Beach Life at La Couarde sur Mer – France 2021, Part 4

Ah yes…

Summer holidays are best with a beach. And with 30°C, sun, the sea. While Hector tries to play it cool, I soak in the first beach day, with a green-blue Atlantic Ocean at my feet and sand all over.

Beach Time starts here

If I were to spend weeks and weeks between pool and beach with nothing to do but – well: nothing, it would annoy me within less than 24 hours.

But after four days of travel, having seen quite some places and people along the way, it is great to fall back in the sands and let loose.

The beach is huge with only few people around in the afternoon, and I count even less in the evening.

…then in the evening…

Low tide offers even more of a beach, with a wonderful atmosphere and a wide range of colours. These days (mid June), the sun sets by 10:00 p.m. only, but with no stressful agenda for the upcoming days, this is totally fine by me.

Low Tide Sunset

The beach of La Couarde sur Mer may not be the prettiest one around, but still, it is wonderfully relaxing and offers enough grains of sand for the handful of tourists sharing it. Not before long I will find sand almost everywhere, Hector’s couch included.

The rest of the village is above all: unagitated. White houses, some shops, markets and a small choice of restaurants. French pensioneers are aprox. 92% of the crowd, making me feel like a jeune fille during the first camping holidays. Just without the open air disco and less short on budget. Very relaxing, I’d say.

Is there Life on Mars?

Arrivée sur l’Île de Ré – France 2021, Part 3

1.570 km. Thereof around 320 during our 4th day of driving, most of them through beautiful landscape and only few on autoroutes.

En Route…

It would be smart to make another stop-over at La Rochelle. Now that almost everything has re-opened, but before masses of foreign tourists make their way. Still, I feel more like arrival with a beach and the sea and bathrooms and a shower. I definitely need a shower. Hence, Hector takes the bridge towards Île de Ré and we arrive at La Couarde sur Mer before noon.

Almost there!

The campsite “Le Remondeau” is a typical camping municipal: located between beach and village, proper and relaxed. Settling down gets more adventurous than I would have guessed: I plug in the 50m cable into the socket and jump back a few centimetres due to a flash of light and sparks all around me.

A quick inspection of the cable enfolds that it is broken with damaged isolation. No electricity for Hector or so it seems…

Basically: great. If only we could get electricity without the sparks and the shorted…

While I wonder how long it will take until the prawns in my fridge will start to annoy the surrounding with fishy odeurs, I realize that several campsite neighbours witness my misfortune. I receive recommendations for shopping possibilities (new cable drum), when out of the blue a guy approaches, quickly examines the cable, takes it and promises to come back. I feel a bit lost with my wonderful van and empty hands, but decide to wait before pannicking.

Fifteen minutes later, it is all solved: the cable drum repaired (miraculously!), a new plug + French intersection handed over and Hector is again satisfied. Not sure if the prawns are as happy as me, but at least they turn out to be delicious later that evening!

Preferred Evening Setting

Finally, we lean back for good. Hector, now charged 24/7, me with wonderful sunsets at the shore. Good to know that I have quite some time ahead of me in this scenery!

Périgord – France 2021, Part 2

A bonheur, I wake up and get Hector ready to go. Vineyard stop-overs are a quick win: wine, beautiful surrounding, nothing else. Consequently, all it takes is store the chairs in their compartments and turn the engine.

Early Morning around Sancerre

Obviously, Hector has decided to see mor of France’s rural parts. Tiny roads, marked as slim white lines on general maps, named with 3-digit-Dxxx numbers, make our way. We pass by fields, forests and more forests.

Deep down in France

Then around early afternoon, Hector comes to a halt at Brantôme en Périgord. The town is famous for the ancient abbey and the hand-deep canals. Another highlight seems to be the camper parking, half-filled with mobile homes and all kinds of camping cars, coming from all of France’s corners. I am the one and only tourist from abroad, at least until Frankfurt friends arrive.

L’Abbay de Brantôme

Brantôme is picturesque, but small. In former times, it might have been packed with people: monks, in medieval eras, tourists until 2020. Nowadays, it is a relaxed scenery for a promenade in half-deserted alleys before checking out the abbey and the huge roman church.

Inside, it is huge – and dark. And puristic.

The canals may be a bit of a bore, still slow motion-boat tours are offered, ensuring that inquisitive tourists do not miss an inch of Brantôme’s beauty.

Despite all the charm of this town, I am not here for history or architecture. I came here to see friends for dinner and it starts with a big hello and an apéritive. Usually, we live 400km apart, while now we manage to meet 1.300 km away from home.

Moulin de l’Abbaye

What comes next is a wonderful evening. Although other star-topped restaurants come with better service (or with a sommelier that really knows wine), the queen of the day sparkles with mildness when waving down from her chambers. The dishes are great, the wine acceptable and we enjoy our company during the delightful evening.

Gourmet Queen of the Day

Lucky us that the couvre-feu has been shifted to 23:00h, enabling a full menu before we have to split up. I pity my friends who have to stay in a high-price-mid-class hotel room while I climb up into Hector’s comfy bed, all satisfied with the day.

Bonne Nuit

En Route – France 2021, Part 1

Finally!! Hard to tell, who is more excited, Hector or me. The entire crew is tested negative on Covid19, even though the results of the PCR test are not to be delivered before late evening. Me, usually known as unpredictable danger seeker, do not want to play at risk and spontaneously add on an antigen test with result notice in less than 20 minutes. Hence, a load of good vibes is part of the first voyage since June 2019.

Here we go

First stop is Pforzheim. A friend I have not seen in 16 months and his wonderful girlfriend. Not to speak of the villa, the garden statues, the oh-so-eighties-bathrooms and delicious barbeque. It is fantastic to spend the evening with friends, something we have missed for way too long.

The next morning is a relaxed one, at least for the non-working ones. I scrounge a shower and start fresh and fragrant towards France, all formal documents at hand and ready to meet the armed border patrol.

…but then, in France…

If not for the different style in road signs, I would not have noticed the border crossing at all. So this is what I have made a fuzz about, with testing and prefilled entry forms and a well-studied, harmless look? Anyway, better safe than sorry, and so we move on, enjoying kilometre for kilometre with splendid music selection and a moderate volume of Diesel.

The second destination of the trip is Sancerre. Chavignol, a small village right around the corner of Sancerre, to be more exact. In other words: Of course, we do not stop until we reach a Hector-worth setting.

Just the right Scenery

A walk around the village proves that you can reach anything of interest within 2 minutes (max.). Still, Chavignol proudly presents a nice fountain, comfortable benches and a luxury public toilet. The best (and only) hotel is closed for the time being while the bistrot offers a fast-and-delicious menu, all finished by 21h = time of “couvre-feu”. Right in time, I sneak into the cave of today’s vineyard of choice and drink my way through all wine colours offered.

30 minutes later, I sway back to Hector, store 18 bottles of wine in various compartments and wait for the next day to enfold. By now, we count 970km since our departure, and today’s 9 hours of driving + 3 glasses of wine come as an exhausting combination.

Chavignol, Downtown

No. Yes? Perhaps! The Rising of Expectations

Three weeks ago, I had made my peace with the improbability of travel-based holidays in 2021. Days and weeks later, I am looking forward to 1.700 km with Hector, singing along to my holiday soundtrack of the year, heading West until I reach the sea.

Uncertainty remains, though. The variables are: negative PCR test before leaving. A stop-over at a friend’s place along the way. Incidence-thresholds here and in France. Surfable waves and general weather around the Île de Ré. Quarantine restrictions when returning.

Still, some time will pass before departure, and even more until I return. The main thing we have learned during the past 15 months is to cut down plans to a time frame of max. 2 days. Hence, I hope for the best while keeping my inner flexibility on guard.

What about… an island?

Exceptionally, I will not move much during my vacation. It might be more precise to call it a holiday rather than a travel. Consequently, I aim for being an island of calm and happiness on an island in the Atlantic ocean. Good books, my precious ukulele and a folded bike will make my days, hopefully added by a rented surfboard and wonderful waves.

Juggling Options

Hector already sparkles with expectation, justified by the fact that I should leave home either way: Friends plan to move into my appartment. This being set, I am positive that not before long, Hector will turn towards the coast.

Until then, I am counting down the days in anticipation.

Limitations and Possibilities

June. Preferred month for pre-season travelling. Between “Pfingstferien” and crowded July. But this year: too soon, too close.

Hard enough that the general camping lust has increased significantly, exceeding the number of available campsites and places. Annoying enough that you need to reserve and plan, disrupting spontaneity. Irritating enough to calculate the minimum number of FFP2 face masks needed for a 2-weeks-beach holiday, counting in the impact of sunscreen leftovers when wearing it during sunbaths.

Following the Covid rules in France, the development in Germany and the worldwide situation, I have decided to let loose. Finding a niche for a package holiday, best without ever leaving the hotel area, is so not my style. The same is true for standard cruises, holiday apartments and Mallorca. Almost two years have passed by since my last travel, and yet I refuse to step in the pile of standard tourists. Instead, I will benefit from the Alpine playground beyond my door step.

Hiking, lately: Alps around Eschenlohe

With friends, mountains and an almost infinite range of hiking possibilities, I will dive deep into the sensation of outdoor effort. What is it that triggers endorphins from exhaustion? The thrill of “how far will I get”? Steadily aiming for new summits, new peak crosses and new outlooks? The hours of fellowship with hiking buddies, the pride after intense tours?

Probably, all of it. And even more.

Feels good to be here – Rewarding Views and Good Company along the Way

Consequences are, that this so-called travel-blog will continue with outdoor actions that might or might not be perfect for travels, for holidays or for the sheer fun of it. Fantastic trips across Europe (or even more exotic) are not yet to be expectable.

So, here is the first exercise hike of the year. Apart from 2x Hirschhörnlkopf, that is, but still. A relaxed walk towards Osterfeuerkopf / Osterfeuerberg is just right for meeting a friend I have not seen in months – and the 350m altitude difference may mark the kick-off for more serious training.

What You See is What You Get

Instead

Taxi??

While others sneak into holidays at randomly possible destinations, I continue with mountain tours as a remedy against deeper frustration. Instead of first camping escapes or real travels, the incredible winter enables the 10th ski tour of the season.

Conditions are almost perfect, given the fact that we face the second half of April and no artificial snow has been spread over the slopes. The lower part of about 50-100m comes with more brown than white, but the higher the ascent, the more fairy is the trail.

Despite my overwhelming fitness, it takes – once more – about an hour until I reach the Kolbenhütte. Still, I am happy to celebrate the tour with a sip of tea before I rip off the skins from my skis, turn the ski binding a 180° and enjoy the downhill slide.

#skitour Ski Tour
End of April, wonderful Snow

While spring is right around the corner and will be followed by summer, the holiday / travel question will become of more and more importance. But that is another story for another day…

An Almost Perfect Winter’s Day

Fresh Snow

The air is full of snow and the same is true for the streets, the hills and the icy seats of the gondolas. With the latter being locked down anyway, the fresh snow is nothing less than fantastic.

Another Sudelfeld Ski Tour

Today’s conditions come along with the perfect ski buddy and the trail from Grafenherberg to Sudelfeldkopf. The weather enfolds sort of charming in the lower part. It gets more interesting in the white-out, when leaving the trees behind. By the time we reach the Sudelfeldkopf, the panorama is a monochrome one.

Today’s View at Sudelfeldkopf

Due to -10°C and breezy snowflakes, we seek shelter at the gondola station. These days, no lift guard complains when tourists pose in the middle of it’s concrete walls.

Insights rather than Outlooks

The descent is a dream of powder: fluffy snow up to our knees turns into pure joy. At least the joy kicks in once we have found out which direction is down. At first, it is hard to distinguish between the cloud and the snow. Cautously, we fumble down until we make it to an alternative ski trail and orient by means of voices and traces. As soon as we reach the timber line, we are back on track and enjoy the zig-zag through the deep white powder.

Better View in the lower Parts

And then… Then the evening approaches and I find myself facing snow from all sides again. Star of the night is the sled I have found in the back of my basement. I pick up one of my sporty neighbours and, soon enough, we head for the mountains. Fading daylight and intensified snowfall make us stumble into a picture postcard scenery.

Step by step, we make our way through the continuous snow as we try to ignore the exaggerated romantic athmosphere.

Later, during a Night-Out…

Forty-five minutes later, we come to a halt at the gate of “Obere Firstalm”. Meanwhile, the night has settled in and we discuss the best technique for the next section of our excursion. Face the dark night in the forest and go down slowly, always prepared to stop when others come along? Or put on a “Hirnbirn” (headlamp), sending a clear signal to upcoming strollers, such as “Get out of the way, this is us in full speed!”? Of course, this is nothing we need to discuss thoroughly…

Oprion A: Get down slowly, just hazy silhouettes in the night…
Option B: Get down in the most Dynamic Way, Assuming Others will jump away for their own Sake

Finally, the downhill slide is great! We keep our paste as high as possible, only stopping two times when colliding with a drift of snow. Lucky us (or: them), hardly anyone is out here late at night, so the conclusion of the day is a simple bottom line. Playing in the snow is so much fun!!

Skateboard Yoga Double Tree Pose

Hector is sincerely annoyed and yearns for overnight-escapes, holidays and a sabbatical. The bucket list “back to real life” grows week by week, while on the other hand I am rewarded with unexpected spare time. The no-concert, no-theatre, no-bar, no-restaurant, no-climbing, no-pool and no-party block is only half-way eaten up by work, cooking and ski tours.

Consequently, there is room for new sport disciplines. Like cycling-TRX-muscle-wine-tasting or interval-jogging or: skate-yoga.

Skateyoga #skateyoga skateboard yoga

All you need is a private yoga class, a skateboard and a neighbour. Step 1 = leave the yoga mat behind and hop on your skateboard. Step 2 = try out any balance posture you can think of.

#skateyoga skateboard yoga tree
Today’s Pose: The Tree

The next level is: get the entire yoga class on the board. What sounds difficult at first is easy enough in lockdown, due to the reduced number of participants around.

skateyoga
Get up!

From here on, it is all laughter, wiggling, wobbling, more laughter and the re-sorting of components.

Two persons on a shaky board seem like a Mexican wave performed by a bulk of centipedes. Still, minute by minute, we align better and gain stability, thanks to fantastic inner core muscles. It might as well be beginner’s luck, but who am I to judge?

skateyoga skateboard yoga tree
Getting there

After a full second that feels like nothing less than a minute, we call it a patent-worth invention and finally give in to gravity. Before we open up our own skateboard-yoga-strength temple, we will try out further fusion sports, such as slackline-dancing, bike-climbing or dumbbell-swimming.

#skateyoga skate yoga skateyoga skateboard tree pose
skateyoga pros

Caretaking, Outsourced

Winter time is ideal for some caretaking, seeking endless youth for brave little Hector. On the other hand, winter comes with frosty temperatures, leading to: nothing. I turn the engine, but the engine doesn’t turn. So much for my detailed time schedule.

Fortunately, I face the cold season this year with a 50m power cable and a climbing rope. The one leads to the other and leads it down from my balcony, bringing my socket closer to my van. After a night with best green electricity, Hector is fully charged and ready to go.

Up for a health check

The full speed on the highway tells me something about Hector’s yearning for travels. Or about tailwind. Hence, it does not take long until my van is properly parked at the region’s best Fiat garage, while I dream about heated grips on my folded bicycle along the way to the train station.

Waiting

If not for the accurate departure of the S-Bahn that I missed, I would have been back within less than an hour. Still, I am pleased, knowing that Hector gets better maintenance at the Fiat workshop than I could warrant with my own hands. All hoping for travels in 2021!