Marge in France 2015 – Part 1: Before the holiday…..

So things did not go exactly to plan since the last blog, as this draft (I didn’t publish at the time) describes:

August 2015: Stressed is not the word – work stress, finance stress, family secrets stress and stress caused by the impending bereavement of Bruces  Mum, Sue.  No matter how I tried I could not get rid of the constant anxious knot in my chest and, as a fat smoker in her forties. I was a prime candidate for a heart attack, something had to change and after our holiday it did.

Home had become work and it was not unusual for me to spend 12+ hours chained to a laptop with no escape.  The “family secret” was one I had to keep until my then son felt comfortable  to come out as transgender.  I now have a beautiful daughter of whom I am very proud but at the time I was full of anxiety about how our close extended family, including her grandparents, father, brother and step siblings, would take the news.  They took it in their stride and all of my fears were completely unfounded but the disclosure wasn’t made until we returned and I held it all in as we bumbled around France.  Financial stress is a constant companion but all of that paled into insignificance as we learned there was nothing more that the hospital could do for Bruces Mum and she had weeks to live; the journeys to France began as she lived in the Vendee in France.

Weekend 1: Left Leicester for Kent and took my work with me.  Picked up Bruce, who now lives in Kent Monday to Friday with his sister as he is working away from home.  Sat waiting for eurotrain thing for ages and then drove through the night to the west coast.  Unfortunately Sue had slipped into a coma, a brief moment when she acknowledged Bruce’s presence but nothing more.  It was very sad and surreal, we left Monday morning as I needed to get back to work but we should have stayed, some things are more important.  We got the call back in Kent Tuesday Morning, she had passed away.

The following Friday:

Weekend 2: Left Leicester for Kent and took work with me, silly me,  my brain was a thick fog of fuddleness.  Eventually I thought “sod that”, forgot about work and left for France for a funeral, picking up some passengers, a tent and other belongings along the way.  Arrived in the Vendee in the evening and set up the tent in the garden of the gite for the rest of the families arrival by minibus in the early hours of the morning.  The weekend followed with a beautiful funeral service, a very special wake at their local bar and celebrations of Sue’s life until the early hours of the morning. Laughter and tears to celebrate the life of the hostess with the mostess, she will be missed so much by so many.  We made our way home on August Bank Holiday Monday to prepare for our holiday in France starting on Friday.

The following Friday:

Weekend 3: Needless to say we were both knackered and the normal holiday excitement was lacking.

When I collected Marge the Hymer I thought I’d never make it round the M25 to Kent, let alone around France.  The left hand drive didn’t bother me, in my other life I had a left hand drive coach built Hymer.  What was difficult was the clutch was miles away; so much so that when I pressed the clutch to go into 5th gear, my left foot was at full stretch as was my right hand and I disappeared below the dash board!  It was noisy and the extra width took some getting used to.  Driving the Hymer was like a fully body work out for me, not a bad thing as I could do with it but it wasn’t the easy drive I expected! The accommodation bit was fab and I loved the drop down bed but it was soon apparent we probably wouldn’t make it down to the South Coast and I checked the weather for the best alternative – The Loire and the Dordogne had big sunshine symbols and were chosen as we needed to be west to collect some things from Bruces Mums home in the Vendee on the way back to the UK.

I collected Bruce, tired and exhausted from work and we went to catch the train across the channel. He pulled out a beer and put his feet up and  after a few hours driving in France (me driving not Bruce with his beer!) we pulled into an Aire and slept like babies!  How wonderful to just pull up and fall into bed.

 

marge

Marge The Hymer

 

 

 

I’m back and new adventure planned…….

I’m back….I’ve never really been away, just lazy, which is a shame as we have enjoyed some wonderful holidays since my last post, with and without the slightly dysfunctional family.brucebetaohm2  Last year we managed, by some small miracle (AKA Barclaycard), to take my step children to their Dads birthplace – Malta -to meet the family.  As ever, the Maltese family were warm and hospitable and made a fuss of the children.  We’ve also taken advantage of The Sun £9.50 holidays for short breaks for all six of us which this year involved a 19, 18,17 and 15 year old, Bruce, me and Charlie The Dog ending up in a caravan near Hull (don’t ask) with my parents in another caravan and both of my brothers and their families in another 2 caravans.  It was a short weekend and although the area and the weather didn’t impress me much it was fabulous spending time with my entire family!

village sautadetBruce and I have also been to France a couple of times, staying in the tent, with various degrees of success.  One year was a bit of a disaster…….the word crappy actually sums it up perfectly -Bruce had food poisoning.  Chronic Diarrhoea + Camping in a Tent + Deflating Airbed = Sleepless nights and grouchy days.  We abandoned the holiday early as it

Spot the Kyla .....

Spot the Kyla …..

became apparant Bruce had more than a simple dodgy tummy but not before I found one of my new favourite places in the whole world – Cascade de Sautadet in the Ceze region.  For a water babe like me this is almost as good as it gets, wild swimming in a natural water-park cram packed full of rocky diving boards, shallows, shutes, flumes through crevices and deep lagoons.  Of course you have to share it with lots of peeps but it’s a huge area so lots of space.  All this talk of wild swimming leads me nicely into what I am doing back here blogging again.  cascadesautadetwaterfalls

Camping in a tent was always a compromise for me ….it’s been the only way we could afford to get over to France

Pitched by the River - Ardeche 2013

Pitched by the River – Ardeche 2013

each year and I would have slept in a cardboard box if it meant I could still get to France.  Undoubtedly we’ve had some wonderful pitches but each time we spend the hours setting up our new home, erecting the tent, blowing up the airbed, setting up kitchen, finding clothes, putting up chairs, stringing up the washing line etc etc I have longed for the days when I simply pulled up in my motorhome, put the handbrake on and cracked open the wine.  If we didn’t like it or the weather turned we simply pulled off again -if we couldn’t find a site we stopped in a lay-by or Aires- the freedom to do as I please on holiday is the most essential ingredient and tent camping curtailed that freedom just a bit too much.  I spend the rest of the year being a sensible employee, Mum and general all round person blessed (or cursed) with oodles of common sense and general conformity.  Underneath that runs a vein of rebelliousness, non-conformity and basic naughtiness – it has to have an outlet or it will seep into my everyday life and screw it up completely.  Chasing the sun, going where we want, doing what we want, being caught mid shag fest on a river bank in the Ardeche by campsite security, boogeying the night away to a reggae band with 2 litres of Rum & Coke, jumping into rivers ignoring the warning signs – these are what make a true holiday for me.

Marge The Hymer

Marge The Hymer

So this year there will be no tent to put up, we are hiring Marge the Classic Hymer Motorhome with the only responsibility being to get it back to the hire company clean and tidy, I think I can manage that.  To say I’m excited to be back where I belong is an understatement – I live for the day we are crossing the channel with a fridgeful of beer and an on board toilet.  To share the experience with Bruce is the icing on the cake – I feel sure Mr Non-Conformist UK will love the freedom of stopping at Aires and doing what we want.  We hope to wild camp all the way down to the Med when we set off on 4th September……..using Aires and scenic lay-bys we hope to avoid campsite charges and camp site rules (Bruce can leave his Speedos behind) the only exception might be the odd cheap municipal.  It will be interesting to see how we get on and I will be blogging as we go……so watch this space……

 

 

Wild Times at Wild Duck Norfolk – July 2013


It’s been a while since I last posted and I have no excuses at all.  Last year we all set off for Wild Duck Holiday Park near Caistor. I shall clarify all: myself, Bruce, 3 teens (the oldest teen having gone on holiday in the Lake District with his mates) plus my brother, his wife 935067_10151667450039130_2034901642_nand their two sons.  We had booked the Holiday using Sun (newspaper) holiday vouchers and after much trawling through and umming and aaaring decided on this park as it was inland a bit, spacious, had swimming pools, a David Bellamy Conservation Award and of course ducks. We arrived in 30 degree sunshine and as the caravans weren’t ready we headed for the bar.  The park has a kind of centre parks feel about it, except with caravans instead of villas.  The bar and restaurant have a fabulous terrace with sofa and coffee tables made from felled trees and we were soon all spread out applying sun cream and sipping a cool drink.

Eventually we were allocated our caravan – a small 3 bedroomed static van which was perfectly adequate. Fortunately the statics are not laid out in military precision rows which I find totally soul destroying, they are ‘scattered’ among the trees and small lake which is right up my street, I like a bit of scattering and non-conformity.

999698_10151667450554130_764429634_nOnce unpacked we got the disposable barbies out and rustled up a little feast, of 998540_10151667461729130_1807661417_ncourse with the heat and the laid back feel of the place it’s hard to keep a track on just how many wines/beer/cider one has drank – until one feels just a bit brahms and list.  Anyhow, the children came back eventually and we all turned in for the night.  This was the start of a few nights of drink and one especially memorable night saw my sister in law getting stuck in a kiddies ride and showing her pants off!  She did spend the next day in sun glasses with a glass of water and a packet of paracetemol next to her.

 

The next few days were spent in glorious sunshine, it was fab spending time with my brother and his family on an idyllic family sea 556995_10151667459939130_818558374_nside holiday.  One day was spent canoeing the broads, my son had a Sevylor inflatable canoe for his birthday and my bro hired a canoe and off they went.  Several hours were passed playing in the outdoor (and indoor) swimming pools although I had to be sneaky taking photos as you are not allowed to take photos in the pool area, I got told off once and then it just became a challenge and I eventually managed to take this one of our kids playing ball in the pool.  Shocking!969745_10151667451974130_2061475538_n

 

 

 

 

 

No seaside holiday is complete without a trip to the beach.  I’m not usually a big fan of UK beaches an account of them being windy, cold and inhospitable places however Gorleston Beach is a lovely sweep of sand and the sky was blue (although the sea was that browny, uninviting sludge colour).  It is years since I lay on a UK 942389_10151667455289130_71444370_nbeach and it was very pleasant indeed.  We ate ice-creams, chips and candy floss, drank far too much, partied on with the cheesy entertainment at night, laughed, talked and relaxed.  I couldnt have asked for a better holiday and all too soon it was over.  There’s always next year……..1016151_10151667450544130_1086130427_n64615_10151667457954130_1964500613_n1069798_10151667460814130_1376552022_n1011981_10151667455199130_892725791_n

Malta Feb 2013 – Maltese Food

pastizzi-cafe-newtown-15And so back to Malta and possibly on one of the coldest, windiest experiences of the Island ever.  For those who follow this blog you will know that my significant other is Maltese/English and half of his family live in Malta where he grew up, for him Malta feels like home and no matter what the weather he enjoys visiting family and favourite spots.  This year he was delighted to find a cart selling imqaret at the craft village – apparently these used to be sold at the bus station in Valletta but since that hasimqaret been redeveloped the kiosk disappeared.  His excitement was contagious,  he rarely gets excited about anything, and I waited in the car while he skipped off full of enthusiasm to purchase some imqaret.  I had no idea what imqaret was, I guessed it was a Maltese name for a doughnut and was curious to discover the source of his excitement.  He returned triumphant with Date cakes and I tried very hard to conceal my disappointment – not because I was expecting a doughnut but because I’m not keen on dates.   They are deep-fried in a pastry case and made fresh every day by the elderly owners of the cart.  They cost the equivalent of pennies and it’s hard to understand how they make any kind of living on the edge of the craft village quite a way from any urbanisation – however if you are Maltese this is probably the place to go for your date fix.

Although I’m not keen on dates, there is plenty of traditional Maltese food I do like.  Being so close to Italy there is a strong Italian influence in the form of pasta based meals.  Bruce tells me his Sunday lunch as a child was ricotta filled ravioli home-made by his grand-father, many people observed their Catholic faith by not eating meat on a Sunday.  One of Bruces favourite things was eating the ravioli at supper time, refried and dipped in sugar!  But it is not only the Italians who influenced the food Maltese people eat, they are also close to the North African coast and spices, almonds and candied peel are often an integral part of Maltese cooking.  Recipes are also influenced by historical poverty, availability and scarcity of ingredients.  Rabbit is the national dish and rabbit stew a firm favourite even now, Bruce remembers keeping rabbits for the pot in the courtyard garden.  Corned beef also has a place in many Maltese hearts as it was one of the few forms of meat they could obtain during the war which at one point took the islanders near to starvation.  Even now one of Bruces uncles cooks up a mean corned beef lasagne.

7712974_origOne of my favourite dishes was lovingly prepared by his aunt and is called “Widow Soup” (soppa ta’ l’armla).  It has evolved from a peasant recipe using food that was available on the island, as many of the traditional Maltese food has, such as pastizzi which is a bit like a small Cornish pasty only filled with peas or ricotta cheese.   Widow soup starts life as a veg stew or broth to which is added teeny tiny pasta, goats cheese rounds and finally, right at the end of the cooking process, a few eggs are added and poached in the broth.  The soup was served with Maltese bread, political discussions and great deal of warmth and generosity.

The warmth and generosity of the Maltese people is never expressed more than in their food and this was evident when we visited his cousin in Mosta in the middle of one rather cold afternoon.  Laid on the table were plates of sandwiches, piles of pastizzi and bowls of Twisties (a kind of cross between NikNaks and Wotsit crisps).   During that afternoon we consumed enough delicious calories to last a week and all served with the friendly hospitality that is a Maltese trademark.

hobzAnother of Bruces favourites is hobz biz zejt,  a simple recipe of Maltese bread smeared with olive oil and tomatoes to which capers, onions and sometimes tuna are added.  I have eaten this on several occasions in snack bars on the islands but the one time that comes to mind the most was not in Malta at all, it was on a campsite in France one hot and sunny afternoon.  Bruce found some Maltese like bread and prepared the hobz biz zeht under the shade of a tree outside our tent.  It was simple yet delicious and was just the right thing to set us up for an afternoon of lazing around in the heat.

The Maltese also have a sweet tooth and on any high street bakers and confectioners can be found with tempting window displays of cakes and pastries.  The Arab influence is apparent in some of the sweet concoctions that are loved by nearly all Maltese.  Helwa tat Tork is a sugary mixture of crushed almonds and almonds appear in many other favourites.  Kannoli is sweet ricotta mix placed in pasta tubes and deep fried and possibly the national sweet dish of Malta such is its popularity, in fact many people take a box of kannoli when visiting friends and relatives.  And of course Imqaret, which is where I started and for someone who is not keen on dates, I throughly enjoyed nibbling my way through the super hot sticky pastry mixture – I think I may be a date convert!

helwa3

Here come the girls……..North Norfolk 2012

66327_10151144373849130_1540091017_n

On a sunny Saturday morning in October,  The Girls (2 of my besties and me) set off for a wild weekend in……..Cromer.  Coach trip mecca of the Norfolk Coast and famous for crabs….I assume they’re the kind you eat.  First stop Norfolk Lavender 545720_10151144367874130_551994584_nFarm near Hunstanton, we so know how to party.  Mads could hardly contain her excitement when she discovered there was a farm shop, her excitement was contagious and I very nearly bought some sort of  homemade pickle packaged in a jar in that shabby chic kind of style.  Lou, for the only time that weekend, was not stuck behind the lense of a digital SLR and instead tucked into cake for lunch while Mads and I opted for the healthy option and wished we’d chosen the cake!

581400_10151091175981128_1116941543_n

560836_10151144368429130_1612022392_nOnwards to Wells Next To The Sea along the North Norfolk coast road, dotted with quaint villages and gourmet pubs to keep the London set fed and watered.  We decided that any pub painted with vintage Farrow & Ball type paint would be far too expensive for our pockets so we carried on until we reached Wells and parked on the beach car park.  For those 246567_10151076688076128_403123761_nunfamiliar with Wells beach it is worth a visit, sand and sea (doh) with a few dunes and the icing on the cake is the multi coloured beach huts (offers in region of £60,000 if you fancy one).  Lou took some stunning pictures, a few of which I’ve posted below, as a semi-professional arty-farty camera whizz I left her to it although I was allowed to use her precious SLR to take a few pics…they will be the ones with Lou in the picture. If you want to see more of Lou’s photos look up Beaulah Beau on Facebook.

420394_10151144369049130_2122135804_n 385053_10151144368544130_1238560483_n 223225_10151076687996128_192036481_n 12746_10151144369169130_172159391_n

384556_10151076691696128_110761988_nNext stop Cromer, one of the bigger resorts along the North Norfolk coast.  Cromer is famous for its crabs but as none of us are particularly keen on crabs, it was the cheap rate at the impressive Victorian Hotel De Paris that had grabbed our attention and our sole reason for visiting Cromer.  When we arrived the building did indeed look impressive, perched on the cliff high above the pier,  you could almost imagine a Victorian lady in the dress of the day carrying a parasol and entering the building.  The interior, however, was a mix of impressive 559598_10151144371629130_867491371_nVictorian decor and original features contrasted with  naff formica furniture and Georgian wire windows adorned with a plethora (so wanted to use that word…plethora) of health and safety signs.  It soon became apparent that the hotel was destination central for coach trips which attracted the older (than us) clientele.  Why the management think that a bit of crappy formica and old wing back chairs arranged nursing home style around the edge of a lounge is attractive to older people I can only guess at.  Perhaps the raving reviews on TripAdvisor has something to do with it, mine wasn’t so glowing but neither was it terrible.  What stopped me from writing a totally crap review was the room; despite the smell of damp (which we later discovered was due to water coming through the en-suite ceiling when the room above took a shower) despite the naff wing back chairs and the lack of homely touches – the view was awesome framed by the huge bay window.  Pier people watching soon became a favourite activity, as well as drinking nice cups of tea while sitting on the dark green (why are these chairs always dark green?) wing back chairs positioned to take advantage of the views from the window.391667_10151144370239130_240433565_n The Hotels position is what has saved it and why it continues to prove a popular choice for a the coach travelling masses.  That said we met some characters and the breakfast was excellent considering the poor waiter had to serve 1 vegetarian, 1 gluten-free and 1 cake-a-holic!

251345_10151144370514130_2061643158_nMads had a small single room with a side view that didn’t smell of damp and I shared a huge room with Lou. After we 576880_10151144371744130_721178116_nhad checked out each others rooms, texted, facebooked and tweeted and had a nice cup of tea (omg we will end up going home on the coach!) we decided to take in the sights and stock up on provisions before getting ready to hit Cromers night life.  The sights didn’t take long, shops were closing and Cromer isn’t a massive place to stroll around.  We bought a bag of nuts and a bottle of wine and headed back to the hotel, the highlight being when Mads told me to “mind the 199967_10151144371139130_924177134_nbob” when approaching some dog poo.  Poo being referred to as “bob” is something I haven’t heard since my childhood and it set us off in fits of laughter, it’s one of those moments that can’t be explained and can only be shared by 3 friends who met at college when they were 16 and are still laughing about bob almost 30 years later.  I guess you had to be there.

The evening could have been a bit of a disaster if it wasn’t for our shared sense of humour.  We had booked a 155283_10151144374874130_1267667880_nrestaurant/bistro type place for a meal, a bit pricey but we were celebrating my birthday.  We arrived and were served drinks then led to our table – no-one else was in the restaurant, the vege option was off, several starters were no longer available and when it got to the point where Mads could have her steak but not the sauce we decided it was time to leave.  I say we decided but I was, as usual, indecisive and despite outward appearances I can’t stand 249506_10151144371304130_782133243_nconfrontation. Mads is very self-assured if something isn’t right and she wanted me to enjoy my birthday meal but it was Lou, while Mads was still reasoning with me, that went up to the waitress and told her we wouldn’t be ordering anything to eat on account of nothing being available and we would drink up and leave.  Now, sitting in an empty restaurant with a waitress glowering is not my idea of non confrontational and, for the first time that evening, I made a decision; I swigged my Pimms and legged it.  I was half-way up the street before Lou and Mads caught up, we looked at each other and once more the laughter commenced.  We eventually found an Italian which served gluten-free pasta and tucked into our meal at last, our intention being to find a pub afterwards which served late.  But like 3 small children that have had a busy day we all began yawning and headed back to the hotel, we passed  guests playing dominoes (no doubt into the wee small hours) and trundled up the stairs, though the regulation fire door and into our rooms for a nice cup of tea before bed.  Ibiza style partying it was not.

Early to bed, early to rise; in fact so early we saw the sun-rise, a spectacular free show from our window which Lou 528632_10151144373054130_1877013167_ncaught on camera.  We tucked into breakfast, showered, packed, complained about the water coming through the bathroom ceiling and checked out.  Would we return to the Hotel De Paris? –  Maybe in another 30 years time….by coach! Our route home took us through Kings Lynn where we stopped for an unimpressive lunch at Nandos although granted it’s not the best place for a vegetarian to have lunch.  We chatted, we laughed, we listened to tunes and sang to a few of them and all to quickly our snatched mini-weekend away was over.  OK so it wasn’t exactly as it used to be, partying all night fuelled by drink, but it was just as enjoyable.  I reckon you could drop the three of us in the most boring place on earth and we’d still have fun, we’d still be comfortable enough with each other to nod off, pass wind and laugh at bob.  I guess that’s what growing up and growing older together does to people; that and booking coach trips to Cromer.189203_10151144372564130_1504490383_n

The Ardeche – France 2012 Part 3…………….

pontdarc_jpg

We arrived at Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, the entrance to the Ardeche Gorge and the start for many of their journey by canoe through a boat trip and france etc 049picturesque and magnificent landscape.  So to find a campsite, cheap, cheerful, not all singing, all dancing……well that was the plan but like all best laid plans we ended up at a large, relatively expensive (although the prices go down in the last week of August by a few Euros) site on the banks of the Ardeche river just outside the town called Mondial Camping.  I’ve reviewed the campsite here: http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk/sites/reviews.asp?revid=12154.   Once again we pitched the Outwell on a large, shady pitch just opposite the path to the river and then took a walk down the path for a quick swim; as it was late evening only a few canoes paddled by and, having negotiated the steep path, rocky shores and boulder strewn river bed with limited injury,  we immersed ourselves in the cool, clear water of the Ardeche…….as a true water babe I was in heaven, my life was complete!

The next morning we considered renting a canoe but I decided to do some research before embarking on such an epic adventure.  I placed myself at the top of the steep slope down to the rocky shore and put my boat trip and france etc 054sunglasses on.  From this vantage point I could observe people negotiating the slope and shore with their canoes and assess with reasonable accuracy a) how likely I was to sustain injury b) a level between 1 & 10 of how ridiculous and ungainly I would look c)whether I’d fit in a canoe.  The first family to come down with their canoes were fit, slim and agile and negotiated all the obstacles in a gazelle like fashion, assuredly but gracefully with only the occasional wobble on a loose stone.  They slid off to join the throng of canoes now gliding down the river, some even facing the right way!  The next couple were more representative of Bruce and I, a little wider than average with a few years on the clock.  Hesitatingly she slid down the slope and was nearly on level ground when hubby sent the canoe down, she avoided direct contact with the runaway canoe by jumping out the way and wobbled precariously before steadying herself.  I learned a few German swear words, thankfully not directed at me but at her husband now sliding down the slope presumably muttering apologies.  This was much more entertaining than the last family, I was thoroughly enjoying my new-found hobby.  Throughout the holiday I would return to my new hobby of watching people wobble, fall and retain their balance whilst trying to maintain dignity – even  I eventually developed a technique of boulder/wobbly stone hopping to my sunbathing spot with only a hint of ungainliness and far less falls than I thought; I even managed to enter the water on one occasion without stubbing my toe…..back to the canoes and the now angry wife and her remorseful husband.  I was relieved to find she did fit in the canoe, with plenty of space to be fair but her husband did have to draw on all his strength reserves to launch it.  Once floating the husband clambered into the boat with only a slight risk of sinking due to water that also entered the boat and they paddled off with the masses, surprisingly and expertly avoiding any major collision.  I determined that with several dummy runs it would be possible to launch the canoe without serious damage to myself or my ego and went back to the tent to relay the good news back to Bruce.  Of course I would need a day to psychologically prepare myself………………

To cut a long story short I made excuses everyday, for some reason I didn’t feel confident and felt my levels of fitness would see me boat trip and france etc 058being rescued and pulled to shore should I embark on such a venture.  This made me sad, I’d had a go at most water sports with various degrees of failure (a pulled muscle water-skiing, a shark encounter that was really dolphins on a jet ski in Florida, windsurfing which I managed for around 3 seconds after hours of practice) but canoeing I’d been relatively successful at in the past so why I would suddenly feel this fear and lack of confidence did get to me.  Bruce was indifferent about canoeing but I felt this indifference masked a similar lack of confidence as we’d had a fair few conversations on steering techniques whilst watching the Ardeche M1 for canoes from our perches on the rocks.  We therefore left for home regretting that we had not taken the plunge (quite literally in our case) and canoed the fantastic Ardeche river beneath the Pont d’Arc, a natural bridge carved from the ancient landscape.

The landscape is indeed ancient and in 1994 2 speleologists (which I presume is something to do with caves) discovered the Chauvet Cave with it’s remarkable 31,000 year old cave drawings.  Due to it’s rarity and importance it isn’t open to the public but we did find a cave that was.  On a hot day this was a cool retreat, in fact as we descended down the numerous steps I came to the conclusion that a vest top was totally inadequate and I shivered around the interior, listening to the French tour guide (my French is limited and I have very little knowledge of any cave related word).  Geographically the caves were spectacular with stalagmites and stalactites and pools and waterfalls and an almost cathedral-like impressiveness about them…natures sculpture park.  But no wall paintings and I guess as someone more interested in people (with a recent interest in all things archaeological) the geology was less exciting.  Bruce was a bit peeved he couldn’t just nip out for a fag after we’d seen the first chamber of the cave and even more peeved to learn we had a few more chambers to go.  But we were both glad we’d seen it and at least immersed ourselves in a bit of the landscapes history.

coco locoValon Pont d’Arc is a lovely old town with a thriving weekly day and evening market.  An added bonus is that whilst we sat in the square sipping coffee and eating a freshly baked croissant, the Merry Go Round played some excellent chilled music including a fair bit of reggae.  We had a meal one evening at a lovely restaurant Coco Loco in the town and spent another evening getting on down to the music at the campsite disco…..as is our tradition we managed to clear the dance floor with our moves and shakes.  Although the campsite was fairly big and organised there was a laid back feel and the owners were very proud of their site.  Another evening was spent drinking wine and watching the stars in our little rocky hideaway down by the river…….all very romantic and amorous until the river security guards spotted us, we managed to restore our modesty before they got to us and upon seeing us just wished us a good evening.  They were intent on intimidating the naughty teenagers and obviously realized that 2 middle-aged, respectable, polite English people would be doing nothing more than drinking wine and star gazing…….little did they know!

All too soon it was time to start the long journey home, we had left it as late as possible and decided to go from south to north in one go.  We left one of my now favourite regions of France, the Ardeche,  at around 10am and by midnight we were on the tunnel train thing heading for a real bed and a good night sleep……would have swapped the real bed for an airbed in the sun of southern France any day.

Lac D’Orient – France 2012 Part 2

aerial lacdorientWe arrived on the sparkling shores of Lac D’Orient refreshed and ready to kick back and chill out.  I had been to site we were heading for before, in my other life, with my ex-husband and 2 small boys in a motorhome.  As we approached I remembered how we’d rented a pedalo with a slide and the fun we’d all had sliding off the back and also the pesky mosquitos’.   It took me back and it always breaks my heart to think of 2 boys that had Mum and Dad together then, through no fault of their own, their world turned upside down.  They are beautiful young men now and suprisingly grounded, their Dad and I have always been amiable but it still makes me sad – as lovely as they are now I miss the days when they were small and I could hold their little hands and a plaster and a cuddle solved most things.  Back to reality, no children little or otherwise and some time to ourselves in the sunshine, life’s not all bad.

I reviewed the campsite, L’Epines Aux Moins,  in Kylas Coolest Camping Part 2 post on this blog, hopefully you will find it here: https://kyla40.wordpress.com/2011/07/page/2/.  The site is on the shores of the Petit Lac and less commercialized than the sites maplacdorientacross the water.  There is now a small shop and snack bar on site and free wi-fi on the terrace.  The pitch sizes are good and we decided to pitch the Outwell instead of just the small 2 man.  For two of us this was luxury once pitched with a bedroom and living area and the option to stand fully upright and pull on your knickers without the 2 man tent tussle. It also meant we could sit inside with just the fly nets up in the evening thus avoiding the mozzies.  To be honest they weren’t as bad as I had remembered probably because although the day had been hot the evening cooled down a lot.  Even so there were a few about and by the end of the 2 nights  we could amuse ourselves comparing bites of varying sizes. Worth it though, the area and lake were as lovely as I remember them and we had the chance to relax and explore a little.

To be honest we did very little exploring for 2 days, choosing to laze about in the sunshine interspersed with the occasional dip in the lake.  On one day we circumnavigated the entire lake, this is excellent cycling country but as we had no bikes (oh what a shame) we took Fugly car instead.  For those who like water-sports there is a marina and water-sports centre near the larger campsites.  We opted for the less active option of a meal and glass of wine in a small bar in one of the towns, Geroudet I believe,  dotted around the lake.  We went to bed early and got up late with nothing to do and no demands – after 2 days we  learned that the weather was turning so decided to break camp and head south early the next morning.  If the sun had continued to shine we would have happily stayed there, sampling champagne and possibly venturing back into Troyes of an evening but we are fickle campers and we hadn’t quite had our full dose of warm, sunny weather.  So on a damp, cool, dismal morning we bundled the tent into the car and headed south for The Ardeche.lacdorient