It was an interesting exercise on June 1st, marking on a map where we had been in our first three months in France. We have covered quite a bit of ground, but it also highlighted where we have yet to go. There is still plenty of France to see! Another interesting reflection was that without our Long Stay Visa and Residency Permit we would now be driving out of France and the EU zone for three months. That would be very frustrating, as we are only just starting to acclimatize!
After leaving Dieppe and the Somme we headed to Giverny, west of Paris. It was a gorgeous, sunny Spring day and Sue was keen to visit Monet’s Garden. This was on her ‘bucket list’ but it had never been possible before. The garden was superb. The waterlily pond and Japanese bridge were just like Monet’s paintings of them. The actual flower garden was a bit of a surprise. So many flowers, and so many varieties of each. Monet’s house was very beautiful and as much an attraction as the gardens. The upstairs rooms had beautiful big windows and lovely flower-themed decoration but it was the blue tiled kitchen and yellow dining room that Sue really loved. Monet definitely had an eye for beauty in all its forms.
Azay-le-Rideau is that ridiculously romantic chateau that sits in the midst of a ‘lake’ that is often in photos or films. Inside, it’s the fabrics that catch your attention. Gorgeous designs and used for curtains, bed curtains and walls.
This town is legendary to all students of fine arts, mainly for its cathedral. We now know why. OMG! It moved Sue to tears, especially when some a-cappella singers were performing religious music as we toured. The stained glass windows alone are stunning, let alone the 40 stone carvings around the nave depicting the life of Christ. It also held the ‘veil of the Virgin’ a reliquary of apparently Mary’s veil, (although it has since been carbon-dated to 1st century AD). This is the most beautiful cathedral we have visited, even if not the most historically significant. Chartres itself was a beautiful town: small, well restored and quite busy.
From June 7th we have been ‘on holiday’ and will be here on the Atlantic Coast until early August. We have booked three weeks in each of Ile d’Oleron, Ile de Re and Fouras. We are preparing to have a very good lazy time. Michael has bought an oyster knife and learned how to open fresh oysters. You can buy a dozen oysters from as little as 5EU direct from the ‘growers’ in this part of France, so we plan on indulging in lots over the summer.
We have also bought a storage tent to put up next to our van, so we can put all our stuff (tables, chairs, BBQs etc) in it and drive off to explore the islands. It also works well to keep everything dry when it rains.
Sue bought a little beach umbrella and a chair with a backrest and we spend some time every day at the beach.
There are two beaches close by our campsite near La Continiere on Ile d’Oleron. One is 50m from our campsite but is quite rocky. Grubie likes to look in the rock pools for crabs and little fish. The other beach is a 5-minute walk and is beautiful for swimming - if you don’t mind the freezing cold Atlantic water. Very ‘refreshing’!
It is a 25 minute walk from our campsite to the town of La Continiere, which is a busy little fishing port. We walk in most days to buy fresh fish and vegetables from the market. A good hour’s exercise for us but Grubie finds it a little too far. She says we have to stop at the café so Michael can have a ‘bierre blonde’ while she has a break before the walk home!
At the moment the fresh peaches –the little flat ones with the tiny stones- are gorgeous, so that takes care of dessert.
June has been very warm and in fact the French government has enacted their ‘heat-wave management plan’. Apparently in the 2013 heat-wave 15,000 people died, mostly the elderly. Yes, fifteen thousand in France alone! We have been glad to be at the beach where there is a breeze and the chilly Atlantic to ‘refresh’ in.
Most of the other people in campgrounds and tourist places so far have been French and Dutch, with the occasional British couple. The schools aren’t on holidays yet so the campgrounds are busy with couples of all ages rather than families and are blissfully quiet.
The ‘Camping Car’
We have met some nice English people and have picked their brains about motor homing, which has been useful. We have also joined a few blogs. But still, we seem to be learning by trial and error rather than having any real information.
We had our first problem with the motor home this week when the water pump stopped working. So we found an ADRIA dealer just 42k away and they replaced it immediately under warranty. We were amazed and only had to do 45 minutes of paperwork to make it happen!
Europe is the home of the bicycle. Everyone rides and there are miles of bike tracks, especially on the islands. Grubie had a sore paw so Michael hired a bike and a ‘dog pram’ for Grubie. We’ve seen more dogs in bike prams than babies. It is also useful for putting the shopping in!
Poor Grubie’s sore paw was caused by a grass seed. We had to take her to the vet in Saint Pierre d’Orleron and she was put under and operated on. She was very miserable and we were all stressed out by the experience. Luckily she’s all good now.