After finishing the school term on a high with the sponsored circular walk over the South Downs to Bignor Hill, we were ready for departure on Saturday morning and very keen to start on our first long break of the year in the motorhome.
Although the going was slow on the M20, we still managed to catch our scheduled crossing on the Eurotunnel at 1.20 p.m. and were at Calais by 3 p.m. local time. Our first port of call was, as usual, Auchan in Boulogne-sur-Mer to stock up on drinks and a little food – mainly cheeses and saucisson – and headed for the new motorhome aire at Montreal, about 10 km east of Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, but finding it full to the brim, we opted for Stella Plage instead, not far away and where we had stayed back in October 2016, and parked there again, right by the sand dunes, for the rest of the afternoon and to spend the night. It was a lovely evening and I took Beano on the sand dunes for a late walk before dinner, but we were tired after a long day on the road and had an early night.
From Stella-Plage, we went back on the A16 headed south with the idea of stopping at Nogent-le-Roi near Dreux, as when we went there last October it had been a very windy and cold day and we hadn’t been able to enjoy the sights of the medieval town, but once again, the roads around Rouen were heavily congested, which made progress slow and tiresome and we had to change our plans yet again and stop sooner than anticipated. This time, our chosen stop was lovely Nonancourt, which brought nice memories of the start of our year-long-trip in July 2017. This is indeed a charming spot by the town hall and the river Eure and, although it hadn’t been our firs choice for the day, we were quite happy to rest there and enjoy our walks along the river. The only negative thing I would say about this motorhome aire is that the parking bays are a bit too narrow and tight for comfort, as one can see straight through their ‘next-door’ neighbour’s windows and there isn’t much privacy without closing your blinds, but at Ieast it is free and we can’t grumble too much (gift horse and all that…).
It was an easier drive on Monday morning from Nonancourt to Orléans and the roads were much better, making good progress and arriving at the brilliant aire just south of the city at La Chapelle-St-Mesmin, right on the bank of the river Loire, by noon. It was a lovely sunny and warm day and we were able to sit outside in our t-shirts and shorts, leaving the sightseeing for the following morning.
Once again, the day started sunny and warm with hardly a cloud in the sky and we got on our bikes after breakfast and Beano’s walk and headed for the city on the cycle path along the river. I was very pleased to see the paddle steamer I had photographed last time from the motorhome on our way out of the city, but this time I was on my bike and was able to stop and take a better photo.
As we had already visited the jaw-dropping Cathedral and the Museum of Fine Art on our previous visit last October, this time we chose to visit the beautiful 16th century Renaissance Hôtel Groslot – used as town hall during the French Revolution – and explore its interior and gardens. It is quite a grandiose building with fine decor and beautiful gardens full of tulips and gorgeous borders displays and we were very pleased with our visit, which is free of charge.
This visit didn’t take too long as the place is not that big, so we had plenty of time for a gentle stroll past the Place du Martroi with its impressive statue of Jeanne d’Arc and onto Place du Général De Gaulle to visit Maison de Jeanne d’Arc, a 1965 reconstruction of the house where the Maiden of Orléans herself stayed during the siege of Orléans and her battle against the English in April and May 1429. I must admit that, although the façade of the house is quite stunning, we were disappointed to find that all that is offered here is a video of the life and triumphs of the local heroine, but there is nothing else to see as the upstairs is now a library. The tickets cost €6 each and would have allowed entry to the Museum of Fine Arts and the Archaeology Museum, but we had already seen the former and, after 2 visits in one morning to touristic sights, we didn’t fancy the latter either, so we opted for a beer instead right in front of the magnificent Cathedral. Nice way to end a morning.
A fitting end to our second visit to this beautiful and historical city: having a beer by this utterly amazing building. I am sure we’ll be back some day.
We cycled back to base after our refreshment and got back to the aire by noon with plenty of time to enjoy a little bit more sunshine outside before lunch. The rest of the afternoon, we spent getting ready for departure the next day doing the usual chores of filling up with water, etc, walking Beano and a spot of bird watching. We had a bit of a storm and rain after lunch, but it soon stopped and, although overcast, it stayed warm and pleasant. The aire filled up fast and by the evening, all the bays had been taken!
Next stop: St-Pierre-Le-Moûtier, south of Nevers in Bourgogne.