Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Back Tracking in France.

This year we decided to return to Parc Verger as we really enjoyed the break last year. We decided on the Portsmouth Caen crossing both ways for a change. We were quite disappointed with the crossing as we booked a late ferry 22.45 which got into Caen at around 6.30 in the morning. Sadly, the posh restaurant was closed which meant we had to make do with the self-service, not very exciting. Also, the short crossing meant we got only a very few hours sleep.The cabin and bathroom was clean, although we would have preferred not to have had the bunk beds, which was all they had available when we booked in March! On reflection, I think (although it's loads more expensive) the Portsmouth to St Malo crossing is better all round, because you can get a really nice meal in the restaurant, have longer to relax and still get a proper nights sleep. The home journey was fine though busy!

This year, was the first year we took our new convertible Smart Car, which was great fun, if not slightly traumatic to load onto the trailer. Moving the trailer around can be quite hard work, perhaps it's just us getting older!  Still it all looked good and towed well!

Billie would certainly look the part on the dock and flew along in comfort even up hill!

We plotted in the route to Parc Verger in the Limousin and estimated around an 8 hour drive. More or less spot on, including the slight detour ( me not the sat nav!) Another slight disadvantage of towing, you do need to stay on big roads, well we do. Billie performed well, trucking down the motorways, we went via the toll roads and the final bill was around 50 euros which we thought was worth it. We did miss going through all the little villages on route though and stopping at little places.  With a length of 10m plus you do need to think about where you are going and which roads you are going on. Den copes really well with the driving but we always have to think about reversing and the width of the roads. 

Soon we were happily set up at Parc Verger with a glass of red and a spot in the sunshine.


Billie's job was done, he now got a rest while Smartie took over. We also took our bikes and used them loads this year, getting used to trekking up the cycle track to the nearby town of Chalus( the place where Richard the Lionheart was shot ) and still overrun with Brits on every corner. We enjoyed a few happy afternoons in the village square sipping expresso, watching the French park their cars and earwigging Brit conversations.

A day trip we made which was really enjoyable was to the village of Brantome about 45 mins from Parc Verger. It was a lovely warm day and we spent a few happy hours drifting about the old town and watching the antics on the river, horses and canoes. A meal in a local hostelry rounded the day off well.

Brantome was a lovely place but very touristy and expensive. It made me smile to be stopped in the street by an English couple asking me in bad French where the market was!

We also went to St Yriex la Perche another charming village with another municipal campsite on the edge of the town. Less busy than Brantome and the day we went there was a great local market full of local farmers products. One of the best markets we have visited in a long time. A look around the medieval village is worth an hour of your time! Easy parking on the outskirts of the town for Smartie, I'm not too sure Billie would have enjoyed it, Den would not have.

Our next little adventure was walking miles around the reservoir of 77 hectares at Plan D'Eau Mialet. This is a totally untouristy but beautiful place, mainly populated by fishermen and locals. There is a small carpark at the entrance and a surprisingly clean compostable toilet. The walk around the lake through the trees is not for the faint hearted, mostly level on a gravel path it's around 8K......but seems longer! Take plenty of cream as there were a few insecty things that gave a nasty bite to bare legs, especially after the rain. We had the whole range of French weather in a few hours, hot sun, and showers, we actually used the packer macks. The walk was great we were glad we wore our walking boots as it was a long......way!


A peaceful and beautiful spot by the reservoir. We were glad we ate our picnic before we started walking though. The local workmen were all there, eating their meals from a whole collection of cool boxes at a picnic table, not what you would see at home.

Funny food always tastes better outside.

It always amazes us when we find these little out of the way places in France and we always wonder how the French manage to keep them looking so pristine. There were spaces for fishermen with isolated little camping spots which were well used by the locals and lots of small information boards about local wildlife and birds and when to see them. This is a place we will go back to another time.

Yet another day out and another fabulous small lake complete with full on campsite which was almost empty. Certainly worth another visit, another time, Lake St Fortunat is on the pilgrimage route in the village of Flavignac a really peaceful spot. There were a few French people by the lake but other than that it was deserted. It looks like the lake cannot be used for swimming but it is still beautifully maintained and great to have a picnic nearby. The campsite was quite big, large pitches clean toilet block ( we looked in) and empty!! Pitch up and wait for someone to come and collect the money we worked out it was around 10 euros! Another one on our agenda for a revisit.

Our holiday flew by and before long we were on the way back to the ferry. This year we stopped for two nights at Ouistram and had an excellent short stay at the campsite near the ferry port. A huge pitch and a bike ride along the canal rounded off our holiday.

Very lucky with the weather this year. Nowhere near as hot as last year, so we were able to do so much more and we rode the bikes a lot.

Perhaps the time for a re-think about how we use Billie. We really miss being able to up sticks and explore small sites which is not always easy with a 10m plus outfit.

Downsizing may be on the cards! We love Billie but maybe a smaller van could be the answer.... keep tuning in.

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