The annual photo challenge

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We’re just back from France, having toured in our motorhome for the past 4 weeks through Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and France. We ended up for some R&R at our favourite lush and floral campsite in the Dordogne region, near the River Vezere.

In September there are banks of colourful flowers like these, attracting, bees, butterflies and hummingbird hawk moths. The annual challenge is to get a half decent photograph of  one of these furry moths in action. They move fast, their wings are ususally a blur, and worst of all, they flit rapidly from one flower to another, so the chances of getting a shot often becomes less likely as they seem to know when the lens is on them.

This one isn’t too bad; it’s the best of the bunch. But whenever we visit this campsite I go back for more of what I call photographic torture!

More of our travels to follow – life back in Blighty has be caught up on – but here are links to a few earlier posts with photos from the same location taken at the same time of year.

Hummingbird hawk moth on orange flower – not too bad, this one.

Carpenter bee smothered in pollen.

Clouded yellow butterfly on wild scabious.

A selection of insects, all photpgraphed in the same location.

Valley of the Saints

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On a grey, chilly, windy day in August I visited the Valley of the Saints in northern Brittany. Like a modern-day line up of Easter Island-like giant statues, some of the many religious saints associated with bringing Christianity to Brittany are depicted in stone, sculpted by modern-day artists who are taking part in this developing project.

About 50 saints are already in place, standing proud on a windy hillside with views of the surrounding countryside and the sea. Each one is different and has it’s own story – there is a guidebook outlining the story of each saint, and there are guides too, to tell their stories.

The teenager in our Anglo-French family group took it upon himself to entertain the younger members of the group, making up stories for them about the statues and acting as an alternative guide – his stories were very funny and creative and while the children half-beleived what he was saying, the adults were chuckling a lot. If there was a saint with a sense of humour somewhere on that hillside, he or she would have been proud of our alternative guide and his amusing tales.

The saint with an axe in her head, pictured above, is touching a lion’s head – you can just see it’s teeth. Our alternative guide’s take on this one was that she reminds us to be kind to animals and the environment, otherwise we will come to a nasty end.

I fully concur with that.

Grandchild on board

“Oooh, Audrey’s got a TV too!” said granddaughter, as I removed the cover from the flat screen TV so she could watch her Mr. Benn DVD. Audrey is the name of our Murvi Morello campervan; Mr Benn is classic children’s TV from the late 1970s when her dad used to watch this same programme.

On site Freidrichshafen

When we put in the order for our Morello we asked for an extra bunk to fit in the cab area so we could initiate granddaughter into the delights of going on holiday in our palace on wheels. We were shown how to set up the bunk on handover day, and I tried it for size and accessibility, but we had yet to use it for real. That was granddaughter’s job.

At 3 years old, and rapidly approaching her 4th birthday, we took her away for her first trip – two nights at the Caravan & Motorhome Club site at Chatsworth in the last chilly days of May. Excitement was running high when we set off over what she called the “mountains” (Peak District), but she had yet to see where she would be sleeping. The van was set up for transporting passengers, which meant a bit of push and shove as the long sofa was transformed into a back seat with seat belts. The child seat was strapped into one of them, and I was strapped into the other; she wanted Nanny to sit next to her while Granddad got on with the driving. We were on familiar ground here as she’d already taken a preliminary trip in Audrey the Van with her dad sitting next to her.

On arrival, the seat was magicked back into a sofa while she and I took an exploratory walk around the campsite. She liked looking at the vans and asked why some of them had tents (awnings) on them. She also liked the walk we had in the grounds of Chatsworth, and the ice cream she had at the end of it. But would she like the bed?

She ate hungrily, watched Mr. Benn and had some stories. She liked having two tables in the van where she could do her colouring in, and was fascinated by the loo flush mechanism and the way the lights in the van could be changed to ambient blue. She happily got ready for bed. We made it up so that her head was on the driver’s side, loaded it with the soft toys she’d brought and pulled the dividing curtain across, leaving a gap at the foot end for a bit of reassuring light to get through. Once in bed she made token gestures towards sleep but our expectations were realistically low. Rightly so too. She insisted on turning the whole lot around so her head was on the passenger side where she could peep around the curtain.

M in van bed

She proceeded not just to peep but to play, giggle, bounce, sing and generally be as naughty as she dared while we ate our meal and tried not to let on we were laughing too. At 10.25, her mum sent a text saying. “So is she asleep yet?!” and I firmly (but lovingly) read the riot act. She slept.

The next day we tired her out with a full day of walking through the parkland to Chatsworth House and a visit to the farm and adventure playground. That night she slept like a log. And she wants to go away in Audrey the Van again, claiming the bed is much better than the one she sleeps in at our house.

This was written when granddaughter was 3 and went on her first motorhome holiday. She’s now just turned 10, has several van trips under her belt and loves the whole camping experience.

Chatsworth Caravan & Motorhome Club site

Set in a walled area/ large walled garden. Broken up into smaller areas and cul de sacs. Many trees and shrubs, green areas, small children’s play area, reasonably well-stocked shop in reception. Baby/toddler bathroom (£5 key deposit). Direct access to the Park from campsite. Approx 20 mins walk to Chatsworth House and Gardens. Farm offers guinea pig handling, goat and cow milking demonstrations, tractor rides plus horses, sheep, pigs, chickens etc. Adventure playground excellently appointed with top notch activity equipment for young and older age groups, water play, treetop walkways, trampoline. There’s a first aid post on site with magazines for parents/guardians to borrow and browse while the children play.

This edited and updated article first appeared in the Murvi Club in-house e-magazine.

Twin sisters, Brittany

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These happy ladies are volunteers in Chapelle du Kreisker, Saint-Pol-de-Leon, selling tickets for those keen enough to climb the 79 metre-high bell tower for a view over the surrounding area.

The 179 steps to the top are accessed by a very narrow steep, stone, spiral staircase. Husband and son went up, taking photos of the narrowness of the staircase just to convince me and daughter-in-law that we’d made the right decision to stay on the ground.

I asked the ladies if they were sisters….”Yes! But we are twins”, they said laughing and with eyes twinkling.

“Which one is the oldest?” I asked (my dormant French woke up and was used).

It’s the twin on the right. She didn’t know by how many minutes she was the senior twin, but there was a fair amount of good humoured joking going on between the two of them about this.

Brittany rocks!

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Excuse the pun. There are a lot of rocks and boulders in northern Brittany and I saw some of them on my recent visit there. The lush green valley with moss-covered boulders is at Huelgoat (pronounced Hwelgwa, according to the French branch of the family I was holidaying with).

We took a walk in the Argent Valley, where these huge mossy boulders tumble down into the river, and are invitingly easy to clamber on and explore. The surrounding forest is a peaceful, shady place and the star feature is the Trembling Rock, which is said to move. One of the teenagers in our party tried to get some movement out of it by leaning on it and pushing. I have to be honest and say it didn’t appear to move to me….

The pink rocks of the Cote de Granit Rose stretch way along Brittany’s northern coast, near Ploumanac’h, and their formations are weird and fascinating. The sea has shaped them such that it’s possible to see (with a little imagination) recognisable objects – is that  tortoise? Or a lizard? Or an elephant? – were some of the suggestions we came up with.

We were following part of the sentier des douaniers – a path by the coast used by smugglers and strewn with these fantastically shaped rocks.

Market at Plestin-les-Greves

There’s nothing like a bustling French market to awaken the senses after a long….very long in this case….journey to Brittany.  UK roads to Plymouth were beset with detours, a hefty storm delayed our ferry crossing to Roscoff by 12 hours, and the sea was full of heaving white horses when we sailed. The Kwells worked; I didn’t throw up, but the voyage is best glossed over.

So a trip next morning to Plestin-les-Greves to browse in the market and pick up the ambience made for a good start to the week. There were flowers, fruit, veg, and food of all kinds to please both eyes and nose. We shuffled along in the crowd of locals and tourists, enjoying the atmosphere and feeling glad we’d finally arrived.

Granddaughter cajoled her parents into buying her a watch from one stall, we each bought ourselves stylish belts from another and husband resisted the temptation to get himself yet another small change purse (he seems to get one whenever we visit France!).

Then we headed for the remains of a Roman villa and ran and played with the children on a nearby stunning beach before returning to the 16th century manor house where we were staying.

Our group of seven was due to expand to fourteen next day with the arrival of another branch of the French side of the family. More on that later.

The Smallest House in Great Britain

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This tiny, quirky, bright red house is wedged into the walls of Conwy in North Wales. It’s been a tourist attraction for as long as I can remember and I went into it many years ago when my children were small. On this occasion, I was there with grandchildren who decided they didn’t want to go in (there was a queue) but went up to inspect it so they could see just how small it is.

I have vague recollections of how poky and gloomy it was inside the two small rooms – one up, one down. It was built in the 16th century. In 1900 it was occupied by a tenant, a 6ft. 3in, tall fisherman, who eventually had to move out ( perhaps he kept banging his head on the ceiling?!). It’s still owned by the same family and is open in the summer season as a tourist attraction.

There is always a lady in traditional Welsh costume on duty to take the entry fee and sell a small selection of souvenirs.