Thursday, 12 November 2015

Autumnal Adventure

You may remember I recently spoke of an impending adventure.  This came about as I was invited to lunch with a friend who has property in Portugal.  We got  chatting and I mentioned I would love a static caravan in Vendée, France, but imagined they were beyond my means.  Well, before you could say bonnet de douche she'd googled a website and I learned that a 'used mobile home' was within reach.
The very next week I received an email from Brittany Ferries offering half price sailings this autumn, it seemed like a sign.... and so a few weeks later I was boarding a ferry bound for Le Havre, feeling somewhat apprehensive as I was travelling alone.

I'd decided to stay in Le Havre for a night as I arrived at 5pm and didn't fancy a long drive down to Vendée in the dark.  I'd heard of airbnb and asked a work colleague how she'd found it.... all good apparently and so was my stay with Virginie, a delightful woman, the epitome of French chic, who lived in the neighboorhood of Sainte Adresse.  I was soon introduced to her 13yr old son and the cat, Eclipse.
After a comfortable night, genial conversation (in French and English) and a continental breakfast I was on my way to Vendée.  My first challenge was the Pont de Normandie (I've got a thing about high bridges) but I was so concerned about the journey itself that I managed to traverse it without getting into a flap. 

Image result for pont de normandie
source google

After a six hour drive with no real traffic to speak of, except the Nantes peripherique, I arrived at Apremont, where I'd arranged to stay for a couple of nights in order to view some static caravans on a local site that
I'd viewed online.  I stayed in a gite which was organized by a company selling 'mobile homes' (as they prefer to call them) and had the place to myself.

The next day a representative gave me a tour of the Parc and I viewed several 'homes'

Unfortunately, although I was almost tempted by the one above not enough boxes were ticked for me, for various reasons and I was concerned that the Parc, lovely as it is, was not French enough, as the majority of owners were British.  Having decided not to purchase on this occasion I was still keen to see the local area, I have visited Vendée several times now but was not familiar with this district.

First up was the local village Apremont, situated on the rocky cliff side of the River Vie in the north of Vendée about an hour south of Nantes.  Towering over the village are the remains of the Chateau d'Apremont built in 1534 and a nearby water tower offers superb panoramic views of the valley and surrounding area.

Next on the agenda was the nearby lovely seaside town of St Gilles Croix de Vie, home of the Beneteau boat building company.

It was a beautiful day,  surfers were riding the considerable Atlantic coast waves and couples everywhere were strolling along the seafront hand in hand.  Never ( with the possible exception of Circular Quay) have I felt more like a Bridget Jones sad singleton!  However,  I buried these negative thoughts and concentrated on enjoying the ambience of this lovely coastal town.



After a LOT of walking...I'm talking blisters here, I returned to my car and with dismay saw the same vehicle as earlier, parked next to me with the same very sad-looking dog chained to it.  I felt so sorry for this poor animal but there was little I could do.  It did have food, water and a blanket but had obviously been chained up for hours.

Back at the gite I packed my bags in preparation for a swift departure the next day and got an early night before my long drive north.

I was on the road by 9am and took a different route back to Le Havre as I was stopping off en route in Normandie to meet a French man I hadn't seen for thirty six years!
I'd had a holiday romance with him when we were teenagers which resulted with me staying with his family for a week in the late 70's.  I tracked him down last year after booking a trip to Vendée which evoked many happy memories... we've been in touch ever since.
  We'd agreed to meet in front of the church at Louviers at 1030 the next day and it was with some trepidation that I found myself outside L'eglise de Notre Dame the following morning.

source interweb

He was nowhere to be seen so I went inside hoping the serene atmosphere would calm my nerves, and photographed these handsome chaps to pass the time.

At 1030, the church bells rang and I stepped outside expecting to see him... but he was not there. 
 Surely he wouldn't stand me up?   I waited a couple of minutes before wondering if he was somewhere else and set off around the other side of the church...where I saw him waiting.

The next three and a half hours were just... lovely!
We sat by the river catching up on the last three decades and then went for lunch.  It was quite testing for me as he doesn't speak English, but he seemed to understand my deplorable French.  I did take some pictures but he is a very private person so I am not happy to post them here...but, I was not disappointed and I don't think he was either!

Too soon it was time to say our goodbyes as I had a ferry to catch and before long I was back at Le Havre, feeling loath to return to Blighty after such a brilliant trip.
 I haven't given up on the caravan idea though and plan to return to Vendée next summer to continue the search....wish me luck!


  1. The light is incedible - so blue. Thanks for stopping by my blog, you should make that bag you know! Jo x

  2. Oh Fiona! What an adventure! I think it can be daunting to travel alone (I know, I've done it)but it can also be extremely rewarding, and your trip sounds tiring, a little anxiety-provoking, but ultimately thoroughly worthwhile.
    I hope you don't give up on your Vendee plans, it looks so beautiful, and I'm sure that you could track down a caravan which fits the bill. And now there's a man in the picture over there too - ooh la la!
    I bet waiting to meet him and fearing that he wouldn't show was the scariest bit of the trip, but no one would be mad enough to stand you up, you're gorgeous! (And it rather sounds as though you think he is too!)
    Wonderful photos, as always.
    Keep us posted! xxx

  3. How exciting that you are looking into this! I hope that next year you will find the perfect place and get to spend lots of time there enjoying it! xx

  4. Wow Fiona! An adventure with so much promise. Really enjoyed reading about your trip and can imagine how nerve-wracking it must have been. I'd have been the same, but one thing I've learnt recently is just how much is to be gained from pushing yourself out of your comfort zone once in a while and taking a few risks. Makes you feel alive. And a bit anxious. But mostly alive! Hope you find somewhere that ticks all the boxes xx
    Beautiful photos!

  5. What a thrilling read, I was with you all the way!
    Travelling on your own is very daunting, I've done it too, but don't you feel a lot better for doing it? Empowered and invincible!
    Your dream caravan will come along eventually, the ones you looked at look lovely but I don't think I'd want to be cooped up with a load of Brits either.
    Fancy meeting up with the old flame and not being disappointed. I'm watching with excitement. xxx

  6. I am in awe I'm not sure I could have done such a trip alone but how well worth it? Fingers crossed you find the home of your dreams and hopefully you'll have a good reason to be visiting more often :)

  7. Oh this is a great story. Very romantic. It would make a sweet little film. So who will play you in the movie? Bonnet de douche. That cracked me up.

  8. What a wonderful adventure, and beautiful photos! Meeting the old boyfriend must have been both frightening and rewarding - what a wonderful story. France has certainly been on my mind today, and it's nice to see the beauty in it. I'm glad you got home safely.

  9. I love this post … so much going on. Shame the caravans didn't turn out, but the scenery was worth the trip anyway. And as for the reunion … well … maybe no more sad singleton ;0)
    You can always come to Circular Quay for your honeymoon ;0)

  10. Oh my goodness, I didn't think it could get any more exciting than looking for a second home in France...and then you pulled a mystery French man out of the bag! Fiona! I'm enthralled. I've got my fingers well and truly crossed that this French adventure has a part two, and three and four...you get the picture. I'm very impressed that you did that on your own. I remember flying to Israel on my own twenty years ago, and all the other passengers were eyeing me up. I felt like such a woman of mystery. Bet you felt like The Boss! Xxx

  11. What a stunning area, no wonder you're smitten with it. I'm sorry the caravan wasn't right but you don't want to be with too many English folk abroad! Better luck nest time! Xx

  12. Ooooh, Fiona - what an exciting post. Travel and rekindled romance - what could be a better combination? I shall watch this space with great interest! xx

  13. I did enjoy reading about your French adventure Fiona, you are so brave and I'm sure now you've done it once next time will be a breeze! Gorgeous pictures of the area, it looks so pretty and would be a perfect place for holiday home. Chris xx


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