Category Archives: France

1975: France – August 23, Lez-Eaux

Chateau Lez-Eaux by G Hague and M Hague

Fine sunny day fortunately, so we went ahead with the plans for a lazy time on the beach. Did some washing, breakfasted outside and then went to Jullouville to do our shopping. As we got out of the car, delicious whiffs of baking bread greeted us, and the smells continued to the gorgeous patisserie where there were some super cakes and tarts, so we each chose a tart – 2 plum, a peach, a pineapple, and a pear.

Lovely food shops in Jullouville, clean, beautiful fish/meat/charcuterie/cakes and a great variety available. Bought pâté, pork, peaches, tomatoes and then continued on to Carolles to the beach.

Spent a nice lazy day here, though it did get a bit chilly in the afternoon when it clouded over. Children didn’t go in the water as it was too cold but played various games instead. Large numbers of people trotting out the the wet sands with enormous codding nets. As we ate our lunch a young gendarme in T-shirt and shorts came and told it was forbidden to eat on the beach. This was news to us – no sign telling one about it anywhere, but it did explain why we had never seen anyone eating on the beach. As we had nearly finished it didn’t matter too much.

Came home at 6.00ish and ate a large tea of hors d’oeuvres, beef stew, rice, courgettes, and then the tarts which were every bit as delicious as they looked, and the whole meal went down very well.

Children spent the evening playing table tennis while we chatted to a couple who are on the way to the Dordogne with their caravan. Eventually went to bed about about 11pm feeling rested and cheerful.

The little garden house at Lez-Eaux by Gareth Hague and Mary Hague

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1971: June 12, Aubigny-Calais-Dover-Hornchurch

Saturday
Woke up to find weather and could hardly believe our luck. Got on far more quickly with the packing up and were well on the way far earlier than yesterday. Before leaving the site, helped the couple we ate with last night to get their car out of the large muddy hole they’d driven into. Roads to Calais quite maddening – either bumpy, or through endless towns. Only a few well-surfaced stretches, it takes an amazing length of time to reach the coast. Met loads of British cars driving along from Boulogne and Calais. Were surprised to see some French owned Triumph (2000s) near St Omer – very few Triumphs on the continent at all, and most of those were in Switzerland.

In Calais, stopped and bought some pâtés, bread and wine with our remaining currency, then drove on to the boat and found a table near the windows. Ate a large lunch (brought on by us) and had a cup of their coffee, did our duty free shopping, and in no time at all the white cliffs of Dover were showing. Had to sit waiting in the car for ages before they let us out, but eventually at around 2pm drive out of the Customs and headed for home, arriving back at 4pm.

Conclusions

Total cost of holiday, including various insurances, cattery fees, hire of spare parts, kit, etc.  : £220

Total mileage: 2000

Costs are up on last year – but distances greater of course, and costs of everything up, e.g. the cross Channel ferry fares. And we did sleep on the boat this time too. We were lucky in getting low season charges at Camping Marina di Venezia – 14,000 lire. Would have been considerably more after June 16th.

For a camping holiday this sort of site really does mean every gets a holiday, including Mum! Everything is easier in a warm climate, to begin with – washing dries, so that the mounds of dirty washing are kept low. Less cooking is needed – salads and cooked meats are all one wants, and there is plenty of good fresh fruit.

A well-equipped site like this one has things like ample hot water – showers help one keep clean easily (a cold, wet, cold water only site is a great deterrent to hygiene…) and makes washing up simpler too. Then, the facilities, like a choice of restaurants and bars mean that one can have a ‘meal out’ without having to worry about going far from the children. The shops too, made it easy – one could go to a site like this and never leave it except to go home! The big drawback – apart from the size and possible crowds – is that it can be expensive – all those facilities are there partly to extract your money from you after all.

For the journeys, careful thought is essential – warm weather sites are always hundreds of miles away and 2-3 days travelling more or less essential with young children. We think hotels on the journey out if possible – you don’t feel like unpacking a crammed car for one night, and there are always so many more things around on the way out. And you are probably too more tired too after all the preparation to come away. Coming home, overnight camping stops make more sense – one is ‘in the groove’ of camping anyway, better organised and less fussy. And quite probably short of cash too… it is a cheap way of spending the nights. Hire of a caravan/bungalow/chalet can be very useful, though there are not many of these available. Is all this an argument for a caravan? Not unless you want one anyway, and I don’t think we do, the disadvantages outweigh the usefulness, to us anyway.

We have also learned to seize opportunities where toilets are concerned. Except for Germany, exemplary – it can become a desperate problem – not all cafes have them by any means, especially in Italy. And beware siesta time or lunch, 2 hours in most continental towns and garages – things close down very firmly. Even toilets.

We felt this holiday was very successful, despite wet weather on the journeys. Venice was so beautiful, the camp site so good, and the weather marvellous there. The children enjoyed it too, plenty for them to see and do, they slept like logs every night. (Gareth even slept through the thunderstorms).

Next year? Somewhere warm! Some in France perhaps. All that lovely FOOD…..

1971: June 11, Strasbourg-Nancy-Rheims-Aubigny

Friday
So much for the clear skies and settled weather of last night! Rain went on during the night, and continued relentlessly as we breakfasted. No hope of a break while we packed the car or tent, and had to fold a soaking tent on the sodden grass with the rain dripping away. It took ages, as things do in the rain, and we did not get into Strasbourg until 10am. Had a much needed coffee (Sarah had hot chocolate, Andrew a glace aux fraises) in a cafe near the cathedral, then went in to the cathedral.

First impression of darkness, then of stained glass – they have some beautiful glass, including two lovely rose windows, indeed the glass is the chief glory of the cathedral. They also have a fascinating astronomical clock, showing all manner of information apart from just the time of day. Near it was a pillar with several figures carved out of it, giving a very delicate effect. After the cathedral we walked round a hideously expensive food shop – the wine was pricey by English standards even! Everything was beautifully displayed – there was a lovely mural, done with Smarties and small biscuits – but the prices were ridiculous.

Left Strasbourg at 11am with depressing prospect of a long journey over bumpy roads in intermittent rain. En route we passed a batch of walkers on a Strasbourg – Paris walk – loads of people had turned out to see them, we wondered just how it had all been arranged, e.g. stops for the night etc. Great difference in walking techniques between the leaders – proper road walkers – and the tail-enders – just walking. Remarkably few places where one could picnic – if there were lay-bys they were small and no toilets therefore very smelly. The lack of toilets in Italy and France is something upon which I can become quite explosive – don’t they ever need them when out from home? It was ironic that the one public convenience we saw was Fermé, and in a garage the toilets were locked as it was the lunch hour. Eventually we had to use a much-used clump of bushes by a lay-by – ugh!

Ate a delicious lunch however, from the Bagg market – roast beef, pâté – tomatoes and cherries, and scrumptious French bread. Drove on past Bar-le-Duc, which looked fascinating, a Renaissance hill top town, and over switch-back roads, bounce, bounce, bounce. David in his ‘head down, foot down until I get there’ mood, protests from the rest of us mounting. He got his deserts when we ran out of petrol on the main road to Reims, and had to hitch a lift back to the nearest garage for a couple of cans. A kind Frenchman gave him a lift to the garage and back to the car. Roads up in Rheims vicinity added to the unpleasantness of the journey – goodness knows the French roads need something done to them but we seemed to be finding all the stretches that were being done. Eventually reached Aubigny camp site at 7pm in fine weather, and got the tent up. The site looked just as scruffy as last year, though fuller.

Fed the children tomato sandwiches, tinned pineapple and the remains of a bottle of rosé and got them into bed. A family arrived who had intended travelling to Lugano by the car sleeper, and had discovered on arrival at Calais that the French railways were on strike… So they were going to have to drive there, with overnight stops which was a bit of a blow. We set off for the restaurant we had fancied last year only to find a little notice on it announcing that it had closed on Friday evening… No comment – the thought of that restaurant had kept us going through the ghastly journey. Went to the camp site cafe, rather resignedly and with no great hopes, to see what they had on offer. To our surprise, we had a super meal, served with aplomb by 12 year old Pascal, the only member of the family who spoke English. We had a large hors d’oeuvres of tomatoes, cucumbers, and assorted charcuterie, then well garlicked steak, chips and haricots verts (masses) with a carafe of red wine, followed by coffee. At the end of this we were replete! Another couple had a similar meal – they had been camping at the NSU site just along the coast from Punta Sabbioni, and they were telling us about it. They had liked it, but we thought it sounded horribly regimented. Went to bed feeling battered but not at all hungry!

1971: June 10, Basle – Strasbourg

Thursday
Awoke to damp weather, and nice rolls from the camp shop. Got way down our pot of cherry jam, then set off for Basle Zoo. Located it with the help of numerous sign posts, and the admission came to less than £1 for all of us which was a pleasant surprise. It is a very nice zoo, lost of trees etc., and right in the middle of the city. The chief attraction is the Ape House – very big and beautifully designed with jungle plants creating the right atmosphere. Several varieties of apes and monkeys including a positively obscene orang outang with a great floppy double chin. (A nasty warning, as I said to David, about double chins…). They have a baby gorilla there, being nursed by its mother, only  a few months old, and very sweet. It’s very rare to breed as many animals in captivity as they do here, and gorillas especially difficult in this respect. Then on to the rest of the zoo – several black panthers were having a lovely game – have not seen them looking as lively elsewhere. There was also a baby giraffe, it looked tiny beside the father. Needless to say it rained during our visit to the zoo, but we had a coffee in the restaurant during the worst of it.

After a bit of food shopping we drove out of Basle, through the frontier into France, and had our lunch at the roadside. Houses similar to the Bavarian ones, as they had been around Mumpf, and the towns very attractive, with lots of half-timbered buildings e.g. Colmar. Obvious that this region is Franco-German still. Stopped at Colmar to get French money and petrol, then on to Strasbourg and Camping Baggersee. No caravan for hire, but the weather being sunny we were quite glad to ‘monter la tente’ and get it dried out. Went to look around the Bagg hypermarket – it really is vast. 38 check-outs – makes Romford Sainsbury’s look like a corner shop. At least 168 trolleys (they are all numbered) which you wheel in from the car park, and out again. The food department was like heaven! Gorgeous fresh fish, appetising raw meat, especially veal, tremendous delicatessen, including chicken on a spit, tempting made-up dishes – truite-en-gelee, croustades, crab mayonnaise etc., enormous fruit and veg., each thing labelled clearly to show where it had been produced, the bakery was in the store and dozens of varieties of bread available, and patisserie. And then of course, there were all the other departments – literally one-stop shopping. We bought for our tea a croustade aux fruits de mer, coquilles, mushroom pancakes and cherries. Yum Yum! Also got pâté and roast beef for lunch next day, a bottle of wine, some paddles for the children’s boat, and toothbrush and mug for Gareth and some sticky tape to mend a little hole in the roof of the tent.

Enjoyed our supper greatly – if only one could believe that such delights would come our way with the Common Market… Walked by the lake and sat in one of the little pedal boats admiring the clear sky.

1976: August 26, Le Brevedent

Thursday
Rather a nightmare night. Andrew thumped to and fro all night and was eventually sick all over the carpet in the trailer. Sarah said she too had been sick, but had had the decency to go the loo for the purpose. I had a bout of diarrhoea and felt distinctly queasy – only David and Gareth seemed unaffected. Think it must have been the chunky chicken.

As a result, spent the day on the camp site, and as it turned out to be very hot, we lay around on air-beds, etc., very lethargic. In fact, several other people were lying around too – it really was pulverisingly hot. No one ate much – I sipped Vittel and ate Ryvita, and the others ate similarly heavy stuff.

Children and David went in the pool, Gareth actually managed to swim 2 widths (with the ring on) much to his and our relief. Watched the family in the vast caravan with great interest – are older than they first seemed in fact, and obviously very anxious to appear perfect.

1976: August 24, Le Brevedent

Tuesday
Weather seemed a little less settled when we awoke, but was still fine. Ate the last of the bacon (alas!), did the washing and then, after a chat with Mme C la Palice, set off for Lisieux and Caen. David determined to spin out the petrol till we reached the hypermarket, so we drove most of the way there with the red light flashing merrily, and much agitation in the back seat. Luckily for David, we made it!

Went round the Continent hypermarket and bought lots of cheap wine, fruit and various other odd and ends. Got the impression things are more expensive than last year, regardless of the rate of exchange. After this shopping, David and I had a crêpe each (lemon for me, chocolate for him) and they were very nice. Went on to the Printemps shop and there again, things were much more expensive, including our table tennis table, well up on last year’s price [yes, we bought a table tennis table and took it home on the trailer tent!- Sarah].

Ate our lunch in the car park – boned turkey and little champagne bottles of ice cream, with champagne-soaked raisins, very delicious. Bought several gallons of cheap petrol and then drove through Caen to Arromanches. Here, everything was seething – cars and crowds everywhere. Sarah and I decided it was too hot to go into the museum so we walked round the shops while the boys went round it. Shops were full of terrible souvenir tat, very expensive and crude looking on the whole. However, we bought some postcards and a Normandy sticker, watched the crowds including children riding little chariot affairs, and several dogs who were holidaying with their doting owners. Boys came out of the museum very pleased with all that they had seen.

Drove on to Omaha beach, which is enormous and very open, lovely firm sands. Not much settlement along it however, probably a bit too exposed, and it looked as if the sea washed over the road in bad weather.

As the skies were looking very threatening, indeed downright grey and leaden inland, we decided it was time to turn back. Some spots of rain as we went to Caen, but nothing very much really, it just looked terrible.

Arrived back at the camp site and prepared our dinner, which was shrimps and tomatoes and cucumber, then tins of chunky steak doctored with wine and herbs, then the enormous canteloupe melon. All tasted very good and we later adjourned to the bar and spent a pleasant hour with the couple from Esher. They had been to the races at Deauville and had a successful day, enjoying the less stratified race meetings of France. She bird-watches for part of the holiday and then he goes to the races which seems and amicable arrangement.

1976: August 21, Hornchurch – Le Brevedent, France

Saturday
Woke up at a quite unspeakable hour – 4.15am – and set off in the dark so that we could reach Portsmouth by 7.00am. Surprising amount of traffic about even at that dreadful time, but we had a very peaceful trip really, going over Tower Bridge and out on the A3. Began to get light as we got to Guildford, and was quite nice really once one woke up. The children dozed most of the way.

Arrive Portsmouth at 7.0ish and queued up to go on the boat – longish wait as usual, but we were on board by 7.45, on the Viking Victory, which was a surprisingly small boat, built in Oslo and full of Viking decorations which met with some approval from our Viking fan, AGH [Andrew]. Bought our duty free goods – gin, Dubonnet and Cardhu malt whisky + 200 cigarettes and moaned about the price which is extortionate.

As we went out of Portsmouth, saw lots of frigates and destroyers of the R.N. moored in the dockyard, and also glimpsed the Victory, looking very incongruous in the middle of the pale greys of the modern fleet. Saw the East end of the Isle of Wight clearly, and then settled down for a peaceful crossing. The children ate chicken and chips at the cafeteria and David and I ate the Smorgas bord in the Norseman restaurant, and enjoyed it very much, consuming a fairly disgusting amount!

Arrived at Cherbourg at 12.0ish, put our watches on an hour, and drove off down the switchback roads of the Cotentin peninsula. Made good progress, as the roads were not too busy, and we went through various sleepy little towns along the route followed by the armies in 1944. Joined the autoroute near Caen and sped along to Pont l’Eveque for 6 francs, then up the Normandy lanes to le Brévedent. M Mesnières showed us to a nice place under the apple trees (complete with wasp traps dangling) and conveniently place for such amenities as the swimming pool, the loos, the shop and the take-away food. After putting the tent up, we all went into the pool and it was gorgeously refreshing.

Ate a large tea of chicken from Hornchurch and chips from the kitchen, followed by little green grapes from Trevor [the greengrocer]. Felt very relaxed – the journey had gone well, the camp site as pleasant as ever, the unpacking had gone smoothly and we’d eaten well too. Children played table tennis and boules, we walked round the site and saw a black cat tethered by a rope and then later leading its owner a dance as it chased around the site. Lots of large family groups eating large meals outside their tents, or just drinking and chatting. For most it was probably a ‘last night of the holiday’ celebration as many of them will be going home tomorrow.

Went to bed early – it had been a long day after all, and went off to sleep very easily.