A Travellerspoint blog

Return to the UK

and into the welcome arms of family and friends

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The ferry ride back across the channel brought feelings of relief, sadness, excitement, exhaustion and accomplishment. We had a much needed wine and positioned ourselves in the play area where the boys couldn't get up to too much trouble.


Our first stop in the UK was back to Surrey for another Rutherford rescue. I cannot explain the joy of being with friends after so long of it just being the 4 of us, and also the joy of being in an actual house! We could only stay for a night but it was the tonic that we needed.


We stopped in to see Lesley in London which was just wonderful, we missed her hugely


We had the most wonderful time at our darling friends Jane and Mike's wedding in Oxfordshire and my parents met us for babysitting duties at the hotel!


All together again we drove back up to Stoke, a relaxing journey for both Dad and Mylo!


It felt rather surreal being back here again, just as we left with nothing changed yet so much having happened.



It was such a special time spent with my parents, and for us all to be together, in one place at one time, at least until our next big journey in January 2015 when we will start our new chapter in New Zealand.

Forever together

Forever together

Posted by bywaterbyland 18:45 Archived in England Comments (1)

Bouchemaine - Sable-sur-Sarthe - Dieppe

Our last leg in Europe ......

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Even though it would be a fleeting visit we were desperate to see at least some of the Loire before crossing back into England. We pulled into Bouchemaine on the Maine river while dark but were able to explore this pretty little town the next morning by foot despite it being a grey, drizzle day.


We stayed in an Aires that used to be a campsite so while checking in etc was all automated, we had all of the facilities that we needed.


Upon leaving Bouchemaine we crossed the Loire and got our obligatory tourist shots :-) I continued to be amazed at the huge change in scenery from one area to another and I do hope we can return to the Loire one day to spend more time discovering it's beauty.


Our stomachs guided us to the destination for our final night in France. We wanted to go out for a proper meal somewhere a little bit special so we rejected a few options before discovering the exquisite Sable-sur-Sarthe. Our initial impression of the town wasn't overwhelming as we entered via a rather industrial and spiritless area but after turning a corner our breaths were taken away. It was the most beautiful town on the Sarthe river with a gorgeous bridge leading into the main square flanked by impressive buildings and gorgeous autumnal colour and dotted with little boutique stores.


We managed to find the most brilliant place to park for the night, right next to the river overlooking the bridge and only a 10 minute walk over the bridge into the town.


Soon after parking up we headed in for dinner and upon a local recommendation, went to "Restaurant St Martin". The boys were hungry and tired so a bit of a handful but regardless we had a wonderful evening and J and I enjoyed a bottle of wine from Bordeaux (whose sky and soul we were still missing!)


When we walked back the whole town was illuminated with the most incredible lights, even a moving projection of maple leaves!


It was a perfect atmosphere and a perfect evening and it felt almost impossible to believe that tomorrow we would be back in the U.K.

When we couldn't find anywhere in Sable-sur-Sarthe serving Crepes for breakfast (apparently Crepes for breakfast is unheard of in France!) we settled with some gorgeous French pastries, which was no hardship! It was wonderful to see bread being made right in front of our eyes.


The journey to Dieppe was restricted to motorways to ensure we didn't miss our boat but we did stop at an aires to eat lunch and get some fresh air.


After a frantic stock up on French goodies at a Dieppe supermarket we made it to the ferry in good time and we all felt a bit emotional saying goodbye to France and all of the countries that we had been so lucky to visit and which had helped us form the most wonderful chapter in this families life. What an incredible journey with so many beautiful people and places and memories that we will forever cherish, as we will the learnings and lessons of ourselves and each other and the discovery of who we are together, a unit far stronger than the sum of it's parts.


Posted by bywaterbyland 18:13 Archived in France Comments (1)

La Rochelle

via Soubise

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Our journey from Bordeaux to La Rochelle was broken up by an impromtu stay in Soubise, a small town on La Charente River, just south of La Rochelle.


Our eventual arrival in La Rochelle on the 13th was much later than hoped due to tantruming children and the necessity to stock up on supplies. We struggled to find somewhere to park the camper and very nearly got stuck in a VERY narrow street but eventually we found "Aire de Camping-Car Jean Moulin" which was effectively a huge flat car park but we had grass and space and we were delighted.


The following day we explored this glorious city by bike. We were blessed with gorgeous weather and stopped for a picnic lunch before devouring French pastries after which we spent hours discovering little lanes and waterside paths.


We and found the incredible Parc Charruyer with a mini zoo and a fantastic playground. We spent several hours here playing a swinging and laughing. The colours of autumn were brilliant and both boys had a wonderful time, it really was a perfect afternoon.


Posted by bywaterbyland 02:16 Archived in France Comments (0)


The start of a love affair .....

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Our drive into Bordeaux, though on the motorway (E72), rewarded us with glorious views of a landscape that varied hugely from those that we had seen before. We felt so lucky to be experiencing this area at this time of year as the bursts of autumnal colour made everything looked even more breathtakingly beautiful alongside the rows upon rows of grapevines, wide open pastures, enormous trees, church spires and towering castles. Above all though, the feature of this landscape which really set this area apart was the sky. I have never seen the sky look so huge, literally endless and so so blue. I am not sure why the sky here looked so different, possibly due to the huge plains, but it really was quite something to see and something I would never tire of looking at.

large_IMG_3823.jpglarge_IMG_3846.jpgHave I mentioned the sky?!

Have I mentioned the sky?!


We stopped at a aires for a break and the boys enjoyed playing with their remote control car that we had picked up for them at a second had shop in Castelsarrasin.


After the visual feast of our drive we found our destination "Chateau Haut Pezaud" just a few kilometers into the Dordogne. There were a few campers already parked up and we chose a site that was literally right between two rows of grapevines.

VERY excited to be going to a vineyard!

VERY excited to be going to a vineyard!


It was probably my favorite position yet and when we opened the doors Felix almost immediately positioned himself underneath a vine and started picking grapes and popping them straight into his mouth!


It really was the most incredible setting. The owners of the vineyard also had chickens and geese which the boys loved looking at although the geese did get a bit territorial! Mylo ran about, exploring our new terrain and kept bringing me back little flowers to keep.


We visited the onsite shop and had our own personal wine tasting session which was a brilliant experience given that we could see men and women in the fields picking grapes, and the machinery at work.


We purchased numerous bottles to ensure we were stocked up and also bought some local pate. It was the selling of this local fare that allowed the owners this piece of paradise to let campervans stay for free for up to three nights after which a 2E fee per night applies! Absolutely incredible, I wish we could have stayed here for months, eating grapes and drinking wine and truly and absolutely relaxing in the beauty of it all.


The morning after our arrival the rain came so, knowing that we only had a week left until our crossing back to England, we pushed on to St Emilion. A clearing in the weather gave Jeremy the opportunity to skate down a road which he of course snapped up :-)


The mist and moisture from the rainfall seemed to enhance the beauty around us and we were thankful to get stuck behind a grape collector as it it meant we take in even more of the gorgeous surroundings. We savored an exquisite route through clustered vineyards and chateaux, linked together by quiet lanes which made us feel as though we were the only ones who had discovered the heart of Bordeaux.


We arrived at "Yelloh Saint Emilion" campsite at 7.30pm and made a decision to splash out and eat "a la carte". After ordering our food we had a chance to look around the campsite and were wowed by the facilities. There was a heated swimming pool and jacuzzi, tennis courts, mini golf, a bouncy castle, a lake with free hire boats, a giant chess set and a dedicated children's bathroom with 2 big frog baths and 2 animated showers and sinks. The campsite was virtually empty but the staff went out of their way to make us feel welcome and we got some good tips for exploring the area.

We started the following morning with a Croissant breakfast and with heavy rain outside we passed the time by getting out Mylo's art supplies.


By mid morning the rain had cleared and and we cycled into St Emilion center along quiet back roads among the vines. It was impossible not to feel part of Bordeaux while being surrounded by fruit laden vines. There was a distinctive pungent smell coming from some vineyards, which we assumed was the smell of freshly harvested grapes despite not seeing anyone working in the fields.


St Emilion itself is the most gorgeous town imaginable with small cobbled streets and a steep winding descent through the village flanked on every side by vines as far as the eye can see. We grabbed a quick sandwich lunch and sampled macaroons and other delicacies.


We all got soaked on the cycle home but were delighted to try out the fabulous kids bathroom.


The next day I couldn't resist heading out on my own to pick up some supplies from the local Boucherie which we all enjoyed for lunch



We knew we would need to leave tomorrow so made use of the facilities.


Our final day in Bordeaux was the day to sample some wine! The campsite was closing for the season so we parked up outside St Emilion and put the boys in the buggy. We discovered a side of St Emiilon that we hadn't seen before which looked down over the town and gave a concentrated view of the brilliant architecture

large_IMG_4158.jpglarge_270_IMG_4183.jpg. large_270_6D326E55D7D695E7F0E86F6AD3A3DD2A.jpglarge_270_IMG_4180.jpglarge_270_IMG_4160.jpglarge_IMG_4157.jpglarge_270_IMG_4153.jpglarge_270_IMG_4183.jpg

We happened across a wonderful market in a cloister and treated ourselves to some local delights.


We were unsure where to go wine tasting and popped out heads into one shop but were told that we could not try before buying. The prices outside looked a little bit out of our budget anyway!


Just around the corner we found the most gorgeous shop "Etablissements Martin" and were welcomed in by Charles who, from the moment we walked in the door, took such good care of us and gave us a wine tasting experience we will never forget.


We tasted 7 wines and learned a HUGE amount and left with 4 bottles, 2 for now and 2 to keep. Charles let us hold some bottles of some VERY expensive wine, I can't remember how much the most expensive was but it was in the thousands so thank goodness we didn't drop it!


We walked off the wine from the tasting and gave the boys a picnic dinner before saying goodbye to Bordeaux which farewelled us with the most magnificent sunset, from an unforgettable sky.


Posted by bywaterbyland 18:59 Archived in France Comments (0)

Arles to Castelsarrasin

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We managed to make some pretty good headway last night, travelling three hours from St Tropez to Arles. We chose this place after consulting our camperstop book as it sounded like a beautiful, historic old town. We arrived after midnight and parked, as guided, in a carpark outside the old city. When we woke the following morning, our empty carpark was a hub of activity and we tentatively peeked outside, almost expecting to have received a ticket for parking here but thankfully we were ok!


The city was absolutely gorgeous, situated on the Rhone and with an impressive Colosseum, apparently the 20th largest in Europe. The city was full of tiny cobbled streets that interlaced with each other and often hid huge feasts of architecture until the last moment.


We treated ourselves to a "Rhum baba" which is like a fruit sponge served with a shot of rum (11am? Yes please!) and a profiterole for Mylo.


After a few hours of exploring we returned to the van for lunch and set out again, wanting to get as close as possible to Bordeaux.

We broke up the journey by stopping just outside of Carcassone beside some terraced playing fields where the boys burnt off some energy while I prepped dinner. We trecked on and Jeremy put in an epic effort, making it to Castelsarrasin where our Camperstop book guided us to a fantastic (and free!) camping spot on an illuminated street right on the canal.


As always, it was exciting for us all to open the curtains and see where we were.

large_IMG_7003.jpglarge_IMG_7005.jpgA new day

A new day

We enjoyed a morning bike ride after a croissant breakfast.


According to our sat nav we were now only 2 hours from Bordeaux which was a relief as we were both sick of marathon drives.

Posted by bywaterbyland 21:22 Archived in France Comments (0)

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