The Rimes/Wych summer road trip (France and Northern Spain 2023)
If anyone does decide to follow this, keep coming back as it will be updated every few days or so. Our trip is approximately 5-6 weeks duration and incorporates two significant orienteering multi-day events.
(Part) Day#1: 04/07 Taunton to Portsmouth
With our horrendous 4.5hour trip over to Gower last Friday evening still fresh in our minds, we gave ourselves plenty of leeway leaving Fitzhead for our 11.30pm crossing at 18.00hrs after I closed up all working obligations during the day and R spent the day from hell packing up Vinnie (our trusted old VW TD5) with 6 weeks of gear and essentials. Of course, the trip up to Portsmouth was the antithesis of the previous and we were there easily by 9.00pm. An easy check-in and relatively short wait before embarkation and we were on board, not even stopping to wander around at all (aren’t all channel ferries identical anyway?) but instead straight to the cabin and bed
Day#2: 05/07 Arrivee au Le Harve
07.30 arrival (UK time on board) and quick offloading with painless immigration process and we were off into Le Harve during morning rush hour…. and all stop. Extensive road works just outside the ferry terminal, backed up traffic and going nowhere fast whilst looking desperately either side for the sighting of a boulangerie for some essential breakfast vitals- without luck. Finally cleared Le Harve and onto quieter toll French Motorway system- and how magnificent it is for a few Euros to travel easily and quickly (given a 13yr old van laden with 6 weeks’ worth of clobber) the length of the country with no holdups, roadworks etc ever in evidence. Grouchiness caused by hunger (Rimes) eventually forced us off the autoroute to a small provincial town (Bernay) in Normandy to seek a boulangerie for breakfast and lunch breadstuffs. Suitably provided we carried on to the first proper stop, Amboise on the Loire, a fine old medieval city, with an imposing Chateau overlooking it and the final home (and burial place) of Leonardo De Vinci. These two, and the lovely old provincial town, have created a tourist hotspot meaning lots of tat and tourist money grabbing, but also plenty of bars, restaurants and a great campsite on an island in the middle of the river.
Found the local boulangerie and reacquainted with our favourite French breakfast treat- the pain au raisin. Onto bikes for a delightful but essentially flat 50km around the beautiful Loire valley countryside away from the main river area and its very busy associated tourist riverside cycle route.
Lunch back at the campsite followed by a late afternoon walk into town to the De Vinci exhibition at his final home Coce Luce. This is an small but still imposing Renaissance chateau set in beautiful landscaped grounds- his fame obviously came with wealth. It is now a museum and gallery with some of the house, his workshops etc open to visitors along with the grounds. Models of his inventions, including among others, the tank, various bridges, pumps, the first autonomous vehivle (clockwork!) have been recreated and are placed in the grounds along with replicas of his masterpieces. Remember this was all conceived in the late 1400 to early 1500s. In all the experience is highly enjoyable and well recommended. To finish our day we enjoyed dinner at a Lebanese restaurant (mostly to appease the vegetarian half of your blog hosts) sharing an 8 dish mezze (selection) which seemed to consist (at least to the non-veggie half of your hosts) diced cucumbers and tomatoes in every dish with something added to each to partly offset the monotony
Day#4: 07/07 moving day!
Packed up and on the road after breakfast for 200km drive down to central East France for the first of our two orienteering events in the forests of the Monts de Madelaine. The usual hassle free motorway driving got us here by early afternoon to set up at a delightful (and currently empty) campsite in the forest at a nice cooler elevation than we had previously (it was in the high 20s in the Loire valley). There was time after setting up to wander through the forest down to a climging venue to ascertain its suitability for us very much now retired climbers with regards to steepness and scariness (fortunately it passes on both so will be returned to with gear on Monday after the events close)
We have three days of events here, a middle, a long, and a novelty. The first two are obvious although the French colour coding is vastly different to that used in the UK (both of us are doing the violet course- A the medium distance, R the short- this would equate to blue and short blue I guess). The last day is a complete mystery even still now- the organisation is keeping the format completely secret until we guess the day of the event although the description hints to a reduced detail map of some format? We wait and see.