Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Holiday in France

Tuesday July 1st

A holiday in France with the Campervan, sites were pre-booked over the internet

What a come back to earth today with a full days bikeability with a group of year 5s’ after 2 splendid weeks in France. The trip home from La Trinite Sur Mer [near Carnac] was a 230 mile drive to Cherbourg, a 4 .5 hour ferry crossing and finishing with a 60 mile drive home from Poole – so arrival time at home was 11 pm!!

June 15th
 The trip out was easy as we went and stayed near Poole at my sons, giving us a very short trip to the ferry on Sunday morning. The ferry was quiet, we loaded quickly and made for our booked seats. An uneventful crossing, arriving in Cherbourg at 1:45 French time. This gave us sufficient time to drive down to Pontorson near Mont Saint Michel for our first 2 nights in France.
The campsite was quite busy, lots of Dutch, Germans, few Brits. Most were only there to pop down to see M St M. there was a cold north wind despite the lovely sunshine.
The first day we unloaded the folding bikes to cycle along the excellent cycle way across to MstM, head wind all the way, making it hard at times, 10 kilometres, locked up the bikes and wandered up round the Mount, but no going in the Chapel itself. It was a lovely old town, especially away from the main streets, we sat down to have our picnic in a nice open park area, but! Were immediately surrounded by hords of French school children, clearly their usual picnic site, so we moved on to a quieter place, however the place is well worth a visit. Cycling saved us having to pay 12 Euros to park, then a long walk to get on a bus to travel to the monument. A good tail wind back to the campsite made the return journey much easier.

June 17th
Time to move on, the weather was warming up and less wind making the drive down to the Vendee quite hot with no AC in the van. Stopping on the way for the customary Baguette, cream cheese and cucumber, French style. The excellent motorway system and fantastic road surfaces meant a swift journey, even past Rennes and Nantes. We arrived at Saint Gilles-Croix-De-Vie  and our campsite, ‘Les Cypres’ fabulous position, but, we  were disappointed with the facilities, not supplying toilet paper!!!  The site was quiet, except for a large English Motor Home, BUT! Most other pitches were taken up by ‘seasonal pitches’ with caravans and Awnings ready to use each week end, which they seemed to do with vengeance [more later].
The pitch was only yards from a gate leading to a fabulous large open beach over the dunes, we spent most evenings with the beach to ourselves as well as providing  me with somewhere to run [more later!].

There is an excellent grid of cycle tracks around the Vendee, and there is even one around the whole region giving an 84km route. We took advantage of these tracks as it was 4 km into Saint Gilles., the weather was hot dry and sunny, a trip down to the market  with a picnic on the riverside was our introduction to St Gilles, the market was wonderful with fantastic fruit and veg stalls, al doing a brisk trade, what ever happened to our British markets!!!

Another  day out was at Les Sables D Olonne with its fabulous beaches, quite busy, but still not as busy as July and August. We were able to park in the camping Aire in the middle of Les Sables, parking in the area is difficult for ‘camping cars’ most good view points having height barriers. Coffee on the beach and a nice cheese and tomato panini for lunch, a paddle in the sea along with a bit of sunsitting!

We planned to go to a ‘Chat De Eau’ that you could go to the top for a great view of the area, but sadly it wasn’t open until July. Instead we went to Apremont and had a picnic lunch by the river and a walk up to the Chateau, a very interesting area in an extraordinary hilly area in an otherwise flat region.
I managed to get 3 runs in whilst at St Gilles, only 4.5 miles each, but included a mile and a half of beach, the rest on the cycle track, all early morning runs very peaceful and quiet.

St Jean De Mont was the destination for another cycle ride, very pleasant cycling in the sunshine, lovely to sit and watch the world go by overlooking the beach.
Much time was spent sitting in the shade, reading, I managed to read ‘Mercx –half bike, halfman. A good book that gives good insight into Mercx cycling success in the 60s’ and 70s’ the hard work he put in, and hopefully it appears drug free,but! Who knows with the Lance Armstrong  affair. I was also reading a book about a man who was riding the 1914 Giro route round Italy on a 100 year old bike, as this was a particular difficult race with only a handful of finishers. His  trials and tribulations are described, I cant imagine how he did it on a single speed bike! An interesting book, but got boring towards the end.

The weekend came and went, with the campsite gaining significant extra people with the local French seasonal pitch residents taking advantage of the hot sunny weather – strangely they all disappeared on the Sunday evening, leaving us to continue our quiet and peaceful stay.
June 23rd
Monday was time to move on and drive up to La Trinite Sur Mer, near Carnac, only 130 miles so not too onerous. ‘Camping Kervilor’ was quiet on arrival, and our pitch was luxurious in size, nice shading with trees and nice grass, different from the sandy scrub of the St Gilles site.
We had a very pleasant couple from Holland camping next to us, Robert and Olga – keen cyclists  with a very nice motor home. We spent some time chatting about parts of Britain, Robert was very well informed, and knew many areas of the country. I felt inadequate knowing absolutely nothing about Holland. Robert has promised to send me some information on the lakes area of Holland and Sweden.

Cycle routes around the area were not as obvious as the Vendee. We did cycle down to Trinite, coffee in a seafront café with a large raspberry Beignet and a lovely ride along a cycle route to Carnac, and Carnac beach where more beach sitting took place with a nicely cooked takeaway Pizza for lunch.

The stone rows or alignments as they are called locally drew our attention again, fascinating, several km of standing stones. A particular favourite area was the ‘Petite Menac’ a small area of standing stones close to the campsite. We also visited several local dolmens that were in remarkable good condition – it did give lots of food for thought.
On a day out to Quiberon we met a very nice Irish couple when we were parked for coffee, it turned out they were on their way home to catch the ferry to Cork, so ‘jettisoning’ some food, giving us a litre of milk and a large bag of muesli, how kind of them instead of throwing away. After a good chat we had a look at Fort Penthievre which appeared to be an adventure centre for the military now, but had a grim past with the Germans using it in the last war. The coast of Quiberon is beautiful and in the sunshine was stunning, sadly parking for ‘Camping cars’ was difficult once more.
The excellent weather continued right through till the Saturday before we returned home, which was a very wet day. A day in Auray at the Le Clerc Hypermarket, along with a good reading session back at camp with tea and biscuits.
June 29th 
The drive back up to Cherbourg was uneventful one of the  first on the ferry and first off again at Poole, the 4.5 hour  trip did seem a long time, but the view out of the window into the sunset helped, especially as we approached Sandbanks and Brownsea Island.
 A really nice 2 weeks in France, good roads with excellent road surfaces, we only covered approximately 1200 miles, Diesel was 1.28 Euros a litre which at the 1.23 Euro to a pound made fuel cheap. The van ran really well, and we were very comfortable despite the temperature at times being 30 + degrees. The Fiammi sunshade being a real bonus along with the ‘Ramoska’ which widened our culinary presentations as it acted as an oven.
I managed 3 more early morning runs at  Trinite upping the distance to 6 miles along to the Pointe De Kerbihan, most of the way along the coast path, esy running with little ups and downs, but very nice views across the bay, with runs in a time of  about 54minutes, I am pleased with that, a total of 27 miles over the 2 weeks in fantastic weather. Cycling, we covered  67 miles on our folding bikes. Lots of cycle trails, but opportunities at times to cycle on the French roads, remembering to cycle on the other side of the road!!

July 2nd

First ride out on my newly built Qoroz road bike – Titanium frame, stem and seat post, carbon forks, Full Shimano Ultegra 6800 group set, in grey, compact 50/34 chainset with 11 -32 cassette,  Hope hubs with Mavic rims, Ritchey wide and shallow drop bars,  Bontrager seat, Shimano 105 pedals, Bontrager stainless bottle cages – weighs in at 20 lbs with 2 spare tubes, and 500ml water. Not the lightest but felt very comfortable. Gear ratios felt good with a good range available, I hope the 32 tooth sprocket will get me out of trouble on the big hills!!
Love the wide handle bars, lots of space to have different hand positions. Still sorting the riding position before chopping off the fork head tube.

I did 46 miles round my Ham, N Curry, Athelney, Langport, Muchelney route. The ride felt good, climbing seemed smooth, and gearing felt right. Felt good when I got home – must be getting fitter with average speed of 14.9 mph or perhaps it was the new bike. The weather was really good, hot dry and sunny – its what cycling is about!

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