Our new pitch

TUESDAY 3-7-18

Well we managed to shake off the motorhomers from Luxembourg When they arrived back they must have gone and had a word with the manager, because the next thing we knew they were moving their vehicle down the hill. I later spotted it not far from the swimming pool on a large plot that isn't a camping plot, I think it's covered in compacted chippings and is meant for a mobile holiday home unit. Who says money doesn't talk, at least we were shot of them. Unfortunately though, on a transit campsite like this there is always another to take their place. In fact it was two of them. Two Italian motorhomes travelling together. One parked on the pitch behind us and the other on the pitch right next to us, even though there were plenty of pitches available where they could have been side by side and away from everybody else. But no, as usual we attract them like flies to s**t. They were so noisy. Italians just as you imagine they would be. There were two pairs of adults, two young children, though none of the adults looked like the parents, so maybe they were grandparents, and finally a dog.

These noisy beggers would hold conversations between themselves by talking loudly between the two pitches, but to top it all they stayed out dining and talking loudly until 23:30 last night, right under our bedroom window. Ignoring the fact that the quiet hours are from 22:00 to 08:00. But then again if the management aren't going to police campers behaviour then why shouldn't they think they can do what the they like.

I was all for giving them an early morning call at 05:00 with the aid of 'Henry Horn', I even set the alarm clock to wake me up then, but in the end I knew I'd get no support and so didn't bother, I just spent today feeling tired and annoyed, because after people like them finally stop making their noise I lie there angry that they should subject others to such selfish behaviour, so it takes me a long time to get off to sleep.

In fact today has given me time to think and reflect, and may well be a defining day in whether or not I wish to carry on motorhoming. Things have changed. These days many other campers are inconsiderate to the needs of others it's all self, self, self. I know this has been a long trip, and we're both fed up with the heat and the flies but for me personally now it's just becoming hard work.

This afternoon I went down to Reception to speak to the manager but he wasn't there, so I told his partner Monique, what had happened and that I was moving the motorhome from pitch 76 to pitch 88 in the hope of getting some sleep tonight. I didn't ask her, I told her. And if I get to speak to the manager before we leave tomorrow I will tell him - if you have rules then see that they are enforced. If not then tear them up and let everybody do as they wish.

That done I sat and enjoyed a bit of peace. Last night we watched most of the Japan versus Belgium game. Talk abou giving a game away. The Jap's were 2-0 up and then went on to lose 3-0.

This evening we watched the England football game thanks to 'France 1' TV Channel transmitting it. I think E gland deserved to win, even if it was only on penalties, not that they were so much better at playing football, but because they cheated a lot less than the Columbians. It was like watching a mass judo competition.

Tomorrow we leave for the Loire Valley where we'll make two stops, one for The Chef to look at the gardens of a Chateau and the following day for me to pick up some wine on the way back to Calais. From here we've about 500 miles to cover, mostly on toll roads or motorways but the beginning of the journey will be across county to Avignon via Apt which should be a rather nice drive.

MONDAY 2-7-18

Well that was a pretty good night's sleep, certainly helped by the fact that we had the bedroom window open as well as the kitchen window and both skylights, all with mesh grills across them of course.

Today we were to venture in to Manosque town for a wander round. From the campsite is a long downhill walk before it flattens out and the town presents itself half a mile later, that's fine of course, but the return trip uphill in the heat is HELL.

Whilst down there The Chef treated herself to a pair of shorts while I kept my hand in my pocket. We like Manosque, to us it's a typical French town, it has everything you want either in the town itself or in the suburbs.

This being Monday seemed to mean that the traders had worked on Sunday and were therefore giving themselves Monday off because most of the shops were shut, plus a number had actually stopped trading since our last visit here last September.

Never mind, we began our trek back up the hill armed with a pair of shorts, a baguette, and some savoury nibbles for me including a bag of Tyrells  'Ham & Cranberry' crisps. A UK brand but not what you'd call a typical UK flavour.

Once 'home' we collapsed for a while. Fortunately we had remembered to unwind the awning before we went out which meant the sun was kept off the side of the vehicle while we were out.

Then I turned in to a mass murdered. Granted not in the same league as 'Jihadi John', but with a pair of underpants on my head, and a scarf around my face and neck I was ready to begin. Now there may be squillions of billions of flies in the world, but thanks to my efforts over the past couple of days there are now about one hundred less, and it's been hard work I can tell you. German and Italian motorhomers and caravanners aside, flies have been our biggest problem on this trip. They have plagued us in so many locations, and they're so persistent.

I have on my list of jobs to do and sort after this trip 'Fly deterrent or killer - quality'. So I don't want any rubbish, I want the bees knees gizmo that's gonna send these babies ta' Paradise. I've been on Amazon and have identified a couple of products but when we get home I'm going to visit the local horse-stables-come-livery place and see what they have to offer as I reckon horse shit and flies go together, like peaches and cream, so they may well have the answer.

We have new neighbour this afternoon, I'm beginning to conclude that for every noisy neighbour that leaves another arrives to take their place. We got rid of the Italian tenter's this morning who left as a parting gift, heaps of rubbish dumped at the toilet block. Now we have  a large class 'A' motorhome registered in Luxembourg carrying a couple of pushbikes and a motorbike on a trailer.

Now I'm not too sure what Luxembourg is famous for. Is it tax-evading banking, money laundering or the home of alcoholic EU Presidents? Anyhow the pair of them and their limping old Scottie dog clearly like their music as we had to spend a few hours listening to theirs as they played it through the vehicle cab speakers meaning all we got to hear was the boom, boom, boom, of the bass in the door cavities. Things eventually went quiet when they went out on their motorbike for a ride around. I don't know how long they're here, but if I have to put up with that again tomorrow, I have a funny feeling something unfortunate may befall their mains hook-up plug sometime during tomorrow night.

It's our last day here tomorrow before we set off for a two day trip to the Loire Valley which will be a big chunk of our return trip to Calais under our belts.

 

SUNDAY 1-7-18

We slept very well last night and I think that was in part due to our opening our bedroom window, something we normally never do. This together with the hovercraft engine gave us a nice cool breeze through the vehicle all night. In fact when I awoke half way through the night I turned the fan  off.

Today was a Sunday and therefore a rest day, well not exactly as we had chores to do, namely the cleaning of the motorhome. It was a pretty big job as we hadn't cleaned it properly in quite a while. I have to say it's so much nicer to step in to the vehicle when it is nice and clean.

Then we had some hand washing to do followed by The Chef agreeing to have a chop of my hair. It has been driving me crazy for a week or two. My hair grows pretty quickly, especially in hot weather. When she'd finished it felt so much better. Then it was time for a mid-day shower, there had been no point in our showering before the work was done.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing under the awning, even though the temperature eventually reached 35˚C in the shade and 43˚C in the sun. we just had to make the most of it. I don't think you ever get conditioned to these kind of temperatures.

The young campsite manager came around in the afternoon offering out wristbands to existing visitors telling us they were about to enter their peak season period. I had a quick chat with him, and asked if he and his partner Monique had moved in to the house yet, as the last time we were here they were putting up a perimeter fence. Yes was the answer which was good news as they were having to live with their big dog in a mobile home which must have got pretty hot in the summer months.

We won't of course be using the wristbands it's a matter of principle. If we had wanted to be treated as fodder we'd have gone to Butlins or Pontins. I do so object when campsites cross the line and try and become resorts of some kind. I can't even imagine why we would need the wristbands, as it could only be for the lovely swimming pool area. Maybe if somebody is spotted in that area without a wristband a sniper takes them out. Not for us I'm afraid, they'll be returned when we book out with an explanation of why we didn't wear them.

On Wednesday we leave here and make our way towards the Loire Valley. When we passed through before The Chef got to see the exterior of the Chateau at Chenonceax but didn't get to see the gardens which are supposed to be impressive, I think we were too early in the season. So as we have a little bit of time in hand we're going to make our way there over a couple of days, it being about 400 miles away so that she gets to see them before I get to pop down the road and buy some wine from our little man who produces a rather nice, light red wine. After that we'll be bombing our way to Calais.

This evening we have a new next door neighbour on our right hand side. An Italian couple, he being a long grey-haired aging hippy type, and she being I suppose, a person attracted to such a person. Parking up he managed to nose his cab-over bedroom in to the tree opposite the pitch before parking up. They're rather noisy, nothing new there but I did make a point of shouting to The Chef who was indoors comments which, if they understood English would realised I was having a pop at them being loud. I really did think we were done with such people once we had crossed in to France.

Today I had nothing better to do with my time than to take pictures of a foreign caravanner who grabbed every inch of space, so much so they had no space left for their car. Nothing new there.

Tomorrow we plan  to take a walk in to town in the morning before it gets too hot.

Passing through Sisteron

The road to Sisteron

SATURDAY 30-6-18

That seemed a long night, I don't think either of us slept terribly well. I suppose that's the problem when you're not physically very active - you tend not to get tired enough to sleep well.

We tried to get up at a reasonable time and get away as we were making for Sisteron with its citadel on top of a rock, I suppose you'd describe it as. We'd passed through there a couple of times but never found a suitable parking space and so just kept moving on. Today we were hoping to strike lucky. I had noted the GPS co-ordinates of the two Camperstop parking areas in town and we were hoping to get a space on one of them.

It was clearly going to be a hot day today as the sun was up and out early and the temperature began to climb. Scrubbed up we hit the road.

Because we have a Sanef toll tag in the windscreen which monitors our presence as we pass through French toll booths, then sends us a bill a few weeks later we had a problem in that we have to pay an administrative charge of €5 for each month it is used plus the toll fees. So today was 30th June, the last day of the month and we needed to avoid using the toll roads today to avoid a five euro charge. it was  no problem from Gap down to Sisteron as the ordinary 'A' road ran parallel to the toll road for most of the way.

On arriving on the outskirts of Sisteron we made our way to the parking area. Oh dear, not a space to be had. There are only three designated motorhome parking bays, and they'll tolerate it if more are taken up, but unfortunately there were none to be had. We then found ourselves in a slow moving traffic jam through town. My word it was busy, it was a Saturday which in Sisteron also means market day, as well as 'yet another tourist day'. We had no chance of parking anywhere, what a disappointment. We have decided to try again at some time in the future, though next time we'll hole up at the local Truckstop on the toll road, or cheekily park up within the 'Super U' supermarket complex on the edge of town for the night. Then, at something like 06:00 we'll make our way in to town and bag a parking space. Well, that's the plan.

In the meantime we needed to move on towards Manosque, somewhere we discovered on our way home on the Istanbul trip. Close by we were hoping to get a glimpse of lavender in bloom. Again we had to tell the satnav to avoid using toll roads. Oh what fun it had with us, it was quiet unbelievable. I bet there are locals in that areas going to bed tonight having flashbacks of a motorhome coming towards them on the seldom used goat track.

Never  mind, eventually we approached Manosque which was our cue to punch in Valensole, on the way to which we've seen lavender fields in the past. After climbing up on to a plateau on a twisting road there they were - lavender fields in bloom. We were amazed at how much interest they created. Cars were parked up in designated car parks as well as in lay-bys and on the sides of the road. People were applying trainers and sun-block and preparing to walk in the fields amongst the plants. It would seem that's what folk here do. Having seen it for myself I think farmers back home should start capitalising on oil seed rape when flowers, turning yellow. There's money to be made in car parking fees and ice cream sales.

We decided to remain in our parking area and have lunch before making our way to the campsite which we were hoping could accommodate us.

As we approached Manosque we dived in to the 'Hyper U' supermarket on the edge of town to top up with fresh food, where again I had a problem with parking the vehicle. I was also keen to see if they sold small, powerful electric fans for the motorhome rather than the hovercraft engine we have at present. Sadly yes to the food, no to the fan.

Luckily for us the campsite had vacancies and we ended up in the same pitch as we had last time, so we'll be getting an early morning call from the cockerel at the house across the road.

This afternoon having tuned in the TV using a digital aerial I place on the roof we were able to watch some of the France v Argentina football match. We were sat watching it in temperatures of 35˚C in the shade and 42˚C in the sun. It was better than the England v Belgium game I have to say, and on the day France were the worthy winners. At least I can mention it to the young campsite manager the next time I see him.

This evening, returning from the rubbish bins downhill near the entrance I spotted the small panel van motorhome of Brit couple and their Scottie dog. In these kind of temperatures the three of them in that small space must smell awful, still as long as the dog doesn't mind. These people were our next door neighbours last night back at Gap. We had no conversation with them then, and no doubt we'll have none with them here.

We've a lot of Italians around us here, which isn't surprising as it's not too far to come. Trouble is they tend to be rather noisy.

We are likely to stay here for three days resting and getting chores done before starting the long trek northwards and home.

FRIDAY 29-6-18

That was a very wet night. It rained for several hours, but who cares, it cooled things down. This morning we scrubbed up in the unisex toilet/shower block, and because we only use public toilets if we really have to, I was spared the task of standing at the urinal holding me privates wishing a passing lady "Bonjour madam".

Originally we were going to spend today by the 'peaceful lake' but last night decided instead to get the hell out of it.

Our journey today was less dramatic as we were no longer in the mountains but instead passing among them, though it was all still very nice. God-willing at some time in the near future we will return to this area travelling both light and slowly.

On arriving at Gap we came across a Lidl supermarket and The Chef leaped out to spend her pocket money on things like bread, lovely firm, fresh strawberries and ice cream. That done we headed for a local campsite Camping Alpes Dauphine. Which according to the ACSI www.campingcard.com book is on the 'Route Napoleon'. Not being an historian I never had Napolean down as being a skier, but then again, maybe he was, maybe all those portraits of him with his arm stuck inside his jacket was actually him nursing sore ribs from having fallen on the slopes.

This campsite is quite nice, ignoring the fact that from the 1st June they are supposed to have their waterslide up and operational, but it's as dry as a bone. Even I couldn't drown in it. If I fancied a Victor Meldrew moment I could have made a scene and told them that I had travelled hundreds of kilometres just so that I could use it. But I can't be bothered. Which leads me on to 'other matters'.

The Chef and I were chatting yesterday and we have both agreed that these three month trips are too long. It worked fine when we were forced to do it ten years ago after the Yanks refused us a two year visa to tour their country in our American RV. Apparently 'we', though the bastards were looking at me at the time, fitted the profile of people who may not return after the visa period. This of course would have meant that we were then in their country staying illegally.

Sadly they were too stupid to realise that had we intended to extend our stay illegally we would not have spent over £400  on two interviews at the American Embassy in London, plus the costs involved in several premium rate phone calls to their 'Helpline'. We would have instead just booked a holiday to see Mickey Mouse in Florida, walked out of the airport, torn up our return tickets and legged it. Never mind, they've got bigger problems than us to worry about now, like Deputy Russian Premier President Donald Trump.

.....Where was I? So we have now decided that future trips will be four or six weeks long (excluding winter breaks in Spain) that way we keep the trip fresh and interesting, rather than get tired and bored with it all towards the end.

Typically when we pitched up here at Napoleon's ski slope there was just one other motorhome here, now we are surrounded by them, including our first Brit with a yapping dog. For weeks now we have been out of the reach of such people, but now, clearly we are at the extreme reaches of such people, so I guess we'll have to endure more of them on our way home.

Tomorrow we intend to leave in good time so that we can get to Sisteron to look at the whatever-it-is on top of whatever-it-is. We've passed by it a couple of times in the past but never stopped, so tomorrow we will. Then it will be off to Manosque where we will spend just a few days, hopefully seeing the lavender in bloom, before making a dash towards the Loire then Calais.

This evening I booked our crossing on Le Shuttle, an infinitely more civilised way to make the crossing than on Mr Peando's Multi-Coloured Ferryboat, where almost no English is heard.

Lord please give me back the country I once loved, was proud of, and would have died for.

THURSDAY 28-6-18

Well that was a pretty good night's sleep and all for free. The first thing I heard this morning was the 05:00 bell tolling at the local church, immediately followed by an HGV starting its engine then after about five minutes, leaving us.

We didn't hurry too much in getting up as we knew we would be travelling along the N94 'cross-country shortcut' down through Braincon and Gap before heading south towards Sisteron.

Once on the road we had the pleasure of shelling out yet more money on the Italian toll roads. We reckon that they are more expensive up here because of the cost of engineering work to provide numerous tunnels etc, whereas down towards southern Italy it's just straightforward open roads, foot down, and drive like an idiot.

Once we were on the mountain road heading south towards Braincon I have to say we were both very impressed. The scenery was absolutely wonderful. Granted we were on a twisting mountain road, narrow for much of the time, with lots of hairpin bends, but oh my word the scenery was stunning. How glad I was that we'd had the vehicle including the brakes fully serviced before making this trip.

I was getting low on fuel, I like to refuel when I get to half a tank, but after yesterday's long journey we were down to a quarter of a tank with very few filling stations around, and those that were, charged silly money for fuel. Thankfully we then came upon Braincom. A large, very touristy  town clearly geared up more to the skiing industry than us peasants in motorhomes. Nonetheless there were many car parks almost devoid of cars, yet full of motorhomes making the most of a cheeky freebie.

Luckily we managed to find a large Carrefour supermarket which also sold fuel, so once we left there to join the freebies for lunch I was more relaxed knowing that I had a full tank of fuel and the cupboards had been restocked with fresh provisions, oh, and ten litres of French glug for me. Five of Rosé and five of Red.

After lunch, which included an amazingly crusty baguette from Carrefour, we were ready to continue our journey down the N94. Again wonderful views. We had our mind set on a campsite ahead of us Camping du Lac where, according to the ACSI discount book, we would get to enjoy peaceful surroundings next to a lake. Well after we arrived and booked in we discovered that the 'lake' was nothing much bigger than a boating lake, and there was little peace because lots of young things has invaded the 'lake' to enjoy messing about and swimming - noisily. But we decided to persevere, after all it was holiday season and these folk needed to enjoy themselves, says he through gritted teeth.

We set up camp, having overcome problems with the electrical hook up points, and relaxed for the afternoon, struggling to blank out the noise from the young things.

Evening came and as I had been unsuccessful in tuning the TV in to a French station that could be watched without pixilation we decided to take the laptop down to Reception where we were told we could use the internet for free. Having gone through the necessary procedures we found ourselves watching the England v Belgium game in the World Cup. The Chef gave up just before half time and I wasn't far behind her. What a load of rubbish. We didn't need to watch the second half, it didn't matter who won, neither team were world class, and equally bad as each other.

When we got back 'home' The Chef went to make a drink only to find that we had no electricity. No matter what I pushed, pulled ,checked, and moved about that was it. I did go back down to Reception to report the matter but they were all locked up with no information about how to get hold of them out of hours.

Just one thing to do then - pack up and get ready to hit the road again tomorrow morning.

WEDNESDAY 27-6-18

We had good intentions today. We'd leave the Camperstop at Verona and make our way to a campsite on the southern shore of Lake Garda for a couple of days of relaxation. What really happened was we drove to Lake Garda which was only about twenty miles away, seeking a campsite. We had one in mind Camping Tiglio, a family run site on the shore of the lake. On arrival The Chef went in to Reception as always whilst I stayed with the vehicle. Out she came with a site plan and the available pitches circles. There weren't many of them, but nevertheless we toured the site trying to find and choose one. Firstly the site was very busy indeed. Secondly there were loads of identical frame tents erected in rows, similar to the 'Eurocamp' arrangement where campers arrive to find an erected tent, steel framed beds off the ground, and a fridge, folding chairs etc. Nothing wrong with that, we've done it ourselves. But there were so many of them it looked like a refugee camp. You could imagine 'Seedly Cedric' from Oxfam prowling around the site at night. I'd seen enough and that was it - we were off. I knew we'd passed another campsite coming in as I'd seen the sign for it. Making our way back along the southern shoreline we came across it - Camping Bella Italia. I can now quote from the ACSI book 'A large family campsite with an extended pebble beach located on Lake Garda, with many facilities'. I had no idea until I saw one of those damned Choo-Choo trains that infest resorts, carrying Hi-Di-Hi holidaymakers around towns and resorts offering a bumpy ride in a covered rabbit hutch enter the campsite head of us.

That was enough for me, I didn't even need to enter the campsite for a look around. We were off. It would have been nice to have found the Lidl supermarket we saw signposted on the way in, but it wasn't to be. Instead I got my knickers in a twist in the side streets trying to find it before calling a halt to all attempts to find anywhere relaxing there in sunny Lake Garda. And that's not meant to be a criticism. We are now in the family holiday season, and it's nice to see families enjoying their well earned holidays. Old gits like us should have had our holidays before the busy season started, but we didn't. We're running about two or three weeks behind our normal timings, just so that we can, hopefully, see lavender in bloom in Provence, France.

It was back on the toll road for a day's work - we were heading towards the French/Italian border where we would leave the motorway at its end and head southwest towards Gap and Sisteron. We travelled past both Milan and Turin. It was the usual nightmare. The standard of driving and lane discipline on motorways here is awful.

Eventually, and after being ripped off for €37.70 (toll fees are more expensive in the north than they are if you're heading south through the country) we came across a Truckstop somewhere near a place called Oulx, where tomorrow we'll continue southwest towards Braincon then Embrun and Gap, though we will be stopping off at campsites along the way. I think this route offers us, not only the opportunity to cut off the corner with Grenoble, but give us an interesting and picturesque journey.

Tonight's meals were purchased in packets from the folks at www.enterprisebrandsltd.co.uk I had a very nice 'Sweet & Sour Chicken' whilst The Chef had a 'Tuna Fuseli'. They were heated in simmering water contained within the wok with the lid on as we don't have a microwave oven onboard, and if we did, we haven't got anything to plug it in to. I really enjoyed mine (well actualy i had two), but she wasn't so keen on the pasta element of hers. Still you can't get much closer to having a night off.

At the moment the Truckstop is very peaceful. We're parked up in the HGV parking annex in a parking space which is actually far too small to get an HGV in, so they can't moan that we've nicked one of their spaces.

My brother Richard, has, this evening, informed me that Germany have been knocked out of the World Cup which brought tears to my eyes. Tears of sadness as there are no German motorhomers here to offer my condolences. Tee hee hee hee.

Tomorrow, as always, is another day.