A Travellerspoint blog

June 1 2011 - Montpazier to Chatelaillon

THROUGH THE DORDOGNE INTO THE CHARENTE-MARITIME

sunny 25 °C

We left Montpazier, did some banking (for my sister) in Beaumont and then took mainly C roads across the beautiful Dordogne and Charente regions into the Charente-Maritime. We stopped for a while in Pons, much longer than we had planned; we were only looking for Public Toilets so we followed the "Office de Tourisme" sign which, as in every other French village, town and city led absolutely nowhere. We then found a large square with the amazing Pons Donjon and yes, there was another sign for the tourist office; but it wasn't there. So we parked and walked around town, asked a few locals where the office was and got different directions each time. We gave up and headed back to the Donjon and hidden in the corner of the square were toilets. We had now wasted an hour but I was determined to find out where the tourist office was; the woman in the Donjon simply replied that the office used to be in the square but they moved and nobody had changed the signs. If you think this is a one-off case, try following the "Office de Tourisme" signs next time you're in France

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We decided not to head for La Rochelle as it was a public holiday in France and thousands of people were on the move. Much more sensible to head for a beach area just south of La Rochelle. We phoned a the Hotel Majestic in Chatelaillon as they had parking and a garden, and remarkably they had a room (EU78 inc breakfast). The final hurdle to getting there was yet another high bridge, this time across the Loire near Nantes - easy!!

The hotel's parking was the street and their garden was 5 metres square but somehow we found a parking spot just as we arrived and the hotel was pretty good and just a block from the beach where we sat at in a cafe watching the sun go down at 9:45pm (a couple of hours) with a warm wind blowing off the Bay of Biscay

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Posted by kforge 12:23 Archived in France Comments (0)

May 31 2011 - Rodez to Montpazier

RODEZ TO CAHORS TO MONTPAZIER

sunny 24 °C

Heavy rain overnight and just the morning; our first French rain (but then we only had one tiny shower in England)

A quick walk to the tourist office to get some information on the roads from Rodez to Cahors; they weren't open but then why would they be on a Tuesday morning. The owner of the hotel insisted that the D911 to Villefranche-de-Rouerque and then the D926 south to Caussade was fine - it was and was a very pleasant drive. The problem now was how to get north to Cahors as we were still on the edge of Des Causes du Quercy. The woman in the tourist office was extremely helpful and assured me that the D820 all the way to Cahors was a great road with no drop-offs - it was and again it was a very pleasant drive. We spent a couple of hours in Cahors, a lovely town with the beautiful 14th century Valentre bridge in original condition and a church with the one of the largest domes in the world

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From there we had a glorious drive through the Dordogne countryside to Monpazier, a little Bastide town close to where my parents and sister lived for a few years. We stayed at Chez Edell (EU50 inc a great breakfast and Edell and John are excellent hosts). Unfortunately few of the town's restaurants are open at this time of year on a Tuesday, so we ate the usual omelettes!

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Posted by kforge 02:36 Archived in France Comments (0)

May 30 2011 - Sommieres to Rodez

SNEAKING BETWEEN THE CEVENNES AND DES GRANDS CAUSESS

overcast 19 °C

We left Sommieres hopng to take some roads that would take us on a reasonably low tour between the Cevennes and Des Grand Causes to Millau. For those of you who have a near-phobic fear of mountain roads with nasty drop-offs, here is the route.

Sommieres to Quissac on the D35 - a nice drive

Quissac to the junction of the D809 on the D7 - an OK drive (a few minor drop-offs)

L'Hospitalet-du-Larzac to Millau on the D809 - an absolute nightmare. It starts off OK but suddenly you are on the scariest descent that I have ever seen - low or no guard rails, huge drop-offs and very tight hairpin bends. I was wishing that we'd taken the motorway and then I saw it - the highest bridge in Europe, the Millau Viaduct

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In Millau, the very helpful person in the tourist office convinced me that the D911 out of Millau and all the way to the D62 for a final few kilometres into Rodez was fine; it was a lovely drive and I thank her very much

We decided to spend the night in Rodez at the Hotel du Midi (EU68) and as the whole town was closed on a Monday evening, we ate in the hotel restaurant and had really good food - local vegatable dishes that were actually side-dishes; if only more boring French restaurants would offer something like this. Don't the French get tired of eating the same dishes all the time? Rodez was a pretty nice town with an enormous cathedral built between the 13th and 16th centuries

So now just one more day to get us through the mountains

Posted by kforge 01:02 Archived in France Comments (0)

May 29 2011 - Arles to Sommieres

ARLES, AIGUES-MORTES AND SOMMIERES

sunny 25 °C

On the road again and off to see the Roman Amphitheatre/Areana in Arles - we have finally learnt that it's much easier to park outside the walls of towns like this (that assumes of course that the road signs point you in the right direction). The Arena is very impressive but the Roman Theatre is just a couple of columns; you can see it all through the fencing anyway. We had a walk around the old town but it'snot that interesting

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From Arles we took the road south through part of the Camargue (just think of a less-interesting Norfolk Fens) to Aigues-Mortes, a prefectly preserved walled town in salt marshes - a truly remarkable place and if you walk around the walls (about 1 mile) you'll soon have the place to yourself but don't look up

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Then we thought we'd have a pleasant last evening by the sea before we drove north to Brittany. We made two mistakes; it was Mother's Day and we chose one of the nastiest areas to try and get to (La Grand-Motte near Montpellier and Nimes). There were tens of thousands of people, we got caught in the one-way traffic system and it took us 2 hours to escape. We fled the coast and drove north to, well, anywhere and found a marvellous little town called Sommieres. Unfortunately (and yet again) the signs to the Tourist Office and the hotels were woefully inadequate and after parking outside the walls and walking for 45 minutes trying to follow the awful signs, we stumbled across the Auberge du Pont Romain. It was expensive (EU105) but the room was large and had a terrace overlooking the river. As it was getting late, we took up the owner's suggestion of a booking in their restaurant; what we didn't know was that the restaurant was a well-known (by everyone else) gourmand place. So after an omelette for me, a very small creative plate of asparagus for Jeni, a green salad, a bottle of very pleasant local rose and EU72.50 we were done. The town is very old and even has 5 orignal arches in its Pont Romain from the 1st century - definitely a worthwhile visit to this town

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Posted by kforge 00:20 Archived in France Comments (0)

May 28 2011 - Avignon

AVIGNON

sunny 25 °C

Avignon was just a 30 minute drive from the L'Hermitage and then trying to find parking was another hour. Avignon treats visitors with disdain - parking signs appear and then suddenly disappear at next 4-road junction, names of parking places change and even the names of their tourist attractions change (they can't decide if it's Pont d'Avignon or Pont St-Benezet). I really hated this place. Jeni went into the Palais des Papes and I watched dozens of tourists turn back as they saw the EU10.50 admission fee. The best part was just walking along the side of the Rhone for a while. This place was as bad as Aix

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But back at L'Hermitage for a swim, nearly all of the day's crap was forgotten. And in 10 minutes the Champions League Final is live on TV

We leave here tomorrow for Arles (probably another bun-fight) and then down into the Camargue

Posted by kforge 12:20 Archived in France Comments (0)

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