Exclusive camping!

Getting off the motorway past the accident was a bit of a bodge, there was no way through so we all had to turn around and go up the emergency lane the wrong way and then leave via the slip road that comes onto the motorway from a local village, we had to wait a while but eventually we got going. 

We were so lucky not to have been involved in that crash, it must have just happened as we pulled up behind it. 

Our course had been diverted from Bruges to the garage  in Oostkamp and we arrived about 30 minutes after we got off the motorway. Long story short, 300 euros to fix then van and the part wouldn’t arrive the following day, after much discussion and possible scenarios it was decided we’d be staying with VW for the night! 

  
We’ve stayed in worse places and to be honest, what else could we do? 

It was chucking it down with rain so we got our waterproofs on, grabbed the bikes and rode into Bruges, here’s a picture of lolly looking a lot bigger than she actually is!

  
The ride wasn’t long and we joked that staying at the VW garage was a result really as it was closer to Bruges than our campsite! 

There is an old fish market in a square, we parked our bikes there and went for a wander, the first place we came across was the ice rink and a load of food and drink stalls, smelled lovely but were probably tourist prices, we carried on wandering about in the rain and eventually came to the conclusion we should drink some beers, we found an empty bar with a window seat and plotted up, here we are with a leffe each. 

  
Something has happened to my wife, when we met she didn’t do booze and certainly not beer, that has all changed now and we spent the next couple of hours drinking leffe, chouff and jupiler, the last being out least favourite. 

Before we came I bought lolly a guide book for Bruges and in it she read about a restaurant that came with a beer to suit each course, Den Dyver it’s called, we agreed that is where we would eat and set about finding it, I was given directions which I was confident I understood, turns out I didn’t and after lolly took control of our course we eventually found the restaurant which was right by where we parked our bikes.

We came across this guy en route, he’s made out of old tyres. 

  
The restaurant was pleasantly empty and they no longer did the beer with each course, the guide book was three years old and they stopped the beer thing a couple of years earlier. The food still looked awesome even though none of the menu was in English, it’s in Dutch or French and I suprised myself as I worked out most of what was on there using French.  

My starter was amazing, it has a name that I cant remember but it’s a traditional dish and it’s brown shrimps, mash potato, poached egg and hollandaise sauce, lolly had carpaccio scallops, they were nice but I preferred mine. Main course was chataubriand to share, epic is about the best way to describe it, we ate all of it and couldn’t possibly eat anything else when we’d finished. 

The meal wasn’t cheap but it wasn’t massively expensive either, London prices really which we’re used to on occasion, well worth it and if you’re ever over here pay it a visit. 

We grabbed our bikes and rode back to the van, the rain had stopped and this time we had rememberd lights for both of us so less tricky than our previous night riding in France. 

We setup the bed and crashed, tomorrow is another day, Lollys birthday in fact! 

Le Chateau

Ever seen those funny bottles of spirits that look like the holy hand grenade of Antioch? Chambord it’s called, never tried it myself but the reason I mention is because we are off to Chateau Chambord, the inspiration for said raspberry liqueur.

It’s a 4.5 hour journey from camp naked, we set off about 11 aiming to be at the Aire we had selected for an evenings stay by around 4pm. 

Nothing much happened on the journey asides from the traffic being rubbish so we stopped for a romantic picnic by the Carrefour sign next to the motorway, as soon as we stopped the traffic cleared. 

  
When we arrived at the Aire it wasn’t quite as described, next to a main road with no toilet facilities, this would not do so we had a look round and handily 500 meters up the road was a great little campsite called camping de chatillon, 19 euros with electric for the night, sweet. Something I’ve encountered a couple of times here is reverse polarity on hook ups, same deal here tho luckily the campsite owner had an adaptor we could borrow for the night, if you are planning a trip to France I would recommend having one on board. 

Our pitch was a small modest affair. 

    
We went for a wander around the local vinyard and corn fields, returned to the van and lolly made some kick ass pasta. I had a rubbish nights sleep, one because of the massive storm that kept me up and two, I was racking my brains to figure out a solution to my ongoing battle with the fridge. 

We woke up, grabbed a shower and made our way to the local boulangerie for breakfast, we then parked up the van and cycled to Chambord, an easy 30 minute ride on dedicated cycle tracks, they love cycling over here! 

  
The chateau is a truly beautiful building and one that strangely looks better from the back than the front. 

  
We grabbed an audio guide and spent the next couple of hours wandering about the place learning who built which bit, who’s bedroom was here and what the king got up to when he didn’t fancy shagging the queen, so the rumour goes. 

There is an I credible staircase which is the canter piece of the chateau, it’s a staircase within a stair case which means one person can go up while the other goes down and you will never meet, this is the view from the bottom. 

  
Chambord iswell worth a visit as is the souvenir shop, they have tasters for every box of biscuits they sell, we tried them all. 

We jumped on our bikes and headed back to the van a lot later than we’d anticipated, we hit the road for our last stop on our trip, Plage merlimont. 

I finally figured out what to do with the fridge, this bits for camper owners. All the forums will say wire your weaco fridge directly to your leisure battery. I have a PMS 3 in my van and the problem with this is when you are hooked up the pms3 is trying to send the leisure battery a charge whilst at the same time the fridge is draining it more than the PMS supplied charge, the result is when you leave the battery got little to no charge and your fridge fails shortly after. What I have done is wire the fridge to an aux 12v output that’s built into the PMS3, I get no voltage drop so the fridge works. When it’s hooked up to 240v the fridge receives its 12v supply from the PMS unit, not the battery, this then allows the battery to receive a top up charge, simples! 

Le dune

Camping municipal Verdalle has turned out to be ok, the pitch is massive, the toilet and shower facilities are excellent, they have some strange rules like no hanging out washing after 10am and don’t use the trees to make washing lines which we’ve duly ignored. 

  
The beach was another IMO average affair, sandy and the sea was out so quite muddy too, when we returned in the evening the tide had come in and the beach looked a lot better, would have been a great place for a sunset but we missed that as I was busy cooking chicken, I didn’t bother taking a picture of the beach. 

Earlier in the day we’d taken a walk and round the corner from our campsite and average beach was a lovely little harbour. 

 

As you can see the weather has greatly improved, our first afternoon / evening in Gujan-Mestras passed fairly uneventfully, sun, average beach, walk, chicken and bed. 

The following morning we got up, ate what we had left that would pass for breakfast and jumped on the bikes, our destination being The Grand Dune of Pyla, basically a massive sand dune by the sea that’s slowly swallowing a forest. 

We got a bit lost en route although we did find a nice forest to ride through. 

  

11 miles later we arrived at the dune and it was mental, people everywhere, not quite what we had expected and to be honest, almost enough to turn us on our heels, I convinced Lolly some food and a drink would be a good idea, she was more up for grabbing a panini and buggering off but I insisted we grab a table, this is where I had my first favourite French dish, a croque Monsieur!

  

It was lovely and lolly is now convinced she can make them for me at home, bonus!

After a quick food and drink break we set off to conquer the dune, this is not something to try if you are unfit, obese, have a heart condition or are generally unwell. It’s a steep ascent in sand which is harder work than it looks, much harder, there are steps you can go up but they are equally as steep but with better footing.  It took us about 10 minutes to get to the top of the dune and that was with a couple of stops, the view out across the bay is stunning. 

  

I took some better pictures with my other camera and when I’ve edited them I’ll post them up. 

It’s nowhere near as frantic at the top of dune, almost peaceful so we hung about for an hour catching some rays and then headed down the other side to the beach and the sea, we stayed there for a few hours and I read Lolly some of the book I am reading, it’s called the Martian, a great read and now Lolly is into it I’m going to have to read her the rest of the book while we are away!

To get back to the bikes we had to climb up the dune again which took about 20 min this time as our start point was lower than before, after a lot of effort we reached the summit, chipped down the other side and made our way to the bikes, we still had an 11 mile ride home to do!

We took a different route home basically following the coast on a cycle path, about halfway we stopped at a little town square that had a few bars and restaurants, we got a corner table right by the beach.

 
I had steak and lolly had paella, both dishes were lovely and we were treated to a beautiful sunset. 

 
We made our way home mostly on the cycle path, the light faded and Lolly had no lights on her bike, mine are rechargeable and about halfway home the front one ran out of juice, the ride home was tense but we made it without getting killed!

Below is the report from Strava, I kept stopping Strava so I could see where we were on the way home so it’s not quite as accurate as it could be, I’m fairly certain we did more than 17 miles. 

  
This morning we got up, left the campsite and headed to an aire in a pine forest called Biscarrose Plage, there is a crappy toilet and that’s it, no other facilities, proper camping in the woods!

  
There is a beach about 2 mins from here we’re off to check out shortly, have fun at your desk or wherever you’re reading this from, we’ll be on the beach!

For anyone interested, so far we’ve covered 752 miles in 7 days, the van is running sweet and all the little upgrades and mods we’ve made for this trip have been totally worth it!

Le nice lunch

Sunday morning was the last day of the French summer holidays and the roads are apparently mental. Mental isn’t on this trips agenda and having not made any reservations for the next couple of days we decided to stay put, let the French queue and be on our way the following day. 

We also had new neighbours in a modest motor home. 

  
The mornings start was a fairly lazy affair, so lazy in fact it started a mile up the road with lunch in Ars on Re square. 

There are a few restaurants in the square and they all look very nice, we picked the one that had a table for two, it also had moules avec frites on the menu. Lolly had Foie Gras to start and the amount that arrived was more than she could handle, I had duck slices with some kind of terrine and foie gras too. 

For our mains Lolly had the aforementioned moules avec frites and I had a lovely pasta with tatragon, whole prawns and scallops, much happier Lolly! 

 

Lolly ordered the whole meal in French which she says is a holiday achievement!

Lunch cost us all the euros we had on us so we cycled back to camp and decided to let our food go down before venturing out again. 
Our next port of call was St Martin De Re, we got there by following one of the many cycle routes across the island, they love cycling here so much so that in th towns each house has a steel ring concreted into the wall for you to chain your bike too. 

The ride takes you past all sorts of places including the salt plains and oyster beds, both stink but it’s still a nice enough ride.

  
St Martin De Re is a fortified harbour town and when we arrived it was heaving, a bit like Padstow is during the summer. We had a wander around the harbour and concluded it wasn’t quite as romantic and picturesque as we’d imagined.

I did spot a boat in the harbour that reminded me of my dad’s old boat the Affinte II. 

  
 The ice cream shop looked really popular so we decided to find out what all the fuss was about. 

  
They were good ice creams, I had chocolate and specaloo flavour and Lolly had chocolate and brownie. We had a look round the lanes which were typically French, old houses with wooden shutters and cobbled streets, it was starting to get cold so we unlocked the bikes and made for home. 

We covered a fair few miles. 

  

  

Le Cycle

We decided to ride to a lighthouse not too far from where we are staying, it’s called Phare De Baleines. 

  
The ride took about 20 minutes or so, nothing tiring. 

The great thing about this lighthouse is you can go in it, all the way to top which is awesome. Lolly and I consider ourselves reasonably fit which is a good job as there’s a whole load of stairs to climb. 

  
In what seemed like no more than a couple of minutes we were at the top enjoying the view. 

  
All around the lighthouse there is lots of information which I’m sure is very interesting but it’s all in French which is no good to me as I’m lazy and only speak English with a hint of poor Spanish. 

We descended from the top and on my way down couldn’t help think of my mate Quincy at work, he’d be bricking it coming down these steps, not a fan of heights!

There is a beach below and we took a wander along that for a while before laying down and soaking up some sun watching the tide come in really quickly. It was at this point I insisted Lolly took a picture of me in the awesome tshirt she made so I could show you all, it’s marvellous!

  
All around the approach to the light house are gift shops and restaurants, all the restaurants were all heaving so we bugged out to find somewhere else to eat. 

After riding around in circles for ages we eventually game to a little town square. 

  

After a quick walk about we found a nice restaurant, got a table and found we had missed lunch so settled for a cocktail and beer. 

We thought we might find a beach bar that did snacks so we jumped on the bikes and headed up the coast, we didn’t find any bars but we did find some ruins from WW2, they look like gun placements installed by the Germans to defend the coast, thankfully they look a lot less menacing than in their heyday but a reminder that even this peaceful and idyllic island was touched by the horror of war. 

  
  

  We left this beach and made for home discussing what to have for dinner, we came across a supermarket, bought some local beer, pork chops and Turkey fillets and unanimously decided on a beach BBQ. 

Lauren seasoned up the meat,  packed up the Cobb, tongs and all the other manly beach things I would need and we set off.  
Right behind where we are staying there is a beach that looks rubbish when the tide is out, when it’s in the place is completely transformed, we found ourselves a little a spot and got cooking. 

  
There is a sign that says no bbqs which we completely ignored, the Cobb we use is pretty contained so it’s no real threat to dry shrubland behind us. 

As the sun went down so did the temperature and we huddled up covered in blankets, hoodies and looking generally like a couple of beach hobos. 

  
The food was great, there was hardly anyone on the beach and the sunset was spectacular, as good as any Ibiza sunset!

  
We covered a lot of ground in a day and I’d put strava on to see how far we’d been, I didn’t think it was that far!