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France again at last

There was an enormous amount of paperwork to do before we went, but finally we were able to get on the ferry at Newhaven for the four hour crossing to Dieppe. There were about a quarter the amount of people on the ferry than would normally be there. But I was just so happy to see France..and land and soak up the wonderful culture of the place. It had been two long years since I was last there….

The first day we drove for 8 hours, arriving in Clermont Ferrand for an overnight stop in the hotel we usually use, about two minutes from the motorway junction. We had breakfast there the next day then back on the road for the more interesting part of the journey, through the Auvergne, the extinct volcanic part of France. We arrived in Cap d’Agde for the overnight stop there, and had a wander around the marina area, that is popular with tourists, and had a meal in a bar there..that was the first time we were asked to show our French Covid health passes..neither of the two hotels we’d stayed in in France had asked to see it. The following day we went to the big hypermarket in Agde for shopping – mostly food and wine/beer as we were going to be in that area for the next 11 nights. We went on the beach later that afternoon, it’s my go to "happy place" in my head, that beach, my endorphins rise there. Later on after we’d had our evening meal, and a few drinks to start the evening, we went to our favourite bars we liked to go in, mostly a quiet bar for the first drink of the evening, then to Melrose, the totally unique bar with the loud music, beautiful women, quirky decor, dancing, overtly sensual atmosphere! The DJ recognised us when we went to say hello, he’s our favourite DJ there, and the one who in a lot of ways creates the mix of music that makes the atmosphere, we knew all the music, as some that was played 3 years ago, so the atmosphere was just as awesome as we remembered it.

The following days when we went on the beach, the weather was hot and sunny then, and the place full of people, it was warm enough for me to swim, and I made the most of it, as I love swimming in the Mediterranean. We made the most of the beach, and so good to swim, and sunbathe, and eat ice creams, drink Orangina, eat beignets (jam doughnuts that taste far better than English ones..raspberry is my favourite..) And every night we were there we went to Melrose….dancing, and watching the cosmopolitan crowd…

At the end of our wonderful relaxing time by the beach, we packed our car up and after a four hour drive up France stayed again at Clermont Ferrand for three nights in the hotel to learn more about the Auvergne area, of extinct volcanoes.

We had to do Covid tests for clearance for the ferry journey, and we both had "negative" results, which was as expected but a relief too….

Later on that day we had a walk around Clermont Errand for a couple of hours, and I took loads of photos, and then that afternoon we went to the biggest of the extinct volcanoes – Puy de Dome, and parked there, and took the little electric train up the track to the top and I was fascinated by the view from the top of the hill….you could see all the other extinct volcanoes, about 40 of them, a 360degree view all around, and some parts sunny, some parts with menacing clouds, you could see where it was raining in some parts and we were looking down on rainbows!!! Awesome weather! And even more so when the clouds came over and hid the top and we were in it….wonderful experience!!!! Massive wow factor!!! Later that night we had a meal in the hotel, and a bottle of wine…lovely and relaxing.

The next day I wanted to go and look at a chateau, and found the nearest one, about 15 miles away in Orcival, we meandered through the hilly areas to get to it, but when we got there it was closed for instead we went to the village itself, Orcival, about a mile away and I was delighted we did…artists heaven for me…such a small, pretty, quiet village, hardly anyone about, there was singing coming from the church, the sound of cowbells from the cows in the fields, the sound of the cascading stream running through the village, pretty cottages and gardens, a ginger cat, buzzards flying overhead, an old fountain in the square, and so many pictures to take for me, I loved it!! We happily walked around there for a couple of hours.

Then we drove on to the next nearest place of interest that was more castle than a chateau. It was called Murol, and the castle was mostly Medieval, and had been lived in for many years, it was on a high rock, and a big climb to get to the top, and I liked the way they had done things there to show how people had lived there, then, like make traditional gardens, and had a wooden cart, and willow hurdles for fences. The views were enormous there too, down into the valley and the village below, and also over the extinct volcanoes, and more rainbows! Stunning scenery again. After a few hours happily wandering around there, we drove down into the village of Murol itself and had a wander around there, before having a Chinese buffet meal near to the hotel. I know we were in France but we both fancied a Chinese meal..!

On the last full day in France we left Clermont Ferrand and drove 8 hours up to Dieppe, just a day of travel. The hotel there is my favourite one of the trip, nice quirky room, with a sea view. We had to spend the first hour there filling out the passenger locator forms for the ferry the next day, which was far more complicated than it needed to be! We had a walk on the front, by the sea for half an hour in the dusk, then a last drink in the bar, I’ve so loved being in France again and part of me wanted to enjoy the last remaining hours there.

On the Saturday we had breakfast at the hotel, checked out and went to the ferry dock. And were relieved that we got through customs ok, as a guy in front of us in the queue was turned away – we had to provide passports, proof of passenger locator forms completed, and proof of negative Covid tests… it was a relief to get through, and on the ferry for the return trip. Four hour ferry crossing, and easy through customs the other side, they only wanted to see our passports!!

So to sum up…I sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo enjoyed being in France again….I love the French, and find them pleasant and respectful people, who still welcome the English, even after Brexit. I’m so pleased to be back….and I have lots of happy memories in the photos of the incredible places I have seen, especially the astonishing Avergne area….stupendous!