Week 3 of the Grand European Tour.
Week 3 – Day 18 – Monday 16th October 2017
Jullouville to Mont St Michel – 30 miles
We found Jullouville last night by the tried and trusted method of sticking a pin in a map, well almost. We needed to be near Mont St Michel and Jullouville is a little seaside town on the west coast of the Cherbourg peninsula just south of the fishing port of Granville and the thought was – it was bound to have an Aire as most French resorts have one, and ‘voila’ as they say in France, there was an Aire being constructed. The services were not operational so we had a free night along with 5 French motorhomes.
So, refreshed after a good nights sleep, we set off for Mont St Michel, about 45 minutes away. As this was our 4th visit, the intention was to park, cycle to it, spend the afternoon there and move on but that plan was redundant pretty quickly when I saw the parking tariff – free for 30 minutes or €17.50 for 24 hours. We were not going to pay a parking charge then pay for an overnight Aire, so we stayed on the car park all night. It was a bit of a ripoff as there were no facilities to justify the fee, only the location. We cycled to Mont St Michel, and, if you are interested, you can see the cycle cam footage shortly. Mont St Michel is worth a Blog post in its own right and there is one on the way entitled – You will travel in a land of marvels.
This was the day that hurricane Ophelia was battering Ireland and the west of the UK, but as you can see in the pictures and video, we had a mild dry day.
Having said it was mild and dry, it became very black and threatening from the west and what looked like rain seemed to be heading towards us, so, about 2ish, and after a hearty frite mayo lunch, we cycled back to the van.
Around 3pm the eerie clouds were overhead and turned daylight into almost night, but with a sinister yellow/orange glow. I tried to take some pictures but the camera compensated for the conditions and the resulting pictures were not as we had seen. Later that evening the clouds had passed over and we had a lovely sunset.
I could write a lot on the antics of 2 British couples driving their motorhomes around the car park for ages trying to get a good satellite reception for their TV and obviously failing due to the atmospheric conditions. One of those moments when you had to be there!
Week 3 – Day 19 – Tuesday 17th October 2017
Mont St Michel to Le Vivier sur Mer – 20 miles
After the strange weather conditions yesterday, today was another mild sunny day. The weather conditions we experienced were nothing to what some parts of the UK experienced, caused apparently by sand from the Sahara being blown northwards. The combination of the dampness /dew and a fair bit of the aforementioned desert depositing itself on the van made it look a sorry mess.
Todays plan was to move the short distance to Le Vivier sur Mer – and more of Le Vivier in a moment. Driving away from Mont St Michel you first come to the town of Ponterson and on the left as you approach is a Carrefour supermarche and we quickly spotted that not only did it have a ‘laverie’, but also an LPG pump to top up the gas tanks and a jet wash to spruce up the van. So, as our unmentionables were washed, we cleaned the van, replenished the gas and topped up on fruit, salad and bread. A short drive through very flat countryside with glimpses of the Mont in the distance brought us to Le Vivier sur Mer. As we are hugging the coast, a fair proportion of the towns and villages we are passing through are ‘sur Mer’ and Le Vivier was the latest to add to the growing list.
Le Vivier sur Mers claim to fame is its vast production of mussels, farmed on the local muddy shores. The tide goes out for miles here and instead of seeing boats on the horizon, you see tractors and trailers gathering the sacks of mussels. One of the perks my career in sales brought was a gleaming new company car every 2 years or so and as the years progressed and with promotion or a move to a new company, the cars got better with all the new toys, bells and whistles. That said, the choice of car was restricted to family sized saloons or hatchbacks to carry samples etc, but functional as well, given I had a family! 2010 brought a bit of a sea change as I became self employed and now, enjoying the benefits of this new situation, I could pick whatever car I wanted without being restricted by a company car policy, in fact I could make up my own car policy now! Call it a rebellion against all those years of little choice in what I drove, or simply a mid-life crisis, but a 2 seater Mazda MX5 was bought and in the October we took it to this area on the ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg, and, after visiting Mont St Michel, and heading for St Malo, we came across a roadside restaurant / hut serving the local mussels so we stopped for a simple, but great lunch.
As we just so happened to be passing the same establishment again this year it seemed rude not to frequent it again for a lunch of mussels, accompanied by a packet of plain crisps and a half bottle of the local cidre, served in cups!
While it was a tasty lunch, mussels are not that filling, so a couple of sirloin steaks from Melton Mowbray market were barbecued later that evening. As Tony Bennett once sang, and probably still does, given half a chance…
“Oh, the good life, full of fun seems to be the ideal”
Week 3 – Day 20 – Wednesday 18th October 2017
Le Vivier sur Mer to St Malo – 12 miles
A damp and grey morning with the prospect of it being like this all day prompted the decision to stay on the Aire until just after lunchtime and take advantage of the inclusive electricity and good internet connection to do some work on the lap top. The next destination was meant to be Cancale, just round the bay from Le Vivier sur Mer but the inclement weather made it an easy decision to bypass it and head instead for St Malo and the Aire on the outskirts.
This site at St Malo was quite busy and it was a bit of a bargain at €7, which surprisingly included electricity but would cost €3 to fill up with water! Go figure as an American would say.
Cancale is the place in France for oysters and, like Le Vivier sur Mer just round the bay, they are cultivated on an industrial scale as the sea / beach / tide all combine to produce the perfect conditions for their harvesting. An acquired taste are oysters, and I have tried to enjoy them, without success it must be admitted, although once, back in the mists of time on a free trip to the George V in Paris, after winning a sales incentive, our sales team and partners all tried them, and maybe because they were cooked and served hot, I quite liked them. Then again maybe I had a few too many…
The damp and drizzle continued in the afternoon so I did some more work editing videos and The Navigator read. I’m not sure if you have seen the page that shows what (mostly free) Kindle books are being downloaded and consumed at a considerable rate. You can see the list HERE if interested.
Week 3 – Day 21 – Thursday 19th October 2017
St Malo – 0 miles
St Malo is one of my favourite places and we first visited it in 1974 and a few times since. Wikipedia describes St Malo as “a historic walled port city and commune in Brittany on the English Channel coastline of northwestern France. Traditionally known for its independent streak, Saint-Malo was in the past notorious for privateering (the “cité corsaire”). Today the city is a major tourist destination, with many ancient structures.”
That rather dry description does not really do the town justice and although it was badly damaged in WW2 by the Americans, who, thinking the walled city was full of German soldiers instead of only 200 with 2 anti-aircraft guns, proceeded to almost flatten it. The superb restoration we see it today blends historic architecture with modern style.
The Aire is only 4 bus stops away from the centre-ville and old walled area so we left the van and used public transport which cost us €1.80 return each as the driver refused point blank to recognise our freebie Scottish bus passes, a situation our MP needs to rectify tout suite! We shared the journey with fellow motorhomers Mark and Wivina from Belgium who are hoping to come to Scotland on their next adventure.
Week 3 – Day 22 – Friday 20th October 2017
St Malo to Dinan via Dinard – 45 miles
Awoke to a lovely morning after some heavy rain during the night. At this point I should impart some sage advice to any newbies to motorhoming (Iona, Pete & Murron) and that is to never park under trees if the forecast is for rain overnight, as, not only do you hear the rain on the roof, but the raindrops that merge and fall off the leaves seem to be bigger, heavier and louder than normal raindrops. If a strong wind accompanies said rainfall, cones, conkers, twigs, leaves and assorted other debris will land on your van and also disturb your slumbers. Then, in the morning when calmness is restored, birds and especially pigeons will poop all over your shiny van. Your Uncle Angus is far too long in the tooth to make such a schoolboy error!
From St Malo we nipped into Cancale to the Super U supermarche (fast becoming our supermarche of choice) for a few essentials and €2 worth at the jet wash to remove, er, some cones, twigs, leaves, assorted other debris and bird poop! Onwards over the River Rance hydro barrage into Dinard, yet another upmarket, elegant coastal resort that the French seem to specialise in.
We had been here a few times in the past but this on this occasion we managed to find a coastal path not traversed before, with great views of the wide beach and over to St Malo, which was illuminated by the bright afternoon sunshine.
On the coastal path we had a seat beside a couple from Jersey who were waiting to see if the 4pm Condor ferry would leave St Malo and hopefully return later in the evening with their daughter who was joining them for a holiday. Condor had cancelled all sailings for the next day due to the impending Storm Brian.
After a very pleasant afternoon in Dinard we travelled the fairly short distance to Dinan, via an unexpected ‘deviation’ as, within sight of our Aire for the night, the road at Port de Dinan was ‘baree’ resulting in about an hour going back down the side of the Rance to approach Dinan from another direction. The Brucie bonus was the contractors stabilising the rock-face, necessitating the ‘baree’ were parking their equipment on part of the Aire so the overnight fees were suspended. Eeh by gum you’ll never guess what happened next. We were fortunate to meet a super couple, John and Kay from Yorkshire, fellow motorhome owners who were on a Gite holiday with their car. Don’t ask – its a long story. They came over for a chat and a few pointers for their future motorhome adventures on the continent. We had a late evening stroll down to the nearby Port de Dinan which is usually heaving with people but was deserted this evening.
Just getting into a deep slumber after a busy day, we were woken by 3 French motorhomes arriving after 10pm to within a few yards of us and proceeded to set up, even to the extent of putting their vans on leveler wedges while all the time loudly jibber jabbering away without any consideration for their new neighbours. The joys….
Week 3 – Day 23 – Saturday 21st October 2017
Dinan to Erquy via Trefumel – 75 miles
Dinan is a lovely old town situated within ancient city walls overlooking the Rance valley. Sadly it was not the best of mornings to sightsee, having said that it started brightly enough but as the morning wore on it clouded over, resulting in rain just before lunchtime. The town was as we remembered it and hopeful of finding it was market day were disappointed to find it is on a Thursday here.
Walking down one of the medieval streets of half-timbered old buildings we came across a shop we did not expect to see in a provincial French town selling everything Scottish. I say everything, and yes it did have a super range of whisky, Johnstons of Elgin scarves and most things tartan but it did not stock any square sausage, a thing of blessed memory for us 3 weeks into the trip! The owner was from Dunfermline and I had a good long chat with him, putting our Falkirk/Dunfermline football rivalries aside. Back to the van as the rain was ending before setting off for Trefumel and our visit there is covered in a seperate blog post, which if you missed it is HERE.
From Trefumel I set the satnav for Erquy, a coastal village to the northwest. We had not been there before, but on Google Earth the Aire looked to have a great location on yet another stunning beach. After the brief burst of rain in the morning at Dinan it turned into a lovely bright and breezy sunny afternoon making it a very pleasant drive, the highlight for me being a mid afternoon stop in a picnic area beside a field of corn on the cob to have a cuppa and tarte de pommes. Delicious.
Week 3 – Day 24 – Sunday 22nd October 2017
Erquy to Tregastel – 70 miles
The bright and breezy sunny afternoon of yesterday turned into a gale force evening thanks to the tail end of Storm Brian which was battering parts of the UK so we did not get the anticipated cycle around the bay to the village centre and marina. The Aire was quite busy and apart from one van from Belgium all the others were French. It was a stormy night but we were well sheltered by the vans to our left but the noise of the wind and sound of the waves crashing onto the beach could be heard. In the morning between showers we had a walk along the beach to a headland where we watched the kite surfers take advantage of the strong wind.
We set off in the late morning for the 90 minute drive to Tregastel which was easy enough as much of it was on dual carriageway.
After lunch on the Aire at Tregastel we had a cycle into the little town to see the unusual rock formations on the beach.
If you have never been to Brittany it can be summed up as the French Cornwall – lots of rocky headlands sheltering amazing sandy beaches, but with better food and weather, but more of that in a future blog post.
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To put this week into context here is a map of our route…
NEXT WEEK – We turn south to travel down the west coast of France…
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