Sancions, Canal du BerryJanuary 15 in France ⋅ ⛅ 8 °C
We are parked up in Sancions' scenic aire, sandwiched between the Aubois river, which is narrow, grotty and thankfully out of sight, and the Canal du Berry, which is only a couple of metres outside the van door and a lot cleaner and prettier to look at. The sun is setting, casting its golden rays off the water surface and producing colourful reflections of the little grey stone bridge, steely sky and a small collection of buildings, their wooden shutters closed to the sight.
After filling and emptying tanks and bins this morning we covered about 160 kilometres, taking us to the south eastern edge of the Centre-Val de Loire region. On the way we managed to buy LPG, diesel and even use the petrol station's laverie (launderette) for €4 when we stopped for lunch. We weren't sure whether to be reassured or worried at the availability of anti-mite detergent for 50c a dose, but the place seemed immaculately clean.
We avoided the motorways and passed through many little French towns, interspersed by large tracts of agricultural land. We felt so welcome due to the number of van parking and service signs we saw along the way. There were yet more groups of gilets jaunes dotted here and there. The day had begun with an insipid light filtering through the usual covering of white cloud, but gradually this intensified until the sun was strong, the green fields vibrant and the sky steely blue. It was in these conditions we spotted a large group of birds in a ploughed field, that turned out to be Common Cranes; huge creatures with long legs and long necks, whose wingspans are 2m on average! Sorry we didn't get a photo, we were a bit too gobsmacked to see them standing there!
Arriving at Sancions, Will made the most of the late afternoon sun by wrapping up and having a fish in the canal. There was only one other van when we pulled in, but one more drove in after us and started up its generator, keeping it running until nearly 10pm. We hope the noise didn't travel to any of the town's residents.
Night time temperatures plummeted and we woke to a layer of frost. Thankfully we had plenty of LPG and Martha was nice and toasty inside! Taking the short walk into town at midday, it became apparent that we'd missed the morning market, quite a big one by the looks of it. Never mind, we were on the lookout for somewhere to eat out. We skirted the main square and delved a little way into side streets, reading menus displayed on the walls of cafés, hotels and bistros. Despite the attractive looking exteriors, the soft stone walls often clad in vines with painted shutters covering upper storey windows, nothing quite seemed right until we came to the unassuming Petite Auberge. We wouldn't have recognised it as an eatery if not for the chalkboard outside, advertising set meals.
Vicky has been thinking a lot about her food consumption in terms of the environment and animal welfare and has decided to adopt a mostly pescitarian diet when buying food herself. She will continue to eat organic meat on special occasions such as birthdays, have 'sustainable' fish occasionally and generally cut down even further on animal products. This makes things more difficult when eating out and she'll not get to sample many of a country's signature dishes, but we'll see how it goes.
We asked the waitress at La Petite Auberge whether they had a vegetarian meal and accepted the offer of 'une grande salade'. Will had the set menu of terrine, followed by chicken and mash with a flavourfull sauce, accompanied of course by a basket of french bread. We both enjoyed a slice of chocolate cake before Will finished with an espresso and Vicky with a glass of Ricard; a pastis she had read was popular in France. We shared the dining room with 2 other couples and a group of 3 and soaked in the relaxed atmosphere and french conversation.
Afterwards, we felt the need to walk off our indulgences. The sun was out as we strolled along the grassy canal towpath, the tall Plane trees casting long shadows accross the water. After a while Vicky spotted a strange little bird flitting up and down the length of the canal, dipping occasionally to touch the surface. We soon realised it was a bat, out in bright daylight! Further along we saw a buzzard picking at something up ahead in the long grass. We got to within 50 metres before the wary bird of prey flew off, leaving what turned out to be a long deceased badger. We were on the periphery of town, so it was a real pleasure to see so much wildlife!Read more