Thursday, 7 August 2014
France 2014 - Part the third
We packed up relatively quickly, but deciding to hit the supermarket before travelling was a bit of an error. The idea was that when we arrived, we would have all the food we needed and therefore not need to do any shopping, but what it actually meant was that we didn't really leave until lunchtime. And then we somehow ended up on the wrong autoroute going north. On a section where the next exit was a good 20 minutes away. So at 1pm we actually started moving in the right direction, which wasn't ideal. Also not ideal were the alarming notices appearing on the dynamic boards over the autoroute warning of storms in Bordeaux, and then, queues at Bordeaux. We pressed on, but when the traffic slowed to a standstill just outside Bordeaux (and it was 3pm on a Friday), we decided on a new route and took off cross country, to cut off a big autoroute corner. A few pretty towns later (Libourne was rather nice), we were back on the autoroute with some very black clouds behind us. A while further along, the storm caught up with us and we were suitably impressed and peered out of the windows hoping that it would pass over before we arrived at Beaulieu. As we drove into the town, the clouds cleared a little, and we were less bothered about the rain! I asked the lady who took us to our pitch, and she said that it hadn't rained that day, which was unusual, as they get some rain everyday. And you could really tell - everything was green and lush, which after the sand and scrub of Oleron seemed very luxurious. We had asked for a "nature" pitch which came without electricity and personal water and other such "essentials". And we were very pleased that we had. On our island campsite, the "better" pitches along the river front were jammed in together, but we, a whole 20 steps from a little beach, had acres of room with loads of trees and very few neighbours! Rumbles of thunder could be heard in the distance so we got the tent up as quickly as possible and ate supper under the awning as some gentle rain splashed for a little while.
The next day we set out to explore Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne. The campsite entrance was right next to an archway leading to the old (pedestrianized) town, so we just wandered through. It was very pleasant - totally French and mostly deserted!
After a good bimble, we found a promising-looking creperie for lunch. The children practised being French by behaving wonderfully, and biding the time between courses with no toys and no loud noise. We talked and observed and learnt new tunes on the recorder. Without a recorder.
Lunch was tasty! The kids and Ian had a traditional galette avec jambon et fromage and I had an amazing galette of spinach and cheese and potatoes and yumminess.
The kids picked out ice cream flavours for pudding, and I was rather full, but Ian made the effort to have a crepe, and it didn't take much to persuade him into a flaming crepe. The Irlandaise seemed the most likely to appeal to his pallete - flaming whiskey, raisins and coffee ice cream. It was amazing!
After a post-lunch stroll we headed back to the campsite to indulge the children. Last year, the water park at le Col Vert had been a major hit, so when I noticed this campsite in an area that we wanted to visit, I couldn't resist!
The kids had fun!
Unusually for France, fires weren't totally and utterly banned in this campsite (see comments on daily rain!), so we made the most of it and set light to stuff, which, in the sun, was pretty perfect!
Having realised that abandoning the car really was a possibility this year, we had a laid-back second day. Some drawing, some music, a bit of exploring of the island that our campsite was on and the discovery of a park.
Our pitch in sight of the wheelie bins (not as bad as it sounds), paid off as we watched people leave after a weeks' holiday abandoning all the grot that they had bought! A little later we were two swimming noodles (which I had previously declined to buy), and two wooden fishing nets better off. The kids went to catch flies.
And then more swimming! Next door to the pool was a good play area, and in there was Thea's favourite thing - the bouncy giraffe. So after swimming was finished, they bounced. And bounced, and bounced, while Ian and I sat on the nearby picnic tables in the bar area and had tasty French beer and orangina and books! Thea made a friend, and I got frustrated with having to speak to her parents in English (they were Dutch and spoke little French!)
Day three dawned cloudy so I figured that we could venture a little more exploring, and so after walking round the town several times to locate a butcher, we headed over to another old bit of the town by the quay and Nathaniel and I explored narrow lanes. I admired the houses and the view while he explained his invention of shuttle-brakes which are incredibly powerful brakes for stopping incredibly fast vehicles.
We found another playground (I had been for late-night reccies, searching for one with monkey bars!), and Nathaniel attempted to take photos of me doing somersaults over bars.
Our swimming that evening was interrupted by rain. Serious rain that meant that even we were forced into the bar to have drinks and warm up. And that night the storm continued in the distance, keeping me up for a couple of hours watching the almost constant lightening and the loud, ominous thunder. Needless to say, everyone else slept through the lot!