The long journey home – Brantome, Bellac and Montreuil Bellay

Time to step up the pace folks and start putting in the miles in the direction of Calais and home. I’m not sorry to be heading back to one of our previous haunts, Brantome. It’s on the tip of the Dordogne in the Perigord region. It’s all about the food here. Proper, rich, typically french style, my absolute favourite, (and probably the most calorific!!). The area is famous for its truffles and foie gras. Brantome is known as ‘little Venice’. The town is actually an island in the middle of a series of rivers joined up by bridges. We are both very fond of this place. It’s a bit grey and overcast when we arrive but thankfully warm.

The Aire is great. It’s €6.60 per night with services. It’s right next to a beautiful park and the river, two minutes stroll into town. It’s only a tiny place but very pretty with several good places to eat, somewhere to suit every budget. There are a couple of bars too where you can sit outside with the dog. There’s a small, very well stocked supermarket which has a good deli and Butchers within. It ticks a lot of boxes for us and is en route which is a bonus. If you’re coming from the north, you do have to come through the middle of town which is a bit of a squeeze bottle neck but worth it. Friday is a good day to visit, market day, of course!! The stalls are spread along the waterfront and surrounding streets. You can buy a whole manner of fantastic local produce. The walnuts are to die for. It has an outstanding Benedictine Abbey and troglodyte caves where the hermits set up home as far back as the fifth century. Buy tickets to go and have a gander from the Tourist Info. Well worth a few Euros.

If like me you have a mean streak you can stand on the bridge by the Abbey and watch the kayakers trying to get down the various weirs. They inevitably get stuck and end up taking a ducking. It’s highly amusing, a good bit of afternoon sport!

The weather turned a bit drizzly so we decided to mooch on and pinpointed another medieval town called Bellac on the map which was heading in the right direction. The book said there were two Aires, one of them was ok for our big bus. Or not. We drove all the way there to find that Motorhomes were no longer welcome. What a bummer! Well this is what it looks like!

It still has a dump and fill facility but no parking. Fine, we shall go and spend our pennies elsewhere (lots of swearing). The sat nav is in a playful mood as we try to leave. It decides to take us ten miles up an effing cart track. Like as if we weren’t grumpy enough. We were beginning to get that Groundhog Day feeling. The landmarks were looking very familiar third time around and we had a slight to do with a rude French Farmer who couldn’t get passed us. He was waving his arms as if fighting an invisible swarm of bees so of course Mark joined in and did the same, making up his own language. I hid under my seat and cringed. Oh what fun we have on the road!

We finally got out of Bellac, Re-christened but I can’t tell you what to, not for such tender ears, and arrived at our next destination. Montreuil Bellay. We are now in the Loire Valley. Despite the teeny tiny bridge on entry just wide enough to squeeze us through, it was an uneventful journey. This was our view for the night.

I’ll take that, thanks. It’s in the Aires Book. Services are metered and you need a token from Office de Tourisme. Parking is free though. Another superb little place right on the river Thouet by a leafy park. The Chateau was amazing, probably the best we’ve seen on our travels. It’s huge! We only stayed overnight before moving off in the morning to continue our journey.

The town itself still retains all of its medieval walls. Parts of it date back to the eleventh century. It’s a great little stop off. Our next planned stop, only ten miles away was Saumer. It sits right on the Loire River and has been on our radar for a while. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was persisting it down. As the Aire was at the side of the river we thought better of it. It looked well impressive though. Definitely on the list for next time.

And so we stop off for a bite to eat and steel ourselves for a big drive all the way up to Honfleur. We stopped off at Carrefour and filled the water tank up with wine because those silly little bottles evaporate before you get chance to drink them (joking!!). We did stock up proper though. The van now chinks and rattles and sounds like the 1970s pop man approaching.

So I shall sign off for now and get on with my map reading. It’s my job to avoid the €30 for 20 mile section of toll road just outside Le Mans. Pity me if I don’t!

TTFN folks. Catch you later xxx

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