Leaving Bayeux late in the afternoon, we headed south towards an Aire in Evran, Brittany that looked appealing on the Camper Contact site. It promised walks around a lake for the dogs, a small town and a peaceful night’s sleep. Unfortunately the route also led us into the mother and father of dead slow and stop traffic. French roads are generally well kept and quiet but occasionally an extra wide load or, more frequently, farm traffic brings miles of it to a near stand still. Along with the heavy traffic came heavy rain and frustrated motorists trying to get home at the end of a day’s work. By the time we got to Avranches we were tired and hungry so we took a swift detour to a campsite we’ve been to twice before, Camping Haliotis in the small, attractive town of Pontorson. Despite the name that is so close to halitosis, and almost impossible to be pronounced as anything else once you’ve seen the likeness, this is a lovely site on the banks of a river and within easy cycling distance of Mont St Michel. It is on the ACSI scheme so you get a good reduction on site fees, a spacious pitch, great facilities and a warm welcome. We were on the pitch, dogs walked and into town at a café bar in double quick time. The food was simple and lovely. Shirley chose lamb ribs and I had the locally sourced mussels. For dessert Shirley went for the creme brulée and I made some indecent noises and almost fell off my chair when I tasted the apple tart with chantilly cream, ice cream and toffee sauce. Half a litre of local French wine later we were strolling home, oblivious to the rain and feeling fabulous. It doesn’t take much to make us happy.
We were only going to stay two nights, spending the next day doing some laundry and cycling to Mont St Michel and back but we quickly reminded ourselves that this trip is all about taking it slowly, so we decided to stay for three. Apart from any other considerations, we found a pool table in the bar so we felt that we needed to do the place justice.
Poppy does a number and Boo gets his revenge
We sincerely believed that Poppy, now almost four and usually quiet and chilled, had got over her youthful exuberance and her love of a chase. We were wrong. On the second morning Shirley went off to walk the dogs while I got the kettle on and returned the place to some kind of order. Almost an hour later she returned visibly upset and out of breath to say that she had lost Poppy. Quick as a flash we hauled the bikes off the back, put a bewildered Boo back in the van and set off in search of her. She had bounded into a corn field after rabbits and couldn’t find her way back again. Shirley could hear her yelping but after a while, even the yelping had stopped. We feared the worst, thinking that she was in a trap or had met a snake and tried to play with it. Cycling up that track towards the corn field I had already begun to believe she wasn’t ever coming back. Once back at the cornfield Shirley stood on the highest point she could find and started shouting and whistling while I cycled the full length of the field and onwards to the last point Shirley had walked them that morning. There was no sign and no sound at all. I started, admittedly prematurely, to grieve for the little so and so, thinking that we couldn’t possibly leave until we found out what had happened to her. Returning to Shirley all the tender feelings left me when she reported that Poppy had emerged from the corn at the far end of the field, seen Shirley waving and calling, then shot back in again. “Perhaps she can’t work out how to get back,” said Shirley kindly. “Or maybe she saw another bunny,” I snarled. We waited and shouted for another half an hour, then stuck for any other solution, Shirley set off to the farmyard beside the field to try to find another way to get to Poppy. I went back to the site to report her missing at reception and ask where the nearest dog shelter might be. The dogs wear tags with my phone number on, so if someone found her and could prise her away from the rabbit hunt there might be a chance we would get her back. I wasn’t even back at the site when Shirley phoned me. Poppy had been found sitting motionless at the side of the field, clearly anxious and unwilling to move. Shirley immediately thought that she was either injured or tied up when she stayed quite still even after she called her, yet once Shirley was within ten feet of her she bounced over, obviously thankful to be rescued from her adventure. Poppy is the offspring of a working cocker and is well endowed with the scenting instinct. There are times when her desire to be a working dog gets the upper hand. We forgave her as soon as we knew she wasn’t dead in a ditch but Boo took a little longer, giving her a proper telling off and sitting on her head. Strange things, dogs.
Aire de Betineuc, Evran
It was only about 40 miles to the Aire we had been heading for three days previously but we thought we should take a look, maybe stopping there for brunch and a walk around the lake. As soon as we arrived we knew we would stay overnight. It’s a beautiful spot in a country park with a walking and cycling track around a large lake, a completely flat and quiet free parking for motorhomes with free services. Sometimes we find these little gems and can hardly believe our good fortune. Finding a free overnight parking space in Scotland isn’t difficult but I don’t know of a single one with free water, waste and toilet dump. This one also had a public toilet that was cleaned daily by the local commune and a covered social area with fitted picnic tables. In summer this is a popular weekend spot with boat hire, children’s play areas and sports fields. By mid October it is very quiet with only occasional rambling groups and some lone fishermen to be seen. It was a pleasantly warm autumn afternoon, we could walk the dogs off lead around the lake and we had everything we needed to sustain ourselves for twenty four hours. Bliss.
Motorhome aires in France are provided by local communes in the hope that visitors will spend a little money in the town or village. Later in the afternoon we strolled up the road into the town to find somewhere to buy one or two things to say thank you. At first it seemed that nowhere was open but eventually we came across a small tabac that sold a few groceries and bought half a dozen locally produced free range eggs and a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. Both these things were on our shopping list so it was a win win situation. The man in the tabac spoke English to us, smiled warmly and handed us our booty. We wished him good day and strolled back to the van feeling completely content.
Beside the seaside
Motoring south we headed for southern Brittany and the coast. As we drove the sky brightened and we were soon in brilliant sunshine. Our next chosen spot was Tréhervé Aire near Ambon. The aires book said that it cost 6€ a night and there were no services but once parked up we knew it was another gem of a place. Not fifty yards from the parking spot was a bay that took our breath away, small boats bobbing on their moorings, a sandy cove and hardly a soul about. The aire only holds five motorhomes and we were the third to arrive. By the end of the evening there were five in total. We like to be in a place where there are other motorhomers as it gives us a feeling of security as well as camaraderie. Coming from the far north, it felt very very warm to us and checking the thermometer in the van we realised why. It was 29 deg inside the van and mid twenties outside. What a difference a hundred miles south makes!
We spent the last hour of warm sunshine sitting in our chairs on a handy patch of grass, reading our books and looking at the view, then after getting the van levelled ready for the night we walked along the cliff path watching the sunset. Idyllic! This is motorhoming touring at its best. Finding small remote places to spend the night, have a picnic or just chill out for a few hours. We’re in no rush to get anywhere and can meander at will until the onset of colder weather drives us south. In the meantime we’re happy to drive a few miles a day exploring places we’ve never visited before or returning to old favourites as the mood takes us.
Waking up the next morning, we realised it was Saturday and so we set about finding a campsite with decent internet. We are big fans of Strictly Come Dancing and like to watch it online if we possibly can. To watch BBC online you need a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A decent one costs about five pounds a month and hides the fact that you are in a foreign land. It’s a bit cheeky but as we’ve continued to pay our TV license even though we have no house in Britain and therefore no TV, it feels ok to us. Another benefit of a VPN is additional security when on a public wifi system, so its worth considering if you do any banking online when you’re away.
Consulting the ACSI website we found a site fifty miles to the south in the Loire Atlantique. A couple of hours later, after stocking up with groceries and necessities we rolled into Camping La Falaise in La Turballe. After some shuffling trying to get onto a pitch that was too small for us we were given a fine big pitch not twenty feet from the beach with water and electricity on the pitch and wonderful facilities onsite, including an indoor swimming pool. Outdoor furniture, BBQ and awning mat in place, we set about the serious business of relaxing in the sun before heading indoors to watch Strictly. Fab u lous!!