Saumur – 07/09 – 10/09

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Having spent the last few weeks on really nice campsites we are starting to get high expectations .. . probably setting ourselves up for disappointment at some point, however it didn’t arrive today as we checked in to Camping Ile d’Offard (14.55 euro per night inclusive of electricity with an ACSI card), which is on an island in the middle of the Loire just across a bridge from Saumur.

It is a reasonably big site, but quite woody, so it doesn’t feel like everyone is on top of each other, although you could be mistaken for being in the UK as I would say that 75% of the vehicles on site are british.  When we arrived I got talking to one of the numerous english couples who have been coming here for the last three years who were just on their way to the ‘Marche des vins’ and suggested that we went along if we had time.  So, arms twisted, after we parked the van (and hung out the washing …. as we do have boring chores to do as well …. ) we headed over, bought two glasses for 4 euros each and wondered around the 40 stalls tasting the local wines

The area (Anjou) is known mostly for its ‘Cremant’ which is sparkly wine – both rose and white – but close to Saumur they do also produce quite a lot of red.  We had planned at stopping at a couple of the vinyards to do some wine tasting whilst in the Loire valley, but the market was a little bit like all Christmases had come at once….  and all for only 4 euros each.  If you are ever in the area on a Sunday around the 8th September I suggest you book somewhere to stay and pop along as not only did we learn alot about different types of wine, the process of making red and rose, we also got to taste alot as well… and we could walk home 🙂

Monday morning we decided to set off on the bikes and go in search of the troglodytes (houses built into the side of mountains) as the area is littered with them.  As maps are over-rated, we ventured through the countryside finding some lovely little villages, a few chateaux and a couple of marhuana fields until we eventualy arrived at a little village called RocheMenier where they have restrored two farms which were troglodytes.  Both farms were active until the early 1900’s when they died out, one of which farmed angora rabbits which may have been one of the contributing factors to its extinction … perhaps if it had stuck to goats or horses it would still be around – it was just way ahead of its time.

On the way back we cycled via Gennes and then back along the river through some pretty villages and stumbling across another troglodyte which was being used as a mushroom farm … eating type if you were concerned about my previous comment.

This morning we set off towards Montsoreau which is supposed to be one of Frances’ prettiest villages…. it isn’t, but the next village along which is called Candes Saint Martin is very attractive, so it was definately worth a visit and with the low mist across the Loire even the electricity pylons and nuclear power station looked beautiful 🙂

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On the way back we cycled through vinyards and came across more troglodytes (which were more impressive than the ones we saw yesterday)and we then wondered into Saumur to have a look at the chateau and the old town before heading back to the motorhome for the monthly haircut 🙂

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Angers – 5/9 – 7/9

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Camping Lac de Maine – 16.55 euros each night all inclusive

Keith found this lovely campsite on the edge of a lake and the Loire in the ACSI book, which has more than returned the money we paid for it now.  Clean, tidy and friendly situated 5km outside Angers which is a large, but pretty town on the Loire.

We arrived on Friday afternoon and wondered into Angers to have a look around.  It has a ‘real’ Chateau ….. not quite sure how they differentiate between a Chateau used for protecting the town and the pretty ones that the rich people used to live in … but this one was quite impressive and still mostly intact.

There are two parts to the town, the newer, which still contains older buildings but is predominantly a shopping area, and the old, which is solely residential now and has no access for vehicles … very pretty.

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When we got back to the campsite Mika’s twin sister was parked opposite her.  She was owned my an Austrian couple who were as enthusiastic as we were to see the differences between the two motorhomes despite the fact that we speak no Austrian and they spoke no/very little English. 

Saturday morning we popped into the market to stock up on fruit and veg and then decided to try and explore the region and its vinyards on bike.  90km later we had definately done some exploring – the most beautiful place (An undeveloped Richmond on Thames) was a village 5km along the Loire called Bouchemaine where there are a handful of bars and restaurants on the river front.  Our ‘tour’ took us along the Loire to Chalonnes-sur-Loire and then down towards Thouarce then up to Brissac-Quince (which has a beautiful ‘posh’ Chateau), on to Les Ponts de Ce and then back to the campsite.

Somehow or t’other we missed out on the ‘degustacion’ as many of the tasting rooms were closed.  We made up for it with a couple of glasses of wine with our dinner and a catch up with some neighbours from near Cork.

 

Nantes 3/9 – 5/9

Nantes Camping – 16.50 euros all inclusive

Wow what a campsite – this one is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. It is a municipal 5 star eco friendly site open all year round situated 5km outside Nantes by the University.

Nantes is a beautiful city which is buzzing as it has a huge university. After arriving we wondered into town to have a look round and it is the kind of place that you could go from café to café, via a patisserie and just people watch. As with La Rochelle everything is pristine, although slightly more normal, with shops that you wouldn’t mind going into and having a look around … oh and toilets that you don’t have to pay for 🙂

Today we cycled over to Trentmoult which is a small old village on the other side of the river and then afterwards on to see the Ile de Machines … http://www.lesmachines-nantes.fr/en/

Dave and Nicky suggested that we came and had a look and we weren’t disappointed. If you are interested in mechanics or engineering or even just animals you would be amazed by the skill that has gone into creating the ‘machines’ that you can touch, move and ride on 🙂

We spent nearly two hours looking at the mechanics in the gallery, which is where they have a giant ant which takes 5 people to move, a heron which can take 4 passengers, a plane and a concept mini tree world amongst other things – all built out of wood and metal with the mechanics to move like the animals/plants. Everything is child (and inquisitive adult) friendly and they invite you to sit on the animals and operate them as they move around.

We then moved outside to ride the elephant…..

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Weighing in at 48.4 tonnes the elephant is 12m tall, 21m long and moves at a maximum of 3km an hour. It would be quite a site if you were driving through Nantes and had no idea of its existence as it is almost pre-historic ….although I am not quite sure that elephants have such long eyelashes.

I was a little over zealous with my camera and had to cut the 78 photos down to 37 ….. but the tree is due to be completed by 2018 and so far there is only one branch on display …. definately worth a trip back

After a bit more of a wander around the centre and up to the top of the Commerce tower which has fantastic views over Nantes we headed back at the campsite for a bar b q and some inside info on Italy from our new neighbours from Northern Ireland.

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La Rochelle and Île de Ré – 30/8 – 3/9

Au Petit Port De L’houmeau –  – 16,54 euro per night inclusive of electricity.

Although there are a couple of campsites in the centre of La Rochelle we decided to opt for something a little further out hoping that it would be a little more tranquil. As the schools have started to go back and low season has officially started we assumed that there wouldn’t be any problem finding a space we were however lucky as when we arrived there were only two left. It is a nice campsite with a mixture of posh wooden chalets and pitches for tents and motorhomes and for people like us who are happy to jump on a bike ideally placed.

1/9 Île de Ré

Situated just off the coast from La Rochelle connected by a pretty impressive 3km bridge is the Île de Ré, a hidden gem with beautiful beaches and beautifully preserved villages. We looked at the map on Sunday night and decided to bite the bullet and cycle all the way to the lighthouse at the end. The route on the way passed through some beautiful little villages as well as fields full of grapes, and salt and oyster farms.

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On the way back whilst wiggling round the coast trying not to take out any cyclists (or pedestrians come to think of it as there were quite a lot) we got distracted by what looked like a castle, which upon further investigation was Saint Martin de Re which is a walled cathedral city containing a vibrant town with a rather plush port – all of the buildings maintained to a really high level …. I know I shouldn’t say it, but you certainly wouldn’t expect to see anything as pristine as this in France… not a tumbling down building in site 🙂

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After rattling the bones on the cobbled streets of Saint Martin de Re we continued on to La Flotte which was equally as beautiful, slightly smaller and more personal. We stopped for an ‘Artisanal’ (I think that is supposed to be ‘home made’) Ice cream and soaked up the atmosphere whilst people watching.

The journey home was via a part reconstructed Abbey leading to the days total cycling distance of 84km….. phew, lovely day but I definitely have a couple of sore bits 😦

2/9 – La Rochelle

With sandwiches in hand we set off on the bikes again to explore La Rochelle. The campsite is about 6km outside La Rochelle so it was an easy journey in and we managed to chain the bikes up near the seafront and set off on foot to explore.

There is obviously something about this part of France as, like yesterday on the Île de Ré everything was immaculate – I know it helps when there is a bit of sunshine, but all the buildings in the city are built in a white stone which looks stunning against the blue skies. La Rochelle is obviously a touristy city as there is every possible shop you can think of from the UK high streets, from Kookai to Kickers and there is a price to pay …. My eyes happened to be wondering in a patisserie window and a Millefeuille was 4.50 euros ….. Bagnoles De L’Orne count yourself lucky at 1.90 euros.

Definitely worth a trip, but quite glad we made some sarnies before we went!

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Brem-Sur-Mer – Dave and Nicky’s – 28/8 – 31/8

As we got closer to the Loire valley the countryside started to change from fields of corn to fields containing vine after vine of grape… both red and white. We couldn’t have timed our visit better as looking at the size of the grapes we may still be in the region for harvesting which I understand is a bit of an event.

As you rarely get the opportunity to visit friends whilst away we took a slight detour from our planned route and popped in to see Dave and Nicky in Brem-Sur-Mer and were lucky enough to be shown around the area and can only say that we were thoroughly looked after for four days…. Quite a treat!

 The weather was kind to us and we managed to take advantage of one of the regions’ fantastic cycle routes, cycling along the coast to la Chaume (across the estuary from Le Sable D’Olonne) with Dave, we walked along the local beaches as whilst also taking in some of the local cafes, markets and playing some tennis 🙂

 We were spoilt by Nicky’s wonderful cooking and the families hospitality and were also introduced to some lovely local sparkling red wine and a fantastic restaurant on Saturday night where Keith Dave and Nicky all had Sardines three different ways…… tasty and definitely interesting!

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Hopefully they enjoyed the time as much as we did and feel as relaxed as we do coming away from their house….although we have to apologies for the hole we left in the driveway when Keith spun the wheels whilst trying to reverse off 😦

We look forward to coming back and seeing more of Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie in the future as we only got a little taste and hope the driveway is big (and possibly hard) enough – we could quite see ourselves living there 🙂