After a trip to the Intermarche car park to do our washing – life in a Motorhome is soooo luxurious – we slowly worked our way up the Ardeche to Villeneuve de Berg.
Taking in the flora and fauna along the way we stopped off at Ruoms, which apart from the main street containing a nice selection of ice-cream parlours and patisseries, it also had a very (very) small walled old town which pretty much consisted of a church.
Another 10km down the road and we stopped again at Vogue – listed as one of France’s ‘Most Picturesque’ villages and to be fair it wasn’t bad although the Chateau isn’t really a ‘Chateau’…. Not a grape in sight!
After our slow mooch along the Ardeche we arrived at Villeneuve de Berg mid afternoon where the Aire (GPS n44,56223 e4,50381) gave us beautiful views looking out across the whole valley. It was only an over night stop for us but it was tranquil and it looked like the area had lots of paths for walking and cycling if one was stopping for longer.
As we were on a slightly tighter schedule – we can hear the cherries calling – we moved on in the morning to Montelimar where we had planned to get out on the bikes and explore the Rhone a little.
The Aire at Montelimar (Free, although there is a machine and barrier that weren’t working – GPS n44,56494 e4,75677) is about 1km outside a fairly normal working town which just so happens to have a wall round it. After an afternoon mooching around the town and its castle on Thursday, we headed south on the Rhone along the cycle path until we found that the river had taken possession and it was far too deep to cross. As we were only 15 minutes or so from where we would have stopped for lunch and to turn around, we gave in and had our picnic on the pathway before the return leg … A very pleasant 50km round trip.
We had planned to meet Michel and Teresa on Friday to get the latest on the Cherries and Apricots but as we were only 60km away we decided to get to Tournons-sur Rhone a day early to check out the area. The Aire (GPS n45,07366 e4,82111) can only really be described as a car park with facilities but it suited the purpose and despite the sign stating we could stay a maximum of 24 hours, the nice man who collected 5 euros at 8am on Friday morning said we could stay as long as we wanted…. it’s ok, he did give us a ticket in exchange, although I do still wonder how many un-official car park attendants are out there making their millions like the chap who worked near Bristol Zoo :). Needless to say he didn’t turn up on Saturday or Sunday, so he is either earning too much money to worry about it, or is employed by the local council….. Most probably the latter.
After a couple of hours exploring our possible new home for the next few weeks we have decided that we aren’t moving on. We have found our heaven – an excellent array of food and patisserie, an incredible chocolate factory….some may say that it is the gourmet region of France, hills lined with grape vine (which in turn means bottles full of wine) as well as Apricot and Cherry trees and lots of paths along the rivers and into the hills to run and cycle and if that isn’t enough, on a clear day a beautiful backdrop of the snowy Alps.
We only popped into the Chocolate factory to find out the opening hours, but once we were through the doors in the shop we were lured in by all the free samples dotted around to help you decide what you wanted to buy …. No less than 16 types of plain chocolate varying in Cocoa quantity before you even start on truffles, and mixes …. Needless to say I did feel a little queasy after only being in there for ten minutes – I dread to think how much chocolate we each ate.
On Friday we cycled to meet Michel and his cousin who owns the farm where we are planning to pick fruit. Unfortunately for them and many other farmers in the area, the weather has been pretty hard on the crop this year and a heavy hail storm in mid-April has damaged most of the Apricots in the area, destroyed whole vineyards on the East bank of the Rhone and heavily effected the cherry crop. Disasterous for farmers as they still need to do all the work but will only receive a very small part of the income.
After speaking to the owners they still would like us to help with the crop, but it means that the work will most probably be more intermittent to begin with and there will be far less of it, possibly only 20% of the crop they had last year and the quality is inferior which reduces who they can sell too….. apparently consumers don’t like black bits in their Apricot jam – no idea why?
With a weekend free to explore a bit more we found the market on Saturday morning and bought lots of smelly cheese including a Goat Brie which is absolutely delicious although it was running off the plate 🙂 We then met up with Michel and Teresa to go and visit the main Co-operative in Tain L’Hermitage ‘Cave du Tains’ for a little bit of wine education. If in the area it is worth a visit as they have five different varieties of wine, each with at least one red and white, some also containing a rose or additional ‘special red’, all of which can be tasted without any obligation to buy … A bit like the chocolates, although it would be useful if they could put the two places together as it would have been even nicer if we could have eaten the chocolates whilst tasting the wines! ….. Needless to say we did pop into the Chocolate shop on the way back to help Michel and Teresa choose which they wanted to buy 🙂
27 degrees, sunshine, chocolate, wine and smelly cheese …. What more do you need to round off a perfect day? Well, Keith was even happier than me as we are now back in the UK Satellite reach and he managed to finish off the day watching the FA Cup final on the BBC.
Today however we have lost the sunshine and we have grey cloudy skies with gusts of wind of 45mph and it is raining heavily 😦 hopefully it is just a temporary blip.
We have moved to a campsite (16 euro 80 until 1/6 then 19 euro 80 -Camping Les Lucs GPS n45,0668351 e4,8504057) a little closer to the farm as they don’t have facilities to empty our necessities and the road is pretty muddy, so with the weather as it is, moving every couple of days would be a bit more complicated.
Anyway, for now, assuming it doesn’t rain in the morning we will start picking Cherries tomorrow and see where we go from there…..