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 Azay - Le - Rideau Rally 2014

Azay-Le-Rideau Rally France   -  27th August to 6th September 2014

Rally Report Courtesy of - Eddie Jones

La Belle France

     When Autosleeper members get together, they are prone to reflect on past rallies which set the standard for them – Malvern is a prime example.    Those attending Azay-le-Rideau for 10 days from 27th August, 2014 had a standard set for them which will last long in the memory. 

    The 26 Units and 51 members attending included familiar and long standing members, those recently joined, first time ralliers and others abroad for the first time in their motorhome, not least Nick Dawson who paid us the compliment of travelling from Aberdeen to the Loire Valley   The good sized but manageable group had something for everyone and from the first was friendly and welcoming. 

    The reception manager Dominique had names sorted by the time we entered the campsite, Angie and Dorothy were there giving a welcome and Alan Selwood acting as a roving Marshall, led in every visitor to their site.   What a welcome. 

    Marshalls Andy and Angie Cavell with Baz and Dorothy Wellard were experienced and confident and made everyone comfortable.  Baz, busy and industrious as always, setting out the field of play and marking pitches, explaining and setting the rules for Boules, and looking stylish with a “Western” touch of headdress – “Chapeau” as the French say.   Dorothy calm and always in the background, backing up every move.   Andy is the Director of Operations, calm and untroubled, knows the form and ready to act as the Appeals Judge in any situation.   Angie, the real power behind the throne attends to every detail of our needs, always with a smile, going the extra mile and acting as chief and effective communicator, despite her notice board getting drenched in the only shower during the rally. 

    Camping Municipal le Sabot at Azay le Rideau, the only campsite in the small town stands alongside the river, pitches tree-lined and flat with good roads and excellent facilities.   Electricity for all made life easy and the area set aside for Autosleepers gave a little privacy but kept us within the life of the popular campsite.   The weather, almost cloudless from the first added the final touch and helped create the perfect atmosphere for a fun filled stay. 

    Angie had plenty of things organised to keep those who wanted to be busy whilst there was enough space for individual preferences and activities.  Whilst Angie’s notice board was always there, the jungle telegraph worked spectacularly.   Hungry for news, the iPad group were on WiFi, texts and telephones, day old newspapers changed hands, rumour was abundant and one or two couldn’t resist even tuning in for the football results.   The buzz of conversation was irresistible. 

    Azay is only a comfortable walk away, a small town but boasting a large and beautiful Chateau, a required visit.   A visit by the lead of the regions Tourist Information Office, bringing along a local vintner to introduce us to the local wines was a good start and helped to set the scene.   A feature of the pattern of life in France,  the markets, were very evident.   The town hosted a weekend and weekday market but also a “Night” market when during the evening, all the shops, cafes and restaurants were open alongside food stalls and barrows, impromptu cafes and seating areas and every possible food to tempt us.   The potato muffins with a variety of fillings were very popular whilst the street music produced a festive and joyful atmosphere in the crowded streets.  No pushing, shoving, heavy drinking, threatening behaviour or graffiti – are we missing home?   Sunday saw an extensive brocante and bric a brac market with interesting offers to take a little of France home.

     A truly expansive street market welcomed the group when a coach tour took us to Saumur, a beautiful town on the banks of the Loire just a short coach tour away.   A multitude of fresh and attractive fruits, vegetables, sweetmeats, delicacies, pottery, clothes and other essentials are on open display.   Arriving just in time for a parade and colourful ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the town, there was then time to explore the town and the Chateau with its expansive views.  A range of irresistible restaurants welcomed us  for lunch.  Just a couple of miles on, the wine caves of Gratien and Meyer welcomed us for a tour of some of their 14 miles of caves and over 5 Million bottles of wine - not all sampled by the party!   The young guide, with a lovely sense of humour, helped the afternoon pass splendidly, as did the wine tasting with very preferential rates for purchases given to the party.  More bottles.   Angie you do know the way to a man’s heart.

    A walk around Azay with young local guide Christelle fills in a few gaps but individual exploration and visits provided much further interest and conversation.   Finds included an outstanding museum of French antiquities and vehicles, a wicker co-operative producing beautiful products, the caves of the “Troglodyte” early French and the many Chateaux, churches and gardens in the vicinity.    An exceptional visit was to the gardens at Villandry, world renowned for their form and beauty.   For some, an extended study of the restaurants in the town was conducted with the winner being declared to be an excellent stop just 100 yards away from the front of the campsite called “Les Grottes”, fortunately named for being a cave hewed from the hillside behind rather than for the nature of the food. 

     No rally would be complete without its competitions and the fun provided in the games arena.   Baz, the ringmaster organised horseshoe tossing (Peter Brown and Christine taking the honours) and of course the inevitable Boules.   The competition stretched across the week with the final victory going to Sheila & Bob Etchells.            One of the most noticeable features of the final was the skill displayed by the gentler sex, clearly an element of finesse is a bonus.   Well done everyone.

     It seemed there was an excuse for getting together at almost every turn.   Cheese and wine, wine tasting, birthday celebrations, sporting events and a final joint Barbecue.  This brought out a variety of approaches but none more comprehensive than Alan who displayed a “symphony” of cooking devices, testing their effectiveness alongside each other.   This, the finale of the rally was a good send off for a memorable week, cementing many new and old friendships, causing us to look back on a memorable week and looking forward to future events.  



Rally Photographs Courtesy of - Baz Wellard (unless otherwise accredited)
Click on thumbnails to enlarge


Rally Marshals and
Camping Le Sabot Grouped ralliers

Town Views:

Salamandre Restaurant
in Leaf

Town Square

Open Air Eating

Typical Lane

Town Centre

Chateau Drive

Tourist Presentation & Local Wine Tasting:

Valerie - Tourist Chief &
Pierre - Local Vintner

Attentive and Anticipatory

Preparation for tasting

Pierre Serving Angie First

Ralliers Not Forgotten

Valerie & Dominique

WiFi Groupies:

Jeanette & Graham

Daphne Studying

Nick & John 

Horse Shoe Competition;

Joyce Trying

Charles Contesting

Winners Chris & Peter

Coach Trip to Saumur:

Crossing the Loire

Typical Market Stall

70th Anniversary Celebration
(Courtesy of Eddie Jones)

Hidden House Half Timbered House Saumur Chateau

Cave of Gratien & Meyer:

View of Gratien & Meyer Cave

Manual Corking

"Wine Cave" Tour(1)

"Wine Cave" Tour (2)

B&W Old Montage

Raffle Gift From Morgane

Cheese & Wine:

Cheese & Wine

The Team

Cheese & Wine

Enjoying (1)

Enjoying (2)

Enjoying (3)

Night Market;

Early Evening Scene

Typical Stall

Plenty of Food Choice

Ralliers Enjoying

Jeanette & Graham

General Later Scene

Conducted Tour (3) of the Town:

2nd Of 3 Tours by

Weir on the Indre

Half timbered


Sheila In the Boules Final

Glynys Opposing in the Final

Champions Sheila & Bob

The BBQ & Raffle:

Tucking into BBQ

Alan's Selection of BBQs
(Courtesy of Eddie Jones)

Selling Raffle Tickets

Over 45 Rally Prizes

Angie's Thanks for
Supporting all the rally Activities

Jill's thank you to the Marshals
See thank-you poem below

AZAY LE RIDEAU RALLY - Thank-you poem by Jill Bertlin 

In Azay Le Rideau we ralliers met
With true ASOC spirit prepared to get wet
But from the beginning, the clouds passed us by
And it seemed fairly hopeful we may just stay dry

The sun has shone brightly, the sky has been blue,
With no time to wonder, "what shall we do?"
The wine has been supped with friendship galore
We've played horseshoes and boules, had a trip to Saumur.

The Cave we enjoyed, though, "Not more wine" was heard
But could we say 'Non' - Oh don't be absurd!
The canoe sailed the river and cycles rode out
We've walked to the town and explored round about.

There's a magical Chateau, a market or two
Restaurants all over and not just a few.
Then back at the rally, some cheese and more wine
Well, we are in the region that grows all those vines!

Too soon comes the time for the final farewells,
The raffle to draw and the champion boules
 BBQ gathering on this last night
"With more wine?" you wonder and you would be right.

So Andy & Angie, Bazil & Dot
Each one of us thanks you with all that we've got
We hope, with these
gifts, you will realise, as one
We've enjoyed and appreciate all that you've done.

And Finally:

Our very grateful thanks for the kind thought in presenting us with two lovely locally painted water colours.