Monday 13th July 2015

Luckily Götz forgot he was going to give us an early wake-up call at 6 a.m. with "Roll up"!!! Allan had managed to capture a little of the flavour of last night with a short video but the evening was quickly darkening. We were able to show the video to Götz and Evelyn before they left this morning and luckily Götz's performance of "Roll up" was very clear to see and hear.

The morning is overcast and quite a bit cooler but at least it is dry. Hopefully it will cheer up for the celebrations later on.

We looked around the village of Turquant to see where the festivities were happening. Nothing at the artist area, nothing in the village hall and square. Someone had brought a truckload of tables earlier so we knew that something was happening somewhere, but where? Eventually we went for a walk down the lane to the river Loire

and although there were a few children playing on bikes at the football park nothing was happening there either. Childrens' fun, childrens tabletop sale, dancing and a meal and fireworks afterwards but where?

We returned from the river and decided to walk over to the Football park where there was a man enclosing an area of the field with red tape. Across the other side were five tables of old toys, so perhaps we are getting warmer. In the football club are several lines of trestle tables, we have found it!!. On asking if there is any space at this short notice apparently there is and we were shown trays of sausages, meats and other items so that we could choose what we wanted. We paid and were given meal tickets and we shall return at 7.30 tonight!

Then we returned to the motorhome for 3pm lunch (Allan has to note that lunch was at 3 p.m.!!!)

After our walks this morning we relaxed a bit in the afternoon until, here we are, off to another food, dancing and firework evening at £8 each including wine. Don't think that we are spending the family fortune. We find two young women one of which could speak a little English to help us find out what is happening.

We have a ticket with our menu on and when we are served then it is ticked so that we can't have two portions! Starter - Melon, lettuce, boiled egg and tomato with a mayonnaise sauce. Main - Toulouse Sausage and Chips. Then - Cheese and biscuits followed by a desert of cream, creme fraiche, strawberies and (which I didn't warn Dorothy about) an almond biscuit. This comes with a glass of wine, table snacks, crackers, nuts and fruit pieces with a spiced marinade. And as much bread as you can eat.

A very good trio provided the dance music all evening and the highlight of the dancing was when everyone was trying to follow us with the Caravan Club East Sussex Centre's version of YMCA !!! Unfortunately we were leading the dancing so no photos are available. ha ha. At 11.30 p.m. came the fireworks. A really terrific evening and our thanks to everyone in Turquant who made us feel so welcome.

The young woman whom we met that evening who spoke English, explained that she was born in Longue Jumelles and grew up there but now lives in Saumur and works in Tours. Although she did escape to go to Durham University, and then worked for a short time in Ireland, she knows little of other places we have recently been to. Many people do not travel like we do. She didn't even know where Chateaudun was and did not know what a Velorail was! Looking around the hall it seems that many people here don't get to meet people in other villages and there could be many cousin marriages.

We returned the short walk to the Aire a very happy couple, together with a loaf of bread and an overflowing bowl of peanuts! Finally crashing into bed at around 1.30 p.m.

Today ends our third month in France.

Tuesday

We have to be up early today as we need to get to the town of Saumur to find a good parking spot for the Bastille Day celebrations. We needn't have bothered because there were plenty of parking spaces and even when we returned for lunch there was ample space.

We walked along the riverside and saw the people setting up for the evening and then visited the Tourist Information Office

Then a military parade came along the street singing a marching song. Three Officers on horseback brought up the rear, carrying the flag

and much to our surprise the Officer on the right stopped and called over to us "did you find a place to park?" - this was the guy who was exercising his horse, that we had spoken to on Saturday morning asking him about the parking restrictions!! You certainly never know who you are speaking to! And he remembered us, even in the middle of an important parade.

We followed them to the main square in front of the Town Hall and War Memorial where The Bastille Day Parade was to take place. The French colours were brought in and the first part was very solemn - a time of remembrance. There followed an inspection of the troops, the presentation of medals, then all sorts of military marching, saluting, horses and military vehicles bringing up the rear.

After the Parade had left we wandered through the Town Hall Arch and into the courtyard beyond.

After lunch we made our way to the tourist office to make use of the free internet, to check on the bank and finances, then to the parking by the riverside where some of the stalls were. Some of which were photography, wild birds, wine tasting, various crafts and model riverboats. There were also traditional river boats, giving people trips along the river.

We then strolled past pavement cafes, trying not to over indulge as Allan's shirt size has been remarked upon! Dave, he is sure that his shirts are being shrunk by the French washing powder and launderettes. We walked through the shopping district and noticed the umbrellas again

and walked on towards the Chateau

then found our way back to the main square in front of the Town Hall where we met with this band...

There were food stalls, crepes, candyfloss and other snacks to be had. (Allan looked in the other direction!)

Feeling exhausted we returned to the motorhome to relax before the dancing and fireworks later this evening.

At about 10pm we returned with our chairs to the riverbank to see the fireworks. With an hour to wait we thought that we would be able to go the square see the band playing first but as many people were taking their places by the riverbank we thought it best to find a place and stay there, sitting in our chairs with an unobstructed view of the opposite bank of the Loire. We decided not to try any photographs but to just enjoy the spectacle. At 2 minutes to 11 all the street lights were switched off and the traffic was stopped. Even the catering traders switched off their lights. The show started dead on 11 and there was the most spectacular firework display split into three distinct sets. The first started with white lights all along the riverbank and many aerial fireworks going through various colour schemes. Thinking it was all over the crowd were shouting 'bravo'. Then the second section started, red flares all along the far riverbank with aerial fireworks and crackling fireworks like lightning filled the sky and again the crowd were ecstatic. Then the biggy started - blue fireworks on one side white in the middle and red on the other side. Some of the fireworks then had all three colours and some had the colours going in different directions from one firework. The French colours on the French National Day. This was certainly impressive. The show lasted 20 minutes and we had the best seats there.

After the fireworks, feeling shattered after a hectic weekend, then Monday the 'Pont Day' and Tuesday the National Day, we have to leave the carpark where we are tonight as sleeping there is interdit. We waited for all the congestion to ease before leaving and made our way to the E Leclerc supermarket carpark where we knew of a quiet spot to overnight, ready for a big shop in the morning.

Wednesday

Up early,well not exactly early, after all we didn't get to bed until well after 1. 30am we went shopping (well, Dorothy went shopping and Allan played on the computer). Then we moved on to Chênehutte-les-Tufeaux (the name is longer than the village itself) but the Aire here is not much more than a parking space - even the sign says that there is a better Aire along the road in the next village, so we have lunch before moving there to Cunault.

Cunault is a shady, grassy Aire below the road and is alongside the river but the Loire is nowhere to be seen because of a massively wide flood plain. The river is a long way away. During the afternoon Allan takes the trek across sand, grit and shells to the drying up lake and then around that to a small stream and along that to where it flows into the main river. The Loire is impressive and wide, even in the dry season when you find it but at this time of year and without the once in a lifetime flood it is no more then 400 yards across (length of 3 football fields). Dorothy stayed behind to catch up on some laundry - or should we say "shrinking Allan's shirts"!!

Dorothy gave me some good news today the temperature is only 31 degrees, tomorrow it is expected to reach 38....

Although very tired we had a lovely meal of Salmon, cooked outside on the gas stove, served with homemade coleslaw, salad and potatoes . yum yum

Dorothy finished the evening with a long phone chat to two of our friends and then text messages with our friend Helen who is currently living it up in America.

Thursday

So what will today bring. Not a lot if it gets to the forecast temperature. Yesterday was much too hot for Allan, another 7 degrees is not going to be good news.

So, Dorothy says it's too far to walk to Cunault village so lets get the bikes out and cycle there. Blow me down, is my wife having her brains fried in this hot weather! Only if we can do the two geocaches there I said and so that was it, decided. I got the bikes out of the bags and put them together and about 1pm we were setting of to town. 1 pm is not the time to arrive in a French town as everything closes for two hours and I am using the word town in the loosest sense here because it didn't matter at what time we arrived as there are two churches, one of which is a pile of rubble as it fell down in a storm in 1754, and the only shop is a bakers which is closed today!

Geocache 1 near to the still standing Church (which had previously been used as a barn, would you believe!).............

Inside the Church we found this box in the shape of a Church, sculpted from a single block of walnut which was formerly covered in silver leaf touched up with black lines to resemble shrines of precious metals.

According to the guide book this box contains the wedding ring of the Virgin Mary.

Geocache 2 at the blown down Church

Having done the geocaches we cycled back to the motorhome and decided to stay here, possibly to move on tomorrow.
As the temperature was still climbing we decided to move to a shaded position under the trees.
The temperature continued upwards and Dorothy took a photo of the thermometer outside in the shade.

this is warm, very warm.

During the afternoon a young man came onto the Aire with his cycle and camping equipment. Usually "Aires de Services Camping-Cars" to use the full name are reserved solely for Motorhomes, no cars, no caravans, no tents. But the French people are so casual and turn a blind eye to most things.

First the young man went across the sand to swim in the Loire, returning he asked Dorothy if we were English. On finding we were, he said he was very glad as he would now have someone to talk to as his French is not good. We found his English to be very good and he told Allan that he had been feeling homesick for the first few days of his trip. He said that the river water was warm. Then after he pitched his tent he said he was going back "for a bath" in the warm water.

In the evening after he had eaten his meal we invited this young man to join us for a cold beer and the invitation was readily accepted.

He introduced himself as Moritz and is cycling from Bonn in Germany through France and Spain to meet his girlfriend Charlotte in Portugal. He cycles perhaps 100 to 150 miles a day and had actually passed through Cunault heading to Angers, until deciding that he had enough cycling today and so turned back to the river for a swim. Moritz will meet Charlotte in Portugal on the 8th August when she arrives from Germany to study there for a year. He is actually cycling away from her as she is still in Germany. Moritz is 23 years old and told us that in his youth played the clarinet. He works at the moment in a cheese shop. He studied mathematics but decided this was not for him and shortly, when he returns from Portugal, will study medicine. He spoke perfect, fluent English and we spent an interesting evening conversing with him. As he left us this evening he also displayed his gymnastic abilities by doing a slow handstand. What a credit to his family this young man is. We wish Moritz and Charlotte well in their future.

You never know who you are going to meet along the road of life.

Friday

Today we are on our way again to the village of Gennes. There is only an Aire de Services here so we are not allowed to stay overnight. This is probably because there is a campsite there, which is often the case. When we arrived we filled up the water tanks and then showered before going out to do the geocaches. The first was up a very steep lane that goes to the top of the village to a ruined church.

All that way and after an hour of searching we still didn't find it. We think we know where it should have been but no cache?

On our way to the next geocache we visited the Tourist Information where we found out about a festival in a nearby village. It is the Fête de l'échalote which is the vegetable that they grow there. The Shallot as we know it. It may sound strange to us that they have festivals for all sorts of things, e.g. Wash houses, and now the Shallot but at home we have festivals of the lifeboat, fish and donkeys!

The second geocache was across the valley up the other hill to another church. Allan found this one.

On our way to the third geocache we took this photo which shows both previous churches on the two hillsides.......

and the path we have just walked up is steeper than it looks in this photo!

The third geocache led us to a Roman Amphitheater. The cache location was in a wooded trail so Allan went off to find it whilst Dorothy rested on a seat. After searching for quite a while and without success Dorothy was asked to "get off her bottom" and help to find the cache. Almost immediately she found it !!

We had a long visit around the Roman ruins before returning to the center of the village for the motorhome and to be on our way again.

This evening finds us at St-Rèmy-La-Varenne. We relaxed, totally worn out after all that walking back in Gennes

Saturday

Today we meet an English couple, the only ones here in this village, who say they are going to to the onion shallot fair and they think its is a great fun day. As the phone signal is so bad here we decide to go to the Tourist Office in the old Priory to see if there is free Wifi . The lady there is only part time and doesn't know, so while she is phoning up to find out for us we took a look around the priory and its museum, with its beautifully decorated and painted fireplace and upstairs a collection and display of Gourds and their seeds everything to do with Gourds. Seems strange it must be something about the French people.

Allan sees someone who is staying at the Gite and finds out that there is Internet but it is only a plug in cable so to us is not useable. We notice that the computer in the Tourist Office is also cabled. We explain to the tourist Office lady that there is no wifi but she caries on phoning anyway!

We have a quick visit to the Bar which is just outside the Priory and on the way back to the motorhome Dorothy spots a strange stone in the church wall. Dorothy finds the geocache without a phone signal giving us it's location or a clue to help us find it. A true cacher's eye.

This afternoon being cooler, as the temperature has dropped to just below 90 degrees!
we decide to do the long village walk around the Loire flood - area only about 3 miles though. Must be something about English people.

As we were setting off a wedding party arrived. This is yet another theme on our travels through France.

These pictures must have been a shock for Dorothy's phone because it has suddenly stopped working! So, sadly she cannot take any more pictures at the moment.

The Loire on our walk around the village and surroundings.

Sunday

Up early, well earlyish to drive to the Shallot festival in Chemellier. When we arrived there was nothing in the town itself but we soon find out that things are happening in a big field on the other side of town.

We arrived to find a large field with a carboot sale where we buy a smart new door mat and then look at the other food and craft stalls of which there aren't too many. The catering cost 18 euros for a salad starter, piece of meat and haricot beans, a piece of cheese and bread and gateau for dessert. We weren't impressed with the look of the meat course and so we decide against this. We did, of course, have to taste the shallots at a cookery demonstration stall and when visiting the next stall which displayed the growing process and harvesting of the shallots Allan jokingly called them onions but was quickly put in his place! The shallots come from 40 farms in the area around Chemellier and they grow 10% of the French Shallots, 3500 tonnes.

Dorothy had to buy some.......

During the afternoon a boules competition was to take place and we came across an excentric man with a bicycle who took our attention.

He was quite a character and insisted we had a glass of his sparkling cider that he was sharing out.

On returning to the motorhome we found a leaflet advertising yet another festival! This time in the "42e Moissons Métiers et Folklores" you decide what that is.

As we left, on the edge of town was a Laverie and Dorothy said I wonder if there is a geocache there, and guess what ? :)

Next we move to Blaison-Gohier. When we arrive the town is quite large but on our first look all we found was the Marie, the Church, a Bar/village shop and a closed down hairdressers! We park up and did the geocache, yes, another Laverie. It was too dark inside to take a picture but we think you will all know what a laverie looks like by now!. The Aire has free water and free electricity and we think free wifi but we need a code for it and can't find a code anywhere. Maybe tomorrow we will find the code and be able to upload this latest blog.

Dorothy keeps trying her 'phone but it just keeps switching off. This is a big problem for us as it is our main point of contact and internet.

A big week for us next week.....................................

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