Sunday, May 22, 2011

We have been on the road for 3 weeks now and have visited 2 chateaux, an abbey, a Roman church, plenty of seaside, a Basque pop concert, and the Pyrenees!

We left England feeling a bit apprehensive about travelling again after so long…all is well and we are surviving and really enjoying trundling along in our big truck…we do get amazing views from our windows!!! We spent a few nights in campgrounds and then discovered Aires, areas set aside for ‘camping cars’ where we can stay for 1 or 2 nights free, usually by a river, in the centre of town or beside a beach…great!

Our meanderings have taken us to the Loire where we drove past numerous chateaux and visited 2, one where sleeping beauty is supposed to have been written (you could climb up to the tower where she was held captive) that was still being lived in and had amazing period costumes in all the rooms and lovely furniture…a real fairy castle! The other was relatively unfurnished and under repair….but it did have frogs in its moat, croaking and getting very excited with one another…must have been the season!!!

The Abbay de Fontevraud is really solidly built in about 1100. Eleanor of Aquitaine and her husband Henri II are buried there and their son Richard the Lionheart lies alongside them. Names we remember from our history lessons!!! It was an impressive place full of atmosphere and very peaceful.

After all that history we headed for the beach!! La Rochelle is a pleasant place but even out of season it was busy and touristy. We did meet a South African couple who were pleased to meet some English speaking people and we spent a very happy evening chatting to them and now we have an invitation to stay on the ‘Garden Route’ when we get to S.A.

The Roman church is built on the very edge of the sea in a small village called Talmont. 83 people live there but they have 500,000 visitors annually! Narrow cobbled lanes, white painted stone houses with very colourful flowers everywhere, enchanting.

More beaches, more sun, more baguettes, wine and charcuterie until we were under the shadow of the Pyrenees. What wonderful mountains they are, towering above the valleys, green and lush but still with snow lying on the highest peaks. We were wandering along, decided on a place to stay for the night, but when we got there it was swarming with people. We couldn’t think what they could all be doing, but then realised that there was a Basque festival taking place!!! Well, we thought we had better see what it was all about, so jumped on a shuttle bus to the site!! Set beside a lake there were stalls, beer tents, small concert platforms, a fairground and a huge concert arena with the audience all sitting on the bank listening, or milling around close to the stage!! Lots of people were wearing red berets or scarves or t -shirts with the Basque emblem printed on. There was the smell of wacky-baccy in the air, but it was all quite orderly!! Fancy having to wait till you are 70 before going to a pop festival!! You are never too old for an adventure!!!

Now we are off to visit an old school-friend of Michael’s for a day or 2, then to see some friends we met in Oz for another day or 2. Weather is fine, with the odd thunderstorm; we are having a good time, and hope you are too!!