Day 2 - St. Quentin - Laon - Murol
Murol Travel Blog› entry 4 of 15 › view all entries
After getting up early-ish, we leave the wonderful Balladin's hotel (now forever known as Bang-it-in's), and head out to continue our journey to Benicassim. Heading through the French countryside towards Paris we are on continual watch for somewhere to grab a spot of breakfast. This is harder than you think as France appears to shut down on a Sunday. Keeping of the Autoroute we wind through small villages until we reach the cathedral town of Laon. Driving in the town centre we are on the hunt for a food place that is actually open. We pass plenty of closed hairdressers (how many does a small town need?). We finally stumble upon a small row of shops with a pâtisserie/boulangerie that is actually open.
From Laon we head on the N2 to Paris via Soissons. The road is great for a minor road. 2 lanes travelling at 110km/h. Hardly any traffic on the roads. We were making great progress. This came to an abrupt halt when the wonderful dual carriageway ends without warning. It turns out that the road isn't built yet. We are forced onto the old N2 which winds through the hills, fields and villages towards the french capital. It's not long before the road widens again and we are passing Charles de Gaulle Airport, the traffic is increasing, the area is becoming more built up and we can see the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
The easy driving in France was about to end as the car pulled onto the Peripherique. This was a tad scary. Driving on the wrong side of the road with a car that's not designed for it. Thousands of cars packed bumper to bumper, doing speeds of 90km/h plus. There are many exits all seeming to be signposted with the same place names. Cars pulling in and out of the lanes, on and off the slip roads. It was all becoming a bit much considering we weren't quite sure exactly which way to go. We just knew we had to head clockwise, looking for the A10 and signposts for Orleans. After switching lanes more times that I care to think about, we somehow see a sign for our turn off and take it. This is some sort of miracle as Nick's somewhat dodgy map reading skills were put to the test.
South of Paris, the road is straight and simple. Onto the Toll and stick your foot down. We stop off for some food at a service station (ham and cheese baguette - what a surprise), and I finally give in and let Nick drive the next stint despite every bone in my body telling me I shouldn't. My fears were found to be mostly unjustified as he drives the 300+km to our campsite for the night (I did keep having to remind him that his foot wasn't made of lead and could be taken off the accelerator) The journey is quite a pleasant one, passing many orchards, vineyards and huge fields of sunflowers.
It passes without incident and we are soon approaching our exit junction (NB: The toll road ended north of Clermont Ferrand... came to a whopping €38. That will teach us to travel all that way on the Autoroute).
Murol is a small village (around 700 people live there) in the heart of le Parc des Volcans (Park of the Volcanoes) overlooking lake Chambon. It's main business appeared to be tourism. To be precise, camping.... french camping. We were the only English probably within a 50 mile radius. After pulling off the Autoroute, we made our way along a windy stretch of road into the Parc des Volcans, through many small villages and towns to get Murol. This was the next village along from the very touristy looking Saint Nectaire. After arriving in Murol we pull up at a campsite, inspect the rates, decide it's good enough. Camping L'€urope is a 4 star campsite popular with families. It has a pool with a slide and a bar area.
So we (Me & Anna) sort out a pitch for the night and we set about getting the tent set up. As the tent nears completion, the heavens open and the rain pours down. We hurry to finish the tent despite a french woman beckoning us into her chalet for shelter. Its only a few minutes before we have a perfectly erected tent. We maybe a ted wet, but this doesn't matter due to the temperatures of the day. Since our bed for the night is set up, we head of for some supplies to the local Spar. Once again, shopping in france show's that it is not cheaper on the continent. All we buy are some extra tent pegs, some crisps and some booze (Heinekin stubbies for me, boxes of wine for everyone else). From the Spar, we head across the carpark to a local bar. Once again, no-one can speak english, so a few choice french words and some pointing later, 3 of us are enjoying a large glass of lager while Nick has a whisky. While we drink, we are entertained by watching a game of boule played by some other patrons.
From the bar we jump into the car and head to the nearby town of Saint Nectaire. This is much more touristy, if not a bit tacky. We park up and head into what appears to be the only restaurant in town. It seemed to be an italian style restaurant (well the menu had pizza and pasta on it). Sat down, we order some beer and rose wine, 3 of us order steak while Kerry has a veggie option. Nick, opting for his steak well done is in for a fright when it arrives. The waiter, who spoke some english, totally misunderstood and Nick's steak is served virtually still mooing at him on the plate, blood squirting out with every slice with his knife. Anyway, my steak was nice and tender (had it medium).
After our meal, it was back to the campsite for a few drinks, french Monster Munch crisps(Pommeheads), banter and then bed. Onto the South of France tomorrow.