We’ve decided that we’ll be spending winter in Spain, so over the next few weeks we’ll be travelling through France. Current thinking is that we’ll be visiting the Dordogne region, a pretty wine producing area with several villages which are rated amongst ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’, and from there we’ll head south to the Mediterranean and then follow the coastal road into Spain. But as always that could all change!
Top of our ‘to-do list’ while we’re in France is to eat a rotisserie chicken and potatoes – one of those where the chicken fat drips onto the potatoes cooking below. Many markets have these rotisserie stalls, but we never seem to be in town on a market day.
Here’s what we’ve been up to these past few days.
As we crossed from Germany into the Alsace Lorraine region of France, it wasn’t immediately obvious that we’d changed countries, apart from the change in road signs of course. This region has changed hands between France and Germany (and the Holy Roman Empire before that) many times over the centuries, and it was only 100 years ago that Germany ceded control to France under the Treaty of Versailles.
Our first stop was a town called Bitche, at a free aire in the car park of a hilltop citadel overlooking the old town, and we bagged the last of the five parking bays.
Arriving late afternoon, we went for a walk around the citadel but didn’t fancy walking down and back up the steep hill to visit the town, when the shops would have been closed anyway.
The next day we drove on to St Dié-des-Vosges. With Carol’s cold at its worst we decided to stay put for a couple of days. The aire cost just €6 per night which included the service point, 16 amp electricity and superfast WiFi, a bargain!
With temperatures in the mid-20’s, we spent much of our time in the shade of the van, but we did venture into town a couple of times.
Being back in satellite range for the Freeview TV channels, we were able to watch Gogglebox and Pointless on Friday night!
On Saturday evening we went for a lovely home-cooked dinner at a local bistro
Sunday was a driving day – one of those days where we try to cover as much ground as possible so that we can get to the south of France that bit sooner.
With an overflowing laundry cupboard it was also laundry day. Many of the larger supermarkets in France have a laundrette in the car park, so we found a Super U on t’interweb and stopped off there at lunchtime. Four loads and €20 later, we were back on the road.
The aire at Gray was another good value one – €5 for the night with electricity, but no WiFi. As it was late, and only a place to park for the night, we didn’t venture into the town.
With both of us being together almost 24 hours a day and living in a confined space, it was only to be expected that I would pick up Carol’s cold. Sure enough, I started to feel rough on Sunday evening.
Monday marked our 30th wedding anniversary, which we decided to celebrate France Passion style on the aire of a wine producer.
Those of our readers who are motorhomers will know that France Passion is a scheme run by French food and wine producers whereby you can park for the night on their premises for free, but you are encouraged (though not obliged) to buy some of their local produce. The wine producer in Cissey had a couple of fridges full of wine operating on an honesty box basis, so we treated ourselves to a couple of bottles.
With my cold starting to turn into full-blown Man Flu, we didn’t do much at all, though I did manage to cook us a chicken paella for dinner which we washed down with one of the bottles of wine we’d just bought.
The first part of the drive to Autun followed the ‘Route des Grands Crus’, a wine road through the Burgundy region surrounded by vineyards, and it was very scenic.
After a while the vines gave way to the beautiful countryside that you see on that annual three week long French Tourist Board advert that is the Tour de France – long undulating roads passing through picturesque villages, with the odd chateau thrown in.
One of the reasons for stopping at Autun was that we’d read a market is held there every Wednesday and Saturday morning, so by getting there on Tuesday we’d be able to visit the market on Wednesday morning before moving on.
The aire at Autun was a half hour walk from town, overlooking a lake. Once we’d sorted ourselves out we went into town. The lady in the Tourist Information office confirmed that there would be a market the next morning, and after taking advantage of the free WiFi we had a stroll around the town and went for a coffee before going back to the van.
This morning we were up bright and early, and set off for the market which we had assumed would be in the main square. When we got to the square there was not a stall to be seen, so we went back to the Tourist Information office to be told that it was at the far corner of the square. Wandering over we were completely underwhelmed to find fewer than 10 stalls and very few punters, and whilst two of these were selling rotisserie chicken, the chickens looked to be pre-cooked and the potatoes definitely hadn’t been cooked in the chicken fat. We weren’t getting good vibes and decided to pass on the chicken, so as not to risk getting food poisoning.
The aire at Jaligny-sur-Besbre is completely free (including electricity), subsidised by the municipality to encourage motorhomers to visit. It’s quite a small village but there’s a chateau and an 11th century church.
Whilst Carol is now feeling better, my Man Flu has reached the acute stage, and so we’ve decided to stay here for a couple of nights so that we can have a lazy day tomorrow doing nothing.