Saturday May 18th at Camping Eve
Dried up now, so was able to pack away the awning in the dry. Our VW van neighbours also packed up and left. The mother and son opposite with the Tesla X car were staying on for several days. We had a brief tour of her car which she was very proud of. She relayed the issues at the Tunnel exit in England where there are several Tesla chargers, but you can charge only when going from England to France, and not the other way around. She had to be escorted especially through the barriers to be allowed to charge.
We arrived in Sainte Nazaire and stayed at the Eve camping site. Cheapest campsite yet at 16 Euro including electricity. Not quite what I expected. It seemed busy, even for a weekend, but there were so many chalets and little camping. Camping was all mainly on a slope. Because of the slope, we set up the awning, now nicknamed ‘the shed’, on its own, .
We did a quick walk down to the beach, to which the campsite had its own access tunnel under the road.
In the campsite cafe/bar, there was a stage. During the evening there was an entertainer followed by a disco which went on to 10.30, After that, I could hear quieter music, including great English classics from Pink Floyd, must have been a couple of bikers camping a few pitches up.
Sunday May 19th Saint Nazaire
The reason for coming to Saint Nazaire was to see the old German submarine basin. We drove in and parked. Seemed very easy to do, lots of free parking everywhere. A huge Tintin painting greeted us. We later spotted another. Seems Tintin et al boarded a liner here in “The Seven Crystal Balls”, a book I do not own, but will be remedying the defect very soon. In fact, there was even, at certain times of the year, a Tintin walking tour.
The submarine block has been converted into offices and entertainment areas. There was a boxing ring and match going on in one area. We bought a ticket which included four exhibitions.
An exhibition of the cross Atlantic liners from the 1880s to the 1960s, which St Nazaire had once built. You walked up & along a gangplank, then into the “liner”, walking from room to room looking at the cabins, the view from the stern, the staterooms, the lower deck cabins, kitchens, engine room, the deck and bar. Very cleverly designed & built. We were caught by the French lunch and were told we had only another 20 minutes left and had to hurry through the last part of the exhibition. If you are there, it is well worth visiting. As you exit there is a bar where cocktails are on sale, alas missed these as we were herded through a theatre to watch a film, and then into lifeboats to be lowered to the ground level where we exited through the gift shop.
We then walked over to the fortified lock where the other exhibitions were. Here we went onto the roof with good views of the shipbuilding, several cruise liners in the process of being fitted out. Also saw one of those artistic paint jobs where you stand in one place for all the paint lines to join up in one grand design. Probably as not as impressive as last year’s at Carcassonne, but still very neat. This artistic design is permanent.
Watched a fishing boat go through a lock, and the bridge swing open. A man was standing on the bridge photographing the fishing boat, totally oblivious to the bells ringing. He was told by someone on the bank to get off. He moved off just as the harbour master came out of his control cabin to shout at him.
Now it was 2pm, ie after lunch, so we made our way to see the submarine. It was a French submarine, built after the war based on the German U boat design. It was preserved for viewing as it was the first French submarine to break through the ice of the North Pole. Well, work viewing, seeing the cramped space. Interesting to see the periscopes were viewed from the conning tower, where you could hardly stand more than a couple of people. Not at all like in the films.
EOL Centre Eolien
An exhibition about offshore wind farms. Started off with the history of electricity and its usage in France, then onto the building of the wind farms of Saint Nazaire. Sixty 8 Megawatt turbines. Ah well in the UK we are well ahead of this with many sites with far more turbines and even larger ones coming online. What the French do well is produce these little exhibitions and tell everyone how well they are doing. Rosemary impressed by one part of the exhibit where you could listen to various professionals involved in the build. All in French, but the impressive aspect was the number of females.
Ecomusee de Sainte Nazaire
The final museum was the history of the area. Some prehistoric, but soon went into the industrial age, and shipbuilding. Unfortunately all in French. Also a lot about the aircraft they built before and after the war which was mainly seaplanes. Of course, Saint Nazaire builds the fuselage for Airbus.
The disappointment for me was that was not to be here on a Wednesday where there are tours of the Airbus factory and cruise line shipbuilding. Will put these on a to-do list when we are next passing through France.
Back to Morrison, and to the campsite. On the way, we stopped at a Dolmen in the city, Dolmen des Trois Pierres. At the campsite, we had time to cook and eat a nice late evening stew.
Monday May 20th Meeting Monsieur Hulot
Lazy day today. We had thought of going to see some archaeological sites, but these are closed until July. Thankfully some kind soul had written a review on google and photographed the entry sign. Looking at their website you would have gone and been disappointed.
So instead we were having a lazy day. The campsite is deserted, we tried for a mid-morning coffee, but the bar was closed (despite the people standing inside drinking coffee). So to google maps, where I spotted a nice place nearby in the village of Page de Saint-Marc. Coffee and beers at the Bar Le Phil’Good and then photographs of Monsieur Hulot. Walked on the Plage de Monsieur Hulot. Then it was back to our beach which was being resculptured with two diggers. Ready for the season. Then we discovered the beach was actually closed. We had come in a back way.
Lunch in the van, reading and writing blogs. R had spotted several white cats with a variety of different coloured tales – tabby, black, whatever. A beagle was roaming free and seemingly not owned by people on the site. A scurry in the bushes caused R to wonder if the dog had found a cat. But no, a beautiful tabby emerged. His head was at an odd angle, a result of the goldfinch in his mouth. Not a busy day.
Tuesday May 21st Le Bec Hellouin
Packed up. The Shed was not entirely dry as there was fog this morning. You could hear fog horns out to see in the Loire Estuary. We packed up and left. First stop was a mound, Tumulus Dissignac, a few miles away. Yes, it was closed as the Google Local Guides had indicated. Photo from the outside, and then on to ‘La Roche aux Fées’ Oh oh, inundated with French school children who at least were lingering over lunch and playing in a field. So we were able to walk around unobstructed.
Back on the road, stopping at a Super U to buy some Jack Daniels and Ricard, and then on to Le Bec Hellouin where we arrived at 6.00. Moules for supper. The campsite was pretty full.
Wednesday May 22nd Home
Final drive to the tunnel, where we arrived several hours before our departure time. We were offered and accepted a crossing an hour earlier than our booked one. The trip home was “relatively” painless, the usual slow down to cross the Thames, and unfortunately arrived at Aylesbury for 6, so a long queue getting into town.