Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Wednesday 14 November - Yvetot and Étoutteville

Where's Bertie? He's in an Aire next to the sports grounds in the village of Étoutteville. It's free, except for water and electricity, which are available for a fee. (Exact location: 49.67538, 0.78994.)
Weather: A foggy start, burning off to give wall-to-wall sunshine.

It was late morning by the time the sun had won through the fog and we were ready to roll. The SatNav was promptly ignored, and back down to the village of Saint-Wandrille-Rançon we went, as I thought it might be nice to have a quick look at the Abbey there. Alas, a lack of suitable parking (or maybe a lack of trying very hard to find suitable parking) meant it wasn't to be, and onwards we drove to Yvetot, battling the SatNav which was quite determined that it wanted us off the direct main road, to use single track roads instead.

The first priority on arrival was lunch, before we took ourselves off for a walk around the town. There we found an impressive town hall...

The original, built in 1832, was pulled down and replaced, starting in 1912. The build was interrupted for the war and finally finished in 1922.

....and a church with the ugliest tower I've ever seen. From a distance, I thought it was a fire-fighter training tower:

The original church was destroyed at the start of the second world war. This replacement was completed in the 1950s. It's a pity it was locked, as I would have liked to have seen inside.

Unfortunately, those were the only two features of interest that we found, and we quickly decided that there would be no benefit to sticking around. So, pausing only for a loaf of bread from one of the many bakers (I wasn't sure if the Aire to which I was taking us next was in the middle of nowhere), we made our way back to Bertie and onwards we went.

Étoutteville is much more to our liking, but it is a bit of a strange place. The sports ground next to which we are parked is a reasonable size and has quite a few facilities (football pitch, tennis court, badminton/volleyball court, various outdoor gym equipment) and seems completely out of proportion with the village. The village itself is more new than old, and comes across as a suburb, yet it sits in open countryside, a good few kilometres away from Yvetot, the nearest town. Even more bizarre is that, unless we missed the one important street during our exploration of the place (there aren't many roads and we think we covered them all), there's not a single commerce here. No baker, no cafe/bar/restaurant. Why then has the town hall decided to invest in providing an Aire when there is no obvious reason, beyond an 8km heritage trail, to be trying to attract visitors? Our expectation in the provision of a dedicated motorhome parking area (moreover, one with facilities) is "We'll give you somewhere to park if you'll come and spend some money in our shops and restaurants, and/or admire our architecture and history". I hope that doesn't come across as ungrateful; I may be bamboozled as to the reason for the investment, but I'm very happy that the investment was made.

Also decidedly odd is the location of their electric car charging point:

Do you park perpendicular to the road, blocking the line being taken by people using the path? Do you park on the verge, running your cable across the line of the path as a trip hazard? The village pond lies the other side of the hedge, behind the charging point.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Tuesday 13 November - Jumièges and by Saint-Wandrille-Rançon

Where's Bertie? He's sitting on a farm a couple of kilometres away from, and up above, the settlement of Saint-Wandrille-Rançon. It costs €6 to stay here (incl water and waste and 50c tourist tax each). Electricity is an extra €2. A toilet and shower are available for a further charge. Exact location: 49.54069, 0.76702.
Weather: Sunshine, with just a few fluffy clouds coming and going through the afternoon.

I was up before daylight had arrived, stuffing a couple of bananas, and pouring a cup of tea, down my throat, in preparation for a long run.

I'd downloaded a route from wikiloc.com, which turned out not to be entirely feasible (without crawling under a fence and through a quarry, which is apparently where the person who recorded it had gone), so quite a few brief stops were had for route planning and navigation. More stops were had to quickly grab a few snaps of my surroundings:


A different lake from the ones visited over the last couple of days. The bird life in this snap is deceptive: those ducks are all decoys. I noticed when I spotted the first flock that they were all facing the same direction. It was only when I got to the second flock that I realised that none of them was moving.

The limestone cliffs alongside the river. I must have spent about an hour and a half of the outing on the tarmac of this particular road, during which time no more than half a dozen cars passed me.

I perhaps should have gone a little further than I did, but the last several miles were more of a struggle than I've encountered in any recent long run, so I was happy to call it a day as I hit the 15 mile mark.

Meanwhile, Mick had been out for a shorter run, involving three laps of some local roads, with the added excitement of rescuing a goat with its head stuck in a fence on his second lap (it had been stuck on the first lap, but he gave it an extra lap to be sure that it was stuck, which it turned out to be - quite decidedly so).

So tired was I upon returning to Bertie that sitting down for the rest of the day held great appeal. Thus, it took a bit of will power after food-shower-food, to walk up the road to the post office, so as to avail myself of their wifi for a bit of downloading, whilst Mick walked up to the boulangerie for some goodies:


Finally, at around 1pm, we left Jumièges and shortly afterwards the SatNav had one of its abberations ("you want to go somewhere that's 2km away on the main road? Let me take you a 4.5km route on some tiny roads to get there". Unfortunately, I spotted what it was doing just a few seconds too late to stop Mick from making the turn, although we did return to the main road as soon as we could). That first destination was a supermarket, as our food supplies had reached the point where, although we wouldn't have gone hungry, the combinations would have been ... interesting.

It was then only a few kilometres further to our night-stop, involving some tiny lanes that would have had us questioning their suitability for Bertie, if it hadn't been for the knowledge that the Aire at this farm has got lots of good reviews - more than would be likely if access was an issue.

The farm's young border collie met us upon arrival, repeatedly putting muddy pawprints all over my jeans. Harrumph. But, other than their dog needing a bit of training, it is nice spot...

The view through Bertie's windscreen this afternoon, shortly after the cows escape into the field in front of us and had to be chased back by the farmers.

...albeit sufficiently out of the way that we have modified out intention of spending 2 nights here to just the one.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Monday 12 November - Jumièges

Where's Bertie? He's still sitting in the same place, at the Aire at Jumièges.
Weather: Rainy morning, sunny intervals later.

With rain pattering down this morning, and the knowledge that it was forecast to brighten up later, there was no inclination to go anywhere or do anything this morning. Instead, heads were buried in e-books until we both knew the outcome of Sarjeant Shardlake's* latest adventure.

After a lunch that was only just late enough not to be called 'early', and with the weather now far more amenable to being outside, off we set on foot to spend a couple of hours seeing a little more of the surrounding area.

The route, downloaded from wikiloc.com, took us initially on tarmac (more ogling of houses) then down a little green lane between properties. As anyone can upload any route to wikiloc, there's always the danger one may be led into trespass, and this little green lane gave us a nagging doubt, until we finally spotted an old waymark on a pylon part way along it.

Look closely and there's a definite appearance of multiple additions and alterations to this church over the years.

About half way through the outing we reached the lake past which I had run (in the opposite direction) yesterday. From there the surroundings were new only to Mick, although there were some things that I had missed in my haste yesterday. In particular, we spent a good while hypothesising (with varying degrees of plausibility) over why there are huge fields of maize, as well as large commercial-looking orchards that have gone unharvested.


The lakes within this big meander in the river are the result of old gravel pits

Arriving back at the Aire it was with amusement that we saw the 'herding instinct' had struck again. I reckon you could fit well over 50 motorhomes on this patch of gravel, if they were neatly positioned. No prizes for guessing where the newly arrived German van had opted to park, when faced with a large empty area, occupied by just two vans...

(*Shardlake is the main character in a series of historical (mid 16th century) novels by CJ Sansom. In my opinion, they get better as they go along, with the exception of Lamentation, which didn't grab me (or Mick, or my Mother-in-Law) as much as the rest of the series.)

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Sunday 11 November - Jumièges

Where's Bertie? He's still exactly where he was yesterday, at the Aire at Jumièges.
Weather: Overcast, a bit breezy, small amount of rain.

Jumièges sits in the bend of a large meander in the River Seine and this morning my run took me on a wider exploration of the enclosed area than we had covered during yesterdays ambling, following waymarks and navigating via Open Cycle Map as I went.


A lake past which I trotted

I'd been undecided on distance as I set out, but understandably Mick wanted to know whether he needed to worry about me after one hour or three, so I told him I'd be back in an hour no matter what. So I was, albeit only to tell him that I was continuing on for another couple of miles. I finally returned to Bertie just minutes before the rain came, although it amounted to much less than forecast.

There then ensued much inactivity. Mick and I are currently reading the same book* (the recently released next installment in the Shardlake series) and now I'm nearing the end I'm increasingly unwilling to put it down.

As Mick hadn't run this morning, he was in need of some exercise, so this afternoon I joined him for a strollette and some admiration of more of the local houses:


And, ummmm, that's pretty well it. A very quiet Sunday!

(* In case anyone's picturing us hunched together over the same hard-back tome, I should clarify that we are reading at our own paces on separate Kindle devices.)

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Saturday 10 November - Rouen and Jumieges

Where's Bertie? He's at an Aire in Jumieges, which is on the north side of the River Seine, about 20km west of Rouen. (Exact location: 49.43102, 0.81452)
Weather: Very rainy morning, sunny afternoon.

It was dry but still dark as we left Montville this morning, and it was dry, but daylight, as we reached Rouen, where we found a convenient spot to settle Bertie, on the south side of the Seine, within 50m of the water. It was still dry as we wandered along the quay to check out the local ParkRun start and finish points too, but after nipping back to Bertie to ditch our jumpers, the ominous looking cloud we had earlier spied was overhead and pouring water on us.

There ensued a very soggy ParkRun* on a course that is also almost as flat as it is possible for a 5km route to be, which combined with a bit of an effort meant that I broke my overall parkrun Personal Best again, finishing in 24 minutes 54 seconds. That triumph was marred by then missing the token giver-outerer at the finish, but all's well that ends well, and I managed to get put in the results in the right place.

The vague plan had been to walk into Rouen after a late breakfast, for a bit of sightseeing, but the amount of rain falling removed all enthusiasm for that idea and the decision was made not to sit where we were and wait it out. Instead, after a bit of consideration of the options, we headed half an hour west of Rouen to Jumieges, with just a stop at a boulangerie in a nearby town en-route.

Once here we did exactly as we would have if we'd remained in Rouen: we sat and listened to the rain drum down.

Eventually, a brightening was detected and when the next threatening cloud skirted us, we adjudged it to be a good time to nip out for a look around, starting with a walk down to the river. Houses were the main things that caught our attention, and I could happily have snapped most of those we saw, so attractive and varied were they.

We stood in front of this one hypothesising that it wasn't really wonky, but that the beams had been drawn on to make it look so (clearly false hypothesis: the wood was real and when viewed from the side the wonkiness was unavoidably apparent).


"How much? No, I can't afford a whole one. Just build half of it for me."


The new married with the old, next to the very old.


Looking down river, but not capturing the limestone cliffs just a bit further along.

A succession of minor roads, on which only one vehicle was encountered, took us on a loop around to the centre of the small town (or maybe just a village - it doesn't seem very big), where sits the ruins of the Abbey that we had already spotted from a distance:



Happily the showers forecast for this afternoon didn't materialise, not only allowing us a pleasant hour of sunny walking, but also getting all our wet kit (strewn across the sun-trap of a dashboard) dried whilst we were out. Alas, the forecast for the next couple of days suggest we're in for more sogginess before the next dry spell comes in.

(* As an aside, Rouen ParkRun was significantly different from the other French ParkRuns in which we have participated: it was overwhelmingly locals taking part (seemingly 24 of the 27 today). ParkRun hasn't taken off in France and the norm seems to be that of the small number that turn up each week, the majority are Brits. I'd love to know how they've got the locals interested in Rouen, but not elsewhere. As a further aside, it was just as informal as the others we've done in France - no hint of a briefing, no marshalls, just a timekeeper and a token giver-outerer/scanner.)

Friday, 9 November 2018

Friday 9 November - Montville

Where's Bertie? He's at an Aire in Montville, about 20km NW of Rouen. It's free to stay here, but it's €6 if you want any water. (Exact location: 49.54738, 1.07191)
Weather: Wall-to-wall sunshine.

I had good intentions to do various things this morning, but somehow time evaporated, with only a few things ticked off my mental to-do list and it was later than intended by the time we ambled off for a quick look around the town.

By quarter past noon we were ready to hit the road, which was badly timed as, having not seen a single vehicle use the service point all morning, a new arrival managed to beat us to it by seconds as we tried to leave.

The drive to Montville was not long, but it was attractive with a fine display of autumn colours along a woodland-lined D-road. Arriving here, we didn't find the Aire to be where the SatNav thought it was, and just as I was starting to gather the resources to work out its true location, we stumbled across it. Having made like Goldilocks and tried out various spaces (too slopey to the left, too slopey to the front) we settled on a spot right in front of the boules pitches (slightly slopey backwards), where some of the older members of the community were just gathering:

This was only the start of the gathering. At its peak there must have been 10 games going on at any one time.

Five hours later, a hardcore few are still playing (6.15pm), now under floodlights.

The sum of our activity for the afternoon has been a walk around the small lake next to the Aire...

...followed by a short stroll around the town. That revealed there to be, in amongst various other shops, no fewer than three boulangerie/pattiserie outlets, of which we managed to pass two without incident. A trip outside of the third resulted in this purchase:

Huge servings, prettily wrapped and ridiculously cheap at a total of €3

We'd best do a bit of extra exercise tomorrow to justify these!

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Monday to Thursday 5-8 November - Home to Neufchâtel-en-Bray

Where's Bertie? He's at an Aire at Neufchâtel-en-Bray, which sits 50km N of Rouen. It costs €12 per 24hr to stay here, including electricity, water, waste and toilets. Showers are available for an extra fee. (Exact location: 49.73692, 1.42936)
Weather: Wall-to-wall sunshine.

After being delayed at home for a month longer than originally intended (various reasons), Bertie finally got tarmac under his tyres again on Monday.

Between Monday and Wednesday, as well as driving, we stayed with friends in Crawley, bagged two very uninspiring Marilyn hills, had a random encounter with a blogger I've been following for a few years, visited and lunched with a couple half of whom we met high in the Pyrenees on 23 July 2015, and then popped onto the Channel Tunnel to be whisked over to France.

It was gone 9pm by the time we reached Calais last night (caught an earlier shuttle than the one we had booked, but then it was delayed), so we stuck with our plan and spent the night in the motorhome parking area at the out-of-town shopping centre, Cite Europe, which sits adjacent to the Chunnel terminal. It may not be the most attractive overnight option, but it was convenient (for us and for around 25 other vans), and positioned us nicely to nip into the huge Carrefour this morning to stock up on my favourite teabags.

Somehow it was approaching noon by the time we had the teabags stowed, had bought some diesel and visited Lidl, all of which sit within a few hundred metres of each other. So, did we then immediately make haste southwards? Nope, because at that point we had no idea as to day's end point, so time was taken for coffee and croissant, as I pored over the resources and decided what to dial into the SatNav.

A free Aire could easily have been found, but this one was chosen for two attributes: 1) it was the shortest detour from our route to Rouen; and 2) it sits adjacent to a Voie Verte off-road cycle route, which I knew would make going for a run logistically easy.


I took a 6.5 mile run along the ex-railway line, which to my eye ran downhill in both directions (my GPS stats tell me that I was not, in fact, in an Escher painting), passing this chateau on my way. Mick, building his distances up slowly after his summer of injuries, was with me for the first 1.5 miles before he turned.

As for the journey from Calais to here, it was easy enough. The speed limit on single carriageway roads in France was reduced to 80km/h (from 90) in July this year, but I don't think it made many minutes difference to us today. It was also a surprisingly green journey (literally, not ecologically): at this time of year I'm used to seeing brown fields, either harvested or ploughed, but not in this region. Instead, they are full of the greenery of crops. Off they undulated into the distance, showing themselves off nicely under the clear blue sky (according to Bertie's thermometer, the temperature topped out at 12 degrees today, but it felt much warmer in the sunshine).