20th-25th January 2018
Day 1 Bar sur Aube to Chasseneuil-du Poitou
We left Bar-sur-Aube in heavy rain, which has affected the region for nearly a month. This lasted all day apart from the last 2 hours when the sun came out and caused us problems as we were heading into it, you cannot have it all ways. The first section of the route was very pleasant, although we struggled to find good locations for controls. After Tonnere the roads improved, less flooding, so we made good progress to lunch at Sancerre. We decided to have a quick walk around Sancerre as the weather had changed from gale force to tornado, very windy. Sancerre is a very pleasant town on top of a hill and is worth a stroll around. We were hoping to find somewhere open for a quick lunch but were disappointed as every place we tried was closed or fully booked. Leaving Sancerre we found a supermarket and had an impromptu pic-nic in the car park, this and 3 coffee stops kept us going until the evening meal.
The afternoon section consisted of fast deserted flowing roads and progress was good apart from a couple of basic map reading errors, we put this down to the rain, not really! As we neared the end the sun burst through and the driving conditions completely changed, we could see through the windscreen, which after a day of windscreen wipers was a blessing.
The final run into the hotel as usual caused problems, too many roundabouts to cope with so late on in the day. We gave it a miss and decided to re-run it in the light. A very pleasant evening in the hotel restaurant bar saw us heading off to bed just after midnight.
To sum the day up it was quite long but if the weather was better it would have been a superb driving day, something to look forward to in the autumn.
Day 2 Hotel to Romorantin- Lanthenay
Day of the Chateaus
A not so early start from the hotel as we decided to take it easy. We retraced part of the route back and then took up the next section which included a fuel stop at the start. Within a few minutes we had passed the first, and one of the most impressive chateaus I have ever seen, the first of many. Progress was easy, but we had to stay awake as the route had many changes, not easy after the previous night. Before long we had arrived at a small town and the coffee stop. A quick re-route and a change of control followed by a coffee and we were off again. An interesting section before arriving at the Matra Museum for lunch.
The museum is small but houses many F1 cars and prototypes. We had a quick walk around after meeting the director as the museum is closed over lunch; they are opening over lunch for our visit.
We had a walk around the very pretty town and spent 10 minutes looking at a large log floating down the river towards the sluice gates, we assumed it had come down in the storm, it missed the gate and carried on.
The plot and bash section in the afternoon saw us pass through some very famous wine areas and more chateaus. We returned to the hotel via a short motorway section.
Day 3 Hotel to Clermont Ferrand
And the fun began!
Leaving the hotel and following the road book we made a very basic error, which cost us over an hour. On the ring round around Poitiers we turned off one junction too soon, it was the same road number but heading in a completely different direction. 30 minutes down this road and no sign of the village we were looking for, it was time for a re-think. Not so quickly assessing where we were and it was turn around and try again, this time with success. We have put warnings in the road book not to take this first junction.
So once back on track the morning went really well. This is a day for the navigator as the roads and junctions are so packed together it was all a blur. We eventually arrived in the historique town of La Dorat for coffee, more fun trying to find the main square, but eventually we sorted it. A good control stop was found. After coffee we did a re-route to find our way out of the maze. The rest of the morning passed soon enough with just a few wrong slots.
After a quick sandwich in the lunch time control we headed for the hills. The route takes us up and over to one of the most spectacular dams in France. We stopped to take photographs, as by this time the weather had changed to 16 degrees and the rain had stopped.
Dropping down from the hills we joined the motorway for a very short section to the hotel. Once again the fun started trying to get into the hotel, two or three times around a roundabout and it was sorted. There are now very detailed instructions in the road book.
We were not staying in the rally hotel, but a less expensive one in the same road. We dropped our bags off and went off to walk the following morning’s route out, and also to find something to eat. The evening was spent in a typical Auvergne restaurant, not dissimilar to a Berni Inn from the 70s; how we do mange to find them!
Day 4 Clermont Ferrand Voreppe.
We are not going to give too much away about the final day except to say it was a stunning day. Some great roads in the morning followed by some really fun routes through pine forests followed by a spectacular view of the Alps. A very simple route into the final hotel, at last an easy run in.
After booking in to the Ibis budget, we try not to use the rally hotels when we can; we met up with Neil and Debbie Goodall for an evening meal as they live close by. We ate in a chain restaurant and to be fair the food was good, as was the beers and wines but the service was appalling. No sooner had the meal arrived and the waitress was whipping the plates away and the bill was thrust onto the table, we think she had a date that night. We were so sorry to have disappointed the waitress but we stayed until the restaurant was just about to close. It was then back to the family room in the Ibis Budget and the top bunk for me, the mattress ended up on the floor as I did not fancy falling from grace.
One thing that came out was that the days had flown. We were absolutely shattered but all agreed it was a fantastic route survey and we are already looking forward to the real thing.
James Kevin Roger