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Archive : August

Days 14 – 16 – the last leg and home

Day 14 – travelling and exploring 

Moving on again today – back to Buysscheure. Another longish drive, passing through the Champagne region and near more WW1 related places, like Arras, Lens and Bethune,  but when we arrived at the Camping la Chaumiere it was a lovely feeling. Very familiar and welcoming. We set up quickly and had a quick beepy. So lovely and quiet here. Today is Bastille Day. We wondered whether it might be another night of trials (fireworks) for poor Arch. We decided to go out for an evening bike ride along the canal at nearby St Momelin, where we had earlier clocked a handy car park. We arrived and then Paul realised he had left the key for getting the bikes off the roof back at the van. Oops! So we retraced our steps and then back to St Momelin. It was a lovely ride and Archie enjoyed himself very much. As did we.

Rear view - L'Aa canal
Rear view – L’Aa canal
Late evening - L'Aa
Late evening – L’Aa
Never realised vases were dangerous!!
Never realised vases were dangerous!!
Teasel detail (ou "cardere "en Francais)
Teasel detail (ou “cardere “en Francais)
Sun starting to set
Sun starting to set

We took the scenic route home and visited the old fort and windmill at Watten. Where there were donkeys!! Including a particularly spiteful one that kept biting the neck of its field-mate. Bully! The fort is on a big hill  (the Mont de Watten) which looks out over Flanders and which has been the site of fortifications since Roman times. The windmill there (Moulin de la Montagne) was originally built in 1731 and was used until the mid 1930s. In WW2, the Germans removed the roof and machinery and used it as a look-out.  Thankfully, it was bought by the community and fully restored in the early 1990s and it can now grind flour again.  It is a lovely spot and well worth a visit  and we lingered there as the daylight ebbed away.

Donkeys!
Donkeys!

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Moulin du Montagne, Watten
Moulin du Montagne, Watten

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Day 15 – a visit to the Vet and exploring

It had been a quiet night, thankfully, so poor Arch was not troubled. Although later today, he may be. Today is the day that he has to visit the vet to certify that he is fit to travel home tomorrow and take a tapeworm tablet, administered by the vet. But first – we had awoken to shocking news that there had been a terrorist act yesterday evening in Nice, with loss of 84 lives. On Bastille Day! Poor France. Feel very sorry for the French today.

We set off for St Omer to buy provisions for lunch and to visit the Vet. The practice is known as “Clinique Veternaire du Haut Pont” and they are well-versed in the procedure and speak very good English. Passport stamped, tablet ingested and good to go. And of course, Archie behaved impeccably for Monsieur Dandrifosse (great name!!) the vet. The price was approx 38 Euros.

We first visited the Marshy area  (Le Marais Audomarois) and exclaimed at its loveliness. There is a museum dedicated to the Marsh  in St Omer,  from whence you can take a ride on the traditional flat-bottomed boat, known as a “Bac√īve”. Maybe next time?

Clairmarais is a pretty little town in the marais and we noticed the flags flying at half mast out of respect for the dead in Nice. They had been flying so jauntily in celebration of Bastille Day yesterday. It was very sad to see.

Clairmarias - flags half-mast
Clairmarias – flags half-mast

I have grabbed a screenshot from Google maps so that you can see the extent of the Marais (or part of it anyway).  It’s fascinating – see below.

The Marais - Clairmarais
The Marais – Clairmarais

There are some interesting ruins of an old Abbey in Clairmarais and we found the war memorial particularly poignant on this sad day.

War memorial - Clairmarais
There is also a Grotte in the forest near Clairmarais, where pilgrims visit. It is suposed to be a replica of the the one at Lourdes and its special day is 15th August, when it gets 2-3,000 visitors and there is a torchlight procession. We spotted it by chance and had to stop and look.  Opposite there is a sadly dilapidated ruined church dedicated to St Bernard.

 

Grotte de Clairmarais
Grotte de Clairmarais
St Bernard
St Bernard
Quietly rotting
Quietly rotting

 

After our picnic lunch, we decided to visit a nearby  WW1 cemetery just outside St Omer and had a hell of a game finding it. It is called Longuenesse and we were just about to give up when we finally found it. We were so glad that we persevered and we spent a while wandering round and reflecting again on the senselessness of the conflict.

Longuenesse
Longuenesse
Longuenesse
Longuenesse
Longuenesse
Longuenesse
Longuenesse
Longuenesse

It was beautifully kept and seemed a fitting tribute the many men whose final resting place it is.

It was now late afternoon and we had had to go back to do our final bits of packing before our journey back home tomorrow. We had booked to dine at the estaminet on site. We thought it would be interesting to see whether the food was as good as when Bernadette was the chef. Fortunately, it was and we retired full of delicious food and ready for the off in the morning.

Day 16 – Homeward bound ūüôĀ

We had a late morning crossing but left pretty early, as we had to get Archie checked in. It is a great set-up there at the tunnel and the animal check-in was functioning well with little or no queuing. We hit a snag at the car check-in point as a couple on a motor-bike were having a blazing row. It was obvious that someone (him) had forgotten/mislaid something vital and she was pretty annoyed with him. The air was positively crackling around them! We sat there for maybe a quarter of an hour – perhaps longer – until one of their friends – who was waiting patiently on the other side  – offered to help us reverse out and into another queue. We accepted his help and were soon through and on the train. Homeward bound. Homecoming was made slightly more bearable by the prospect of a party that very evening. Hogfest! We were tired but were glad we went as we had a great time. Thanks Nick and Sarah. It was the perfect end to a perfect holiday.

Hogfest
HOGFEST!!!

You may be interested to know that the cost of the repairs to the van from the 1st day of holiday, we now know to be £6,000!

Days 10 to 13 – moving on and exploring near Annecy and then Troyes

Day 10 – travelling 9th July

Very sad to leave this amazing site and our beautiful pitch but let’s see what our next site brings. Our route took us through Bern, Neuchatel, Lausanne and Geneva and we arrived back in France at around midday. ¬†We are in the Haut Savoie region, the capital of which is Annecy, which is just where we are bound. It is a lovely sunny day and people are making for the lake – as are we. The traffic through Annecy is the worst we have encountered so far, but we finally arrived at our pitch at the amazing Camping du LacBleu at about 2 pm. And what a pitch! I can hardly believe our luck! I chose this pitch, from a plan of the site, ¬†back in January and it could not have been more perfect – right on the lake shore again, with beautiful views, again. SO happy!

Pitch Perfect!
Pitch Perfect!

We set up and put up the sun shade, thus marking out our territory. Not that it made a lot of difference! Clearly our pitch is a shortcut to the boat hire place next door and we had a steady stream of people through the pitch! One family even came and lay down and sunbathed at the front of our pitch for a couple of hours! People eventually got the message, though and no harm done really – it’s just the principle!

We had a little rest and then popped¬†out about 4 pm to get some provisions. . It was hot and I MAY have bought rather too much. It was fun doing that “I’ll get this in to the fridge or bust” thing. I am an expert at it from our narrow-boating days.What I can’t fit in will have to be eaten!

So – we are fully provisioned but nonetheless we decided to eat at the onsite restaurant! Glad we did. It was delicious and no washing up! Dog friendly too. The food was good so we will definitely be back.

It was a beautiful evening and it was so pretty to see the lights of the restaurant further along the shore reflected in the water before we retired.

Pretty lights
Pretty lights

Day 11 – resting 10th July

It was a lovely sunny day and we¬†¬†always like to relax after a day of travelling and so we blew the boat up and went for a little pootle on the lake. Followed by a swim. This lake is warmer than the one in Switzerland and it was a delightful experience. This place, much like the last, is very popular with parascenders and the skies are often full of what looks like an array of coloured eyebrows. Paul quite fancies having a go – they do tandem jumps locally. We shall make enquiries! I am probably not built for it, although if I were I might give it ago. It doesn’t frighten me.

There is a lot of watersport activity at¬†the base next door. Stand up paddle boarding seems to be very popular and it’s quite entertaining watching newbies getting to grips with it. Some take to it like a duck to water – others not so much!

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Tandem descent

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The tooth
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Lake view

The day passed with more swimming and boating.  An English couple arrived on the pitch behind us. They were very nice but were obviously a little bit miffed. They were quick to tell us that we were in their usual pitch. Oops! Never mind. Better luck next year. Thunderstorms are forecast for tomorrow. Probably because it has been so hot. The wind had got up and the management came round to everyone to suggest that we might want to batten down the hatches. We therefore put the sun canopy away. This might be interesting!

Day 12 Рstormy weather  12th July

Well! Interesting? That’s one adjective, I guess! It was pretty intense. we both love a good storm but poor Archie is not so keen. In fact he was terrified. We lost him at one point in the night and found him cowering in the shower cubicle. A little later, after one particularly LOUD¬†crack. He launched himself onto the bed and ended up between our heads, panting and quivering, poor boy. He does not have the sweetest of breath and it was a very disturbed night, all in all.

Stormy weather
Stormy weather

We had planned to drive to Annecy itself and explore on our bikes, but that was not to be. It rained Рquite a lot. One area was a bit flooded (only mildly) and they were soon at work, digging a temporary channel into the lake. It worked well. The rain meant that our plans were a bit scuppered, so we took the opportunity to read and catch up on some missed sleep! Towards the late afternoon, it cleared up and we set off for a drive into the mountains between Doussard (which is where the campsite is) and Albertville Рbase for the 1992 Winter Olympics. This is the area known as the Parc Naturel Régional du Massif des Bauges. The sun had come out in force by then and we had a lovely afternoon and saw many birds of prey.

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Kay on a bridge
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Daredevil Archie
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Bird of Prey on the wing
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Bird of prey on a post

We got home and deflated the boat prior to our departure tomorrow for Troyes, spruced ourselves up and then went out for dinner. We had noticed a restaurant nearby called the Spinnaker. Well – it had to be done! And what a lovely meal . I had snails followed by steak frites. Perfect.

Kay outside the Spinnaker.
Kay outside the Spinnaker.

We returned home, full, to do some packing ready for an early start tomorrow. This is a lovely area, and as we still have plenty to explore I would not mind a return visit. Unusual for me.

Day 13 –¬†moving on again

This will be a particularity painful departure as it is, really,  the the start of our journey back to Calais and home. We set off on the dot of 9 Рnot early, but early enough. We have a roughly 300 mile journey to our overnight stop near Troyes. We have become accustomed to breakfasting on the move and today was no exception. We had ordered some pain au chocolate and a baguette for lunch and we enjoyed the pain au chocolate with a travel mug of coffee.

Our journey took us through some beautiful countryside and one of the most interesting place we saw was at the Lac de Sylans, near Nantua. We saw a ruined building and wondered what on earth it was. Research told us that it was the remains of a huge Victorian (French equivalent) ¬†ice-harvesting factory. I’d never heard of such a thing. The story is that a local cafe-owner had been harvesting the ice each winter as it was very pure and could be served safely in his cafe. He built a couple of ice houses and eventually sold it all off to the Soci√©t√© des Glaci√®res de Paris! Soon,¬†rail arrived in the area and¬† 20 to 30 wagons loaded with 10 tonnes each departed every day of the summer for Paris and other large towns.¬†These loads were covered with a jute mat, straw and a tarpaulin for insulation. Losses were reasonable, as for 10 tonnes shipped, about 8 arrived in Paris. Fascinating! Sadly it didn’t last too long as machines that could produce ice were invented early in the 20th century.

Ice Factory ruins
Ice Factory ruins

We took our time, stopping regularly for pit-stops/comfort breaks, but eventually arrived at the campsite – Camping Les Terres Rouges on the outskirts of Troyes. I regret to say that our photographer seems to have taken some time out and I have the only picture of this site! It’s located¬†in an old gravel-pit and is also a water-park. It was very quiet (until the evening – see below) and also quite basic but as it was only overnight we didn’t mind and we’d certainly not hesitate to use it again.

Comfort break
Comfort break
Les Terres Rouges - the waterpark
Les Terres Rouges – the waterpark

Once set up, we decided to pop out for a quick scoot round Troyes, ¬†as it was reputed to be an attractive town. Interestingly Troyes is twinned with Chesterfield and is the place where troy wieghts (for weighing gold) were invented. We are in the Champagne region now, by the way. Well, Troyes certainly lived up to it’s reputation. The town centre has many fine 16th century half-timbered houses. Much of the town was destroyed by fire in 1524 and had to be rebuilt. We thought it was beautiful. One snag though – as it was the eve of Bastille Day, there was a big military display and access to the town centre was severely hampered by this. We managed to get a good flavour of it, though. Worth another look we feel.

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 We returned to van, ate and retired. Poor Archie. Having already been terrorised by thunder a couple of nights ago, tonight it was (we presume) pre-Bastille Day fireworks. His bete-noire!  Went on until about midnight, too. Grr!