Locronan is a beautifully preserved stone village with houses dating back hundreds of years.
It is now a sort of theme village - almost all of the houses are either cute little shops, creperies, or restaurants. It is also often used as a film set and is pleasantly car free.
We had a lovely lunch of choucroute de la mer. It was quite adventurous for me, but I saw it being cooked on a market stall yesterday and it looked delicious. Most importantly, it wasn't scary, which is how I judge my food.
We are doing our best to try the local specialities, so we also bought some local cider, and caramel sauce for our tea.
Saturday, 31 May 2014
Locronan is a beautifully preserved stone village with houses dating back hundreds of years.
Friday, 30 May 2014
This morning wasn't bad, weather wise, and we went to a market where I bought stripy jumper and scarf. I am hoping for a French boating look, obviously without a yacht or speaking to anyone.
We arrived in the seaside resort of Benodet this afternoon and then the rain set in.
After a few hours I decided that it had passed over and we could go out for an early evening cycle ride while the sun was coming out.
Unfortunately, as soon as I had bought my ice cream (and taken the obligatory photo), it started absolutely pouring again, and I had to huddle in a shop doorway to eat it.
Good news now though as we do have some later evening sunshine, but I am not risking another outing.
Thursday, 29 May 2014
We drove about 30 kilometres west along the coast and spent the afternoon exploring the Alignments de Carnac.
We picked up an excellent looking map from our campsite, and set off to find the standing stones. We followed the map into a forest, found a couple of stones but then lost the path.
We ended up carrying our bikes through a farmers field, over fallen branches, ducking under low hanging branches, getting scratched by brambles and nettles, through the rain and then we got back on to a road.
After all of that we found the main site, which is completely incredible. To quote the guide book - 'Almost 3,000 standing stones were set up between 5,000 and 2,000 bc, in an alignment over four kilometres long.'
I climbed a lookout tower and all you could see were rows of enormous, and very heavy, stones stretching away into the distance.
Great afternoon out with the new bike, and Darren, of course.
Wednesday, 28 May 2014
We are still enjoying ourselves exploring Vannes. Today we are seeing how much fantastic French food it is possible to eat without exploding.
We started with some sticky local cakes from a market stall, then lunch of a jambon et fromage galette with fancy cider. Caramel crepe for pudding and I have just bought a baguette and pain au chocolat for later.
Daz has gone for a swim to burn off some of his lunch, while I am listening to my French tapes. I think this must also use loads of calories as it always makes my brain ache.
We wandered around the garden next to the ancient ramparts surrounding the city after lunch, and very nice they were too.
Ps, just broke off a chunk of baguette to keep my energy levels up.
Tuesday, 27 May 2014
I organised our cycling route today, although it looked like it might get a bit tricky, in places. On my map the D199 reached the edge of an inlet, then turned into a dotted line across the water, but carried straight on the other side.
Darren thought there might be a tunnel, I thought a ferry, but when we arrived, there was neither.
It was only about 100 metres to the other side, but a sign said 'no swimming', so we had no option but to head back to Vannes.
We then sat at an outdoor cafe having lunch as hundreds of school children marched past us chanting slogans and carrying banners.
We didn't know what to make of it - perhaps they were on strike, or on some sort of keep fit regime?
Yet again we were wrong. It turns out that every year there is a 72 hour relay parade, from one end of Brittany to the other, to collect funds to raise awareness of the Breton language.
They have obviously done quite well in previous years, as Brittany is a bit like Wales, in that all of the roadsigns are written in two languages.
I don't think that I have heard any locals speaking Breton, but I was on the look (or should it be ear) out when I went for a wander around the lovely old town.
Monday, 26 May 2014
We covered quite a bit of ground today as we managed to drop my old bike off with DHL and then continue the drive up to Brittany, or Bretagne as it is known in France.
Vannes is a surprisingly lovely old town and we are just outside it, camped about 50 metres from the sea. We are actually quite a way inland in an estuary, complete with little Islands and inlets.
We walked to the nearest bar we could find and sat in the sun enjoying local cider in strange heavy china teacups.
We could see across the water to a small island and graffiti on the wall said 'Breton toujours, Francais jamais'. Meaning 'Brittany always, France never.'
Quite a topical subject at the moment.
Sunday, 25 May 2014
Wow, it's good to be back on a bike. We cycled 45 kilometres today and almost all of that was on smooth tarmaced cycle tracks. We saw hundreds of other cyclists and I bonjoured quite a few of them.
Our route took us around the flat reclaimed area close to the shore and I spent all afternoon assuming that we were looking at oyster beds. We saw lots of birds and in the style of Sherlock Holmes I made a deduction. Clue one was the oyster stall near our campsite, clue two was the fields filled with water, and three was the birds wading about, that I assumed were oyster catchers.
All of the clues fitted together and I was happy with my theory.
However, when I got back and checked the Internet, (just to be on the safe side as I try not to write too much rubbish), it appears that the fields were salt pans, and the long legged birds were avocets.
Ps, in my defence I think that a lot area was used for oysters, but the pictures that I took were not.
Saturday, 24 May 2014
The only way to send my broken bike back to England was to pack it up in a box. To get hold of a box I had to visit a French bicycle shop and ask them if, in French, they would give one to me. All went well as I had practiced my sentences in advance, and the manager actually understood some of what I was saying - the rest I communicated with sign language and a bit of pointing. We could have just said 'au revoir' and left, but then we saw a beautiful slate grey and orange machine.
Before I knew it I was on a test drive up and down the street, and then we were on our way home. Me with my new bike and Darren with the cardboard box.
I was very keen to get back in the saddle and today was my first outing. It took a while to get my confidence back, but after a few kilometres I was zipping along.
The Ile de Re is full of excellent cycle paths, no hills and beautiful sea views. We stopped at St Martin de Re to admire the harbour, lighthouse and chat to a lovely English couple with a tandem. They told us a couple of stories about their cycling accidents and I am quite glad to be on my own bike, rather than attached to Darren.
Friday, 23 May 2014
We have been walking around exploring today, and we are staying in a cute little town called Rivedoux.
Rivedoux is the entry point to the Ile de Re and the bridge from the mainland divides the north and south beaches.
The southern side faces the Atlantic Ocean and today there was a really strong wind that whipped up the waves.
By contrast, the northern beach is very sheltered and this is where we are camped. 'Our' beach is calm and when the tide goes out there are lots metal rails on the beach that I think are for growing oysters, mussels or maybe both.
Unfortunately, I am not an adventurous eater, so even though oysters are on the menu at the local restaurants, I just can't imagine myself trying them.
Thursday, 22 May 2014
We had a frustrating start to our journey today as we had agreed with Evans Cycles that we would drop my poor broken bike off in a town called Cholet. It would then be sent back to England to be examined. We had to drive quite a distance out of our way to get there, and then DHL refused to take the bike off us as Evans had messed it up and sent us to the wrong place. Eventually, we had to load it back in the van and carry on our way.
Mid afternoon we arrived at the Ile de Re and we know very little about the it yet, apart from that you arrive via a very impressive bridge.
We picked the first campsite that we came to, settled in and are very happy with it. I am slightly relieved that there is no sign of the couple who recommended that we visit the island.
We have a fantastic sea and bridge view, and we have backed our van as close to the sea as possible. (The second photo is the view from inside our van, not the inside of a snorkeling mask.)
The weather forecast for today was a bit disappointing :-
'Across western France downpours will result in the threat of flash flooding, while the strongest thunderstorms will be capable of producing damaging winds and hail. An isolated tornado cannot be ruled out.'
Obviously, I refused to believe it and said at least a dozen times 'I think it's clearing up now', only to be proved completely wrong.
Fortunately, I did manage to find a two minute break in the rain to get a shot of the bridge over the Loire.
Also, for many days now I have been admiring the beautiful local roses, so I tried an arty raindrop shot, just to kill two birds with one stone.
Tomorrow we are heading south to try and find the sun again. I was speaking to an English couple yesterday and they were heading to the Isle de Re, so we are going there. However, I hope we don't end up on the same campsite otherwise they might think that we are stalkers.
Tuesday, 20 May 2014
Very wet day today, we even had hailstones bouncing off the roof of the van earlier.
Our campsite is great though, just under 15 euros a night and we are camped right opposite the covered swimming pool. (Not only that but the showers are hot and they even provide toilet paper!)
There is hardly anyone else around, so we had the place to ourselves.
Had a lovely time this afternoon, and Daz is still pretty speedy at the front crawl.
I then had an arty plan where we lined up the shot and I was supposed to dive over our campervan. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I never gained any height, but you have to try these things.
Monday, 19 May 2014
We visited Villandry about 12 years ago, I loved it then, and was really looking forward to seeing it again. I wasn't disappointed, although with this layout, they aren't going to change it much between visits.
This is yet another Chateau that was built in the early 1500's, but the main draw are the unbelievable gardens. They were the life's work of Mr and Mrs Carvallo who bought the Chateau in 1906 and set about recreating and improving upon the garden layout from the 16th century.
Most of the garden is laid out in geometric patterns that are filled with vegetables, but the effect is very pretty, and nutritious. The standard roses at the edges of the squares represent the original monks who tended the gardens.
There is also an ornamental garden that is at the front of my first two photos. The heart shaped pattern shows 'tender love', then there is also 'flighty love' with butterfly wings, 'tragic love' - daggers, and 'passionate love' - dancers.
You need a bit of an imagination for this bit.
Sunday, 18 May 2014
As the Chateau is only 200 metres from our campsite, it would be almost criminal not to visit.
Building work was started in 1510 to turn the existing fortress at Azay-le-Rideau into a pretty Chateau in the Italian style
Unfortunately, once it was completed, the King confiscated building from the original owner and gave it to one of his friends. The Raffin family then lived in the Chateau for another 200 years.
It is a beautiful building set in the middle of a lake, although it is a bit run down and damaged in parts.
There is an intricately carved staircase at the main entrance, and Daz looks as if he is acting out a scene from Romeo and Juliet. (To be fair to him, I did make him pose there for the picture.)
Saturday, 17 May 2014
Imagine waking up to these views. We are camped about ten metres from the river and it is completely silent outside apart from the birds.
Our campsite is almost empty and I wandered around watching the mist swirl and the sun gradually rise.
What a start to a Sunday morning.
Ps, Darren has just made an interesting suggestion, maybe we could buy a folding tandem.
This is our third campsite running where we have parked right next to a beautiful river in the Loire Valley.
Obviously, our plans have changed for a few days as I am now without a bike, but today we went to a couple of bike shops and I am trying to decide what type of replacement to get. I am not inspired yet, but give it a few days and I will be itching to get back in the saddle.
We set up our little picnic table by the camper for an afternoon treat, and we are now half heartedly following the FA cup final on the Internet. Come on Hull!
Friday, 16 May 2014
Shocking end to the day yesterday that I couldn't face writing about then. Feeling calmer now so here's the story.
We had a lovely day cycling and finished it off by zooming down hill, then round a really sharp bend, before a fast straight stretch to the campsite. Once there we sat down on a bench to check the wifi. I then got up and on to the bike, and started pedalling away. Almost immediately I fell forwards and sideways onto the ground and the whole bike collapsed underneath me.
Darren rushed over to help me up and couldn't believe it as the bike had split into two separate pieces. The weld in the centre of the folding mechanism had completely come apart.
It doesn't bear thinking about if it had split two minutes earlier on the downhill - it would have been just like jumping out of a car window while it was being driven at 20 miles an hour.
I am in contact with the company and will see what happens next, although I am never getting back on a similar bicycle for the rest of my life.
Anyway, back to today.
Had a lovely visit on foot to the most beautiful Chateau in the Loire Valley. We explored all of the rooms very carefully, and came across a wine tasting session in the basement amongst the barrels that was particularly pleasant.
Thursday, 15 May 2014
We cycled today to the beautiful town of Amboise, which as everywhere around here, has a chateau on the hillside.
Instead of going in it, we had a tasty plat du jour at a restaurant opposite, including a glass of the local wine.
We also cycled past many vineyards and amazing looking Caves, where wine tasting was encouraged. The only reason we didn't partake was because we had no way of carrying it home afterwards - but from now on we will be packing a fold up rucksack.
Anyway, we have local wine in the van already, and I would have taken a picture of me sitting in the sunshine enjoying it this afternoon, but there have been quite a few pics of me recently and I am slightly worrying about the sin of vanity.
Ps, don't panic Matt, we aren't teetotal yet!
Wednesday, 14 May 2014
Our campsite is on the riverbank, almost in the shadow of the Chateau on the hill above - well about one kilometre away, but it sounds poetic.
We visited today and actually went inside this one. It is a nice size, not too large and bright with lots of sunshine streaming in through the stained glass windows.
Princess d'Orleans et Bourbon lived in the Chateau from 1875 until 1938 and was the last private owner. Money troubles meant that the Chateau passed into the hands of the French State and the Princess spent the rest of her life at The Ritz.
All of the upper floors were then shut and forgotten, until being unlocked in 2011. They have not been repaired but are dry and in very bad condition. A strange modern art exhibition is currently taking place. As usual with modern art, to my eyes it was a bit rubbish, but the rooms were great - I was dying to get stuck in with a wallpaper scraper and paintbrush.
Ps, I don't know if the stained glass is a portrait of the Princess, but I thought it was very beautiful.