The second week of our new adventure saw us travelling through historic WW1 sites in the Meuse area, including “Red Zones” around Verdun where villages & towns suffered irreversible damage and farmland & forest were turned into wastelands. Many of the battlefields are maintained as authentic battle sites and driving through this area was very moving.
Passing the “Trench of Bayonets” had me in tears before we decided to stop at The Douaumont Ossuary which has become a symbol of the battlefield containing as it does 130,000 bodies of unidentified soldiers. The sheer number of graves in the cemetery, each meticulously maintained with a flowering plant, was overwhelming – the serenity and beauty of the place providing such a contrast to the bloody and violent nature of the occupants’ deaths.
Moving on we travelled through the greenery of Parc Naturel Regional De Lorraine and eventually arrived at Pont-a-Mousson, a lovely town on the banks of La Moselle. Once again the aire was situated at a Port de Plaisance and we had swans for company. With the gorgeous weather, brand new facilities and interesting surroundings we stayed for a couple of days soaking up the atmosphere.
After a very relaxing couple of days, we started heading west with our route taking us up hill and down dale. Using “D” roads rather than the motorway network takes us through rural villages which we like to imagine haven’t changed much for the past few centuries – apart from all the cars, tractors & electricity cables that is!
Once again, Saturday brought thunder and heavy rain in the morning as we travelled to Le Creusot. The aire was at the Parc des Combes theme park and was really noisy so we continued on to Autun where yet again we were drawn to a lakeside location. With a cemetery for neighbours on the other side of the road it made for a very peaceful night’s sleep! Autun was known as Augustodunum in Roman times and barely 100m from the aire are the remains of a Roman theatre complete with stage and football pitch.
Week 3 has seen us continuing west & passing through the geographical centre of France – hurrah!
Our penchant for lakeside and riverside stopovers continued and on Wednesday, travelling to our next stop, we were confronted by this beauty at the side of the road!
For once we were able to park Nobby, jump out to explore and take some photos. We were at Angles-sur-L’Anglin (I kid you not) which is one of the “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” and these were 11th century castle ruins. The village looked like it hadn’t changed since medieval times and the steep, narrow & winding road made for a bit of a hairy ride.
Our actual stopover for the day was Chauvigny, another cité médiévale with no less than 5 châteaux within the old town. We spent a very atmospheric afternoon wandering around the streets and the castles until the rising temperature got the better of us and we retreated to the van. We walked down into the town itself in the evening once it had cooled to a more bearable degree and managed to find the maison ancienne with a stone window carved with a dragon and an angel – très bon!