Our travels started off a bit differently this year with a trip of a lifetime, an Expedition Cruise to the Antarctic, it was beyond amazing but we didn't do it in the motorhome obviously, so it's not for this blog but we couldn't resist sharing a few photos! What an experience...Wow, wow, wow!
This year's motorhome travels (2023) didn't start as we had hoped due to some unforeseen events but we got ourselves back on the road in the early summer and went to France rather than Spain as France never fails to impress!
First stop was Brittany, then we followed the west coast down to La Rochelle and Île de Ré, travelling back through the Loire.
Our first few stops were at Caen, Mont-St-Michel, St Malo, Pont-Aven, Pont-Louis as we made our way down to Carnac
History and exploring
I love anything prehistoric, and Ray comes along for the ride!
Having visited Stonehenge (Wiltshire England) and the Callanish Stones (Outer Hebrides, Scotland), I was disappointed when our last trip to Brittany didn’t quite stretch to the Carnac stones. So this time we made a point of camping nearby and what an experience, cycling around this spectacular megalithic landscape … thousands of standing stones from around 5000BC extending over 4km of French countryside. Who put them there and why, answers on a postcard…. but nobody really knows!
And a first for me, we toured a submarine at Saint Nazaire submarine base, which was built and operated by Germany during WW2. Submariners are amazing, had to try to ignore the claustrophobia even though we were still at surface level 😳 Saint Nazaire was also one of the embarkation points for European immigrants leaving for America from 1850s - 1950s and we enjoyed the trans-Atlantic voyage exhibition, 1st class for us please 😘
The historical architecture in France is just stunning, as always we loved the beautiful chateaux and the soaring cathedrals.
On Noirmoutier, we were camped near a great bird sanctuary and some salt farms, watching the locals using traditional methods to harvest salt from sea-water (referred to as white gold) was another first.
We did some fantastic bike rides on our much-loved e-bikes, we enjoy being near the sea so there was a peninsula theme to most of them (Quiberon peninsula, Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile and across the Île de Ré). Somehow we both managed to fall off our bikes 🚲🙄 but no harm done luckily and no alcohol involved, honestly!
Finding the prettiest French towns and villages
Easy to do once you’ve bought the book! Some of our favourite stop-offs were Pont Aven in Brittany, Saint Martin-de-Re on Ile-de-Ré, Vouvant and Saint-Suzanne in Pays de la Loire…. So beautiful, wild flowers everywhere and the almost constant sound of birdsong!
Eating and drinking
Having loved our visit to Mont St Michelle in 2019 (see blog May 22nd 2019), we decided to revisit and cycled again to the beautiful Mont. Admittedly we did have an ulterior motive for stopping off here as there is an amazing caramel shop next to Beauvoir Camping Carpark where we were staying. It sells the best ever chocolate toffees which we’ve never been able to replicate since our last trip, so we stocked up big-time!
Tip from my mate, try the potatoes in Noirmoutier, they are the best and she wasn’t wrong, and so followed a potato theme to our meals for a while!
The French cuisine was up to its usual standard and we had some really yummy meals though as always we were desperate for a curry, some cheddar cheese and fish and chips when we got back!
Nature and birds
The garden bird life in France is amazing, everywhere there were swifts screaming through the skies and chasing through the middle of towns and villages, and we were always aware of the chatter of many common garden birds as well as frequent cuckoos and skylarks. Our theory is that the wild flowers that seem to be everywhere attract the insects which obviously provide birds with plenty of food, or maybe they just like the warmer weather 😘
Most of the time we had the most glorious sunshine, but we also had a couple of vicious thunderstorms accompanied by some biblical rain, oh and just for good measure, an earthquake too while we were in La Rochelle (June 2023) - we thought it was some kids rocking the van and jumped out ready to confront them but turned out it was Mother Nature and we don't mess with her!
Then from France to Ireland with friends in their Carthago Malibu Charming and us in our liner-for-two, but that's another blog story...