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Showing posts from July, 2015

Millau

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I knew immediately upon arriving in Millau that our three nights here wasn't going to be nearly enough.
We detoured on our approach in order to drive across the Millau Viaduct, the world's tallest bridge. While impressive enough from the drive across, it wasn't until the following day that we'd fully appreciate this feat of engineering when we cycled underneath it.
We stopped at the viewing area for photos before changing course for our campsite destination Camping Indigo Millau.
Two rivers meet in Millau, the Tarn and the Dourbie. Our campsite was in the right-angle corner where they meet and boasts a long pebble beach on the bank of the Dourbie whose clear waters flow swiftly past.
Our first afternoon was spent on this beach, in the sun, and swimming alongside several families and dozens of children floating past on rubber rings. There were many kayaks going past too which inspired us to hire one the next day.
Our first full day in Millau was exhausting as we paddl…

Underwhelmed by Carcassonne

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We left Flower Camping Soleil at 7.45am, arriving in Carcassonne by 8.30am before it became crowded with day visitors.
The old walled city is a medieval fortress on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Cleopatra's height with bikes on the back meant we couldn't park in the nearest car parks, but an aire de camping cars was only a short distance from the old city and so we parked up here alongside another VW campervan.
As we drove past Carcassonne four days ago and I could see it from a distance it looked mightily impressive.
Up close, the restoration looks a little too Disney and I was rather unimpressed. I've played Carcassonne the boardgame almost 3,000 times and so maybe I've built it up to be something it could never live up to. Or maybe I've seen Rhodes old town, and apart from Carcassonne's little roofed towers, it's all the same - filled with shops settling tat, and overpriced restaurants and bars, sucking all authenticity out of it.
I'm gla…

Gruissan

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So I mistakenly said in my previous blog post that we'd spent the day on the beach at Narbonne Plage. I must correct this immediately, having now been to said place.

Narbonne Plage is like a smaller San Antonio in Ibiza. It lacks any character and is full of tacky shops and bars.
We have actually been spending our beach days on the stretch of sand between old Gruissan and Narbonne Plage. A beach fortunately not filled with the people staying in Narbonne Plage.
On our first full day we spent all day on the beach. On the second and third we saw sights in the mornings before spending the afternoon on the beach.
Yesterday we cycled inland and uphill to the Notre Dame chapel. We set off early so that the uphill ride would be more bearable in the intense heat. It was a nice ride, though we chose the shortest route that involved some stony paths rather than road. The view from the top made the journey worthwhile. We could see all the way back down to the sea for miles around.
Today we c…

Moving on

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We'd planned to be waiting at the campsite‘s barrier at 7am, the allowed time to enter or exit the site, but we didn't wake until 7.15am. Then it would take another half an hour to pack up, fold down the roof and have Cleopatra ready for driving.
Still, we hadn't lost too much time and were still hopeful of journeying from our first holiday location on the west coast of France to our next scheduled four-night stay on the south coast by the time the campsite allowed arrivals at 2pm.
The French farmers had other ideas though. They had decided the best way to have the French government reconsider cutting their farming subsidies was to burn tyres on the only bridge exit from Oleron island. The carriageway was closed and we simply joined the queue of vehicles foolish as ourselves to believe they may get to their intended destination in any kind of good time that day.
The police, of course, did nothing to prevent the burning of tyres. Instead they posted someone at each side of…

Beach and bikes

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For beach-loving cyclists Ile d'oleron is absolute heaven. The whole island is bounded by sandy beaches, while the interior is crisscrossed by cycle paths.
We set off cycling on two mornings. On the first we cycled to Le Chateaux on the opposite coast. The island is so flat that it's a breeze to cycle and the well-signed cycle ways mean you always know where you're going while keeping you out of harm from traffic.
The paths go through pretty little villages, past farmland, open fields of wild flowers and, best of all on our approach to St Pierre on the second day, a sea of sunflowers so beautiful and striking I almost could have cried.
I've never seen a field of sunflowers. They were awesome. Waving gently on the breeze all facing the same direction, playing temporary landing pads to busy bees. On both days we visited markets and on the first we purchased a crusty baguette and two oozing patties of goats cheese. We sat on a park bench in the square, split the bread wi…

Île d'oléron

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The first four nights of our Big French Summer Holiday were spent on Île d'oléron, France's second largest island after Corsica. The Rough Guide says it's a laidback and tranquil place until July and August when it becomes filled with campervans.
I'm sorry to be one of those campervans and sorry too that I don't recognise that description. Sure we arrived on the island in a slow convoy of vehicles crossing the bridge from the mainland in both directions. But following our sat nav's directions, after a couple of turns off the main road, there wasn't a single other vehicle on the road.
Our campsite, Camping Indigo Oleron Les Chenes Verts, was the only such settlement on about four miles of unspoiled beach. The dunes and woodlands behind the beach are a protected nature reserve and laid back and tranquil are both very fitting adjectives.
After squeezing Cleopatra and her awning between the trees we set off to explore the beach. We walked for about 45 minutes…

Sweaty as fuck

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I'm sweaty as fuck, I've got mosquito bites on both ankles, I've been wearing the same clothes for 24 hours, I'm an hour's walk from the van and it's started to rain.
I love this holiday already.
All the best holidays start like this, including the year the coach dropped us of in Halkidiki and within 30 minutes we'd both stood on sea urchins.
I know is going to get better because our first campsite, home for four nights, is in a fabulous location on the beach and yet in an uncrowded and unspoiled area of the island. There are woods all around and hundreds of walking and cycling opportunities.
We'll not be walking and cycling if the weather improves, mind you. We'll be laying on the beach.
But, sun or rain, I know I'm going to enjoy the Île d'Oléron.

The wasps of Stiffkey

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We've just spent a hot summer's weekend at Stiffkey near Wells-next-the-sea. We'd driven past the High Sands Creek campsite on our way home from Cromer and decided to book it for a future weekend. It's featured on coolcamping.co.uk which for me is reason enough not to research any further.
The site is very well located, with nothing between itself and the mudflats of the north Norfolk coast. The facilities are top notch too and despite not having a website in this day and age it was packed with campers.
There is a but coming. At £22 per night for two people it's on the pricier end of the campsite spectrum. I'd expect electric hookup for that money but there was none. Price aside we were left with a problem because signs at reception and indeed the lady booking me in said no burning wood. When your only non-electric cooking stove works by burning sticks and pine cones and you have a fridge full of meat to cook for your weekend's meals what are you supposed…