10th March to 20th March 2019
France always seems to get a rough deal on our winter trips as we spend the least time here on our France-Spain-Portugal-Spain-France white box boomerang. It always seems like we are distracted when pass through as on the first leg as we are hungry for warmer climes and on the return it is clouded by the fact we are going back to the UK and the trip is nearing it’s end.
Our winter/spring 2019 French episode proved very different and was in fact immense fun. Maybe a ‘game changer’ (editors note: Matt, you are not at the office any longer!) was that we had been invited to spend a few days with our motorhome friends Rick and Mary who were house sitting in the Lot Valley and this gave the trip a certain initial purpose other than just passing through the country.
To get to the Lot, or Fumel to be exact, meant that we would climb again over the Pyrenees on the Camino de Frances passing through Ronscavales and St Jean Pied de Port on the same route that we trudged when we walked the Camino. I have written about this before as we have touched the Camino in several different places in the camper post walking to Santiago and it always conjures up powerful memories. On this time the weather was wet, nevertheless we did spot a few brave Caminoers battling the elements on their way west.
Our first French night was spent at Sauveterre de Bearn in the Pyrennes-Atlantiques region. This was the perfect introduction back into France as the town was stunning with it’s fortifications, churches and old bridge from which you could glimpse the walled town from it’s most impressive angle.
The town of Sauveterre de Bearn
Our next stopover was a town in the Gers department called Condom. The motorhome aire was positioned a little outside of the centre alongside a campsite and during the winter months the campsite is closed and therefore the aire is free of charge. It is superbly equipped with each camper being assigned an individual hard stand and the communal areas were littered with the odd picnic bench. Even though the campsite was closed, the annexed aire was still patrolled daily by a local council vehicle meaning the aire at Condom was very safe (excuse the pun 🙂
As often the case whilst on Aires we had become chatty with an English couple called Linda and Ian and on our second day there we had arranged to have nibbles and wine on one of the picnic benches. Whilst the sun was beating down and the travel stories were being swapped another English motorhome pulled into the aire and instantly I recognised the drivers. During our summer time at Normans Bay in 2017 we had exchanged pleasantries on several occasions with a couple who were planning a pan-european motorhome trip and it was in fact them, Pierre and Chris, that had just pulled up. More wine ensued as the six of us whiled away the evening which ended with take away pizza that Pierre and I had collected on foot from the town centre, a round trip of 3km!!!
We do not have many photos to show for our two nights in Condom. The aire is located next to a campsite and park area that surrounds the river, it really is an excellent aire. Our Suntor can be seen in the distance.
With sore heads we left Condom to find the E’Leclerc in Fumel, our meeting point with Rick and Mary. Our rendezvous at the supermarket’s car park happened without event and we headed off in convoy to their friends house which they were looking after. It was quite funny really, as once we had pulled off the main road we drove past some amazing barn conversion type properties, and one in particular caught our eyes and at the same moment we both said to each “wow, look at that one, that is nice” Rick pulled of the road and into it’s drive way!
The house really was spectacular combining all the ingredients of fine country living with land, animals, stables and woodland. Instantly we made our arrival known as Rita jumped out of our motorhome and proceeded to chase the resident chickens. Much to our horror she managed to catch one of them and ran around with a live hen in her mouth. Luckily the chicken was not hurt and once we prised it from Rita’s mouth it ran off, in slight shock maybe, to join it’s feathery friends.
It was a bit drizzly during our time with Rick and Mary so it was really great to be able to enjoy the indoors of a truly amazing property.
Obviously we won’t forget Rick and Mary’s company and hospitality during our stay but I will also remember the derelict neighbouring Chateaux that lay dormant in the nearby woods. It had a very eerie aura and it was hard not to wonder about what mysteries it held of times gone by.
The old Chateaux was good fuel for my imagination whilst on Rita’s walks.
Feeling refreshed and comforted after our couple days on the farm (!) we packed our selves back into to camper, had one final count of the chickens to ensure that they were all still alive and well, waved our goodbyes to Rick and Mary and drove off north to continue of our journey through France.
to be continued…..