Vanya’s View (Part 3) St Emilion to Hendaye

At the risk of sounding like Princess Diana, I often feel there are three of us in this marriage. There’s me, Dave and Davy. Davy appears most often when Dave is having a shower, cooking, washing up or performing some other menial task. Fortunately he stays away when we are out shopping or in a pub or restaurant. He must be Dave’s alter ego. This is not to say that Dave is schizophrenic, just sad. Davy joined him in the shower the other day. I listened in on their conversation, it went like this:-

“Ouch, too hot. Now, turn it off. Okay. Alter the temperature. Put it back on, ahh, good, good, perfect. Oh, put that there. Lovely jubbly Davy. I should probably open that window but I have had problems with it. That was nice. Lovely jubbly. Good. Finally, nothing wrong with that shower, Van” (starts singing Feeling Groovy).

I shall carry on eavesdropping on Dave and Davy as we continue with our tour but in the meantime, coming to a good shop near you very soon – “The Best of Dave and Davy’s Shower Songs”.

We headed to Saint John de Pied Port and our first sight of the Pyrenees. I really don’t like heights and so mountains do little for me but it was still quite exciting. Dave definitely thought so. After bridges, mountains are his next favourite thing. Quite where the kids and I fit in the ranking I am not so sure. The town is very pretty with medieval buildings and cobbled streets but very touristy and very busy. We had a walk around and then moved on to Hendaye which is the most South Western town on the border of France/Spain. This was our first sighting of the Atlantic which was great (the sea is my equivalent of Dave’s passion for bridges, well, nearly anyway). We couldn’t take the dogs onto the beach, probably a good thing as Beanie is far too young to see all those topless bathers. We were very obviously in the south of France. The nicest thing about Hendaye is you can see Spain from the seafront and for 2 Euros each we did in fact take a 10 minute boat ride across to the Spanish town of Hondarribia. We had a nice lunch and meandered around the old town for a few hours. As this was Spain’s lunch/siesta time it was very quiet and we happily tried to fill our iphone memories with pictures. Both days we were in Hendaye we walked a minimum of 8 kms. Poor Beanie’s legs must have been aching and, as for mine…..

This was our last port of call in France for a few days as we were heading over the Pyrenees into Spain. This was most definitely not part of Dave’s initial itinerary but, what’s that got to do with anything?

Vanya’s View (Part 2) Saint Aignan to St Emilion

Having been together for 33 years this month you would think there isn’t much that Dave and I don’t know about each other. Living in a camper van though has revealed that Dave has a deep, dark secret that he has been withholding from me. There have been hints over the years but it is proving impossible for him to hide it any longer – he is a pontist. I had no idea there was such a thing until in desperation I googled it. It is similar to being a train or plane spotter but in Dave’s case it is bridges. This may not sound a serious problem but there are literally thousands of rivers and accompanying bridges in France and when taken together with my morbid fear of heights… Well! Let’s just say that bridges and acrophobia are not good bedfellows. I patiently wait while he walks over the bridge, on both sides of the bridge and sometimes even under the bridge waxing lyrical about it’s attributes and taking copious photos. This is particularly galling when visiting a beautiful town like Cahors which has two road bridges and a railway bridge!

Anyway, enough about Dave’s issues for this week and back to our continuing trip around France, this time in the Dordogne area. One of the most unusual and beautiful villages we recently discovered was La Roque-Gageac where on the banks of the River there are houses built into the cliffs, a stunning bamboo garden and best of all no bridges in sight. The place was absolutely packed with tourists (obviously, we don’t count as tourists) and I would love to visit outside of the holiday season but even so it was well worth a look.

On our way to Bergerac, which was our next port of call, we completed our first 1,000 miles since leaving Brighton. Our fairly basic campsite was situated alongside the bridge into town (there’s a surprise!). We left the dogs in the van, for the first time since beginning our tour, to dine in a local creperie. The food was divine, so much so we both had a savoury and a sweet crepe for our two course meal. The old town is very pretty; full of cobbled stones and old buildings. I have fallen in love with the Dordogne area.

On the recommendation of a friend (Thanks Craig) we then headed into some serious wine country at St Emilion. The campsite was the only place around not stacked with grapevines. They are everywhere and for as far as the eye can see. It is a very well appointed site with a lovely lake which the dogs decided was their very own private swimming pool, disobeying our very strict orders to keep out. Of course, while they are normally incredibly obedient and hang on my every word, it was rather warm…

We headed to the Chateau Champion vineyard for some red wine tasting; not normally my tipple of choice (give me white any day; okay, every day) but it was palatable and I very much enjoyed the chilled Rose. Well, 80 Euros later, we may have to pump up the back tyres on the Boomobile.

The Campsite provided a free shuttle service into the village of Saint Emilion which proved to be yet another lovely cobbled stone medieval village with countless wine shops and marvellous views. I was happy to while away a couple of hours there and enjoyed lunch.

Headed west next towards Cahors as the weather was turning and in any event it is on Dave’s wish list to visit. I refer you back to my first paragraph.

VANYA’S VIEW (Part 1) Brighton to St Aignan

Having successfully survived my first week in the Boomobile without any tears or tantrums (at least not from me but you should see Dave when he loses at Scrabble) I am actually looking forward to the next part of our journey. Dave has been quite chilled so far. I am sure that anybody who knows him will find this hard to believe.

The auspicious start stumbling upon and dining in a Michelin listed restaurant (despite being with the dogs and wearing t-shirts and shorts) went a long way to easing my initial fears – nothing to do with the Pouilly Fume of course.

On our second night Dave asked me to find a campsite north of Caen which I happily did. According to Dave it was so far north I could almost have waved at Ro in Portsmouth. He has since been more specific with his requests.

Next we started travelling further south to find some sun and escape storm Ellen which was battering Britain and we found a lovely place called Montrichard. A small medieval town on the River Cher with a couple of wineries. The one I wanted to visit, Monmousseau, Dave assured me was the inferior cellar and we should head to the one where he had already sampled some wines the previous day. Indeed the wine was pleasant but the fizzy bottle of Monmousseau we imbibed with our dinner that night was superior to any we had tried. In fact Dave had the lions share….. Speaking of wine, I have found the French equivalent of Spain’s Cava and Italy’s Prosecco which is called Cremant. It is produced by the same method as champagne and if it wasn’t for the Euro 4.99 price tag from Lidl then I would have thought it was indeed champagne. There are 8 regions that produce it and I am speedily working my way through each of them to find my favourite. So far it is Cremant de Limoux and I may have to make a slight detour to that winery – I have been put in charge of the satnav after all 🙂

We then headed to a campsite at a place called St Aignan stopping for a few hours on the way at Amboise. The Chateau Royal d’Amboise hosted Mary, Queen of Scots as a girl and it is somewhere I would have liked to explore (following my new found “lockdown” obsession of Tudor history) but unfortunately the dogs weren’t allowed in. St Aignan is a lovely medieval town, all cobbled streets and a slightly dilapidated but nonetheless beautiful chateau, which is still inhabited by descendants of the family that built it. We enjoyed a leisurely wander through the grounds and had a couple of glasses of wine in a nearby bar to watch the world go by. A perfect Sunday! There is a famous zoo nearby that I was keen to visit but again dogs weren’t allowed entry – next time.

Chateau St Aignan detail

What I have enjoyed so much about the van is the flexibility of just going where we want when we want. I was concerned that I would find it too claustrophobic but, unlike the UK, the weather has been consistently pleasant and we have sat outside every evening (I have won the last 4 games of Scrabble this week by the way). The campsites have all been very clean with good facilities although last Saturday there were rather a lot of children on our site. Next Saturday I will try and find us an adults only place, but not a naturist one despite Dave’s specific requirements.

We are currently moving further south (edging ever closer to the Limoux vineyard) en route to Andorra and I am actually looking forward to this next week (but don’t tell Dave!)