Showing posts from 2016

Birthday boy

After four hours on the ski slope on our penultimate day, we headed up to La Bergerie Kanata for lunch, as we have every day this week. We both ordered the bacon and potato pie, and it was fabulous. Today though, is New Year's Eve and also Tony's birthday, so I suggested we order dessert of myrtille tart. I told Tony I needed the toilet, but in actual fact I went into the restaurant to ask if they had a candle for when they brought out our desserts. They fetched me a chef who spoke good English and he explained to the other staff what I had asked. After much rooting around in cupboards they found a tea light which I said was fine, thank you. I could see our order sitting on the pass and when the waiter picked it up I said to Tony: 'This is ours. It's coming.' But the candle had extinguished in the wind. 'Oh, and now it's going,' I said, as our desserts went back into the kitchen. It was obvious the candle wasn't going to stay lit but the wai

Petit Viking

This morning we were up by 7.30am and ready to shower before an early ride up to the ski resort. The hot water had other ideas but neither Tony or I, in our shower attire were willing to ask what the problem was in reception. We washed the important bits and dressed for skiing. Brun Sport, the shop keeping our skis and boots for us, was quiet at just after 8.30am and we were in and out quickly. Today we decided to keep our shoes on to walk to the slope before changing into our ski boots. Ski boots are a total bastard to walk in, hurting your calf muscles and giving your legs friction burn. As we walked to the beginners slopes the snow machines were pumping out a fine mist all across the the mountain. They were still going while we started to ski, giving a chilly sprinkling of snow as we darted underneath. Being so early meant that the queue for the ski lift on the easiest slope, Petit Viking was short and we managed about ten runs, gaining more and more confidence eac

Lac du Lauvitel

Last year when we stayed in Venosc we spent all of our days up in Les 2 Alpes, only discovering dozens of walks back down near to camp as the holiday drew to a close. One walk I particularly wanted to do was to Lac du Lauvitel, the pictures of which looked stunning. So, after two days of ski practice, I persuaded Tony we should do this walk. We were up out of bed as the village churches were, two minutes apart, striking eight. We'd dressed ourselves in many layers and were off on our way by 9am. Despite being a beautiful day with clear skies once again our entire walk was in the shadow of the valley. That made for a cold but atmospheric trek up to 1,500 metres. The first half of the distance was alongside the river. Once the route turned at right angles it was uphill for the rest of the way, at an unrelenting gradient. Tony doesn't do hills very well - I walk at a reasonable pace for a minute, look behind me to find Tony has covered less than half the distance

Les 2 Alpes

This is our second December break in the French Alps. We're on the same campsite, in Venosc, a ten minute cable car ride away from Les 2 Alpes ski resort. After our 8.50am tunnel crossing, we arrived at 6.20pm. The site is under new ownership and, upon discovering our lack of French-language skills, the guy who came to meet us at reception asked us to come to the bar where his wife dealt with English speakers, while he was more adept at Italian. We were shown to our pitch and soon were ready to pop into the village for a drink. But it was Boxing Day and everything was closed. We walked back to the campsite and decided to have a drink in the bar. The husband served us, with better English than he had prepared us for. He gave us a menu and we chose a wheat beer. He said that was for summer, even though we're familiar with what it is and wanted to drink it. He said we should drink Christmas beer, though he would say that, being Boxing Day and obviously having it left over. W

Côte d'Azur - the south of France in October

Our October break might have been very different. We decided on the south of France as our destination only the night before we went. Twenty-four hours earlier we'd planned, and packed clothes, for a week in Scotland. The long-range weather forecast showed sun and temperatures up to 24°C in the Côte d'Azur and so rather than embrace autumn with a cold and damp break near Loch Ness, we decided to cling on to summer a week longer. Little research went into booking camping La Vieille Ferme on the coast between Nice and Cannes. There's not a great choice of sites still open after September. Photos and reviews of the campsite seemed promising and we didn't have time to do any further groundwork. After spending Friday night on an aire two hours south of Calais, another eight hours on the road saw us pull in to La Vieille Ferme at 6pm on Saturday. We'd paid only a deposit and, unusually, weren't asked for the balance upon checking in. Instead they kept

Last few days of island life

Days five, six and seven of our camping holiday on Île d'Oleron were spent on Saumonards beach on the island's north east. It was the first time we'd ventured in that direction and, as usual, cycleway made the journey pretty easy. I'll have mentioned on one of our first two trips to the island that it's criss crossed by cycleway. I think they're for the benefit of motorists as much as bikers, as the angry toot of the horn a cyclist on the road received as we passed by on the cycleway adjacent. He had a road bike and its tires would have been completely unsuited to the rough track designated for cyclists, so my tip here is that a mountain bike is a must, flat though the island is. The beach at Saumonards was quieter, and the sea calmer than on the west coast. You can see across to La Rochelle and, when the sky is clear, you can see the bridge that crosses from the mainland to Île de Ré. Prior to the last day we'd spend on this beach we cy

French food, or not

We have considerable work to do to cook like a local in France. The supermarkets seem expensive but I think that's because we are looking for the same things we'd buy at home and they're not common ingredients here. Having just invested in a paella pan for two, we bought prawns and chicken thighs on our first supermarket shop and our first meal was Spanish. At that same supermarket we purchased off cuts of beef and made a Greek stifado for the second night. Our third and fourth nights repeated the first two, except, shocked by the price of chicken, we bought pork for the paella. I'm sure no Spaniard would make a pork paella but they are happy to add chorizo sausage which is kind of the same thing. Standing at the meat counter planning meals five and six we ended up with a huge but very fatty chunk of beef. I hacked it into dice and we put half in the fridge and made chilli con carne that night and a Moroccan tagine the next. In both meals the fat render

New camping stuff

Eighteen months of campervan ownership and we're still finding little things that make life on the road easier. New acquisitions getting their first use on our French beach holiday include a fantastic fold-out solar charger that very efficiently charges a phone or Kindle. In fact it will charge three devices at once and will be invaluable when traveling without electric hookup. As it is I've been taking it to the beach to top up my phone's battery during the day. A standard mains charger will provide 1,000 amps, with high speed chargers giving 2,400 amps. Using a charge-measuring app I've clocked the solar panels giving my phone 700-800 amps, which is pretty good considering it's using only the sun's natural resource. Then there's been the Lamzac inflatable lounger that folds up into next-to nothing, but with a couple of gusts of wind, inflates to an incredibly comfortable beach chair. While on the island we've both purchased beac

Would they even recognise you in a lineup

Yesterday evening, while walking past the dish-washing area, I overheard a conversation that wouldn't be out of place on the 'Overheard in Waitrose' Facebook page. A British man said to another camper: 'The holidays are the hardest because there's no au pair.' Of course it was said in a jolly posh British accent too. It made me wonder why they'd chosen to holiday on a campsite that didn't offer a kids club if they were that desperate to palm off their offspring on others. And if their kids had to pick them out of a lineup, I wonder if they'd recognises their parents.

Easy Oleron

We're on our third visit in two years to Ile D'Oleron, and our eight nights will be our longest stay. We spent a fortnight in France only five weeks ago and Oleron were our first few nights. We had two other bases further south to split up the holiday and see new places. But every so often it's nice to return somewhere you know you like and just chill out. Our campsite, Camping Indigo les Chenes Verts, is a two minute walk from the beach and literally the only tourist accommodation in its immediate locality. So there are miles of beach you can get to without effort, and it's quiet. Oleron is France's second largest island after Corsica. It's around an eight-hour drive from Calais, and connected by bridge to the mainland. For an island holiday it doesn't get much more convenient. We arrived during the last weekend in August. The queue of traffic crossing the bridge in the opposite direction was a clear sign French holiday season was comi

Our favorite aire

We're back in France for nine nights. We've got a pure beach holiday on Ile d'Oleron. We'll have eight nights there, but as usual our outward journey had to include an overnight stop. I'm so happy we got so far west as to be able to stay the night at an aire de camping car we found while camping nearby in February last year. It's high up in the village of St Michel Mont Mercure, right next to a church with a golden statue on its tower, archangel St.Michel slaying a dragon with a 9 meter long sword. The flat gravel site has the view of the church at one end while looking down over fields and the countryside on one side. We arrived just as the sun was setting a little after 8.30pm. Three other motorhomes were there already, but they'd have been room for 20 more. I was pleased to see some others, as beautiful as the views are, it can be a little worrying to be alone - safety in numbers, as they say. Walking around the back of the church

Cwmdu 2016

We couldn't let a summer go by without camping at Cwmdu. Cwmdu (pronounced Cumdee) is a tiny village in the Black Mountains in south Wales. It's home to a cafe, the Farmers Arms pub, and a campsite I've been coming back to since staying there with my family when I was about 10 years old. I like Cwmdu campsite for its simplicity and beautiful surroundings. It's just a few fields nestled in a valley of more fields, forests and fields. It's never ridiculously busy, the showers are basic but hot, and more recent developments have seen Wi-Fi become available all over the site. There's no mobile signal on site so the Wi-Fi is welcome should you wish to stay in touch with the world. It keeps dropping out though so you'll not be having Skype calls or watching Netflix, but it's good enough that you can share a photo or two on Facebook of you getting back to nature. We arrived at 2.30pm and were off on a walk by 3.30pm. They are dozens of wal