Thurs 1 Sept - noon, Vichy, Thiers, Roanne, van, Effie, Loire, concert, dinner

After declaring another tie in the Pinch'n'Punch battle for the first of the month, we decided to settle the matter by another game of ping pong on the nearby table. But with the game score tied at 1-1, we decided to quit so that neither of us would be in a grumpy, or pompous, mood for the day, given that we had to sit next to each other in the van for a few hours. So around noon, we left Bel Air and headed north-east, bound for Roanne.

Our first stop was at Vichy for fuel. But as we were re-fuelling, I noticed a car parked in the caryard next door with a broken windscreen. My first thought was that the owner of the car sales yard would be pretty annoyed that vandals had smashed the windscreen of one of his cars for sale. But then I noticed another five cars with broken windscreens next to the first one, and several of those also had dented bodywork. I realised that this was not the work of vandals, but of a hailstorm. And as we drove out of Vichy, I noticed several properties with large holes in their tile roofs and realised these were also the aftermath of a hailstorm. I later read that the hailstorm had damaged approximately 2000 properties, and that the waiting list for tradesmen to repair the roofs was over 2 years!

Our next stop was at a roadside stop near the town of Thiers, which I later found out was famous as the centre of knife production in France. This roadside stop was not on a motorway, but on a "free' road and was run by the local municipality. Nonetheless, it was also of high quality with restrooms, picnic areas and plenty of shaded parking areas. We took advantage of one of the shady trees and had lunch at one of the picnic tables.

After lunch, we headed for our final destination of the day, Roanne, where we were to meet up with Phil and Kathy Tyson. They had told us that there was a camping car area right next to the port, and we found this with relative ease. For several weeks after the recovery of our stolen campervan, we had wondered why the thieves had bothered to steal the various manuals that John had left for us in the van. We had tried in vain to find replacement manuals on the internet, but had now resolved to wait until we saw another Fleurette van of similar vintage, to see whether they had manuals. So we couldn't believe our eyes when we pulled into the camping car area to see another Fleurette parked right next to us.


So one of our first jobs was to go over and introduce ourselves, and tell them our story, and see whether they had manuals for the vehicle. We struck paydirt, and they said they would be happy to let us copy their manuals, but not at the moment since they were about to go somewhere else for the afternoon. Since we also had to go find Phil and Kathy, we agreed to catch up with them in the morning before they left Roanne. We then hopped on our bicycles and rode around to the other side of the port (Roanne is quite a large port, with lots of weed in there at the moment) to find Phil and Kathy on board Effie.

We had a chat with them, and found out what they had done since we met up with them in Branoux. I was particularly interested to find out how they had gone with the return of their hire car, after the damage to the windcreen wipers in Le Pradel. Apparently Phil had done a good enough repair job that nothing was said when they returned the vehicle. After more chatting, we went into central Roanne to grab a drink at one of the local bars, and found that an evening concert and night market had just begun. So we stayed around for a while and enjoyed the music, a couple of drinks, and the passing parade of locals.

All the tables were full so we couldn't find somewhere to eat, but luckily Kathy had already started to prepare dinner before we left the boat, so we returned to Effie and had dinner there, along with a few more drinks and lots of talk. Around 2300h, Rita and i jumped on our bikes and returned to Vanumbra on the other side of the port for a good night's sleep.

The Port at Roanne runs parallel to the Loire River (at left below), with the camping car area nestled between the two.

Given the hot, dry conditions this summer, the Loire was looking a little low and weedy, but not as low as other areas on the Loire, such as this one that we saw in a recent post.