Archives for the month of: September, 2017

I had always wanted to visit the island since reading Gerard Durrell’s ‘My family and other Animals’ and other books that he had written.
He established the zoo on Jersey with his wife back in 1959 as a wildlife conservation area for endangered species.

It was an expensive ferry trip – over Euros200 for the 1 1/2hour trip on the smart Condor Ferry.

We had to have a special permit in advance to be able to drive on Jersey. Some large campervans are prohibited from even coming to the island as most of the streets and laneways are very narrow and there is a lot of backing up to allow cars and small vans to pass.
I thought Ireland had narrow lanes but these were narrow with stone walls on at least one side so all the vehicles were being very cautious. Although Jersey is a very small island and you can drive around it in and hour and a half however traffic holdups are frequent because of the nature of the roads.

Rozel Campsite came highly recommended and we were not disappointed. Unusually the only birds we heard were seagulls and doves unlike most of the other campsites at which we had stayed. In southern and middle France we heard many owls at night and some very close to the van and it was lovely to hear them calling to each other.

We left the van at the campsite and walked to the zoo about half an hour away. We were lucky to have a nice day after the previous day’s rain on the way over.
We enjoyed seeing the various animals at the zoo especially the gorillas and we listened to an interesting talk by the their keeper.
He explained that the gorillas of which there are four kinds are in danger because their habitat in the wild is being destroyed by mining metals used in mobile phones,tablets and computers. He asked that instead of keeping old devices people should recycle them
so that the metals needed for new products can be used from the old models.
We were also lucky to see the otters who had just been fed. They were so quick to dart underwater and retrieve the fish thrown for their lunch.
Along some of the roads there were signs and a thick blue rope strung high up to alert motorists to the path of the red squirrels who live on Jersey.
The buses were not large but they had to do a lot of manoevering around the roads and traffic. We were told that by nature the natives were stocky and short and this was reflected in the seats on one side of the bus which was like sitting in a sardine tin.

We saw many Jersey cows in the rural areas or parishes as they call them. Each parish or small village has a church and church hall and many of the houses were built using the pretty Jersey or Guernsey granite. All the villages were very neat and lush hydrangeas were planted along some of the roads and avenues. Jersey has a micro climate in places and we saw many tropical and sub-tropical plants such as banana trees and ferns growing in different areas. There was much rural land especially along the north and east coasts.
Jersey has started cross breeding the Jersey cow as they experienced some genetic problems a few years ago.

We caught the bus into the harbourside capital of St Helier which is a pleasant city with a wealth of eateries and shops.
Although the weather was not kind to us the following day we did the 4hour bus tour around the island and learnt a lot from the driver who was very knowledgeable about Jersey although not originally a local. Jerriais the local language is spoken by about 2000 people mainly in the north east and is taught at various levels in schools. It is classed as a kind of ‘Norman French language’. We did not hear it spoken while we were on the island.
It is an affluent island for many with 25% of businesses in the financial arena but there are also those in public housing who are not doing so well.

Jersey was occupied by Germany for five years during WWII and many bunkers and towers that were built to last are dotted around the whole island. The most popular tour was a tour of the war tunnels which we did not do.
There were many tourists in town, a large percentage were German. Many of the workers in the cafes and restaurants were eastern European.
As we drove around the island many of the bays were at low tide. Jersey has the third highest tide in the world around 40feet.

Although small, Jersey was a very interesting island with very friendly locals and with plenty to offer the visitor. The port was serviced with a newsagent and kiosk at least which was missing in St Malo. It does make a difference when you have to wait on the dock for a couple of hours if you arrive early.

I had luckily checked on our bookings and discovered that I had failed to book us off the island. We were going to travel Jersey to Poole a few days later but we had to make alterative plans as the ferry was full. More driving for Maurice unfortunately as we then had to travel from Jersey back to St Malo, drive up to Cherbourg and get the ferry for the 3hour trip to Portsmouth and then drive to an alternative campsite.
At least we could get off the island and resume our itinerary three days later although we had to be at the ferry port by 7.30am instead of a much later ferry. Part of the adventure!

I had not read a paper for many moons so bought the Times at the port which had some good articles but one on the front page was warning people in Cambridgeshire that they needed to carry 2 bags for their doggie do do’s or face an 80pound fine!

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It was nice to see Dieter and Hedy after two years in Pampelonne and Maurice and Dieter chatted about their time in the north west of Western Australia and then we put the world to rights.

Our controller for our air conditioner had stopped functioning so we left the next morning for a ‘Truma’ shop in Toulouse to see if we could get a replacement without any luck. It was still quite hot (in the 30’s) and humid so we could have done with it.
We had a lovely meal at ‘Les Marots’ near Toulouse with Cynthia and Mariam who we had met in India and we met Cynthia’s husband Jean Yves. After lunch we drove to Lavaur where Cynthia and Jean Yves live. They showed us around the quaint town and we had a nice evening with them and spent the night there.

After a rainy night and a cool morning when we left Lavaur and drove up to Montauban to try and get another sim card without success.
The bain of our lives all over the world is the lengthy procedures to get sim cards and we have come to the conclusion that most of the telecommunication companies are thieves and so many of the staff don’t know what their own companies are offering. The best service we had was in Morocco where we got off the ferry and were offered a free sim card which we used while we were there. We however found a very helpful postman who gave us instructions of how to get to the SFR office and we had a nice vegetarian meal in the main square.

The weather improved as we drove through the ‘Lot’ valley and then along the ‘Dorgogne’ river and had amazing views of both with more impressive clifftop castles and villages. We ended up in St Astier near Perigeux famous for their truffles. We stopped at an amazing market which had the most enormous artichokes we had ever seen. All the fruit and vegetables looked so fresh and the meat was displayed in a novel way.
I had always wanted to see a medieval chateau so we drove to ‘Chateau de Jumilhac’ where we had a tour of the Chateau and learnt of it’s history. The only thing remaining from the 1200’s was a staircase and the wife of the first owner was locked in a room for 30years with only painting, spinning and praying to keep her occupied. Her meals were even brought into the small room.
The present Marquis and Marquise live in an apartment in one of the later additions to the main Chateau.

We had virtually no traffic on our trip from there up to Nantes through a rural landscape again with old farmhouses which were very neat and tidy. Some were no longer inhabited and some were for sale. There were more quaint villages with their prominent ‘Mairie’ or town hall buildings. We passed through so many beautiful avenues of trees which are a feature of the whole region.

It had cooled overnight to 15degrees but we were warm in the campervan. Around Niort we experienced torrential rain for only 15minutes and then the sun came out again.

In France I always have a ‘cafe creme’ which is a strong coffee with a bit of milk because their cappuccinos are also usually served with cream.

Although we only had 424kilometres to travel to Nantes, taking the backroads meant continually changing speeds from 90-70-50 and to 30 sometimes which slowed us down considerably. We decided on a bit of the ‘autoroute’ after Niorte so that we could arrive while it was still light.
It rained heavily for 15minutes and then cleared with the following day being a lovely sunny day. We had a wonderful campsite at ‘Camping Nantes’right on the tramline and the very frequent service got us into the city centre in 15minutes. There were some beautiful apartment and other buildings similar to those of Paris but it was a much more relaxed atmosphere and little traffic in Nantes on the Loire river. The local Saturday market was in full swing and you could see what a multicultural city it was by the people at the market.

The impressive chateau of the Dukes of Bretagne was free to walk around unless you wanted to see inside the chateau and there were many pedestrian areas and large squares with cobblestones. We had been recommended to ‘La Cigale’ a restaurant from the 1800’s which
was beautifully decorated inside with amazing colourful tiles. We had a wonderful meal and then had dessert outside overlooking the square. The waiters were all professionals and looked the part.

I had seen the ‘Jardin des Fonderies’ on the map and I am always up to see nice gardens so we set off on the tram over to the ‘Ile de Nantes’ surrounded by the Loire and found our way to the garden and although it was a novel area with a few trees and shrubs surrounding some old foundry equipment, it wasn’t what I had envisaged.

We happened upon a huge festival on our way back on the tram so got off to see what was going on. It took place on and around the ‘Ile of Versailles’ on the L’Edre canal. We had a good walk around and listened to some music. The entrance was free but we lined up for security checks which we were happy about. There were thousands of people at the yearly event but it was a very
relaxed atmosphere and there was food from all over the world to sample although we couldn’t manage another thing.

We drove the following day to St Malo to get the evening Condor ferry to Jersey.

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It was not far from Luxembourg city to the French border where we had the secondary roads to ourselves through the vast areas of corn and grain crops, woods and newly ploughed fields. France looked different with the many poplar trees dotting the landscape.
It was a crystal clear day which continued as we drove into France. The temperature went from a coolish 21degrees in Luxembourg to a humid and warm 33degrees by the time we reached Dijon.
We made a stop on the way in Toul in the Lorraine-Meurthe et Moselle region. It had a magnificent Town hall and cathedral and interesting back streets. The main square had an attractive roundabout with fishing huts and which was beautifully planted with a myriad of colourful flowers and banana trees.
Most of the villages we passed going south had very pretty roundabout centres and lovely potted displays along the roads.
We passed through Langres in the Champagne-Ardenne region which stood on a hilltop with immense town walls surrounding it.
By the time we got the campsite outside Dijon it was a hot and humid 32degrees.

On the way down to Nebouzat in the mountains of the Auvergne area we stopped at ‘Payal la Monial’ a lovely town on a canal with the usual enormous churches and town hall. The countryside changed from a dryer one to lush woods and grassy areas where white limousin cows grazed. Even the secondary roads in France are well serviced with ‘aires’ or picnic areas as opposed to Belgium and Holland where we found only one or two.

We made a stop in Vichy where it was a humid 34degrees and home of the famous Vichy water. The original building housing the water still stood. There were a lot of competitors staggering around the town having taken part in the ‘Iron Man’ competition and most looked absolutely thrashed. The road to Nebouzat near Clermont Ferrand climbed up through the mountains and it was still hot when we arrived in the early evening.

The helpful campsite staff recommended we take the train up to the ‘Puy de Dome’ a high peak overlooking the other peaks in the Auvergne.
A steam train used to do the trip to the peak from 1905-1925 but the service was later abandoned until 2011 when new trains were installed on the route. It only took 10minutes to get to the top. We had a wonderful view of the surrounding Auvergne Volcanic mountains and watched as many people did single or tandem paragliding jumps from the mountain.

Rocamadour in the Lot region of southwest France was the next stop. The castle sat on the top of a cliff and the town below was accessed by two lifts. We walked a way down to the first lift which took us to the old but rather touristy part of town and then we returned via the same lift and a further one to the castle. It is a spectacular looking town and although there were many tourists it was a very relaxed Sunday atmosphere.

Only half an hour away we stayed at ‘Le Foursou’ a lovely B&B run by a friend of Maurice’s cousin Brigid. It was a beautiful spot and very tranquil. Sharon has 4dogs,5goats,4horses and a cat which keep her busy as well as running the four bedroom B&B.
We spent a lovely couple of nights relaxing there, making friends with all the animals and taking the dogs for a walk with her partner Gerard.

Sharon recommended a couple of places to visit on the way down to Pampelonne. We drove through the beautiful ‘Vallee de Cele’ to ‘Saint Cirq Lapopie’ another stunning village perched on a clifftop overlooking a river. It was another hot day as we made our way to Najac a very old village built along the side of a ridge with a castle at the end of it.

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