Quimper (Bretagne), France September 2021

We were heading for Quimper and actually parked up in the municipal campsite near the town centre but, because the reception was closed for lunch and on a total whim, we decided to move on a few kilometres to the Chateau de Lanniron. Anyway, I’ve seen Quimper.

In 1969, for financial reasons, the owners of the Chateau de Lanniron decided to turn their 38 hectare estate into a leisure complex. A luxury campsite complete with restaurant, swimming pools, waterpark, various playgrounds, a golf course and driving range, etc were built around the 17th century chateau (and it’s garden terraces which drop down to the River Odet) and some of the outlying buildings on the estate were converted to gites. We booked in for the one night but stayed on for a second and were sorely tempted to stay for a third. Leaving aside all the facilities it is a great place to rest up. The pitches are huge and set in some lovely grounds. It is probably one of the best 5 star campsites in France (or anywhere for that matter).

Originally owned and used as a residence by the Bishops of Quimper the 15th century chateau was extended in the 17th century to resemble something like the existing property although; it was plundered and fell into considerable disrepair during the French Revolution and had to be restored. The property is quite beautiful and full of interesting history.

And all for 20 euros a night! September is out of the high season

Vannes (Bretagne), France September 2021

What a place! A sizeable town of 52,000 people, near the Gulf of Morbihan on the southern coast of Brittany, Vannes is one of the most charming towns we have visited during this tour. We only had the one day in Vannes and it would take considerably more than a single day to do this town justice but, we’ll be back.

We parked up close to the town centre and walked northwards down the long ‘finger like’ harbour (plenty of boats moored along both sides) towards the old town.

We passed into the mostly walled off, pedestrianised old town through the 16th century baroque gate of Porte St Vincent (which is named after the Spanish Dominican friar, Vincent Ferrer, who died here in 1419 and subsequently became Vannes’ patron saint) and entered a wholly enchanting world of cobbled streets and pastel coloured half timbered 16th century buildings

I read that there are no less than 170 listed half timbered buildings in the old town centre and although the ground floors of many have been converted into modern shops, boutiques and cafe bars it was easy to imagine we had been transported back into the 16th century.

The Porte Saint Vincent gate took us directly on to the Rue St Vincent which in turn brought us to the Place des Lices. There used to be jousting tournaments on the Place des Lices but, that was a long time ago and as we arrived, a street market was in full swing.

It was a most complete market with the widest range of goods and produce, full of colour and wonderful aromas not just from the many local fruit & vegetable stalls but from traders selling spices, flowers and various differently scented handmade soaps. The market stretched across numerous streets and seemed to have almost everything. There were carpets & furniture, craft ornaments and jewellry and food & drink stalls. There’s also a fish market on the Place de la Poissonnerie.

Of course the street market is surrounded by plenty of cafes and bars and it wasn’t long before we were seated at a table outside of one of them while I tucked into some really delicious local oysters and a glass of muscadet. It was almost noon and it was either that or we would have to visit one of the many Michelin Star restaurants in the town. Next time?

There is so much to see in Vannes. We could have carried on to the Jardin des Remparts with it’s geometric lawns and flowerbeds and topiaries and it’s views of the Garenne Bastion and three towers but Vanya was looking for something to eat (she doesn’t do oysters) and so we turned back to the harbour where she had seen a menu she liked.

On the way we paused at the granite Cathedrale St Pierre. This cathedral took some 700 years to complete and is a real mix of styles (romanesque, gothic, Italian renaissance, etc) with the oldest original feature being the 13th century bell tower. I went inside the cathedral but a service was underway and while that was on I was never going to feel comfortable looking for the tomb of St Vincent which is housed in in one of the Cathedral Chapels. Anyway, there was a pretty good harpist busking outside the cathedral and Vanya wouldn’t mind me listening to just one song.

From the cathedral we left the old town via it’s north west corner; walking past the impressive Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) on our way to the harbour for Vanya’s brunch and for me to finish my lunch. Vanya’s chosen restaurant was right on the harbour – a great place to eat, drink, people watch and admire some of the boats in the harbour. A couple of the boats have some stories to tell too.

Except for the harbour we didn’t really get to see much outside of the town walls; which is a pity because heading south from the harbour (just beyond where we had parked the Van) is the large Parc du Golfe where there’s the Jardin aux Papillons (a glass dome housing hundreds of butterflies) and an aquarium with a huge collection, more than 50 tanks, of mostly tropical fish. Again, maybe next time.

Conleau (Bretagne), France August 2021

We parked up at Flower Camping Conleau just outside of Vannes for a couple of days. Flower is not a bad campsite chain and staying in Conleau allowed us to both take advantage of the Region’s good weather and visit Vannes.

Conleau on the Gulf of Morbihan (Gulfe du Morbihan) is one of Europe’s, if not the world’s, most beautiful bays. ‘Mor bihan’ is Breton for ‘little sea’. It is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a one kilometre wide bottleneck and yet covers an area of about 100 square kilometres (between Vannes and Auray to the north and Arzon and Sarzeau to the south). In different circumstances we would have stayed longer and taken a boat trip around the forty or so islands and islets which fill the bay. The Gulf is a listed Regional Nature Park and the whole area is beautiful.

After checking out the small peninsula next to the campsite for a suitable bar or restaurant for the evening (easy – there are only two and one had shut down because of Covid), I paused to watch a game of Palet Breton that four local guys were playing. The game is played with contestants taking turns to throw cast iron palets (discs), from a distance of 5 metres, at a maitre or jack which sits on a poplar board (measuring 70 cms x 70 cms). The individual or team getting closest to the maitre wins the round and receives one point for every palet which is closer to the maitre than their opponent(s). First to 12 points wins the match. This is not an easy game to play but these guys were seriously good, hardly ever missing the board. Could be a great lockdown game.

Having been suitably impressed by the Palet Breton players I decided to work up a thirst with a long walk. The area is full of walks and the one I chose took me through some beautiful marshland along the banks of the River Vincin almost all the way into Vannes (and back). This is an area of incredible natural beauty full of assorted plant and animal life, especially birds.

That evening we enjoyed a couple of drinks at the restaurant I found earlier in the day but we didn’t eat there – they had run out of oysters! No matter, we drank and reserved a table for the next evening, leaving specific instructions with the “Maitre D” to keep some of the local oysters back for me.

I take Van in the Van to Vannes tomorrow…

Coulon (Nouvelle Aquitaine), France August 2021

Today was about going north (we want to get back to the UK to attend Dave’s funeral) and we decided to drive 3 hours or so to a place called Chauvigny. Then, some time well into the journey, it dawned on us that we had stopped overnight at Chauvigny when going south just a few weeks ago. Ordinarily, Chauvigny would be well worth revisiting but it was too fresh in our minds and we therefore sought an alternative. Vanya found a place just west of Niort called Coulon, on the edge of the Poitevin Marsh (National Park), which looked worth a visit. It was a few miles back the way we had come but, she had also found a half decent looking camp site just a couple of miles short of Coulon in the small town of Magne and; to cap it all, she discovered Magne has a supermarket. Back we went, passing through Niort on the way (Niort could be worth a visit next year).

Having established ourselves at Camping Kingfisher (aka Camping Martin Le Pecheur) I went off to explore the area. It didn’t take me too long to walk the length and breadth of Magne and, yes, there is a Super U store (and there is just about every other type of shop you might need) BUT there is only one bar restaurant (the crepery looks to have shut down long ago) and it shuts early on Mondays! Indeed it was shut by the time I got there.

So off I walked to Coulon to seeif it would be worth a drive there in the evening.

This little village of some 2,000 people is situated on the banks of the River Sevre in the Marais Poitevin (Poitevin Marsh) National Park and is designated one of France’s ‘plus beaux villages’. The riverbank is full of boat rentals (canoes and flat bottom boats that can be rowed, paddled or punted) and for such a small village it has a surprising number of souvenir shops, boutiques, restaurants etc. Unfortunately, it also has a tourist train.

The train did it! I took myself away fron the water to the main square (where there is a nice looking church – the Church of Saint Trinity) and found myself a small bar restaurant that was serving half a dozen local oysters and a glass of wine for 10 euros. Costs really have risen in France during the last 3 years.

Then it was time to walk back to Magne. Coulon is not a bad place to visit but the menus I looked at would not impress Vanya.

Blaye (Aquitaine), France August 2021

If Blaye is worth visiting it is for it’s amazingly well preserved citadel and the municipal campsite inside the Citadel. Great find Vanya!

The Citadelle de Blaye is the largest of three fortifications (the Citadel itself, Fort Pate on an island and Fort Medoc on the far bank) protecting the Gironde Estuary and the city of Bordeaux. It was designed by Vauban and built on the site of an already established castle (the Chateau des Rudel ) during the period 1685 and 1689 at the behest of Louis XIV. It has two entrances the Porte Dauphine to the south and the Porte Royale to the east. We drove into the campsite via Porte Royale.

With it being lunchtime and a municipal site we were unable to check in until after 4pm (Vive la France) so; we went for a good wander around the citadel. As mentioned before, the citadel is in excellent condition. The only exception is the 12th century ruin, Chateau des Rudel, which featured in Vauban’s original design and was used as the governor’s residence to start with. It had it’s towers removed much later (in the early 19th century when it was thought they would interfere with artillery fields of fire) and then fell into ruin.

The Duchess of Berry was incarcerated in the citadel for a while. I need to be more precise; Maria Carolina, Duchess of Berry (born in 1798) was held prisoner here; not Louise Elisabeth, Duchess of Berry (born in 1695). Louise Elisabeth’s story is a real tragedy and perhaps of greater interest but for all the wrong reasons. Maria Carolina’s story is of more historical interest. Maria Carolina gave birth to a son, Henri, very shortly after her husband (the fourth son of the then king of France) was assassinated in 1820. Various other deaths followed and Henri should have become King Henri V after Maria Carolina’s’s father (King Charles X of France) was forced to abdicate but; Louis Philippe allowed himself to be crowned king of France instead. The Duchess considered Louis Philippe a usurper and claimed her son was the legitimate heir to the throne. It didn’t happen – she was exiled by Louis Philippe. She returned to France in 1832 to organise a rebellion but was discovered and imprisoned in the Citadel of Blaye. Whilst there she gave birth to another son (fathered by an Italian Count Lucchesi-Palli whom she had secretly married) and her credibility with the “legitimists” was thus destroyed. She was labelled a fallen woman and removed to Sicily, no longer being considered a threat to Louis Philippe.

Moving on, that evening, we found ourselves a table at one of the restaurants inside the Citadel. We believe it was the old officer’s mess where we actually ate and it was quite surreal sitting eating a good galette and drinking wine in a room where more than 200 years before there would have been Napoleonic soldiers standing at the fireplace doing exactly the same. The galette wasn’t the best we have ever had but the wine, Le Bastion (made using the Citadel’s own grapes) was fine.

I took the dogs for another brief walk around the fortress before retiring for the night (as much to take some more photos as anything). What an unusual place!

And the town of Blaye? Not really worth the time I spent walking round. It is very plain and very tired…

Ascain (Aquitaine), France August 2021

Ascain is a very pretty small town (or is it a large village?) besides the River Nivelle on the French side of the Pyrenees. It sits under the 905m Pyrenean summit of Rhune, just a few kilometres from the Atlantic coast, in the former Basque Region of Labourd, now referred to as the Pyrenees Atlantique Department of Nouveau Aquitaine. I prefer Labourd.

If you are so inclined, there’s an easy walk up to the summit of the Rhune or there is a 35 minute train ride up. I’m told that at the top you can sit outside a cafe and take in splendid views over Bayonne and Hendaye. Anyone who knows me will also know that I wasn’t going to waste my time with such a trip. I don’t care how good the views are; I cannot stand trains and cafes on hills. It is probably the one thing I hate more than bloody wind farms.

No, I spent the afternoon at something approaching sea level exploring the wonderfully picturesque ‘village’ and checking if my newly acquired Covid Sanitaire QR Code Pass would be accepted in the local bars. Dealing with those points in reverse order, two bars were quite happy to serve me alcohol after checking my pass. As for the village, it is lovely. Almost all of the houses are typical low roofed, half timbered properties with stone lintels and almost all are painted in the Basque colours of white, red and green. They are very proud of their Basque heritage here.

In villages such as this the main square is more often than not dominated by the local church but in Ascain the honours are shared between the church and a Basque Pelota Court. More about Pelota later. The Church of our Lady of Assumption doesn’t look particularly impressive from the outside but inside it is a wholly different matter and the place has some history. Parts of it date back to the Middle ages (and in 1609 the local priest was degraded and burned as a sorcerer by order of the infamous Pierre Lancre who despised anything Basque) but, the church received significant makeovers during the 16th and 17th centuries and was inaugurated in 1626 by no less a personage than Louis XIII. Leaving all that aside, I like to see wooden galleries in a church (they are quite common in this part of the world) and this particular church has three levels of galleries. It is beautiful inside.

Another place I visited in between testing my Covid Sanitaire Pass was the Roman Bridge. It’s not really a Roman bridge although there may well have been one on this site back in Roman times. No, the so called Roman Bridge was erected in the 15th century in the Roman style and then totally rebuilt (in the same Roman style) in the 1990’s after being destroyed by a flood. I think the bridge needs renaming.

What really excited me about this bridge (the 15th century one) is that it was of strategic importance during the French retreat from Spain during the Peninsula War. I’ve long been interested in Napoleonic history and the Battle of Nivelle took place here on 10 November 1813 with the Duke of Wellington decisively beating Marshall Soult. Ascain was, at the start of the battle, the centre of the French defensive line and Taupin’s Division held the village until the British Light Division routed them. You wouldn’t believe it to look at the place now. It is so quiet and peaceful.

Covid Sanitaire Pass working and with me having gained a good lay of the land, it was time to collect Vanya and the dogs and find somewhere to eat.

We timed our arrival back into the town centre perfectly. Indeed, we arrived as the village youth started dancing to traditional basque music in the town square. There was a real carnival atmosphere about the place which continued on into the next day with the annual Pelota Tournament also taking place on the town square.

For the uninitiated (and I had to look this up) Basque Pelota involves players hitting a heavy tennis sized ball against a wall, the frontis, with an open hand (although I understand the game can also be played over a net using different types of rackets) such that his opponent is unable to return the ball. It is the forefather of most racket sports and is played fast and hard. Some aspects of the game are like squash but Basque Pelota is played on a court which is 30 metres long and 10 metres wide and with the winner being the first player or team to score 22 points. I watched the final of the seniors doubles (they were playing first to 30 points) and it looked to be great fun but physically demanding.

So what else is there to say about Ascain. We love the place. So too did Winston Churchill who came here to paint.

Sad thing is, early the next day we learned one of our best mates has died. RIP Dave. Missed but never forgotten. 27 August 2021

Villeneuve les Beziers (Languedoc Rousillion), France July 2021

Our current plan is to be in Spain for when Spain play Italy in the first of the two European Championships Semi-Finals. There was time therefore for one more overnight stay in France before we crossed the border. We settled on the small town of Villeneuve les Beziers which sits on the Canal du Midi and is within walking distance (4.5 miles) of Beziers.

I didn’t know it at the time but the drive south would take us over the 2.4 km Millau Viaduct which spans the Tarn Valley. Designed by Norman Foster and completed in 2004 it was, and perhaps still is, the tallest bridge tower in the world at over 1100 feet and it has the highest road bridge deck in Europe at 890 feet. It’s an incredible feat of engineering and quite beautiful although Vanya wasn’t in the least impressed as we drove over it – that is her acrophobia at work again.

Shortly after crossing the viaduct and with the weather still bad, but getting brighter all the time, we pulled off the motorway at Clermont L’Herault with a view to having lunch at one of two nearby beauty spots; either the Cirque de Moureze (with it’s strange rock formations) or the supposedly pretty Lac de Salagou, whichever we reached first.

Clermont l’Herault itself is a really quite unremarkable little town but from there Lac de Salagou was well signposted. Lac de Salagou was not that much more interesting and is best remembered for the unbelievably loud noise made by the cicadas (cigales in French) as the rain finally ceased and the sun came through. Honestly the sound was almost deafening. The other thing about the place is the strange red soil in the area which days later is still coating the Van.

We reached Villeneuve les Beziers soon enough and the sun was still shining as we parked up in a small campsite, Les Berges du Canal, which sits right on the Canal du Midi. The Canal is another engineering marvel stretching as it does some 240 kilometres from Toulouse to the Mediterranean Sea. It was built during the reign of Louis XIV (between 1667 and 1681) and connects the River Garonne to the Etang de Thau thus enabling canal boats to travel all the way from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. Many of those canal boats have since been converted into really comfortable living accommodation…

Villeneuve les Beziers has a very pretty and surprisingly large old town. The 1oth century church of St Stephen is surrounded by narrow streets and lanes which in all likelihood haven’t changed much since the French Revolution. We had just missed the town’s annual Latin Festival with it’s concerts and salsa and flamenco dancing but were happy enough to simply wander the old town and stop for drinks in a local backstreet bar.

After exploring Villeneuve I left the dogs with Vanya and set off westwards along the Canal to Beziers which is, I am told, the major tourist attraction in this region. There was never going to be time for me to see all that much of Beziers but, sad person that I am, I was delighted to stumble upon the Beziers Aqueduct which takes the Canal du Midi over the River Orb. Another fine piece of engineering but also visually impressive with it’s arcaded walkways under the canal itself. Unfortunately, those walkways are closed to the public but one can walk the tow paths at the top. The aqueduct took 4 years to build and was completed in 1858 but the Chief Engineer died a few weeks beforehand and it had to be finished by his son.

The view from the aqueduct over Beziers and towards the Cathedral of Saint Nazaire is impressive. The cathedral is unusual in that it looks more like a castle than a church. It was built that way to impress upon the Cathars the might and power of Catholic Rome – not that there would have been many Cathars left in Beziers after the 1209 massacre which initiated the Albigensian Crusade.

By the time I got back to Villeneuve I was ready for a few beers (the round trip amounted to some 12 miles of walking) and Vanya and I found a real local’s bar where we enjoyed the cheapest beers of the tour so far.

Dinner followed at a fine restaurant on the canal front, with the restaurant owners once again being very accommodating so far as our dogs were concerned. We ordered a mixed tapas followed by a particularly salty pizza (far too many anchovies for me) to share. The tapas were great except for one dish, which I thought were mushrooms but proved to be duck hearts – uugghh!!

Canet de Salars (Occitanie), France July 2021

Canet de Salars is a small commune in the Aveyron department of Occitanie just 90 miles south east of Rocamador. Vanya chose the place on the strength of a supposedly good campsite, Camping Le Caussanel, which sits on the banks of the Lac de Paraloup. The idea was to move south east instead of south west because the weather forecast was slightly more promising in the east but, most important, the campsite looked a good place for us to watch the European Championship Quarter Final match between England and Ukraine.

We arrived at the campsite early afternoon even after a prolonged stop at one of the motorway service stations where we had tucked into a selection of French Cheeses bought at a huge Leclerc Supermarket earlier in the day. Whereas last year was very much about sampling Cremant wines, this year it is about French cheeses. Today’s unanimous winner from a selection of Savoie cheeses was Reblechon, a semi-soft mountain cheese made from unpasteurised cow’s milk and best eaten with nuts or dried fruit. It is also the principal ingredient in a Tartiflette which skiers in the French Alps will be well familiar with (or so Vanya tells me).

Reblechon

Most of the afternoon was spent spoiling the dogs. We had the campsite pretty much to ourselves and could indulge them without putting on other residents.

As for the football… what a result! England 4, Ukraine 0 with Raheem Sterling once again the man of the match and England now into a semi-final match against Denmark. We’ll sleep well tonight but it is going to be an early start in the morning. We have decided upon just one more stop in France before crossing the border into Spain. The weather in France is still not great and we both want to be in Spain when the first semi-final, Spain v Italy, is played.

Rocamadour (Occitanie), France July 2021

I was here a couple of years ago. It is touristy (and I mean very touristy – fridge magnets and toy trains ferrying crowds of people about) but for all that it is very pretty and one of those places that simply has to be seen. More to the point it is within walking distance of La Foret des Singes (the Forest of the Monkeys) which Vanya was desperate to see.

Rocamadour is a small village, well under 1,000 people, built on 3 successive levels into the side of the Alzou Canyon in the Dordogne Valley. It is stunning, especially if you can visit the place when there are no large crowds.

Already a place of some religious significance, in 1166 it became a “must see” destination on the pilgrimage route from Le Puy en Velay in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain after a perfectly preserved, long dead body was dug up just outside the local church. No one could identify the body but it was deemed “incorruptible” and assumed to be Saint Amadour (a one time local hermit). Call me a cynic if you like but such an assumption could only benefit the local community which was immediately renamed the Rock of Amadour (later bastardized to Rocamadour) and when, just 6 years later, the local Benedictine monks produced a Book of Miracles (126 properly authenticated miracles) – well, the place was made! It’s popularity as a pilgrimage spot grew further after 1244 when King Louis IX (later Saint Louis) visited and, despite all kinds of problems during France’s long and bloody Religious Wars (which amongst other things saw the Huegenots burn the long dead body of Saint Amadour), it is now one of France’s most popular places to visit although nowadays there are many more tourists than pilgrims. Rocamadour is not just about Saint Amadour. There are plenty of other extraordinary events associated with this town – even leaving aside those associated with the Black Madonna (supposedly carved by Amadour) and the Miraculous Bell which rings without human intervention whenever the Madonna saves someone’s life anywhere in the world. There is, for instance, the story of the famous Durandel Sword (a bit like Excalibur) which Roland threw away (so the Saracens couldn’t claim it) as he lay dying at the Battle of Roncevaux. It seems he threw the sword so hard it landed 160 kilometres away in the rock wall at Rocamadour. Now there may be some truth to this legend because I have actually seen the sword which is stuck into the rock wall at Rocamadour!

I mentioned that Rocamadour is split into three levels. The lowest level sits against the cliff face at the bottom of the Alzou Canyon and comprises a single street of medieval stone houses now, sadly, almost entirely given over to tourist shops and bar-restaurants. Cut into the side of the canyon directly over the houses, the second level is the religious heart of Rocamadour and comprises various monastic buildings (churches & chapels) the principal ones being the Sanctuaire Notre-Dame de Rocamadour and the Basilique Saint-Sauveur. Towering over everything and perched at the top of the gorge is the Chateau or castle which was built to protect visiting pilgrims.

The edge of the plateau above Rocamadour, where L’Hospitalet used to be, is predominantly modern and now filled with tourist shops and bar restaurants. Nothing too wrong with that; tourists have as much right as pilgrims to visit such a beautiful place. It is just a shame the tourist shops and restaurants are not confined to this upper part of Rocamadour and that the medieval part is not left as was for visitors (pilgrims and tourists alike) to enjoy.

There are a few places up on the plateau, along with the Chateau, that deserve special mention. The first is the very prominent Chapelle de l’Hospitalet which sits in the ruins of the old hospital which was built way back to tend sick or dying pilgrims.

Also on the plateau is the Grotte des Merveilles with its stalactites, stalagmites and Paleolithic drawings which go back 20,000 BC. It is a very small grotto with a handful of primitive drawings and it in no way compares with the Lascaux cave system and drawings (also to be found in the Dordogne) but, the 45 minute guided tour through the grotto does provide some temporary reprieve from the midday sun.

One of the best places to visit up on the plateau and less than a kilometre from L’Hospitalet is La Foret de Singes (The Monkey Forest) which is a wonderful park of some 50 acres where three troops together comprising 150 Barbary Macaques roam freely. With less than 8,000 living wild (there were 23,000 in 1978) Barbary Macaques are a seriously endangered species. La Foret des Singes provides a wonderful habitat both for the monkeys to thrive and for researchers to study their behaviours. Moreover “La Foret”, in conjunction with three sister parks (one of which is Trentham Monkey Forest in England), has successfully returned entire troops of Macaques totalling some 600 monkeys back into the wild. Our walk through the park lasted just over an hour but it is not a long walk. We enjoyed frequent, sometimes extended stops through a beautiful setting and would have stayed much longer except we were never going to leave the dogs for more than an hour or so.

To end this particular blog I enjoyed two firsts in terms of food during this trip – One was Rocamadour Cheese (Cabecou), made from unpasteurised goat’s milk presented in the shape of a small disk and eaten warm on a slice of walnut bread and with a crisp salad. The other was the king of pates, Pate Foie Gras, made from duck liver specially fattened by gavage. I loved them both. Vanya was not keen on the pate.

Chilling in the pool this afternoon. Not sure where we are heading next. We’ll talk about it over a wine or two later this evening. One thing for sure, it will be hot and sunny.

Chauvigny (Nouvelle-Aquitaine), France June 2021

Chauvigny is a small town of some 7,000+ people in the Vienne department of Nouvelle-Aquitaine just 70 miles or so south of Saumur. There has been a distinct improvement in the weather over the last couple of days (although we are still experiencing the occasional heavy shower) but our plan remains to keep heading south until we hit warm weather without showers. We would have driven further south than Chauvigny but England play Germany this evening for a spot in the last 16 of the European Championships and we want to be settled in good time to watch the match.

Jump forward and we have watched the football and England won 2-0 (Yaaay!!) with Raheem Sterling playing a blinder. Well done England (although others in the team are going to have to start pulling their weight if we are to progress further). By the way, well done Vanya for fixing it such that we could stream the match live xx

We didn’t stay long in Chauvigny (just the one night) but the place is worth mentioning on a few counts. Firstly, Camping De La Fontaine, which sits by a lovely little park just under Chauvigny’s old town, deserves special recognition. For a two star campsite it was excellent. Welcoming, well organised, clean, tidy and quiet are just a few of the adjectives which I would use to describe the site. Add that the shower block, toilets and washing areas were spotlessly clean and that the overnight price was the lowest we have experienced in France this year and, no two ways about it, Vanya found a gem.

As for Chauvigny, we were not overly impressed with the newer lower parts of the town (it didn’t help that we couldn’t find a bar there showing the England match) but we loved the upper (medieval) town (Cite Medievale).

The ridge on which the old town sits is short and narrow and comprises five main buildings in various states of repair. Four of the five can be clearly identified in the above photo and all are open to the public to some degree or another. Left to right in the photo are the ruins of the Chateau Baronnial often known as the Chateau des Eveques de Poitiers, the Chateau de Harcourt, the Romanesque Church of Saint Pierre and the Donjon de Gouzon a Chauvigny. It is the ruins of the Chateau de Montleon that are not clearly visible.

Next stop Rocamador…