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

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Troyes – French Adventure 2012 Part 1:

troyeshouses

As soon as I disembark whatever means of transport I’ve chosen to traverse La Mer (Euro-tunnel in this case)  I feel I’ve come home…….it’s never been my home, my French is tres crap and I have no French connections at all but it still feels so right.  I will go to great lengths to get my French fix, lies, bribery, threats, self-denial, gross exaggeration – there is no level I won’t sink to in order to secure my crossing to France. This year had even involved various levels of threats to the passport office finally culminating in tears of despair after they’d made a monumental cock up; we finally received the new passport on the morning we travelled! Thanks to family, friends and the UKCS guys for seeing me through one of my darkest hours.   Therefore on a sunny dawn late August we arrived with very little money (lie number one = “it’s fine hon, we can afford it”) and a whole lot of  joy in my heart – Bruce was snoring loudly in the passenger seat so I’m not entirely sure he felt same elation.  Perhaps I should explain that we were child, or rather teenager free and Bruce was asleep because he’d been doing a gig in London while I slept for a few hours at his sisters house in Rochester before we caught the 5am euro-tunnel-train type thing.

We had endured a wet, miserable summer so far but this weekend the temperature had started to soar and as Fugly chugged along the troyescathedralmotorway, the heat increased.  The air-con still didn’t work, Bruce woke up in a sweat and the benefits of my 1.5 hours sleep were wearing off at an alarming rate.  As we pulled off at Troyes, in the now searing heat, the elation had turned into dehydration and our communication was reduced to a short, clipped bark, sometimes accompanied with a low growl and a cutting remark.  We parked close to the center of Troyes and found a square with some cafes, nice but not remarkable.  After we had sat and lapped up the atmosphere and the coffee we headed to another square with a market place where there was a stage and live music.  I love live music and outdoor concerts but I think tiredness and heat were starting to win the day and my energy levels were such that I couldn’t even be bothered to snap at Bruce in the usual tired and grouchy manner, not even a little snarl.  We started to walk back to the car when I spotted some medieval timber buildings around a corner………….and so began my love affair with Troyes and our holiday for real.

boat trip and france etc 040Troyes is the capital of the Aube department within the region of Champagne-Ardenne, south of Reims, on the road to Lyon.  Troyes history dates back to Roman times and includes Joan of Arc, wrangles and treaties with the English throne, a revolution or two and of course the obligatory Great Fire.  It’s location and annexing from Champagne caused uprisings as late as 1911 and resulted in the wine growers being granted permission to label sparkling wine from this region “Champagne”.  The French and their wine eh? This historical melting pot has resulted in some fine architecture, Troyes cathedral being a fine example.  Work started on the gothic cathedral in the 13th century and continued into the 16th century so it’s worth a look if only to honour the tenacity of the builders and craftsmen.

In medieval times the city was a bustling trade centre and gave its name to Troy Weight which is apparently a measurement for gold, as I have had no gold to weigh I am unfamiliar with this term. In 1524 the Great Fire destroyed the city bar one or two buildings.  All this history and drama serves to make Troyes an interesting place but what really floats my boat is the half-timbered houses that survive from the 16th century in the old town.  Their pretty pastel colours, crookedness and shabby chic authenticity is irresistible to me, I was drawn towards these buildings from a chance glimpse around a corner and soon a whole mini-town opened up before us.  Bruce, who is unmoved by boat trip and france etc 042inanimate pastel coloured buildings and generally doesn’t give a flying fig about history began to to take the tiniest bit of  interest as he caught a whiff of French cooking.  The lunch time menu was being prepared in the numerous restaurants situated in rustic twisted buildings with their tables pouring out onto the narrow sunlit streets flowing effortlessly, like wine, from building to pavement.

boat trip and france etc 043We stopped for lunch, rude not to really.  The restaurant was called Rouge et Noir (ranked 12 out of 111 on TripAdvisor) and we opted for a table in the sunshine against the church wall.  I was so impressed to find a vegetarian option on the menu, in fact I had to look twice and then ask Bruce to confirm that we were in France, meat eater central, and that I had found a restaurant with a vegetarian option.  Slightly taken aback I perused the menu while Bruce ordered drinks.  I opted for the vegetarian platter and the drinks arrived –  Orangina for me (driving and a total lightweight) and the most delicious red wine I have ever tasted for Bruce.  As we sat in the sunshine supping our drinks I watched the stress lines visibly dissapear from Bruces face, his dimples began to reappear and the smiles became more regular.  He was positively elated when he put the first boat trip and france etc 044mouthful of food into his mouth, the whole dining experience including the service couldn’t have been bettered. Viva la France!  The food, the drink, the location, the weather and the ambience combined to provide that perfect holiday feeling expressed with a long, deep sigh of contentment.

Our intention was to motor as far south as possible and find a campsite by 5pm however, after a long, lazy lunch in the sunshine the thought of getting back into a hot car with no air con was about as appealing as eating live cockroaches.  We checked our phones for the latest weather which basically said we were in for a couple of days of hot sunny weather then back to the miserableness that had been our summer in the UK, at which point I suggested we went to Lac D’Orient, a few miles east of Troyes.  We sauntered back to the car hand in hand, the stress and worries of home finally banished and 1 weeks worth of time for each other to look forward to……………

Day 5 – Widmouth Bay & Day 6 – The Home Run……..

Today was a take it easy day except for a visit to Widemouth Bay.  For the keen surfer this seems the place to be, a huge expanse of sand near Bude with the surf rolling in all white and frothy.  For those not into surfing there is the digging in the sand option, taken up again by all 4 kids and the people watching with a coffee option, taken up by Bruce and I at the handy little cafe/kiosk.  It was a fab way to end our holiday, we may not have risked sunburn in Cornwall but it has plenty to offer and I will certainly return one day especially if I am a) brave enough b) have the money to learn to surf! (Oh and c) loose enough weight to actually get into a wetsuit).

Day 5 – The Home Run:

Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself and quicker than a blink of the eye it was time to leave Cornwall.  Other than the weather the general consensus was it had been a good holiday but France still comes out favourite.  Fugly, our lovely Fiat Multipla, had whizzed around the Cornish countryside without any fuss whatsoever so we were pretty confident we’d get home with no problems.  And we nearly did!  About 10 miles from home, all of a sudden with no warning, our drive shaft fell off.  Luckily Mum came and rescued the kids and Bruce and I waited for recovery.  We were soon hooked up and towed back to Bruces unit where we picked up his van, not a total disaster and we nearly made it home!

Holidays 2012

It’s been a long time but now the sun is shining (in my head anyway, I won’t bother looking out of the window) and holiday season is here once more. As ever money is tight so I have made the best on The Sun Holiday deals, Tesco vouchers and a cheap local campsite to plan 3 holidays to meet everyones needs.
First up is our annual weekend away with my brother and his family, camping in our tent. You may remember last year was a bit of an adventure, see here for an account of our windy weekend:  https://kyla40.wordpress.com/page/4/ or see picture opposite – a poorly tent!

We’re off this weekend to Holme Pierrepoint, the National Watersports centre in Nottingham. This is fairly local to us and costs £17.00 per night, per pitch for all 6 of us plus the dog. We’ll take the barbie and some beer, Mum and Dad will join us on Sunday for lunch (Mum has requested we take a TV so she can watch the Jubilee Flotilla, bless!) <

On Monday we pack away and get home in time for Bruce to DJ at the local pub for a Jubilee party, they want Karoeke which Bruce is not keen on at all but it’s local and it earns a few pennies whilst having a beer with friends and neighbours.

Next up is our Sun holiday in Cornwall, paid for with some cash and some holiday tokens from The Sun. We go first to spend the weekend at Parkdean in Mullion hopefully in a static van. This is near to Penryn where Bruce and kids used to live so we shall probably catch up with some old friends and then we’re hoping to visit a radio mast place called something like googlewilly, George has requested this and I have to say I am nearly as excited at the prospect of visiting a radio mast as I am of snail racing. On Monday we move to a holiday camp in St Minver and again we will hopefully get something with a fully working toilet and leak proof roof. This holiday is for the family, especially the kids, so I have purchased the Entertainment Pass which will hopefully keep them all occupied and in the evenings we can threaten them with Karoeke and Bingo if they don’t behave!! (I love a game of bingo and a sing song but it’s my secret).  Hopefully Fugly Car will get us there and maybe even back again and the sun will shine.

Finally, when all of the kids have gone to their respective ‘other parent’ Bruce and I will be taking the Transit van to France, with a mattress and camping cooker in the back.  Tesco vouchers have paid for the Eurotunnel and at the moment the Euro is weak which is great news for us.  Taking the Transit means we can ‘rough camp’ or stop in lay-byes and I can pretend I’ve got a camper once more, I’m quite excited.  I love the freedom of following the weather, freedom to do as I please and my bed in the back……..just need to give the “do I really need a Bog in a Bag?” question a bit more thought.

Hopefully many happy days ahead…………

Day 13 – All the way home!

As we left Nevers the rain began to fall and fall and fall.  We neared Paris and decided to follow the GPS around the peripherique and we managed to catch a glimpse of the Eiffel tower just before we crossed the Seine, we all cheered as now we could say we had been to Paris.  George dared me to drive up the Champs Elysee and for one brief minute I thought it would be fun, driving Fugly and it’s trailer full of bikes into the center of Paris but the peripherique with it’s ever changing lanes was challenge enough so I decided against it.  We eventually found ourselves on the A1 and the home run to Calais.  It was still raining and none of us felt like putting the tent up in the rain.  We arrived at Calais and, as we boarded the 8.30pm ferry the sun came out and very appropriately set on what had been a great holiday and a big adventure.

 

Day 9 – St Tropez and packing away!

We decided to leave the south and start heading home on Monday because our money was fast running out.  I had under budgeted by a

Busy striking camp!

longway and for several reasons, the euro exchange rate being the main culprit plus the high costs of food and pitches on the Med, we now needed to head home.  We packed the kids off down to the beach and started to strike camp, taking down the pup tents and generally sorting out.  Around lunch time we stopped for an ice-cold beer at the bar and strangely enough for the first time all holiday we relaxed completely, so much so that when the kids returned they found us both chilling and relaxing in the sun enjoying the peace.

The peace didn’t last long so we set off for St Tropez using the back road to Ste Maxime and the usually horrific coast road around the bay, I say usually because for the first time in years we sailed along the coast road, through Port Grimaud, Cogolin and into St Tropez with hardly any traffic at all – strange!  We parked in the port and had a wander around the town and the harbour and then stopped for a drink.  What was i thinking?  Stopping for a drink in St Tropez is like filling your car up with liquid gold – very expensive! 4 colas and 2 coffees cost 28 euro, almost £28 at todays exchange rate.  I had quite obviously taken leave of my senses and we returned to the car before we became stranded in St Tropez with no money for diesel home. To add insult to injury the route home was as jam-packed as ever and we crawled along among the Ferraris’ and Bentleys in our little old Fugly, they were so obviously impressed with our daisy stickers!

Note to self:Take a flask or remortgage when next visiting St Tropez.

Day 7 – Gorge Du Verdon

We spent yesterday drying out, on the beach, arguing, going to the supermarket, arguing and making endless meals and snacks for the hungry herd.  Wednesday (Day 5) it rained and thundered most of the morning and drizzled all afternoon but yesterday and today it has been sunny and warm – bliss.  We decided to take the canoe and the kids up to the lake at the end of the Gorge Du Verdon, it is about 2 hour drive.

As we were driving and just about to take the twisty, undulating road along the Gorge, I noticed the fuel light come on – no matter we pulled over for a toilet stop and noticed a fuel station around the bend and this is where it all started.  Firstly the public loo’s were the hole in the ground type which I’ve never really discovered the best technique for, so I squatted and as I was going about my business the door burst open and a fit, young, male cyclist stood in the door looking at me squatting above the hole.  He apologised and swiftly moved on, I merely died at the thought of what had just happened.  The petrol station had long since closed down and was just a bare shell of its former self and so we trudged on to the next town Aguines in search of fuel.

View from a bridge on the road to Aguines

As the fuel light flashed and warned I tried coasting (burned clutch smell) and rolling out of gear (burned brakes smell) and even rocking the car to help it up the hills in order to preserve fuel.  We arrived at Aguines with the fuel indicator below the red but no petrol station.  We asked and were told 6km to Salles, I had no option but to roll all the way down to Salles whereupon we all cheered when we saw the little fuel station.  Then the Gasoile said Ferme but the lady showed us the lorry pump, then the credit card wouldn’t work but luckily debit card did (hello overdraft fees) but eventually situation reverted to normal as we found a beach by the lake in Salles.  We all sat down for a picnic beneath the shade of a tree looking out over the most tourquoise looking lake I have ever seen, truly stunning.

We enjoyed a lovely few hours splashing about on the lake, Bruce and I even went for a row in the canoe (Bruce rowed, I laid back in the sun).  We had a couple of coffees at the beach shack which we loved as it was playing some great reggae and we could chill out in the laid back chairs.  There were people around but it didn’t feel crowded or packed, perfect!  If you don’t happen to have your own canoe there are boats (manual) of all descriptions to hire from small sailing boats to Herbie pedaloes with slides.  Incredibly parking is free along the beaches in Salles, in fact I haven’t found a car park yet in France that you have to pay for.

We headed back for the coast after what had been an interesting and eventually pleasant day, I have wanted to visit the Gorges for years and never mad it, I’m glad I have now.