Camping on the cliffs

We leave the Somme area and Picardie for the Normandy coast, driving through farmland and picturesque villages, and where Monet painted the chalky cliffs and arches at Etretat.


Our free camp for tonight is on the cliffs just past Etretat, next to the lighthouse and overlooking the English Channel.

German bunkers and gun emplacements all along this coastline
Brian in a bunker
our view from the Hermione’s door and window, not bad for a free camp
a beautiful sunset, there was also a lighthouse here but couldn’t get a good pic at night


Anzac Day & our visit to some of the other memorials

There are many memorials and War Graves in the villages and towns in the Somme region. Most of the men that fell in battle of the Western Front, and whose bodies that could be identified where buried usually at the site of the battle, so you find a Scottish, Australian or one of the other countries that fought here in regimental cemeteries around.




The Canadian cemetery at Hamel is called the Newfoundland Memorial Park, as the 84 acres it sits upon was purchased by the Government of Newfoundland and opened by Earl Haig in 1925. Because this is Canadian owned nothing has been changed, even the trenches hand dug by the soldiers are still here.

The visitors centre is run by hand picked Canadian students that offer guided tours to the various memorials, including a huge bronze statue of a grieving Cariboo that sits atop a hill of stone.


Mouquet Farm was a central bastion for the German Army in 1916 and had deep tunnels connected to a complex network of German trenches.


On August 5th the Australians were the first to attack this stronghold. They proceeded to claw their way up the surrounding slopes, to Mouquet Farm or as the Aussies called it, Moo Cow farm. Deluged by heavy artillery fire and suffering huge losses of life, including the husband and son of my Great grandmother’s sister, Charles and Arthur Sutton, whose bodies were never recovered, but names are on the wall of Australian Memorial at Villers Bretonneux.

Brian’s great uncle, Ernest Minchinton died in 1917 on the Western Front, his body was also never found and his name is also on the Australian Memorial at VB.

The Sir John Monash Centre opened officially today, April 25th 2018.  It pays tribute to the 295,000 Australians who served on the Western front from 1916-1918, and the more than 46,000 who died here.  We will visit the centre later on in our travels around France when it’s not so busy.




We have been talking about attending this service for so long it seems, and now we are finally here, and it doesn’t look like it will disappoint.

We find ourselves a spot to park in Corbie, about 4kms from the memorial and try to have rest before we head up around midnight as they are expecting capacity crowds, and we want to get a good seat, so a long wait until the service at 5.30am.

The long walkway towards the tower is lined on both sides with the headstones of soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India,  South Africa and the United Kingdom, and they were all illuminated  especially for the night.  The Commonwealth War Graves Commission does an amazing job of managing these cemeteries, they are so well looked after with flowers and well manicured lawns.








The front row was reserved for HRH, Charles The Prince of Wales, Malcolm Turnbull, and the French Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe, it was a shame we didn’t get an invite to that row.









The army band, and from Brisbane the Birralee choir entertained the huge crowd.  There was also a projection on the tower of pictures of soldiers and a little story about where they were originally from, and where they died. 







The weather was getting colder, and colder and by the time the service started it was freezing and the wind had picked up, but it was beautiful.











A piper played from the tower, the speeches and readings were short and poignant, but the one that bought tears to most eyes was from the French Prime Minister.  He spoke with much emotion of the young men so far from home that gave their lives, and that will never be forgotten, so that France could be free.






The walk downhill back to Hermione was cold, and wet as the rain started just as the service was finishing, but it was an event we will never forget.


that’s us behind the pink tree

This city was pretty well devastated during WW2, so most of the lovely buildings we are used to seeing are not here.

There was a massive Brocade or Antique market on though, and there would have been thousand’s of stalls.  All the streets in the centre of the city diverted because of the market, luckily we found a spot big enough for us to fit into, and we parked and wandered for hours.

There was everything from antique furniture to a stuffed fox for sale if we only had more room in Hermione I could have gone crazy, and at such great prices as well.

We found a free camp spot close to the city, and near a huge park with a lake in the middle, it was a little noisy during the day with everyone enjoying the nice weather, but in the evening there were only half a dozen motorhomes left, including us.

I had a bit of laundry that didn’t dry from the late washing time the day before, so I was able to hang it around Hermione, and it was dry in no time.  Glad no-one knows us here, hahah!



Giverny and Monet’s Garden has been on our list of places to see when back in France, and today with the most glorious weather we have seen so far, we finally go there.


The gardens are much like Monet’s paintings, brightly coloured and balanced.

Flowers are the brushstrokes, part of his carefully designed project, and in spring with the tulips and daffodils still in flower it was exquisite, and I’m so glad we finally saw it.


AMBOISE, a Chateux Royal and the last home of Leonardo da Vinci

Amboise Chateux has been occupied since Neolithic times, and has been home to many Kings and Queens.

King Francoise 1 lived there in the Renaissance period and was a great patron of the arts.  He invited Leonardo da Vinci to come to Amboise and gifted and the adjoining Chateux du Clos Luce, and it is there he spent the final years of his life, working on his inventions and finishing his famous paintings of the Virgin and child with Saint Anne, of Saint  John the Baptist.

Walking the beautiful grounds you can imagine da Vinci pondering his next invention or painting.

There are many of his note books, with drawings of his flying machine, a tank, and so models of his that we had any idea had been his inventions.

Our night in the Cherry Orchard

Tonight’s camp was a free camp that we found in our France Passion book.

It has over 2000 places to stay in France, all on private land that could be a farm, winery, artisanor even a venision farm.

You can stay for free and all they ask is that you look at their produce, or product and if it interestd you to purchase something. Our host had a winery, well this is the Loire, so we tasted and then purchased 2 bottles, one a Rose and the other a white Bourgogne, and both delicious! Canola is grown in this region as well, and the fragrant golden fields are just beautiful.

The Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is know for it’s beautiful Chateaux’s, and it’s also the heart of France’s major wine region.

Over 49,000 acres of vineyards that produce white, rose’, red’s and of course a great sparking wine.

The Loire River flows through this picturesque valley and is also the backdrop for our next few nights of camping.

VOUVRAY.  April 18th, 2018

We met Joss and Jeanette from the Netherlands who were parked near our camp site.

They joined us for my birthday aperitif of fabulous Vouvray Sparking wine, accompanied by an array of fine cheese, pate and fresh figs supplied by Jeanette.

We then headed out to a lovely Italian restaurant to continue my birthday celebration.

A couple of first’s

Monday April, 16th, 2018

This is our first real day of sleeping in our Hymervan,  who is now named HERMIONE, after a French Frigate, and not the actress from Harry Potter.

The Hermione was a French battle ship that ferried General Lafayette to the United States to battle against the British, and we thought a perfectly good name to call this boat sized vehicle that will ferry us around Europe.


Fonterraud L’Abbaye was founded in 1099as both a nunnery and a monastery with an Abess in charge, that must have been quite a job for her!

The Plantagenet’s, King Henry 11 and his Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was undoubtedly the most powerful woman of her time, and was twice Queen, first of France and then of England, as well as their son, Richard the Lionheart (who rebelled against his father in the crusades are all buried there.

There is also a beautiful cloister with a central garden.