Iggy the Hymer motorhome is lazing in a frosty, foggy field at N44.508499, W0.791013 in Belin Beliet, a few miles south of Bordeaux.
It is a small, linear village with little charm. The kind of place where people stay who pay the price of 3 hours commuting a day in order to escape the city. The houses are pretty, and there is a walk in the woods for Marley beside the field we are parked on. During the night it is calm and peaceful, but with the dawn the roar of traffic on the busy road is a constant backdrop to village life.
But for us this stop was perfect for our purposes. Last night was our seventh day on the road since leaving Edinburgh. Only seven, and yet that is a small lifetime when travelling. Every day packed with new places, sights, sounds. Always being that little bit stretched by new experiences. Needing to think more, be more…present.
We love it! But now and then it’s nice to step back and stop off somewhere with nothing much to see. To catch up on reading, on photo editing, and yes, on writing the blog!
In my last post I left you halfway between Abbeville and Alencon on our second day in France. Way back on Friday the 8th of February. The wind had calmed down a bit from the previous night and the rain was intermittent as we made miles down the road towards Spain.
By choice we like to cover ground slowly. There are always new spots to find. Charming towns and villages passing by our windows. It is a shame to just rush on through to a destination, missing all the wonders of the journey as we pass.
In this case though we were, decidedly, looking forward to getting a bit of warmth in our winter long bones! Also we had promised to be near Malaga on the 19th of February, so dallying along at fifty kilometres a day wasn’t quite going to cut it.
We weren’t exactly rushing along at two to three hours driving a day, but it was still long enough to warrant a lunch break for Jay and Marley. Jay is a type one diabetic so we never drive for more than two hours without stopping to give him a break and a snack. Marley Dog is delighted by this arrangement as it always means a walk for her, and new sniffs for her greedy nose to sniff at!
Today we struck lucky for our lunch stop as we followed a random motorhome Aire sign just beside the pretty village of Acquigny. The signs promised a lake et voila! A lake there was indeed. And a very pretty, interesting lake at that!
We had a leisurely lunch and enjoyed a long stroll around the water. Marley gulped the air like a man just rescued from drowning. Eating up the smells greedily as she said “Bonjour” to local dogs, eyed up the Geese longingly from the shadows, and beat Jay paws down at a game of hopscotch.
We even found a doggy obstacle course for her to play on, and she had great fun running along beside Jay as he showed her what to do!
Lunch over, and a reluctant goodbye said to the lake, we finished the last miles to Alencon in ever thickening showers of rain. Hopeful that we could still enjoy something of the town we pulled into the free parking spot at N48.427155, W0.093696 and set out to explore.
Markets and Furry Ears in Alencon
Our overnight spot turned out to be in an excellent location, right by the River Sarthe walkway, and only a few minutes walk from the historic centre.
The rain teemed it down as we strolled past the fascinating old boat houses and around the beautiful and unusual building that is the Basilique Notre Dame d’Alencon. The gargoyles disgorged waterfalls of rainwater onto the shining streets below and after a few blocks round the pretty medieval centre we gave up and ran back for Iggy, shelter, and some good, cheap, French wine!
Jay spent a peaceful night, but I barely slept. An hour or two after we went to sleep Marley Dog roused herself and began to scratch. She raised herself from her bed – underneath our overcab drop down bed – and settled on “her” sofa. Half an hour later the scratching resumed. She moved from the sofa back to her bed. Half an hour later… You get the picture! The dreaded ear infection had returned!
Between the scratching, the moving, and the worrying about how we were going to deal with the ear infection it was a long, restless night! Marley had an ear infection a few months ago which wasn’t handled too well by the vet she saw. Suffice to say she now growls at any vet who tries to examine her and will not let anyone mess with her ear when it’s sore. Marley is a big girl, and no definitely means no!
What to do? The ear needed treatment, but we weren’t keen on the idea of having her heavily sedated again. Not good for Marley, and not good for our wallet either.
Then I remembered that pharmacists in France sell medicines for pets. Would they be able to give us some antibiotics for her? We didn’t really need a vet to have a look. The symptoms were exactly the same as last time, so we were pretty certain it was just another fungal infection…
Fingers crossed we set off through the gorgeous morning sunshine into the pharmacy we’d spotted in the town centre the night before. To my delight the pharmacist did indeed have doggy antibiotics for this very thing. And for the paltry fee of 10 Euros! Result!
The bad news was it was a topical application, not tablets. Hmmmm. I really didn’t know if Marley would let me put this in her ear. What to do?
She was still letting me rub her ear though, so I decided I would try and trick her by popping the gel on the heel of my hand with a glove and trying to give her an ear rub when she wasn’t looking. If it didn’t work we’d only lost ten euros and would just need to go to a vet on Monday and ask for tablets.
Heading back to Iggy for the attempted treatment we spotted a market in full flow up by the old town ramparts. Marley instantly forgot all about her sore ear as the delicious, tempting smells of cheese, fish and meats wafted past her nose. Mmmmmmm!! Market!!
Jay and I pretty much don’t eat meat. We’re not strict vegetarians, but we do care about looking after the planet for future generations, so eating meat just pretty much doesn’t happen. It was really tempting to try some of the delicious looking pastries and cold cuts in the market though! But we resisted!!
Grabbing a coffee and a crepe au chocolat for breakfast and topping up our fruit and veg supply with fresh, unwrapped champignons, juicy plum tomatoes, avocados and a sumptuous artichoke helped distract us from the smells of rotisserie chicken. And while Marley wasn’t paying attention I popped on a glove, dropped a pea sized piece of antibiotic gel on it, and gave Marley a good old inner ear rub while she wasn’t expecting it.
It worked! She stared suspiciously at the glove, but was clearly enjoying the ear rub! I could see she was going to be suspicious of me every time she saw the glove, but it looked like this might actually work. The antibiotic should really be getting squirted right down to the bottom of her ear. But we would keep our fingers crossed that this would be good enough and see how she went in the next few days.
Fruit bought, sunshine enjoyed and dog problem dealt with it was time to get back on the road again. Using our favourite method we packed up Iggy, turned off the gas, and headed south. I would find us a stopover on the way.
Troglodyte Dwellings in Turquant
The weekend was upon us and we started to come across roundabouts full of friendly “Gilets Jaunes” as we wound our way south, south and more south. We waved back and shouted “Bon chance!” to the friendly faces, and I felt tears tingle at the back of my eyes and throat at the feeling of warmth and comradeship that seemed to exude from the groups.
Many roundabouts were empty, baring the scorched marks of old fires instead of the usual French statement about the region, it’s specialities, what fun the town or village had to offer to the visitor.
In some places the roundabout displays were beautifully intact and I wondered if it was arranged with the communes which roundabouts had held the bonfires? Or were some just destroyed?
I didn’t know and was still pondering the question when we arrived at our destination for the night. A quiet country stop at the tiny, peaceful Troglodyte village of Turquant. Just a few miles along the Loire valley from the stunning town of Saumur.
The village had done us proud with the tiny free Aire at N47.223801, W0.029189, and as soon as we’d parked up we were out of Iggy and off to explore our surroundings.
This was meant to be a quiet stop to walk Marley and catch up on the blog. Instead I quickly found myself entranced by the fascinating walking route set out through the village.
Much of the walk led past the Troglodyte houses. There’s just something about a cave dwelling, a primeval part of our racial memory perhaps, that fascinates and calls to me. We’d stayed in a cave house before in Andalucia but these Troglodyte houses were slightly different in that they started life as industrial tunnels before being abandoned and converted into living spaces.
Carrying along the path we came to the Pomme de Tappe shop and museum. Marley couldn’t go into the museum sadly, and we didn’t feel like leaving her, but it looked like it would have been an interesting visit. Although…we weren’t too sure dried, flattened apples were quite worth 6Euros each for the visit.
The price of 9 euro for a jar of six seemed a bit extreme too, so we beat a quiet retreat and headed off up the path in search of the windmill we had seen from the road earlier.
I’ve got a bit of a thing for windmills and this one was an absolute cracker! Unfortunately the light was disappearing fast by that point and we had to scarper before the path became completely invisible in the gloom.
And that, as they say, was that. We returned to Iggy to find a little pizza van sitting in the square. Saturday night treat time for the villagers. We’re both a bit mad for pizza since we’ve been travelling in Iggy as we have no oven and can’t make our own.
So, suffice to be said, it wasn’t long before Team Anima was cosied up in Iggy’s comfy dinette with an ultra thin French Pizza and chilli pizza sauce.
A glass of red, a bottle of beer, and three heads ready for sleep…