Mont St Michel (Normandy), France June 2021 (Tour 4)

The weather in Bayeux stayed fine long enough for us to take a leisurely stroll around the Saturday morning market but by noon we had started on the 90 mile drive to Mont St Michel. It was fifty-fifty as to whether or not we made the trip to MSM because the weather forecast for the north west of France was not good – thunder storms over the next four or five days. I was in Mont St Michel some two years ago and, nice as the place is, I was all for driving south for the better weather but Vanya really wanted to visit the place and so we went – and very pleased I was too. The weather wasn’t good but it wasn’t as bad as predicted and it stayed dry most of the time we were outside and, more importantly, we had the place almost to ourselves.

We didn’t stay long because the weather was closing in on us all the time but there was always going to be time for me to look in on the St Michael Chapel…

… and walk some of the outer walls..

Then it was time to head back. Thankfully, because it started pouring with rain, we had parked up inside the MSM complex (well worth the nine euros charge) and it wasn’t too far back to the Van.

One final thing, I’m often asked about tide times here. Some people want to visit the island at high tide and others at low tide. Some, like me, want to do both. I reproduce below a tide table downloaded from tideschart.com. One word of warning, if you want to walk around the island, don’t wear shoes (you can easily sink up to your ankles in the sand) and do take a small cloth to wipe your feet afterwards.

Bayeux (Normandy), France June 2021 (Tour 4)

Normandy is one of my favourite parts of France but until a couple of days ago neither Vanya nor I had visited Bayeux. That has now been put right and we both love the place. Sitting on the Aure River, Bayeux is a small compact city where just about everything of interest is within easy walking distance. We parked the Van at Camping des Bords de l’Aure in the north of the city and within 15 minutes had completed a delightful walk south along the river bank to the old town centre.

The streets in the centre are lined with a mix of beautifully preserved half timbered houses and elegant mansions and towering over almost every part of the Bayeux is the impressive Norman-Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame. More about that later. For those wanting to know more about the city there are a series of bronze studs in the ground which if followed will lead you around the city for a mile or two to some 20 plus information panels – You can take a self guided walking tour.

After a brief look around the old (medieval) part of the city we made for a small restaurant which Vanya had read about and where I had subsequently reserved a table – Le Moulin de la Galette, a Creperie on the Rue de Nesmond. The restaurant is in a beautiful setting alongside the river and it was this as much as the menu that attracted us both. There are three parts to the restaurant – inside, outside and upstairs (by an old waterwheel). We were inside. Not the best place for the views but perfect for catching the eye of a waiter whenever our glasses required filling. Vanya was on the wine but I went for the local cider (and very nice it was too). The galettes we ordered were not the best we have eaten in France but they weren’t bad. The place was packed with locals but service was good; attentive without being overbearing and; we’d eat there again.

Over the next couple of days we did all the things expected of visitors to Bayeux, such as checking out the Cathedral of Notre Dame and visiting the Musee de la Tapisserie to see and learn more about the Bayeux Tapestry (and they were well worth visiting – see below) but; equally enjoyable was our simply wandering the whole city and; perusing the local Saturday morning market on Place Saint Patrice and; people watching and drinking local beers in the city centre outside ‘Le Montmartre Bar’ on Rue Saint-Jean. Wonderful.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame is Norman-Gothic and dates back to the 11th century (the church was first consecrated in 1070) but only the crypt survives from that time. Much of the current building, including the 77 metre tower was constructed in the Gothic style during the 15th century. It’s most impressive from the outside.

The famous Bayeux Tapestry was first housed in the Cathedral although it is now to be found in the Musee de la Tapisserie de Bayeux on Rue de Nesmond. Part of the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme, the Bayeux Tapestry is in fact an embroidered cloth and not a tapestry at all. It is nearly 70 metres in length (and almost 2 feet wide) and in a series of some 70 richly detailed and colourful scenes portrays events leading up to and including the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. For just a few Euros it is possible to follow the ‘tapestry’ around the museum with a hand held Auto-guide Commentary which explains each scene. Unsurprisingly the story is told from a Norman perspective but, for me, it brought the tapestry to life and is truly enthralling. It was well worth the admission fee of 9.50 euros.

Just around the corner from the Musee de la Tapisserie in the very centre of the city on the largely pedestrianised Rue Saint-Jean is ‘Le Montmartre’. A small local bar with limited outside seating Le Montmartre is invariably packed (especially late afternoon and early evening as the locals make their way home from work). This is hardly surprising given the warm and friendly service, a good range of local beers and delicious tapas style food. We spent a couple of hours there during the early evening of our second day in Bayeux, just drinking and people watching. I could repeat that again and again.

The local market is another great place to people watch and the regular Saturday morning market on the Place de Saint Patric is no exception. It is a typical (albeit fairly large) French market at which you can buy just about anything from calvados to goslings. Particularly appealing was some of the fast food (take a look at the paella in one of the photos below) and the fish stalls (which consisted of super large tanks full of live crabs, lobsters, crevettes, etc).

Wimereux (Hauts de France), France June 2021 (Tour 4)

EUROPE TOUR 4 BEGINS – Finally, the Covid situation seems to be improving! It is June 2021 and France has re-opened it’s borders to tourists and we have begun another tour of Europe. Hurrah!

The original plan was that Tour 4 would commence late March or early April 2021 and last until the end of Summer, with us exploring some of France, Austria, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Georgia (and perhaps even Azerbaijan) and then finding our way home again. The new Brexit rules limit the amount of time we can spend in EEC countries to just 90 days in every 180 day period, hence we developed an outline plan that would see us divide our time evenly during the first six months of the tour between EEC (France, Austria, Italy and Greece) and non EEC countries (Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan). The delay caused by Covid lockdowns has put paid to that plan and as of now we have no fixed agenda. We are back in France with the Van and our two dogs and that is all that matters. We’ll make plans as we go.

The paperwork necessary for us to get back to France was enough to try the patience of Job. If Covid wasn’t bad enough with vaccinations and vaccination certificates, Antigen tests and associated certificates, etc; Brexit rendered our pet passports invalid and … Sod it! You don’t want to know! We’re here.

During previous tours the trip through the Chunnel went very smoothly but on this occasion there was a delay for the best part of two hours because of a train breakdown – frustrating but no real problem. We can live with two hours out of a tour that will hopefully last a number of months. In real terms it meant only that when we finally arrived in France we decided to park up sooner rather than later so as to find a decent restaurant and bar.

A little town called Wimereux delivered on all counts. It’s a fairly quiet seaside resort on the French Opal Coast just to the east of Boulogne. We found a well priced municipal camping site on the edge of the town, stocked up on essentials from a local Carrefour store (i.e. bottles of Cotes du Rhone, Picpoul de Pinet and, of course, Vanya’s favourite Cremant) and not long after were sitting on the terrace of a reasonably priced beach restaurant eating oysters and mussels with carafes of particularly good Muscadet and a not bad Chardonnay.

Wimereux was a pleasant enough place and it served our purpose but, except for the beach it offered little to warrant staying on and in the morning we elected to move on to Bayeux in Normandy.

Beanie liked the place

Presles-et-Boves (Aisne), France November 2020 (Tour 3)

It is Friday 25 June 2021 and it is only now that I discover I didn’t complete and post the last blog of Europe Tour 3 during 2020! Silly me. Here it is…

Our last night of the third tour was spent in France at a small two star campsite in the hamlet of Presles-et-Boves on the Aisne River and it was some time early in November. An increasing number of Covid lockdowns throughout mainland Europe had finally prompted us to conclude the tour and head back to the UK and we broke the journey from Colmar to Calais at the ‘Camping Le Domaine de la Nature’. No, it wasn’t a naturist campsite!

The owners of the campsite were wonderful in that they were quite happy for us to stay over in the event the Anglo-French border was closed because of Covid but, no problem, we were successfully booked on a train back to the UK early the next afternoon.

No interesting photos, unfortunately; just two snaps of the River Aisne, where we walked the dogs. The campsite sits next to the river.

What a sad ending to a really great tour.