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Back to France again

May 5th, 2023

As we crossed the border (with no traffic), the weather changed and it began to rain.  We saw some signs about the “maginot” and looked up to see if there were any spots nearby to see part of it. There was a location about 17 km off our route and as we had plenty of time, we drove there.

The Maginot Line named after the French Minister of War André Maginot, is a line of concrete fortifications, obstacles and weapon installations built by France in the 1930s to deter invasion by Germany and force them to move around the fortifications.  The Maginot Line was impervious to most forms of attack. Consequently, the Germans invaded through the Low Countries in 1940, passing it to the north. The line, which was supposed to be fully extended further towards the west to avoid such an occurrence, was finally scaled back in response to demands from Belgium. Indeed, Belgium feared it would be sacrificed in the event of another German invasion. The line has since become a metaphor for expensive efforts that offer a false sense of security.

The Maginot Line was invulnerable to aerial bombings and tank fire; it featured underground railways as a backup. It also had state-of-the-art living conditions for garrisoned troops, supplying air conditioning and eating areas for their comfort. French and British officers had anticipated the geographical limits of the Maginot Line; when Germany invaded the Netherlands and Belgium, they carried out plans to form an aggressive front that cut across Belgium and connected to the Maginot Line.

However, the French line was weak near the Ardennes Forest. General Maurice Gamelin, when drafting the Dyle Plan, believed this region, with its rough terrain, would be an unlikely invasion route of German forces; if it were traversed, it would be done at a slow rate that would allow the French time to bring up reserves and counterattacks. The German Army, having reformulated their plans from a repeat of the First World War-era plan, became aware of and exploited this weak point in the French defensive front. A rapid advance through the forest and across the River Meuse encircled much of the Allied forces, resulting in a sizeable force having to be evacuated at Dunkirk and leaving the troops to the south unable to mount an effective resistance to the German invasion of France.

French countryside:

We have seen several nuclear reactors diving around France.

France derives about 70% of its electricity from nuclear energy.  Government policy aims to reduce that share to 50% by 2035.  France is the world’s largest net exporter of electricity due to the low cost of generation and gains over €3 billion a year this way.  The worst nuclear accident in France took place in 1980 at the Saint-Laurent nuclear reactor when two fuel rods melted seriously damaing the reactor.  This was classified a level 4 on the scale of 0-7 scale of Nuclear Events.

By the time we got a couple of clicks from Talange it was raining hard.  We parked in a different grocery store parking lot, had breakfast and read until it was time for our appointment at 3:30.

It had stopped raining when we arrived but it was cooler than yesterday.  By 4:10 we had our control technique done, got the paperwork and we’re done.  Now we’d mentioned earlier about a slightly frayed seat belt that someone told us would not pass muster but the fellow never even mentioned it yesterday in the pre inspection, however, today he told us we should consider replacing it for safety’s sake.

The fellow put the new chit in the window (this is where you keep proof of insurance and inspection) and we left.  We didn’t want to drive far as it was later than we usually like to stop for the day.  Fran found a parking area on a river where others had spent quiet nights and we drove there – near the town of Auboué.  It was next to a river and park, and it was a huge gravel lot set back a bit from the town and any busy roads.  Sounded like a place to sleep more soundly after last night.

It was a tad cooler today and overcast with sunny breaks.  We drove towards the city of Verdun where the hellish Battle of Verdun was fought in WWI in 1916.

Battle of Verdun, (February 21–December 18, 1916), World War I engagement in which the French repulsed a major German offensive. It was one of the longest, bloodiest, and most-ferocious battles of the war; French casualties amounted to about 400,000, German ones to about 350,000. Some 300,000 were killed.  One of the costliest battles in military history, Verdun exemplified the policy of a “war of attrition” pursued by both sides, which led to an enormous loss of life and very large casualty lists.  It was offered referred to as “hell on earth”. 

First we stopped at one of the battle sights where we saw a casement which is a fortified gun emplacement or armored structure from which guns are fired.

Then we drove to the museum/memorial which had a path to the “disappeared” town of Fleury-devant-Douaumont.

During the Battle of Verdun in 1916 it was captured and recaptured by the Germans and French 16 times. Since then, it has been unoccupied (official population: 0), as have the communes of Bezonvaux, Beaumont-en-Verdunois, Haumont-près-Samogneux, Louvemont-Côte-du-Poivre and Cumières-le-Mort-Homme.

During the war, the town was completely destroyed and the land rendered so uninhabitable that officials decided not to rebuild it. As the land around the municipality was polluted with corpses, ammunition, explosives and poisonous gas, it was deemed too contaminated for farming to resume. The site is maintained as a testimony to war and is officially designated as a “village that died for France.” It is managed by a municipal council of three members appointed by the prefect of the Meuse department.

Before the war Fleury was a village of 422 engaged in agriculture and woodworking. Today, it is a wooded area next to the Verdun Memorial. Arrows guide visitors to where the streets and houses used to be.

It was quite moving to walk through the grounds of the town where you can still see craters where bombs must have exploded and realize that there really is nothing left.

There are a few memorials and it’s a very somber walk around.

Aft we left, we drove through the actual town of Verdun and came across a huge cemetery:

The next day in the middle of farm country we saw another one just like so we expect they are scattered all around the country.  The road through this area reminded us of the UK – narrow and barely wide enough for two vehicles.

The area in this part of France is hill and mostly farmland with tiny villages, most of which don’t have a great deal of charm and some look just old and sad.

Fran had found an aire with power between Verdun and our next stop, Reims, that offers power and parking for €8 for 24 hours and across the road are free showers, toilets, water, and dumping facilities.  Some of the road there was rather narrow – barley a lane wide but we made it.

It’s like in the middle of nowhere with some buildings that we can’t figure out what they are for.  There were a few people around and maybe they are workers of some sort and it looked like some farming was going on but it was a great deal.

We both did our walking and then spent a chill afternoon and evening in the quiet with only the sound of chirping birds as there was almost no traffic along this road.

We awoke to some light and after our Sunday morning routine, we showered in the heated bathrooms (!), dumped and filled and were on our way. By the end of Doug’s morning run, it had begun to lightly rain.

Our destination today was the city of Reims as we have booked a champagne cellar tour for Monday.  There are a few other sights to see in the city but not enough that we have to go into the city both this afternoon and tomorrow morning.

Most of the drive was through the French countryside and we saw two different large cemeteries like the one we saw in Verdun yesterday.

It rained well into the afternoon but during a bit of a lull, Fran went for a walk to pick up a few things and otherwise we stayed in Minou; we played some crib and later had our monthly KEGS zoom call.

The place we are parked is provided by the Champagne Institute and is a parking area for six campers. Upon arriving at the gate, you call a number and they give you the code to open the barrier.   There are no services right at the parking lot but right at the entrance there is a dump site for black and gray and fresh water; very nice of them to do this for motorhomes.  Reims has a low emissions zone which Minou cannot enter so luckily this is just outside that zone.

Reims is a city in northeastern France’s Grand Est region. It’s the unofficial capital of the Champagne wine-growing region, and many of the champagne houses headquartered there offer tastings and cellar tours.

For more than 1,000 years, French kings were crowned at its Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims.

 Zilch for the tunnel count today.

Monday morning was another holiday in France:  Victory in Europe Day.  This the day celebrating the formal acceptance by the Allies of WW II of Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces on Tuesday, 8 May 1945, marking the official end of WW II in Europe in the Eastern Front, with the last shots fired on the 11th.

We left Minou around 9:30 to see some sights before our champagne tour at 11.  It was super quiet with hardly anything open and tons of people out jogging the wet streets.

We visited Notre Dame, the location of many of the coronations of the kings of France.  This church is bigger than Notre Dame in Paris!  Notre Dame Reims size is quite exceptional at 150m / xx’ long 48m / xx’ wide and 83m / xx’ high with an impressive nave of 38m / xx’.  It has 2303 statues; 56 of which are statues of kings over 4m / xx’ tall.

the front of the church
one side of the doorway
other side

This church we did go inside:

view looking towards the back
view towards the front

We walked by the closed for the Andrew Carnegie Library donated to the city as part of an International fund for peace after WWII.

We saw the Opera House:

The Viollet-le-Duc, a building from the 13th and 14th centuries which became known as the Musician’s House and the residence of Comte de Champagne. This was unique because most houses at this time were built of wood and cob.  The building was actually destroyed in WWI but these statues were saved and are in the museum.  The ones show here are replicas and the building is where the original stood.

We saw a few other champagne houses than the one we were going to tour:

Then in Place Royale we saw the town hall and its square:

Then we walked by the “Cryptoportique” which is an underground gallery known as a “horreum” in the shape of a U.  It was certainly the northern part of the Roman forum during antiquity which must have been 65  m wide by 250  m long; it was built around the year 100 and mostly ruined during the invasions of the fourth century.  Its entrance consisted of a monumental staircase which turned at right angles and thus passed above an altar for the statue of the emperor.

Today it had a stage set up in front, so we were able to see it well.

We walked down many pedestrian streets, saw the solidarity fountain:

And the Subé Fountain with its golden statue atop it:

We made our way to the Porte Mars only to find it covered up and under restoration:

The monumental Mars Gate dates from the first part of the 3rd century and is the only remaining of four gates that gave access to the Gallo-Roman town known as Durocortorum. The arch stands 32 metres long and 13 metres high, with three wide arched openings and is the longest preserved Roman arch in the world. It was named after a nearby temple to Mars. The arch has many highly detailed carvings on its exterior and on the ceilings of its three passageways, including Romulus and Remus, farm workers, and Leda and the swan. Local folklore says that the inhabitants of Reims built the arch in gratitude when the Romans brought major roads through their city. It became part of the castle of the archbishops in 1228, which was destroyed in 1595, leaving the arch, with the openings blocked, part of the city walls. Rediscovered in 1667, it was not fully revealed until the dismantling of the city walls in 1844-54.

From Google:

There was a war memorial across the road and we could see some ceremonies were being prepared for on this day.

We tried to find a baker to get a snack before our tour but nothing was open.  We arrived at GH Mumm, paid or tickets and the tour started.  We were a group of about 15 and the tour was in English.

G.H. Mumm & Cie is a Champagne house founded in 1827 and based in Reims, France and is one of the largest Champagne houses and is currently ranked 4th globally based on number of bottles sold. The company is owned by Pernod Ricard.

G.H. Mumm was the official sponsor of F1 racing from 2000 until 2015 and provided the champagne bottles for the podium celebrations after each race.

G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge is also the official champagne of the Kentucky Derby and the Melbourne Cup.

(Mumm Napa is one of California’s traditional method sparkling wine producers, a joint venture between the G.H. Mumm & Cie and Joseph E Seagram & Sons. The location in Napa Valley was founded by Guy Deveaux, who determined Napa’s long hot days and cold nights to be ideal for producing the right amount of acidity and ripeness.)

We learned about the production of champagne in this special region of France:

The grapes used are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier and they are grown only in this region.

The grapes are only hand picked and pressed in the vineyards.  They are placed in large vats (used to be wood, them ceramic lined concrete and today, stainless steel).  After a time, sugar and yeast are added and the “wine” is bottled after which they are stored horizontally for years.  When they are deemed ready for the type of champagne they will called, they are placed in racks on angle.  Over a period of six weeks, people called “riddlers” move the bottles daily to have the sediment which as collected move into the neck of the bottle.  It requires three years of schooling to become a riddler.  Nowadays, much of the riddler’s job is done by machine but humans are still used for those bottles which are not standard size. When a machine does the riddling, the time is reduced to one week.

“Disgorging” is the final step in this time-honored process. In this step, the yeast used to create the delicate bubbles is expelled from the bottle. The inverted bottles are placed in a freezing liquid of -25C which causes the yeast to freeze in the neck of the bottle. The cap is then quickly popped off the pressurized bottle, discarding the frozen piece containing the yeast.

After the frozen piece is popped off, a mixture of wine and sugar, is added to fill the bottles and to adjust the final sugar levels of the wine. The bottles are then immediately corked and enclosed with a wire cage. All that remains is to hand-label each bottle before making its way out into the world.

The tour began with a short movie, then we were taken into the chalk tunnels ( “crayéres” in French) where champagne bottles are stocked. Their constant temperature of 10°C with a constant humidity all year round makes them the ideal place to shelter the cellars of champagne.

Bottles from 2019:

These tunnels were used in the wars as places of refuge during the wars.  Only in the second world war did production stop.

A typical “red ribbon” bottle of traditional champagne takes four years to produce.  If a bottle has a “vintage” year on it, it means that year was a particularly good year for harvesting and a great deal of quality wine was produced.  If the bottle  says “blanc du blanc” it’s mae only from chardonnay grapes; “blanc du noir” means only with pinot noir.

GH Mumm has 25 km / 15+ mi of chalk tunnels 14m / 45 ‘ metres below the ground.

At the end of the tour we walked through a small museum of items previously used in the champagne making process:

This was followed by a visit to the tasting room where depending on which ticket you purchased, you got to taste one, two or three types of champagne.  As Doug does not like wine we only chose the one taste and Fran drank both:

After the tour we walked back to Minou stopping for a quick lunch in a burger joint.  Before leaving the camping car parking we dumped and were on our way to an aire Fran found close to Pierrefonds, our next destination.

Here parking was also free and there was a station from which you could get water and power for a small fee as well as dump for free.  However, the payment station on the machine was not working so we were not able to get power to use our hot air popper tonight – too bad.

No tunnels today either.

The night was very quiet but raining when we woke up and it lasted all day varying in intensity.  We drove the short distance to the small village of Pierrefonds this morning to see the Chateaux Pierrefonds.  It was described as a “fairy tale” castle and not overly done with furnishings.

The Château de Pierrefonds is located on the southeast edge of the forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris.

The Château de Pierrefonds includes most of the characteristics of defensive military architecture from the Middle Ages, though it underwent a major restoration in the 19th century.

In the 12th century, a castle was built on this site. Two centuries later, in 1392, King Charles VI turned the County of Valois (of which Pierrefonds was part) into a Duchy and gave it to his brother Louis, Duke of Orléans. From 1393 to his death in 1407, the latter had the castle rebuilt.

In March 1617 the castle was besieged and taken by troops sent by Richelieu, the secretary of state for war. Its demolition was started, but not carried through to the end because of the enormity of the task. The exterior works were razed, the roofs destroyed and holes made in the towers and curtain walls.  The castle remained a ruin for more than two centuries. Napoleon I bought it in 1810 for less than 3,000 francs.

Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (later Napoleon III of France) visited the castle in 1850. As emperor he arranged for its restoration.  In 1861, the project grew in scale: the sovereign wanted to create an imperial residence, so the castle was to be entirely rebuilt. The works, which would cost 5 million francs, of which 4 million were to come from the civil list, were stopped in 1885. The departure of Napoléon III had halted the reconstruction and, through lack of money, the decoration of rooms was unfinished. Inside, the architect, Viollet-le-Duc produced more a work of invention than restoration (polychrome paintings). He imagined how the castle ought to have been, rather than basing his work on the strict history of the building. On the other hand, with the exterior he showed an excellent knowledge of the military architecture of the 14th century.

Château de Pierrefonds has been designated as a monument historique since 1862.  The castle has often been used as a location for filming including Les Visiteurs, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc and the 1998 version of The Man in the Iron Mask. The castle was used as the setting for Camelot in the BBC series Merlin. In 2017, the castle was used for filming during the Canal+ and Netflix series Versailles.

As we drove into the town we saw one side of it was covered in scaffolding, just our luck again! but as we walked over to it after parking, the other side was fine and visible.

As you know we don’t visit the inside of a lot of castles, but this one seemed more interesting and not expensive (€8 vs many that are €20) and it has been a while since we visited one.  The walk up to the entrance was sort of a roundabout way (and we followed the signs that said “entry”).  After paying our entrance fee we spent no more than an hour checking out the castle.

At one point you go down into the cellars where the statues of famous French people are on display.  The hallway is dark and as you walk down the hall, there are the “voices of the kings” being played over a sound system and pictures of them on the walls above them.

Since 1953, the castle of Pierrefonds has housed a permanent exhibition of sculptures featuring famous men and women from France’s history. Dedicated to “all the glories of France”, these recumbent statues and praying figures, kept in Versailles since their creation, were moved to Pierrefonds in the 1830s at the request of Louis-Philippe.

The tour ended at the chapel which has the same sort of high nave that the last two big churches we visited had as well as stained glass windows.

We finished up just after 11 and went back to Minou in the continuing rain.  It might have been nice to walk around the town by the rain was coming down pretty hard and our feet were already wet so we passed.  After making breakfast we drove southwest around the top of Paris to Versailles – we’ve been to Paris before, more than once, but never made it to the palace here.  We are debating about spending a day in Paris as well via public transport but the weather looks wet for the next week and we need to decide if we want to.

The traffic on the ring roads around Paris was horrific (the rain didn’t help) and there were general slowdowns and accident slowdowns on top of that.  The drive took us 1.5 hours longer than we had thought it would.

We found free street parking about 2 km from the palace and parked.  It’s our 42nd anniversary today so the plan is to walk into town tonight for dinner.  The rain was slowly letting up when we arrived here at 3 and supposed to lessen even more by that time.

Since it was our anniversary, we wanted to go out for dinner and the quickest way into the city of Versailles was through the palace gardens.  There is an entrance right near where we’re parked and we were able to enter but once we reached the walkway into the main gardens, we were stopped and asked for tickets.  Explaining that we just wanted to walk through did not work so we had to back track back to the road. Seems out of season (Nov to April) the gardens are free but come May, there is a ticket required as they begin their musical fountain shows this time of year.

We did see this end of the Grand Canal:

We decided we wanted Italian food as Fran has had a hankering for pizza, so Doug asked Google to help us find a place with a good rating.  We ended up at O’Bottega Pizza and were their second set of patrons as it was only just after six.  We ordered drinks and pizza then had gelato (which tasted more like ice cream) for dessert before walking back and enjoying the mini chocolate liqueurs we’d bought in Salzburg:

Today was an eight tunnel day.

After deciding last night NOT to head into Paris for a few reasons, we awoke to rain but it stopped before we had to head out to meet our 9am check in at Versailles Palace.   We’d purchased the “Passport” ticket which allowed us entrance to the palace, the gardens and the two Trianon buildings.

The Palace of Versailles is a former royal residence built by King Louis XIV.  The palace is now owned by the French Republic.  About 15,000,000 people visit the palace, park, or gardens of Versailles every year, making it one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. 

Louis XIII built a simple hunting lodge on the site of the Palace of Versailles in 1623. With his passing came Louis XIV who expanded the château into the beginnings of a palace that went through several changes and phases from 1661 to 1715. It was a favorite residence for both kings, and in 1682, Louis XIV moved the seat of his court and government to Versailles, making the palace the de facto capital of France. This state of affairs was continued by Kings Louis XV and Louis XVI, who primarily made interior alterations to the palace, but in 1789 the royal family and capital of France, returned to Paris. For the rest of the French Revolution, the Palace of Versailles was largely abandoned and emptied of its contents, and the population of the surrounding city plummeted.

Napoleon I, following his coronation, used Versailles as a summer residence from 1810 to 1814, but did not restore it. Following the Bourbon Restoration, when the king was returned to the throne, he resided in Paris and it was not until the 1830s that meaningful repairs were made to the palace. A museum of French History was installed within it, replacing the apartments of the southern wing.

The Gardens of Versailles occupy part of what was once the domaine royal de Versailles, the royal demesne of the château of Versailles. Situated to the west of the palace, the gardens cover some 800 hectares of land, much of which is landscaped in the classic French formal garden style perfected here by André Le Nôtre.

In addition to the meticulous manicured lawns, parterres, and sculptures are the fountains, which are located throughout the garden. Dating from the time of Louis XIV and still using much of the same network of hydraulics as was used during the Ancient Régime, the fountains contribute to making the gardens of Versailles unique. On weekends from late spring to early autumn, the administration of the museum sponsors the Grandes Eaux – spectacles during which all the fountains in the gardens are in full play. The Grand Canal is the masterpiece of the Gardens of Versailles. In the Gardens too, the Grand Trianon was built to provide the Sun King with the retreat he wanted. The Petit Trianon is associated with Marie Antoinette, who spent her time there with her closest relatives and friends.

The palace and gardens were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979 for its importance as the center of power, art, and science in France during the 17th and 18th centuries.

We entered the palace and headed straight to see the “Hall of Mirrors” and Staterooms as recommended online to avoid the crowds.

It was quite magnificent and a nice intro to the palace.

We walked through the Staterooms where we saw:

We tried to make our way to Dauphin’s Apartments with no luck making it there.  After trying to back to Dauphin’s we ended up outside and when we tried to get back in were told, we were only allowed one entry; after explaining that we’d inadvertently gone out the wrong way and she let us back in.  We tried to get back to Dauphin’s Apartments and we found an employee to ask directions only to learn that that section as well as the Louis XIV rooms and the Gallery of the History of the Place were ALL closed at the current time.  Nowhere did we see any signs of this nor was there mention of it on their website.

We have to say the signage here at the palace sucks and we were disappointed that so much was not accessible.

The weather was still dull and gray outside but as we had seen all we could indoors and the Trainon buildings do not open until noon we ventured outside to see the gardens.  Now although has sprung in this area, there are not many flowers in the park but the landscaping is well done, there are many, many fountains and although they were not all working, some of the larger ones had musical fountains.

Here’s a map of the palace – there are two levels but in reality, so little is open to the public, at least this time of year.

The coloured sections are what are accessible to the public but the following sections were closed:  the orange section:  Louis XIV Rooms and the Opera Room at the end; the green section:  Dauphin’s Apartment; the purple section: Gallery of the History of the Palace, and although the Gallery of Battles was open this did not interest us.  However, nowhere on the website is it mentioned that three large sections are not open nor was there ANY signage to that effect on the grounds.  The maps they give you are terrible and there is no very little routing signage.  While we were certainly not alone touring the palace or the grounds, it was never crowded except when we went through the Hall of Mirrors again trying to get to a different section.

Here’s a map of the gardens (at least on this map, there were stars marking the featured fountains and some arrows to direct you around):

We were more than half way through the gardens by noon and found a small eartery near the Dauphin gardens to have a sandwich and share a beer before finishing up.

We saw these fountains throughout the day:

Ceres Fountain
Saturn Fountain
Enceladus Grove

The collonades


Golden Children Fountain
Bachus Fountain

After exiting the gardens we were back at the Grand Canal and after some routing confusion (due to lack of signage) we found our way to the Grand Trianon and enroute the sun began to try and peek out.

The Grand Trianon is a French Baroque style château situated in the northwestern part of the Domain of Versailles in Versailles, France. It was built at the request of King Louis XIV of France as a retreat for himself and his maîtresse-en-titre of the time, the Marquise de Montespan, and as a place where he and invited guests could take light meals (collations) away from the strict étiquette of the royal court. The Grand Trianon is set within its own park, which includes the Petit Trianon (a smaller château built in the 1760s, during the reign of King Louis XV).

This was a short visit and the best part was:

The Peristyle:

We then walked over to the Petit Trianon (where Marie Antoinette lived) and here are the highlights:

elegant staircase
its own hall of mirrors
this was a retracting wall that when up closed off access to her bedroom ….

After this is was nearly 2pm and we’d really had enough; we’d done over 20,000 steps by now and hoped to make it to a camping car park in Orleans before dinner to spend a couple of nights.  Doug hoped to do a marathon walk tomorrow and Fran wanted a day to catch up on blog/photos.

The traffic today was much better until the last 5km / 3 mi when we hit a bit of a jam but it only last two minutes not an hour and a half.  The municipal campground charges varying rates depending how long you stay.  On the spot we thought “let’s say three nights” not only because it’s cheaper but it gives us an extra day to chill and we don’t have far to go now to the storage place on Monday.

This place offers power, water, dumping and Wi-Fi and for three nights you pay €28.60 including tax so it was pretty cheap.  It’s right on the River Lorraine and there’s a big park next door and no major roads to hear during the day or night.  It’s quite peaceful.

It was another zero tunnel day.

After a quiet night, Doug went for his long walk and was very pleased with how it went.  Fran walked a click to a grocery store for our last shop before we leave for the States.  Today was mostly cloudy and just cool enough to need a light jacket but it didn’t rain till late afternoon and then only sprinkles.

The temps these days are in the high teens C / mid 60’s F and around 10 C / 50F at night so not bad although if it rains it naturally feels cooler due to the dampness.

Friday was a relaxing day; we are still at the campervan lot where it’s so nice and quiet at night by the river.  We exercised, Doug went out to search for a stabilizer for the diesel while we are gone for five months, Fran continued to work on the blog and the sun shone in the morning much to our surprise.  It’s still a bit on the cool side.

Naturally, the last two days have tunnel-less with no driving.

Saturday morning we considered staying another night but changed our minds.

We have in the past few days hit a 1200 day streak in our Spanish Duolingo lessons:

We want to be able to get laundry and an RV wash done for Minou before parking on Monday at the place where she’ll be stored and don’t want to leave it to the last minute in case things don’t work out (i.e. washing machines not working or car wash not open).  So we had to get more water before showering and just moved over to the grey dump and fresh water filling area for about 20 minutes and then re-parked.  After showering, Doug went for a walk while Fran finished editing her last batch of photos.  We have Wi-Fi here, albeit, on the slow side, so uploading here makes sense.  We have until 4pm before we have to pay for another day so we have some time to get much of it done.

The sun came out to day and it warmed up comfortably.  We left the ‘aire’ around 3 and made our way south to the small village of La Fermte-Saint Aubin which has a free aire with not many services but a quiet place to park.  There is a terminal for water and cassette dumping and a 4G signal.

After parking we walked over to the one big attraction in this town: a chateaux.  We took a few pics but didn’t enter as they wanted €13 person  – that was nearly double what we paid in Pierrefonds!  It was a sunny afternoon and the chateaux did look nice.

It began to rain after dinner and lasted a couple of hours on and off, sometimes, pretty hard too.

No tunnels today

Sunday morning, Doug went for his long run in the misty rain and Fran did her exercises.  We left the town before ten in search of a car wash that would fit Minou and laundry – two things we wanted to get done before getting to the storage place.

First car wash we found on Google didn’t exist; second after trying one bay and moving to another, the power went out so that was a bust.  We drove about 30km / 20 mi further south to Salbis and there we found one that worked and got the job done.  We were both quite wet by the end.

We then continued on to Vierzon where we hoped to spend the night and after three laundry stations, found one that worked.  The first had been busy; second wouldn’t take credit cards so Doug went in search of change; after getting the two washers going, in fifteen minutes the power went out! So we unloaded the wet clothes and moved to another station and there we put everything in one big machine, got it going with coins as again, the credit card payment method didn’t want to work and Doug had to go find  more change.

This time, we got it done but the whole thing took much more of our day than we’d expected.  By 4:30 we were at the ‘aire’ which again only offers water and cassette dumping.  At 5 the kids had a zoom call with us to wish Fran Happy Mother’s Day.  They have planned a dinner out a couple of days before the wedding when we will all be together.

The sun came out before we finished the laundry and with some luck, we can make it to the storage place without getting Minou dirty again.

We have arranged to meet the storage place owner in the small village by his farm, at noon tomorrow.

Again, no tunnels today.

Monday we awoke to glorious sunshine and the forecast is great for the next ten days; figures it gets better when we are leaving! Oh well, we can’t complain much, while it’s been cloudy and rainy lately, it’s been broken up with good days and it’s never 24/7.

We left the aire in Vierzon around 10:30 and were in the town of Menetreols-saus-Vatan well before noon to meet Paul, our storage place owner.  We got there at 11:15 and parked expecting to wait 45 minutes but as soon as Doug turned off the engine, a little white car pulled up and a fellow got out asking us if were the Canadians!

We followed him to his farm, discussed (with some help from Google Translate) our departure time for the train tomorrow (he offered to drive us to the station back in Vierzon) and he showed us where to park.  He offered us access to power and water and we got settled. He had to leave and said he’d be back at 5 at which time he’d like us to bring our suitcases to his van and he agreed that we could leave at 7 in the morning instead of 7:15.

After eating brunch, we spent a couple of hours packing and readying Minou for her five month stay here.  It’s a huge farm property with lots of room and far from the main road so we feel she will be safe here.

It’s not our first rodeo prepping to go home and it didn’t take all that long; Fran has lots of lists of to do’s and what to pack and we took an inventory of what we’ve left behind so as not to forget when we repack to come back!  It won’t be cold for those five months, so we don’t need winter clothes or extra layers so that’s saves on space.  We packed three carry on’s, two of which we can check free and none of the bags are overly full so we have room to bring stuff back with us and we have our large duffels in the trailer IF we need them. Of course, we will also each have a backpack for on the plane.  All good.

It was a one tunnel day today.

During this segment of the journey, since leaving Luxembourg to get here to Menetreols-sous-Vatan where Minou will wait for us, we drove 717 km / xx mi in France.

Minou now has 121,895 km on her engine – so we’ve put on over 40,000 since we bought her!


Fun facts about France:  will come when we leave France for the last time…