Starting the French adventure: St Malo, Heric, and Coulon

October, 2015
Unlike best laid plans, all does not go smoothly on the French adventure starting from St Malo, Heric, and on to Coulon.

St Malo Port

st malo, coulon, heric, franceThe Brittany Ferry from Portsmouth (UK) arrives in St Malo in Brittany (France) at 08:15hrs, with Reg safely onboard and bang on time – very impressive.

It is after all, a very calm overnight sail across the English Channel. Both night and day are as flat as a millpond.

Deciding to wing it on arriving means that we roughly know how to drive from St Malo to Heric – about 160 kilometres south’ish.

The plan is to leave the ferry and once checked into France, stop along the road to work it all out over a lovely hot French coffee and perhaps the first morning’s warmed croissant.

Of course something would be open on a working day at around 9 am in the morning, right?

This was the plan whilst on the English side of the channel…

Drive to Heric

Although, the French side of the channel is very different.

You also have to take into account driving on the wrong side of the road (for Australians) is a little strange and foreign – no pun intended. And, whilst this doesn’t sound like a big deal as Reg is a left-hand drive, it still takes a bit of getting used to especially the roundabouts.

Trying in vain to find an open restaurant or coffee shop along the road, everything is shut so we keep driving. Luckily we have our trusty paper Europe Road Atlas otherwise, things could get very ugly very quickly. I haven’t worked out the SatNav yet. Following the signs out of the Port we take the A137 south to Rennes.

Quick stop at Saint-Pierre-de-Plesguen

After what seems like an age of driving but really, it’s only about 40 minutes south, we arrive in the small village of Saint-Pierre-de-Plesguen with an open Carrefour and an empty carpark so plenty of room for Reg.

Deciding a Pain au Chocolate is in order after the little stress session finding the way out of the Port, hungrily scoff the pastries whilst back in Reg and working out the route south to Heric.

st malo, brittany, touring, france
Gorgeous St Malo

Diesel at the Carrefour seems cheap and much cheaper than the UK, so filled Reg up. Everything is automated, self-service, and not too dissimilar to a vending machine. You pay by credit card as no human is in sight.

Continuing down the N137, the Heric turnoff is clearly marked and surprisingly, the campsite is quite easy to find.


Summary

Distance: 155 kilometres

Diesel: €1.09/litre at Carrefour (St Malo) – a nice surprise after paying £1.10/litre but mostly £1.19/litre in the UK.

Roads: A137, N137

Tolls: Lucky this part of the trip doesn’t have toll roads. I’ve read the French tolls are notoriously expensive, but sure we’ll hit some along our travels soon.

Campsite: Camping La Pindiere (€14.40/night, including power). As it’s low season it’s a little quieter and cheaper. The onsite restaurant is closed as is the pool.

Friendly reception staff, wi-fi only near reception, toilets can be cleaner (no toilet paper), and showers include good warm water.


It’s easier to set Reg up these days as we’ve been away a few times now in UK campsites and have everything down pat. No awning this time as only an overnighter before setting off again tomorrow.

Walked to the Super U supermarket, which is about 500 metres from this campsite. What a wonderful experience – sad I know. I’m so glad to be back in Europe and missed the travelling through The Baltics and Poland earlier in the year.

The supermarkets are wonderfully packed with so much delicious variety. It’s amazing and I just want to buy everything in sight – mental note to self, don’t shop when you’re hungry…

heric, coulon, trouing, france
Sign for services along the highway – about 30 kms between each stop

Heric to Coulon via Niort

Deciding on a quick detour to Niort to buy some parts for Reg that were prohibitively expensive or not available in the UK, today we’re hunting for the habitation door handle. The outside handle is broken and only locks from the inside, which means I have to climb out of the passenger or driver side to get out of to lock Reg each time.

Off we set on the N137 and by-pass Rennes. It’s touch and go as suddenly the signed highway numbers disappear and replaced with just place names.

Tip: When on French highways, follow the place name road signs not the highway numbers as more often than not, the numbers disappear – suddenly.

Back to the drive…

By sheer luck we drive on to the right road heading towards Bordeaux and hook onto the A83, then head south to Niort. Finding the industrial area is a little tricky but eventually find the Niort E Space manufacturer.

You’d think that going to the actual place and country that Reg’s habitation was manufactured in would prove to be the best option and we’d lucky, right? Wrong!

Reg it seems is too old for his own manufacturer and the parts needed are no longer stocked. After only buying 3 outside vent covers worth a small mortgage, we leave very disappointed. It wasn’t really worth stopping here or the stress, but we spot many flashy new motorhomes worth a mint. The Sales reps are more interested in customers buying new motor homes upwards of £50K than selling a door handle.

Learning the hard way, I discover that Google Maps is not always accurate, or shall we say, downright wrong!

Driving south onto the D611 we have to turn off on the D850 according to Google Maps. Discovered the Google Map label in reality should of been D650 so missed the turnoff completely, got a little lost, then headed back on track again with much swearing, stress, and angst! Finally driving through several lovely little villages draped in gorgeous autumnal colours with trees lining both sides of the road, and finding the campsite so all is not lost.

Note:

Brittany doesn’t have tolls roads (yet) and as soon as we hit south of Nantes (Poitou-Charentes provinces) we have a toll ticket to collect. The trusty new toll tag purchased in the UK doesn’t work yet and not sure why.


coulon, touring, france
Camping La Venise Verte entrance

Summary

Distance: 225 kilometres

Diesel: None today

Roads: N137, A83, A87, D611

Toll: €19.80 (approximately 144 kilometres) – très cher!

Campsite: Camping La Venise Verte near Coulon (€16/night including power)

This 120-pitch site closes in a week’s time for the winter and is only open from 1st April until 31st October.

Well-manicured pitches, good facilities, and lovely friendly owner at reception. A great spot, albeit a little bit off the beaten path and from major highways. Here for two nights only so time to explore lovely Coulon tomorrow.


Coulon

The capital of the Venice-Vert (Green Venice), Coulon is the north-eastern end of the wet marshes and a part of the second largest wetland in France.

Dating back to 869, this village is a gorgeous tranquil break and a pleasure to stroll around – take in the surrounding quaint architecture, it’s gorgeous.

touring, france, coulon
Tranquil Coulon

St.Trinity, dominates the centre of the village, which was founded in 830. You can’t get lost here and if you manage to get lost the lovely locals are happy to help. The centre of town is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and shops.

The walk from the campsite along the canal to the centre of town passes through picture postcard scenery. Gorgeous old cottages line the bank with beautiful Willow and Poplar trees along the way – very lush.

touring, france, coulon
Cottages along the River Sèvre-Niortaise
touring, france, coulon
Another view…

Really like this town for its lovely relaxed feel and many pretty French Colonial homes gracing the canal.

Tip: Although everything is closed from about 12:00-14:00hrs each day, it’s not really precise times as it seems to be whatever is going for the specific town.

Check out the great funky coffee shop Au Marais Givré, which sells excellent coffee, wonderful ice creams, scrumptious cakes, and many more delicacies – also excellent service.

Pushing to get to Spain as we’re running late to meet up with our very good friends in their motor home Claude, which we haven’t seen since our South American travels in 2011. So, the next stop is Créon, which is about 210 kilometres south of Coulon.

Visit my Nilla’s Photography for more images. More posts on Europe at Image Earth Travel.

touring, france, coulon
The village just inside the Deux Sèvre Department – listed as one of France’s prettiest villages
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