As promised, here are the details of our holiday - I've found a map of the area on which I've added highlight sections so you can follow where we went. (click the image)
Claire and I, joined Fiona and Alan for a nice relaxing two weeks camping in sunny France. It all began on Saturday 9 July 2005 at 4am - yup 4am. We both actually managed to get up at 4am, which is pretty impressive considering I was on the late shift all week so was quite knackered and we only got to bed after midnight on the Friday night. I didn't sleep very well that night anyway for fear of over sleeping.
Anyway, we got up, finished the last bit of packing (most of it was done the night before), jumped into the car and headed to Dover. A 4am wake up was needed as our ferry crossing was at 7:30am and it takes about 2 hours to get from our place to Dover. Well, traffic was good and we managed to get to Dover with plenty of time to spare. We checked in, waited, boarded the ferry, zoomed across the channel and arrived in Boulogne-sur-Mer. Once in Boulogne, I got to grips with driving on the right (wrong) side of the road and we were soon on the motorway to Mont-St-Michel.
It took us a fairly long time to get to Mont-St-Michel, primarily because it's a heck of a long way west across France from Boulogne and we also sat in a 30 minute queue for petrol and an hour queue at one of the toll gates. I must say, the French service stations on the toll roads a quite nice when compared to some of the UK's, however I don't think they really compare to some of the stops in South Africa, eg the Engen stop at Harrismith is quite lavish compared to the French ones. (France could really do with Nandos :-) ) There is also one major fault with the French service stations - you can only fill up on average 4 cars at a time. As a result, you get a huge queue building up very quickly.
After about 5 hours of driving, we arrived in Mont-St-Michel and headed to our first camp site - Camping Aux Pommiers. This was a site recommended by Ian. It's a very basic and cheap site - we got loo's, but you have to supply your own loo roll and toilet seat. We didn't have a booking, so winged it and managed to get a pitch. As we were only staying for 2 nights, we shared Fiona and Alan's big tent. It's got two "bedrooms", so Claire and I got the big room (I'll explain in a bit) and Fiona and Alan got the smaller room.
Now for the explanation... I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to camping. Well, not completely, its just that my bony hips dig into the ground when I lie on my side thus making it incredibly uncomfortable and hard to sleep, so to make things a bit (read "a lot") more comfortable, Claire and I use an air bed. This is a double airbed which is quite large, so only fits in the large side of Fiona and Alan's tent. Fiona and Alan are hardcore campers and have these rather expensive and fancy inflating roll mats which take up next to no room.
Back onto the details. Shortly after setting everything up, I suddenly heard my name being called. I looked around and who should I see across the road - Judith. Ian and Judith had, by pure luck, chosen the exact same site for their stop over and had setup their caravan just across the road (this pic shows exactly how close they were). We knew they were in France (they came over the day before we did) and we were only due to meet up when we got to the next campsite, but we certainly didn't expect them to be in the same place.
The next day we headed for St Malo and had a mosey around the town and onto the beach to see the forts "protecting" it. We had a packed lunch on the beach before heading back to the campsite for rest, a cooling beer and some dinner. That evening we paid the Mont-St-Michel island a visit. This is a really pretty island town, with very narrow, steep streets and a huge abbey at the top of the hill. This island is now pretty much devoted to tourism and was well worth the visit. We chose to go in the evening to see the abbey all lit up, and we were lucky enough to have a nice day, so I got some really good sunset shots too.
The next morning it was back into the car for the final slog to Kervel in Brittany. This was a pretty uneventful drive through the French country side and we got to the next site, Camping International de Kervel, in good time. Now this site impressed me. It's really posh when compared to the previous site and provided loads of things for kids to do during the day. It's located within a short walk from the beach at Kervel and provides a pool (with slippy slide), bar, restuarant, shop, tennis courts, basketball/volleyball court and football pitch. It's also well marked out with trees and hedges which divide up all the tents and caravans into clumps of about 6 pitches per "enclosure".
We "checked-in" and located our pitches. For some reason they limited the pitches we could have, and seemed to want us to share a pitch. In the end we took two pitches, side-by-side, as we originally booked and set to putting up the tents. About an hour later and all was done and we went shopping from food and supplies. Nothing much else happened that day. The next few days were spent soaking up the rays on the beach developing our tans in the morning and relaxing and snoozing in the shade in the afternoons. I'm proud to say no-one got sun burnt, not even me and my baby skin - I used factor 30 & 35 sun repellant :-) . I did manage to get a slight tan too, but no where near the tan I have in my "indian" passport photo.
Friday that week we visited a small town, Locronan, a couple of minutes drive from the campsite and had a stroll round the town taking in the sites and visiting most of the quant little tourist shops. We had a drink at one of the bars and Claire and I decided we'd try some of the cider. I expected to get the cider served in a glass or maybe even a mug, but to my surprise, we were served it in tea cups. None the less, it was very tasty cider... very dry too.
Saturday was taken up by a trip to a town called Concarneau. This is a fishing town with a walled fort of sorts in it's main harbour. Once again, lots of wandering was done taking in all the tourist sites and shops. We then opted for lunch at a proper little french restuarant that Fiona and Alan had been to before. I had fish and more fish - it was lovely.
Sunday was taken up with lazing about and more sunning. That evening, we were invited over to Ian and Judith's caravan for dinner - we planned this part of the holiday, so no surprises that they were on the same site as us this time. Ian cooked up about 2 kilos of mussels from the local poisonnerie (fish mongers) - they were gorgeous. Very flavourful and not sandy at all. Judith and Fiona aren't fans of mussels, so they opted for cremated (Fiona's BBQ skills could do with a bit of fine tuning ;-)) turkey and chorizo kebabs and chips.
Monday was our first day of bad weather - ok bad is probably a bit harsh, it was just overcast and significantly cooler. Claire and I opted to hang around the local area, whilst Fiona and Alan opted to go to the most westerly point in Brittany - Pointe du Raz. Claire and I headed back to Locronan and wandered through all the shops at a more leisurely pace than last time and opted for crepe for lunch at one of the creperies. We both had galettes (buckwheat pancakes) for main meal - mine had ham, cheese, mushrooms, tomato and an egg on top. Claire's was the same, but sans egg and mushrooms. For pudding, Claire had "singe your eye brows" calvardos crepe (flambe'd apple brandy pancake) whilst I had this creation of vanilla ice-cream, almonds and caramel sauce all enclosed in a crepe. It was very yummy and about a billion and 1 calories :-) . We then popped to the Plomvez-Porzay to visit the post office and have a coffee.
That night we were treated to traditional "folk music" - I can only explain it as a bunch of people dressed in traditional Brettan attire, marching down the main road through the campsite playing drums, bagpipes and trumpets. They got to the end of the campsite, turned around and came back. The music choice was also a bit limited - only one tune the whole way through.
The next morning it was back behind the wheel for the long drive to the Loire valley - Montreuil-Bellay to be precise. Once again, we stayed at one of the many campsites Fiona and Claire used to visit as children. Montreuil-Bellay is a very old town with a chateau just south of Saumur on the bank of the Thouet River, which feeds into the Loire. This was a good stop off point for the trip back. Once again, we opted to share the big tent - we didn't have a choice really as it wasn't worth paying for two pitches and the one pitch was no where near big enough for both tents. That afternoon was taken up by a wander round town.
Wednesday was tourist day - As I've actually never been in a french chateau, Claire and I decided we'd go to Saumur. It's an old town with a huge chateau perched up on the hill along side the Loire River. Fiona and Alan went to the zoo at Doue. Well, I've still to see the inside of a french chateau... we got there only to find that it was mostly closed for renovations. We could have paid â‚¬2 to walk around the gardens, but the actual chateau was closed, so we didn't bother. I did manage to get some good photos from around the town, and Claire and I had a huge lunch in town too, so it wasn't a complete loss.
The next morning we were up relatively early and packed things up for the last time. It didn't take us long and we were back on the road heading for the house. Claire and I drove the cheapie scenic route (no tollroads) whilst Fiona and Alan went the toll route. Once again, a pretty uneventful drive and about 6 hours later we were at the house enjoying a beer listening to the cricket on the radio.
Friday morning we all bundled into Fiona's car and went into Dieppe to stock up on cheap booze and non-perishable food. That afternoon was then spent helping Ian with the house maintenance and taking turns to mow the lawn in the orchard. That evening we all went out for a meal at the local Italian restuarant.
And finally we come to the final day of our holiday. The next morning, we had a bit of a lie in, got up, abluted, repacked the car and set off on our way back to good ol' Blighty. We stopped in Boulogne on the way to the port to stock up on perishables and other things we forgot about and headed on to the port. Once at the port, we checked in and.... sat - there was a 90 minute delay caused by problems earlier in the day. Well, I can tell you one thing for sure - there is absolutely nothing to do at the port. Apparently it's only just re-opened after lying unused for about 10 years, so the only thing there is a bar and loos, oh and loads of other bored people. Finally the boat arrived, the peeps got off, we got on, we zoomed across the channel, docked at Dover and drove home.
And that folks is the end of our wonderful relaxing holiday in France. I've probably missed a few things out here and there, but I think this pretty much covers it all.