SATURDAY 28-09-19

Despite there being an awful lot of people on the campsite this morning we had no problem in getting a unisex shower cubicle each. We didn't bother with breakfast but instead spent time on preparing the motorhome for the journey to Calais, including some housework, and putting the hand basin in the bathroom out of bounds as it, and the shower drains are blocked completely. I can't wait to get home and get it sorted.

When The Chef went to pay at Reception and pick up the baguette ordered yesterday, she established that we didn't have to vacate our pitch until 14:00, which is a very helpful and civilised time to have. However I was keen to complete the last leg of the journey to the shopping complex, Citi Europe at Calais, and then relax there.

I had to keep the speed down as it is very windy with strong gusts, and with a vehicle like this a strong gust from the side can be a bit unnerving, especially if you're in the midst of overtaking an HGV at the time.

Lunch was in a service station parking area only about ten miles from Calais. I was trying to delay the final stretch just a little, to try and avoid lots of weekend shoppers in the car park which doubles as an Aire for motorhomes.

After parking up we went for a wander around the complex for something to do as well as decide what we were having for this evenings meal. Having toured the eats establishments downstairs we eventually decided to just have a portion of home-made soup we had been dragging around with us in the freezer, together with some nice crusty baguette followed by a nice fancy cake, like only the French can do.

For the very first time I didn't buy any wine in the very large Carrefour supermarket. I've got to cut down my intake and so will be buying my wine from 'Laithwaites' online in future. There are a couple if reds they sell which I like, and are easier on the digestive tract.

So now we're just waiting for our 21:20 crossing on Le Shuttle. Rosina informed me this morning that the weather forecast was for a very rough Channel crossing today, and having checked the news online that has been complicated by a suspicious package being found on one of the ferries causing delays. So I'm very pleased we've elected to once again travel under the Channel rather than sail

 over it.

In the meantime I will psych myself up for some fine dining before we leave the car park to go next door to the Shuttle terminal via the Carrefour filling station to get some fuel and dump any grey water we may have onboard.

As for this trip, well it's been rather disappointing. Sadly it had to be cut short to just three weeks, but was originally planned to last about six. 

The thing is with this lifestyle - you never stop learning, and we've certainly learned that September is a very busy month for motorhomers from across Europe, causing us numerous problems. I think we will have to give some thought as to how we spend our Septembers in future. Maybe it will have to be the UK, which certainly wouldn't be our first choice, or perhaps cross the Channel but stay further north. But we do know that we need to create trips that take in more new locations, there's no adventure in revisiting old haunts.

In the meantime we look forward to our extended tour of Spain starting no later than March, maybe sooner, because if this Brexit fiasco is ever resolved then an EU 90 days within any 180 is going to be a bit restrictive and will affect our travelling freedom and the EU's tourist industry. Maybe eventually they'll all stop posturing and sit down like grownups and get it resolved.

Once that's done I think we must have a General Election so that we can have the major spring clean that is required, and I hope the next government sets up a Royal Commission or a cross-party committee or something to investigate a better way to run our country. We need a new Houses of Parliament, and leave the current one for the tourists to look around at £20 a ticket. Once we have a fit-for-purpose building then we need a whole new, modern, fit-for-the-21st-century way of conducting the business of Parliament, including who works for who when it comes to the responsibilities of MP's. Do we elect them to represent us, or do we elect them so that they can please themselves what the hell they do. The Brexit fiasco has shown just how lamentably unsuitable the current arrangement is.

Again, thank you for showing an interest. Once we recieve the French toll road fees I'll post the expenditure, along with the 'Travelscript' the trip was to be based on before the need to shorten it.

God-willing we'll see you again in the spring.

Update:

Working on the assumption that free movement will end as part of Brexit, our plans for 2020 are to spend up to three months touring Spain and some of France on the way home commencing at the beginning of March, followed by a tour of Austria and Bavaria in September.

 

Sorry about that
Kind Regards
Bomber Command

Beside the River Somme

Hotel de Ville

FRIDAY 27-09-19

My word it certainly was a quiet night, the only sound I heard was of an owl hooting at some point. The Chef however told me this morning that she didn't get to sleep until about 04:00 because it seems she didn't feel tired. I suppose that's another downside of things not quite going to plan and ending up being fairly inactive.

We did enjoy our nice long hot showers this morning. There was plenty of hot water and we didn't have to worry about restricting its use.

We set off for the bus stop down the road at about 10:00, stopping off at the campsite Reception to buy the tickets which are then validated in machines on the bus. Again the fare was €1.50 single each. Maybe that's the fixed bus fare throughout France. After a journey of about twenty minutes we were in the heart of Amiens, the capital of Picardy. There were lots of groups of young school children throughout town, presumably enjoying a history lesson.

We were armed with only a fairly crude map of Amiens courtesy of the campsite, and so made our way to the Tourist Information Office across from the cathedral. Unfortunately when we got outside and took a look at it, we were better off with the campsite's.

So in to the cathedral then, which I have to say is quite impressive. The Chef read that it could fit two Notre Dame's of Paris inside, but I couldn't see that. Maybe they had MP Diane Abbott doing the calculations for them. They have a decapitated head preserved in there which they claim is that of John the Baptist. I believe it gets displayed at certain times. I did take a photograph of a photograph of it inside the cathedral but it's a bit too morbid to show, and besides I take all of that sort of thing with a great big pinch of salt.

I think we were in there a while as there were a lot of photographs featuring The Great War with descriptions and information in three languages, fortunately for us, one of them was English.

After that we made for St-Leu quarter, not far away, in fact nothing was far away, it was all very walkable. The St-Leu quarter is what the guidebook describes as a pedestrianised area of low houses and flower-lined canals with water-side restaurants, bars and artisans' shops. Well, yes to a point, but the canal area is no Venice or Amsterdam. I do try to be honest in my appraisal of places we visit, from my perspective, obviously, but even I find myself trying to show somewhere in the best light. Taking a photograph for example which crops out the crappy old building that's falling down next to what I'm photographing etc. So yes it has all those things but not in such huge quantities that it's going to take your breath away.

Amiens has a University so there were lots of young people about which is good, plus to show that it is a truly inclusive European city it has its very own homeless and wino's lying around, and whilst they're asleep/off their heads, are being beaten to the money by beggers from who knows where. They looked North Africa or Middle Eastern, and I guess they were trying raise money for an inflatable dinghy.

So all in all, not a bad place, very walkable and it felt quite safe. It's somewhere which could be considered as a stopping off point on the way to Calais and home.

Before catching the bus 'home' we bought a fancy cake each, which we devoured with a cup of coffee upon our return.

This campsite has a number of static caravans, and this being the start of the weekend we have been joined by what I would call 'Ethical Pikey's. These are people who own a caravan and have no problem with being a nuisence to other people, but being in gainful employment don't have the time to strip lead from church roofs, steal, leave piles of crap everywhere, undertake unnecessary roof repairs or lay dodgy tarmac driveways for vulnerable old people.

Tomorrow morning we head for Calais where we will prepare for the final leg home.

The River Somme

THURSDAY 26-09-19

Well that was a pretty quiet night, and all for free. We had to settle for a strip wash this morning as we were getting really low on water. Knowing I was taking on non-drinkable water back at Lake Maggiore I deliberately didn't load too much of it, thinking I'd drain the tank down and replace it with drinking water just as soon as I could. I don't get too anally retentive about it all as we have got in to the naughty habit of drinking bottled water, despite my efforts to flush through and sterilise the fresh water tank before each trip, plus having an in-line charcoal filter on the kitchen sink tap. So in all honesty if we ran out of bottled water we could just drink it from the tap.

After The Chef came back from the Truckstop shop armed with a soft albino baguette we partly filled the fuel tank and slipped back on to the toll road. I think the journey to Amiens took about one and a half hours, most of it in rain showers.

So now we're camped at Camping Le Parc des cygnes (GPS: N49.920610˚ E2.259655˚) on the outskirts of the city. It's nothing special and didn't get very good revues for its toilet facilities, but there's nothing else available, so it will have to do us.

Having set up, with our drive wheels still on the tarmac to ensure we don't get bogged down on the wet grass, we went out for a walk in to the local community. Just down the road we crossed over the River Somme, and a lock under the bridge. I'm sure this bridge and river could tell some tales of the past as Amiens was involved in both World Wars.

The purpose of our walk out was to identify the bus stops we would need to use in order to get in to Amiens tomorrow. If we wanted the hourly service it was dead easy as the bus stops were right outside the campsite, but if we wanted the ten-minute service then it was further down the road over the river and past the small Bio power station.

Having found the correct bus stop we popped in to a small local store to find a Pakistani gentleman behind the counter who had just returned from a trip to London to see a friend and spoke to me in perfect English. Anyhow, two bottles of red paint stripper later we made our way back 'home'. Once here I wound up the laptop and booked us a crossing home on Le Shuttle for Saturday evening. All the crossings during the day were fully booked, so by travelling later we not only get a ride, but also save a load of money, it just means we get home about mid-night if we're lucky.

Since returning we have been entertained by the antics of fellow motorhomers who arrive and then faff about sorting out a pitch. We even had a member of the 'French Caravan Club for the Confused' who was driving around between pitches with his habitation door locked open and his roof mounted automatic satellite dish swivelling round and round trying to lock on to a satellite. He parked in three different pitches within our section having appeared from another round the corner, and has now disappeared back somewhere round there again, presumably to watch TV or await the arrival of the men in white coats armed with a large butterfly net.

So tomorrow is to be our last full day, and we're going to try to get away in good time, though right now it's raining again and tomorrow isn't going to be too special, though it should remain dry.

Our home tonight

WEDNESDAY 25-09-19

I hardly slept a wink last night having read that poor Prince Harry sometimes has a job getting out of bed in the mornings, so weighed down with the problems of the world is he. Let's be honest, unlike his brother, who will make a fine King in the future, Ginger's life has been one long 'gap year'. Imagine, when you want to play soldiers - Grandma lets you go and play in her very own army, and when you want to pretend to be a helicopter pilot, Grandma will arrange for you to indulge yourself to train at taxpayer's expense, and when you want to dress up in uniform with lots of medals and sit on a horse, then Grandma can offer you an extensive wardrobe of uniforms and medals to choose from.

Perhaps he could give up that Windsor Castle home the taxpayer spent millions of pounds 'upgrading', and instead spend a year living with his new family in one-roomed emergency accommodation, living on state benefits and shopping at food banks to help get the poor lad's life in to some sort of perspective. Ginger, you and the wife ain't gonna save the world and you've already been upstaged by Climate Change's new messiah Greta Thunberg who at only sixteen years of age has figured out a really good way of skipping school. I think it can only be a matter of time before they move to LA and stage their own Cable TV 'Harry & Megan Show'.

Still after today I can feel some kind of empathy with young ginger.

It rained off and on during the night at our Truckstop and we awoke to yet another cool, grey day. Our spirits were to be lifted by a nice hot shower despite the drain blockage. I even got partly dressed so that I could pop out and place the levelling blocks under the front wheels in order to facilitate better drainage towards the back of the vehicle.

Our first nasty surprise was when I put the Camperstop we were heading for in Reims in to the satnav and informed it was something like 400km, and five and a half hours driving away. We hadn't given that too much thought, but looking back, given that we were in Italy only yesterday morning then yes, we would need to do a bit of mileage.

Scrubbed up and fed, The Chef wandered over to the shop for a baguette whilst I made the vehicle ready for the road, including backing up to the dump station and lightening the load.

We didn't get away until about 10:00, so much for having a look around Amiens this afternoon. Onward we went mile after mile, through persistent rain and heavy showers. At about 16:00 we arrived in a very busy Reims, though thankfully we managed to keep on the move. At the barrier entrance to the Camperstop (GPS: N49.250084 E4.021804) The Chef went to look for somebody to let us and, and while I waited somebody came out in a car causing the barrier to rise and in I went.

There are only seven parking spaces in this Aire, or Camperstop, and when we arrived at the parking area there were...er... eight motorhomes. A German had parked where he shouldn't have, and when he arrived back at his vehicle while I was manoeuvring I asked him if he was leaving, but no, he was staying and spending the night there. Due to his selfish parking it was really difficult to turn the vehicle round, but once I had succeeded we were back out in to the busy traffic heading out of town towards Amiens. According to the satnav that was another two and a half hours away, and I told The Chef there was no way I was doing that amount of driving having mentally switch off thinking I was done for the day.

So here we are on yet another Truckstop for the night, looking to drive to a campsite on the edge of Amiens about fifty miles away. We'll stay there for a couple of nights because tomorrow is going to be wet, and Friday dry and reasonable. Then on Saturday, to Calais and home. There's just no point in prolonging this trip, I have to be back home by Monday at the very latest anyway, and we have decided we won't be coming over this way again during September. I hadn't realised just how busy it would be with motorhomers, but I suppose they're all doing what we're doing - waiting until the kids are back at school and then setting off. One last good break before winter sets in.

Tonight's DVD entertainment may well be another episode or two of 'Fleabag' series one. We watched two last night, and agreed that if we hadn't already seen series two then after one episode, two max, that would have been it - binned.

I trust poor Ginger and the family are coping out there in Africa with the nanny and entourage, on their self-promotional photo-shoot while we all learn to cope with our situations back here.

Lake Lausanne

Entrance to the St Gottard Tunnel, Switzerland - 12 miles long!

TUESDAY 24-09-19

Optimistically I put my shorts and sandals on this morning before stepping out of the vehicle. Within twenty minutes having done some chores ready to move off, I put my trousers and shoes on. It was another cool cloudy day.

Our intension was to firstly drive further round the lake heading north to check out the next Camperstop, and if we liked it we'd park up for a day or so, and if not then we'd head towards home.

Having bought a baguette from the Carrefour supermarket down the road, filled up with water and dumped everything, we were on our way. It was only about four miles away and so it was a short journey. The Camperstop in Maccagno-Agro (GPS: N46.039817˚ E8.735670˚) was just a large hard-standing area with no facilities and few motorhomes. It backed on to the grandstand of the community football stadium, such as it was. We climbed out for a look down at the lake's edge, and it didn't take our breath away. There was also a campsite there, Camping Lido, right down by the edge of the lake, and so we went to take a look. It was as if somebody had put a flock of starving sheep in there for a fortnight such was the lack of grass on the pitches and abundance of dirt. There was no way we were going to spend our money paddling around in mud when the rain came.

So it was back to the vehicle for an early lunch and a mull over the maps and books, before deciding that we wouldn't now bother with Luxembourg, since we knew nothing about the place, but would certainly not rule out passing through it at some time in the future. Instead we would make for Reims where they make champagne, and where we'd identified a Camperstop on the edge of town. After that we would try and find somewhere to park up in Amiens, for another quick visit on the way towards Calais.

As we pulled away I spotted a poster stuck to the back of the grandstand advertising an open air concert in the stadium starring none other than ''Sister Philma Creviss and the Teasers', the Vatican's girl band. No doubt they'll be performing their recent big hit 'Treat me Rough'. It looks as if this Italian Tour is being promoted by the Holy See - the Pope's optician.

So that was it, a job of work to do heading towards Strasbourg en-route to Reims, and we'd see how far we got.

Fortunately just as we crossed in to Switzerland along the lakeside road we came across a petrol station selling diesel at around €1.50 a litre, so we topped up and continued north across Switzerland. To use their motorways you have to buy a vignette for about £33, which is valid for a whole year which is good value given the high standard of their roads, but not such good value if you're only crossing the country, top to bottom the once. We managed to cross it on just a quarter of a tank of fuel, so big it ain't.

Tonight we parked up at a Truckstop about thirty miles from Strasbourg. I've made a point of parking the vehicle so that we should be able to have a shower in the morning and have the water drain  away downhill and in to the functioning shower tray drain hole.

Needless to say it's raining and we're having a problem getting a WiFi signal, so hopefully things will improve later. As The Chef said a few days ago "This is not our best trip", and I couldn't disagree with her.