It’s been a very pleasant week since we left Orléans, both in weather and relaxation, and we are now our way up north once more. Time has just flown by again.
After leaving Orléans, we headed on a general south-eagerly direction following mainly the A77/N7 all the way to St-Pierre-le-Moutier, south of Nevers in the Nièvre department in Burgundy, arriving there with no major incidents on the road other than crossing the village itself to get to the motorhome aire, as, paradoxically, we came across some roadsigns restricting access to vehicles over 3.5 tons, meaning us, which had us going round the village a couple of times trying to find alternative access to the actual aire without breaking any laws, but having gone off course badly twice, ending up in the same road we had approached from with the same annoying signs and uttering language that cannot be repeated here, feeling very irritated indeed, we took our chances and finally dared to go through the village following the signs for the elusive aire on a very narrow road and I am very happy to report that we came out the other side unscathed and with a big sigh of relief.
The motorhome aire itself is free and very attractive, with large bays separated by pretty Red Robin hedges and with plenty of green space around, ideal for Beano to play and chase his ball. The weather was sunny and warm and we took this chance to dry the mats that had got soaked in the storm in Orléans. It also had a lovely walk past the sports grounds and the Gendarmerie and around a fishing lake after climbing the steps of a steep bank: a very original feature, I thought. You could also walk around the sports grounds, which was Adonis’s chosen route for exercising Beano. The aire must have been an old campsite at some point, as there was a block of toilets, showers and sinks on site, but these were shut during our stay. It is now run by the Camping Car Park scheme, for which we have a card, and costs us €10.
Our next chosen destination was Massiac in the Auvergne, about 50 km south of Clermont-Ferrand, just off the A75. This is again a charming free spot by the river and, although we had intended to spend the night here, being over 500 metres above sea level, the forecast was -2ºC for the night and we didn’t feel like going back to freezing temperatures again, so after lunch, siesta and a short walk for Beano, we took off again heading south to warmer climates, passing the beautiful Viaduc de Garabit and some stunning scenery.
We happily paid the €12 toll for the amazing Viaduc de Millau and were at the motorhome aire at Vias on the Med early in the evening. This is a simply superb aire with very large pitches, a drive-through drain area with water taps and a sink and wifi included in the €7.50 per night, plus 3 extra for E.H.U. if needed. The host, Paul, is very friendly and welcoming and, having been there several times in all seasons, including last summer watching the Football Worldcup Final with the rest of the campers and our hosts, we feel right at home; all the more so for being so close to Adonis’s Mum and Dad’s house, within easily walkable distance along the vineyards.
We spent 6 beautiful and fairly hot days here to enjoy some time with my Peter and Peggy and daring Adonis even ventured a few swims in their pool, but I, being more sensible, opted to wait until our next visit for the water to reach a more optimal temperature to my liking.
Whilst here, Peter and Peggy treated us to a lovely meal at La Paillotte in Portiragnes Plage and it was good to see the town coming back to life again after the lull of the winter. When we flew over in February, it was really dead, but a mere 6 weeks later, a few bars and catering establishments were open, as well as the campsites, where young families seemed to be having a great time.
We also went on our usual walks on the beach and along the Canal du Midi, which is undergoing major restoration works on its banks, with many of the plane trees faving been felled due to being diseased. It all looked rather sad, but I hope the area will be replanted again: some wild flowers would be nice to encourage wildlife.
But on a happier note, the vineyards were beginning to sprout!
We went in search of the pink flamingoes again in the Nature Reserve where we had seen them last time, but, sadly, we didn’t see a single one, although we did see a Glossy Ibis (a first sighting for us) and a few red kites, which made up for the absence of the elusive flamingoes.
It was with great sadness that on Monday night, 15th April, whilst watching the news after dinner, we saw to our horror the heart-breaking images of the Notre Dame in Paris being consumed by that terrible fire. We watched in shock and disbelief as one of the spires tumbled down with the news that the roof had also collapsed. I know that millions of people around the world were just as saddened and stunned as we were and we now also know that most of the ancient art works and relics were saved and over €800 million have been donated for its reconstruction. Knowing the French and having travelled all over the country, I have complete confidence that they will do a fine job in its restoration and that the whole world will be able to enjoy this most beautiful and magnificent of buildings once again, even if it takes a few years.
After a delicious farewell meal in Peter and Peggy’s house on Tuesday night, we walked back to the aire at Vias and relished the stunning red landscape in the setting sun on our way and one could be forgiven for believing we were somewhere in Africa.
We left Vias and the Med heading west past Toulouse and Montauban to try the aire at Valence, with a fond wave at Moissac nearby, but I didn’t like it all that much, being as it was by an old abattoir and not a particularly attractive spot, we retraced our steps and came back to charming Donzac, which is a very pretty stop by the duck pond, with a nice walk for Beano and a very good pizza take-away establishment just up the road, which we would be very happy to recommend.
Tomorrow, we’ll carry on further north west and hope to make it to Montguyon, near Clérac, in the Charente-Maritime.