“You’re a sweetie. You’re my gorgeous girl. I love you soooo much!” crooned Mark.
“What would you like me to do?” the satnav’s harsh, electronic monotone scythed across the tender moment.
“Shut up. I’m talking to Lani!”
Strangely, that was the last that we heard from the satnav’s unpredictable voice-activation. As a result, we missed several turns, although blame did not fall entirely on the Silence of the Satnav.
“I’ve said before that you’re blind and deaf, but you do make up for it by not being dumb…” Mark crooned to me.
Well, my parents did always say, “You’re never alone with a Jackie!”
A slow start saw us leave Jargeau at around 11.30am. A scenic drive along the Loire followed part of the Circuit des Mariniers de Loire, a route which explores the historic backdrop of those who used the river to trade and played a vital role in the rise of Paris and Orléans. As we moved away from the river, beautiful, clear, pale blue skies spread over expansive agricultural landscapes, chequered in earthy tones of brown, chestnut and vivid green.
Some of the roads were very narrow and ‘interesting’. Had we still been in Romania, the Route de Clamecy, which snaked up and down through a forest, would have raised a few concerns. In Romania, roads like that petered out unexpectedly – or turned into footpaths! (Click here for 12 Tips on Driving and Towing Safely in Romania, gleaned from last year’s amazing trip.)
I snapped photographs as we passed through Gien sur Loire, the pretty church at Faverelles and the picturesque town of St Amand en Puisay. Sully and Clamecy looked very gorgeous and we lamented that we would miss Sunday’s Fête de la Pomme in Billy-sur-Oisy. Who doesn’t love an apple festival in a town called Billy?
The village of Lion had a strange liking for decorated plastic chairs. Resplendent with coats of bright paint, appliqué or flags, some stood unceremoniously outside houses, while others had pride of place, half way up lamp posts or hanging from trees. Sadly, the camera battery died just in time to deny me a photo of these and the ancient windmill at Clamecy.
In the famous wine region of Bourgogne (Burgundy) and nestled on the northern edge of the Parc Naturel Régional de Morvan, our destination was Vézelay. Its Benedictine Abbey has World Heritage status while the place itself is classed as ‘one of the most beautiful villages in France’ – and being near Avallon, it inevitably started up a Roxy Music ear worm.
Our first view was of a hill that looked like a celebration cake, iced with magnificent, medieval buildings. Unfortunately, two of the most prominent were covered with scaffolding, although as we drove through, the steep, cobbled streets and ancient facades oozed charm.
Camping de l’Ermitage was almost deserted and reception was closed until 4pm, so we selected our own spot. I left Mark to set up and took the pooches for a romp uphill along a little farm track. It led to the outskirts of Vézelay and offered stupendous views of the village.
When he came at 4pm, Kula, the receptionist, introduced himself in perfect English. Map boards around the site showed a plethora of beautiful walks around the village. I was also very excited to learn that we were just an hour away from Guédelon Castle, which has long been on our wish list. If you are not familiar with Guédelon, it is a fantastically daring feat of experimental archaeology; an entire, medieval castle being built in the traditional way.
Guédelon featured on BBC2’s fascinating documentary Secrets of the Castle in which historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Peter Ginn and Tom Pinfold live and work as medieval builders to explore the lifestyle and skills of the period. Even better, Guédelon was open until 3rd November and is dog friendly. The Fab Four would be welcome on leads.
Kula told me that Guédelon was modelled on its neighbour, Château de Saint-Fargeau and was also close to a lake. His other recommendation was Noyers-Sur-Serein, a forty-five minute drive to another of the most beautiful villages in France.
I had a funny feeling that we might need longer than three nights.
On Mark’s assurance of continuing good weather, we unleashed the portable washing machine on the caravan’s damp and mud-caked contents. Mark cracked on with getting some laundry done so that we could put it out to dry first thing in the morning. I cracked on with researching Guédelon and the local area – and a cup of tea.
The bikes were off! Finally, I had access to PG!
As a space-saving device we had gone loose-leaf, but we do love a strong cuppa. I would venture that loose-leaf tastes much better than tea-bags, even with the abomination of sterilised milk, which was all we had been able to buy since we arrived in France.
We had an electrical shock before bed. At 11.45pm Mark remembered that he had not checked the polarity of the electricity supply. The circuit tester revealed it to be reversed, causing a hasty, nocturnal foray to the bollard with an adapter. Then, a final check of the weather revealed that we were under a rain cloud for the next five days.
Surrounded by a mountain of wet laundry and with designs on walks and castles, this was not good news.
Although, at least with the laundry done, our day would be completely free to enjoy it!
Join us next time as we explore the inspiration behind Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
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Our first three years of travels are now immortalised in print. With Christmas on the horizon, they will make a great gift to the travel / caravan / dog lover in your life!
- Year 1 – Fur Babies in France – From Wage Slaves to Living the Dream
- Dog on the Rhine – From Rat Race to Road Trip
- Dogs ‘n’ Dracula – A Road Trip Through Romania