verdun, 14117 Arromanches les Bains, Basse Normandie [14-50-61] / France.

A visit to Bayeux today where we saw a Christening during our walk in the cathedral outside of which we had to wait forever for two Japanese tourists to get out of the way so I could take a photograph – you wouldn't believe how long it took for them to take photographs of each other outside the cathedral – we are talking several minutes!

We also visited the world-famous Bayeux tapestry from which I learned quite a bit of English history that I didn't know before – extremely interesting.

After this visit, we walked quite a long distance to the Battle of Normandy Museum then onto the Bayeux War Cemetery and Memorial – just being there was quite an emotional experience.

Reading some of the citations on the headstones could easily bring one to tears. Such words as:

To my darling Ted, gone but not forgotten, missed daily, by wife and baby. Her husband was only 23 years of age.

Only those who have loved and lost know of war's great cost. Mum, Dad and Elsie. Another young man aged 23.

We cherish the memory of our brave son, duty nobly done, till we meet again, Mum and Dad. Age just 20 years.

Out of the mosaic of memory, here lies a precious piece. A Merchant Navy man age 31.

Opposite the GWGC Cemetery, there is the Journalists Memorial:

where we saw the memorial to Robert Capa, the famous photographer and photojournalist who died in after standing on a landmine in Indochina in 1954.

He is actually buried in Amawalk, Westchester County, New York, USA

He was one of those present at the D-Day landings on Omaha Beach and is particularly well know for being one of the founders of Magnum Photos.

At about 1700 hrs. a kilted bagpipe player squeezed his bag of wind to produce the usual awful sound produced by this instrument of audible torture, one item being just recognisable as Amazing Grace. I've always told Grace she's amazing so I guess everyone thinks the same as me now that she has her own piece of music.

One of the problems of taking Kanga everywhere with us is that most places aren't dog-friendly, so one of us has to sit outside and wait for the other two to take their tour before the third person can do likewise – whilst the other two have to wait outside in their turn.

Our next visit was to Omaha Beach, the place of extreme slaughter during the D-Day landings, in this case suffered by the American forces.

Sometime during our tour of the Normandy area, JP came out with a thought-provoking question: Why is it that the French are still in mourning about events that happened during World War Two (more than 75 years ago) as though it happened yesterday?

I couldn't provide him with an answer at the time he asked me the question so I suggested he asked one of the local people. This he didn't do, so a couple of days later I knew the answer.
I've got the answer to your question now JP.
What's that?
MONEY!

The French are milking the events of D-Day for all they can get – it's quite obscene and, to me, very offensive. It's not about mourning or remembrance at all. It's about raking in as much money as possible out of every visitor who comes to this area. Screwing the visitors is a massive industry set-up to make as much money as they can get away with. The profit margins on all these operations must be huge as, in the case of the museums and memorial grounds (not cemeteries) the overheads are quite low and the admission charges very high. All of these places also have shops where they can extract even more money from their visitors by selling highly expensive tourist goods, again at massive profits, as in rip-off prices.

Day Nine - Monday 29 July 2019
Camping Municipal d' Arromanches, Avenue de Verdun, 14117 Arromanches les Bains, Basse Normandie [14-50-61] / France.

We stayed around the caravan site until we'd eaten lunch, then went off to see Pegasus Bridge. This was a place I dearly wanted to visit as I've recently read the book about this highly significant operation which was the first operation of the D-Day landings – the first glider landing at 0018 hrs on 6 June 1944; the objective of Major John Howard's team being to capture, and hold the bridge until relieved – and prevent the German's blowing it up. The mission was a complete success, the first gliders landing within a few metres of the bridge. The operation caught the German's completely by surprise. Sadly, the operation brought about the death of Lieutenant H. D. Brotheridge who was the first British soldier to be killed in action during D-Day. He died whilst leading his platoon across the bridge.


We then visited the Hermanville British War Cemetery, only a few miles from Pegasus Bridge.

Again, I do find visits to cemeteries quite difficult to cope with, especially when I read the citations placed on the headstones by the loved ones of the deceased: The call was short, the shock severe, to part with one we loved so dear. These being the words on the headstone of F. A. Reynolds, Royal Marines, No. 41 RM Commando – age 19. It was rather 'close to home' because my son, Paul, has served with No. 41 RM Commando. Some of the words on the headstones were written by wives who found themselves suddenly widowed, often having to bring up their children with no father.

An area very close to Sword Beach was also visited – where many of the British soldiers came ashore and fought their way inland after knocking out the German defences. My own uncle, John 'Jack' Topping, a brother of my mother, came ashore somewhere nearby, although I don't know the exact location – one of the reasons I wanted to visit this area of France.

 

Day Ten - Tuesday 30 July 2019
Camping Municipal d' Arromanches, Avenue de Verdun, 14117 Arromanches les Bains, Basse Normandie [14-50-61] / France.

Visited the city of Caen – three-quarters of which was destroyed in World War II. The city has been rebuilt, although considerable restoration work is being carried out on the cathedrals, particularly Eglise St. Jean one tower of which is supported by massive baulks of timber inside the church.

We also visited Eglise St. Pierre which seems to be having a complete restoration going on – much new building being carried out.

Nearby here is the Chateau Ducal

 

with its own chapel of St. George which is now a tourist shop!



Day Eleven - Wednesday 31 July 2019
Travelled from Camping Municipal d' Arromanches, Avenue de Verdun, 14117 Arromanches les Bains, Basse Normandie [14-50-61] / France to Camping La Baie du Mont Saint Michel,
1 La Mottaiserie, 50220 Céaux, France.

Distance: About 70 miles.

Not an easy drive with the caravan as quite windy – and the satnav took us a somewhat convoluted route once again. Travelled some of the distance on the motorway and had to drive faster than I would normally have liked because of the large number of huge trucks which I was constantly trying to overtake. The car engine certainly had to work hard today.

The caravan site is still under development and is nice and quiet at present as it's largely undiscovered. We received a warm welcome from the owners, Léa and Benoit and thoroughly enjoyed our stay there.

Day Twelve - Thursday 1 August 2019

Camping La Baie du Mont Saint Michel, 1 La Mottaiserie, 50220 Céaux, France.


Got going quite late, as usual and drove to Mont Saint Michel which is another huge money-making racket. We parked and caught the 'free' shuttle bust together with hundreds of other visitors. The entrance fee to access the abbey was €10 – but parking the car cost an additional €14, so not exactly a cheap day out – although JP was allowed in free of charge. I stayed outside the abbey with Kanga. The constant throng of thousands of visitors is mind-blowing.

Day Thirteen - Friday 2 August 2019

Camping La Baie du Mont Saint Michel, 1 La Mottaiserie, 50220 Céaux, France.

Late morning, we drove out for a ride along the coast starting at Le Vivier sur Mer, where we did a little shopping and had a picnic,

 

and finishing at Pointe du Grouin, Cancale. Wonderful scenery viewed from this point of the coast.

Day Fourteen - Saturday 3 August 2019

Travelling from Camping La Baie du Mont Saint Michel, 1 La Mottaiserie, 50220 Céaux, France to Camping Le Fief Angibaud, Saint-Gervais, Vendée, France, 85230.

Distance: About 150 miles.

Andrew and Janette, the English owners of this delightful and very peaceful site, gave us a very warm welcome when we arrived and escorted us to our pitch – a huge area. We arrived at about lunch time – very warm – and soon got sorted out. We would have arrived about an hour earlier had it not been for the road works and heavy traffic around Nantes. It's the start of the French holiday season hence the traffic. Very thankful to have arrived safely.

During the evening we took a trip out to Port du Bec Vendee to watch the sun disappear below the horizon:

Day Fifteen - Sunday 4 August 2019


Camping Le Fief Angibaud, Saint-Gervais, Vendée, France, 85230.

During my morning walk with Kanga I spotted some really huge pine-cones, two of which I collected. There is so much forest area in this region and country walks are a great pleasure to be thoroughly enjoyed.

One of the most amazing aspects of our trip has been seeing the vast number of motorhomes in use. Thousands and thousands of them – and with facilities to match. They are just everywhere. I suggest the manufacturing, selling and providing facilities for them must be one of Europe's biggest industries. One sees them parked almost everywhere – and anywhere.

Having spent the last couple of weeks towing a large caravan around I can see the attraction of a motorhome as it is far easier to drive than a car towing a caravan. Not only that, but a motorhome can be parked almost anywhere whereas a caravan really needs to be placed on a proper caravan site – at considerable cost. I'm now more convinced than ever that buying a van and making it into a basic motorhome is the way to go. The cost would soon be recouped on a long trip, or a series of shorter trips, by the saving one would make in not  having to pay caravan site fees, which can be quite extortionate at some sites.

Today we've visited two beaches within ten miles of our caravan, one being the Plage de la Grande Cote from where we could see the bridge connecting the Ile de Noirmoutier to the mainland at Fromentine,

and where sand yachting was commonplace.

the other beach being the Plage de la Paree Grolier which was more suitable for JP to go swimming.

Enroute to the beach we stopped for a picnic in the adjacent forest area of pine trees of various species. Delightful.

Day Sixteen - Monday 5 August 2019
Camping Le Fief Angibaud, Saint-Gervais, Vendée, France, 85230.

I wasn't feeling at all well at the start of our tour as JP had passed on his severe cold to me and that, as usual, affected my chest. In fact, we almost postponed the start of our trip because I was feeling so unwell. Now, three weeks into a course of antibiotics, I'm beginning to improve somewhat but usually feel very tired almost to the point of feeling really worn out. Let's hope things improve.

Today, when I visited the site office to extend our stay in this little haven of paradise, I was informed that they'd received a complaint about us – someone complained that Kanga wasn't being kept on a lead! How pathetic is that? Obviously, the site has rules about this and the site owner was very sympathetic towards us as she knew that Kanga wasn't causing any trouble. Anyway, some people will complain about anything so we just have to live with that.

Pancakes for breakfast! Grace cooks a fine pancake. I had mine with maple syrup and JP had his with Nutella (chocolate). A good start to the day.

I had a bit of a rest day – just shopping at the local Intermarché supermarket and getting more funds from the bank. Grace had a hard day working on cleaning the interior of the caravan and doing the washing (by hand!) as well as all the routine stuff that she does.

The late world-famous explorer, Wilfred Thesiger, had a passionate hatred for the motor car. Whilst I don't share his hatred, I certainly have some sympathy for his point of view as driving around a country does not enable you to see much of it. For one thing, one is normally travelling too fast to see very much, particularly if you're the driver. The other factor is actually trying to stop and park your car is often difficult and frequently expensive – and not always possible, for example, if you're on a narrow road half way up or down a mountain.

I've come to the conclusion that a bicycle is the best way to travel if you really want to see a country. Travel slowly and cover less distance per day so you can really get a feel for the country and communicate with the locals (even if you don't speak their language). I'm sure anyone who has read my blog on our River Rhine tour, https://cyclingtherhine2016.blogspot.com/p/day-one-wednesday-27-july-2016.html , will see a big difference in the detail of what we saw, compared to this blog. Of course, there are many downsides of travelling by bicycle as you'll read in the blog mentioned above, but as far a seeing a country in detail is concerned, it's a far better way than travelling by motor vehicle. It's certainly a much cheaper option too!

Of course, the only way to get to know a country is to live there. That's why becoming an English language teacher is such a brilliant career choice if you like travelling. In a 40+ year career you could easily live in 20 (or more) entirely different countries. What a wonderful way to experience the world. Of course, working isn't the same as touring so once you're 'in-country' you need to try to make time to see the place too – use your holidays and weekends to tour as much as possible. However, I digress considerably – this is a topic for a separate blog.

Day Seventeen - Tuesday 6 August 2019
Camping Le Fief Angibaud, Saint-Gervais, Vendée, France, 85230.

Got up late, as usual and set off at about lunchtime for Saint Nazaire. Once again, the relics of World War II have been commercialised to rake in every possible cent for the local tourist industry. We visited the former German U-Boat pens. Trying to describe the sheer massiveness of the structure is impossible. It's no wonder the RAF couldn't destroy them during the war – and the French couldn't blow them up afterwards (if they'd managed to do so they wouldn't be raking in the cash from them now!).

We also paid a brief visit to Fort de Mindin and the area around Saint Brevin where there was an excavated sea serpent mounted on the shore line.

A fine view of the suspension bridge carrying the traffic into Saint Nazaire was also great to see.

I'm still amazed by the amount of space in this country. Being almost five times the area of England and having a population density of less than one quarter really illustrates how overcrowded we are in England – and we keep letting in more and more people! As most of the French population live in the main cities or around the coastal regions, the rest of the country is comparatively empty.

Just as we were about to leave Saint Nazaire, Grace spotted a mobile shop selling fresh fish. Of course, I had to turn the car around and head back so she could queue for ages in order to obtain a large bag of various fish species for about three Euros – best value we've had since we arrived in France.

Day Eighteen - Wednesday 7 August 2019
Camping Le Fief Angibaud, Saint-Gervais, Vendée, France, 85230.

Grace's wonderful pancakes for breakfast after I'd taken Kanga for a walk through the fields where tons of blackberries wait to be picked.

As I told Grace yesterday evening, this is the most boring holiday I've ever had. Every day sees almost the same scenery passing by the window of the car. This is in complete contrast to our last European tour where we travelled 3000 miles in 2.5 weeks in Grace's Ford Fiesta and visited numerous countries and saw a wide variety of scenery. I'm bored with what I've seen of France so far. It's time for a change of scene. However, we'll be staying put tonight at this lovely little haven of peace and tranquillity in rural France so today we visited Nantes, about one hour away.

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