A Travellerspoint blog

August 2012

France Trip 2012

Disney and Beyond!

Day 1

We were up and ready to leave in good time. Once on the way I discovered my phone was at home and turned around. Not to worry plenty of time to fill up CC with petrol and still arrive well in time for our train. ;)

More time than expected. At check-in we were told there was at least a 90 minute delay due to essential maintenance. Essential? Holiday weekend?

The entire site was rammed with cars trying to get to a pinch point to go the passports and customs.

Once we were called there was the usual cram to get all the cars for different trains through passport control.

So there we were in Lane 7 in another long queue waiting to get on a train. Luckily that was only for 25 minutes... Then once on the go we were loaded into the last carriage and the train finally wheezed out 75 minutes late.

As the expected delay was 90 minutes maybe Eurotunnel can convince us that we are in fact 15 minutes early?

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The best part is actually not having any information on how long it might be. Plenty of speakers but each one dead as a doornail.

An hour and a quarter plus the hour time difference means that we will arrive about 1235 CET in France.

My plan of a dash to Péronne to have lunch and visit the WW1 museum is now ruined. Small town France is notorious for early closures and "desolé" if arriving nearer 2pm than 1pm for Sunday lunch.

An apology for ruining a lot of plans might have been nice. Or in 30C heat and an hour of queuing, some free water!

Once clear of the terminal I set the satnav for Péronne.

We knew it would be too late for lunch and so we stopped at the Aire de Rely for lunch.

We had been driving with the lid down and the temp gauge hovering about 31 degrees. It was to get hotter. After a quick lunch of steack haché we were off again.

By Péronne it was 35 degrees. The museum is housed in the old feudal castle. It isn't air conditioned and was like an oven inside.

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We had to have a tea afterwards to cool our blood.

It got hotter as we headed south to rejoin the A1 and peaked at 39 degrees in the area near the hotel. I took a picture of the on-dash temperature display to prove it.

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It was so hot we had a few cold showers before heading into town to scope a restaurant. We booked a table at the Bistrot du Boucher. A quick and refreshing beer across the road helped cool us for two minutes!!

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Now back at the hotel in the sweltering heat. we were never this affected by the heat in Florida!!!

Day 2

Day two starts early. After 39C in the evening the temps dropped to about 27 overnight. The room was like an oven and so we couldn't sleep.

In the end I had the idea of soaking the towels in cold water and using them as a cooling aid. Seemed to work. The flaw? Damp towels for the morning shower.

Up late as a result. Weather forecast not as good for today. Shame. Never though I'd want for cool weather on holiday.

Once packed and loaded we are off to Disneyland.

As we had skipped breakfast at the hotel we thought we'd find somewhere en-route rather than wait for the park itself. In the end we turned into a huge US style shopping mall/village. Nothing was signposted that well and the choice was McDonalds next to a Sea Life centre (!) or Starbuck's; the lesser of two evils!

The store was sandwiched next to an Armani Direct, Burberry and Ralph Lauren set of shops. Most of the customers were split into two groups. Smokers - French, and Non-Smokers - everyone not French. The distinctions between income streams was less easy to detect. A lot of them were simply idiotic "saving" a couple of pence on tat.

One latté and a plate of pancakes later we were off to Disney.

They've got the misinformation to a tee, having a walkway with "Bienvenue" on it that makes you feel you've not got far to go despite being in parking row F33! The entrance is about a mile away, but some of the travelators (moving footpaths like flat escalators!) make it less arduous even in 31C temps.

An annoying thing is they stiff you for €15 to park. Before you shell out for a park entry ticket. The Disney Way = Pay Pay Pay.

Getting the tickets from the Sky vouchers was relatively easy, although the guy in front that had a receipt for $555 wasn't happy at the delay in getting his!

Today's entry price is €74 for both Disney Studios and Disneyland. I'd have preferred a Euro version of Epcot.

As expected queues were running at about 90 minutes for all the rides in both parks. We did some of the studio theatres and Disney Railroad.

We did the loop of the park sharing our compartment with an Arab family and a mature German couple.

About 2pm we decided we'd had enough of the queuing. Had I paid for the tickets I would have got as much of my money's worth as possible.

We set off for the long way back to the car and after running the air-con we were off.

The drive round the south of Paris on the A4 and A86 was free of tolls and so was the N12. The traffic wasn't too bad although the standard of
Disney driving was lower than at home. No wonder we smug British have the lowest casualty rates per million kms driven than most of the rest Europe.

We stopped for a late lunch sandwich and a coffee about 4pm.

Checking the map showed a pretty straightforward run to Alençon then south to the hotel at Beaumont sur Sarthe.

Despite that, the satnav told us we had "arrived at out destination" some ten miles short and in the middle of nowhere.

I checked the POI and there are two TomTom entries! I clicked the other and it took us to the door. Who does this? Surely someone checks.

Once checked in we explored locally and then found a refreshing beer.

Dinner was in the hotel. For the vegetarians amongst you I will not say much about the gésiers. Nice but too much on one plate!

And now to bed.

It's only been in the low 30C all day and much cooler this evening. Maybe don't need the wet towels!

Tomorrow the plan is to hit the town here to see the old town and then head across to a Beaux Village de France site.

Day 3

Beaumont sur Sarthe. Although we had a back room, the need to keep the windows open and just the shutters closed means that traffic noise is quite loud.

The D338 is the new designation for what used to be the N138. All across France this is happening. National roads be becoming Departmental roads instead.

The plan is to explore the old town after breakfast before we head off to Sainte-Suzanne in the Mayenne department.

Once we had finished breakfast at the Logis we packed the car where it had been parked overnight and set off down the street to the old town.

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At the entrance they have a wooden mock castle built over the road. I'll add some photos later as they are on the camera not phone.

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We had a look at the market and then went downwards hoping to find the old bridge over the river.

IMG_4358.JPGIMG_4359.JPGThe old bridge

The old bridge

A new bridge carries current traffic across the Sarthe and it is hard to imagine how they managed before it was built.

Once we had bought something for a picnic lunch we set off for the first Plus Beaux Village de France of this trip; Sainte Suzanne.

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Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Sainte-Suzanne

Once again TomTom did a good job and we arrived untroubled about 11am. It was a short walk from the parking into the village and plus beaux it is too.

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The trip wasn't as long today and I programmed the overnight stop into the TomTom. Altogether it was around 75 miles with TT set to no tolls. Lunch was in a picnic site alongside the road. In France many of these sites are created when they change the road and leave the old tarmac section to be used for parking.

It was still hot, hovering around 30C, and by the time we arrived at Fleuré to the south of Argentan I had the beginnings of a headache.

I pulled over by a hedge and a couple of tricolours and found that this was the Leclerc Monument about 9kms south of Argentan itself.

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This is the spot where Patton and Leclerc's armoured divisions engaged the German panzer divisions in August 1944. How fitting that we are here 68 years almost to the day later.

From Fleuré we decided to go to the hotel at the Domaine de la Tour just to the north of Falaise.

TomTom decided that it would take us in what can be described as the back way. The road was a path with a chain across. In the end after retracing our steps several times we decided to go a little further up the D6 and were rewarded with the right way in!

The Domaine is a B&B in what looks like may have been the stables etc of the nearby chateau. They are separate entities now and the owners have restored the buildings.

Domaine de la Tour

Domaine de la Tour

We have a large room with armchairs and huge bathroom. It's a little noisy ad they floors ate wood and the people upstairs appear to be wearing army boots!

Tomorrow, we have two places to visit before we arrive in Rouen for our last night of the trip.

The first is the museum and monument at Montormel. This is where the Polish and other allied armies finally closed the Falaise pocket and destroyed the German panzer army.

Day 4

After a better nights sleep in the Domaine, breakfast was a quiet affair with home made jams and plenty of French bread.

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The sun is out and we are now packing for the day.

At €70 a night this is the most expensive stay of the trip but included breakfast.

On the way towards Montormel, we came across a set of French and Canadian flags that turned out to be the observatory outside St Lambert sur Dives, where Major Currie won the VC.

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The satnav was re-programmed to take us to Montormel and the Monument to the Polish Armoured Division that took and held the hill then known as 262 North to stop the German 7th Army escaping the Falaise pocket.

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On the way we stopped at a look out point on the Couloir de Mort. The corridor of death. The corridor that shrank from 30kms to 3kms that the Germans needed to escape.

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The satnav POI is wrong. It tells you to go to the right as you enter Montormel hamlet, but the Memorial is about a half mile further up the hill and to the left. It is signposted for normal navigators!!

Entry is €5 and as well as some very informative displays and artefacts from known allied and German soldiers, there is a superb sound and light show that using small screens and a large model explains how the battle progressed to its conclusion.

This is followed by a short (15m) film interviewing survivors from both sides.

We left there with a greater sense of the achievement, but in the back of your mind you can't but be moved by the senseless slaughter of young men.

It was now time for lunch and so we headed for Camembert. My brother and I had been there in May. This time we went with the roof down and in 25C.

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Unlike last time the centre now does sandwiches with a choice of local cheeses or a selection of cheeses and bread. We opted for the latter along with local apple juice. The local wasps know this and come by for a visit. Cue lots of waving as tourists try to flap them away.

We bought a small Camembert as we were there!

The next stop was Le Bec Hellouin. Another Plus Beaux Village. The only stop was at a supermarket to get something to supplement our chesse lunch. Tarte de Citron. Mmmmmmm.

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

Le Bec Hellouin

As we tended to arrive later at the hotels we made sure we arrived in Rouen in evening rush hour! But TomTom took us to the front door despite the mapping having no concept that some of the roads are (and have been for years!!) one way!!!

We have a curious room overlooking the back of the hotel and the car park. Under the window is a small tub with goldfish.

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Once the car was secured in the car park behind the hotel we had a few minutes rest before going out to look around the city centre tourist bits and have dinner.

From the hotel it was a short two block walk to the Tourist Office and the Cathedral.

Rouen Cathedral

Rouen Cathedral

Rouen Cathedral Spires

Rouen Cathedral Spires

Old Market Square

Old Market Square

Statue on bridge over the Seine

Statue on bridge over the Seine

As we got out the cameras, Claire's Sony AS started making strange noises when turned on and again when off. From deduction it looks as though the sensors that work out when to switch the viewfinder on is causing a problem. It seems to fix itself only to start again later.

We took some pix of the Cathedral and then walked around to the Gros Horloge and then into old Market Square for a beer and then to decide on dinner. I fancied pizza until I saw the pizza place and then in a fish restaurant I saw moules!!!

Claire chose Soupe des Poissons and a fish casserole from the "menu" and I had a green salad and moules in white wine and Roquefort cheese from the carte. Lovely!

Soup des poissons

Soup des poissons

Moules

Moules

By the time we set off back to the hotel it had turned chilly and we were happy to get in and go to bed.

After the luxury of the Domaine near Falaise, the Arts & Seine is quirkier and the bed was not very good. We clung to the edges to avoid sliding down into the middle. Breakfast was good and it is so ideally placed for the city centre.

The weather was good still and the high of 25C was perfect for touring and sightseeing.

Day 5

The last day.

Up late after having a lie in to make up for the valley of a bed in Room 2 at the Arts & Seine hotel. Breakfast and out on the road.

I set the TomTom to take us home with the toll road option turned off. We would need petrol before home and decided to divert off the toll free A28 towards Forges les Eaux but at Buchy a few miles down the detour we saw the signs for a Carrefour and immediately changed our minds.

In the end we bought lunch; baguette, ham and several cheeses, plus lemon tea (and a beer for home!)

Then Claire thought we should buy a bottle of Vodka for our neighbours looking after the cat. We checked a few and opted for Polish - not the cheapest but a good looking label!

After fuel we decided as we had about 6 hours to get to the Shuttle we would head north to the coast and work our way along, find a picnic site and have lunch.

I added a "via" to the route home. On the A28 we seemed to be getting nearer Abbeville and still no "left turn clyde" to the sea.

In the next aire I checked and reset the via and it was sorted. Although Le Tréport is probably very nice TomTom decided to avoid it and make sea fall further east.

In the end we ignored the voice telling us to turn one way or another and headed for Cayeux sur Mer. When we were last there the parking along the coast was deserted. In 22c hot sun it was packed and we found a single parking space!

Cayeux Chichi Bar

Cayeux Chichi Bar

A turn along the boardwalk to a small bar, Chichi Bar, for a coffee, was enough. Too many people roasting themselves in the sun, but the beach huts that line the boardwalk are really nice. I took a few photos on my iPhone.

We hopped back in the car to look for a better picnic spot. Drove through historic St Valery sur Somme, which was William the Conquerer's last port before crossing the Channel in 1066. Then onto Le Crotoy across the Somme estuary to a nice stretch of almost empty beach with benches on the seafront; one of which was our lunch spot.

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From Le Crotoy we followed the D940 and D901 back to the Tunnel to get the train home. At the check in we got a train 90 minutes earlier than booked. I usually don't like to do this, but it was free and it saved sitting about waiting to leave. One of the reasons I hate flying!

We arrived home about 5pm local time, unpacked the car, saw to the cat and then Claire sat in the garden and we both had a nice cup of tea.
All in all, the break was what we needed. I could take or leave Disney. Hardly anyone of the adults you looked at seemed to be enjoying their €74 day and we were ambivalent.

The days we toured between Beaux Villages and the D-Day sites were far better, relaxed and as for traffic? There was hardly a traffic jam all week.

Posted by InvictaMoto 09:50 Archived in France Comments (0)