26. May, 2022


THURSDAY 26-05-22

Well it was a quiet enough night on our large, very busy aire. We used our own shower facilities, though the water was very slow to drain away from the shower tray because I hadn't thought to put the Jack-Mats under the wheels to level the vehicle when we arrived yesterday.

We were fortunate enough to be parked close to a fresh water tap with a toilet cassette disposal point next to it. Despite that it proved difficult to top our fresh water tank from it because it was so busy with motorhomes topping by before leaving. Why it takes so long for some of these people to do the necessary is beyond me, and quite selfish when there is a queue of other campers waiting to use it. In the end, one character took so long it was quicker for me to walk over to the other side of the site with my ten-litre watering can and fill up from there.

The best moment of all was when we watched a camper take his washing up to the 'sink' which was the toilet disposal point in do his washing up in a bowl there, filling it and rinsing with the flexible pipe which campers use to flush their cassettes out with, and which usually gets pushed down in to the cassette neck to save the splashes. That man must have a cast-iron constitution.

Then it was up to the grey water dump (usually all three things, loo, fresh water and dumping of grey water is done at one point) when a quick pull of the valve and about sixty litres of water was gone in about a minute. We certainly don't make other people twiddle their thumbs waiting for us.

The journey off the island was quite different from the one coming on. Firstly 'IT' didn't attempt even once to take us through narrow streets. We stayed on track the whole time, and bonus, there was very little traffic going our way. But oh My Lord, the traffic coming on to the island was crazy. There were miles and miles of traffic jams, either at a standstill or very slow moving. We had to assume that what we endured yesterday was normal. All I can say is, that had we known it's like that we would never have come on to the island. Sadly we didn't manage to get a picture of the impressive bridge going back as the angles just weren't right.

Days ago we had decided to miss out Saintes and Cognac. Saintes is a big place with Roman history, which we can live without, and Cognac would have been nice to see, but we were fearful we'd have had the same problems parking there as we did at Saint Emilion.

So we decided to make for Rochefort for a couple of nights. We're trying to time it so that we arrive at La Rochelle late in to the weekend so that we may just miss the families and weekenders.

We had the usual problem when we arrived at the Municipal Campsite (N45.930087° W0.958232°) - the two-hour lunch break, we would need to return after 14:00. To kill time we went down the road to the E Leclerc supermarket for a baguette and a stop for lunch. The Chef came back most impressed, it seems it really is a very nice supermarket inside, and we only wanted a baguette.

Back at the campsite just after 14:00 we managed to get off the narrow road by parking in front of the entry barrier, though that wouldn't have been helpful for anybody trying to get in. So I backed up and drove through the exit barrier which had remained up. Then I just sat and waited for The Chef to come back. Meanwhile back out on the street it was a chaotic situation with campers parked in the road trying to get in, and arguing among themselves as well as with motorists who were trying to get past them from both directions.

Anyhow, we think either because we weren't stopping over the weekend, or because the Receptionist hates Brits, we got the smallest crappiest pitch on the campsite. I've had to wedge us between the hedge and the tree, and can't move further on to the pitch because our next door neighbour has his awning erected right up to our boundary.

Due to the large number of campers on the site, and only one toilet and shower block being open we decided to use our own rather than join a queue in the morning. This meant I needed to put the Jack-Pads under the front wheels. These caused considerable interest among fellow campers. One guy wanted to watch the whole process from start to finish, whilst our next door neighbour with an A Class motorhome, who thought he had all the toys, awning, tow car and electric bikes possible, looked quite forlorn as he realised he didn't have everything - he didn't have Jack-Pads.

Rather than sit around aimlessly we decided to go for a walk and get a feel for the place.

So a bit about Rochefort:

In December 1665, Rochefort was chosen by Jean-Baptiste Colbert as a place of "refuge, defence and supply" for the French Navy. The Arsenal de Rochefort served as a naval base and dockyard until it closed in 1926.

In September 1757, Rochefort was the target of an ambitious British raid during the Seven Years War.

Another infrastructure of early Rochefort from 1766 was its bagne, a high-security penal colony involving hard labour. Bagnes were then common fixtures in military harbours and naval bases, such as Toulon or Brest, because they provided free labour. During the Jacobin period of the French Revolution (1790–95), over 800 Roman Catholic priests and other clergy who refused to take the anti-Papal oath of the "Civil Constitution of the Clergy" were put aboard a fleet of prison ships in Rochefort harbour, where most died due to inhumane conditions.

Off Rochefort, from the island of IIe-d’Aix where he had spent several days hoping to flee to America, Napoleon Bonaparte surrendered to Captain F.L. Mailtland aboard HMS Bellerophon, on 17 July 1815, ending the “Hundred Day”.

Rochefort is a notable example of 17th-century "ville nouvelle" or new town, which means its design and construction, resulted from a political decree. The reason for building Rochefort was to a large extent that royal power could hardly depend on rebellious Protestant La Rochelle, which Cardinal Richelieu had to besiege a few decades earlier. Well into the 20th century, Rochefort remained primarily a garrison town. The tourist industry, which had long existed due to the town's spa, gained emphasis in the 1990s

We were surprised to find that we were very well place, and soon came across L'Arsenal des Mers, their Naval Museum, a kind of poor man's Portsmouth Dockyard Museum.

It was free, and so we wandered around. There were a couple of dry docks. One with water in and the other with a mock-up of a sailing ship on which kids could play on the rigging, having been suitably dressed in a safety harness of course. I thought it was a great idea, and perhaps Portsmouth should look at doing something similar.

After about an hour and a half we decided to make our way back.

Sadly this evening we have been joined on the three vacant pitches across from us by a gang of about a dozen or more Yoof who arrived in a couple of cars with most of them walking in with backpacks. Needless to say they're noisy, which is ok as long as they respect the silent hours, but given that they'll probably get tanked up and get louder and louder, I doubt they will.

...................oh well.