zaterdag 25 september 2010

Vacation in France – Part 3

Day 9: Lost – La Molliere, 180 km

After coming back to our tent the previous night nothing could keep us awake. Well, there was a fire close by so the Boyfriend went to check it out. But I couldn’t really be bothered, I was just dozing off dreaming of the day we just had. The next morning we went to a bakery for breakfast and I somehow (I don’t know what had gotten into me) decided to have eclairs for breakfast.

I had two and a half eclair and was in a major sugar high for the rest of the morning (and also feeling a little nauseous). First, we went back to Rouen. We managed not to get lost and safely made our way to the parking garage. We visited the typical touristic stuff: the church, the clock and the Jeanne d’Arc square.

image from here.


Look how cool of a building McDonalds was situated in:


Then we drove towards the coast and further up north to spend a few days at the beach before starting our tripe home. We wanted to stay for two nights at our camping site, so we searched for a camping site with a swimming pool. We drove and drove and drove.


I did most of the  driving that day because the Boyfriend had backpain. At some point I got so tired that all I could do was focus on the road and just go wherever the Boyfriend sent me. After visiting the gazillionth camping site without pool, we finally found a tourist office that pointed us to a camping site in La Molliere, close to Cayeus sur Mer. I was plain exhausted after we put up our tent. So we just had a quick dinner and crashed afterwards.

Day 10: La Molliere, 0 km

Activites of the day: read, relax, throw rocks at the beach


relax some more, make a scene at the reception desk…Seriously the Boyfriend got kicked out of the pool because he wasn’t wearing tight fitting swimming shorts. He has these loose fitting boxershorts which only our whole country uses, but apparently in France this is not so common as they consider it unhygienic or something. We were disappointed since we spent so much time looking for a camping site with a pool and we didn’t have any problems at other campings. But hey, we entertained ourselves anyway. At the end of the day we went to a cute town called St Valery sur Mer and had another lovely dinner, which was a good end to a very relaxing day.

Day 11: La Molliere – Oye-Plage, 220 km

All rested up after our relaxing day we started to head back home. We drove up the coast and ended up at Oye-Plage, somewhere between Calais and Dunkerque which is very close to the border with Belgium. It was a long drive, but we took it easy and made lots of stops on our way getting there. We found a nice camping site, right next to the beach. The Boyfriend went to play with his kite, and I went for a lovely run along the beach. It was great and very relaxing!

Then it was dinner time. We drove back to the last village of any significance we had seen, and gave ourselves a hard time finding something for our last dinner of our vacation. We finally decided on pizza. Turned out it was only take out, but that was ok. We had a bottle of wine left (a miracle!) so we would just eat it at the tent with a glass of wine. So we studied the menu forever and when we finally made our picks we were told that they were not serving pizza for the next hour. That was too much for my hungry stomach so we left. Done with figuring out where to eat we remembered we saw a pizza van on our way, so we headed there. On the van it said that it was pizza made on a wooden fire. Right….Sure…


We thought it was probably ready-made pizza heated up. Turned out the guy actually had a wooden fire heating his oven in that van! He was really nice and actually made the pizzas fresh with fresh ingredients and everything. Wow! We raced home and enjoyed the best pizza of our vacation curled up in our sleeping sacks sitting by our tents with a lovely glass mug of wine. It was a really nice and quite romantic last night.

Day 12: Oye-Plage – Home, 380 km

Today was our last day, and we headed back home. Though I was sad that vacation time was almost over, I was also very happy to see the kitties again and get to sleep in an actual bed. I was really feeling stiff all over by now.

But first we had a couple of 100ks to drive. We had coffee in Dunkerque at a bar. It was a weird place. Most of the people were already heavily drinking beer at 11am. And there were a few gamblers trying their luck on those papers you have to scratch to see if you win. Odd.

We quickly drove across Belgium and decided to make a slight detour to visit my sister who lives in the South of the Netherlands really close to the border with Belgium. It was nice to see her and catch up. Then it was time to go home. My brother was our house and cat sitter and he asked if we would join him for dinner. He cooked us a great meal and we had a good night together before we finally hit the hay our lovely big and comfy beds.

Okay, so that was all peeps! I hope you liked the story. Let me know if you ever made a road trip and blogged about it. I would love to read.  Are you someone who plans an entire trip? I used to be one, but I decided I wanted to go on a relaxed holiday, so that involved not planning ahead. I also took very little stuff (you saw my car) so no deciding on what to wear etc. It was really liberating and relaxing!

Vacation in France – Part 2

Day 4: Bernieres-sur-mer – Utah Beach, 110 km

Today was war-day. We drove along the D-day beaches and visited several war-related places. First up was the Batterie du Longues, a place with a row of bunkers with cannons at a very strategic point along the coast.P7200189

They were all damaged but most of them were still in one piece though. The Boyfriend, the 5 year old that he is, had to climb on top of one, of course.


Next was the largest American War Cemetery of the region. It was very impressive with rows and rows of perfectly aligned white crosses. 9.386 soldiers are buried here.



It was a really beautiful place, aside of the reason those crosses were there, that is. I totally understand that those men were very brave and that the sacrifices were made for a good cause, but I don’t understand why there needs to be war at all. It always upsets me seeing so many in my eyes unnecessary victims. Wow, I never knew I was such a hippy, LOL.

On to the next site: Pointe du Hoc. At this point the coast is really steep and it’s almost impossible to get up. But they did it anyway. The Germans didn’t expect them, so the allies were able to make a dent in the defense lines. It is just a small rock that symbolizes the courage those soldiers must have had.


They had bombed the area as well. There are still craters in the grass.

Lastly, we also visited a German War Cemetery, La Cambe where 21.160 soldiers were buried.

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As you can see it is not nearly as fancy (can you say that about a cemetery?), nor as big (despite the huge amount of graves) as the American one, but definitely much more impressive. The upper photo shows the actual grave stones. Each stone holds two or three names. And there were many rows…On top of that in the centre was a mass grave. Again, very impressive. Many Germans didn’t fight and die in Normandy because they wanted to or chose to, so it is just as sad as if it were another nationality.

After this, we arrived at Utah beach and found a camping site. It was a nice place with a really great restaurant and we had a very good dinner!

Day 5: St Mere Eglise, 0 km

We decided to stay another day because we wanted to visit St Mere Eglise (at 15k) and just relax a bit. After a short run we left for St Mere Eglise. We got there and had a look at the infamous church with the doll hanging from it. Don’t know what I am talking about? Go watch The Longuest Day. The allies got dropped accidently right in the middle of the village where the Germans were stationed. Talking about a case of Whoops! One guy’s parachute attached to the church and he got stuck. He got to watch all his fellows get killed while unable to do anything. He ended up surviving and growing old, only deaf from the church bells. Here it is:

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We also visited the museum. Well, actually the Boyfriend scrutinized the place and I was bored half of the time watching all the junk war memorabilia in there. The rest of the day we didn’t really do a lot, just relaxed and had another amazing dinner at the restaurant at the camping. Sorry, forgot to take pictures of all of our meals during the vacation.

Day 6: Utah Beach – Courtils, 140 km

It was time to move on. So we drove across the countryside to Courtils, which is located close to Mt San Michel, our goal. We took our time getting there. Singing in the car:


Do you see the emotion? I also do this on my way in the traffic jam to work. It must be hilarious for other drivers. Luckily for me, I don’t care too much, I only sing a little softer when standing still to make sure they don’t actually here me…

Anyway, on our way there we finally had a decent crepe! It was at some kind of commercial chain joint we think, but it was fun with lots of stuff hanging from the walls to look at (stuffed animals, an electric train riding close to the roof). We spend the rest of the day lounging at the camping site, hanging by the pool and reading a book. Very relaxing!

Day 7: Mont Saint Michel, 0 km

I had a nice run this morning and I picked up breakfast at a bakery on my way back. The people there looked a bit surprised when I showed up there all sweaty, I wonder why… During breakfast we saw a really cool gadget: a remote controlled caravan! Seriously, this guy had a remote control on his caravan. Normally you see two or more people pushing and pulling the thing (and yelling at each other because their backs hurt) to get it out of the camping place and attached to the car and then you just hope you get the car and the caravan on the main track safely without hitting other tents. But he could just navigate it out of the camping place and onto the main track of the camping, place it right behind his car, attach it, and drive away. After this show and our breakfast we headed to Mont San Michel, the major touristic attraction of the region. Actually it is some kind of semi-island with a huge church on it. It is very old and I think that before they built the road there is now, all the entry ways would flood during high tide, very cool! We could already spot it from far away:


getting closer:


even closer:


Crap…that is what happens when you make pictures from your car. Let’s try again:


It looks beautiful, doesn’t it?


It was kind of busy, but so cute! We spent the morning walking around the place. We didn’t go into the church because the line was way too long.

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Can you see me? I am in 1 of the pictures only .

Finally a quiet street.

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Total verdict: really cute and cool with all the steep streets and stairs. But very very touristic.
We spent the rest of the day just hanging around on the camping side. We did some groceries and decided to actually cook. Well…we heated up some canned ravioli. Anyway, it was really good! Also, more wine was consumed…

Day 8: Courtils – Lost, 320 km

Wow, did we drive a lot today! Our goal today was to visit Argentan and to see from there. The Boyfriend wanted to see the church because it had snipers in there during WWII (great reason, I know) so we did.


Just so you know, I did not take that incredibly tilted picture…I am not sure how much beer the Boyfriend had during lunch.

Before Argentan we had coffee in a really cute little village and we saw a whole lot more of these villages on our way to Rouen after lunch. We were doing pretty great and got closer and closer and closer to Rouen, the biggest city of Normandy. When we got real close we decided to drive until the next camping site and stop there for the day. However….after that no other camping site showed up. We were already in the suburbs of Rouen, during rush hour and we had no idea where to go. We figured there weren’t going to be camping sites in the city centre, but our map totally lacked all details so we weren’t sure which signs to follow. So we got lost, bahaha. We ended up asking at some bakery. The woman looked at me like I was a lunatic (no dear, there are no camping sites here) and she didn’t really know how to get to the highway (to at least get out of the city) either. So we decided to go to downtown to ask at the tourist office. Just before we got there we saw a sign that said: camping site! so we followed that. But after a while there were no more signs. We did manage to get out of Rouen though, so we kept driving. After a while we came to a village with a touristic map. It showed that the camping site was way back, but there was another one further ahead. We didn’t really want to go back into rush hour agáin, so we moved on. We ended up in at a tiny village in the middle of nowhere (‘are you sure this is the right road?’ ‘yes dear, just shut up and drive ok?’ We had driven over 300k already and had had it for the day so were pretty cranky not in the mood to get lost again). And there was actually a camping site there. The owner wasn’t there, and not really anybody else was either. Most of the camping site was used for seasonal places: people actually made gardens with garden midgets next to their caravans, it was hilarious. We finally found some French people sitting beside their motor home. They told us they couldn’t find the owner either, but that we should just put up our tent and that he would show up. So we did. Then the owner came and asked us a ridiculously low price for the night. It a third of what we had paid at other sites! We asked him for a place to have dinner and he gave us directions to the next village where there was a restaurant where we could eat ‘very well’. So we went. When we came to the village we only saw one brasserie that looked kind of weird. We decided to move on, but found nothing else in the village. We were too tired to go some place else, so we went for the brasserie. But the owner told us we could not eat there. But there was another restaurant, just 100m further. It turned out that we passed it on our way into the village. Now, don’t think we are blind cows or something. It turned out, this was the restaurant:


When we came in we only saw a bar. But in the back of the joint was a sign that said ‘restaurant’. We passed a curtain hanging in a doorway and entered a cozy restaurant with a couple of tables. There were two Englishmen there. We were like: where the hell did we end up, but hey what the heck, let’s have dinner.

The woman serving us was of indefinable age, somewhere between 70ish and 85, probably. And she served us our best dinner of the whole vacation. Seriously. It was DELICIOUS! It was all home made with a lot of love, and everything was superfresh and supertasty. And it was really cheap too! It was all totally authentic French and we loved it. It was a really special night. First you get lost, and then you end up in the freaking middle of nowhere eating one of the best dinners ever!


More to come in my next post on the last part of our trip. Be back soon!

donderdag 16 september 2010

Vacation in France – part 1

Hi everyone! I am back from my vacation in France. Well, officially I have been working for a couple of weeks now but I have been trying my best to keep that relaxed vacation-y feeling. This also meant that I wasn’t really doing anything in my spare time, lol.

But, now that I settled in my old rhythm again I decided it was about time that I picked up blogging again. I have a lot to talk to you about, including a race I participated in last weekend. But first things first: our vacation in Normandy, France!

It was a great roadtrip! We drove over 2100 km in 12 days, of which only about 600 on highways (to get to and from France). Those km do not include the extra ones we drove to get around once we arrived at our camping sites. So we only counted them when we had our tent with us. Short version of the upcoming story about our trip: The whole thing involved lots of cheese, ham, wine, croissants, chocolate bread and even more ‘magnificent views’ (read this with a huge upper class English accent). You can now skip the rest of the text and just look at the pictures if you want. For those of you who are interested: I also wrote a day to day breakdown, so that next month I will still be able to see how I passed my vacation.

Day 1: Home – Escalles, 412 km

On the first day we drove to Calais and from then it was touristic routes only, no highways. The landscape was beautiful with rolling hills and rocks with crayon! Just below Calais, we arrived at Escalles:


I love driving through curvy hills. As does the Boyfriend. We had to fight over the steering wheel, LOL. Look, here is the campingsite:


If you click to enlarge the picture you can see the camping site in the front, to the right of the town. On the left part of the camping there is a blue tent with a tiny tent next to it. The tiny one is ours.

Finally able to sit down with some wine and cheese. Good because we were starving!



Yes that is wine form a plastic mug. It was all we brought. And nevermind the tent looking like it is about to collapse. The sticks are a bit beaten up so it was impossible to get it straight, but that first day we did do an especially crappy job. But hey, what the heck, we had a place to sleep.

Day 2: Escalles – Honfleur, 295 km

I woke up after a scary night hearing all kinds of sounds, like there were creatures just outside our tent. Most of the time I made myself think that it was just the wind, but at one point I woke up thinking ‘What the hell was that?!! That sure was NOT the wind!’ But the coward that I am, I just kept really quiet and hoped it would go away. We had some cheese left for breakfast but when we wanted to get it the next morning, all we found was an open box with the covering paper neatly folded open. No cheese. Oh no! Something ate the cheese!! I told the Boyfriend about what I heard during the night. We concluded that that creature must have eaten the cheese, but we don’t know what it was. It probably was not a rodent since there were no teeth marks whatsoever…. From that point on we just made sure all the food was in the car haha!

We packed our stuff and drove along the coast towards Le Havre. On our way there we stopped at a giant supermarket ( I don’t get why we don’t have those in Holland, they are awesome!) and bought a new inflatable mattress because one of ours had a leak (I spent most of the night sleeping on the ground).


Look at the road!

Can you see England?


It was a beautiful trip with lots of cute villages and towns.



Lunch at the beach (bread, cheese and wine of course):


From Le Havre we went over the Normandy Bridge: two giant bridges. The first one looked like a roller coaster. I was like OMG do we have to go up there?!!


The answer was, yes of course! And when we came down, there was another one (the actual Normandy Bridge).



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We finally arrived at the other side, at Honfleur, and we immediately sought out a camping site. We had our own private place. And the tent was looking much better today (our car not so much but who cares)


Honfleur is such a cute town! There were lots of houses looking like this: P7180174


We went into town to have the most delicious pizza ever for dinner. It was really good! As was the wine. We also had desserts and then rolled ourselves to our tent and slept deeply.

Day 3: Honfleur – Bernieres-sur-mer, 70 km

The next morning it was time for a run! I was getting really stiff from sleeping on the these not so comfy mattresses and sitting in the car for hours, so I figured this might help. I ran across town and through a park. It was really relaxing, but also challenging given the horrible stones I was running on and all the hills.



After a nice 5 min hot shower (you had to buy coins to get hot water) it was time for breakfast. We walked into town and had breakfast sitting in the sun and looking at the boats in the harbor.



Then we were off for the next part of our road trip. The trip that day was beautiful with lots of green.
We passed through Ouistreham and visited the commando museum. It was quite interesting, it explained how the free French (Frenchmen who joined the British Army) participated in the D-Day operations by entering on Sword Beach. Sword Beach is the most northern of the D-Day beaches, and in the next few days we would be visiting the other beaches as well. We took it easy today, because we were both pretty tired of the huge amount of driving we did in the last two days. We made lots of stops at strange coffee places. We found a nice camping site at Bernieres sur Mer. They had a pool and we spent some time relaxing there. They also served quite nice pizzas (again haha). Later that night it was all kind of noisy as there was this guy called Johnny Rock (he looked like a Johnny Rock too) who sang French songs but also rock classics translated to French. It was horrible, but he seemed really popular. Later we saw his face in tabloids as well, but we are not sure if it was the actual one on the camping or a body double. Who knows?

Stay tuned for part 2 of our vacation.