Wednesday, 15 October 2014


Our last stop on our autumn holiday was at Montsoreau on the river Loire.  We had been to this campsite before and wanted to see more of the area and to use up our last few Camping Cheques before the end of the year.   Camping cheques are a way of buying off-season places on selected sites at reduced prices but we've found that there are less participating sites and the investment of 150 euros in advance for 10 places that may not be used for some time is a bit of a false economy.  We have been introduced to ACSI which is another scheme where you buy the book every year and then get the reduced camp costs at the time of use.  They have doubled their lists this year and we've found nearly all the places we went to on this trip accepted their card.
The drive across from Parthenay was fantastic through beautiful countryside and being Sunday there was very little traffic. We arrived in time to have a delicious  lunch at a restaurant we had used before and were not disappointed even though it had changed owners in the intervening 7 years. 
On Monday morning we awoke to rather cloudy weather but set off to visit the village, designated one of the most beautiful in France. It really is a delightful spot with it's chateau overlooking the river Loire and the narrow lanes winding up the hill.
From the edge of town at the summit you have a wonderful view over the confluence of the Loire and the Vienne, such wide majestic rivers, lined with chateaux and full of the history of France and it's rulers.  You may have noticed that the dates on these last 3 sketches are 2007 and that's because the weather turned so wet by midday on Monday that I had no opportunity to do any of the plein air sketching I had hoped.
The whole village is built in this pale stone called 'tuffeau' which has been mined in the area for centuries.  The mines have left many caves which have been turned into homes for 'troglodytes' as well as now being used for the cultivation of 'champignons de Paris,' white mushrooms in other words.  The light here on a sunny day must be fantastic but we've yet to see it as on our previous visit we had exactly the same weather and same drenching too!  These old sketches were drawn from photos with a lot of artistic licence with regard to the light!
The next morning we awoke to see a very thick fog completely covering the river with very little hope of it clearing quickly so we decided to set off for home as the forecast wasn't too good for the next few days either.  We had a wonderful holiday though with lots of fond memories of all our visits and time with our friends.

Sunday, 12 October 2014


When we set off on this trip our original intention was to go south to the Basque region to find the sun but we soon realised that would have been a waste of energy as the sun was hot so much closer to home.  From the Ile de Ré we turned inland and headed for Parthenay, a town on the pilgrimage Route de St Jacques de Compostella. 
It's a fortified town built on an outcrop over a bend in the river Thouet which flows northwards and meets the Loire at Saumur.  The town itself has lots of fascinating old buildings, especially in the mediaeval quarter from the old gate leading to the citadel.  A steep cobbled street lined with old timber framed houses dating from the 14th century leads up to another even older entrance to the high town reminiscent of Carcassonne but much smaller (and quieter!)
The views from the top are spectacular but I'm afraid you'll just have to imagine them until I get round to making some sketches from the photos I took.  There was so much to see that there wasn't time to stop and spend half an hour to draw!  However the park around the base of the town was right next to our campsite and I managed to spend a couple of afternoons there drawing and painting the views.
The park had lots of beautiful specimen trees which I sat and drew with my new 'Derwent line marker' pen, a free sample I received just before we set off on our trip.  It's lovely to use but it's not waterproof as I discovered when I decided to wash out the coloured pencil on this sketch so I switched to my faithful old Pitt pen for the others posted above.  I will use it only for dry coloured pencil sketches in future as I do like the smooth way it works.
When we bought our electric bikes about 3 years ago we had no idea how much pleasure and freedom they would give us.  They fit in the 'boot' of the camping car with the handlebars and pedals folded and only take a few minutes to set up ready to use.  It's so much easier for me now to go up the hills with my dodgy knees pedalling away with a lot of help from the battery!  They were certainly essential here in Parthenay as the town was quite a climb from our base camp and would have been difficult to achieve even on foot.
I sat and did another sketch of the lake at Parthenay while Bob cycled back into town in search of his lost bike battery key.  Luckily he found it in the café where we had stopped for our coffee. ( he did use the spare key as it would have been exhausting to go under leg power alone!) 
I nearly forgot to tell you about my new Facebook page with the same name as my blog: Colours in the Breizh, I do hope you'll come and visit me there if you're a facebook member and please do let me know when you find it by liking.  It really does make a difference to know that someone out there is following me!

Thursday, 9 October 2014


We left Rochefort on Saturday morning and headed off to Ile de Ré arriving in time for lunch. The campsite is inside the St Martin de Ré city walls and only a short walk from the centre of the town as well as the pretty harbour.  The island is renowned for it's oysters and we soon found this delightful seaside bar on one of our cycle rides along the coastal paths.  The wind was quite strong the first time we visited and the waves were rocking this little boat moored just off the beach but just imagine sitting in that expanse of blue sea and sky sipping a glass of chilled Muscadet and enjoying the freshest possible oysters just harvested from the beds in front of you!
On Sunday morning we cycled to the next village along the coast with it's own small harbour and found the place alive with Sunday visitors browsing the street markets and sitting in the sun enjoying a glass of rose so we joined in and had a relaxing time before cycling back for lunch at the camp on our own patch.  The camp was very pleasantly laid out in the strip between the ancient ramparts of the fortified town originally designed by Vauban over 400 years ago in the time of Louis XIV.  We had a large plot and plenty of shade as well as a nice outlook over the trees screening us from the town which is a jumble of narrow cobbled lanes lined with orange pantiled white washed houses.
Our friends Cliff and Carolyn arrived on Monday and we spent 3 lovely days together exploring the island as well as the capital. St Martin itself has a lovely harbour filled with pleasure craft and fishing boats and with an island in the middle accessed by a bridge.  It's lined with cafés and restaurants as well as lots of classy shops which Carolyn and I browsed together one morning.
They have a charming dog called Florrie, a cocker spaniel poodle crossbreed.  She was very good natured and even sat still long enough for me to draw her one afternoon after we had enjoyed a long lazy lunch together at the camp.
I picked another bunch of wild flowers while we were walking Florrie one afternoon and finally got round to drawing them at our next stop at Parthenay.  We had visited Ile de Ré before on our first outing in the camping car in March 2006 when it was cold and damp and hadn't really considered going back till our friends suggested meeting up there.  I'm so glad we did because it's a lovely island, flat for easy cycling along the special paths, full of interest in the all little harbours dotted along the coast and blessed with a good climate and fantastic light.

Monday, 6 October 2014


The view of Pornic as we approached on our bikes was so pretty, all greens and blues in the lovely warm sunshine.
Whenever we stay on a campsite I like to gather some examples of the local wild flowers and fruit.  I only ever pick one or two of each as I'm very aware of the need to preserve species, especially if they are not very common.  I put them in a cut down water bottle as a vase and they grace our dining table for several days even after I've drawn them.
At Pornic the campsite was on the edge of town and our cycle path took us along fields and a canal before ending at the port in a beautifully arranged 'marais' garden.  The local authority had developed the overgrown area by the canal into pathways winding between typical waterside planting and made wooden stages on pillars over the water to be used for studying the wildlife and to evoke the traditional fishing style where large nets are hung from the stages to catch the fish as they swim upstream.
The sketchbook I'm using at the moment has a random mixture of white and tinted papers and I love the challenge of using whatever comes next as I turn the page to do my next drawing.  I've been using the Caran d'Ache museum watercolour pencils here as the pigments are so rich on the dark paper;
From Pornic our next stop was at Rochefort, a  historic town we had been looking forward to visiting for many years.  It was developed in the 17th  century by Louis IV as his arsenal, being in a strategic place on the French coast to protect from invasion by the English. Our campsite was on the edge of town again and had a wonderful cycle path all along the river Charente which we used despite the walk into the centre being much shorter.
The main attractions there are the maritime museum and the corderie, which is where the ropes for rigging all the ships were made. The building is 360 metres long due to the necessity to make the ropes long enough to make the lines that pull up the sails as well as mooring and anchor lines.  The whole area of the museum and the old centre of town are very well preserved and cared for and well worth the time spent exploring.  However we only stayed 2 nights here as we had a rendezvous with some friends on Ile de Ré, our next port of call.

Saturday, 4 October 2014


After all our hard work on the garden and new sheds we really needed a holiday so we set off southwards for an autumn break. Only 4 hours from home in the region of Loire Atlantique we came to Pornic. A lovely little port lined with bars and cafés with a mixture of traditional, modern and fishing boats along the quay.
The campsite was on the edge of town, planted with a variety of trees, especially oaks, where Bob spotted this nuthatch one afternoon while we relaxed in the cool shade. 
We cycled into the port every day for our morning coffee then we explored the old town or strolled along the coastal path till it was apero time and then took our lunch overlooking the boats at one of the open air cafés.
The weather was perfect every day and despite the storms in the forecasts we didn't see a drop of rain for 2 whole weeks. We stayed at Pornic for 4 nights on a very friendly campsite with a heated outside pool which was very pleasant when the sun got too hot to sit out in.
 I took 2 sketchbooks with me and these are in no 27 which is small enough to fit in my handbag with a couple of different pens to use.  The other book is a bit larger being A5 in size so I used it mainly at the campsite for my nature sketches which I will post tomorrow so watch this space!