April 30,2022 Pont Aven FR

Our first drive of the day was a relatively long 80 km’s to Cocarneau, the problem is we are still nearly 1000 miles (1500km’s) from Portugal, and we are 12 days into our trip. So if we are going to spend a lot of time in Portugal at some point we are probably going to have to get on the Autoroute and suck up some tolls. But not today, or tomorrow for that matter as we still have plans for Brittany.

Ton took this from the bakery the top flag is Brittany, the bottom flag is a composite of all of the Celtic nations.

Before we left we decided to revisit the bakery we had stopped in briefly the day before to pick up a Kouign-Amann. Brittany is famous for this desert that literally means Butter Cake. The area we are in is close to where it originated. We had tried it on our previous trip and thought it was ok. Yesterday when we visited the bakery near the campground they gave us a taste of some of theirs and we both thought it was fantastic, the problem is that we did not tell each other until we got to the campground.

Kouign-Amann the delicious local pastry, and Chouchenn a local honey based liquor. They make a great combination to end a meal.

While we were driving Ton researched another specialty of Brittany called Chouchenn. It is a mead like drink made from buckwheat honey with apple juice used to initiate the fermentation. It is supposed to have come over to Brittany from Scotland with the Druids. We picked up a bottle and used it as an aperitif with our Kouign-Amann. They were both delicious and complemented each other well.

Part of the walls that surround the old town in Concarneau.

Our first stop for the day was Concarneau which is another port town. The old town is on an island in the middle of the bay and is surrounded by 14th century walls. As we were walking to the old town we came across a line of very nice sailboats flying a bunch of company flags. It is a professional sail racing circuit that operates in France. The boats were really high tech compared to the typical pleasure cruiser.

Racing boats in town for week long race starting tomorrow.

The old town was nice and we enjoyed walking along the old walls of the town looking out on the port and in on the old town. In addition to the professional racers there was also an Argentine Navy vessel visiting town.

A street scene from old town Concarneau.
Argentine Naval vessel visiting the port of Concarneau.

After a couple of hours of enjoying Concarneau we headed to our main destination for the day, Pont Aven. It was made famous in the late 19th and early 20th century when Gauguin settled here and a bunch of other French and foreign impressionist artists moved in. Today it is still a center for art with a lot of galleries and boutiques.

One of the many bridges across the Aven river in Pont Aven.

The unexpected adventure of the day was trying to gain entry to the aire in town. When we arrived there was a gate and a machine that you paid your entrance fee at. These are usually pretty straight forward and I have mastered them. This one even offered English, everything was going smoothly and after I entered a lot of information it spit out a card that I was to use at future aires managed by this company, (the card cost an extra €5 which I was not happy about). When everything was done and my credit card was processed, the gate should open. But it didn’t. I double checked everything and no go. Muttering some bad words I tripled checked and still no go. At this point a French gentleman came over, he double checked everything and said it should be good. After a while another French couple came over and tried their luck, they confirmed everything should be good, but no luck with the gate opening. Finally, the lady went and got her cell phone and called the help line, and after some explanation and confirmation of my name, the company opened the gate remotely. Now I have a €5 card that I am not sure works if I come to another aire run by this company, but I am in the aire. Once again the kindness of strangers got us out of trouble despite no common language.

Scenes like this made us quickly forget the misadventure with the entrance at the Aire.

The highlight of the town is strolling down the river promenade. The river runs thru the center of town with shops and beautiful homes on either side of it. There are several picturesque watermills and bridges across the river. Near the bottom of town the river opens up to a port surrounded by mansions and a very thick forest of trees. It is a pretty magical place.

A Breton gaff rigged work boat that is part of the maritime museum in town.

At one point Ton and I were relaxing and enjoying a nice view of the river and the town from a bench when we found ourselves suddenly in the middle of a large group of tourists who were getting a guided tour of the town. The spot we had chosen was the place where Gauguin had painted one of his famous pictures from the area. They were very nice and told us not to bother, but we were clearly in the way and decided to move on.

The view Ton and I were enjoying when we suddenly became part of a Gauguin tour.

Pont Aven is a really beautiful town and the port and the river combine to make a really beautiful landscape. We strolled around for quite awhile and Ton took so many pictures it took her over an hour to narrow it down to 15 to send to me to post in the blog.

The first thatched roof we have seen in Brittany.
The point where the Aven river reaches the port.
One of the many galleries that are in Pont Aven.
Closing todays post with a door.

April 29, 2022 Pointe du Raz FR

We only had one fun stop planned for today as we wanted to take care of some of the routine things you have to do when living out of a RV. We began by visiting a Lidl to pick up some groceries.

I get to enjoy the food from our morning Lidl stop.

After shopping was completed we headed off to Pointe du Raz which as the name says is a prominent point sticking out into the English Channel. It is a regional park, and is a moorland sitting on top of 200 foot cliffs above the ocean. It was only about a 20 km drive from Douarnenez, so despite our late start we arrived before noon. The weather has been about the same every day, mid 60’s with a good breeze and sun. For this time of year it is great.

Blue sky and a brisk breeze welcomed us to Pointe

About 10 km’s from the Pointe we suddenly left the forests and emerged onto the windswept moorlands that the region is famous for. Suddenly you could see all the way to the ocean.

The park had great long views to enjoy.

They had a designated Campervan parking lot that you could overnight in for €20, or park for the day for €8. The parking cost also covers the admission price for the park. There are several trails that lead you to the top of the cliffs. The moors are covered with wildflowers, though the dominant plant looks like a type of gorse with yellow flowers. Ton was in her element as she loves wild flowers and I kept leaving her behind as she would see something else she wanted to photograph and suddenly stop.

The main trail to the point. The building in the front is a French Navy surveillance installation.

When we reached the end of the point the view out to sea was spectacular. We scrambled thru some rocks to get a good view. By the time we got there it was lunch time and most of the French were sitting down to their lunch among the rocks. The French take their lunches seriously and they do it with elegance even when the table is a rock.

The rocky point at the end of the trail.
We only saw these red flowers in this one spot, but it was a great spot.

We were enjoying the walk so we decided to follow a cliff side trail back. This got us away from the crowds, and it was quite a nice walk.

The cliff side trail we followed.
More wildflowers.

We had picked a campground on a farm near the point for our stop today. We arrived in time to give the inside of François a good scrubbing before settling down for some well earned Breton Cider.

We have developed a taste for Breton cider so we decided to acquire a couple of proper cider cups.

April 28, 2022 Douarnenez FR

Today was a little more of a chore than other days this trip. The good news is that it ended well and our final stop of the day made up for the trouble. The day began with a longish drive to get around Brest which is a large industrial port. There is probably a lot to do in Brest but we are avoiding big cities at this point on the trip.

A lot of the buildings in Brittany are covered in wisteria, it symbolizes long life. Wisteria plants live over 100 years.

We have now transitioned from the north coast to the south coast of Brittany. Brittany is a large peninsula sticking out from the mainland of France and at some point is the point furthest west on the French mainland. As we moved south the land became a little different and the weather warmed up a bit. Today started out as the coldest morning so far on the trip and by the end of the day it was the warmest we have been on the trip.

The church steeples in Brittany are really interesting. This one is from Sizun.

The first stop of the day was a small village called Sizun. It had an interesting church, but otherwise a little less than we expected. After taking a quick walk around we decided to head on.

These arches are connected to the church in Sizun. Arches coming off churches at an angle seem to be a common feature in Brittany.

We were thinking about staying in a town called Le Faou, it had a nice waterfront, but not much else caught our eye. So we decided to carry on.

Ton liked this boat propped up on the mud flats in La Faou.

Ton was really looking forward to the next town on our agenda as it was used to film the movie Tess in 1979. Locronan is one of the beautiful villages of France and it is a pretty town, but felt like one of the most touristy places we have stopped at. We gave it a good look, but after about 40 minutes we both agreed it was time to move on. Up to this point the weather had been a little dreary, but just as we were leaving the sun came out and it warmed up.

The Celtic words on top are a kind of dessert. It tastes good, but it is very difficult to order.
The village square in Locronan.

Our last stop today was Douarnenez. You may have noticed that the city names today do not seem so French. On this end of the peninsula the place names reflect the Celtic past much more. The signs as you go further west on the peninsula shift from French only to French and Brezh (Bretagne)in the Celtic language.

A mixture of French and Bretagne on the front of this creperie.

We were looking forward to Douarnenez as it is a center for the sardine trade which is famous, and a beautiful port town. The problem is that Greta Garmin decided to go on strike as we entered town. I had punched in a camp ground in town that was in her data base. After directing us down a series of increasing narrow roads she announced we had arrived. The problem was we were sitting in front of a building that most definitely was not a campground, it turned out to be a restaurant. Using the Camper Contact app I punched in the GPS coordinates for the campground and Greta took us to the campground, but we did not like the like the location. I told Ton that there was another campground closer into town, but there was a warning in Camper Contact that the street approaching it was a bit narrow (remember this warning was coming from Europeans who have a much different definition of narrow roads than Americans do). Again this campground was in Greta’s data base, and off we went. This time Greta couldn’t decide on a good route in and had us going in circles between two roundabouts. Fortunately Ton saw a sign for the campground and we followed the signs down a very narrow urban street that I assumed was one way but is actually two way, fortunately we didn’t run into anyone before we arrived at the campground.

The view of Douarnenez from near our campground.

There was one more hurdle before we were home free. The Grand Mere of the family was manning the front desk and she doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak French. At first I thought she was telling me that they didn’t have any space. But than she led me outside and was pointing and trying to explain something to me, but I was not getting it. Finally one of the guests came to our aid and it turns out she was trying to tell me to go pick a spot and come back and tell her which one we were in.

The entrance to the port of Douarnenez.

We walked into town and it was a really beautiful port formed where the Pouldavid River enters the Atlantic. The river is down in a bit of gorge so most of the city is a hundred feet or so above the port which makes the port pretty dramatic. It is full of pleasure vessels now, though it once was the center of the Sardine industry in France.

Some of the hundreds of pleasure boats in the harbor.

After spending a couple of hours poking around we headed back to the campground because Ton had found a tempting washer and dryer and decided to get our laundry done. When I went to get the tokens needed for the washer and dryer Grand Mere was still manning the desk, but I managed to explain what I wanted and she managed to understand my mangled pronunciation of French, in the end we were both a little proud of ourselves for pulling off the transaction unaided.

Another view of the port with the old Sardine wharves in the background.

April 27, 2022 Trebeurden FR

Brittany is living up to our expectations. Today we had a great day with beautiful medieval towns, and incredible beaches.

A street of half timbered homes in the beautiful town of Treguier.

When we planned the itinerary yesterday our first stop was Treguier which was described as a beautiful riverfront port. Since about half of the towns in Brittany are riverfront ports I was prepared for a quick stop before we moved on.

It was market day in Treguier.

When we pulled into town it was market day which is always a treat in France so I knew it would not be a quick stop. This was a large market and there were all kinds of interesting vegetables, cheeses, and meats to look at. We spent some time in the lower market by the port, before heading to the upper market next to the cathedral.

People walking up and down the hill between the upper and lower markets with their shopping bags and baskets.

The upper market was more clothes and other stuff than food. We enjoyed looking around there as well as popping into a couple of the stores on the main square of town.

Some of the beautiful half timbered buildings around the main square of town.

The cathedral in town was also interesting. To our amateur eyes it appears to be a little more austere than typical French cathedrals.

The cathedral in Treguier had a very unique steeple.

Our next stop for the day was Tregastel Plage, which is a beach renown for its pink sand and interesting rock formations. The place was fantastic and only Ton’s pictures can do it justice.

Incredible giant rock formations on Tregastel Plage.
More rock formations in the background with the pink sand, which today didn’t come thru, but is still really pretty.
Kelp covered rocks, tidal pools and more giant boulders shaped by water. What a cool place.
More rocks from an incredible beach.

Our last stop for the day was Trebeurden. After checking into our campground for the night we debated whether to go to the beach right away or way for sunset, after checking sunset and finding out it was not until 9:25 we decided to go right away.

The beach at Trebeurden which is nice but we were a little spoiled from earlier in the day.

Walking back we were trying to figure out why sunset was so late here. The latitude is about the same as Portland but the sunset is much later right now. Our friend Kathy Howe supplied the answer, the issue is not latitude but longitude. By all rights Brittany should be in the same time zone as England, but since France only has one time zone sunrise and sunset are about an hour earlier on the clock than they should be.

April 26, 2022 Paimpol FR

Today we started our exploration of Brittany in earnest. To help guide us we are using the Backroads France book published by DK books. These guides are Ton’s favorite guidebook that she uses to do her planning as we move around.

While driving we came across this bay at low tide with really cool mud flats and boats sitting around on the mud. It was too good of a photo opportunity for Ton to pass on.

We are still a little slow getting going in the mornings, but as Ton said today we are not in a hurry so who cares. Our first planned stop for the day was the village of Saint Cast-Le Guido. It is a pretty beach town with a nice view and a small but lively promenade. We didn’t linger long as we had a lot of ground to cover and while pretty it didn’t tempt us to linger.

We really liked this house at Saint Cast-Le Guido.

We had seen a picture of Fort La Latte. It is an old castle that was turned into a coastal fort later in its life. It is everything Hollywood has taught us to expect of a a castle on the coast, and in fact it has been used a few times in movies. It is perched on some rocks not quite attached to the main land with two drawbridges to enter it. A central tower dominates the grounds of the castle. We spent a couple of hours exploring and climbing up and down the stairs. We were surprised to find out it was privately owned and that the family still stays there sometimes in one building that is not open to the public.

The view as you walk up to Fort La Latte, right out of the movies but real.
The inner courtyard of the castle taken from the watch tower. The building in the center with the tower attached is the home of the family that owns the castle.
The watch tower at the fort, you can see people at the top, which is where we took the previous picture from.

We had planned on stopping at Cap Finistere which is the point of land next to the Fort. It is a French national park and billed as one of the largest moorlands on the continent. But, by the time we finished with the Fort and had lunch it was getting late so we decided to push on to our final stop for the day the port town of Paimpol.

The waterfront Promenade in Paimpol.

We pulled into the aire next to the train station about 3:30 and got one of the last sights away from the main road with electricity. The aire was fuller than we expected as so far most of the places we have stayed have been pretty empty. By the time we settled in for the night there were 22 RV’s in the aire with a nominal capacity of 28. It is a good deal for €6.90 with electricity, a dump station and very close to the waterfront.

The recreation port at Paimpol.

Paimpol is a very pretty seaside town with a great waterfront promenade. So we promenaded for a couple of hours, people watching and poking around in cute shops that weren’t too touristy. Ton took a ton of pictures as we walked around and thoroughly enjoyed herself.

Street scene in Paimpol, with the locals and tourists out for their evening stroll.

April 25, 2022 Dinard FR

We began the day with an excellent breakfast from Ton. It was Khao Tom which is a kind of rice gruel. Going thru François the night before she came across a bag of rice that neither of us remember buying. Last night it was a Rissoto to accompany our pork chops, and this morning with some spice and water it became Khao Tom.

St. Malo, our visit there 4 years ago motivated us to spend more time in Brittany.

After breakfast we had a long but uneventful drive to get us to the Northern base of the Brittany Peninsula, the total drive was 305 km’s which is roughly 200 miles. Brittany has been on our list of places we wanted to visit since we swung by St. Malo and Dinan on our second trip to France. We really liked the feel of both places and the mix of French and Celtic culture.

Brittany is famous for its rugged coast line.

Once we were settled into our campground, it was time for our first day of walking. It was about 2 miles to the main beach in town. But the walk was pleasant with lots of interesting old homes to look at as we went. The main beach and promenade came into view suddenly and despite the blustery day was full of people.

People enjoying the waterfront promenade in Dinard.
Nice sand castle, the architect was not in site.

The coast here is full of rocky headlands with relatively small beaches in between. They have done an incredible job of cutting a walking path thru and over the headlands between the beaches. It is one of the most spectacular walks we have done, and interestingly it does not even get a mention in any of the guidebooks about the area. All together we spent about 3 hours walking the beaches and the trails between the beaches. When we returned we were both a little tired and felt like we had earned our supper.

Some really beautiful homes perched on a headland looking over the harbor of Dinard and St. Malo.
Part of the walking path carved out of the rocks of the headlands.
Another section of the coastal trail.

April 24, 2022, Vendome FR

We were excited because last night when we were walking around town we saw them setting up the market for today. We woke up earlier as the jet lag is finally starting to wear off and headed into town to visit the market. When we got there it turned out to be a swap meet and not a market. We are not swap meet people but decided to take a pass thru to see if swap meets are different in France than the US, and the answer is nope, it is still other peoples junk.

The old city gate to Vendome, on the facade you can see bullet holes from WWII.

Above the town is the remains of a 9th century castle, so we headed up there. The view of the town was nice, but not too spectacular. They did have a pretty garden that we poked around in for a few minutes before heading back into town. By this time it was about 11 am so we decided to take another walk thru the city center to see if any of the restaurants or coffee shops got our attention, but unfortunately none did.

The 9th century castle above the town.

By this time the clouds were threatening a bit so we decided to head back to François for lunch and to make plans for tomorrow. We have three main regions we want to explore this trip, Brittany in France, Galicia in Spain, and the entire country of Portugal. Tomorrow we are heading to Brittany.

The statue to Marshal Rochambeau who helped defeat the British at Yorktown to end the American Revolution.

We spent the rest of the day watching the coming and going of other campers. This is always good entertainment for us. Unlike yesterday where we had the place to ourselves, today there are about 14 other vans here, the majority form the Netherlands.

April 23, 2022 Vendome FR

We are finally on the move. After some discussion we decided to head to Vendome in the Loire Valley. It is 200 km’s in the right direction, and had a nice campground we can relax in for a couple of days as the weather is supposed to be poor on Sunday.

We needed to add our first fuel of the trip and just like at home fuel has shot up over here. Today we paid €1.87 per liter for diesel, which is roughly $7.90 per gallon the price is helped by the best exchange rate we have ever had over here between the euro and the dollar.

The drive was uneventful even though I managed to get us lost in the end by punching the gps coordinates for the campground in wrong and we ended up in a nice little village about 15km’s from Vendome. After some figuring I got the right information into the GPS and Gretta Garmin got us to the campground.

One of Ton’s favorite things about driving around France in the spring are the fields of canola everywhere. The bright yellow fields are really pretty and it is always a highlight for her as we are driving. They were at their peak today.

One of Tons favorite things about the French countryside in the spring.

It is shoulder season and we like traveling now because things are less hectic though the weather is a little unpredictable. Today we are at a very nice campground right on the Loire River within walking distance of a nice castle and cathedral and we almost have the place to ourselves. There is only one other RV in a campground with a capacity of 160.

The Abby in Vendome.

Vendome is a nice little city with the aforementioned castle and cathedral. It is the home of Marshal Rochambeau who was the commander of the French forces that helped George Washington defeat the British at the battle of Yorktown. They are very proud of his role in helping us gain our independence. The French take great pride in the close relationship between our countries whether it is them helping us win our revolution, or our helping them during the world wars. The reality we keep coming across really goes against the stereotype of the ungrateful French.

Street scene in Vendome.

April 22, 2022 Sens FR

If we were younger today would have probably been more interesting. Last night we had plans of moving off towards the coast and beginning our new exploration of France. But jet lag and age won out and we did not wake up until nearly 11am, so those plans were put on hold another day.

Today consisted of taking care of one chore, a couple of visits to grocery stores and a nap. Sorry if anyone is looking for something interesting, but today is not the day. Please check in tomorrow as we are planning to begin exploring.

April 21, 2022 Sens FR

The jet lag kicked in and we ended up sleeping until after 10 am. Yesterday when I opened the door to the service area for François the handle came off in my hand. We had planned on spending the day in Sens to recover, get our shopping done, and get our shots loaded into the French government health system so we could get a QR code with our shot information on it. Not an exciting day but a necessary one.

The first stop was back to Eurocamping cars to show them the broken handle. I told Ton that we would probably have to come back in a couple of days after they ordered the part and it came in. But, much to our surprise they had one in stock, so we were on our way in less than an hour.

Our next stop was Auchan for a first pass at groceries. Ton had already planned on a stop at Auchan and Lidl as she has learned what she likes to buy from each one.

After Auchan we headed over to a pharmacy to get our Contolle´Sanitaire´. This is a QR code built into an app which Europe uses in place of the shot cards we use in the US. While there are currently no restrictions in place in France and the Contolle´ Sanitaire´is not being used we are not sure what the future might bring so we decided to get enrolled. The other advantage is the QR code is recognized thru out Europe so we do not have to deal with the different rules from country to country on the US shot cards.

The pharmacist told us it would take an hour so we headed off to Lidl to complete our shopping. When we went back to the pharmacy the Shot passports were waiting and the pharmacist walked us thru downloading the app.

Our not very exciting day ended up back at the Aire in Sens where Ton prepared a nice meal, followed by a short walk to check out the other RV’s. Some days are full of exciting places, and others are days where you buy food and get enrolled in government programs!

April 20, 2022 Sens Fr

We finally made it back to France. We spent the last two weeks making sure that all of the paperwork was perfect, expecting that the immigration process would be very strict. When we arrived the line was pretty long but we have seen it longer. But, much to our surprise the immigration process was not any stricter than in the past. The only delay was a new automatic process where you scan your own passport and stand in front of a screen to have your picture taken. No one even wanted to see our vaccine cards, or the QR code we had downloaded from the French government. After all of the worry and stress about the new Covid requirements we were kind of disappointed.

The ride to Sens was uneventful. Since we were last in France the company where we store François was bought by a French company and they have relocated from the old farm compound that used to serve as our base to a proper garage and store building. They are also acting as a RV dealer for the French population of the town and not just overseas customers. I asked if they had seen a large downturn in overseas customers and they said no. While we were picking up we met an Australian couple, a South African couple and another American couple to prove their point.

The water pump was found to be defective while we were picking up François so we had a little delay while it was fixed. We were worried about the effect of having an unexpected two years of idleness and the water pump seems to have been the victim. After they repaired the water pump they also apologized and said that the starter battery had run down and not to let the van stop running for awhile.

After we settled the bills we headed off to the gas station to fill our LP gas. Knowing that the battery was low we debated whether we should leave François running while we filled, but when we had returned from our last trip in François we had an extra LP bottle installed for our system and this would be the first time filling, so we decided to shut him down to prevent having François go up in a fire ball if we had a gas leak.

After completing the fill and finding no gas leaks from the LP system it was time to move on. Unfortunately, the time we had let François run and the short drive to the gas station had not been enough to restore the battery, so when we went to start him up the battery was dead. The clerk at the gas station had already been really fun as she broke out her high school English when I purchased the the gas, now I got to test her language skills further when I asked for her help to reach Eurocamping cars. She stayed past the end of her shift and insisted on giving Ton and me a free cup of coffee while we waited. Eventually we got hold of Eurocamping cars and they sent one of the mechanics to give us a jump.

It is always amazing how when we run into problems the most unexpected people come to the rescue. The clerk was our guardian angel and like usual I forgot to ask her name but I will always remember her kindness. She turned a potential bad day into a good day.

Our next stop was the Aire in Sens and after hooking up the electricity to charge our battery we headed out, grabbed some food and turned in for a well earned sleep. We had been up for about 26 hours straight minus a couple of cat naps on the plane.