Neufchâtel-en-Bray, Seine Maritime, Monday 29th August 2016

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Interesting views along the cycle path from Neufchâtel-en-Bray

How true is the saying that time flies when you’re having fun!  I last wrote in my diary 12 days ago in Villefranche-de-Lauragais in the Haute-Garonne, when it still felt we had loads of time left on our holiday and now we only have 2 days left before our crossing back to the UK on Thursday.

The lovely and shady motorhome aire at Marmande

After a very pleasant stay at the wonderful aire at Villefranche-de-Lauragais, we continued north west towards Bordeaux and stopped at another first-class aire, this time in Marmande, in a lovely wood setting by the Garonne canal and only a couple of minutes’ walk from the town, where an open-air market was being held, even though by the time I got there to buy some bread they were sadly packing up. 
Attractive square at Marmande where markets are held, but sadly we were too late!

We loved the setting, the long walk through the woods, the Notre Dame church cloister with its tomato and herbs garden and the lovely laid-back feeling of the place.  The aire costs €9 a night, but it includes EHU and water and it is collected by a guard in the afternoon.

Beautiful church of Notre Dame and gardens, Marmande

Close-up of window in Notre Dame Church cloister
Giant Marmande tomatoes and other plants in Notre Dame church gardens

After Marmande, we stopped for lunch and I siesta at Roullet-St-Stèphe, just south west on Angoulême, and then made our way to our next destination at Camping Marco de Bignac, on the Charente river, north west of Angoulême.  We had been here before at Easter 2014 and have been wanting to come back ever since, as we really liked it then, being good for fishing and just relaxing in general, with the added bonus that the swimming pool was open this time and the weather was hot, but luckily there are plenty of shaded pitches and we couldn’t have been more comfortable.

Charming and relaxing Camping de Marco de Bignac

The site seems to be very popular among the British and the Dutch in summer and indeed we befriended our British neighbours and had a lovely time for the next 5 days and enjoyed an impromptu evening meal together on Monday night, as we were intending to go to the restaurant on site, but it was shut, so we ended up sharing dishes and drinks with our new friends, which was a lot of fun.  They all left on Tuesday afternoon, but we stayed one more night to enjoy our meal at the restaurant settling for the entrecôte and chips for Adonis and lasagna, salad and chips for me, both delicious and a perfect way to end our short break in the Charente.

And is this the biggest chair in the world? Yours truly (1.62 m/ 5′ 4″ tall) posing to give you idea of size of chair

On the N10/A10 road again on Wednesday morning, past Poitiers and Châtellerault to junction 25 for the aire at St Epain.  It was sweltering hot when we got there and after lunch, I decided to have my siesta under a tree by the pond, as we did not have EHU and couldn’t put the air conditioning on.  Nevertheless, the aire was lovely with pitches separeted by hedges, being an old municipal campsite, and it is another handy stop for future reference.

Sheltering from scorching heat at aire in St Epain

Back on the road we went on Thursday morning, headed for Lac des Varennes, Marçon, near Château-du-Loir, roughly 20 minutes north west of Tours and another of our favourite stops.  We just love the lake, in which we can swim, fish and paddle our dinghy for a bit of exercise to counteract the lethargy of the summer heat.  We were pleased to find John and his wife, Sarah, here all set up with their kids and some friends, everyone enjoying the heat and the water activities.

Time to do some exercise in Lac des Varennes

It is, of course, a bit more lively and noisier than in the autum, but this is to be expected in the school holidays, for this site is just perfect for young families, with the pedal boats, the sandy beach, the bouncy castle and the bar/restaurant providing various kinds of entertainment like Karaoke and disco evenings.  I must confess this is all lost on us, preferring the peace and quiet of the autumn and spring holidays any day.
We left Lac des Varennes yesterday morning to start our final leg of the journey back home with our usual stops at the fantastic aire at Broglie, which is becoming increasingly popular, to the point where motorhomes were being parked on the grassy patches between the designated parking bays on gravel and we reckon it had doubled the number of motorhomes it is supposed to have.  Still, the guardian never came round to collect the €5 night fee, which is a pity, as the town could have made a lot of money last night.
We came to Neufchâtel-en-Bray this morning for Beano’s visit to the Vet for his pet passport check.  We might stay another night and do some cycling on that Green path that goes all the way to Dieppe and Forges-les-Eaux tomorrow.  We had heavy rain earlier as I was coming back from Leclerc with our daily baguette and cake and walked back to the van in double quick time to avoid getting drenched, but I still had to change my clothes.  This is the first proper rain we have seen since leaving San Sebastián in mid July, so we can’t complain, and the sun is shining again now and it is quite hot, so let’s hope it stays like this for our cycle ride tomorrow…

The stuff fairy tales are made of: magnificent Château de Mesnières

PS: I am pleased to report that the weather stayed sunny and warm this morning and we were able to enjoy our bike ride, which took us all the way to the lovely Château de Mesnières, and we thoroughly enjoyed the views along the way.


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