We are at another of our favourite stops in France, at the lovely and peaceful La Fontaine de Pré St Jean campsite in Dompierre-sur-Charente, where we are planning to stay at least a week. We love it here because, although it is very basic, it is right by the river Charente, with direct access from the back gate, which also opens onto a shady picnic area with stone tables and stools and next to ‘le bas’, a traditional hand-operated form of transport to cross the river either on foot, bike or car, and which seems to be very popular with holiday makers. It is usually very quiet, although from time to time, especially in the afternoons, it can get a bit lively with picnickers and excited children jumping from the jetty screaming their heads off. But heck, it is summer!
On leaving Vias last Thursday morning, we went as planned to Villasavary, west of Carcassonne, and we were very pleased to find the fields leading to the hills near the motorhome aire covered in sunflowers, all looking like a lush carpet of yellows and greens: a very welcoming and happy sight indeed.
It was, however, a little too hot to walk Beano in the mid afternoon as I usually do, so my early attempt had to be aborted, with a more successful walk in the evening after dinner.
It is interesting that we have been here on 3 different seasons now, the first time being on 27th December, which was a horrendous day with strong winds and and torrential rain that kept us ‘indoors’ most of the day. The second time was on 19th February and it had been a much more pleasant day, with the landscape showing the first signs of spring with lovely blossom on trees and calming blue skies. Not sure we will make it this far down south in the autumn, but I can just picture it in shades of orange, yellow and caramel-coloured leaves: I bet it is beautiful too.
We left Villasavary and continued on the road following the vast fields of sunflowers all the way past Toulouse, giving Moissac a miss this time, and finally stopping at a new aire for us between Moissac and Agen at charming Donzac, by a large pond with lots of ducks and picnic area, more sunflowers and a nice shady walk for Beano. It was free too, amazingly, considering it had very good services and water on tap!
The weather changed in the evening, though, and we were visited by a loud and heavy storm; it was so loud in fact that we had to turn off the TV because we couldn’t hear a thing, even with the volume on its maximum setting. But it all blew away overnight and we woke up to another lovely sunny day to continue our journey northwest to Castets-en-Dorthe, just east of Langon, on the lateral canal of the Garonne river. Being a Saturday, it was very busy with day trippers and picnics when we arrived at midday, but we were luck enough to find a place at the free aire and most of the people left by mid afternoon.
During our afternoon walk along the canal, we stopped to enjoy the procedure of 2 boats going through the locks system, which is always fascinating, no matter how many times we see it, and other people stopped too to witness this event.
From Castets-en-Dorthe, we continued north past Bordeaux towards Cognac and Saintes, (the sunflowers now alternating with vineyards), as Dompierre-sur-Charente is right in the middle between these 2 towns. Once again, all the picnic tables outside the campsite and the stopping places along the river had been taken by day trippers for their Sunday lunch and afternoon rest, but in true French fashion, they started to leave after 5 p.m.
Monday and Tuesday were fairly quiet and Adonis was able to do some fishing and we all went for a swim in the river too, including Beano, as temperatures are still high.
It was Adonis’s birthday yesterday and we just had a quiet meal here, but this time I cooked a couple of beef tournedos with mushrooms and chips with a Pineau Charentais sauce, which turned out nice, if I may say so myself. We washed it down with a bottle of Cahors that we had bought a while back when we were on the Lot and which complemented the steaks really well.
We think we might move up further north to the Loire region when we leave here, but we shall see. I wonder if we will see more sunflowers…