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Home Travel StoriesFrance 2013

France Day 17 - The Gift Of TIme

By Sharon Parker

The boyfriend is a bit sore this morning. His air-bed went down too last night. We bought the air-beds from an outdoors/camping place, believing that they would be hard wearing and durable. Well after just 17 days they have both let us down, literally. Pfft.

While decamping we give everything a thorough shake to dislodge any unwanted hitch-hikers in the form of little ants. We discovered last night we had managed to camp over an ants nest and the wee beasties are having a feast on the residues of sugar inside the boyfriends mug. It is at least dry while we squish and squash all our belonging into the saddle bags but it is still sadly lacking in warmth.

We have no real destination in mind today other than to travel north on our homeward bound leg of our journey. We spend most of the morning looking in various shops in the hope of finding Ren a lilo just like mine. Sadly to no avail. Eventually the bf spots a camping shop and he opts for a rather expensive self inflating mattress. It is small and light but to be honest it does not look half as comfy as my cheap lilo, but with no lilo's to be found needs must.

We stop by some shops for a short rest and I spy a little cake shop filled with home made delightful confections. I choose a scrumptious looking strawberry tart which tastes every bit as gorgeous as it looks. Yum yumlious!! It is expensive for just one little tart at €1.95 but it is worth it for the taste sensation after being so good for so long and this being the first cake of the holiday.

We journey on and pass by yellow flowered meadows filled with an array of either tiny Shetland ponies, horses, donkeys or cows. Many with either foals or calves. They all look content, well fed and healthy. However we note that one thing we have not seen for a while is a campsite sign. We stop at a small Tabac and the bf enquirers in his best French about any sites in the area. We were given details of the local Municipal site in Mamers, Camping du Saosnois.
www.tourisme-mamers-saosnois.com/sejourner-se-restaurer/se-loger/campings/204031-camping-municipal-du-saosnois

Camping du Saosnois is a 3 star located within easy walking distance of the town of Mamers. At this time of year we find it rather quiet with only ourselves and a couple of other campers on site. It is a pretty site located naturally by a river, which is boarded by a man made little beach complete with pedalos to hire. The pedalos at €1.50 for 30 minutes are unfortunately only available to hire at the weekends so I wont get the chance to have a  a pedal.

a small wooden footbridge in trees leading to a body of water at mamers
The little wooden bridge to the beach by the river

The shower and toilet block is fully enclosed and even better it is heated and the heating is on, making it a warm haven, fantastic. There is a communal sink area but also separate private sinks if you would prefer more privacy. There are washing facilities and even a large TV/games room with seating and tables both inside and out. All this for a price of €8 per night. That will do nicely thanks very much.

a white painted toilet block looking smart and light among the trees at mamers
Heated toilet block
bright white tiled walls with 3 sink basins
a single sink in a small white tiled cubicle
toilet in a small white tiled cubicle
Communal sinks, separate sink and toilets

If you want a little more luxury the camp also has large ready erected safari style tents or smart modern caravans to hire. I cannot resist unzipping one of the tents for a look inside. They are very roomy and well equipped.

a large, permanent safari style tent with a wooden veranda
One of a variety if pre erected tents on site
static caravan with wooden veranda
Smart new caravans for hire

The pitches are separated by privet hedging and as we pitch up Ren says how good it was the other day when we got offered a brew by our next door campers. When as if by magic a head pops over the hedge and tells us in a broad Scouse accent that as soon as we finish pitching up to come inside their camper van for a nice brew. Awww how fantastic.  Such simple acts of friendship and kindness really do bring a little glow of warmth to your very being.

the bf stood next to tent at the pitch, grinning
Pitched up for the night

Soon enough we are sat inside the warmth and luxury of our neighbours mobile home. Our hostess Paula is from the Dingle in Liverpool. One of those rough diamonds with hearts of pure gold who are a delight to meet. Brian her partner is from Wallasey (a posh Scouser according to Paula), both in the 50's at a guess. Paula admits she has been married several times but with a big smile and a look of genuine affection she pats Brian on the legs and tells us this one is a keeper. They have been touring France now for 15 years, 7 of which have been in Camper vans. The hard working pair work out at sea on various boats, he as an engineer and she as a steward. Sometimes they manage to acquire jobs on the same boat but at other times they have to be apart. While on the boats they work a 7 day week but the upside of this is although you work solid for 4 months they then have a whole 3 months off. They decided to rent out their home 2 years ago and since then they have been living in their van whenever they are off the boats.

We spend quite some time chatting away to the lovely couple. It is just so interesting finding out about how other folk live their lives. They also give us some valuable information about the Aires camping signs which we have seen dotted about. They tell us that almost all the Aires are free to camp at. Some of which even offer free electric as well as water. You can purchase a Aires book that list all of the Aires in France. With such a welcoming and friendly pair it is tempting to just sit here chewing the fat all evening but we do not wish to outstay our welcome and bid our hosts goodbye as we go for a stroll into town.

The walk into town is pleasant and we find Mamers quite lively. Lively by French Monday evening standards that is. Quite a few bars and restaurants are open. I spot a kebab shop. Ren is reluctant to try the place at first, worrying about the taste or the food and hygiene etc. I eventually convince him not to be a wuss and give it a go. I am so glad we went in because we manage to encounter a different type of French man within the Kebab shop. The young owner is a delight. Very friendly and chatty. Although his English is not perfect neither is our French but despite that we manage to have a friendly little chat. His big smile and enthusiasm about our trip is a nice contrast to some of the polite but cool service we had so far received in France. The charming owner shakes our hands warmly as we leave with are Chicken Kebab Pininis.

the market square in the sunshine of Mamers. Broad, open and quite pretty
Mamers, not heaving but not devoid of life either

We sit on a bench to eat our meal. I find the combination of chicken, cheese and mayo very tasty. Ren enjoys it but struggles a little with the new combination of flavours.  I however love to try something different that I have not come across before.

We get a little lost on the return to the campsite but nothing too serious. Back on site we relax for a while in the games room and play some darts. I have not played darts for years. I was probably still in my teens the last time I played. So it is no surprise I am pretty awful at first but I improve a lot as the game goes on. But the lead Ren established at the beginning proves too much and I lose by a small margin....booooo.

It has been a good day today. The weather has been sunny but with a chill wind. The sun has been most welcome but the greatest warmth today has come from meeting some friendly and delightful people. They shared a little piece of their lives with us and extended their hands of friendship. A smile costs nothing to give but can be of unlimited value. In today's busy lives we often forget to stop and smile at a stranger, to give one another the time of day, to stop and chat for a small while even with friends we know. I hope I do not forget too soon how those who took the time to offer me a smile today lifted my spirits and I hope I will remember to offer my own smile to others. The gift of time, yes giving up a part of your day to someone else, one of life's most simplest but probably most precious gifts of all.

Forming a Plan The formulation of a cunning a devious plan to take on Europe is formed in the tiny mind of our intrepid explorer...
The GF Question Do I take the gf with me to France? Can she come? Will she like it? These are all very difficult questions...
France...I wanna go but can I...?? Can Sharon make it to Europe? Will the kids survive? Will the bf behave? Is there any space for makeup? All these questions and more...
The Load Getting everything we NEED and a few items we WANT onto a motorcycle can be a problem. Now I have to work out how to get 3 WEEKS worth of gear onto the poor donkey(aka bike)
Camping In Cambridge The start of our Epic Adventure...or bike holiday around France. Cambridge is surprisingly nice really.
France - Day 1 Sharon's first day from her point of view. Cushy Cambridge and dry weather...what more could a girl want?
The Chunnel The Chunnel, I'm excited but also stressing because the bike's already broken before we leave the UK. I worry too much...
France - Day 2 - Bikes, Trains and Tents Sharon leads us through sunshine, hair issues, the Channel Tunnel and into France. But France is eerily quiet...
Here Comes The Rain Bike fixed...bike broken. Rain, endless dull roads, miserable towns and more rain. Oh the joy of travel! At least Epernay welcomed us with a huge smile :-)
France Day 3 - Crying Through The Rain The rain plays tricks with Sharon's spirit but a stiff upper lip and giving herself a good talking to see her through.
Rain Into Dijon Rain, rain and more rain. Just how long can it last? Would we be better off with a Jet Ski? Can we continue to keep our Great British Stiff Upper Lips?
France Day 4 - We Are Mustard We Are Dijon is the destination and we're surviving the rain...that makes us well mustard! We're happy in spite of the rain but how long can we keep smiling?
The Joy Of Being Lost As we head south the rain lightens but will it ever stop? I get lost which is no surprise, but lost turns out to be the best part of travelling. Are things finally taking a turn for the better? I do hope so...
France Day 5 - Biker's Paradise Sharon's day 5 in France starts out rough but improves considerably. What delights can put such a joyous grin on her face?
The Stunning Alps We are both facing a very strange situation...that of sunshine, warmth, beauty and pleasure.
France Day 6 - Magnificent Mountains Sharon shares the delights of the Alps. Sometimes life is good!
Highs And Lows From the stunning Alps to our ultimate destination...MONACO! Is it all I expected? Will it be as I imagined?
France Day 7 - Scooter Mayhem Sharon describes the best and the worst France has to offer. Ride on the back with her from the beauty of the countryside to the mayhem of Monaco
Resting And Deciding Today we stop to take a breather and recuperate. It's also time to make a decision about the rest of our journey. I used to be indecisive, I'm not so sure now.
France Day 8 - Chilling In The Pool A day off from the journey sees Sharon and Ren doing something very silly, breaking things and achieving very little. What a splendid way to spend a day!
Going West Day 9 sees us heading west from the coast. It's finally dry, but it's still windy so not too hot. The gf's not well and Ren is relentlessly lost. Overall not a bad day then!
France Day 9 - Poppies, Vines and a Wet Lettuce Feeling poorly rather spoils Sharon's day today. Still on she must go on and survive what might have otherwise been a good day.
Biggest Bridge In The World In glorious sunshine and fine health we make our way from Nimes to Millau complete with it's Viaduct. Sometimes life is good, occasionally it's great!
France Day 10 - Deflated to Elated Today is a good day for Sharon. Today the sun shines, the scenery is beautiful and the people are pleasant. Join her as France puts a smile on her face.
The Wettest Bridge In The World The Millau Viaduct ought to be impressive. It is, but nowhere near as impressive as the amount of rain falling from the skies.
France Day 11 - Grim Not every day can be filled with sunshine and smiles, even on holiday. This one certainly was not for Sharon!
False Hope Part One Ren would like to invite you to a joyous report about the delightful weather in the South of France! He'd like to. Instead it just rained and rained and rained and rained...
France Day 12 - It's Gloomy Inside And Out Sharon freezes her butt off during the night then is treated to a cold and wet ride. The Ren sure knows how to spoil a girl.
False Hope Part Two Is this the end? Has Armageddon arrived? Is this the Apocalypse? It sure as hell feels like it.
France Day 13 - Quietude For A While Sharon's report on another day of mixed weather. There's peace and beauty then there's mud and cold. Adventure...no-one said it would be easy!
Sunshine After Rain A night of rain soaked delirium. Will the day be any better? Will our travellers ever dry out?
France Day 14 - A Bit of 5 Star Luxury Sharon has a much better day on the road and a luxurious 5 star campsite. It's amazing what difference a little dry weather can make.
Back Into The Flatlands A quiet, simple and easy days ride through France for Ren. Pleasant enough but the flatlands are getting a little boring now.
France Day 15 - A Bit Of 2 Star Delight Sharon has an ordinary day and a frustrating battle with the weather.
Not Far To Chinon It's a short, easy and peaceful ride this day in France. Ren gets all philosophical too.
France Day 16 - A Historical Walk Around Chinon Sharon enjoys a hint of sunshine and the history of Chinon, France.
Shopping To Mamers Ren's airbed's leaking now. No problem, find a shop and buy a new one...easy? I don't think so...
France Day 17 - The Gift Of TIme Even though the weather is cool Sharon's heart is warmed by the people she meets in France today
Don't Go To Ault Ren has a grim, long, dull and uninspiring day in France. The accommodation doesn't help.
France Day 18 - Is This Misery Or Joy? Sharon finds sunshine, ancient caravans and ponders about hapiness.
Looking For Luxury With time on their side Ren looks for the perfect campsite for the next to night. Not finding it makes him a very grumpy boy.
France Day 19 - Campsite Conundrums Although the wind blows the sun is shining while Sharon looks for the perfect pitch.
Resting In Ambleteuse Ren philosophises too much on the final day of his trip around France.
France Day 20 Sharon's in a reflective mood on the last day of our French trip.
Back Into England Ren recalls the final day of the French Adventure. It's all over far too soon.
What Did We Learn? Ren sums up his thoughts about France and the French trip.
France On Reflection Sharon sums up her her experience of the French Trip. Damn those Alps.
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