13th August 2018
Saint Bris des Bois, France
I was sorry to leave our little oasis of tranquility near Beauvoir this morning but I feel we were lucky there, all down to some accidental very good timing on our part and to stay would be pushing that luck.
So, down the road to St Jean d'Angely bright and early and our departure coincided with a train heading south on the little single line track. We took a steady 70km/hour drive down the arrow straight and flat D650 and arrived at St Jean at exactly the same time as the train. I really must travel France by such trains one day, what a glorious stress free way to travel.
We found our much needed diesel at a huge Leclerc supermarket and was able to pay the lady in the pay booth with my English plastic. Its odd how the pumps won't accept the card but a manned pay booth will.
Into the store for grub and I reckon I could have done with google maps to find my way round it, simply vast. Then I took the wrong exit at the end and couldn't find Amy or the Jeep as I'd emerged into a totally different carpark. Worked it out in the end though!
From St Jean we plotted a course due south towards Cognac but have stopped off just south of Saint Bris des Bois, a really nice looking quaint old town, in some forested area that is interspersed with vineyards. Initially, I wasn't certain it would work as an overnight location as my previous experience of wild camping in the environs of vineyards has not been wonderful but, so far, we have been here five hours and have not seen or heard a single soul or vehicle.
I have parked on a wide verge of a forested green lane that I am 99% sure is a public highway and, therefore, I can legally pull over and rest. If it isn't actually a public highway it's certainly arguable and the worst that would happen is that one would get moved on with a flea in one's ear. Amy and I had a walkabout, earlier, and identified a very nice little hidy-hole in the forest but the trouble with that is if one is discovered there (highly unlikely for tonight is my guess) then one doesn't have a leg to stand on. Private landowners may just go red in the face and get very shouty but if they decide to get the cops out then, this being France, it can all get a bit official - and, to be honest, I can really do without all that sort of crap in my life!
The green lane is very good and I am happy to overnight there keeping the hidy-hole as a 'reserve' if I should be unlucky enough to get moved on at a late hour for any reason.
It's one of the joys of this sort of lifestyle - never a dull moment!
Here are its GPS coordinates of the green lane:
Latitude : 45.78018 (45° 46′ 48.66″ N)
Longitude : -0.45612 (0° 27′ 22.01″ W)
accuracy of signal : 12 m
I've been navigating French websites for vendangeur (grape picking) jobs and suddenly all the private ads are gone and its all agencies, which I really couldn't cope with. Oh for the days when vineyards would just hang a sign out by the road, give you a room and feed you as well as wages. Now one has to navigate the bloody internet on the slippiest, slithinerest, super sensitive (to misplaced big fat fingers!) smartphone ever made (HTC) all over dodgy connectivity and if all that weren't bad enough its French internet which is, frankly, just mind-blowing!
And the ads, when one finally finds them, are not very friendly either. 'No accommodation', 'No meals', 'No land to park on' are the invariable endorsements on the interweb. Last week, when I had a browse, the private ads all said beginners welcome but today all the agencies without exception want experienced people only. Luckily, many of the ads name the Chateau and location so I still have the possibilty to knock at a door and ask - in they say 'Non!' then I am no worse off than I am at the moment and if they say 'Oui!' then I will have a job!
In this area, Cognac, it seems the work starts about mid Sept but as one goes further south then that date gets earlier - some vineyards near the Med are picking red grapes already.
There appear to be a couple of Chateaus in Aquitaine hiring vendangeurs, both just north of Bordeaux on the western banks of Le Geronde - the bit of water the Royan ferry crosses if you want to access the north of the region, when travelling to it from the north and don't fancy a long and busy detour round the Bordeaux perifique to get there.
One of them is Chateau Lafite of Rothschild fame and their website says English spoken, though I suspect that is more for the posh paying customers than itinerants like Amy and I!
Trains of thought Champagne Charlie!