Brrr! That was a bit chilly. We’re just thawing out with a hot milky coffee back in the van after a breezy walk on the beach, watching the kite-surfers at Merville-Franceville-Plage in Normandy. The rain sounds lovely on Vince’s roof now that we’re in the warm and dry; it wasn’t so nice walking back in it!
Last time we spoke, we were in St Valery-en-Caux, planning to head for La Mailleraye-sur-Seine. It didn’t take us long to get there, driving between the flat fields of Normandy. When we left France ten weeks ago, these fields were stuffed with sunflowers and fat cobs of sweetcorn. Now they’re looking much sadder with the remains of the sunflowers ploughed back into the earth, and the empty stalks of the corn plants dry and brown.
We stopped along the way for our daily baguette in Doudeville, a pretty village which has its market on a Saturday morning so we spent a pleasant half-hour or so looking at all the autumn bounty on display. No, there were no coconuts but there were plenty of squashes and pumpkins, black radishes, chicory and the last of the summer lettuces. There were even baskets of freshly picked walnuts – not something you see every day in the UK. I love smelly cheeses but I need to take a run-up to the really rancid varieties so we didn’t buy any…this time… but watch this space!
The aire at La Mailleraye is very picturesque. There wasn’t much else going for it to be honest as the town – like so many here – is shutting down for the end of the season. The main restaurant was only open for an hour and a half – on a Saturday night! We weren’t too worried about the lack of entertainment as we are still well stocked up with food and drink – and of course, Saturday night is Strictly Come Dancing night.*
We parked facing the River Seine, with a pretty little chapel to our rear just as the sun came out. We’d encountered patches of autumn mist all the way there including one tall bridge over the Seine; we drove on to it in bright sunshine, rose up into a pea-souper then descended back into warm sunshine again in the space of a kilometre.
A short stroll round the village found a pretty local church (closed) a few local shops (closed) and several cafés (you guessed, didn’t you!) We did stop for a chat with a little old lady (I seem to attract them – see our visit to Chaudes Aigues) who used the age-old technique of improving your understanding of the language by SHOUTING VERY LOUDLY. She was lovely really, and seemed to enjoy passing the time of day with a couple of Anglais, wishing us Bonnes Vacances as we parted.
On our return it was so warm that we risked getting the chairs out for a drink and a read in the afternoon sun. We were prevented from dropping off into a snooze by the occasional huge ship navigating the Seine in front of us. Unless I’d seen it, I wouldn’t have believed that such large craft could get all the way inland without grounding. It probably helps that this stretch of the river is tidal.
When we woke this morning, the scene was like an oil painting; the dew on the grass, the mist rising off the water and the sun trying to break through – it was magical, spoiled only by the noise of the sewage works behind us. No, there really was a sewage works behind us! Fortunately, though a little noisy at times, there were no er… odeurs to worry about. We’d watched a movie on Friday night, and with six hours (well it felt like it) of Strictly on Saturday, Vince’s batteries had taken a bit of a hammering from the TV so we decided on a campsite today to get him charged up. The solar panel on his roof was great in summer – giving us up to six days without having to plug into the grid, but the October sun isn’t so powerful it seems.
We drove here to Merville-Franceville-Plage (the French still love their hyphens don’t they!) in a couple of leisurely hours, arriving just in time as reception was about to close for lunch. The campsite is one of the few in the area which stays open into October but we can see that they’re in the process of closing down for the winter as the receptionist didn’t seem that delighted to see us (even for France) and only one of the two sanitary blocks is open. It’s like a mirror image of our travels in April when the season was just getting under way. That said, it’s right on the beach, and there’s nothing wrong with the electric supply as all the chargers blinking around me will testify. When we unplug tomorrow the local townspeople will get a surprise as all their lights come back on!
I think we’ll need a planning session tonight as we have no idea where we’re heading tomorrow but we want a route which will takes us via a campsite in a few days for more electricity. Some of the aires have a supply but they’re rare – a little chat with Mr Google might turn up one or two which will save us some cash. The campsites are €15-€17 per night at this time of year but the aires are only €5-€6. We’ve found that the aires are generally better placed for amenities, and have stunning views so it’s a pain having to go to campsites – especially as we’re not doing any laundry this time – probably the only benefit of 10 days away, as opposed to the 17 weeks we did earlier this year.
On that note, I’d better get the maps out. Enjoy what’s left of your weekend and see you in a couple of days 🙂
*for girlies, obvs