We have been driving west from the French-German border at Strasbourg, staying in municipal aires du camping and enjoying the French countryside. I set the GPS for no toll roads, since we aren't in a hurry and want to see the countryside, and it's great. You just have to get used to a 35 mph average pace, and be prepared to negotiate on some of these smaller roads when encountering ongoing traffic. They are VERY narrow. You also have to keep an eye on the rearview mirror and get way over on the right side when one of the locals decides to pass you – a couple of times I got surprised.
Before we got down into the valley proper with all the chateaux, Sharon wanted to make a pilgrimage to the Pillivyut porcelain factory in Mehun-sur-Yèvre, specifically the outlet store there, so we drove over and found a beautiful municipal aire du camping with hot showers, a beautiful grove of beech trees, and free wifi – the whole town has free wifi as a public service. VERY nice. Also, we had the whole place to ourselves for the afternoon, with a couple of other campers showing up around dark. Cost was nine euros – very reasonable. Sharon got a four piece teacup set, some egg cups, and six glasses for about 30 euros, considerably below American retail. Pillivyut is a famous porcelain manufacturer, and they've been doing it here for centuries.
Headed for the chateaux the next day, we spotted another aire du camping next to the Chateau du Chambord in the tiny village of Crouy-sur-Crosson. The Crosson is the smaller river that is diverted through the moat of Chateau Chambord. Saint Martin, a 4th century local bishop, is big here, with many churches dedicated to him. I strolled into town, found the bakery, and joined the locals schlepping back home with two baguettes under my arm and a bag of pain au chocolat. We used to be amused seeing the French walking back from the bakery munching on the bread as they walked – now I'm doing it. It is SO good. I'm really going to miss it when we get back.
Bright and early the next day we headed over to the chateau, and discovered the parking for RVs was 11 euros for 24 hours. Great – we knew where we were going to spend the night. I strolled around the grounds and we had a restful night. The chateau is literally in the middle of nowhere. Fiona prowled the premises, looking for hedgehogs. She never knows what to do with them when she finds them, so it's sort of catch and release hunting.
Driving downstream in cool and cloudy weather, we stopped at Amboise, a chateau right in the middle of town, and also right on the Loire. The municipal aire du camping was pricey – 18 euros – but it was on an island in the middle of the Loire with the chateau looming overhead and an old stone bridge crossing the river here, so we splurged. They also had laundry facilities here, so we got all caught up on our washing.
We saw this 1987-and-proud-of-it Eriba camper there, one of the many that the Erwin Hymer company made to get Europeans out camping, and also saw this elegant sign, which conveys the concept of overnight RV parking quite effectively, and without recourse to language.
Fall is settling in here in France, highs struggle to get up to 60, and there is rain almost every day, so we struck out south looking for warmer and sunnier weather in the Dordogne region. Our trip eleven years ago included the town of Perigueux, and Sharon wanted a chance to go inside the Romanesque cathedral here which was closed on our last visit. More narrow country roads, excellent bakeries to stop in, and magnificent views of the French countryside, with the fall colors just starting to show. We are savoring our last weeks here, and are in no hurry to get back home.