June 7 2008 Sarzeau, France
The 230-mile drive to Bretagne went without upset. In view of the distance and the lack of interesting stops en route we took the motorway, which made for an easy but boring ride. A stop at an "aire" (motorway parking spot) reminded us of how basic French sanitary facilities can be. We had thought that "continental" or "Turkish" toilets had disappeared with the dark ages. No, here they are, but in modern stainless steel.
The campsite, Le Bohat at Sarzeau, is excellent. Good open pitches, spotless modern facilities and a friendly and helpful owner. It is nicely placed halfway between the Golfe de Morbihan, with its picturesque islands and marshy bird sanctuaries, in the North and the open beaches of the Atlantic in the south. There is much history in the area, with megalithic tombs, a 13th century castle and wartime mementos, but most important is the magnificent scenery. Although mainly flat, the views from the low hills across the Golfe are amazing.
We were tempted into a day long boat trip around the Golfe yesterday, with a three hour stop at Ile des Moines, one of the larger islands in the bay. Here we found many delightful marked walks and more important
to hungry sailors, excellent restaurants. We dined at Les Embruns, on the small hill up to the town and were thoroughly satisfied with soupe de poisson followed by merluchon (which was translated as whiting or hake), which came whole, on the bone, in
a tasty Hollandaise sauce. A brisk walk afterwards and the boat trip back left us hungry for a crepe by the time we got back to the mainland.
It is such a pleasant spot here that we have decided to stay on a few days longer. In the meantime, with apologies to those who may have seen some of these before, here are some of our learning points so far:
1) If you do not level the caravan properly then the lowest point of the van will be the shower plughole, from which will emerge the dirty dishwater.
2) If you have no electricity first check the trips on the fuse box before complaining to the site owner.
3) When you travel make sure that all heavy items are moved from the top cupboards and stored safely in boxes on the floor. This must include the bottle of malt and the home-made sloe gin.
4) Do ensure that the electric wires connecting the car to the caravan and running the caravan lights, indicators etc. do not trail on the road whilst driving. Rubber insulation is softer than tarmac, as is copper wiring.
5) If you have a weak back do not rush to bend down to attend to the waste pipe. You will be forced to spend much of the next week lying on an ice pack giving instructions to the better half on the finer points of erecting an awning.
6) If you are pitching the caravan in an orchard, remember that the pitch width above is as important as the pitch width at ground level, and watch the top of the caravan as well as its wheels as you manoeuvre into place.
7) If the motor mover does not move the caravan, try releasing the handbrake.
8) When the caravan has been pulled up a ramp to level it, it is always best to reverse off said ramp, rather than go forward off the end.
9) If the lady in front of you at the checkout is buying a large bottle of coke, then it is inevitable that the bottle will topple off the conveyor and explode. Stand back or be soaked. Do not try to pick it up while it is still spraying.
10) When using the Internet in France remember that French keyboards are very different to English ones, and if you do not concentrate you will be typing gobbledegook.
11) Be warned also that typing the @ sign requires the use of at least five fingers simultaneously, that is assuming that you can find the symbol on the keyboard in the first place.
12) Keyboard rule three, the numbers at the top of the keyboard require the shift key. Your internet bank will not be able to understand an instruction to transfer "$% to another account
13) Washing and shaving can easily be done in the caravan's own facilities. However every drop of water you use has to be carried from the tap to the caravan and the waste water wheeled to the waste disposal area. Sometimes it is easier to use the excellent campsite facilities. However there is no point in lathering up for a shave if your razor is 100 yards away back in the caravan!