Some of the best village ramparts in France
We made it back to the UK with out any hold ups or any virus trouble! However horrible weather and limited power meant I kept finding excuses for delaying the blog – the longer driving days on ordinary roads are certainly more tiring and even more so if the weather is bad.
Two nights at Canterbury Aire was enough to recharge my batteries and some good sunshine on Friday 7th meant Bertie’s solar panel had a chance to get some power back in to his leisure batteries.
We left St Andre de L’Eure in good time with empty waste tanks and a full fresh water tank. The plan for the day is to drive on mainly minor roads across country to Grandvilliers in Oise department. The road system in the northern part of France focus heavily on Paris and if you want to travel towards or away from Paris the roads are very good. However if you want to travel around Paris at a comfortable distance then you are definitely travelling “against the grain” and you need to use lesser roads. In other circumstance this is nice as you get to see much more of the countryside and the small towns. In the summer this mode of travelling is certainly much nicer. However it does not lend itself to covering the ground!
Tuesday night (4th) we parked in a small aire at Grandvilliers. Just on the edge of this small town it was quite a small aire but had free services – showers all round tonight. A real bonus was that we found a laundrette just a short walk from the aire so that we could do the laundry this evening thus saving a job that we had planned to do en-route tomorrow. Wednesday’s journey was quite long enough without adding the 90+ minutes of a full wash/dry cycle.
We woke to another cold morning – just over freezing again. Our plan was to fuel up in Abbeville and then have coffee beside the River Somme. We had wanted to get LPG too but after much faffing around I gave up trying to get the pump to work at the Leclerc supermarket to work. There was only one LPG pump amd only one way I could go through the pumps and that meant the pump was on the wromg side of Bertie and whilst the hose just stretched far enough to connect it was under too much stress to make a proper connection so the pump would not initialize. Grrr.
We found our car park on the old river port easily enough and relaxed over a cup of coffee watching the ducks trying to swim against the considerable current in the river. All that rain has had to go somewhere!
Lunch stop on Wednesday was a bit a special. I had chosen to stop off at Montreuil sur Mer near Le Touquet. We had spent several happy days here in late May 2018. It is a nice old town with a complete set of really impressive ramparts. Once an important medieval port the river silted up over the centuries and the town is town well inland (despite its name!). For old times sake we had a walk around the ramparts once again. There is a good photo (taken in 2018) of these ramparts as one of the slider images at the top of pages on this website and you can see that they look much better in the summer sunshine than they did in early March!
It was quite a short trip from here to our overnight stop at Wissant just a few miles from Calais. Quite a large aire with a good number of motorhomes – almost all British with just one Belgian van. The little seaside town can be quite busy in the summer as it has a lovely sandy beach. Today in the wind and rain we managed to resist the urge to walk down there and go for a paddle!
Our train was booked for 11:50 on Thursday and with only 20kms to drive to the terminal at Coquelles we could afford to have a reasonable relaxed morning. We had never used the tunnel before and did not really know what to expect. The check in was entirely automated and the machine read the number plate and recognised us! I had to swipe the credit card I used to make the booking and confirm our details and then it offered us a place on the 10:50 train at no extra charge and printed out our ticket – the big piece of card you have to hang up in the windscreen and then we lined up awaiting the call to board our train. Passport control was fairly basic and quick, nobody wanted to check Bertie for stowaways. We did seem to drive a long way around the terminal between check in, passport control, security and then the terminal building where you wait to be called to board. Then from the Terminal building it was another drive to get on the platform to drive on to the train. To load on the train they open big doors in the side of a carriage at back of the train and then you drive down through the train until you can drive no further. They chocked our wheels and closed the doors between the carriages and shortly we were off. In fact we were barely aware of the movement it was that smooth. As the train picked up speed in the tunnel there was some sensation of motion and it was bit strange sitting at Bertie’s table feeling Bertie rocking on his suspension as though he was moving but I was not driving him.
Off loading at Folkstone was very quick and you are almost straight out on the M20. All security and border checks are done in France so there are no checks and formalties at all on the UK side. We were back in England – it was wet and rainy and the traffic was heavy and in a hurry and then road surface was pretty rough – even worse once we turned off the M20 on to the A road to Canterbury. I was not glad to be back!
We arrived at Canterbury aire at the Park and Ride before midday but the rain was constant and heavy and we did not stray off Bertie at all all day. We had lunch and supper and we played cards and read books – a seriously lazy day.
It was a lovely sunny day on Friday morning and the plan was to get the bus in to the city and do some serious shopping. The city was quite busy and it was nice to be back in an English speaking country where it was easy to understand and be understood. Eileen did not manage to find quite the right outfit she wanted but we still came away with several items we were pleased with!
Saturday was another travelling day. We had planned an easy drive to the motorhome car park in Thaxted on our way to my sister near Doncaster but the other day we had an unexpected invitation to spend a couple of days with an old friend in Halesworth in Suffolk. This is where we used to live before we moved to Moray in 2017 and it would be the first time we will have been back since! It was a much longer drive than I had expected and the roads were very busy and surprisingly rough in places. Planning the route I missed the choice of stopping places – Park4Night covers England but it had very few places to suggest where we could park for lunch between Dartford and Ipswich. On a journey of that length in France, Spain or Portugal I would be sifting through the 20 or 30 possibles to find the ones that sounded best. Britain is so unfriendly to the motorhome user and once again I wished I was back on the otherside of the channel.
I will close off this blog for now. When we get home I will write a final post and also do some statistics etc. Time to start thinking abour our next Bertie Adventure!