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 brings you to a basic but reasonable public loo which saves the need to wee in a bush. Aires are really intended for motorhomes that are self sufficient on the bathroom side of things. Cleopatra is a campervan and doesn't have a loo, so we try to find an aire with one nearby, or have to sneak off behind a tree.

We sat overlooking the hills below, drinking red wine, as the sun went down and the clear sky began to reveal the stars. The gold statue on the church tower, that can be seen glinting in the sun for miles around by day, was illuminated by lights, giving a calming glow.

It was 28°C when we arrived but a moderate breeze kept us cool and the temperature had cooled by the time we went to bed.

There is something magical about this place. We'd taken a picnic there last year and talked about how nice it would be if we could ever make it our first-night stopover. We enjoyed our evening as much as we knew we would. I said to Tony it felt almost criminal that we weren't paying anything to be there.

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