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Andrew's Auspicious Antics and Adventures

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return to Cherbourg…

St Malo is by far the most convenient port for us in northern France, however on rare occasions when we can’t get a crossing we use either Caen or Cherbourg.

In the summer months Brittany Ferries operate the Normandie Express, a daily service between Portsmouth and Cherbourg with high speeds of up to 42 knots giving a nippy journey time of just 3 hours.

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This month we were on one of the first crossings of the season and very fresh it was all too.  There is a new Club Lounge with extra-comfy seating which is spacious enough to recline without impacting on your nearest neighbour.  In-seat USB connections are a real bonus and complimentary hot and cold drinks are provided at the beginning and end of each journey. Well worth the extra few pounds…

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Also new for this season is a small range of hot meals from Le Cafe, a very welcome addition.  Cooked breakfast was keenly priced and very tasty it was too; the perfectly scrambled eggs, tomatoes and sausages were accompanied by a rather strange (and unnecessary) mashed potato affair. For later in the day there is a limited but good choice of hot food again well priced at around £5.00 or a choice of delicious soups for £3.50.

Of course there’s a shop, just the one but it sells all the usual papers, magazines and things you never knew you needed plus wines, beers, spirits and tobacco; oh and giant Chupa Chups.

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We disembarked just a few minutes earlier than scheduled and after a very brief queue at French border control we were whisking our way down the peninsular; it is a bit of a gruelling drive home at around 7 hours with a few short stops, but much nicer for pampered pooch who only had to endure being left for 3 hours instead of the usual overnight in the kennels on the ferry.

Time then for feet up and a relaxing glass of something sparkling…

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I’ll be adding more pics and info to the Normandie Express page shortly, but in the meantime check out our oh so favourite Brittany Ferries ship, the MV Bretagne

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Quimper Cornouaille, ville capitale

Our closest city, one that we never tire of visiting, Quimper is the cultural and administrative capital of Finistère; it derives its name from kemper, the Breton word for confluent as the rivers Steir and Odet meet here and flow gently out to the ocean at nearby Bénodet.

These rivers wend their way through the town criss-crossed by a myriad of bridges each adorned with bold colourful displays of flowers.

Quimper floral bridges

The skyline of the old town is dominated by the flamboyant gothic Quimper Cathedral, properly known as La Cathédral Saint Corentin de Quimper; we’re talking ancient here – construction started in the 13th century.

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The cathedral is also hauntingly beautiful at night…

The city, once the ancient capital of Cornouaille, found wealth in the production of Faïence, the art of tin glazed hand-painted pottery, in the early 1700’s. Quimper faïence is still made and can be found in the boutiques of the old town, some of the older rarer items being valuable collectors pieces, although the inevitable tourist tat is widely available.

There’s performance to be found on the street corners from traditional Breton entertainment to jazz improv…

While the supermarkets, diy stores and the like encircle the town on outlying retail parks, in the centre there is a plethora of independent shops and some popular high street brands with just one small charming department store from the Eurodif chain.

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Each Saturday there is a market selling fresh produce from the local area and of course the inevitable rotisserie stall, the aroma from which drifts through the marketplace tantalising the tastebuds. Hard to resist.

Another must visit is the rather delightful emporium known as Maison Georges Larnicol, originally from Brittany and now with stores in Paris and beyond, Georges Larnicol is one of the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France.  Here you’ll find exquisite chocolate delicacies along with macarons and his signature kouignettes, miniature, caramelised versions of the classic Kouign amann.

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Their mouthwatering desserts are served at the Restaurant Le Petit Gaveau located just up the street from the store.  Another one of our favourite restaurants is L’Anchoiade, Quimper which we discovered one very busy New Year’s eve, the house speciality being the exceptional Parilladas – for more details of both see the eat here section of my site.

We’ve stayed overnight on several occasions, the Escale Oceania is a popular option for us, it’s just a stones throw from the old town and is one of the more pet-friendly hotels in the area.

Of course no visit to Quimper can be complete without sampling a delicious sweet or savoury Crêpe, a true Breton staple and always a good reason for a return visit!

 

 

 

a trip to the Fens…

So the Easter weekend weather wasn’t predicted to be great but that didn’t put us off taking a last minute trip out to the Cambridgeshire Fens.

After the obligatory supermarket pit-stop to top up on goodies we hurtled up the A10 at a staggering 45mph (excluding hills); Bambi really was on top form after its recent very extensive service.

Our destination for the weekend was the enchanting little village of Horningsea, located just a few miles north of Cambridge city centre.

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Gayton Farm & Campsite, which according to their Facebook page is a mixed farm of Arable land and Lincoln Red Cattle, home of Bespoke Bridlework and of course the campsite that is run by the very charming Carolyn and Robin who couldn’t have done more to welcome us and make our stay thoroughly enjoyable.

It’s clear both are passionate about everything they do, during our stay Carolyn and Robin were painstakingly constructing a large decking area at the rear of their house as well as taking care of the farm, the Bridlework business and of course playing host to the field of campers! Industrious from dawn to dusk, theirs really does appear to be a true labour of love.

Gayton is a Camping and Caravanning Club Certified site which means it’s limited to just 5 motorhomes or caravans and up to 10 tents at any one time which engenders an air of exclusivity enhanced by the tranquil setting and stunning views over acres upon acres of flat open farmland.

On first impression you might think that this is so good they’ve done it before and indeed they have… at Lynchets Farm & Campsite just 30 odd miles down the road at Great Chishill before taking their successful blueprint and recreating it at Horningsea.

Facilities are outstanding, they’ve just finished putting the final touches to the new washroom/toilet block which is kept immaculately clean. Each pitch has electrical hook-up and a couple are full service.

The village is home to two country pubs; we only made it to the nearest one, the amazing Crown and Punchbowl which is expertly run by those good folk at CambsCusine. We’ve previously sampled their outstanding hospitality at the Tickell Arms in Whittlesford and St John Chop House, Cambridge. All highly recommended!

During the daytime we enjoyed bracing walks across the Fens and along the River Cam, although Herbie is never able resist the pull of a country pub and dragged us into several during the course of the weekend, so naturally we felt obliged to partake in the odd pub lunch or afternoon Prosecco…

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Next week we’re back off to Brittany for a rest!

return to the shires…

First outing this year in the Bambi saw us making a flying return visit a couple of weekends ago to the Shires and the rather splendid Hertford Camping and Caravanning Club site (see also my previous blog).

After a warm welcome and speedy check-in the lovely Em showed us to this agreeable little hard-standing pitch not too far from the main entrance and well placed for easy access to the facilities block.

 

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Bambi pitched up at Hertford Camping and Caravanning Club

Although a large site with some 250 pitches, it is so well laid out with different areas that you never feel cramped and this early in the year it wasn’t overly busy so we really were spoilt for space and privacy.

We took H to the designated dog walk that pleasingly meanders through woods past a lake to open countryside, ideal for a game of chase.  Afterwards he enjoyed a rest and nap while we set up camp.

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It’s just a short walk into the town which has a huge variety of pubs and restaurants, our favourite being the very dog-friendly Dog & Whistle.  We were too late for lunch but thoroughly enjoyed a nice glass of red or two before making our way back to Balls Park, stopping off at the local Sainsbury’s to pick up some supplies and non-essential goodies!

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Following another bracing stroll through the Hertfordshire countryside we returned to the campervan just in time to hunker down before the wet and windy weather set-in.

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After dinner which consisted of a bowl of delicious steaming-hot chilli and rustic bread accompanied of course by the obligatory glass of red, it was time to relax in front of the iPad for some Saturday night trash television.

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The following day brought us blue skies and fresh air aplenty; after an invigorating early morning walk we treated ourselves to a simple but hugely satisfying breakfast of egg and bacon muffins before packing up the campervan and heading home to London and the reality of the working week ahead.

This week the little van has gone into the garage for a service, MOT and spring-clean in readiness for more outings, antics & adventures…

Down beside the side of the silvery sea…

When we were kids our neighbours used to go on holiday to Whitley Bay; I had no idea of the whereabouts of what we then imagined to be an exotic far-flung destination.

Until yesterday.

Historically in Northumberland but now part of Tyne & Wear the little seaside resort of Whitley Bay flashed before my eyes as we passed through on our way from Newcastle on the ‘Metro’ allegedly the first rapid transit light rail system in the uk.

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We alighted two stops later in the small town of Tynemouth at the rather impressive Grade II listed Victorian station that formerly served as a mainline railway station used by the thousands of day-trippers and holiday makers from the late 1800’s onwards.

As we strolled along Tynemouth’s main street, populated with the ubiquitous gift shops, chic coffee shops, trendy bars and restaurants, the ancient castle and priory ruins loomed before us, dramatically perched on the rocky headland.

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By this time a very patient H was much in need of some exercise and so we headed down to the award-winning Longsands beach that even on this fresh February morning was awash with dog-walkers, children playing in the soft golden sands and even a couple of brave souls who waded into the chilly, silvery waters of the North Sea for a somewhat brief bathe.

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At the far end of the beach the lights of a distant bar restaurant beckoned, the firm damp sand underfoot helped speed our way across. Lunch for me consisted of the freshest Mussels in a garlic and parsley sauce while the other half opted for the most amazing looking burger.

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Another much shorter stroll took us to Cullercoats station and the Metro whisked us back to Hebburn in no time… we’ll be back to visit this rather enchanting stretch of coast because oh, we do like to be beside the seaside!

Heading North

This weekend found us on the 08:30 Virgin East Coast from London to Newcastle for a weekend of birthday celebrations with the other half’s family. It’s been a while since I’ve made a long distance train journey and was very pleasantly surprised!

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As we were travelling with precious pooch we opted for 1st class; roomy comfortable seats, free WiFi, entertainment and power sockets to charge up our phones and tablets make all the difference to a 3 hour journey.

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On  board catering has come a long way too… Virgin have teamed up with James Martin (him off the tele) to create a range of new menus…

After a selection from the Bakery Basket Ian opted for the Breakfast Roll, crammed with rarebreed Yorkshire back bacon while I opted for the Great British Breakfast, succulent sausage served with a rasher of that delicious bacon, grilled tomato and flat mushroom complimented by the creamiest black pudding and topped off with a perfectly cooked egg.

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The freshly brewed coffee was freeflowing and fairtrade tea was also available. The menu is very aptly named ‘A Tasty Journey’ and it was simply first class – hats off to Virgin!

A seaside stroll in Morbihan

Having decided it was definitely time to walk off the excesses of the seasonal celebrations we headed down to the Morbihan coast of southern Brittany on a chilly winter’s morning.

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Parked the car near Le Fort Bloqué at Guidel and took the scenic route across beautiful deserted sandy beaches, past the (busy) surfing school and over stunning nature reserves to the little resort of Le Courégant where luckily we managed to replenish our used calories with a rather lovely pizza meal (reviewed on trip advisor) before making the 5km return trip.

H is never happier than when skipping along the beach, whilst keeping well away from that nasty wet water!

Walking the dog at Ploemeur

There are a few more photos of our trip to the beach while it was sunny before the weather turned in my gallery

Ploemeur is a beautiful place to visit in winter as well as summer – for more info check out the Ville de Ploemeur website here.

Bon-Repos

Each Sunday morning during the summer months there is a small market on the banks of the Nantes-Brest Canal in the shadow of the Abbaye de Bon-Repos that sells local wares and delicious foodstuff.  It’s a perfect location for a lunchtime picnic or bite to eat in one of the busy little cafés.

The walk along the canal is equally enjoyable in the winter months when a sense of tranquility abounds in the tiny commune of Saint-Gelven…

Nantes Brest Canal at Bon Repos in Brittany

The Abbey which is open to the public, showcases a wide range of contemporary art and in August provides the backdrop for a magnificent a sound and light show.

You can check out the website for market opening days, times and special events here

I’ll be posting about the Abbey soon, but in the meantime you can find details from their website and the programme for the 2017 Sound & Light show here.

Etang du Korong

The vast lake at Glomel is an inland paradise for all manner of wildlife and has a lovely sandy beach from where you can hire canoes and sailboats or simply enjoy dipping your toes!

There are extensive fairly level trails around the lake, often peppered with local fishing enthusiasts, which provide the perfect landscape for bracing walks and are thoughtfully dotted with picnic tables at key locations.

Etang du korong, lac du Glomel Cotes d'Armor

There is a Municipal Campsite near the beach end of the lake, just a short stroll into the village where there is a small shop, bar and an amazing pizza restaurant, Tan Dezhi.

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