Angers, France, what a nice day I had here.

As I head back to Calais to get the ferry I decided to make the straightest, fastest route there was, then look at places I could visit that were within 20 minutes driving time from my route. That way I wasn’t doing excessive mileage or taking excessive time, but I was still seeing some things along the way.

A view up the river Maine with the Pont de la Haute Chaine in the distance, this was just behind where I was parked
A view up the river Maine with the Pont de la Haute Chaine in the distance, this was just behind where I was parked

Today’s stop was Angers, a city I have vaguely heard of but not for anything important I don’t think. Probably just seen it on the map a couple of times. Anyway, I got here late last night and headed for the aire that I’d sussed which was an enormous car park by the river.

It is huge but with a beautiful avenue of trees on the river side, and plenty of large space at that side for my van. As I was parking I noticed a car drive out of a bay and come down to where I was parked, then slow down and cruise past me with the internal light on. As he passed me he flashed his hazards twice and then turned around at the end of the row and came back. 
DOGGER ALERT!!!

Actually in my experience they’re not real doggers, they are almost exclusively men looking for sex with other men. The first time I found out about all of this was over 25 years ago before I had a camper and used to camp in a tent. Flick down the the next section if you don’t want to hear it 🙂

 

I digress…

So I’d pulled into this lay-by near York, really tired and could not be arsed to put the tent up so I was going to sleep in the car which was big and comfy. It had an alarm on which when activated flashed the hazard warning lights like most alarms do. Shortly after getting settled a car came along and drove passed me just as I explained above, internal lights on and flashing his hazards. Then another one did it…I didn’t know what it was but it slowly dawned on me it was some sort of messaging. 

I’m the type that likes to know what is going on so I got back up and drove to the top of this very long lay-by to find out what was going on as all the cars were going up there. I pulled in to the top and straight away I could see 3 sets of couples all leaning against cars just chatting, and the first one who’d driven past with his internal light on, a bloke about 50 years old maybe was leaning against his car. 

I know I was a bit of a cheeky bastard but I stopped by one of the couples. Both had skin tight jeans on with their cock and balls showing clearly and both had that effeminate disposition. Now, people who know me know I am the furthest away from homophobic you can get…as long as I’m not hassled. So I wasn’t insulting or rude but I asked them if this was where gay people met and should I leave and find somewhere else to park. They both said no they were just having a fag.

Well it wasn’t true clearly but I just drove back to where I was and settled down again, hoping I’d sleep. I stayed at the far end so I was out of their way to let them get on with their thing. 

A short while after I was settled though I heard engines and I got up and here’s 3 of the cars, headlights on, coming to a stop in a row in front of me, effectively blinding me and blocking the exit at the same time. I don’t mind saying that my bottom started to twitch…LOL I just watched them for a while but they kept revving and shouting things I couldn’t here then laughing between themselves. 

I could have sat it out but I had no idea what was going to happen so I decided to make my move and I started up, put my main beams on and raced toward them, stopping very close to them and blaring the horn. After a few minutes of doing this which seemed like an hour, I got out and used a baton torch to hit one of their headlights with. You need a mighty heavy or sharp thing to break a headlight so I knew I’d not break it but I knew it would make a loud bang inside the car. It got the reaction I wanted anyway, and after a few more minutes of revving and shouting they started to move and I shot out of their like a shit from a drunk. 

I actually did not stop til I got to Middlesbrough hahah

Back to Angers…

The car park where it all happened...
The car park where it all happened…

So my mind went back to that time in York and I got my baton torch out. Yeah I still have it, it’s helped me several times out of dodgy situations 😉 But I have a curtain that I fitted that basically closes off the cab section entirely, so I shut that and put the lights out and he drove away and parked up again, presumably to wait for someone else. For all the world like a spider waiting to ensnare someone.

I liked that he left it because I don’t mind what they do if they only try once. But I recall another time in another lay-by in Middleton Tyas when the guy would not take no for an answer and I actually had to get out of bed and go outside to sort the twat out. Bad times.

By this time my daughter was on the phone so we’re chatting and I’m telling her about my light-flasher and we’re having a little chuckle about it, and I notice another guys wandering up and down a short area of the path outside. Then I spotted 2 more standing talking together in the bushes. Then I spotted 2 more! 5 in total, wandering aimlessly, sometimes chatting to each other, sometimes just walking up and down about 50 metres. Clearly they were either prostitutes or it was just an area where men met for sex. It was kinda funny in a way but I did think if I get any hassle I’ll just find somewhere else to park.

Luckily as I chatted on the phone they all eventually drifted away and I hadn’t been hassled once. Nice one. 

Anyway, my day in Angers?

Yes anyway, the day wasn’t too bad at all, a bit of a cold wind but some sunshine and no rain so a perfect day for wandering around town. I found a lovely chateau which to the French means castle. It’s a small but fairly solid looking edifice and in great condition considering it’s about a thousand years old. 

There were plenty of places to eat and they were quite reasonably priced too. I saw one place offering a full kebab with everything on, served on a plate for €5. You can’t beat that if you’re hungry.

There was also a nice cathedral although with having Jack I couldn’t go inside but I got a nice photo or two of the outside. There were some lovely old, almost medieval buildings and independent quirky shops that sold art and hand made things and clothes that weren’t designer labels. 

Getting the 'death stare' after she walked into my shot!
Getting the ‘death stare’ after she walked into my shot!

While I was walking up the hill to the cathedral a young woman walked into my shot and gave me a right glare as if it was my fault that I was taking her photo. I ended up taking 3 shots because others walked into the scene too. It can’t be helped that’s just what happens but when she glared I did feel like shouting ‘Get the fuck out of my shot!’ Hmmm…what would that be in French? Sortez le baise mon photographie? Probably not, my French is dire.

Anyway, what a lovely city and I am going to explore it some more tomorrow, I’ve got 6 days before the ferry and it’s less than a day’s drive away and I am going through Rouen anyway so I may stop there the last night. I love Rouen. 

 

 

 

Where I stayed: Angers, Maine-et-Loire [49], Pays-de-la-Loire, France, 49100, 47.47717, -0.55738

France here I come

Finished work, I can see the ferry from here, I will be on it at 10pm to sail to France. I can’t wait!

I get so excited like a big kid lol then I get to French passport control and I start to smile a lot. Then I reach British passport control and I start to laugh. Then we board and I start to calm down because I feel like I’m coming home. There is clearly something wrong with me cos I don’t hate the UK, quite the contrary. But there’s just something about roaming the continent and exploring new places. 

Hopefully this visit I’ll get to do Amsterdam finally, and Auschwitz. That’s my two main things. I’d love to go back to Neuschwanstein too but it’s OK if I don’t manage it. The way I’ve worked it out I’ve got until about the end of June before I need to return, and that means I can make another 2 month trip toward the end of the year. 

Happy days. 

My sad return

Sadly, it’s almost time to get the ferry back to England. 🙁

I’ve got some things to do including at work but the main thing is my 5th grandchild is due anytime soon! That’s the main reason I am returning so I’ve come to Autingues to get the dog sorted.

Auntingues
This is next to the car park for the vet in Autingues. Northern France is quite flat and sometimes featureless but that doesn’t stop it being pretty. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to see for miles.

Any time you return from an EU country you must have a registered vet administer a worm tablet. That’s it. And some charge €52 for that one thing! haha They sure know how to fleece tourists. You must wait between 1 and 5 days to return so it’s worth getting it done a couple of days before returning, as generally speaking the further you are away from the ports the less they charge. 

It’s always a bit of a wrench too coming back to the UK. Nothing against the UK I love the country, but it’s just the end of holiday mode. Life feels just so much more relaxed on the continent.

‘Parting is such sweet sorrow…’

I recall many years ago when I had a fairly responsible job I went to Thailand with my then girlfriend and we spent a month there just roaming around and enjoying exploring the place. Neither of us had been before and so everything left us wide eyed. 

When it came time to return home and go back to our jobs I was quite depressed for a while. I decided then and there to make much more of my spare time and my next job would not be full of responsibilities. I wanted a decent work life balance. 

For the rest of the time in that job I spent almost every weekend away and a while after coming back from Thailand we bought our fist camper to maximise our weekends away. We won it at 9 pm in an eBay auction for £1000 and set off at 10 pm to catch a train down to Cornwall to pick it up. We got there about 9 am the next morning absolutely shattered but we spent the next year flogging that old camper all over the UK.

We had a blast and I sold it back on eBay a year later for £1000 and we splurged on a brand new coach built motorhome the following month. That’s the one I still use and I can’t imagine life without it now. 

Oh well, bye Continent, I’ll be back! (Said in my best Arnie voice!)

Caen, France

I came to Caen once before, some years ago and kinda drove straight through it. I was headed to Mont St Michel and sometimes when I get something in my head I am 100% focussed. Well, not so much now but I used to be. So this time I decided to stop in Caen and check out the war memorial.

Caen British Memorial Garden
Separate plaques at the Caen British Memorial Garden commemorate each of the battalions, units and corps that fought during the battle to free France.

I vaguely knew Caen figured heavily in the war and I found the memorial very easily. Luckily there was an aire there too so I had no problem parking for the night. 

The museum is spread over a massive area and has huge fields and woods around it so there was lots of walking for me and Jack. I did of course enter the museum but I was still waiting for my pay to go into the bank and could not afford the €30 odd it was going to cost. I explored the grounds instead. 

The British memorial was only completed in 2004 although it was considered to have been started in 1988 when the then Israeli president planted a single tree there. 

Caen British Memorial Garden
The Caen British Memorial Garden commemorates his Majesty’s forces but also the merchant navy and civilians who contributed.

It’s quite sobering visiting any of the war graves or memorials of which there are many in northern France. The mood is always sombre but that’s the knowledge of what went on that makes you feel that way.

“Lest We Forget…”

One man created the whole war. One man. It’s very frightening to think that so many people can be led by one single maniac to carry out atrocious acts on their fellow humans. 

They say “Lest we forget” but it’s not really a case of forgetting. It’s a case of being drawn in irrespective of the horrific memories of what went on for those years.

Caen British Memorial Garden
This garden was designed and built on behalf of the British Friends of Normandy with the help of the city of Caen.

I sometimes think they glorify war and ennoble the dead in order to encourage more to be prepared to fight when the day comes that those in charge want to take something for their own.

Our leaders have not stopped going to war ever since and probably never will do.

It’s about power, resources and greed and you can’t cure politicians and business leaders of that. 

Mont St Michel, France

I made it down to Mont St Michel. Bit of a hike but I’ve been wanting to return ever since I first visited in 2009. The place is amazing. It’s an island and has an abbey on top, with houses in the middle and at the bottom almost at sea level, accommodation for workers. 

A lot has changed at Mont St Michel since I was last here. For a start the enormous car park has gone completely. I recall dozens upon dozens of motorhomes there the last time, but it’s all been left to go to the sea now.

Mont St Michel and bridge
Over €200 million has been spent de silting the area around Mont St Michel.

Apparently the maintenance was too expensive so they let it go and built a brand new set of car parks slightly north of the old one, with a bridge connecting the island with the mainland. Free buses go from the car park to the island if you want them or you can walk.

Parking for cars starts at €6.30 for 2 hours but longer than that and you must pay the 24 hour rate which is  €12. Everyone of course will pay the €12 because who wants to park for only 2 hours? It takes a half hour to walk there and back anyway.

For campers you can have a look at the car parks for 30 minutes for free. I have no idea what that plan is about, because 30 minutes is only long enough to get to the mount from the car park. I suspect they allow you that time to convince yourself you want to pay the daily fee which is €17.20. That’s a hell of a money making racket isn’t it?

Oddly there is a horse drawn carriage which is a slightly different way of getting from the car parks to the mount and that costs only €5.30 one way, which isn’t bad value at all. 

Dam over the Couesnon river
Erected to control the river and the silting of the area around the Mont. It incorporates seating as it is a perfect viewpoint for Mont St Michel.

Payback?

There’s a dam further up the river which is all part of the de silting plan which apparently cost over €200 million to put into place. Clearly the French Govt want to get that money back very quickly so they fleece tourists to achieve that. 

You must be aware that once on the mount itself it is very expensive. So your entire stay could cost you an arm and a leg. My advice is visit but start very early on the morning and see as much of the mount as you can. Take your own food so you don’t spend a ransom on the restaurants and leave after nightfall when it’s all lit up and looks beautiful. 

I didn’t go on the mount this time, I was there really to take some photos which is what I did and then I left.

As always. here’s a handful of those pictures.

Amiens, France

Ahh Amiens I’ve missed you! I haven’t been here since 2009 and I do love the place. This was where I saw my first Lumiere when my friend was visiting. 

Amiens cathedral.
As part of their Lumiere season the Cathedral of Our Lady in Amiens was treated to a spectacular light show which included lighting the cathedral’s gothic facade with the original colours it was painted in when first built.

Some people say it’s nice to come home but I don’t feel that way about where I was born or brought up, I feel that way about places I have a connection to. I definitely have a connection to Amiens. As I said I saw my first Lumiere here. The cathedral in Amiens when originally built was painted in bright colours. The Lumiere was intended simply to recreate those colours and show how the façade would have looked when originally built.

They made a show of it of course with some music as well and it was an amazing spectacle. It was all the more exciting as we had not expected it. We were simply sitting in the public square enjoying the balmy night and were in fact ready to go back to the van when the Lumiere started.

There’s an excellent Saturday market in Amiens too and I recall standing in front of a stall packed with lettuces of all different varieties. Of course I love salad so this was a treat for me and I was eyeing them all up and I asked what one variety was called and he replied “Salade.” I pointed to another and he said again “Salade.” So I pointed to an odd looking one and said “Salade?” and he nodded lol

A woman was standing by me and she turned out to be British as she explained that you simply point to which ones you want, even the French don’t learn the names of all the varieties. I felt a little foolish but laughed anyway. Later, the one I picked went into a salad and it was the most delicious lettuce. Mmmm.

Parklife

Parc St Pierre, Amiens
The main park in Amiens. It’s got a lake, running track, sports areas, wildlife and of course lots of well tended grass.

Jack of course loves the park next to the city, the Parc St Pierre. I recall trying to teach him to swim here when he was young but he wasn’t having it. He’d rather spend his time chasing ducks and anything else he thinks he can kill. 

It’s a huge sprawling park and even late at night I feel safe walking through it despite the odd lurkers here and there.

I recall once coming back through at about 1 am with all my photo gear and there was a large group of youngsters sitting on the steps chatting and laughing as youngsters do. As I approached they made a way for me through the middle of them and two of them said ‘Bon nuit Monsieur’, which I thought was pretty dam charming. 

I spent a few days here and in that short time I felt utterly relaxed and recharged. Sometimes being in a favourite place for a short time is all you need to recentre yourself. 

There’s a surprising amount to see in Amiens but it’s also a lovely city to relax in and even in the centre of the city prices aren’t inflated as they are some places. I highly recommend a visit and here’s some more photos to whet your appetite.