Italy to France via Simplon Pass

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September 22nd 2013
Published: September 22nd 2013
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Wed 18thSeptember Baveno to Aix les Bains, France 239 miles

It was cloudy with sun when we woke up, so after packing up and saying goodbye to our neighbours, we headed off – in the wrong direction towards Milan and Genova!! After a string of tunnels eventually we were able to turn around and head north towards the Simplon Pass. We climbed steadily up through the valley with some magnificent views of the villages, waterfalls everywhere, raging torrents of rivers after yesterdays snow, cows with their cow bells and cloud hanging across the mountain tops! We soon reached the snowline and summit of the Simplon Pass at 2005 metres where the sun shone on the gleaming white snow capped mountains! (ok – so there was a bit of cloud around as well....and we did have a few showers!!!)

Dropped down quite quickly into the Rhone Valley that was surprisingly quite industrialised and not that pretty but as we drove on through we came to fields and terraces of grape vines. Stopped for lunch and it was decided that we would take a detour to Chassignolles so when we reached Martigny ,we headed south towards Mont Blanc and Chamonix. Some magnificent scenery and snow capped mountains. The highlight probably being the Mer de Glace – a glacier trailing down the mountainside near Chamonix.

Got on the motorway at Passy and got off again at Cluses (3.50 euros toll) and followed the N205 and then the N203 to Annecy. Took the N201 to Aix les Baines and camped near Lac du Bourget – a modern upmarket resort! Had a really nice meal in the Brasserie by the lake – bit pricy but really good! (ACSI Camping International du Sierroz )

Thurs 19th Sept Aix les Bains to St Pourcain-sur-Soule 267 miles

Got up to a sunny and cloudy day! Hit the motorway with the lorries for about two hours from Aix-les-Bains to Lyons (Toll 17.20 euros for campervan) and then headed on the motorway towards St Etienne. Came off at Monistrol-sur-Loire and had lunch in Carrefour car park.

Had to cut across country through a National Park towards Clermont Ferrand and climbed up quite steeply with some wonderful views to the south and ended up on a plateau with farmland, a lot of small, trendy villages and pine woods. Raced along and didn’t stop until we reached Chassignolles, about 3.00pm ish where we wandered around for half an hour or so, minutes admiring the church and the square as well as the views.

Headed back onto the motorway toward Clermont Ferrand and jumped off at Junct 13 and headed towards Moulins. Stopped at a lovely little place called St Pourcain-Sur-Sioule and camped at their municipal campsite by the river (13.05 euro). Lovely clean campsite with large pitches and good facilities. There is also an Aire right outside ! After dinner we had a wander across the bridge and then back into the lovely old town with a square and a huge old church that was sort of part converted into houses!

Friday 20th Sept St Pourcain-Sur-Sioule – Sully sur Loire 145miles

A grey, drizzly day which sort of suited my mood. I’m never in a good mood when I have to leave the its kind of good that it was raining! However, drove towards Moulins and then to Bourges for lunch, where the clouds were breaking up and sun coming out.

Had a good wander around Bourges, which has a wonderful medieval centre, some lovely 17thC gardens and a magnificent cathedral built in the 1195-1230. There was a tower we could have climbed (396 steps up!) but gave it a miss!! Whew! Some amazing half timbered houses in the centre and turreted buildings as well as Jacques Coeurs birthplace house, built in 1430, which is now a pub! Sir Jacques Coeur was apparently the financial adviser to Charles VII in the 15th C.

Anyway, drove on on for a while and as it was such a beautiful sunny day now we decided to stop at one of our favourite haunts Sully-Sur-Loire and make the most of the sunshine! The campsite now has new owners and has definitely been spruced up and should be in the ACSI campsite book next year! Going to have a walk into the town, past the magnificent chateau and moat, and hopefully grab something to eat............ (Camping Horton sur Jardin – Sully-sur-Loire)

Sat 21st Sept Sully-sur-Loire to Dieppe 202 miles

Ok, so I ended up cooking last night as we couldn’t find anywhere to eat.....but it wasn’t so bad as we found a really good poissonaire and bought some paella that just needed heating for 15mins and was absolutely delicious! Chris will make a chef out of me yet!!!

Took the road towards Orleans and then did the well trodden camper van route to Dieppe, via Chartres, Dreux, Evereux, Rouen......all good driving roads and no tolls! Stopped for lunch, coincidentally, at a place that we had stopped previously called Pont del L’Arche just before Rouen! I think its an Aire as there are 4 electricity points and its right next to a river and signposted just before the bridge. The town is full of medieval buildings and there is also a huge Abbey. Was a bit different this time as driving down the first thing we spotted grazing was .....a camel...and then a Llama...a highland cow........Anyway, it turned out that the circus was in town!!

Got to Dieppe about 3.00pm ish and did our usual shopping/stocking and fuel at Auchen, a huge supermarket (the floor staff get around the store on rollerscates !) before driving fully laden to the Aire at the Sea Front. It’s a short five minute drive from here to the ferry port. We would have liked to have got into the Aire at the other side of the harbour but this, as usual was packed out! There was a marathon going on in the town , last time it was a bike race so either Dieppe is very popular which causes the Aires to be busy, or people just like camping here!!

It is quite a nice little port so we had a wander around and a drink overlooking the harbour before eating in our favourite restaurant L’Ocean where Chris had his favourite starter of Fish Soup and I had mine – Moules a la crème !! We are getting so predictable and boring!!! Especially as the restaurant specialises in seafood three tiered stacks of oysters, crabs, lobsters, prawns, clams etc..The next table had the “Royal platter “ – 81 euros worth of the above !!

Ferry is at 6.30am tomorrow so its an early night....and a very early morning start followed by a four hour drive tomorrow before we get home and start planning our next trip!! (Aire – Dieppe)

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