Calais to Arles
Another wet night. We are parked on a grass pitch but having learned lessons from the past we now park the wheels on four 24"x9" painted plywood boards. This stops the wheels digging in to soft earth due to the weight of the vehicle, making it very tricky on wet grass to pull out of those dips. If you're unlucky you get wheel spin and two mud-filled gripless tyres. So far this has worked well for us, though I much prefer to pitch on hard-standing.
The weather forecast for today was not good and we expected to have to spend the whole day indoors. After our experiences in America we agreed the criteria we would apply when buying a European motorhome would be 'Can we spend 24 hours inside the vehicle due to the weather if we have to?' Fortunately with 'Freddie Fendt' the answer was 'yes' - but only just. All vehicles are a compromise against the ideal. For us it is the size of the lounge area, but if it were bigger, then the vehicle would be longer, and heavier, and so create a new set of problems. Normally the weather is kind to us and we are outside much of the time. When we get some sunshine I'll try and get one or two photographs of the vehicles interior.
With a break in the rain at about 11:00 we decided to go for a nice long walk through a nearby industrial estate to a supermarket a couple of miles away, where we bought a few bits then returned, it didn't feel very 'Provence' but it was good to get out for some fresh air.
The nice thing about having occasional internet connection is that we get to read a bit of UK and World news. It looks as if there will be plagues of locusts, fire, flooding, famine, mass unemployment, and bankruptcy should the British public choose 'Leave' in the forthcoming European Referendum, ignoring the fact that we were once free people trading with the whole world, and we did alright out of it.
I think I have the solution. First we vote for a resounding 'Leave'. We then sit back and wait for the Euro to crash and burn, which it must surely do within the next few years.
Once all that has happened, Great Britain steps in to help them all out again. This time we offer selected countries membership of ..................... The British Commonwealth. They can keep their own currencies, and laws. Waddington's could manufacture extra Monopoly money for Greece to use. We wouldn't let Turkey join, they'll be a big enough nightmare once they've blackmailed their way in to the EU. We'll also ban the East European countries, let them go and be poor somewhere else.
What we can then offer Europe is CLASS. Let's be honest you'd never see Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth squeeze in to a German trouser suit would you? Or Prince Phillip trying on Carla Bruni's heels to try and be as tall as her?
The Duke of Edinburgh, being a member of the former Greek Royal Family, (I don't know what his father's name was, Stavros Battenberg maybe) would be thrilled that the family were moving in to run things properly. The added bonus being that we already have the Royal manpower to rule the newly enlarged Commonwealth.
Given his past connection with dictators, crooks and a convicted paedophile, 'Air Miles Andy' and his two freeloading daughters would be perfect to rule Greece. There'd be no point in him moaning that they're fiscally incompetent or corrupt, because we've already got Robert Mugabe - beat that. Charlie 'Wingnut' Windsor and Camilla could be given the low countries, France, Spain and Portugal, Princess Anne would rule Germany and Italy because they'd be stupid to cross swords with her. William and Kate, being a bit short of time between photo shoots, flying helicopters and the school run, could have Scandinavia, because it pretty much runs itself anyway. Edward and Sophie would be safer left as 'First Reserves'.
Bureaucracy would be slashed, the whole thing being administered by a pipe-smoking chap behind a brown desk in the British and Commonwealth Office, and Summit meetings would be held at Buckingham Palace after a game of croquet on the lawn.
So there you have it, an enlarged Commonwealth, the home of Democracy, dictators, corruption, flies, dysentery and malaria. The British Commonwealth can offer everything that the EU can, and more besides. Members would be encouraged to continue trading and co-operating together, whilst dysentery sufferers would be reassured that the sun never sets on a roll of Commonwealth toilet paper.
This evening's meal is to be a tin of chunky steak, spuds and carrots - I don't know how she does it.
Tomorrow we are back on the road heading towards Pont du Gard, with another Roman ruin, though we're getting there via heading northeast to St Remy-de-Provence then Beaucaire, that's if our satnav ever finds them. After Pont du Gard it's north to Orange, back down to Avignon, then out East towards Apt and Digne-les-Bains.
We both had a rough night last night as the rain had pounded the roof of the motorhome for a number of hours. This morning Rosina took a chance and made for the bathroom block in the hope she could bag the one and only shower cubicle. Her luck was in, I instead stayed in the motorhome and did the necessary.
Breakfast for me was, once again, Froggie cornflakes, sprinkled with sultanas, a packet of which we'd bought along with us. The Chef had used about 20% of the packet in a recipe and now I had to munch my way through the remaining 80%.
We were a bit slow away in to the town of Arles, arriving there by bus about 11:00, €1 each for about a 2-mile trip.
The reason we were there was to take a look at the town's Roman ruins. The historical area is fairly compact and walkable. First we came across the Roman Theatre, once a fortress, many of its stones since removed for other buildings, which had 2,000 tiered seats arranged in a hemisphere. The two remaining columns are called the "two widows". These days it stages the Arles Festival, as well as being a nice little earner in entry fees from tourists.
Next it was off to the Amphitheatre, one of the best-preserved monuments in Roman Provence. In our opinion nothing like as impressive as the one we visited in Pula, Croatia, but this is France, so we shouldn't really compare them. Looking through the gaps in the building we could see that there was lots of steelwork for temporary seating built around the inside. There are 21,000 of them and they hold bullfights in there during the summer months, and so we certainly wouldn't go in and give that kind of event our support. I'm sure I also saw a large poster near the entrance advertising a concert with Susan Boyle wearing a sequined straightjacket.
After further trudging around we came across the River Rhône, much wider than I imagined it would be. We walked along its bank trying to find The Baths of Constantine, trickier than we thought it would be, and were close to giving up and having lunch instead, when The Chef spotted the sign. We grudgingly paid €3 each for a look around what remained of the complex. It would have been a very large facility when it was built as only about one third remains standing. Walking round I thought to myself 'I bet they had more than one shower cubicle in here'.
Having had enough of old piles of bricks we went to the 'Place De La Republique', not for any more culture but to buy a baguette and a piece of pizza for lunch and have a sit down. Afterwards we had a bit more of wander before deciding we'd seen enough and since the sun had come out and it was sunny and warm, though a bit windy, we thought we'd go back to the campground for a sit outside in the reclining chairs.
After a nice relaxing session we decided that, as we'd dragged along our newly purchased, rather heavy Petanque set, we'd go and have our first play at it on the campsite's pitch, or whatever they call the field of play in petanque. I think this must have been a game the French invented when they realised they'd be no good at cricket or carpet bowls. Still it was an enjoyable hour, and we only stopped because the wind was getting up and the sky darkened, it certainly looked like rain was imminent.
This evenings meal created indoors within a confined space was potato rosti, baked beans, fried eggs, crusty baguette and a few glasses of wine. Eat your heart out Gordon Ramsey.