Day 7/21 – La Rochelle

We’re getting better and better at stealth camping! We found a site online that lists mixed parking (campervan/car/van) places in towns and cities that have all the facilities available, courtesy of the town hall and they’re free!
So we are now in La Rochelle, the midpoint of the western coastline of France, where the Mediterranean and the Atlantic meet. We love it here especially H who is a sea lover so we plan to stay for 3 days/nights visiting a lineup of museums and an abandoned Nazi U-boat factory!

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A long line of campervans parked behind us, also free parking hunters like us!

 

Day 5/21 – Rouen

The good thing about living in a 1.5 meter x 3 meter box (the van) is that life is much simpler and such chores as making coffee and washing clothes in a bucket are like a child’s play. With just our basic needs all banged up in a tight space just enough to carry a bed for 2 people, suitcase of 7-day clothing, canned goods, some food in a thermal bag, plates & cutlery, coffeemaker, 2 pots, a camping cooker, a foldable table & 2 foldable chairs, a small bag of toiletries, smartphones with internet & roaming subscription, 12-volt car inverter (from DC to AC) for charging our phones/computers, then it’s ok. The beauty of this of course is the fact that we are moving from place to place – exactly what they do in campervanning or boat living except that we are in a van which often is easier as parking in the town center is straightforward.

The only serious duty really is the search for the appropriate ‘aires’ (motorway service stations) to sleep at night (i.e., one with shower and clean loo) and Europe particularly France is well-served on this aspect. Lately we even discovered an internet site listing all the free (or cheaper-than-campsites) overnight parking for campervans/vehicles, complete with facilities like restrooms.

So far, our road travels have been very satisfying, We’ve survived eight days (since we left home) – sleeping in the van and are still enjoying it (the fact that we haven’t spent a single centime for our accommodation is what makes it doubly enjoyable). It’s a great experience seeing a new town each day, marvelling at the architecture and artworks, learning its history, just like the other day in Amiens, the town where Jules Verne lived for 18 years until he died. He wrote the book ‘Around the world in 80 days’, ’20 thousand leagues under the sea’, among others. Yesterday was even more interesting as we visited the town where Joan of Arc was burned on a stake, by the English, and whose cathedral was the subject of Claude Monet’s series of paintings.

Where? Rouen!

 

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Sitting with a cool glass of Leffe while marvelling at the glorious Gothic architecture of the tallest Cathedral in France – the Rouen Cathedral, another Unesco World Heritage site.

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On the same spot where Joan of Arc was burned on a stake, a church dedicated to her was built and its shape follows the form of a raging fire that kiled her.

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Day 4/21 – Amiens

A remarkable visit to Amiens which had us walking around the town for about 20 kms or more; got almost dehydrated and practically crawling in search of a water fountain; Charlie swimming his 3rd of the legendary rivers of Europe: the Rhine, the Danube and now the Somme; got totally blown away by the glory (as well as the horrors) of Amiens Cathedral, a Unesco World Heritage site; totally enjoyed the vast green parks, wooded paths and lovely ponds. Love, love this town!

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Once one of the tallest skyscrapers in Europe, the Tour Perret is over a hundred meters high and comprises 27 floors of residential apartments. It was built in 1949 on the same neighbourhood that was razed during the bombardement in the 2nd world war.

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The grandiose rose window on the facade of the Cathedral.

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Starting the day with a cup of coffee and some people watching (which is great because Amiens is quite a fashionable town.

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The Unesco World Heritage site, the 13thC French Gothic style Cathedral of our Lady of Amiens or simply Amiens Cathedral.

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Lucky Charlie to be offered with a bowl of water – always by ladies! But wait, that’s the pot they serve Moules Marinières (mussels dish) from! We actually ordered the dish but they ran out.

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Medieval-style garden in front of the Cathedral.

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A colourful display of fabric ‘everything’ twisted, rolled up and made to symbolize the flowers in honour of the victims of the two Great Wars where Amiens was one of those towns affected the worst.

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Remains of Hotel-Dieu (some kind of hospital)

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He forgot his phone camera and it’s his first time to see this outstanding cathedral so he kindly requested me to take his photos and send it to his email address. His wish was granted

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Northern France is famous for its cider (alcoholic beverage made fom the fermented juice of apples)

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Facade of Amiens Cathedral

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In one of the wooded foothpaths we took to reach the Cathedral, we stumbled upon this old viaduct over the railway.

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This gallette du boeuf is the ‘plat du jour’ (dish of the day), delicious! They have this special two-course menu (main dish & dessert) which costs only 11euros pp.

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15thC Church of Saint-Leu

Day 3/21 – Driving along Northern France

Wow! What seering heat we are experiencing the past couple of days. It was on the news that there will be a heatwave in Northern France. The good thing is, you feel the debilitating heat only from 10am till 6pm so we still get the chance to walk kilometers in the morning where, yesterday, we stumbled upon a village planted out of nowhere due to its remoteness and we did the walk just from the aire we were staying in.

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This camping cooker you are seeing is probably our sixth, and the newest. The other five, due to some foolish reasons, are all sitting in our campervan parked somewhere in the UK since last year. That is the reason we haven’t been able to make our own coffee when travelling. But now it’s pure bliss brewing our own espresso and what more, we had a delicious hot couscous for dinner – al fresco – sat on our own table and chairs just outside the van, thanks to this cooker that heated the tinned stuff we bought at the supermarket today.

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We left Boulogne-sur-mer today to try other coastal towns. H suggested that we look at Le Touquet -Paris-Plage since it has the reputation of an elegant resort where, in the early 20th century, became the favorite French seaside destination of the ‘crème de la crème of British society’ and of wealthy Parisians (so-named ‘Paris by the sea’.

We were highly impressed because it is like an elegant village in the forest where gloriously designed houses peek amongst verdant and matured gardens, reminding me of Beverly Hills in Los Angeles.

We parked next to the Hippotel, which got me curious if the guests of this hotel are horses, or simply the horses’ owners – I’ve to google that.

A tourist train passed by, and would have wanted us, and Charlie, to get in to see what more this town has to offer but H says we’ll just drive around to investigate.

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Just the exact opposite of the forested part of La Touquet is its highly built-up beach that spans kilometers of residential buildings and hotels of boring and shockingly un-French designs on the left and the sandy beach and typical seaside playgrounds on the right.
We just wanted to get out from there as soon as we could!

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..and in the middle of that seaside avenue is the rows and rows of carpark. It’s like we are not in France at all!

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A stopover in an ‘aire’ approaching the Bay of the Somme (that famous battlefield in the 2nd world war that fell hundreds of thousands of soldiers).

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Abbeville is marked by one red star in our Europa Atlas, meaning, ‘A-must-visit’ town, and so we did.
Wow! This impressive Collegiate Church of Saint Vulfran took my breath away!
Designed in flamboyant Gothic Style, construction started in the 15thC and lasted till the 17thC.

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Altarpiece of the Nativity

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‘La Pieta’ as the centerpiece of this memorial to the Fallen Sons of Abbeville during the 1st and 2nd world wars.

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Altarpiece of The Last Judgement

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The Baptism of Christ