France: 28 May 1975

Dreadful thunderstorm which seemed to last all night broke our spell of find weather, fortunately no water came in the tent. Wondered how the young couple and two small children packed into a tiny tent on the slope were surviving. In the morning the rain had stopped, but sky still overcast and air very damp. Tent not sopping, but quite wet. Had our bacon breakfast before packing up. Admired the packing of small Renault van next door and saw how they fitted their large bikes into it.

Drove off at 10.30am eventually and made our way to Alençon, through more pretty countryside, apple trees and half-timbered houses. This changed as we moved further south to the more usual stone houses and increasing number of arable fields. Did some shopping in Vimoutiers, a big market square forming the car park and very handy for the car and trailer.

Drove on to Alençon where, after a false turn or two, we eventually found Les Trois Relais and stopped for lunch. Had a super meal, about 11Fr. David and I had veg soup, Andrew had mackerel in white wine, Sarah and Gareth had egg mayonnaise. Then we had rabbit and the children had poulet espagnole – all delicious. I followed this with a salad, then David and I had tarte aux pommes, the children had fresh fruit. We all emerged full and cheerful, and drove on to Le Mans (via an annoying and very long deviation) glimpsing the racing circuit on our left. After Le Mans, the first vineyards and maize fields appeared and the countryside became more sweeping with vast fields and clumps of woodland. Drove through the centre of Tours, a fine city with a long tree-lined main boulevard, very nice looking shops and generally very prosperous air. A well laid out flats development on the south side with lakes and fountains.

Took the Poitiers road and soon turned off for our camp-site. Drove in an impressive gateway, up an immaculate gravel sweep and around to the front of a most attractive 18th century house in stucco and slate. Inside, an air of faded grandeur still being maintained – nice salon to the left of the hall with chandelier and chaises longues, dining room to the right with log fire, art-nouveau birds wallpaper and general decadent air. Two aristocratic old ladies and smart young daughter run it, and all very pleasant. Put up the tent on grassy area sloping down from the house, dried out quickly in the sunshine. Had our tea – omelette (David having had a grand egg-smash this morning) and pâté and cider. Afterwards we went to the next door farm for coffee while the children played mini golf. Beautiful old buildings, including a ruined chapel and large old conservatory.

Le Petit Trianon

The farm was another fascination – on to the traditional farm was superimposed a bar/restaurant, operating in the old kitchen and very nonchalant – just wooden tables with red check cloths, red quarry-tiled floor, pale green walls, the old cooker boarded up and a gas one at the side, and a bar in the corner!

Farm buildings

Had a cup of powerful coffee while assorted cats and dog wandered around, the farmer and his labourers had a drink, and a meal was prepared the some other campers.

Returned to tent and wrote this diary after doing some drawings – it is all so picturesque, but my skill not very great. Had some hot chocolate outside while a civilised dinner party went on inside the house.  Chandelier lit up in the salon, camping gaz light on our table – contrasts!

Little house at le Petit Trianon


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