What a difference a night makes. Yesterday evening we’d been sitting outside sipping beers and glasses of wine in sunshine, albeit punctuated by clouds. This morning we’d awoken to Guillaume’s roof covered in rain drops and a Normandy countryside swathed in solid dark clouds that were on the deck and hiding the tops of those rolling green hills much beloved of the Normandy milk-producing cattle. Mercifully it wasn’t actually raining so packing up to hit the road was no problem. It was a good day for travel; what else would we do in weather like this?
We’ve arrived in France with a much more fixed idea of what we’ll be doing than we usually have. This is largely because we want to take a side trip into Spain to check on our house – and to experience what should be more or less guaranteed sunshine, since French springs are, like our own, less than reliable these days. Our first stop is planned to be a week at Arçais in the Marais Poitevin catching up with friends Mike and Linda who live there. Mike is interested in relieving me of my old Canon EOS 40D camera body to renew his interest in photography. I’ve brought it with me for him to try. We hit the road for what was likely to be an expensive day travelling most of the 340 miles on some of the more expensive French autoroutes.
I confess to being a bit bemused by the French autoroute charging logic. Some of the roads have long sections which are free; naturally, these are a little busier but they still have considerably less traffic than our own overcrowded road network. Others have charges which don’t cause too much of a pain in the wallet. The autoroute down towards le Mans and beyond, however, could cause your credit card manager to phone checking that your card had not been stolen and misused – beyond Le Mans, we stumped up our first charge amounting to a princely €55.80. Our credit card manager would later be further concerned by a second charge of almost €20 more as we approached our destination 7½ hours after setting out – not bad with Guillaume on the back.
The weather had been clearing steadily as we approached the La Rochelle region. This area of France has a microclimate that gives it the second highest sunshine record in the country, behind that of the Côte d’Azure. Being a now sunny bank holiday Monday in France, Arçais was heaving with tourists as we made our final approach. The camping minicipale, however, looked blissfully (for us) under used and we found Guillaume what appeared to be a very spacious corner pitch offering both shade and sunshine.
Friend Mike arrived as we were enjoying a post-installation drink to invite us to dinner that evening. It’s good to be back.