Category Archives: Relais Routier

1975: France – Aug 21, Lez-Eaux

Dreadful thunderstorm during the night, about 3am. Worried about Sarah and Gareth in the little tent so David went out (in his swimming trunks!) to check, only to find Sarah perfectly cheerful and all well. Rain was torrential, like hurling buckets of water, and we were very pleased the little tent stood up to it so well.

After breakfast, wrote up holiday books and then went to Avranches. Visited the Jardin des Plantes, a very French botanical garden where the flowers were arranged in small beds as much for the effect of the pattern as anything – a lovely butterfly made from small coloured leaf plants for instance. Attractive children’s playground with slide, thatched house and paddling pool. Superb views of the Mont St Michel and the winding river mouth through the sands.

Drove on to Pontaubault for lunch and looked first at the Hotel des 13 Assiettes. Their 14Fr menu was very dull – the pièce de résistence was the 13 assiettes for 90Fr, imagine eating 13 courses! Anyway, we drove on the Relais Routiers le Mouton Blanc. Here the menu was a lot better, so in we went, the place was crammed so we went to an extension and that was soon full too. Ate pâté, oufs mayonnaise or jambon, followed by boeuf bourguignon or steak and chips which went down very well with Andrew! Finished up with ice cream and coffee, it was all very nice and very reasonable.

Continued to Mont St Michel and parked the car at the roadside. Walked along the causeway admiring the splendid view, the abbey perched on the top and the village clustered round the eastern edge. Entered through the gateway, and wham! commercialisation hit us. The place was crammed with tourists, shopkeepers and restaurants. The loos were 50 centimes each person (and they hoped for a tip which, needless to say, they didn’t get). Fought or way up the little street, lined with souvenir shops containing mostly revolting wares. Saw the famous restaurant Mère Poulard – the omelette queen. There the cheap menu was 50Fr, with omelettes as part of the menu of course. We saw the kitchens with people beating eggs like fury in copper bowls with wire whisks. Pressed on up the street to the abbey – 5Fr each to go in, so we decided not to. Saw various parts which were open, so we could get quite a good idea of the rest. It is very depressing, though not unexpected, so see such rampant commercialisation which has been going on for centuries!

Having seen most of what we wanted, we left the Mont – I think really it is most beautiful from a distance where you don’t see the ugly side. Wind very powerful as we walked along the causeway and the car parks which were below high tide levels were due to be flooded at 18:00 hrs – I bet there’s a rush to get away.

Went on to visit the Abbey de la Lucerne near Sartilly, and now we were in a different world, surrounded by fields and woods, green and peaceful, and reminiscent of fountains. The church is gradually being restored, and some bits of the abbey still remain including an enormous circular dove cote, now roofless but very impressive still.

Returned to the camp site and had a scrambled egg tea, the children played table tennis and we read and wrote some postcards. Weather quite a lot cooler tonight and nip in the air.

NB Cooked the remains of Andrew’s steak with onions and it went down very well.

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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