France & Spain—2010

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This year the start of our adventures were delayed due to a death in the family and it was already March by the time we headed off  for Dover.  As it turned out the delay was advantageous as the weather had been very wet and cold right across Europe.

 

We were joined for this 5 week trip by our good friends Keith and Frances Gander who travelled in their         

motorhome.

 

Our journey was similar to previous years in that we travelled down through France to the Costa Blanca, Spain and stopped for a week in Moraira and then went north and east to the French Riviera where we spent another 10 days at Port Grimaud.  On our return towards UK we had intended to get in a few days ski-ing but the weather forecast in the Alps was for heavy snow and we decided to spend the extra days in the sunshine and warmth of the Mediterranean coast rather than ski through murk and slush!  Must be getting old!!

 

You can see some photos of Moraira and Port Grimaud in our Spring adventures of 2008 and 2009 (click on tabs above). Those below are some snapshots from this year where we saw different views or visited different places.

 

We decided to reduce our costs this year by not using the French toll roads and by staying overnight on the local village aires, wherever possible.  This was both very successful and very enjoyable and some of the aires that we stopped at had spectacular settings as you will see.

 

As a bonus, we also reduced our fuel consumption by using the N roads rather than bashing down the autoroutes.

After crossing the channel, our first night stop was in an aire in the village of Forges-les-Eaux in Normandy.  This is only about 125 miles from Calais—an easy drive.

 

We had to go around the houses to get to the aire as there were 3.5 tonne limits in the village.  We arrived to find a spacious car park. However, the facilities were turned off to prevent frost damage. 

 

The village was fairly uneventful and there was quite a brisk, cold wind blowing. Nothing particularly caught our eye and this resulted in no photos—sorry!

Second night stop was at Beaugency, a small town on the Loire just to the west of Orleans.

 

The aire which was right alongside the river Loire and we wandered along the riverbank and around the small town admiring the architecture. Worth a quick visit.

The Loire was in full flow.

The next morning we drove a short distance to Chambord and visited this, the largest and most imposing chateau in the Loire region.

 

Out of season it was very pleasant wandering around without the bustle of summer tourists.

 

The architecture is most impressive and one of the significant features is the main staircases which are double helix (two independent staircases within the spiral).

The extravagant chateau (77 staircases, 282 fireplaces, 426 rooms) and the hunting estate (5,440 hectares / 21 sq. miles) were initiated by King Francis I in 1519 and were purely to ‘show off’  and has only been lived in for a small percentage of its life.

Some of the apartments still contain the lavish furnishings.

Our overnight stop was in an aire in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane (just west of Limoges).

 

The next morning we visited the old town of Oradour-sur Glane which is left as a memorial and this was a daunting and thought provoking experience.

10th June 1944 two German Panzer SS divisions entered the town and rounded up all the inhabitants. The women and children were herded into the church, the men were split up into groups and led away to barn buildings in the town. They were all machine gunned in the legs so that they collapsed and then the whole town was set on fire.  Grenades and explosives were also hurled into the church. There were only five men and a woman who survived.  The whole town was destroyed and nobody knew why the monstrous act was carried out.  The charred remains were left as a memorial to those who perished and a new town was built to the west.

If you are passing nearby—do visit.

All that remains of a once thriving community are the steel possessions which would not burn.  Every house appeared to own a sewing machine.

 

The visit brought home the dreadful atrocities that man is capable of inflicting upon his fellow beings.  642 people were massacred without ever knowing why.

It was midday before we were back on the road and heading south. We were running behind schedule and we decided that, although we had intended to visit Sarlat-le-Canada, we would now give that a miss to catch up on our schedule. We were due to arrive in Moraira on March 18th and we still had many miles to travel.

We had intended to stop at another aire but upon checking the map we realised that a low arch, en route, would prevent Priscilla from getting to the location, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, unless we took a long detour and approached from another direction.

All these factors prompted a group decision to re-route to a campsite at Caussade (just off the A20 between Cahors and Montauban).

It was here that we met a couple who were awaiting delivery of a temperature sensor for their Fiat based motorhome and were effectively stranded until the part arrived. Today was Saturday and they had already been waiting a few days. The part was expected Tuesday.

Caussade was a very small village and the campsite was only partially open.  The proprietors were frantically trying to finish their building works before the summer season started.

We awoke to a –6° cold and frosty, but sunny, morning. We had been cosy warm in our European built motorhomes but the couple in the British built motorhome on the Fiat chassis said that they were shivering most of the night!

We were off to Carcassonne  and our route took us south east via Gaillac, Castres and Mazamet. South of Mazamet the landscape was still blanketed with winter snow.

 

We arrived in Carcassone early afternoon and parked in the aire, which is a car park right underneath the citadel walls. The parking charges are €1 per hour but it is free between 8pm and 8am.

 

The afternoon was spent exploring the narrow streets and battlements of the medieval, walled city.

 

We were a little anxious that this may be a rather noisy stop but as it turned out we had a very peaceful night.

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The inner citadel.  Note the wooden galleries where archers would defend the citadel once the outer walls were breached.

Above is an aerial view of Carcassonne taken from a postcard.  We were parked just under the large tree at the foot of the photo.  The view is looking south and you can see the Pyrenees in the distance.

This is a quite remarkable walled city and well worth a visit if you are in the area. But be warned, it can get very busy in the summer months!

 

More Carcassonne photos on the following page.

Above is the town green where everyone was assembled before being taken to their executions.

 

To the left  and above left, the main street.

 

To the right the Post Office and tram stop.

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