A Drive through Le Perche towards Orléans
I was gagging for a cuppa!
I’d used my last tea bag and my supplies were all buried somewhere within Big Blue. Mark had laid down the law; no foraging until the bikes came off the back of the van.
Since we were making a succession of brief, one-night stops to make headway away from the rain, I feared that might be some time.
If you wondered which route we had chosen to travel south through France, the rain in the picture above follows it exactly.
If you wondered about our re-route to avoid the rain, see the weather picture below from just a few days later. It was following us!
It is not just the weather that made mid-October an interesting time to travel. 30th September and 15th October are the magical dates in the camping calendar when most campsites close for the season. Thus, part of our planning had to centre around which campsites were still open.
Our brief and soggy overnight in Radon ended with a pack howl, initiated by our lead singer, Ruby. It was encouraging to wake and find that the torrential rain and storms of yesterday had given way to a dry, warm and even slightly sunny backdrop for our drive through the French region of Le Perche.
It took me a while to realise that it was THE Le Perche; home to the magnificent Percheron heavy horses. Despite careful scrutiny, I caught only a glimpse of a giant, green model on a roundabout. I can’t say that it did justice to “the noblest, absolutely most gorgeous horses in the world.”
The landscape, on the other hand, led me to understand how one writer was so smitten that she bought a house there within three days! Click here to find out how such a thing can happen.
The picturesque, rural landscape of Le Perche is peppered with glorious, medieval towns, such as Bellevilliers and Bellême, which perches atop the crest of a hill. With caravan Kismet in tow, we couldn’t stop to explore, but we did admire each town as we drove through – a major benefit of avoiding the toll roads. We stopped for money in Bellême and added the whole region to our list of ‘places we must come back to.’
Luckily, I didn’t know that Bellême has a tea room serving more than twenty types of tea, or that the farm of Le Village nearby is where Laurent Renou breeds Percherons. Otherwise, I too might never have left!
Dropping out of the pastoral perfection of Le Perche, the scenery levelled into France’s larder of flat mono-culture. Approaching the mighty River Loire, the narrow road to our campsite at Jargeau passed through an encampment of travelling fairground folk. Our pitch was grass, although it didn’t seem to be too wet. On first sight, the campsite seemed idyllic; right on the banks of the Loire and within walking distance of the town.
Wary of the travellers, I left Mark to set up and walked the dogs on the beach beside the river. Never mind the fairground folk, the worst hazard was the sticky burrs. As The Pawsome Foursome raced through the scrubby vegetation along the riverbank, hundreds got stuck in their coats. I had to stop every couple of minutes to tease them out, so that they didn’t matt too deeply into their coats. By the end of the walk, the tips of my fingers were sore and tingling, as though I had practised juggling using batons coated with hairy caterpillars. The absolute highlight was Lani scooting her backside straight over a little heap of burrs that I had just removed from Rosie. Not her best decision!
Later, avoiding both burrs and travellers, Mark and I strolled into town. Jargeau is not a metropolis. Its claim to fame is that Joan of Arc was wounded there while fighting off the English on 12th June 1429. A statue in the town depicts her holding her hand to the wound on her forehead.
In the 12th century church of St Etienne, whose soaring, vaulted ceilings were filled with soft, choral music, I experienced for the first time the sense of heavenliness that the cathedral builders aimed to re-create on earth. At least it helped to dispel today’s ear worm; Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans) by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.
We fancied a beer, but honoured our commitment to Stoptober when we failed to find a bar that grabbed us. It’s not fair; with my supplies of PG Tips buried somewhere in Big Blue, I can’t even be tea total!
As we meandered back through the cobbled streets, a vivid rainbow formed over the Loire. Jargeau is close to the Forêt d’Orléans, but we didn’t love the campsite or the river walk and decided to push on. Everything in the caravan was muddy and damp; we needed to do laundry. The joys of wet-weather caravanning with four mucky pups in the mix! We had arrived too late to get anything dry, although the campsite laundry charged a rather steep €5 per load.
Then, with that impeccable sense of timing that heating systems reserve for cold-snaps and Christmas Day, Kismet’s boiler packed in. The error message flashed up too briefly to read, although repeated quick glimpses eventually led to a diagnosis of an ‘Alde overheat red fail’. The manual suggested bleeding the system of air and checking the fluid level in the expansion tank. We topped up the tank with a little fluid (oooh) but thankfully didn’t need to bleed the air (ahhhh.) We checked that the circulation pump was responding and waited fifteen minutes for the fluid to cool down – and nothing happened.
So, we resorted to the Holy Grail of Hindispensible Hints – You Tube. A six-minute home video of someone burrowing beneath the cushions on their caravan sofas indicated a single, precious nugget of information; disconnect the 12V cables from the boiler and it will reset.
And so it was that we and our wet caravan were returned to the wonderful world of hot water and heating!
Join us next time as we discover the magnificent, medieval bastions of the Bourgogne.
Need some Halloween reading? How about my latest book; Dogs n Dracula – A Road Trip Through Romania – finalist in the Romania Insider Awards! In it, you will discover the truth about Werewolves, Dracula and Prince Charles – and how to Boldly Go Where No Van Has Gone Before!