France 2012 - Facts and Information

Planning and Travel

Background information

To the Loire Valley
Vienne to Indre
Ch de Chambord
Ch de Cheverny
Around Cheverny
Saint Savin
Antigny & Jouhet
Anglin & Claise
Ch de Chenonceau
Cher Valley
East of Loches 1
East of Loches 2
Truyère Valley
W of Aurillac 1
W of Aurillac 2
W of Aurillac 3
Girgols & St-Cernin
W of St-Cernin
Salers & Puy Mary
Lot Valley 1
Lot Valley 2
Puy-en-Velay 1
Puy-en-Velay 2
Around Lapte
Around Vorey
Lalouvesc & Bozas
Boucieu & Désaignes
N of the Loire 1
N of the Loire 2
N of the Loire 3
S of Yssingeaux 1
S of Yssingeaux 2
Heading home
First thoughts
Our trip to Brittany in 2011 had been successful and our thoughts turned to repeating the exercise but travelling further south. Eleanor wanted to get to the Loire Valley and Michael fancied getting further south into the hillier country of the Auvergne.

We had been impressed by Brittany Ferries in terms of ease of booking, gîtes and general quality  of service so resolved to use them again. We had two choices of crossing available both from Portsmouth, one to St Malo the other to Caen (Ouistreham to be more precise). We chose the St Malo route for the outward leg. Although not quite as convenient in terms of arrival point it was a longer crossing and would give the chance of a good night's sleep before venturing onto French roads. There is only a day sailing returning from St Malo so we chose to return via the shorter Caen crossing on the overnight sailing.

Eleanor beavered away with the Brittany Ferries brochure, maps and guide books and came up with three properties which would be convenient, practical and not too expensive. The first was in the tiny hamlet of Poiré down the road from Perrusson near Loches on the River Indre. The middle week would see us in the depths of Cantal farmland near a small village called Cassaniouze which is south of Aurillac. The last week would be in the hillier country of Haute-Loire near the village of Lapte which is to the east of Yssingeaux. As we were a fair way south in France we cast around for overnight accommodation when returning to Caen. We came up with Le Clos de la Fontaine at Massay near Vierzon. This turned out to be a good choice as it was convenient, quiet and could provide a small studio bedroom in which we could prepare our own dinner.

As before we found the better known guide books were poor. Those found most helpful were the Dorling-Kindersley Eyewitness guide (good pictures and maps) and the Michelin Green Guide (confusing layout but excellent information if you dug a bit). The Michelin 1:200,000 map was a good choice as it gave plenty of detail but it is huge, so we got a Michelin Road Atlas of France for in-car use.

Transport and getting around
Because the trip involved more than one cottage we could not book via the web but had to do it over the phone. This was fast, efficient and easy. As it would be dark for all the voyage we saved a few bob by booking an inside cabin. The cabin was a fairly typical offering (which might have been a bit tight for more than two) and was fine and clean.

Roads were quiet although we did tend to avoid main routes. Driving was very easy in the Loire Valley and we particularly enjoyed a number of very straight, very quiet roads which seemed to avoid settlements. Further south the roads in Cantal were reasonable on the flat, higher land but a lot of time was spent on bendy roads dropping into steep valleys and along riversides. Some of the main roads in Haute-Loire could get a bit busy but once off these driving was pleasantly easy.

To keep on the right side of the law we had a GB plate on the car (we refuse to have EU registration plates), beam deflectors, high visibility vests inside the car, warning triangle and spare bulb set. We also had two breathalysers even though the requirement for them was not yet in force.

In all cases the cottages were comfortable, clean, well equipped and very peaceful . At Poiré we were at the end of a little hamlet which looped off a quiet back road. At Cassaniouze we were deep in farmland a couple of miles from the village. The gîte at Lapte was down a rather spooky lane off the main road at Verne, a few miles from Lapte. (Exact locations of properties can be seen by zooming in on the
interactive map.)

Shopping and things
Perrusson had a small bakery with supermarkets just down the road towards Loches. Cassaniouze had a baker and a Utile minimarket (part of the U Group). Lapte had a good baker and a basic range of shops. Apart from bread (and cakes) we did most of our food shopping at supermarkets which were often found at convenient points in the more rural areas. In general we preferred Super U to Intermarché in terms of ambience, but apart from in larger towns (which we tried to avoid) there was not always a choice. We set out so sample local wine and found that most supermarkets had a reasonable range, although not always clearly identified as local (the Super U at Chinon was an exception as it had a special section for local wine).
A particular point should be made about the cheese in Cantal which is quite superb.

We already knew that the French take their lunch very seriously with virtually all retail premises shut for a couple of hours at midday. This can also apply to petrol stations at supermarkets, although usually there are some pumps that give 24 hour service on cards. On one occasion the pumps refused all our credit and debit cards and this at a chain we had used previously. We had had a similar experience in Brittany. The moral is don't run low on fuel.

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