11th May 2010 Le Touquet (France) to Stourbridge (England)

12 05 2010

We didn’t rise particularly early today as we were in no particular rush. We wanted to get the journey to Calais over with pretty quickly so that we could get some lunch and relax before catching our 18.25 crossing from Calais to Dover. The plan then was to stop on the Marine Parade in Dover for the night before heading back ‘home’ on Wednesday morning.

We set off and headed toward Calais, avoiding a few nutter French drivers on the way who didn’t seem to see me as I approached traffic islands. We saw a big shopping centre and thought that that would be a good place to get some cheap wines before we got back into the UK so we pulled off the motorway at the next junction and then totally failed to find the entrance to the massive shopping centre, instead ending up at the entrance to the Eurotunnel. We gave up on that one and got back on the motorway heading for Calais when we saw another large wine warehouse so we pulled off the motorway again and managed this time to get straight there. We had a good browse round and Lorna even tasted some wines before buying them, we ended up over 30 bottles after all of the buy 12 get 6 free offers had been taken into account, at least we won’t be short of wine for a while now.

We had a bite to eat at the McDonalds that was close by and then headed to catch the ferry. We had pre-booked our tickets so all that was needed was to arrive, check in, get Jacks passport checked, get on the ferry and go back to the UK, simple enough but things never seem to go that easily do they. We arrived at the first checkpoint and all of the booking seemed ok, two adults, one dog. Jacks passport and injection information was to be checked at the next checkpoint so we drove up and handed over his passport, all of his injections were fine so then we were handed the scanner to scan his microchip. I scanned his neck and handed the scanner back but there was a problem……..the numbers didn’t match his passport. We rechecked it and again the numbers didn’t match, we were both utterly confused and quite worried at this point and more so when the woman called her supervisor, we had visions of quarrantine enforcement and the like. The check that the vet did the day before was fine so we really couldn’t understand why the numbers wouldn’t match up, most strange.

We pulled up at the supervisors office and were called in by a fairly burly French man who again checked the passport and then scanned Jacks neck, the numbers matched. How very strange! He said that there was no problem and issued our tickets as well as telling us that we could get on the next ferry, the 4.10pm sailing………excellent.

We boarded the ferry and made ourselves comfortable for the crossing, Jack was laid out on his bed looking quite relaxed about the whole affair so we were happy to leave him. Then we left the continent and headed back to the UK.

Leaving Calais.

We arrived back in the UK having already decided to just head back to the Midlands rather than stay at Dover. We arranged our bed for the night at my Mom’s house and made the journey which gave us a total travel distance excluding the ferry of just over 480Km, more driving than we have ever done in one day on our travels.

So, that’s it……..travels done. We went as far south west and as far south as we possibly could in Europe, we have seen places that the ‘normal holidaymaker’ will probably never see, we have visited some amazing place, seen some great sights, had some quite incredible battles with Hewlett Packard and met some incredible people. I think actually that the people we have met have made the experience so much more exciting and entertaining and we hope to catch up with some of them soon. Hopefully we will be in the road again in November when all of the things that we need to sort out in the UK have been sorted. The plan for then is to go through to Portugal and spend the UK Winter months there, moving about less and spending more time taking it easy, then back into France when it’s warmer and have a good look around the eastern side of the country that we have missed out on on this trip.

There is a map of where we went  here and I will soon be making another page here listing all of the places that we overnighted with GPS Co-Ordinates and facilities detailed.


10th May 2010 Caudebec-En-Caux to Le Touquet Paris Plage

10 05 2010

The day didn’t start as badly as it got later on. We set the alarm to wake us so we could get to the vets first thing. We woke, had a small breakfast and a cup of tea and headed over the large bridge that spans the Seine and went into the town of Caudebec-en-Caux to visit the vet. Typically my sat nav decided to take us actually into the town and I was presented with narrow steets with bollards along the side, nothing that I haven’t had before but it does make for some difficult manouvering at times. I lost my concentration for the briefest of moments as I approached a crossroads where two of the three exits were no entry and the only exit was made more difficult to negotiate due to poor parking when there was a loud scrape from my offside. I’d hit one of the bollards leaving the one side of the motorhome with scrapes and dents in it. Not at all happy, especially as now I will have to claim on my insurance to get repairs done. The driver that had parked right on the crossroads had to come and move her car so I could get around the corner and, after a bit of repositioning I got out of the town and parked up on the front ready to go to the vet.

We walked to the vets and they couldn’t see us until 12.30 so we walked around a bit and had a coffee in a bar before returning to the motorhome to wait for the appointment time.

When that time came we returned to the vet and a nice lady weighed Jack before we actually saw the vet. Jack had maintained his weight so that was a plus. In the surgery section the lady vet talked to Lorna about Jacks breed as she hadn’t seen a Lurcher before and then proceeded with his health checks, all fine. Tick treatment done she then have to give Jack an injection. He has had injections before and has not been bothered by them but this was different. She produced a fairly ling needle, maybe just over an inch long and primed it with the drug before holding up some skin on the back of his neck. No problem so far. When she put the needle in Jack wailed and tried to get away meaning that she had to withdraw the needle without sucessfully getting the drug in. She asked us to hold his head and she did the same again but Jack reacted in the same way and again she had to withdraw before getting the drug in. Jack was now really nervous but strangely lay down, still crying. The vet had to change the needle and try again, this time sucessfully but Jack was not at all happy, crying like I have never heard before. The vet explained that the injection stung a little. Jack can be a bit of a wimp at times but he was clearly not at all comfortable and was on the floor crying and trying to get to where he had been injected to scratch it, he couldn’t so the vet gave him a good rub there and it seemed to do the trick. Within a few seconds he was fine again, it seemed like ages though. Poor Jack.

It was soon poor us when we were presented with a bill for €58 made up of €26.50 consulation charge (not bad for 10 minutes eh!) €18 for the injection and €13.50 for one treatment of Frontline (in the UK we pay around £10 for three treatments). I had read that the normal charge for the necessary treatments to repatriate a dog into the UK would be anything from €20 to €50 so we felt royally ripped off.

We then made our way to Le Touquet which was a drive of around 185km. We got there at about 4pm and had a spot of lunch before walking around to try and find the town as we really wanted to eat out that night. Luckily the town had quite a few restaurants so we headed back to the motorhome and later, after giving Jack a good run by the beach, we wandered back into the town to eat.

We found the busiest restaurant and went in and sat down, Lorna ordered a bottle of wine for us both and then the steak pave for her, I ordered the mixed grill. Lorna had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be a decent bit of steak and her thoughts were right as when it arrived it looked both thick and juicy but it was nowhere near as tender as we had had elsewhere, even from a supermarket so it went back and she had the entrecôte instead which was much better. My mixed grill was fine. It wasn’t exactly what we had in mind for our last meal in France but we both had a good night of it anyway. Back at the motorhome we had a glass of Pineau each and retired to bed. Not a good start to the day but it ended well.

9th May 2010 La Suze sur Sarthe to Caudebec-En-Caux

10 05 2010

We said our goodbyes to the people we had met on the aire and started our 217km journey to La Mailleray sur Seine which was an aire that we had visited on our way south in January.

We made a decision to use the normal roads as opposed to the tolls, the sat nav was telling us that despite being further on the toll roads using them would get us there quicker. From experience we knew this wouldn’t be the case as we don’t reach the speed limit on the motorways so using them would actually be a bad idea as it would be more kilometres as well as taking us longer. The roads today were exeptionally quiet, we travelled for ages without seeing any signs of life at all so we made good ground. This was the case until we hit a small town where they had a big market going on which we had to drive straight through, slowly.

We headed into La Mailleraye sur Seine and things changed a bit, all of a sudden there were lots of people about, something was definitely going on. We had heard that the aire was inaccessible as there was a big fun fair on the land and as we headed into the town centre we saw that the road was closed, we headed out of town just in time to avoid becoming part of a big procession including marching bands and stilt walkers, though we did get quite a few long stares from the assembled crowds. We knew of another aire just a little further down the river at Caudebec-En-Caux (N49•31’15 E000•43’38) so we headed there and squeezed into a tight parking spot before we had a late lunch/early dinner.

Tomorrows job is to get Jack checked over and his passport stamped at the vets before we make our way to Le Toquet for the night before heading to Calais to catch our ferry back to the UK on Tuesday evening.

8th May 2010 La Suze-sur-Sarthe

8 05 2010

The furthest we drove today was as far as the water drain and tap so that we could replenish our water supply and dump our waste. We had a rest day as we both needed a break from the four hour journeys that we have been having to get us up to the north of France ready to catch our ferry back to the UK. Of course, nothing is quite that simple as we had to locate a vet so that Jacks passport could get stamped which has to happen between 24 and 48 hours before we arrive back in England. Dennis and Shirley to the rescue!

We had just returned from giving Jack a good walk and had filled and emptied our water and relocated slightly so that our electricity cable would reach the free power supply when Dennis and Shirley walked past and said that then would be a good time to use their laptop to book the ferry. We both went over to their motorhome and they had a really good wi-fi signal from a network that I hadn’t seen, even walking around the town with my iTouch searching for an accessible wi-fi signal. Those little repeater devices really are superb and one is definitely on the must have list now. We managed to book a P&O ferry from Calais to Dover for 6.25pm on Tuesday next week, though I ended up having to phone to book as there was no option to add a dog on the website. Then I found a site which gave details if vets by French region number and we located one that was close to our next stop tomorrow, excellent!

Las Suze-sur-Sarthe

The remainder of the afternoon was a wet one as the rain came down fairly consistently, that gave me a chance to watch some more Star Trek and Lorna to finish her book. Inbetween this I wandered up to the town to get a baguette for our dinner of hot dogs with some lovely sausages I bought yesterday and today’s nice fresh bread.

A most relaxing day which was a much needed break before we set off again tommorrow, headed for an aire we used on the way down in January, St Mailleraye-sur-Seine, just west of Rouen. A nice quiet spot right on the banks of the river Seine.

7th May 2010 Mortagne-sur-Gironde to La Suze-sur-Sarthe

7 05 2010

We didn’t leave Mortagne-sur-Gironde until around 11.30am local time but when we did we knew we had a long drive ahead of us to get to our next stop of La Fleche, somewhere we had been a few years ago and liked.

The route to La Fleche was one of D roads and no toll motorways as when we looked at the map and sat nav it seemed that that was the most straightforward route to get there. Many of the D roads are actually quite quick as they are normally dead straight so we thought that we should be able to maintain a reasonable pace as well as being able to see some of the towns we passed through on our journey, much better than being stuck on a motorway. En-route we stopped off at a massive Super U supermarket just outside of Parthenay to get some food for our dinner, before we carried on to La Fleche.

As we approached La Fleche we noticed that there were signs for McDonalds and another Super U, this confused us somewhat as we remembered the town being a small sleepy place with just a couple of bars and small shops. We arrived in the town and only recognised certain parts, the river, the campsite and the bridge, apart from that we were slightly stunned at how big and busy it was, nothing like we remembered it at all. The parking place for motorhomes was right on the banks of the river next to a busy main road, we parked up and decided to investigate a little further taking Jack for a walk at the same time. We finished the walk feeling bemused, we couldn’t quite work out where we camped all those years ago and certainly couldn’t fathom how the town was so different to how we remembered it, most strange.

I didn’t fancy stopping the night there as I really needed a good nights sleep without the disruption of a busy main road, plus the fact that we couldn’t get the motorhome very level and that turns out to be quite important with the way our pull down bed works. Lorna was way ahead of me and had already put in the co-ordinates for La Suze-sur-Sarthe which was an aire I had considered going to earlier in the day. It was only half an hour away so we left and headed to there hoping it would be quieter.

We arrived at La Suze-sur-Sarthe and pulled into the designated parking place (N47•53’22 E000•01’52), 314km covered since we left earlier that day. The aire is right on the river banks and really is a lovely spot. We soon got chatting to Dennis and Sylvia who were parked opposite us and in the conversation they mentioned that they had got internet access as they had some kind of wi-fi aerial that can pick up weaker unsecured signals that a normal PC wouldn’t see. I was straight in there asking if I could use it to book our ferry back, I had phoned the Caravan Club to book it but they took so long to answer the phone I gave up having spent a fortune on the international call, terrible service. We arranged to do it in the morning. Whilst chatting we also met John and Sharon who we had parked next to.

We had our dinner of pan fried duck breast with potato and tomato salad and were just clearing up when John and Sharon walked past our door. We had another chat and invited them in for drinks and then had a very pleasant night drinking and hearing tales of their travels and their old and highly unreliable Hymer.

We eventually got to bed at around midnight, totally shattered but very happy with life.

6th May 2010 Biarritz to Montagne-sur-Gironde

6 05 2010

Today’s journey was one of 294km from Biarritz to a little town north of Bordeaux and south of La Rochelle called Montagne-sur-Gironde, it looked like a nice place in our aires book and it wasn’t far off of our intended route back to Calais.

First thing we took Jack for another run on the beach at Biarritz before heading to the supermarket to get a fresh baguette and some stuff for breakfast on the way. The journey again involved the use of toll roads, but, on this occasion the sat nav was saying that by using them we would save over an hour on our journey so it seemed worth it considering our now tighter schedule.

We hit the motorways fairly quickly after leaving Biarritz and were quite happy pottering along at around 90-100km/h for the majority of our route. We stopped at a motorway services just north of Bordeaux and had ham on a baguette for lunch and then continued our journey. Once off the motorway we travelled through the beautiful French countryside with grape vine fields stretching far into the distance and through small villages with the kind of French architecture that we remembered from our journey south five months ago.

We arrived at Mortagne-sur-Gironde and found the aire easily (N45•28’34 W000•47’34), a lovely spot right next to a riverside marina opposite a row of traditional French houses with some restaurants along the front, gorgeous.

The marina at Montagne-sur-Gironde

We parked up and then moved after we realised that the motorhome we had parked next to had a cat, no need to stress Jack we thought. We then walked Jack for a good 45 minutes and when we returned we noticed that one of the lock up stalls not far from where we had parked had opened up, as it happened it was the stall of a local vineyard that was selling both red and white wine as well as Cognac and a locally produced beer. We obviously had to visit and bought a good stock for both us and presents for our nearest and dearest for when we return to the UK next week. The beer was the first locally brewed ‘ale’ I have seen since we set off in December 2009 so I had to try some. The woman selling it said it was very good and it had Cognac in it, I should think so, it was 7.5%!

Vine, Window, Door

We took our purchases back to the motorhome and had a chance to try some of them out, all superb, our nearest and dearest are very lucky! Dinner was steak with potato salad which we ate whilst watching motorhome after motorhome turn up. After this we planned the route for tomorrow, undecided at the time of writing but sure to be a reasonable distance again.

5th May 2010 Palencia (Spain) to Biarritz (France)

5 05 2010

We set off from Palencia a little later than we had anticipated and hit the road at around 10.30am (11.30am Spanish time as we still hadn’t adjusted our clocks). We had decided that we would use the toll roads as we could cover the distance we needed to more quickly than using non toll roads, plus the fact that the normal roads had more tunnels on them than the tolls and Lorna is not comfortable with tunnels at all.

We headed from Palencia toward Burgos and then from there toward Bilbao on the toll road. We had no idea how much the toll would be and unfortunately you don’t find out until you get off, in our case over 150km later. Lorna estimated €10 but it was no suprise to me to be charged nearly €18 for the use of the road, I abhore paying tolls! After this we decided to set the sat nav to take us to Biarritz which, from where we were was suprisingly close, around an hour or so away.

It would have been an hour away if it hadn’t have been for an accident on the motorway we were on which delayed us for a good 40 minutes. Once through this we then hit three more toll booths, one for over €7 and the other two for around €2 each…….I hate paying tolls, did I mention that?

We stopped off at the Intermarche in Biarritz to get some meat for our dinner as our recent diet has been quite poor (Burger King, eggs and ham and other ‘snacky’ food) but couldn’t resist a big chunk of brie, some bread and some chorizo to go with our lamb and lentils.

It had rained for the majority of the day and when we pulled up at the Biarritz aire it stopped for long enough for me to take a recently neglected Jack out for a good walk and a run on the beach, something that he appreciated greatly seeing the way that he exitedly ran around like a nutter on the beach.

Dinner was had with a bottle of Portuguese wine and then plans were made for our journey the next day which will take us up to the Bordeaux area, another 3 hour plus drive.

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