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March 25th 2013
Published: March 25th 2013
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FRIDAY 15th March

Finally some sun! Today we cycled along the Loire river about 10k to a little town where people make pottery in caves (and apple cake!). The cycle route was amazing winding from the river through old cave dwellings from the middle ages and across vine yards with incredible views. About 6-7km in though I decided my back tyre needed inflating a little...and promptly let out the rest of the air! Ok so I couldn't work out the pump at all and was a bit worried about walking home pushing the bike but luckily Ange is a complete genius and saved the day 😊 We cycled home with bread and wine in the basket and the sun on our face's....a perfect day!


Feeling confident from our expedition yesterday we cycled to the Ackerman wine cave and museum through town, only about 4km away, and had a bit too much of a good time wine tasting (except for one that was described as tasting like fox...and genuinely did taste like fox; bluuurgh!). Slightly tipsy and with three bottles of fizzy wine on board the panniers we set off...into torrential rain! Luckily the tipsyness prevented us from being too bothered, though by the time we were back we were soaked to the skin and our clothes were a muddy mess; A very expensive trip to the on site launderette ensued! We said a reluctant farewell to Saumur, and decided to drive along the Loire river towards La Rochelle.


We stayed a couple of nights at camper stops, the first was in Champtoceaux; a beautiful riverside spot and totally secluded (except for a handy pub) and the second was a car park on the outskirts of a very depressing town (Bourgneuf en Retz) by a busy road. Both were meant to have toilets, but the one in Champtoceaux was locked and the second was…interesting…Thank god for our potty! Was nice to be away from the constraints of a campsite and feel a bit more free, though we have heard some horror stories from fellow campers about people getting gassed in their vans so people can break in and rob the place whilst your out of it. Everyone else has big shiny new campers though so I think we would be last on the list to be gassed, and I’m not sure they would be too pleased with their loot if they did pick on us! Few books on Europe and dice games don’t make for a good haul!


Oopsy……Chose to head for La Rochelle on a whim as it was on the west coast and we wanted to head for Bordeaux next which wasn’t much of a stretch…..we got to the outskirts before switching on the sat nav (As we only had about an hours battery life on it and had yet to fix the cigarette lighter) and discovered that my well planned campsite was an hour back the direction we came! We considered staying in camperstops nearby but La Rochelle turned out to be a bigger, busier and much less pleasant city than I had imagined! Perhaps a subtle hint to do some research next time??? We searched local campsites on the sat nav and headed for one not too far out. Having spotted the signs for the camping ground we headed towards a beach side site, passing burnt out mobile homes on their sides, car doors and abandoned caravans. We stopped outside the entrance which had been blocked by sheets of corrugated plastic and metal, it was marked by a sinister looking totem pole made entirely from children’s toys and with a sort of Guy Fawlks on the top with a smiley face. I really wish I had taken a picture, but one of the ‘residents’ (squatters?) came out to walk his dog and we decided to move on. In the end we ended up at a campsite quite close to Bordeaux that was out of season, but a friend of the manager was staying there and called him for us, Upside; they had showers and toilets; Downside; I had to share my shower with a spider so ended up showering with my glasses on which isn’t easy as you still can’t see!!


Stayed on a lovely and very cheap campsite south of Bordeaux with a load of very friendly neighbours. Ange and I put the awning up in record time (we were racing an ominous looking cloud!) and are becoming pro’s at packing and unpacking the van. We ventured into Bordeaux -the tram’s and buses are fab- which is so beautiful, and it was the hottest day yet. We walked round the city and had the most gorgeous indulgent lunch outside a little café, everyone was so friendly and conversation was easy. The amount of homeless people on Bordeaux’s streets though is incredible, every age and description, even one little old lady with no shoes but fabulously colourful socks sat in the middle of the street. Totally gutted that we left the camera in the van today!


Friday we arrived in Itxassou (Pyrenees atlantique) to a rural quiet campsite, worlds apart from where we were staying in Bordeaux. We could see the mountains out the back window of the van; so beautiful! Had our first experience of autoroutes (moterways) since arriving and as the van complains loudly when it reaches 60mph its not too comfortable going any faster than that. Two lanes of the auto-route were closed however and we managed to annoy a few lorry drivers and still got charged about seven euro’s for the privilege of driving an unfinished road. We went out exploring on our bikes and bought locally made chilli chocolate, cheese and cider J On Saturday we went up a , La Rhune, on a train, passing hundreds of mad cyclists on the way and took a million pictures of the view which was spectacular! On Sunday we ventured off to see some caves and accidentally ended up in Spain where I got thoroughly confused as to what language to speak French/Spanish/English and it was amazing how much cheaper everything suddenly was.


Were now near Oloron-Sainte-Marie still in the Pyrenees Atlantique region with just a talkative donkey and a few cattle for company! Ange drove for the first time to get here and we ended up on miles of very narrow very twisty but very beautiful mountain roads. Think were going to head towards Avignon and Nice over the next few days… Au Revoir!

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25th March 2013

Awning looks good! Fancy not being able to pump up your tyre! Tons of snow here! x Mum
5th April 2013

Lovely snaps of your travels and good write up of each day's events. You're seeking out lots of caves to explore - watch out for the bats!! Can't wait for the next installment. Loads of love xxxx.

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