After a peaceful night’s sleep we said our farewells to the berry farmer and gave his wife a koala, in return they gave us a roadside sticker of the Marmot crossing. The farm is called “The Domain of the Marmot “because there are many in the district. The farmer gave us a map and out lined the areas where they are often spotted, and we set off on the hunt for the Marmots.
The drive was up into the hills and windy roads through some amazing countryside and we found the site where they hang out but alas it must have been their day off as none were to be seen. At the sites we saw other people looking through binoculars as well all to no avail. We continued on to the town of Le Puy-en-Velay stopping on the way at McDonalds to use some of their wifi.
We were pleased to find a park on the outskirts of the old town and headed up to explore, situated on a hill it was hard going on a very hot day. There are two prominent land marks to see, a church on the top of a steep hill and a statue of the Madonna on another hill. The day was too hot to attempt the climb so we were content with seeing them from a distance. There were many people with backpacks in the town as it is one of the starting points for the pilgrim trail or Camino de Santiago that winds its way to Spain and the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela.
We met up with Jean-Francois the farmer from the Domain of the Marmot, he was at a shop that he shares with other farmers who have regional produce and specialized products. It just happened to be his turn to man the shop as they all take turns on a roster basis. There we tasted more wines and we again thanked him for his hospitality.
We explored some more of the town before headed off to Mende where we would try to stay at the aire.
Packed in like Sardines.
The aire at Mende was free, next to the old town situated by the river with a view of a lovely bridge. It all sounded so nice! When we arrived we were lucky to get a place at it was nearly full. The room they gave between each van was minimal and as it was hot most vans had their windows open, when sat inside and looked left and right we could see into the vans 3 deep in either direction, almost seeing what they were having for dinner. It was hot and most people sat outside, Ewout ended up staying up late talking to a Dutchman next to us and having a few wines. The place filled up quickly and in the adjoining carpark not set aside for motorhomes were 12 others unable to get into the aire. What a difference between the farm where we were on our own and the aire. Although the place was packed at night it was very quiet and a breeze cooled things down a bit.
Thursday 6th August
We didn’t stick around in Mende in the morning and decided to go to McDonalds for an hour uploading a blog and then to the hardware store to buy some fitting for holding the side door open. We drove in the direction of Rodez as I had thought that the aire was close to the town. As it turned out the Tom Tom directions brought us right through the middle of the town and the aire was a long way outside. It was hot and there was no shade and no available places, so we continued on.
We thought we were more fortunate as we found a better place to stay that night thanks to the France Passion system.
Duck Farm and a warm welcome.
We consulted the France Passion book and found a place that was sort of in the direction we were travelling. We headed off the main road and wound our way through villages, through some back roads that were only one car wide down into a small valley and up again. It was a duck farm that made various products including pate. We received a very warm welcome from the farmer and he showed us a place under some trees then told us that this is our home for the night. He then went to his vegetable garden and gave us a present, lettuce and some tomatoes, he said for our dinner that night. His wife came by shortly afterwards and was thrilled as they had never had guests from another continent. There were other family members there and they also greeted us warmly and were interested in our travels. Patrick the farmer told us to help ourselves to the water and as it was hot and we could use it to cool us down.
In the morning Patrick showed us the ducks and explained a bit about the processes involved. His wife had already gone to a market and we gave him a Koala as a thank you for the stay. As we were leaving he gave us a small tin of pate and wished us a good journey.
Albi was the next place on our agenda and we found a park very near to the old cathedral. For a couple of euros we had 4 hours of parking. The town is known among other things for its cathedral, it is the largest brick cathedral in the world. It also has some really interesting bridges crossing the river Tarn. Four hours of sightseeing in the town was enough and we had walked plenty on a warm day.
While we were in the town we visited the SFR telephone shop to enquire as to why our sim card had not worked after 2 days use. Apparently I had purchased a phone top up and not a data top up, and that is why the data was used up in two days. Of course no one told me there was a difference when we bought the card all they said was go to a Tabac shop and get a recharge voucher, which I did. The mystery was solved and when we return to France on our way back to Holland we will know what to ask for as the lady wrote it down for us.
The Price of Beer
While in Albi we had a beer at a café at the edge of the old town. Is was good beer and cost us 10.20 euros for two beers. I remembered back in Kosovo when we waited to have our car washed that the price of a beer in the bar next door was 80 euro cents. We are still in Europe but oh what a difference!
We spent the night at another France Passion site, this time at a winery, parked in between some trees and the vines. It was like having out own private campsite. Later in the evening another van arrived with 3 small boys, they were noisy for a little while, running off their excess energy and then it was a quiet spot again.
After buying some wine at the winery we headed south past the city of Toulouse to an Ikea. Strange destination you may ask? Last trip we had bought a plastic box with a lid and have put it on the door for storage. It has worked well and another one would have come in handy. It was Saturday and the Ikea was next to a large shopping mall, so it was very busy but we found a park easy enough and with our umbrella’s walked to the Ikea. Yes it was raining!
Ikea’s are the same all over with some subtle differences and after stopping for some lunch we were unable to find the box we were looking for. We did however buy some garbage bags, shower scrunchies and face washers so all was not in vain. On the way back to the car we stopped at a bargain shop where Ewout bought some reading glasses at 4 euros each, another bargain as in other places we have looked they were 15 euros each. Our next shopping adventure was a Lidl where we stocked up on a few supplies. We had to prepare as in France all the shops are closed on Sunday.
Not all days are spent exploring and sightseeing and visiting exotic places some days are just spent doing some normal shopping.
We are enjoying the ability to use the France Passion site as they have been a lovely change from Aires and parking places. We found a great place not far off our route which this time was a general vegetable farm. Another warm welcome and a great place to stay, the owners did not speak English but had prepared a sheet with both French and English welcoming us to their farm and explaining a bit about the place. We were the only motorhome on the site and it was a peaceful night with no noise and distractions.
Andorra would have to wait another day.
It was a slow start to the day as we has slept in, no noise to wake us up. It was a Sunday and we knew that Andorra would be busy today especially in the holiday season. At the farm we filled in the visitor’s book and left a small koala, when the lady saw this she gave us a gift of some sweet coated biscuits, we thanked her and headed south. We chose an aire further south to stay and would head through Andorra on the Monday. We knew that the road to the Pyrenees and into Andorra would be busy but were unaware that the way we were going would be the main route from France. We had good run on the motorway until we were confronted with the traffic slowed down to a crawl as it had to zipper into one lane then negotiate the roundabouts and two small towns that were close together. After a slow crawl we were happy when the road opened up again and we could coast along through the valleys and enjoy the scenery. We soon found our place for the afternoon and night which was an aire located in the small town of Les Cabannes, it was on the outskirts of town with a view up into the mountains. Arriving at about midday we found a spot, had lunch and walked into the town, not a great deal to see but did get some great door photos. During the day and into the evening we watched as the aire gradually filled and overnight there was only a couple of spare places. At four euros for 24 hours it was a quiet spot to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon. Tomorrow to Andorra and into Spain.
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