We are cracking on through France. Tonight we are in a small aire just north of Dreux, well over halfway to Calais with just three more full days travelling to do. We are doing about 180kms per day on mixed roads. One problem has been finding fresh water because about half of the water points we have tried have been dry and turned off for the winter. However by planning coffee and lunch stops at aires we usually manage to find water when we need it.

Coffee stop by an old chapel in the Landes

When I wrote the last blog post we were in Morcenx in the Landes well south of Bordeaux. The day we left there (Friday 28th February 2020) we were mainly driving on motorway or dual carriageway. Quite a shock after the bumbling of the last few months! The weather has definitely turned and it was wet and windy much of the day (and actually everyday since too). We stopped for coffee on a picnic spot just before we joined the motorway that took us to Bordeaux and then over the Gironde estuary.

Lunch stop by a marina on the River Dordogne
The river did not look inviting

For our lunch stop we detoured off the route to a little marina on the River Dordogne at a point shortly before it flows out in to the Gironde. Still cold and windy and the river did not look inviting.

Our overnight stop was on Montguyon. The aire was on the sportsground (again!) and just on the edge of town. There were services but the grey water drain was blocked and so we decided not to investigate further. A ruined castle loomed above the sportsground and we had a walk in the evening to find out about it. The castle itself was closed and showed no schedule of opening times but it was an impressive monument.

Aire at Montguyon – note Castle in the background

On Saturday (29th) we were back on the N10 dual carriageway all day. We turned off twice for our stops, coffee stop was just a small aire close to the main road but at lunch time we turned off in to the town of Ruffec – a really old town with a huge church and the remains of a castle. We parked in the car park by the church above the River Lien and after lunch we had a wander around the town and the old church with its C12 facade and stunning C20 stained glass windows.

Ruffec – lunch stop above the River Lien
The sun actually shone a bit today! This is the Lavoir (public laundry) beside the river
Chruch of St Andre in Ruffec

Saturday night was spent on an aire in Vivonne another historic small town. We were parked in the market place beside the Tourist Office (closed). There were a few other vans here including a couple of British vans. We had a walk around the town and found a patisserie that was still open and we indulged in a couple of gooey cakes each to take back to Bertie! Vivonne is on the banks of the River Clain which was very full and running swiftly. It was not over the top of its banks but very close!

Vivonne Aire – four vans with three British and one Belgian
The River Clain pouring over the weir in Vivonne

On Sunday (1st March) we were still pounding up the N10 past Poitiers and across the Loire at Tours. Our coffee stop today was planned as an opportunity to fill up with water and it was just a small aire in the middle of nowhere just west of Chatellerault. As we approached it we both said we recognise this and indeed we had stopped here for lunch in 2018! Of all the thousands of places we could have stopped we chose this one twice without realising! Totally unremarkable place but with free water. That means we have now crossed our east-west 2018 route. Lunch stop was just a small aire close by the N10 in St Genouph. In theory we were close beside the River Loire but in practice that mighty river was hiding behind a high flood bank and was quite out of sight. Sunday night we stayed on a wet car park in the tiny village of Ternay. The aire was chosen because it had services but sadly “had” is the operative word as the bollard was so badly rusted it had blowen over! Whilst there was no water to fill the tank there was a lot of water everywhere else. It rained so much that night that the little stream beside the car park rose almost to the very top of its banks by morning.

Ternay car park/aire
The little stream just behind Bertie’s parking spot!

Sunday night we felt we had come far enough in to France to be comfortable about our schedule and that we could reach the Channel on Thursday morning so it was time to book our crossing. In the light of all the worries around the coronavirus we decided that the safest option was to use the Eurotunnel. We have never been on Le Shuttle under the Channel before but it seems simple and the idea of being able to stay on Bertie and not having to cope with a big busy ferry was attractive. So we booked for the 11:50 train on Thursday 5th. Watch this space to find out how it went!

That water theme stayed with us most of Monday as we travelled across country on minor roads. Our coffee stop at the village hall and picnic area in Choue should have been lovely but was in the midst of a big upgrade and was a building site – anyway it was raining and windy so we did not get out of Bertie at all.

River Eure at Courville
Pretty little backwater with a mill and two lavoirs – one each side of the water.

Lunch stop was much better at Courville beside the River Eure and the rain stopped long enough to get some photos including of the very full river. Several french vans here with one or two looking as though there were long stayers. The service point was working but we decided we could manage a bit longer for water and did not need to pay for half a tank.

It rained heavily all night last night and quite a bit of today. All the roadside ditches are really full and all the small rivers and streams are full or overflowing. So far there has been no problem on the roads but we can see it would not take much more rain to get the water up to the point were it covers some roads.

St Andre Aire

Our stopover tonight is another small town aire on the edge of St Andre de l’Eure. Rather busy road beside us but the aire itself is rather nice with individual bays with hedges around and a working, free service point. We filled with water and so we can have showers tonight and then fill up again tomorrow before we leave. It has been quite a tiring day today with the bad weather and doing 185kms on minor roads. I fear tomorrow may be similar.

Wet and windy France
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