Places,  Sites

France 2022 – Part 3: Week 2

Monday 13th June

We had a rough idea of where to go after Le Mans… start at Chateau de Chambord, then head West along the Loire Valley, then North to head home via Mont Saint Michel and the Normandy beaches.
I’d done the Normandy beaches four years ago but I had the dogs with me that time and it was too hot to leave them in the motorhome to visit some places so I wanted to go back to visit some of the museums and see the Bayeux tapestry.

After packing up camp at Le Mans we took the opportunity to fill the van up with water at the campsite then take a drive around the circuit before leaving the area and heading to Chateau de Chambord.

Our route out of Le Mans (Google maps)

After a stop for some shopping at Blois we arrived at the Chateau around lunchtime.

The chateau is one of the most recognisable in the world, it’s massive! The central twin spiral staircase are replicated in many buildings around the world.

It’s €11 for 24 hours and you can stay in the motorhome area of the car park. There are composting toilets there but no other facilities.

While relaxing in the evening, I saw a couple of hot air balloons being prepped outside the Chateau so we rushed over to watch them take off into the blue evening sky.

Tuesday 14th June

Next stop was Tours with a stop-over in Amboise on the way.

Amboise was the home of Leonardo da Vinci from 1516 until his death in 1519. He’s buried near to the Chateau. We walked around the town but didn’t go into the chateau or the da Vinci museum.

We arrived at Tours a little early to get into the campsite so drove over to Lac de la Bergeonnerie, made a sandwich in the car park and had a wander around part of the lake.

We stayed at Camping Onlycamp Tours. €19.32 for one night. All services and very clean, modern toilet/shower blocks. A bit outside the city centre but easily accessible by bike.

Once we’d set-up camp, we got the bikes out and cycled over the river to the Cathedral. We rode around the city and visited the cathedral, the shopping streets and the old town.

The weather forecast was showing it to be getting much hotter as this week goes on. We made the decision to run for the coast and to try to avoid the hottest temperatures by being near the sea. We always planned to head west but decided to do it a little quicker.

Wednesday 15th June

We started the day with a nice cool location… underground!

Grottes Pétrifiantes de Savonnières are located just west of Tours and on the main D7 south of the Loire river.

There’s two main caves and we joined a tour that had done one cave, then as they left, we had a private tour of the second cave. It’s one of those places that put things (dolls, toys, plates etc) into the water of the caves so that the limescale builds up on them and they become solid like stone (petrified).

A short hop (1.2 miles) further along the road, we stopped at Chateau de Villandry. €12 gets you a ticket to the chateau and grounds which we spent nearly two hours wandering around.

Next quick stop along the Loire was Saumur. A bit difficult to find somewhere to park the motorhome, we stopped on the street near the bridge across the river. Expecting to need to pay for two tickets, Andrew was surprised to find free parking on a Wednesday afternoon. It was getting very warm by now so we decided not to wander around another chateau and continue towards Nantes.

We arrived at Nantes quiet late, about 6.30pm and headed for Camping Nantes. If they were full, there’s an aire next door so hopefully we’d find somewhere to stay the night.

We managed to get into Camping Nantes and paid €23 with ACSI for the night. We wanted to stay for two nights but they only had one available. A very large site with multiple sanitary blocks, a restaurant and bar. Conveniently, there’s a tram stop on the main road outside.

Thursday 16th June

We moved the motorhome to the visitors car park in case we were not back before the 3pm check-out. We found it was cheaper to buy a one day travel ticket for four people than for two tickets, so we hopped on the tram to the city centre. After grabbing a couple of pain au chocolat, we wandered over to the Chateau des ducs de Bretagne which was free to walk around the grounds.

The other big place to visit in Nantes is Les Machines de l’Île, the artistic project inspired by Leonardo da Vinci and Jules Verne. Built inside an old shipyard it attracts thousands of visitors to see their constructions and ride in their giant elephant. If you want to see/ride the elephant you need to pay for an extra ticket and it’s only viewable at certain times of the day. Check the website for details.

With the heat increasing, we headed back to the campsite to collect the motorhome and move further along the river to Saint Nazaire.

We parked next to the submarine base for a wander in the cooler submarine pens. It was way too hot to stay around, so we looked for a campsite with a pool and near the sea.

Looking on searchforsites we picked Camping Eve, 25 minutes along the coast.

Camping Eve was €22.10 for the night and had nice facilities with both an indoor and outdoor pool plus a little tunnel under the road to a nice beach. The site had a nice bar/restaurant with takeaway.

We spent some time on the beach where I braved a dip in the sea which was much colder than expected! Andrew chickened out of the sea but went in the site pool while I had a cold beer or three.

Friday 17th June

It was hot hot hot and forecast to get even hotter so we decided to skip our planned stop at Dinan and head straight to Mont Saint Michel, a near four hour drive away. It would also allow us to arrive before the expected weekend rush.

I’d originally planned on us staying at one of the aires near Mont Saint Michel but Andrew suggested we stay at the campsite within the grounds of the hotel inside the tourist complex. After figuring out how to actually get to the campsite and getting a pitch, we set-up camp in the shade and started to explore the area.

We stayed at Camping du Mont Saint-Michel for two nights at €40.88. You’re supposed to pay an extra charge of about €9 per day for parking but due to some complications with the barrier we didn’t seem to get charged for that. There’s good facilities with a key fob to gain access. There’s plenty of restaurants in the complex, plus a small shop and bakery.

To get onto the “Mont” itself, you can cycle, walk or take the free shuttle bus across the causeway.

We grabbed lunch from the bakery and had a look around the tourist complex. In the evening we ate at La Rôtisserie where I had my first Moules Frites of the holiday. Later in the evening we hopped on the bus for our first trip across the causeway. We didn’t go into the Mont but had a look around the entrance area in preparation for a full visit the next day.

Saturday 18th June

With the forecast to be even hotter, and the fact I didn’t sleep terribly well, I decided to head off to visit the Mont early. Andrew was still in bed.

The shuttle buses start running at 7.30am so I was on one at around 8:10am, getting across the causeway when it was still very quiet.
It’s a bit of a trek up the steps to the Abbey at the top so I was quite relieved that I’d arrived 15 minutes before it opened and I could have a sit for a bit as there were even more steps inside. You do have to pay extra for entrance to the Abbey.

As Andrew was an hour and a half behind me, I caught the bus back to the campsite, jumped on my bike and rode to the next village, Beauvoir, for lunch at a bakery. I then rode back to the Mont to find Andrew.

We caught the bus yet again later to have dinner. Most places were closing but we found Hotel Restaurant Duguesclin and had their set menu. The food was a very reasonable €24 each but a beer was €10 each, so we spent nearly as much on two beers each as for a three course meal!

I had some amazing lamb (no mint sauce though)