Unlike best laid plans, all did not go smoothly on the drive from St Malo, Heric, and on to Coulon.
The Brittany Ferry from Portsmouth (UK) arrived in St Malo, Brittany (France) at 08:15hrs, with Reg safely onboard and bang on time; very impressive. It was after all, a very calm overnight sail across the English Channel…as flat as a millpond.
Deciding to wing it when we arrived meant that we roughly knew how to drive from St Malo to Heric (about 160 kilometres south’ish). The plan was 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. However, the French side of the channel was 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 takes a bit of getting used to, especially the roundabouts.
Tried in vain to find a restaurant or coffee shop that was open along the road, but everything was shut so had to keep driving. Luckily we had our trusty paper Europe Road Atlas otherwise, things could have got very ugly very quickly; haven’t worked out the SatNav yet. Following the signs out of the Port, we took the A137 south to Rennes.
Seemed like an age of driving but really, it was only about 40 minutes south until arriving in the small village of Saint-Pierre-de-Plesguen with an open Carrefour and an empty carpark – plenty of room for Reg. Deciding a Pain au Chocolate was in order after the little stress session finding the way out of the Port, scoffed the pastries back in Reg and worked out the route south to Heric.
Filled up with diesel at the Carrefour as it seemed cheap here (much cheaper than the UK). Everything is automated, not too dissimilar to a vending machine; you can pay by credit card – no human in sight. Continued down the N137 until the Heric turnoff. Surprisingly, the campsite was quite easy to find.
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 as I’ve read, the French tolls are notoriously expensive! I’m 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 could have been cleaner (no toilet paper), showers included 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 necessary as only an overnighter here 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 to Coulon (via Niort)
Decided on a quick detour to Niort to buy some parts for Reg that were prohibitively expensive or not available in the UK; mainly, the habitation door handle. The outside handle is broken and so, only locks from the inside, which means I have to climb out of the passenger or driver side to get out of and lock Reg each time.
So, off we went on the N137 and by-passed Rennes, which was touch and go as suddenly the signed highway numbers disappeared and were replaced with just names of places.
Tip: When on French highways, follow the place name road signs not the highway numbers as more often than not, the numbers disappear…suddenly!
By sheer luck, we drove on to the right road (heading towards Bordeaux) and hooked onto the A83, then headed south to Niort. Finding the industrial area was a little tricky but found the Niort E Space manufacturer eventually.
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 would be lucky, right? Wrong! Reg it seems, is too old for his own manufacturer and the parts needed were no longer stocked. After only buying 3 outside vent covers worth a small mortgage, we left the premise very disappointed. It wasn’t really worth stopping here or the stress, but we did see many flashy new motorhomes worth a mint. The Sales reps were more interested in customers buying new motor homes upwards of £50K than selling a door handle!
Learning the hard way, I discovered that Google Maps is not always accurate, or shall we say, downright wrong! Drove south onto the D611 and had 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 drove through several lovely little villages draped in gorgeous autumnal colours with trees lining both sides of the road, and found the campsite.
Note: Brittany doesn’t have Tolls Roads (yet) and as soon as we hit south of Nantes (Poitou-Charentes provinces) we had a Toll ticket to collect. The trusty new Toll tag purchased in the UK doesn’t work yet and not sure why.
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!
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; a pleasure to stroll around and take in the surrounding quaint architecture.
St.Trinity, dominates the centre of the village, which was founded in 830 – you can’t get lost here and if you manage to, the lovely locals are happy to help. The centre of town is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and more.
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.
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.
Really like this town as it has a lovely relaxed feel to it, many pretty French Colonial homes grace the canal.
Check out the great funky coffee shop Au Marais Givré, which sells excellent coffee, wonderful ice creams, scrumptious cakes, and many more delicacies – excellent service also!
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.