MONDAY 9-7-18

Well the morning didn't start too well. I was doubtful about getting a shower without having to join a queue, given that there are only four shower cubicles (two of each plus a further two for disabled) for the whole campsite. But probably due to our getting up a bit later than usual and our being surrounded by skanky foreigners I was able to walk straight in to the only available cubicle at the time.

Now in our travels we've come across all sorts of shower designs but this one was an original. On stepping in to the cubicle I looked for the control knobs - there were none, and then I noticed what looked like a small black hole in the wall about the size of a ten pence piece right under the shower head at waist height and on the wall of which the female cubicles were on the other side. I thought some perv had made a hole in the wall to spy through so went to put my finger through it and Pusshhh! A torrent of water came out of the shower head - it wasn't a hole, it was an infrared detector, and I had stood in the wrong place still wearing my dressing gown. These foreigners, what will they think of next. I had to continually wave bits of me in front of the sensor otherwise it just turned off. We've come across some pretty mean campsite owners in the past who give you hot water very begrudgingly, but this one takes the biscuit. Fortunately I met The Chef on her way to the shower block as I was returning and was able to brief her on what to avoid doing.

The morning was spent doing chores. First I had to access the hidden safe to retrieve The Chef's UK purse and my set of house keys. Then I set about tidying up the garage, filling up the water tank, dumping the black water, and while nobody was looking, our grey water down the drain at the base of our fresh water tap. Now I haven't got to worry about joining any queue at the dump station tomorrow morning, stuck behind some individuals who it seem relish in the dumping process, for them it's the highlight of their day and they savour it, not wishing to rush and deprive themselves of the pleasure of standing and watching grey sink and shower water drain away from their vehicle, completely unaware, or uncaring, that others are queuing up to dump and get going.

This afternoon was a mixture of relaxing and chores with us wondering what on earth we were doing on such a campsite, but it has suited our needs, and tomorrow we will head down the road to Citi Europe at Calais where we'll buy a few bits before heading to Le Shuttle terminal next door for the train home.

This evening has been spent having another nice walk along the promenade here at sunny Wimereux.

So this is it then, the end of the trip and the end of the blog, so I suppose it's time to reflect on both.

The Trip

It has been hard work at times, and not much fun on occasions, and I suppose that was reflected in some of the postings. But I was always determined to paint an honest picture of life 'on the road' so that others can judge if it is for them or not. I think there were a few factors that contributed to that:

  1. We should not have planned another trip lasting three months - it's too long. It ceases to be fresh, fun and exciting and deteriorates into hard, tiring work and problems. If we continue motorhoming, then apart from our alternate years wintering in Spain, any future trips will be limited to a maximum of six weeks, and we'll look to concentrate on a much smaller area thus avoiding high-mileage. This is becoming a consideration now because of the exchange rate, fuel over here is getting pretty pricy and on a par with costs back home.

  2. We have had to cope with temperatures of 30˚C + for most of the time, and neither of us are sun worshippers. Add to that flies, flies, and more flies. Even with a net curtain at the habitation door and screens on all windows to prevent or deter them, they were still around, and very persistent. After a while it grinds you down.

  3. Unfortunately we are not bi-lingual, but my darling Chef has a good bash at trying to be understood. The downside of this is that we have spent three whole months surrounded  by foreign jabber, jabber, jabber, without understanding a word of what is being said, thus unable to engage in any conversation with neighbours etc. There have been very few occasions where we've been able to have a conversation with fellow Brits or English speaking 'foreigners', so The Chef and I have pretty much only had each other for company the whole time, and that can put a strain on a relationship, no matter that I love her with all  my heart. I would therefore urge anybody considering following in our footsteps as it were, to learn a second language. French probably. No point in learning German because many of them speaker de English simply because outside of der Fatherland nobody understands them.

The Blog

I created this beast as a way of sharing our experiences because when I was planning our American adventures thirteen years ago (they took three years to plan) I was faced with a blank sheet of paper.

I set the blog up in such a way that there is no advertising. If I find such things annoying then I believed others would. I have never sought to make money from it, nor promote any particular service or product.

I feel there's enough on here now for folk to get a feel for the lifestyle. We have made other trips but unfortunately I both lost the diary notes and failed to take enough pictures to offset the rubbish quality of the writing, often done after a glass or two of wine.

I'm flattered that in the three years since I set it up there have been something like seventy-nine thousand visits. The blog costs me ten pounds a month and I am happy to keep it going for another two years or until it reaches 100,000 visits whichever is the latter.

I will of course add our expenditure sheet for this trip once it is finalised, the delay being that we have to wait for the bill to come in from Sanef Tolling for our toll fees here in France.

I will also find time over the coming months to create something like a 'Hints & Tips' section where I will do my best to pass on any advice or experience we have to offer covering numerous subjects which may be of help to those considering such a lifestyle.

In the meantime my thanks to all of you who have taken the time to visit and revisit this site, it has made the effort worthwhile. There have been times when I really haven't been in the mood, but tried to make the effort so you got to see the picture 'warts and all'.

Finally if I have offended anyone by comments I have made, then I apologise unreservedly, it has never been my intension to do so. However I do sometimes feel the need to rail against those who seek to restrict our freedom of speech labelling we who do not conform to their idea of the 'Perfect Brainwashed Citizen' as some kind of 'ist' having been guilty of some sort of 'ism'.

My advicde then to you dear readers is to grow old disgracefully otherwise you too could could end up in the corner of the lounge in places like the Harold Shipman Nursing Home for the Elderly. Or even, it appears, the Gosport Hospital where there was a nice lady doctor and nurse who made old people 'comfortable', hundreds of them, and she walks the streets a free woman, her reward perhaps for saving The State millions of pounds in caring of the elderly. 

So find some sort of adventure you can afford and cope with, even if it's packing up some sandwiches, making a flask of coffee and seeing how far you can get and back in one day using your bus pass. Anything, just make sure you go down fighting, because we only pass this way once, and life is very precious.

But if you do find yourself in Harold's Nursing Home despite best efforts then at least join the Escape Committee along with 'Ginger' aand 'Biffo' so that you can plan and execute the digging of an escape tunnel to the other side of the perimeter fence. The tunnel's entrance probably being hidden under the colonic irrigation table.

In the meantime - Happy travelling.

SUNDAY 8-7-18

Well we had a very peaceful night I have to say. Our picnic area off the motorway was shared only with a Slovakian HGV.

We were in no hurry to get going because we didn't want to arrive at our planned campsite too soon. many sites are quite strict about the time you must vacate your pitch, and likewise what time you can arrive to go  on to one.

We were about seventy miles from Wimereux which is close to Boulogne, which itself is about twenty miles from Calais.

It didn't take too long to cover the mileage as it was all motorway and toll road. Unfortunately I took the wrong exit off a roundabout near the town which caused a bit of grief as there were one way streets and a fairground taking up space around the streets. Never mind we arrived at Camping Municipal L' Olympic late morning and managed to bag a pitch. Due to their peak season starting tomorrow we had to pay one night at the ACSI discount rate of €17 and the second at €23 which is still good value, probably because it's a Municipal site run by the local authority rather than as a private business.

It's pretty busy here and almost full. It's probably about 50/50 of families and older couples. Can't complaint this is their holiday season, not ours. We just need to make use of it for a couple of nights so that we can enjoy facilities until we leave for Citi Europe and then Le Shuttle on Tuesday morning.

We've actually been here before, just briefly, to visit the grave of Lt Colonel John McCrae who wrote the poem 'In Flanders Field'. The Commonwealth War Graves are situated at the rear of the Wimereux Communal Cemetery with the headstones uniquely placed flat on the graves due to the sandy soil. What I found moving was that included within those graves were nurses and others who had died supporting the troops in the front line. I'd never seen it before in any other Commonwealth War Cemetery.

So anyway, we hung around the campsite all afternoon then ventured out this evening for a stroll to the seafront which is not far away. It was still very busy indeed with loads of people still on the beach enjoying the lovely weather, large family gatherings outside beach huts erected along the promenade, and  bars and restaurants busy.

The beach had lovely sand and the sea looked quite safe for young children to go in as it was fairly shallow for  quite a way out. So as a family resort for a young family it seems an ideal location, especially for Brits who enjoy the French way of life without having to travel very far from Calais.

Of course with the campsite being a holiday destination, coupled with the long days, kids are still out playing at 22:30, so I don't suppose we shall get to sleep very early tonight. Still it's a nicer sound than that which we had to endure a couple of nights ago.

Tomorrow we'll chill around the campsite listening to yapping balls of fluff bought over by mummy and daddy for a holiday. We'd not had to endure them during our trip, but of course we're now close to BritLand and there are plenty of them here. I think once the vehicle is ready for the road tomorrow evening we'll take another stroll along the promenade before returning to type up what will be the last entry on this blog. I feel it's now run its course.

In Flanders Fields 

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 

SATURDAY 7-7-18

What a dreadful night that was. It may have been an ideal location but unfortunately, as so often happens, it was spoilt by people, this time the local Yoof, who took it upon themselves to use the car park/Aire as a local meeting place where they could race scooters, do wheelies with their cars, shout and bawl and play loud music through the stereo systems of their cars as they seemed to flit from one 'Yoof Meet' to another. I think it all ended about 02:00. Never again. That's the last time I ever use an Aire in a place like that. I'll spend my time and money elsewhere.

Feeling tired we got up and had a look around the town of Chateaudun. We would have had a shower this morning but having swapped on to the second LPG cylinder the boiler refused to work, so we had to settle for a wash using water boiled in the kettle. I'm fed up with problems that have arisen on this trip, mainly caused by people who should have done their jobs properly for which I pay them.

In town they were setting up for some kind of medieval festival with stalls on that theme everywhere. What a shame we won't now be staying and spending money in their town. Well apart from buying a fresh baguette and drooling over their lovely cakes.

When we left town the intension was to make our way towards Chartres, only about twenty miles away and stop at the campsite there, but unfortunately the satnav didn't recognise the presence of the campsite (no surprise there) nor was it listed in the ACSI book. All I wanted was a campsite with facilities where we could rest, shower and watch the England game of football this afternoon.

Past Chartres we went, heading towards Dreux and Evreux in the hope that we'd spot a sign for a campsite which we could use. But no, there was nothing, complicated by the fact that much of the route is now dual carriageway bypassing civilisation.

Next it was Rouen, always a pain to get through, before we finally came to a stop at a picnic area off the motorway somewhere on the way towards Calais. I wanted to be able to watch the England versus Sweden game on TV and tuned the TV to receive, what I hoped would be, the match on 'France 1', but no, not today. The French weren't interested in televising it, which if I were a French football fan I would not be very pleased about.

At this picnic area I tried the gas supply to the boiler again, and it worked, so we clearly do have a problem, and one I am growing weary of.

We spent the rest of the afternoon napping and resting before attempting to watch the closing stages of the game through the internet, but again, not today. I did manage to get a glimpse at BBC News to see that England had won 2-0 but that was all. Never mind, at least they won, and I have to say they've gone much further in the competition than I expected them too, but I don't believe they're good enough to win. We will see.

The plan now, is that having found a campsite in the Boulogne area online we'll make our way there in the morning for two nights so that we can rest, get scrubbed up, and prepare for the trip back across the Channel. It can't come soon enough.

I see we have the predictable fudge regarding Brexit following the PM and her Cabinet's meeting at Chequers. What a disgraceful shower they are. How hard can it be. I'll never bother voting again.

I sat wondering what would have happened, if, during their meeting the fire alarm had gone off and they made their way to the Fire EXIT. Would they have stood there with their arses on fire wondering what EXIT meant? Would they have pontificated about whether or not they should have one foot inside the building - the 'safe' option and one outside in the fresh air and sunshine? Or that the person putting the sign above gthe door didn't understand what it is they were doing and had they done so wouldn't have put it up at al, therefore perhaps they should do nothing and sit tight. I suspect they would all perish debating what EXIT means, and that would have been a great result and cleared the way for people who do know, and have the balls to implement the will of the people whether they personally agree with it or not. It's called democracy and it's a word that scares the hell out of today's career politician of whatever political persuasion.

I see also on BBC News online that today is the 'Pride in London' parade. How sad, don't get me wrong. We are who we are, and nobody asks to be born 'different', and those folk have as much right to a life of happiness as I have. But these movements go beyond that. A persons sexuality should remain a private matter.

Tomorrow is another day.

The River Loire on the way to Mer

Oh and there was a Loire Rally for Maserati owners meeting there for lunch

Diane's Garden

Catherine's garden

The kitchen

The Gallery

Chateau Chenonceau

FRIDAY 6-7-18

We slept well and I was awake at 07:10 which was just the right time to get up and crack on, because this morning we were leaving the campsite and going a mile or so down the road to visit Chateau de Chenonceau. We wanted to arrive there as close to 09:00 as we could because we had seen how busy the car and coach parks were there yesterday on our abortive search for a Camperstop.

The showers were very nice and quite busy, probably due to the fact that there are so many Brits on the campsite rather than skanky foreigners.

Trying to prepare the vehicle for the road was made more difficult by our trying to avoid treading in any more clay-coloured sand from the campsite driveways.

Once ready we drove up to Reception. The Chef picked up the baguette she'd ordered and I dumped the rubbish.

We were soon at the Chateau car park and ready to make our way up the long driveway to it. We had photographed it from the side of the River Cher over which the Chateau spans, about four years ago, I think it was, as part of our first trip with the motorhome - the Loire Valley and the WW1 battlefield sites in both France and Belgium. Today we got to see inside it.

To build the Chateau of Chenonceau on the River Cher in the 16th century, Thomas Bohier and his wife Katherine Briconnet demolished the fortified castle and mill belonging to the Marques family and left standing just the keep: the Marques Tower, which they restored in Renaissance style.

The layout of the forecourt is a copy of the former medieval fortress surrounded by moats. Still standing too, besides the tower is the well, decorated with a chimera and eagle, emblem of the Marques family.

There were three stages of construction and I shall attach a photograph showing each of them.

During the First World War, Mr Gaston Menier, owner of Chenonceau, paid for the setting up of a hospital whose different services occupied all the rooms of the Chateau.

In the Second World War, the River Cher corresponded to the line of demarcation. The entrance to the Chateau was therefore in the occupied zone. The gallery where the South door gave access to the left bank made it possible for the Resistance to pass large numbers of people into the free zone. Throughout the war a German artillery unit was kept at the ready to destroy Chenonceau.

With the visit complete we made our way back 'home' to take advantage of the dry, tarmac car park to clean the cab floor, hoover through and wash the plastic carpet covering. Only then did we look respectable and clean again. Then it was lunch and on the road.

We made for Muides travelling along the side of the River Loire along which The Chef was able to take a few more photographs of sunflowers. It's a small community on the opposite bank from Mer. I was hoping to buy a few boxes of wine from a small producer there. Unfortunately when we arrived they'd gone a bit upmarket and were now only selling wine in bottles and cases of bottles, not the good value five and ten litre wine boxes I had bought before. So that was it, a wasted journey. There was no way I was buying a large number of bottles of wine and travelling with them, given their weight and the risk of breakages.

After back tracking to Blois we made our way across country towards Chateaudun, thus avoiding toll road fees and having a much more enjoyable driving experience, with the added bonus that I passed a Ford dealer and popped in and got them to replace the headlight bulb which we've had out for a few days now.

At our arrival at Chateaudu after much touring around the town looking for signs, we've managed to bag ourselves a spot on the town's Aire, right below the Chateau.

Tomorrow we shall have a good look around the town and will probably stay here and watch the England football game, before either staying put or getting a few more miles under our belt. Given that we're  making good time I think we'll stay put and bag two nights on the Aire.

The balloon cleared the toilet block

Maybe they should have bought something bigger.

The £18k Brazilian 'copy'.

The 1970 pile of pooh

THURSDAY 5-7-18

My word what a wet night that was. We didn't spend it alone, this morning two other motorhomes were parked up beside us.

We didn't hurry to get away, I always like to leave some time after 09:00 so that those going to work or doing the school run etc get a free run on the roads and I am happy to keep well out of their way.

We covered about three hundred miles yesterday and we still had a couple of hundred still to go before reaching our destination - Camping Moulin Fort at Chenonceaux www.lemoulinfort.com which is owned by an English couple.

The rain continued to pour down heavily as we made our way along the toll road past Clermont-Ferrand towards Vierzon where we would head westwards towards Chenonceaux.

Having left the toll road, having bought fuel (though not a tank full) of the most expensive fuel we have ever bought at €1.66 a litre. Unfortunately I needed some to make sure that I had enough to get us off the toll road and to cheaper fuel on the 'A' road to Chenonceaux.

The '976' road running south and parallel to the A85 toll road, was cheap but slow to make progress on. We pulled over to the side of the road for lunch where we came up with a Plan 'B'. We would go back on to the Toll Road as this would be the safest way, given the weather, of making progress. we would then come off at Junction 12 and make our way to a Camperstop at Montrichard. That was fine until we got there and found that it was right on the edge of town and had a complicated entry procedure involving a credit card and mobile phone.

We left and made our way towards Chenonceaux where there was a Camperstop. It wasn't too far and when we arrived it turned out to be the large public car park to the Chateau we intend to visit tomorrow, which would have been great had they allowed overnight camping in the motorhome parking area, but they did not. So sadly we had to resort to our original Plan 'A' which was to stop at the campsite with grassy pitches, and hope that we didn't get bogged down and stuck, which has happened to us before. But fortunately as we made our way there the rain stopped and the sun came out.

It is a very nice campsite and their ACSI discount ends tomorrow, so we timed it just right. As usual we picked a pitch with almost nobody around us, but as usual that didn't last, but hey who cares we're only here for one night.

Because this area has had about five days of heavy rain the roadway is filled with water, coloured a very light yellow/grey sand which until it rained was contained in the gravel. This meant that we all got our vehicles covered with the stuff. Thankfully we have plastic down on the floor to protect the carpet but we have to be careful where we walk along the roadway, even to the shower block. Maybe 'Seedy Cedric' from Oxfam will be round the campsite later offering food parcels and who-knows-what to help alleviate our suffering.

Unfortunately it's teeming with Brits, but thankfully they're not the sort with yapping balls of fluff, though some Brits have dogs they are well behaved, and as such I don't have to listen to them, so that's fine by me.

Two of our neighbours arrived with VW campervans, the one next door to us belonging to a real stuck up couple is an original 1970, whilst the one across the way is a 'copy' made under licence in Brazil (that's what Mr Stuck-Up told the Dutchman in the pitch on the other side of him).

This evening we enjoyed the sight of a hot air balloon passing over the campsite. Thankfully the pilot had enough gas in his tanks to ignite the burners and clear the shower/toilet block otherwise things could have got a bit messy.

Tomorrow we will pack up and get of the campsite in good tie so that we can pop down the road to the 'Camperstop' for the Chateau where we'll visit both the  Chateau itself and the gardens, which I know The Chef would like to see. After that we'll make our way towards Mer where I'll buy some wine and we'll prepare ourselves for the final run  to Calais.

As for photographs may I apologise on behalf of the resident-photographer-in-motion. There were numerous times she put the camera to her eye to photograph sun flowers in a much earlier state of  growth, probably due to the cooler climate further north, but evidently on each occasion she failed miserably to press the shutter and record the image. I knew this only because when I went to download the camera images in to the computer there were only six, and I had just taken all of them.

Tomorrow is another day.

Our resting place for tonight

A distant view of the Millau Bridge in my rear view mirror

A view to the right whilst crossing the bridge.

Approaching the Millau Bridge northbound

WEDNESDAY 4-7-18

Well it's American Independence Day folks. What a great shame we were too stretched in those days to support our troops fighting those Yankee upstarts all those years ago. If we'd kept control of America then her people would have been spared having ol' Orange Face', Deputy Russian Premier American President Donald Trump.

Never mind. Today we rose having had a pretty good night's sleep. We did have a late arrival next door to us, an Italian motorhome which spent a rather long time banging and bashing in order to get their tables and chairs out of the vehicle before they could get to bed. And that's the difference you see. It wasn't selfish, it wasn't malicious, it was something they needed to do, and that was the big, big difference between these folk and the Italian peasants we had to tolerate the night before.

We were up in good time this morning because we needed to get on the road towards the Loire Valley, about a 500 mile journey, though there was no way we would get such a journey done in one hit, I'm not an HGV driver after all.

Our first stop was 'Super U' on the edge of town, where last time here we hired a small car from to tour the area. It's probably our favourite supermarket chain in France. Once loaded we made our way towards Avignon via Apt, a nice scenic road, and a pleasure to drive. Then we were off towards   (we have to give long trips in small bites to the Snooper satnav otherwise there's no telling which way it would take us). A quick dash through the suburbs of Montpellier bought us to the A75 motorway between there and Vierzon. The stretch between Montpellier and Vierzon is a long one, part free motorway to Clermont-Ferrand and then Toll Road the rest of the way,  and one on which we expected to spend the night at a Truckstop.

Fortunately we managed to take pictures of a bit more lavender, not as big and fancy as the stuff back at Valensol, but this stuff probably gets used rather than walked among or photographed. And then the bonus moment - sunflowers. The first batch were a good size but droopy (how the hell did Tom Jones get in to this?), and then further on down the road we came across the odd large field of them, though what my resident photographer-in-motion has managed to capture of them I have no idea.

The scenery south of Clermont-Ferrand has been pretty spectacular, and within that I must include the Millau Bridge. What an amazing engineering project that was, and it's so good to know that it was designed by an Englishman.

During this journey I happened to overtake a French motorhomer whilst approaching some road works where the road went to single carriageway. Monsieur Garlic-Breath clearly didn't like being overtaken by a Brit, and so made a determined effort to pass me just to satisfy his ego. He didn't pull away from me he just sat there. Oh silly boy.

Driving a mere Fiat Ducato-based motorhome and clearly lighter than us, given the vehicles habitation design, he thought he'd cracked it without realising he was up against  a Southampton-constructed Ford Transit -bring it on Ol' Garlic Breath.

For mile after mile a just tailgated him, moving to the right and then to the left, just so that I continually appeared in his rear view mirrors, leaving him freeking out, not knowing if I was going to overtake, or undertake him or not (mind games you see). Eventually I ground him down so much that he capitulated and I bombed past him and left him in my dust.

After numerous miles we pulled in to a Truckstop for the night. Not a very big one granted, but this section of the motorway is free, if we had been on a Toll Road section it would have been larger and fancier, but this will do us nicely. The added bonus is that we are currently sitting here experiencing thunderstorms which means at last things are getting cooler and the vehicles roof is getting washed.