We ended up staying three nights at LaBastide D’Armagnac, although to be honest the third night was more by accident than design. When we arrived on Friday we were greeted by two lovely British couples, Sally & Paul and Mo & Ken. They made us very welcome and we relaxed immediately, chatting and laughing as if we’d known each other for years. On Saturday morning Sally & Paul set off for Spain and the rest of us chilled out all day in the sun. It is definitely autumn here – well autumn but not as we know it. It’s freezing cold during the night and first thing in the morning and very warm in the afternoons. The winter fleeces were soon dug out from under the passenger seats and we’ve even taken to putting on winter hats when we walk the dogs first thing in the morning. By midday we’re wearing shorts and T shirts and slapping on the sun screen.
On Saturday evening the four of us went up to the town for a meal in the Creperie where Shirley and I had enjoyed a meal on a previous visit. Mo is vegetarian, something that can be a challenge in French eateries. Here the owner had promised, when we booked a table earlier in the day, to produce something suitable and she certainly did. We were impressed by their careful attention – even more so when they produced a laptop with the menu translated into English. They must have done that after we booked, realising that ordering something suitable for Mo when she didn’t speak French might be a bit complicated. We had a great evening, loving the chance to share travel stories and finding a lot we had in common. We’ve been on the road for six weeks now so it was a treat to make new friends and chat effortlessly.
The next morning another UK van rolled up and we were joined by Steve and Glen. They are seasoned travellers with lots of interesting tips and ideas to share so we all sat round with our morning coffee and chatted some more. By lunchtime we began the process of getting ready for the road – a bit reluctantly to be honest. We put the dogs into their harnesses, battened down the hatches and rolled off, waving merrily to our new found buddies. Ten miles up the road we remembered that we had been on a levelling block and we’d just driven off and left it on the field. The only solution was to drive back and get it, by which time we realised we didn’t have enough diesel to get us to our next stop. On Sundays in France it’s difficult to get diesel unless you go to a large supermarket where the pumps are automated or to a motorway service area. We were near neither of these things so we did the only sensible thing. We returned to our spot in the Aire, dragged out our chairs and started chatting again. It was a grand day. Sunny, friendly and punctuated by a friendly game of Boules and a couple of dog walks.
We were a bit sad when we left on Monday but we’re due in Spain by the 24th of the month and we don’t want to do any long runs. We’re enjoying the chilled way that we can drive for two hours and stop to explore each new place so we waved our fond farewells, checked that we had the levelling block properly stowed and we were off.
Using the All the Aires book we chose a spot in Fleurance due east from LaBastide about 60 miles away. When we arrived we discovered two things that made me think of that saying – ‘what do you want first the good news or the bad news?’ The good news was a lovely, open, grassy Aire with a lake close by and an easy walk into town. The bad was that the Flot Bleu water bourne didn’t work, even though we fed it with one of our small stash of jetons. We were completely empty of water so it was a bit of a crisis. We parked up, got the dogs on their leads and trudged up to the Office de Tourisme where the lady sold us two more jetons but on careful examination we realised they were exactly the same as the one we had put in. We came to the conclusion that the water must have been turned off. Some of the Aires do turn their water off for the winter but the second week of October seems a bit early to us, especially as there are thousands of motorhomes still out and about. While we sat and considered our options we thought of the discussion we’d had with Ken and Mo that morning – should we drive with water in the tank or not? Certainly 100 litres of water is a lot of additional weight and it can make the back end wag a bit but no water at all makes all the systems in the van pretty useless. So we got the Aires book out again and found another one just six miles away and we were off again.
Arriving in St Clar, a small, very beautiful little town we were soon on the Aire and searching for the water tap. I asked a couple in a camper van in my best French where the water could be found, only to discover that they were German and spoke good English. The second disappointment of the day was to discover that there was a tap but it was nowhere near the parking and your only choice was to use a watering can to fill the tanks. It took us a while trudging backwards and forwards with our watering can to fill up and our German friend used this as an the opportunity to tease us about Brexit. We played the Scottish card but he was having none of it – ‘you’ll have to go with the rest of the Brits’, he said cheerfully while shaking his head in bemusement at the decision to leave. He then told us that he was on his way home, then on to Hungary, to get his teeth done – apparently it’s a third of the price there. He must have needed a lot of work done to make it worth his while to drive to Hungary.
We had a lovely quiet night in St Clar before moving off again the next morning refreshed and ready to negotiate the ring road round Toulouse. French ring roads are called Rocades – we’ve no idea how to pronounce that properly but it doesn’t stop us shouting Rock ‘Ard every time we come across one. Simple things amuse us- bless.
We’ve met a lot of collectors in our time. There are people who look for unusual thimbles and display them in cases when they get home. We’ve met others who buy mugs or antiques and find corners to stash them until they can display them proudly on their return. This weekend we met people who have been collecting walnuts and chestnuts on their travels through Spain and were busily finding more. They had a tiny van so I was curious how they fitted all of them in when they boasted they had huge bags of the things. We have our own version of the collecting habit – we harvest free dog poo bags. Every town that gives them away is a cause for celebration and we go out in the dark and pick up stashes of them. We’re pretty sure we have enough poo bags to last us for months – no I should rephrase that. We have enough to last the dogs for months.
A Small Request
If you are registered as a follower on this blog and normally get emails to tell you when a new one is published could you do me a small favour please? I think the system that sends out emails isn’t working properly. If you did receive one to tell you about this post could you please put a comment to say you received it? If you’re reading this through a link on Facebook then don’t worry – I can see the link to that is working fine. Thanks. Mags x