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Friday, 10 June 2011

In summary

The above photographs for our French trip are from our time by the Loire.

We have come up with a number of things that could summarise the trip:

  • Excellent cycling
  • Driving on empty roads and getting the best miles per litre from the Blue Bus (8.1 miles per litre)
  • One tick each and so excellent use of the tick lasso and the TBE jabs
  • Three snakes
  • Acquiring of nice tans - up to the start of our cycling shorts
  • Lots of fun

Total costs £
Ferry: Portsmouth to Le Havre 161.48 (including inside cabin)
Ferry: Zeebrugge to Hull 209.60 (with outside premier cabin & dinner)
Campsites 183.60
Supermarkets / food 285.30
Cafes and restaurants 175.50
Diesel 260.00
Other 92.00 (wi-fi, tolls etc)
TOTAL 1,367.48 (for 18 nights)

Anyone paying attention will notice that this is loads cheaper than last year. Going out of season makes lots of sense; cheaper ferries and also cheaper camp sites, thanks to ASCI. Camp sites in France generally cost less than in Germany.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Does anyone know what this is?

We have now had over 15,000 visitors to our blog, which amazes us.
Do any of you know what the construction in the photograph was used for? We spotted it cycling around the Anjou region of the Loire.
We look forward to hearing your ideas!

Friday, 3 June 2011

The Loire: Wine and Chateau

Wine making and chateau are the two things that The Loire bring to mind. At the Camping Parc de Montsabert you can do both very easily. The site is within the grounds of the Montsabert Chateau, not one of the must-see ones the Rough Guide suggests, but we're not big on visiting posh houses and it is good enough for us.
We arrived at the campsite early on Friday afternoon and were in time for the wine tasting visit to the Vignoble des Forges (, less than a kilometre away. Nathalie Pilery is an enthusiastic independent wine grower and seems to run this small enterprise almost single-handed, as well as look after her young family. She showed us around the buildings and described the work involved in making wine and then, of course, gave us different ones to taste; they all tasted very drinkable to us and we came away with more bottles than we really have room for in the Blue Bus.
Cycling in all the different parts of France we have visited has been wonderful and this has been no exception; empty lanes, pretty villages and wide open spaces are what we now come to expect. Many houses have a troglodyte dwellings in their grounds; these rooms carved into the local rock would have been lived in years ago and are now often used as a cool garage or garden shed.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Cycling heaven

It is Ascension Day in France and they are all on holiday; the Marais Poitevin is busy with holiday makers hiring boats on the canals, walking, fishing and mostly cycling. There are the groups of shiny lycra clad men charging through the wheat fields practicing for the Tour, elderly couples on sit up and beg bicycles with baskets; these baskets often have a small dog sitting precariously in them, but most of all there are family groups of many generations on bicycles of different sizes with numerous children on tag-alongs, asleep in trailers or sat in child seats on the back. Over-taking these family groups (obviously we never over-take the lycra groups) takes nerves of steel as they use all of the road in an erratic manner that is impossible to judge and are chatting to each other so loudly they never hear your bell. Worse still was meeting a group coming down a narrow track in the opposite direction, we felt we had inadvertently gone the wrong way in the Tour de France and were trying to cycle through the Peleton.
The bridges over the navigable canals are constructed steeply to enable the low punts to sail underneath. Coming down these bridges bought out the Lance Armstrong in Anthony, as he hurtled down as if on the starting ramp for the time trial.
We took some time out from cycling to walk through the Marais; giving us time to spot flowers and butterflies and watch the cows and sheep grazing in their shaded woodland fields. If we were ever tempted to buy a French holiday home, the Marais Poitevin would be a very strong contender.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Le Marais Poitevin

If we were still using song lyrics as the title to our blog posts, this one would be ' ... takes you down to her place by the river. You can hear the boats go by ...' Le Marais Poitevin is a landscape dominated by water and it has a sensuality that suggests this could be exactly where the Suzanne Leonard Cohen sang about spent her time.
Between Niort and La Rochelle, the rural landscape of meadows, woodlands and crops is criss-crossed by narrow canals, each shaded by trees and bushes; developed to enable the farmers to access the agricultural land most of the boats are now paddled by tourists.
This is a low landscape; there are no hills, cottages are single storey, pollarding of trees keeps their height down and even the churches have low towers. The tallest structures are the grandly named Chateau de l'eau or water towers, which stand out as grand as any chateau.
This makes it ideal for cycling, there are numerous quiet lanes and tracks and each is a joyful discovery of what appears to be an agricultural idyll. It is also an easy place to get lost in, despite a map (free and you do get what you pay for) and some signage (but never just where you need it) we managed to get lost more times than we can remember on our 30 km ride.
Unlike other parts of France, there are benches by the river and channels and we sat and fed the Mallards with stale crusty bread while we ate our picnic lunch.
'... and the sun pours down like honey ...'