European Escapades

Fighting to get to L’Ille-d’Elle




the spire of lucon cathederal
The Majestic Spire of Lucon Cathederal.

What can you say about the small town of Challans? Well it wasn’t by the coast, it was around 100kms from our previous stop at ‘Le Croisic’ and it had a campsite. At this point I guess that’s all it had going for us at the time. The town was an average reasonable large town, which we skirted anyway, and the campsite was non-descript enough as to not offend, but also gave us no hooks to say, that was a lovely place to stay. To be honest with you as I was working out our route and writing the blog initially, we had forgotten completely about it, and then realized we couldn’t have travelled to L’Ille-d’Elle in one day, so had to have stayed somewhere along the route. Now you know where that stopover was.

The real day begins with the sat-nav and her insistence on taking us down a small rutted farm track to get back into town, instead of the reasonable rutted farm track we were already on. Our one had more tarmac to it, and we had used it the day before with no issues. Sat-nav ignored we crossed what it thought was a farmer’s field, but we knew better. At the junction we prepare to turn left to head east, but she wanted to go west, back to town… Ok time for our first fight of the day with the sat-nav. She who loves long stretches of beautiful blue motorway and fast empty roads. Giving us precisely planned itineraries, that will get us there no quicker than our preferred scenic routes. Routes that will allow us to see countryside, as opposed to hard shoulder. We cajole her, by saying we don’t want Toll roads or motorways, and anyway we can only go at 80kms per hour in our large campervan. But sometimes she still insists that not only are we in a comfortable car, able to cruise the vast stretches of grey tarmac she so loves, but it’s a convertible as well. Not in the ‘wind in your hair sense’ but more like the ‘it will turn into a two wheeled off-road bike, that can navigate the narrowest of old town streets at a moment’s notice’ sense. So we look closely at what route she had planned for us and apart from the side trip north, at the next major town of La Roche-Sur-Yon, to allow us the benefit a of a long graceful sweep southeast to our destination on a big blue motorway, she was kinda spot on. Ok so we will follow her until just before La Roche, and then bully her into taking the nice scenic route we wanted. But how to do this? We wanted somewhere that was not too far out of our way but far enough that the motorway option was junked on favour of our route. The town we chose was Lucon, halfway between La Roche and L’Ille-d’Elle, and it worked. The sat-nav finally gave up on her preferred route and took us cross country. In fact more than cross country as she tried to show us the error of our ways, by taking side roads that only seemed to come back at some point to the original road we were on before we turned off. Still better than hard shoulder and we had a surprise in store for us as well. As it seems in most of our travels to and from camp sites we always end up driving around late morning, just in time for Lunch as we get near our desired destination.

The cloisters at lucon cathederal The cloisters at Lucon cathederal.

Arriving at Lucon, we forage for some bread for our lunch just in case we don’t find anywhere of interest and in doing so headed into the town centre where we were greeted by a large Cathedral that seems rather large for such a small town. If anyone knows Ely in Cambridge, you can understand what I am talking about. The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Lucon is a Roman Catholic cathedral, built on the site of a Benedictine monastery in the 7th Century. It seems to be a predominantly gothic style. In 1665 , the tower collapsed crushing the first bay of the nave. The reconstruction at the end of the 16th Century has determined the present appearance of the outside of the building we see today. This was the work of Bishop Henry de Barrillon (1676-1699) with the assistance of the architect Francois Le Duke said Tuscany. Sated of history we went back to the campervan to sate our stomachs as well. The fresh baguette we had bought with some cold meats and cheeses from the larder sorted lunch, and then we left the cathedral and Lucon behind us. The countryside on this journey was pretty flat, full of fields ready for the new seasons sowing, the odd one already green and on its way to harvest. Rounding a hill, the rolling landscape gave us wind farms on the horizon and the odd crumbing barn or derelict dwelling, knitted into the overgrown grass. Vast stretches of straight roadside flanked by small ditches, a hedge and a rabbit scurrying for safety as we pass by.

The Canals of L'Ille D'Elle The Canals of L’Ille D’Elle.

As we near our destination, the small ditches become, irrigation ditches with small wooden dams and trickles of a river maybe, and finally rivers and canals. We cross over a bridge of one of the canals, turning left off the main route into the village and the campsite ‘Le Petit Booth’ that lay on the other side. The canal we suspect is the one that runs at the back of our site, and drew us towards choosing this place amongst others we could have chosen. As we progress up the street, we think that the sat-nav is having one last laugh as the ruts and holes in the road get progressively worse. Missy Moo is wineing from atop the bed, attesting to the dire state of our chosen route. The campervan hits a rather large hole whilst we try and avoid a yet even larger rut to the right of us and the entire van contents jump three inches into the air, only to come crashing down seconds later. Hell breaks loose in the poorly defended toilet area as boxes of contact lenses and a pack of wet wipes give up the valiant fight to stay on the flimsy bathroom shelf. The door to the cutlery cupboard in the kitchen area swings open in the assault, and the knives and forks rattle in panic as the internal drawer keeping them safe, slides ominously outwards to oblivion. We try and head back to the now safe right hand side of the road, aware of the smaller potholes still strafing at us, keeping us on our toes. With jangling and tense muscles, we are startled by a loud bang that assails our still tender ears. The ‘Guinness Book of Hit Singles’ has taken a direct hit and falls to the floor as the van lurches to the right. For over a kilometre we face this torture before finally arriving shaken, but safe, on the other side of what can only be described as a war zone.

The Church of L'Ille D'Elle The Church of L’Ille D’Elle.

Guess the local council need to sort that road surface out pretty soon! Le Petit Booth by comparison was a tranquil haven, even though it was not the 1st of April and the toilets were in renovation. I think we could have stayed a little longer, rather than the one night we decided on staying for. As the site did indeed have a small green gate that took you to the canal running along the back of the site. There were a number of small kayak’s tied up in a bundle near the wooden jetty that hugged the canal side. And it was peaceful; we were the only campers there at the time. I guess this means that this site should have its own review and I will then be able to tell you more about it there. But for now let’s think about the actual village that we decided to investigate on our arrival. As we walked, we pass a boulangerie, unfortunately closed on a Monday; else we would have partaken of some bread and onto a small unremarkable village. It had all the essentials you could need from a restaurant and bar, to a small newsagents and grocery where I managed to find one of the local delicacies, snails in garlic, for my larder. Even the church situated on the peak of a hill looked majestic in its surroundings as its cemetery ran alongside the wide street back towards the village centre giving way to the large village square. Looking a little lost in the space was a fairground ride, either setting up for Easter of being taken down ready to move onto another stop, we don’t know. As I write this I get the impression that even though my first comments about the village were ‘unremarkable’ I may have used the wrong word to describe it. Understated maybe a better description of the place, because I felt as if the small town whispered to me, with its aged and slightly wonky wood beamed church mounted atop a hill. Because I had decided it was actually a nice place to be and I think I would have felt comfortable staying there for a while, enjoying the essence of the place. Sitting in the small bar watching the sun go down over the rooftops, sipping a cold beer, Frances with a glass of red wine in hand.

After all we had to go through a war zone to get to the place. Maybe I thought that we should make the most of it, before we had to rerun Damnation Alley again in the morning.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 29th, 2010 at 4:30 pm and is filed under Travel Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Fighting to get to L’Ille-d’Elle”

  1. TeamSlinky Says:

    April 12th, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    My first comment! At long last, the wordpress site is alive! I’m dissapointed by the lack of boulangerie’s being consumed by the way. Still no mention of a traditional Boeuf Bourginon either!

    Enjoying the site though!

  2. stephen Says:

    May 3rd, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Glad, you like the site.

    It has to be original as it allows us to share some of our personal adventures with our friends and family, and hopefully allow others to have a few laughs with us. I’m not a writer by any means and certainly have no real experience at website design. This experience has allowed me to become familiar with many aspects of blogging and setting up a website and we are having fun, which is the best part of this adventure.

    Have Fun

    Steve, Fran & Missy Moo…

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