27th May – Day 50
We left the campsite at Parc de Montsabert and headed to nearby Brissac-Quince as they had an open-air market in the morning. It was a traditional French market, all sorts of stalls throughout the market square and surrounding narrow streets – there was a great atmosphere. Sounds of all sorts of live fowl, smell of fresh fish, cheese stalls, fruit and vegetables, meat, + various haberdashery you name it… We also bought a crepe (with Nutella) and a gallette (with sausage and cheese) to quell our hunger cravings as we walked around. Bought some strawberries, some meat and then went on our way.
We decided that we had come far enough west and weren’t too fussed about going to the coast, so we put in the co-ordinates for Briare (which is where we want to end up in the day before we drop of Suzab) and will head slowly back east-ward.
We drove through Neuille-pont-pierre and noticed that it had an Aire, which we looked up in the book and found that all services were available and free. We got there and it was in a car park behind the town’s police station and post office, next to a woodland park, which suited us. Callum and I played with tractors on the grass for a couple of hours, while Lorraine chilled out. We watched local school children doing laps around a woodland running track, which Callum found very interesting and asked if he could run as well. Once the children had finished, Callum and I ran round, also running up and over what seemed to be BMX humps. We had a good laugh doing this. The sun kept poking its head out from the clouds and keeping us warm – lovely weather compared to the day before.
We then took a walk into the town centre; I had a beer in a café whilst Lorraine and Callum explored the church opposite. We did some more playing with tractors on our return and another run around the woods, before eating dinner on the picnic bench next to where we had parked. I noticed a young English couple arriving and had a quick chat with them; they had driven down from Calais that day (quite a trek) on their way to a wedding in Spain. Turns out they had sold their businesses and house and bought a motor home – an even bigger life change than what we embarked on – but it was nice to meet some travelers with something in common.
Callum was tired right out after all the exercise, so he passed out early and me and Lorraine watched a movie together, which was nice and relaxing.
28th May – Day 51
This morning we woke and it felt very cold outside, although there were beautiful blue skies. Rob and Callum took a walk to the bakery to get some bread and returned with Pain au Chocolat as well. After breakfast, the first thing we needed to do was to do a top up shop and we finally found a Super U supermarket with the trolley cars that Callum had been asking for every time we went shopping.
We looked in the Aire book and found a nice looking place just 30 mins down the road in Montoire-sur-le-loir and as the weather was so nice we decided to go straight there and have a relaxing day. The picture in the book did it justice – a beautiful spot by a river in a pretty town and it was very quiet.
Callum was asleep when we arrived, so Rob and I took the opportunity to have a rest too. Then I did some hand washing whilst Rob and Callum played by the river for a couple of hours. Later we took a stroll into the town and visited the church. It is incredible the number of churches we have visited in the last 8 weeks, more than in my 33 years I think! Next we found a place that served Menu du Jour and we enjoyed a delicious 4-course menu for just 12 Euros each (Callum shared from our plates.) We were all very full after this and took a stroll back to our place by the river. We set up the picnic blanket and Rob and I actually managed to lie down for a couple of hours whilst Callum played with his tractors; sometimes with us and sometimes by himself.
At dinnertime we decided to have a picnic on the rug and take advantage of the continuing warmth and sunshine. As we were eating, a British motorhome parked up next to us and an elderly gentleman got out. He was on his own so we invited him to join us. His name was Alan and he told us that his wife had died in October. They had owned motorhomes for 44 years and this was his first trip without her. We had some very interesting discussions on some of the social and political problems in England and how they could best be sorted. We stayed outside chatting until 8pm, by which time Callum was very tired and needed to go to bed.
A few teenagers turned up at 9.30pm and sat on the bench by the river for a while. As there were many discarded bottle tops around, we wondered if we were now in for a night of teenage revelry outside our window, but their parents came to pick them up 30 mins later and we had total silence for the night until the dawn chorus.
29th May – Day 52
At 8am I heard Lorraine and Callum stirring and announced that the gas had run out at 5am (the fridge starts ticking when it is waiting for a gas supply) and so our fridge was slowly becoming warmer. It was therefore very important for us to get moving and find somewhere to buy some more.
We found a local garage selling gas and bought a new canister and quickly looked for somewhere to stop so we could cook some porridge for breakfast. Nouzilly was the closest village/town and we parked up just by a busy boullangerie. Callum and I bought some bread and then unsuccessfully tried to look in the church (it was locked) then we headed for Rochecorbon and Lulu Park, a place full of outdoor kids activities. The weather wasn’t nearly as nice as the day before, the sky was completely overcast – but it was pleasant enough and just right for being able to run around and play for the afternoon, which is exactly what Callum did. Almost as soon as we got in, he locked onto these 3 wheeled go-karts (that he decided were tractor mowers) and pretty much played on them for about 5 hours, becoming quite nifty on them by the end of the session! He also had short bursts of time on trampolines, a small train, bobsleigh, a couple of bouncy castles and a go with Rob on some adult go-karts.
As we were driving out of Rochecorbon on our way to the Aire we had chosen to sleep in, we noticed some incredible mansions that had been built into the cliffs that lined the Loire River. There was some really amazing architecture and we agreed that it would be good to come back another time and inspect more closely.
About 10 minutes down the road was the private residence of a local wine producer, Martin Christian, in Montlouis-sur-Loire. Although it was listed in the Aire de Service book, it was more like a French Passion location. Martin greeted us as we arrived, hooked up Suzab to his electricity supply before showing Callum his 4 tractors (2 wine crop sprayers, a vineyard tractor and a normal tractor – a McCormick, exactly like one of Callum’s models) and inviting us into his Cave to taste some wine and see the cellars. He specializes in Chenin Blanc and his family has been producing here since medieval times, his caves are now 719 years old. He gave samples of about 7 years, each getting gradually sweeter. Then we went into the cave system – never seen anything like this before; endless corridors, dug by hand out of the limestone using pickaxes and shovels and along the corridor walls were enclaves containing thousands of bottles of wine, each enclave marked with the specific year that it contained. Martin himself had been making wine since 1949. Unsurprisingly the end of the tour is where he offers the wine for sale. We did buy some, including a bottle of his 2001 demi-sec, which at first he said he had sold out of, but actually he did have 10 bottles left (I went with him to the enclave) so he picked one out, dusted it off and put a label and a cap on for us (it was interesting to see this being done).
Callum performed the now obligatory process of sitting on each tractor one more time, before going to bed.
30th May – Day 53
It rained quite heavily overnight, but by 10 o’clock the clouds started to give way to blue sky and sun. Martin bade us farewell before leaving to go to church, asking that we shut his gates behind us when we leave. Very trusting people here, we have discovered. We drove to Chenonceaux, a town containing a very large chateau and parked up in the chateau car park alongside about 20 other camping cars, so many hundred cars and about 10 coaches – we were now in ‘tourist-ville’.
The camping car parking area was next to a field with a couple of friendly horses in it and Callum enjoyed stroking them, although I expect the horses would have appreciated a snack in return. We cooked lunch and ate it on the grass next to Suzab before going to the entrance of the chateau. We looked at the fairly high entry prices (no tariff for gardens only, unfortunately) and weren’t convinced that it was worth it, despite it looking amazing (from pictures in a leaflet we had picked up the day before) especially as it would have been heaving with people and Callum would have wanted to race round it. So we decided we would leave it for another time.
So we walked into the town, had a quick look around their small church and looked for somewhere that we could sit and play for a bit. We found a municipal park, which was essentially some grass and a bench next to a small car park – but it was landscaped well enough. Around the corner from here was a small shop selling pottery, next to which was a table and chairs. I enquired in the shop whether they served coffee, but alas they did not. On returning to the park for a sit down, we noticed a lot of cherries on the floor, having fallen from a large cherry tree absolutely covered in bright red, ripe cherries. We stood there for about 15 minutes, helping ourselves to the fruit – it was gurt lush!
After we’d sat in the park and chilled for a bit, doing a spot of people watching (mainly well turned out French families) we went to a local café for some coffee and cake. When it came to paying, I only had 10 Euros on me and the bill came to 10.80. She wouldn’t take card for less than 15 and wouldn’t let us off the 80 cents. I didn’t really feel like arguing about their high prices, so I ran back to Suzab (about 2 minutes away) to get some change.
From Chenonceaux, we drove to an Aire in Ange. It turned out to be quite a popular destination with space for about 20 camping cars, nearly all taken. It had all services (including electricity) for free and a nice big open field that Callum could run around in. We’re on a bit of an economy drive for the last week, so continued our home cooking theme and had omelette, chips and salad.