A Change of Heart – & A Change of Direction!

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Ruby gazes wistfully out of the caravan window. “It’s too hot to do anything!”

The temperature in Brittany continued to hover in the mid 30°s. With hardly a breath of wind, I found it too hot to do anything. The poor dogs were expiring.

Then we met a Dutch guy who lived in Portugal, our planned destination. He said that the temperature there was breaking records and pushing an unprecedented 50°C!

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Keeping cool!

Mark and I had a discussion about our plans to head south. Steve had advised us that we would definitely need air conditioning to go to Spain in July and August and I must admit that I had my concerns.

We talked about going to Northern Italy or Romania and Bulgaria, but looking at the forecasts, they appeared to be even hotter than Brittany! We could head down to Spain and see how it went, but I couldn’t see the point of doing that because unless it cooled down A LOT, it would be just to hot to do anything.

With my English Rose complexion, I had already managed to get a bit sunburnt for the first time in years. All I did was walk outside for half an hour without applying sun screen!

Besides the heat, we had no internet. I felt guilty sitting around doing nothing, although I did enjoy it. However, as Mark reminded me “This is our life! Not a holiday. We must do as we wish!” We’re into our third year of retirement and I still have a work ethic!

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Kai keeps cool!

We had a couple of evening windsurf sessions but like the weather, the wind was rather unorthodox. I did get a number of planing runs; always so much more satisfying when they are so hard won. I even did an impressive carve gybe right in front of a group of Seavets on the shore. Later, Steve’s brother Andrew told me that the consensus in the group was that I was a better sailor than Mark and Steve. That is not true, but I was happy to take the compliment. And it would certainly annoy Steve! (Mark just said “That’s my girl!”)

Steve is a much more competent sailor than either Mark or I, but had made the mistake of staying close to shore to do advanced tricks in the light winds. However, the wind was a bit fluky and he was out of practice, so he kept falling in!

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“You’re a better sailor than Mark & Steve!” Not true, but I was happy to take the compliment! (Photo courtesy of Nick Jones photography.)

Since we travel on a budget, we rarely eat out. However, we did go for a meal with the Seavets. As we walked the dogs back on the beach at 10pm, in the relative cool of the evening, there were still several kite surfers out on the water – and a windsurfer having a ball! When we arrived at the caravan, the temperature inside was a sweltering 30°C. We had just changed the bed and of course, a wet and sandy Ruby immediately jumped up to rub half of the beach all over our fresh and grit-free sheets!

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A rare photo of me doing a rare thing – dining out! Ruby later rubbed the beach into our bed!

The meal at the beach bar was OK. The starters were nice (things on toast!) but the main event was frozen fish and chips followed by a cardboard tub of ice cream, all for €20 each. Then €10 for a bottle of cider that cost €2 in the local shop – and €6 if you wanted two tiny bottles of water. I thought that it was a bit of a con not putting a giraffe (carafe) of tap water on the table, although they did provide a free bucket of water for the dogs!

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Mark & Kai discuss the price of spuds.

I was parched when I got home but there was no way that I was paying so much for water. To be honest, it reinforced all of the reasons why we don’t eat out. We could have made something much nicer ourselves for a fraction of the cost!

However, we did enjoy the company. My favourite quote of the evening was spoken as the proprietor’s delightful and extrovert seven-year-old daughter came out and captivated everyone’s attention. One of the ladies instructed her husband “Look this way at the sunset. Not that way like a paedophile!”

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Côte Sauvage from the Beach Bar. “Look this way at the sunset not that way like a paedophile!”

Penthievre to Poitiers; Camping du Bois, Chalandray

We stayed on in Penthièvre for a couple of extra days on a forecast of 20 knots of wind, but the flaccid windsock on B’s van on what was supposed to be Big Wednesday said it all!

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Oh to be a windsurfer. This is definitely not 20 knots of wind!

And so, because of the scorching summer temperatures, when we did set off, we turned east instead of south and took the road less travelled. Well – less travelled by Brits than the one heading to down Spain, at any rate!

We headed in the general direction of Chamonix and the Mont Blanc Tunnel, with a view to dropping in at Monte Rosa to book some winter accommodation. Last season’s Residence had doubled its prices, so we needed to find somewhere else to stay for the following ski season.

We chose to travel via the ‘A’ roads rather than racing through the countryside on the toll roads. It was a steaming hot, sunny day and the scent of haymaking, cut grass and honeysuckle drifted in through the windows. We had one stop in an Aire, where we made ourselves a delicious sandwich from a crisp, fresh baguette and drank a home-made coffee; so much better than the ones you buy in a paper cup for €5 each!

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Our peaceful pitch at Camping du Bois de St Hilaire, Chalandray.

We stopped at Chalandray, near Poitiers at Camping du Bois de Saint Hilaire. There were two campsites nearby, but we thought that Ferme de la Naturiste might be best avoided! We worried that it would be Croatia – and all that naughty, naked nudity – all over again! We had considered going to Avanton, which we had really enjoyed on our first trip, but it was too far off our route to be worth it for just one night.

The campsite at Chalandray was owned by a lovely English couple, Henry & Katherine, who had chosen running a campsite in France as their own way of Living the Dream! However, €27 for a non-electric pitch including a charge of €1.50 per dog per night was a bit steep for us, so we couldn’t justify staying for more than one night. We supposed that we were paying for facilities that we wouldn’t use; there was a swimming pool, which unfortunately meant that there was also an endurance wailing contest from a ‘cacophony’ of small people!

There was a lovely, shady walk in the woods for the doggies – and we even found that the Greenwich Meridian, 0° Longitude ran through it! I met another English couple on site and stopped for a chat. I discovered that Patsy & Rod had responded to one of my recent posts on one of the caravan forums, where I had asked some questions about our planned trip next year; to Russia, Poland and The Baltics (if we didn’t turn south and go to Spain!) They had visited Lithuania and LOVED Poland.

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Mutts & The Meridian – The Fab Four at 0° of Longitude, in the woods at Chalandray.

Patsy and Rod suggested that we contact Mir Corporation, a tour company who will sort out visas, bookings and itineraries for travel to some of the more ‘challenging’ countries in the east. We shared stories and they told me about a Sat Nav mishap with their motorhome, during which they had accidentally driven up a footpath and over a mountain!

Of course, once committed, they could neither reverse nor perform an about turn, so they had no choice but to continue. Their motorhome had double wheels at the back. On one side, they were hugging the mountainside so closely that they lost their fuel cap. On the other side – the one with the sheer drop – only the inner wheel remained on the path. Luckily for them, the front wheels were a little more inboard – and the edge of the path didn’t give way.

Thankfully, the route did eventually open out on to a road. When they told the campsite how they had arrived, the receptionist said “You can’t take cars down there!” Well they hadn’t. They had taken a motorhome!

It was so relaxing just watching the trees through the windows and rooflights, listening to the wind in the branches, the birds and cicadas and smelling fresh grass. One of the things that is so lovely about a caravan is that you are so close to nature. We are also removed from people – their demands and expectations. I had read a blog yesterday about someone who had chosen the life of a hermit. After our Fidose of Reality – a three month round of problems, stuff to do and socialising, I can really understand why!

While I had walked the dogs, Mark, bless him, had performed the three wheel changes necessary to get the caravan spare wheel on to the side that does NOT have the ALKO wheel lock receiver.

Following the caravan service, the original alloy wheel had been deemed too damaged to put back on the caravan. The heat from the oxyacetylene torch that thieves had used to cut off the wheel lock had damaged the wheel irreparably. Our Dealer advised that the alloy was now brittle and wheel could potentially shatter if we hit a pothole; not ideal on French roads (and certainly a MAJOR blessing where we did eventually end up…!)

However, in a move that defied logic while they had the caravan up on a ramp, making wheel changes surprisingly simple, they had just replaced the damaged wheel with the spare – on the side of the caravan with the receiver for the wheel lock. This was no help at all, since the bolt for the ALKO wheel lock won’t pass through the rim of the spare wheel!

So now we could put on our wheel lock – and our insurance was valid again!

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Hot Dogs – happy to be on the road in search of cooler climes!

 

Join us next time as we accidentally wander into Paradise Found!

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