Summer 2013 – Week 2 – Southern Brittany and Mayenne

Week 2

Saturday 22nd June 2013

Last chance of the internet for a few days so early start to log geocaches, publish blog, check bank accounts and check out the papers and the weather – still grim.

Some of our washing was not dry so we hung it up in the bathroom, loaded all our other stuff in the van and needed to back down the drive off the grass where we had parked for the last few days. The grass was muddy after the builders had dug channels for new cables and pipes so needed a bit of a run at it backwards. Got going then some twit in a UK registered car decided to stop right behind us for a chat. I stopped and it took us half an hour to extricate ourselves from the muddy hole we found ourselves in. I don’t swear much but I was certainly cussing and the air was as blue as his car!

Robin and Pippa let out their gites and had guests arriving today so we wanted to be out of their hair as soon as possible.

Full of water and our shopping from the outside fridge we bade farewell to Dick and Patricia and their Australian friends and finally to our hosts Robin and Pippa. What a great time we always have at their house, La Gabelle, down by the River Vienne.

We headed due west, had a brief stop for lunch, found a geocache not 100 metres away. Went to look for another, became best friends to some local dog who followed us for a kilometre of walking which did not produce a cache but we did repair a broken down dry stone wall. We felt better if not dirtier for having done that.

We are now in an aire with about 25 other vans at Norde-sur-Erdre in north west France feeding the mallards and chaffinch and watching the ragondat swimming upstream.

Sunday 23rd June 2013

We made a very early start and decided to head for Parc de la Briere, a marshland area just north of St Nazaire. Apart from wanting to have a look at the wildlife there were quite a few geocaches to be found. For Jo the St Joachim area would be an idyllic place to live, surrounded by the canals and the marshes, she would spend all day watching the birds and animals. We stopped on a peninsula jutting out into the marsh called Ile de Fedrun. We cycled round the place a couple of times then drove on a while and whilst searching for a cache found the obvious place for lunch, a track that led down to one of the canals. We spotted a marsh harrier circling low but too far off for a photo and several others, terns, cormorants etc.

We turned south and drove down the western side of the parc and stopped at the aire at Guerande for supper of stewed home grown apricots. Popular place but a bit noisy although I was so tired that I slept through the motorbike grand prix of three laps on the dual carriageway which Jo said took place around midnight.

Monday 24th June 2013

As Jack Nicholson said in “the Bucket List” never pass a loo… so we stopped to empty tanks etc on the way out. Whilst doing so we got talking to a man in a “Britvan” from Hayling island. They were going to spend the day looking at the medieval town. Jo and I would rather spend the time looking at what was left of the natural world rather than “a pile of old stones”. (Jo’s words!)

We crossed more marshes and headed for a peninsular called point of Croisic. Some quaint villages and many new houses built in the local Breton style. We parked up and got the bikes out and rode right round the headland and back to the van. Whenever we are in France we always aim to have at least one meal of moules frites and this just seemed ideal. The fishermen were out on the sands with their tractors harvesting the mussels, cockles, oysters etc and masses of people were rummaging amongst the rocks for free samples.

We wanted to stay but equally if we are to keep to our schedule we wanted to be in Piriac-sur-Mer for the night so a long detour (great time to dig up the roads, just as the summer season gets under way!) and we were on the way.

Sunset over the River Vilaine estuary at Trehiguer
Sunset over the River Vilaine estuary at Trehiguer

Tuesday 25th June 2013

Things seemed to be getting busy on the quayside so we were up and about pdq and headed for the Morbihan, a huge bay area of several square miles and a haven for the yachtie types with huge marinas of mainly sailing boats. We had a good walk along the edge of the bay collecting a couple of geocaches and walking a little more than 10kms, the latter half at a fair lick as we were both hungry. It was well past one! We had parked in a small parking area on the beach. There we only a couple of other vehicles there. By the time we got back the area was full of cars and vans and we assumed that everyone had gone fishing, indeed we saw some wading in the water looking for something, maybe mussels or oysters. Whilst we ate lunch the tide went out and these chaps then descended onto their hands and knees in the mud still searching. There must be an easier way to make a living.

Shelduck at St Columbiere

Jo wanted to go to the western point at port Navalo as she wanted to watch the tide come into the Morbihan and come in it certainly does. It seems like someone had pulled the plug out of the basin and the tide just rushed in. Boats returning to the basin were speeding along and anyone trying to leave was facing an uphill struggle. We found the cache by the lighthouse and another further round the bay at Point de Bilgroix. Caches in France tend to be far apart so we had walked another 6-7kms with a short break in between for some light refreshment (beer in my case!)

The night’s stopover is a small parking space for ten vans at Le Rohaligen on the south side of the peninsula with an ocean view. We rocked up alongside some elderly Brits from Southampton taking the last space. Five minutes later in that café and we’d have missed a perfect spot.

Wednesday 26th June 2013

There was some competition for space the next morning as a queue of vans started arrive about 10am so we packed up, emptied our tanks, remembering Jack Nicholson’s words, and set off to the service area at Kerchou to enable a change of driver. We had quite a long trip on the free motorway and although Jo is not keen on driving she wanted to keep her eye in so I lay back in the navigator’s seat, which is something I do not enjoy. We are the antithesis of most couples. Jo prefers to navigate and is far better at it than me. Equally I am the world’s worst back seat driver so when we got off the motorway nearer to Gorron there was relief all round! We can see the church at Trecé from some way off. It is quite distinctive in shape and angle! Not quite the leaning tower of Pisa but inclined that way.

One last hurdle to navigate. John and Shiona (Jo’s cousin) live in a delightful, large stone built house in the village of Trecé. It has a long and very narrow drive lined with quite high stone walls and then opens out to a large courtyard big enough to fit in half a dozen campervans.

John and Shiona’s home has been a regular stopover for us on our journeys north and south and we are always made very welcome and are extremely well fed. Cottage pie and vegetables from their garden followed by a choice of fruit from their garden and either chocolate cake or cake with nuts, fruit and ginger. Mmmmmmmmmmmm!

Thursday 27th June 2013

The church bells woke me at seven so I read a little about a local hero, from Rouen actually, called Jacques Anquetil thinking I will get up at eight but I didn’t hear the bells so a mad panic to get down to breakfast on time. It’s embarrassing when your hosts are downstairs getting breakfast ready and you are still in the shower!

We drove into town in John’s Honda 4wd (Ken & Carol, good choice!) and whilst John and Shiona were dealing with their bills and banking Jo and I had a look round the shops and then to their local café/restaurant for lunch. If you have never been to France and are planning to go let me save you from dying. The French go to lunch at “midi”, that’s midday. Don’t turn up at anything past one and expect to get fed. You’ll starve. The local café does a roaring trade and at 11.50 Euros a head for three courses, a bottle of local red, a bottle of water and a bottle of home-made cidre it is a godsend for the local labour force, mainly male. It seats about eighty and booking is recommended!

John took us out to Abrières for a walk. We had done a few geocaches in the area two years ago so we tried to find one we couldn’t find last time and found a couple more. We went on to walk along the River Varenne but failed to find the three caches there. Still it was a warm sunny afternoon. What else could you want?

Friday 28th June 2013

So much for summer. The light drizzle put us off from going out for another walk so chance to catch up on writing the blog, charging up batteries etc. After a super lunch and watching a bit of tennis Jo and Shiona have gone out shopping, John is watching some more tennis and I am downloading my photos, tracks etc from my GPS. Soon Andy Murray will be on centre court so Jo will be glued to that for a while. Still, the Tour de France starts today so I might get a peek at that later as John is a fan.


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