Leaving Le Mont St Michel behind, we headed south to a nondescript town called Heric, whose only saving grace was the artisan boulangerie in an otherwise empty square. The campsite we stayed in was almost as bland- a pit stop for motorhomers heading south- except Tiddler befriended the owner’s five year old son. She had a scooter. He had a bike. Clearly a common language was unnecessary. They raced around the pitches to cries of ‘ Le grande prix’ and ‘viva La France’ stopping only to break off acorn laden sprigs of oak to feed to the two curious goats, Desiree and Prunette.
We then spent two miserably wet days on the Ile de Re. The guide book clearly saw us coming, enticing us in with promises of ‘the highest levels of sunlight in France , excepting the Côte d’Azur. Joined to La Rochelle by an €8 toll bridge, the island is a cross somewhere between Sandbanks (Dorset) and a Spanish holiday resort. It reeks of exclusivity, but clearly caters to a mass market of local and foreign tourists in it’s green shuttered clone towns. Someone either bought a job lot on green paint, or it is all part of the image being marketed. We saw it out of season (many campsites in France close at the end of September) and in the rain, so perhaps not viewed at its best, but it was all a little reminiscent of The Prisoner.
Onwards to Vieux Mariuel, via Cognac for a lazy lunch out treat, where we came across a campsite L’etang Bleu, run by an English couple who relocated their family to the Dordogne in 2001. A little bar open in the evenings was propped up by a motley crew of English static caravan owners who clearly lived much of the year on site. It was a little like walking into a local back home, from the in-jokes, to the questions, to the drunk at the end of the bar, so we felt quite at home and had a couple of social beers before last orders at 8.30pm.
Here the weather began to improve, and we set off on a foraging walk. A good haul on the chestnuts, but we didn’t feel confident enough to brave the champignons on offer. Digger says, sitting on the makeshift bench we pulled together on the forest floor to pause for lunch, ‘Listen to the chestnuts. I can’t hear anything but the sound of them falling. They are falling out of the trees just for us’. Seeing as we had spotted the very same for sale at €7.99 per kilo, an excellent thrifty supplement to our travelling diet, and a lovely afternoon all together spuddling under the quiet trees.
Next post: sore fingers and sore toes.