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June 9th 2007
Published: June 9th 2007
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Francesca's first purchaseFrancesca's first purchaseFrancesca's first purchase

Just like Dad, Francesca prefers the reds. She cant drink them for another 17 years though.

We arrived in Beaune, parked up in a lay-by and cycled up to Mike’s house to assess the parking situation …….. It looked good(ish), so we decided to attempt to “dock”.

Now, here is a sad fact……. The last time we were here, several years ago, and very much in the “pre-rig” era, Graeme had sized up the space, with regard to parking a 39ft (at the time) very much hypothetical vehicle; decided it would fit, and stored that information for future use.
(At this point, anyone who can ever recall in the past seeing Graeme gazing at their drive must realise they had better look out!)

We arrived a day before Mike and Anne-Marie, but they had told us to make ourselves at home. So, with only the usual booby traps in place; this time in the guise of a metal fencing pole, disguised by a pretty climbing rose; a large dip over the drain hole; and the village electric junction box, bordering a narrow entrance; we manoeuvred our way in, hoping to fit.
And fit we did.
It was a beautiful, perfect fit, so snug; we were just like a shoe nestling in its box.
A five star RV Park.A five star RV Park.A five star RV Park.

Note the before and after shot of the drive.

Once parked, we set out our garden furniture and settled in to await Mike’s arrival. This must be one of the nicest sites we have stayed in! Quiet, beautiful scenery, private pool, ensuite wine cellar, our own private patio, water, electricity…….. What more could you ask for?

We had, by chance chosen the week they had their families visiting following the christening and first birthday celebration of their daughter Francesca.
Ann-Marie’s parents also had a camper van which they parked behind us; we now had a little private camp site. If Mike and Ann-Marie ever fancy a change from their highly successful careers they could always consider being Campsite hosts!
Mile & Anne-Marie live in a tiny village called Escheveronne in the Burgandy region.
This area is a timeless land where little has changed over the centuries and it is almost totally unspoilt. The name Burgundy is synonymous with the magnificent wines of the area and it is also renowned for its many canals and canal boats, with 1200km of navigable waterways. Wine has shaped Burgundy's way of life for centuries and its wine making tradition goes back to the monks of Cluny and Citeaux. The wine route curves
Wine mountainWine mountainWine mountain

Oh, these were just a few bottles Mike had to leave behind!
and winds through mediaeval villages surrounded by their vines, with whole communities devoted to its production. The countryside is marked by an endless patchwork of carefully tended vines, each producing an “appellation” known around the world.

We actually didn’t get to see so much of the medieval area, or the waterways, and for once the history took back seat. We did, however, manage to try a few of the famous local produce.
We had a lovely week catching up on 3 years news, wine tasting at the local vineyard, meeting their family, wine tasting at a nearby chateaux, eating lunch, wine tasting from Mikes cellar, going out for dinner, and generally tasting more wine (Thanks Mike).
Glad to note that nothing much has changed here then……

Following a week of very pleasant company, too much food and just a little too much wine, we decided we needed a week of serious diet and exercise.

We had heard of a campsite on the internet owned by an English couple who had exchanged their life in the UK for a rural life in France. They had taken to the road 4 years ago to “Fulltime” in their American Motorhome.
 Burgandian  roof  Burgandian  roof Burgandian roof

Many of the buildings here have these beautiful patterned roofs.
During their travels around Europe, they found themselves drawn back to the same region of France again & again. Finally they decided to develop an RV site in the Haute Vienne region in Limousin, France. We gave them a call. Yes there was room for us, and yes it was good for cycling and walking, & we could make it fit into our ever-changing, meandering route to the coast.
So we decided to drop in for a few days. .
The Limousin region is a very beautiful area, but is a largely undiscovered part of France. It has a stunning natural beauty, is rich with history and tradition, charming chateaux and ancient churches.
It is known as the French Lake District, its lush green countryside filled with valleys, lakes, forests and ravines
Richard the Lionheart, known in France as “Coeur de Lion”, wandered around the area for years. In fact our “English” king spent only six months of his ten year reign, in England, claiming it was "cold and always raining." He cared little for England and during the period when he was raising funds for his Crusade, Richard was heard to declare, "If I could have found a buyer
Bob and DiBob and DiBob and Di

Our lovely hosts at Parc Verger
I would have sold London itself."
Perhaps he was the first 12th Century “Relocation, Relocation” Brit? We know he renovated a Chateau or two in the area. .

To get the full picture, think Hampshire without people but full of lakes. For anyone who wants the ultimate “get away from it all” destination, not too far from home, but with better weather, this is the place for you. It is the cheapest area in France. There are Gites, mills, barns and farmhouses galore for sale, usually with lots of land and often with an additional building or 2 thrown in. The irony here is that the French prefer new buildings, which are, in my opinion, quite ordinary looking and much more expensive.
The British are sneaking in though. Whilst cycling around the remote villages, we noticed that, whenever we passed a renovation project in progress, we would hear British voices, or see UK builders vans. And on a trip to the local market, we saw a large number of cars with UK number plates. Get here fast if you want a bargain

So, a mere 9 centuries later Bob and Di had followed Richard’s footsteps and chosen this area for their new home and RV Park. In fact the village of Chalus where King Richard died was only a few kilometers up the road.
Their site is in a small village called Champagnac-La-Riviere. A quiet, small, very French village. We decided to stay a few days and left about 2 weeks later.
As the area is so spread out we hired a car for a few days in order to explore. As in Spain sightseeing here is often quite a challenge. Our next few days went something like this. Get up, leisurely breakfast, decide where to go, check map, set off, and stop en route to admire scenery. Stop at one / some of the many beautiful tiny villages. Eventually arrive at destination of choice. Set off to explore, note how empty the streets are and check watch it is now 11.00,12,00 or 13.00, everything is shut, except of course the restaurants. Oh well might as well have lunch then. An hour or 2 later we try again only to find:
a) It was the towns, chateaux, or gardens ½ day,
b) It was still out of season, therefore not opening,
c) According to the opening hours sign
Chateau De Montbrun Chateau De Montbrun Chateau De Montbrun

I found this perfect country hide-a-way whilst out cycling. Its a mere £13.5 million. With 16 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms and 200 ha of land theres plenty of room for visitors. The current owner spend half his time here and half in jail because he won't pay his taxes!(allegedly) so perhaps he will take an offer?
it is in season but they don’t appear to know,
d) It is not a nice day and they probably just can’t be bothered or
e) It is a nice day but they are all still in the restaurant.

One day we decided to visit Limoges. I knew nothing much at all about this region other than Limoges is the only large city in the area and is famous for the production of porcelain and enamel. It was always two areas until 1792 when the current lay out was formed when the City and the Castle were untied.
We learned that following the conquest of the Gauls, the Romans found the area was rich in tin, lead, gold, copper and quartz, but it was the discovery of Kaolin, a particularly fine and malleable white clay that really put it on the map. It’s amazing what you learn. Up to this point, if you had asked me what Kaolin was used for, the only uses I would have named were:
1) You give it to someone to drink mixed with Morphine, or
2) You whack it onto a wound as a warm poultice, but not before inhaling the rather lovely smell that pervades from it. (Sorry, but it’s the nurse in me)

Anyway, not too much has changed here over the years although, alongside the porcelain/ enamel industry it is now also a busy vibrant student town, with a leaning to the arts and local cuisine.
Every year there are various contemporary dance festivals and, the one event not to be missed, is the “Frairie des Petit Ventres” where, on the third Friday of October the town's few vegetarians make a rapid exodus whilst everyone else hordes into the Rue de la Boucherie to gorge on pig's trotters, tripe, sheep's testicles, and all sorts of other charming offal delights. We quickly checked our calendar and noted that unfortunately we would not be around to participate in this particular treat.

We wandered around and admired the famous buildings. It didn’t take too long, partly because it is quite a small town, but also because it was a Monday and everything was shut……. So out went the visits to the Musee de la Resistance, the Art Deco Pavillon du Verdurier, and the Musee de l’Eveche, to name a few places, and we moved on to our main intended destination of
Oradour StreetOradour StreetOradour Street

The tanks and soldiers would have rolled in along this street.
the day, Oradour.

Although it appears isolated and peaceful today, the entire region has experienced much conflict throughout the ages. Alongside the local mythology, which includes saints, sorcerers, alchemists and werewolves, from the Roman era right up until modern times, it has always had a tradition of resistance. During World War II the area was renowned as a Resistance stronghold.
This last fact led to one of the most notorious episodes of revenge of the Second World War.

There was a small prosperous, remote village called Oradour-Sur-Glane. It was so ordinary, peaceful and tranquil; it had hardly been affected by the war at all. In fact one report states the occupants had not seen a German soldier throughout the war years.

We went to visit this village…………. only now it is known as Oradour-Sur-Glane “Village des Martyrs”. This outing was one of the most thought provoking, emotional moments of our trip.

It is still debated to this day what set of this horrific chain of events. Some reports say it was retaliation for the killing of 2 German officers in a nearby area, some say it was because it was a strong resistance centre, although others
Melted bell Melted bell Melted bell

The remains of the Church bell, melted by the intensity of the fire.
reports say it was never involved with the resistance at all
Then there is the possible “stolen gold “conspiracy. Or, the saddest theory of all is that it was quite possibly the recipient of an appalling case of mistaken identity. There is another Oradour “Oradour-sur-Vayres” about 30 miles south. Which was perhaps the intended target? Or maybe there was no reason what so ever. It was just because they could…………..

Bear with me and please take a moment and read the following facts,…………..

Village life had gone on pretty much as normal throughout the war. On the afternoon of June the 10th 1944 the residents noticed a couple of soldiers heading towards the village. No one was worried, or gave much thought to it. Then more troops from the Der Führer Regiment of the 2nd Waffen SS Panzer Division Das Reich, drove into the village. With the beating of the village drum, they rounded up the residents, and gathered them together on the village green. At this point, the villagers were still fairly unconcerned, thinking they were just going to have an identity check.
No one tried to run away.
Several hours passed.
Then, the women and children were herded off to the church, and the men isolated in various buildings throughout the village.
A single explosion was the signal for the simultaneous killings to begin. The women and children in the church were tear-gassed and machine-gunned. When this proved to be too laborious, they simply blew the church up and set fire to it, shooting anyone trying to escape.
The men were shot in their lower limbs, and then burned alive. The troops then set about destroying every building in the village apart from one…..
They left the wine store intact, and spent a happy night there enjoying the stock. However, being “Professionals”, they did ensure it was blown up as they left.

The following day when they departed they left 642 men, women and children dead, and destroyed 328 buildings. The youngest was just 2 months and the eldest 91 years old.
All but 2 residents of the village, present that day, perished.……. Before leaving, with the intention of denying these people the dignity of an identity in death they stopped long enough to scoop them into mass graves.

In total only 21 of the entire village population survived.

General Charles de Gaulle,
Inside the ChurchInside the ChurchInside the Church

Only 2 women, one with a baby escaped out of one of these windows. Only one survived, she was found 24hrs later in a hedge, barely alive.
leader of the free French, visited the village and decreed that the ruins be left as a memorial and a reminder. And so they have remained as they were since that fateful day in June 1944.

So, having spent time in the Centre de la Mémoire, absorbing all these facts, it was in a somber mood that we set off to visit the village.
The visitor is greeted by a sign on which a single English word is printed ………, “Remember”
You enter the silent, slumbering street and make your way past the village well, once the life of the village, but that day filled with bodies…………….
This certainly sets the mood.
We walked the length of Oradour's main street, pausing to take in the gutted, charred buildings in the shade of lush trees, where strange remnants of that day, car bodies, bakers ovens, bicycles, tools, have rested, unmoved, since that fateful day 62 years ago .
On each building ruin there is a simple plaque, stating the names and occupations of the people who had lived there.

Over the last few weeks we had driven through so many of these peaceful French Villages, we could instantly visualise
The Lamaud FamilyThe Lamaud FamilyThe Lamaud Family

The memorial to one of the murdered families, a.. perished.
it, before the tragedy.
It was a beautiful, sunny day, blue skies, birds singing, very peaceful, almost restful, but as I studied peoples faces as they passed by there was a haunted look to them. I don’t think anyone could leave this place unaffected.

In the museum in the Hall of Memory there is a quote which says “Those that don’t learn from the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them”. I found that the most depressing thought of all. This village would not be so sad if people did learn, but the tragic fact is that has already happened again, & again……………..

It was in a thoughtful mood we moved on and went for a (this time) well earned beer. Whilst sipping our drinks we decided that everyone, of any nation, who supported war and had never seen the result on an innocent population, should be made to see something like this….. Some hope!

So having now depressed any of you who are still reading this, I shall move swiftly on.

We stayed a few more days, enjoying the quite life @ Parc Verger. We cycled around the empty country lanes, admiring the many chateaux we came across. In fact I think I may just have found my new country base……. (see picture

Eventually several days after we said we were going to leave we pulled out of Parc Verger, waved good bye to Di and Bob and headed off toward Calais

Now that we were further north, we could get a greater choice of TV programs via our satellite dome. Watching the BBC news and weather reports, we noted that the UK was rapidly becoming a large water park. We decided to hang out this side of the channel for another week to wait for the promised “heat wave” to commence, and optimistically booked our return for the 24th June.
We decided to stop just outside Poitiers where there is a theme park called Futuroscope. This is a different type of park to the usual whizzy, 360 degree speedy thrills of the Florida parks. It comprises of many different buildings all “futuristic” and completely different from each other.
Graeme had driven passed them many times and thought they looked interesting, & now was time to find out.
Each building houses a 3D screen, IMAX or simulator ride.
It was out
A well earned beer.........A well earned beer.........A well earned beer.........

......... imbibed, whilst we put the world to rights.
of season & the park was practically empty, so there were no queues & we managed to view just about everything in the day.

The weather was lovely, warm, breezy with just the occasional downpour, so we spent the next couple of days scrubbing and polishing the rig.

Now committed to return, we set off up towards Calais to catch our ferry
Maybe, sometimes, when reading our Blog, you may wonder if everyday is as great as it reads. Well……………………. Yes usually it is, after all we can do whatever we want, go wherever we wish, and usually we only fall out over my map reading. Even after all this time Graeme cannot come to accept that although I can instantaneously, accurately and fluently read all the TV subtitles reflected in the lounge mirror on the rig (When at the table I have my back to the TV). I still cannot read a map, even though I am looking at it “forwards” . (It’s a very mixed up brain).
But very occasionally we get an “off-day” and as I can’t remember when the last one was perhaps, statistically, it was time for a not so wonderful day(s).
look out Graeme.....look out Graeme.....look out Graeme.....

You are being followed by a large sphere. One of the Futuroscope buildings.

We headed towards Calais, the rainy grey skies getting greyer and wetter each mile. Our hours of painstaking rig cleaning and polishing disappearing in minutes. We passed a constant stream of Motorhomes heading south.
It was very tempting to do a quick U-turn and follow.

Our plan was to stop off at the Cite de Europe for a last minute stock up. Big mistake…. As mentioned previously the French really take their leisure time seriously and despite the fact this is one of the biggest retail areas, and attracts thousands of shoppers everyday, it all stops for Sunday, Everything was shut. We asked someone if there was anywhere nearby that would be open & he replied “No everywhere shuts for Sunday”. Oh well. So with a very sad empty fridge, cleared ready to receive a vast amount of French cheese and wine we headed to the ferry terminal. (Limited cheese board at the party, folks) We wanted to capitalise on the lower fuel prices here and top up our fuel so we took a short detour to find a garage. On the way we saw a Sainsbury‘s sign, noted there was activity in the car park & pulled in
Strange womenStrange womenStrange women

Too much cheese and wine indulged here perhaps!
to have a look. You can depend on an English store to prefer retail to relaxation;
Perhaps in the UK, retail is relaxation? It turned out to be an oasis in the desert. Sainsbury’s was the only place open. We parked up and, as we walked across the car park we were amused to note that every vehicle had UK number plates, and the occupants were all trying to squeeze in an assorted heap of rectangular boxes into a limited, not so rectangular space. When we entered the store we found this Sainsbury’s sold only alcohol. Oh well, might as well stock up then.

Overnight in the pouring rain we camped up on the dockside. The next day as we boarded the ferry we noted the Newspaper headlines “The wettest day for 50 years”. Great. We were only really heading back to be sensible and that idea was rapidly wearing off.

When we left the ferry we checked the 2 exits lanes marked Truck or Car? We checked the height on the car lane. It said 4 meters. OK for us so we took it.
As we approached it looked a little low, I got out to check
Elvis? Elvis? Elvis?

On his hols in the UK!
and jokingly said to the Customs girl “ it doesn’t get any lower inside does it?” “Yes” she said, helpfully adding, “I think the corner may be more of a problem, but you can’t go back now anyway!” I glanced at the huge queue behind us. Confused and somewhat p****** off as to why they had not put the minimum height on the tunnel entrance, and had built in a sharp left hand turn before the exit I watched as Graeme inched forward…….. It was a scary moment, possibly the closest shave yet. After performing several times a very tight “bus-shuffle” we eventually emerged out onto British roads. I don’t know who was the most relieved. The Customs girl, whose lane we were in. The people in the queue behind us, who, probably could see themselves spending all day in the tunnel, or me, who could visualise our home impaled on a concrete pillar and roof vent. Inwardly planning a gruesome death to the person who labelled or designed the tunnel I got back on board. Graeme looked as unperturbed as usual.

We set off through “the wettest day in 50 years”. We passed a woman in full rain gear and wearing gloves!!! Hang on a moment let me check the calendar, Oh it IS June. I added a couple of layers of clothing myself and then rang the farm where we were going to stay. It’s a bit underwater here, he replied, I think you had better find somewhere else for a few days. By now I was cold and hungry and didn’t want to be here. The mood on board was definitely getting a bit grumpy.
Whist away I do occasionally yearn for odd things, a trip to M&S food hall being one of them, so I perked up when we passed a sign for a service station selling M&S food. Due to the empty fridge situation we needed something to eat, so pulled in. What I had forgotten was M&S prices…. £8.55 for 2 sandwiches, some humous, veggies and a biscuit. By now we were rapidly reacclimatising to the UK at its worst, cold, wet, grey, busy roads and expensive.
We continued on our route, traffic whizzing past us. One truck passed by rather closely. I winced thinking, “Gosh that was a near thing, if he hit our mirror it would take our windscreen out”…………. Well
Interesting peopleInteresting peopleInteresting people

Definitely nothing more to say here........Other than I hope they don't find this blog.
I was wrong, because when the next truck hit the mirror (which is 17.5 inches high, & 7 inches wide) the glass bounced across the windscreen and disappeared, leaving only an odd mark or two. The mirror body was hanging off and wildly swinging around. It was just perfect to snap off and become a potential missile.
The conversation that took place following this little hiccup is probably best not repeated except to say Graeme expressed much dismay, and was not comforted much by me saying repeatedly saying “But at least it didn’t break the window”………

We continued the journey with me hanging out the window (on the wettest day for 50 years, I would like to add) to check for vehicles on our right side. People do like to drive along side us and stay in our blind spot, happily cruising along in our shadow like a nursing shark and its baby. As we now had a 40 ft blind spot that was a huge potential disaster waiting to happen,
Welcome home. ……

Things didn’t improve. That wettest day in 50 years turned into the wettest June since records began. Now, who was it that mentioned it
Uhm... looks a familiar sceneUhm... looks a familiar sceneUhm... looks a familiar scene

I bet her name is Sandy
was going to be the hottest summer in years? Because now, suddenly, the experts decided (the same one probably) Summer was going to be on July 16th.
I am sure everyone in the UK was as fed up as us BUT……… your home does not have wheels on, ours does………… it was very tempting to just drive away.

We had returned to try and sell the rig. Our strategy included the usual approach placing adverts in all the relevant magazines etc. but we also decided to attend some of the Shows for RVs. The first was the “Americana Show” in Newark-on-Trent, near Nottingham.

Having never been to anything like this before we didn’t really know what to expect…….
As the title “Americana” suggests, all things American were represented there. There were Cars, Trucks, Harleys, R.V.’s, American clothing, and food stalls. (They didn’t get it quite right though as there were no huge $5 turkeys legs for sale) and, of course Elvis was wandering around. The music was Country & Western and Rock; along with a few “Halleluiah” and “Thank the Lord” songs. What we didn’t quite expect was the crowd.
Imagine visiting a small, remote town in the
Some of the odd thingsSome of the odd thingsSome of the odd things

People keep in their windows
U.S., and finding everyone wandering around dressed as London city gents or Morris dancers. Even you might perhaps think it a little strange? I felt that if a lost American happened to pass by, they surely would be more than a little confused. Almost everyone here was kitted out in some form of western style outfit interspersed with the odd Native American. (Although I am still not too sure where the Vikings or the bloke dressed as an Arab, fitted in),
Some people even went as far as to camp “Frontier style”, living in a wagon train and cooking over open fires. I bet they took a sneaky trip to the burger stall though
There were loads of American RVs there, most stuffed full of American memorabilia or other strange things. In our minimalist rig we felt a little underdressed...
Over the weekend someone came into our Rig and during the conversation commented on the fact one of the few problems with a motorhome was there was nowhere to hang pictures. We said “well it doesn’t really matter does it?” He replied “but we live in our Rig” “We live in ours” we said. He looked around the clear empty surfaces, no stuffed toys, furry animals, signs, hanging mobiles, table lamps, flags, bunting, flashing lights, ceramic statues, Indian head dresses wind charms or dream catchers…………………………. And looked at us with an expression which read “ Yeah, really”

We had a great time though. It was another people-watching paradise. The weather was dry and warmish but being a southern softie I was wearing several layers of clothing. Much to my amusement those hardy northern types that were not in full western outfits were wandering around in shorts and vests. Interestingly many were accompanied by very ugly dogs of the type of breeds I haven’t seen for years. Bulldogs, Mastiffs and Whippets abounded. (I know, I know Whippets aren’t ugly) I began to feel as if I was on a different planet, let alone that displaced American. I didn’t realise the north started so far south!

Perhaps this was a fitting way in which to end our tales as this event was about as surreal as it gets?

Nothing very exciting is going to happen to us for a while, whilst we try and sell the rig and decide where we go and what we do next.
All of which would be far too boring to relate in the Blog.
So sadly, I guess for now, this is the end of our ramblings, in more than one sense. Thanks to all of you that expressed their enjoyment of it, I originally started it just as a journal for us but it took on a life of its own.
So just over 2 years and 31,000 miles later I guess this is it ..………

………………………..“So long and thanks for all the fish”………………………..
The End ………… or is it? What do you think?


22nd July 2007

Thank you for an entertaining 2 yrs of blogs. It was a stroke of luck that I stumbled on the very first one just as you posted it and have been reading them ever since. I personally would like to see an update every so often, just to hear what the two of you are up to! You write very, very well. All the best to both of you and I have my fingers crossed.

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