We must have stayed at Stenay 4 or 5 times since 2009. A small town, rather than a village, there are several boulangeries to choose from; a butcher, a variety of shops and cafes, a vet where we used to take our 2 doggies prior to returning to the UK and a laundrette within walking distance. On previous visits John would hold the dogs outside the butchers whilst I went in and the butcher after serving me and correcting my French pronunciation, would come out and admire the dogs. We have walked miles along the canal path, picked brambles and been given hints and tips from experienced motorhomers when we were novices.
The aire is on what is called an island but is in fact attached and not a completely separate piece of land. Recent years have seen improvements to servicing facilities and this year a modern barrier and pay machine have also been introduced and the nightly rate has been increased to 9 euros. This includes electricity so is not bad really. Parking areas are now more formal and not hugely generous in their spacing but it is possible to sit on the canal bank. The atmosphere does not seem to be as vibrant as it was and it certainly wasn’t as busy as we’ve seen it. But the forecast for the next few days was good and we had a wedding anniversary to celebrate, 43 years! We had a walkabout and we were pleased to see familiar shops and some renovations of old buildings. We checked out a restaurant close to us and opposite the beer museum, Le Cygne. The tourist information assistant gives us a discount leaflet for the beer museum on each of our stays, but so far we haven’t been. Mainly because we had the dogs with us but no dogs now and we still didn’t manage to go! This time we also got a discount voucher for several restaurants including Le Cygne, but of course we left it behind in the van!
We had a lovely lunch though and the interior of Le Cygne had been renovated with style and it wouldn’t have been hard to imagine ourselves transported back to times past. The waitress spoke good English but couldn’t remember the word for ‘leek’ so described it to me good enough for me to guess it correctly.
Cheese and leek quiche to start, beef tournedos for mains with a casserole of roast potatoes to share and crème brulee for my pud and a Paris pastry for John. The young chef spoke to us as he clocked off and as we were getting relaxed in the sun later, back at the van who did John spot at the Boules court across from us, but the young chef! The afternoon was spent relaxing in the sun and trying to work out the rules of boules as we watched two groups of mixed ages battling it out.
Late afternoon we were entertained by a French van arriving with what looked like a couple with their young granddaughter. Much deliberation about where to park commenced, this we understand, we sometimes change position to get more sun, or shade or to avoid being under a tree if rain is expected. However, this French grandpa went one step further and was pacing out the distance between each marked out place. Arms were flying into the air as he seemed very unhappy with the spot he had parked in. He debated and discussed with another French van and more arm waving went on. He also kept eyeing up our place, John had parked close to one edge so we could have the chairs out beside the van. His wife obviously told him to behave and he unpacked their table and chairs and put them in the next parking place, not ideal as a concrete sleeper separated the bays and young granddaughter tripped over it a couple of times, though while all this was going on she had played happily with her dolly buggy on the boules court. Grandpa was visibly still not happy but all settled down for the evening.
The next morning was laundry day and I had the laundrette to myself. No updating of machines here, so all was familiar and a quick visit to the boulangerie supplied me with a baguette and enough euros to feed the machines. Meanwhile, John did the ‘van work’ and by the time we were both done with our jobs it was coffee time and also time to move on. We wanted to visit St Quentin for some grandchildren shopping and a bike run. St Quentin is a small city we first visited with our 3 girls almost 30 years ago, a night stopover at the Ibis hotel enroute to a gite. The square we overlooked was lovely and invited a second visit and finally we could do it. There is a new Aire down by the river and next to a leisure area. A walk way along by the river leads into the centre and a bike lane carries on in both directions.
Laundry done, van cleaned and we had no sooner left our pitch than Grandpa from the French van had moved his table and chairs over to our vacated space and was moving the van! I do hope he wasn’t disappointed!