Published: September 18th 2009September 17th 2009
Farewell from Portsmouth
Richard & Yvonne waving farewell.............2nd floor, second from left. Trust me they are there, in full living colour.
Tour de Chev: Blogday 1 Wednesday 16th September
So we finally set off: up at the crack of dawn heading to France for some culture, ancient monuments in Carnac Brittany , and cave paintings in the Dordogne, Lascaux, but most mostly for some sun having been deprived of the same for the third summer in a row.
The Mighty Chev was serviced, cleaned, and ready to head for a country where left hand drive was the norm rather than the exception. We left for Portsmouth at 7.15am planning to catch the midday ferry to Le Havre. As usual the Chev drove like a dream and we arrived in Portsmouth half an hour before loading began - time for a coffee and sticky bun in the terminal café. Although the weather in Cardiff had been very overcast and windy the previous night and in the morning it had cleared by the time we arrived in Portsmouth, and was bright and sunny; allowing us to review the Royal Navy in the naval base next to the ferry terminal. I telephoned Richard (my brother to the uninitiated) who lives in a super flat overlooking the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour to let him and Yvonne
M/V Cote D'Albatre
That's us on the upper deck at the rear of the ship.
Trust me we WERE there.
know that we had reached the ferry and would be passing by later --- so that he and Yvonne and us could exchange salutes as the ferry left harbour: which we duly did (see photo).
The crossing was uneventful except that the weather deteriorated near the French coast and the sea got a little rough. Nevertheless we arrived in Le Havre on time at 6pm (5pm UK time, a 5 hour crossing to those of an accounting frame of mind......and get a life!).
Disembarked and, following Richard’s directions (him being something of an expert on this particular crossing and on Honfleur where we were headed to) we arrived in Honfleur about half an hour later and checked into our hotel (another of Richard’s recommendations). Etap hotels are very basic but modern, clean, comfortable and inexpensive: £40 per room per night (music to my ears and to my bank account). We then walked into the town in search of the Restaurant Absinthe (another recommendation), Jane having booked from the hotel to ensure a table; which proved a wise precaution as the place filled up rapidly after 8pm. After a truly magnificent meal (a set menu of 5 courses, firstly a
M/V Cote D'Albatre
This NOT the car-in-the-hold scene in Titanic
very light consomé served in what looked like a shot class, followed by King prawns with sesame seeds and apple dressing, then hake steak, then a selection of local cheeses, then dessert of crème bruleé (Jane) and 3 kinds of sorbet (me): plus a few tasters of local cider for Jane and Lubourg beer for me), and we duly received a truly magnificent bill of just under £100 (over twice the cost of the hotel room!), BUT it was worth it. A truly memorable meal and one which is unlikely to be bettered anytime soon. Then a final stroll around the yacht basin in the middle of this very charming town and back to the hotel.
Tour de Chev: Blogday 2 Thursday 17th September
Up early again, this time 7.30am (6.30 UK time), intending to take a look around Honfleur by daylight and then head off to Carnac in Brittany (near L’Orient on the Bay of Biscay) by way of Mont St Michel in Normandy. Honfleur by day is even more charming than by night: a medieval port (think Henry V at the siege of Harfleur (old name for Honfleur) and: “Once more unto the breach dear
friends, once more.”) which has retained most if not all of its medieval buildings around the inner basin --- see photos.
Then we loaded up the Chev and drove out of town around 11.30am heading west for Caen. Found the Autoroute and zoomed along on cruise control at a steady 120 kph (80 mph). Very nice uncrowded highway with not many heavy goods vehicles and virtually no white vans…..how good is that? Mont Saint Michel was signposted on the Autoroute from 100 kms away so it was no problem finding the place. It’s one of these places that has to be seen to be believed. Rather like one of Disney’s magic castles rising up from the sand flats of the Couesnon river estuary. Unfortunately, because we wanted to make sure of arriving in Carnac, about 160 kms (100 miles) away, before dark we didn’t linger at Mont St Michel and pushed on via Rennes and into Brittany. This time we travelled on a country road from Mont St Michel to Rennes: a very nice journey on almost empty well surfaced roads through very pretty countryside. Almost got lost on the outskirts on Rennes but recovered and reached Carnac before 5pm without difficulty. The area around Carnac has more prehistoric standing stones (menhirs) than anywhere else in Europe - hence the reason for our visit. It’s also a resort town that must be very busy in summer. However, at this time of year it’s almost as moribund as the menhirs, dolmens, and cromlechs that infest the area. Our hotel is seemingly full of ancient Brits who’ve come here to find something that’s even older than them. The hotel is located out of Carnac town and close to Carnac Plage, the main holiday resort area, where it seems that around 80% of the homes are currently unoccupied and which makes it feel like a ghost town. We walked about a mile back to the main town in search of somewhere for dinner only to find that most of the restaurants were closed for the season. The one that we did find to be open was not very good. I had the local speciality, moules frites (fried mussels) but would not recommend it. Jane had a tough steak. This, plus a salad and a few ciders and beers cost £40 so we won’t be back there in a hurry. On the positive side the hotel (Celtic Hotel on Avenue des Druides.......I should feel right at home) is very nice. So it’s up early tomorrow to spend the day looking at the prehistoric sites and avoiding the local restaurants.