First Time In France

Discussion in 'France' started by TheCaller, Apr 28, 2015.

  1. TheCaller

    TheCaller Funster

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    A chronicle of our first ever trip to France in the van.

    The van is a 6.4m Globecar Campscout.
    The destination is the meet at Twin Lakes.

    The preparation seems to have been going on for a long time - starting with passport renewal, then travel insurance, getting solar panels fitted, improving internet access - it seemed to go on for ever. There are still jobs that need doing, such as improving the way the beds are lifted so that Jane's electric wheelchair can be hoisted in underneath.

    Monday morning saw some last minute work related jobs finished off, then the afternoon was dedicated to van packing. There must be a word for fitting the maximum number of irregular shaped objects into a rectangular space. The Campscout has a large garage like space under the rear bed, but that is mostly filled with the electric wheelchair. In the end, just about everything went in somewhere.

    We finally left early evening, whet 14 miles down the road, stopped & had dinner in the van. There still seemed a lot of people with places to go on a Monday evening, but the traffic gradually thinned & we had an increasingly easy run down to The Parade at Birchington, on the north Kent coast.

    We arrived around 1am to find was one other van there already, so not being French, we parked a respectable distance away & settled down for what remained of the night. Up shortly after 7am for a leisurely breakfast looking out to sea. No pictures, but it didn't look very different from a lot of other English seaside towns.

    Then down to Dover & onto an earlier ferry than the one I originally booked. When I made the booking, P&O had an offer on - a Standard Flexi ticket for the same price as their standard no refund, no changes ticket. This gives you a +/- 4 hr sailing window, plus a refund if you cancel. We were originally booked for the 15.40 sailing, turned up just before 11am & were on the 12.05 sailing. The channel was like a millpond, so we had an uneventful crossing.

    I must pay a compliment to the staff in the Food Court on board. We had taken Jane's folding manual chair onto the ship - partly because it's quicker to get in & out of the van & partly because it copes better with ships' door thresholds. So I was pushing Jane & she was balancing the tray on her lap. A young member of the catering staff appeared & offered to carry everything for us & guided us through the whole area, sorted teas & coffees & took us to a table. I'm not sure if it's part of their training or just something that she did, but it was a reminder that there are nice, helpful people about. The passenger area of the ship was pretty quiet - whether she would have had time to do the same on an August bank holiday weekend is another matter, but it made paying £10/head for cod & chips more bearable. :) (y)

    So that was it - off the boat & into France. Next instalment - a missed meeting & a chance meeting - to follow.
     
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  2. Allanm

    Allanm Funster

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    Sounds like you are off to a good start. It really is amazing what you can fit in a van if you really try. We came over last week to Brittany to work on our house here. Under the fixed bed, I have a fold up ladder that extends to 22 ft. A bike, 2 fold up chairs. 4 boxed air vent ( for fitting in cavity walls). An SDS drill, a set of diamond core drills. 20 litre fuel can and a 6 litre petrol can ( both empty) 2 pairs of wellys, 2 pairs of walking shoes, 6 litre container of water, Ring air pump, Ryobi cordless drill and 2 batteries, Sigma tile cutter, orbital sander, Bosch electric screwdriver kit, AstroTurf mat and a large Dewalt tool box.
    You should see what's under the side facing sofas........

    Allan
     
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  3. Madwife

    Madwife Deleted User

    Happy travels and enjoy France

    Kath
     
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  4. TheCaller

    TheCaller Funster

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    So, off the boat & turn right. Rather more right than the original plan, because we kept turning right until we were in the aire by the harbour. Plan mark II had been to meet up here with treetops1 & possibly travel down in a loose sort of convoy. I only managed to send contact details at the weekend & he hasn't logged in since last Wednesday, so I hope all is well. So we had a look round the aire but couldn't see either a van that looked like treetop1's avatar nor was there a funster sticker in sight.

    So, out of Calais & down the coast road. We thought we would look in at Wissant on the way past, but with no firm intention of stopping, because it was still fairly early. We drove round the parking area anyway & lo & behold, a french registered van with a Funster sticker in the front window. So we parked alongside & introduced myself by waving my tax disc funster badge through their windscreen. Who should appear from inside but Mrs Munchie, shortly followed by the man himself. Ken & Steph are on their way to the UK - obviously in flight from the mass invasion going the other way!

    We chatted for a while, but decided that we would stick to what passes for a plan & go at least a little bit further. So armed with the co-ordinates of the Boulogne-sur-Mer aire kindly supplied by Steph, we set off again.

    Those of you who have been before will know that the aire is just a little way down the hill from the roundabout above the town. We didn't & when we got to the roundabout, the sat nav wanted to send us off along the main road that skirts the town. Oh good, thinks I, we will miss the town centre. Not so - we were brought back into town, just on a different road. Right through the middle, until we reached the outskirts on the northern edge. Up the hill out of town & there is the aire on the left, except you can't turn left into it - you have to go up to the top of the hill, round the roundabout & back down. The roundabout? Yes, the very same roundabout we had been at 15 mins earlier before being sent off in a big circle! (n) :(

    Lovely sea view now we are here though.

    So we will fill up with fuel in the morning at the Auchan down the road & see where we get to tomorrow.
     
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  5. GAVLAD

    GAVLAD Funster

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    I'm liking your mini blog - you're visiting Aires that I'd like to try out so please keep us posted!
    Cheers
     
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  6. TheCaller

    TheCaller Funster

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    Well, we got a bit further today. Rather a leisurely start to the day, but I was up & dressed (just) by the time the chap from the council came round for his €5.25 around 8.30. But by the time we had had breakfast, sorted out the van a bit, stopped at the dump to empty grey waste & the cassette, then stopped at the garage to fill up with fuel, half the morning had gone. The day was grey & overcast first thing, but by the time we left Boulogne-sur-Mer the clouds had parted & it was a lovely sunny day - albeit a bit chilly if you were outside & out of the direct sunshine.

    We stopped & had some lunch at Maucomble services, on the A28 just before St-Saens, then paused briefly at the aire at Pont-de-l'Arche - partly to sus it out for a future trip & partly to reset the sat nav, because I had set Pont-de-lArche as the destination when we set off this morning. It is nicely situated, town in one direction, just across the street & a view over the river in the other.

    We decided that nice as it was, it was too early to stop if we were to make Twin Lakes by Friday, so the sat nav was reprogrammed for Vendome & off we went again. We pulled over for a cup of tea around Chartres & had a look at searchforsites.co.uk to see if we could find somewhere nice to stop around Vendome. That produced the suggestion of the aire at Les Roches-l'Eveque, so the sat nav programming was refined further & off we went again for the final bit for today. Les Roches-l'Eveque is about 10km west of Vendome & the aire is on the banks of the Loire. It is tiny, but as we are the only van here, not a problem. In theory, it has toilets & showers, but they are all locked up & I'm not convinced they will be open even in the hight of the season. Those used to Caravan Club standards would be a little disappointed, open or locked! There is a free bourne for dump plus water though. It looks to be in working order, but we will find out in the morning. Looks almost new. The very small drive over grey waste channel will require some accurate positioning if I'm not to water the surrounding area instead! Co-ordinates are 47.77772: 0.89189. No charge.

    The village is a fascinating place, being built into the cliff face of the river valley. I might try for a picture in the morning, but it won't due it justice. Sadly, the place is very run down - lovely old stone buildings, but with half of them in a state of disrepair & many for sale. No shop, but we did get some fresh eggs from the last surviving farm in the village. In a way, it was gratifying to meet two people who didn't speak a word of English, so for once our very few words of French made us the linguistic experts. We chatted for a good 15 minutes & I can tell you that the conversation covered chickens, ducks & rabbits, but mainly because they were there in front of us! There was some explanation about how the houses were built into the rock of the cliffs, but the finer details of that escaped me.

    It's an excellent stopover for the night & well worth the short detour from the route. The Michelin map has a viewpoint marked just up the road out of the village, so we might leave in that direction in the morning & have a look.
     
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  7. BreweryDave

    BreweryDave Funster Life Member

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    Chickens, ducks and rabbits. Sounds like your vocabulary will serve you well in the local restaurants then!
    Have a great time you two and keep the blog going !
    Bonchance!
     
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  8. Mr Mousy

    Mr Mousy Funster Life Member

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    Loving your posts - keep them coming.
     
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  9. Allanm

    Allanm Funster

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    Nice write up of your trip so far. I've had many conversations with locals and come away wondering what each of us have actually said to one another. Apparently you have to shrug a lot and blow air out of barely open lips while looking to heaven. Seems to work for me, luckily Mrs A is always on hand to help out and translate.
    If your weathers anything like ours at the moment, it's a good day to either drive or stay in bed!
    Allan
     
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  10. scousebird

    scousebird Funster

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    Loving your write ups - keep them coming (y)
     
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  11. Madwife

    Madwife Deleted User

    Great to read of your exploits and travels.

    Kath
     
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  12. irnbru

    irnbru Funster Life Member

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    I love reading peoples blogs but it doesn't half make me want to get overseas too.
    Keep on posting !
     
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  13. TheCaller

    TheCaller Funster

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    It is.

    Drive is the obvious option, but before setting off, at a minimum need to pack the levelling ramps away - this aire slopes quite markedly down to the river, so had to dig them out last night. Putting them away involves taking quite a lot out of the garage to get everything back in - there is so much stuff in there it only all fits one way & the ramps have to be at the bottom with other stuff on top. Also should really dump water & cassette & really do need to fill with fresh. So I must stop putting it off & go & get wet. (n)

    Also had internet access problems this morning. Was behaving the same way as it does when you run out of data - connection fine but would only connect to Three. Problem solved by that good old IT Support desk standby - turn it all off & turn it on again.
     
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  14. Debs

    Debs Funster

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    Really enjoying reading about your trip......any chance of some pics please? (I know that's cheeky:rolleyes:)
     
  15. TheCaller

    TheCaller Funster

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    Limited upload at the moment. Camera work not my forte either. And it's pi$$ing it down. There are pictures of this aire on searchforsites.co.uk though.
     
  16. TheCaller

    TheCaller Funster

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    Sorry - no pictures. It didn't stop raining & I got damp enough just doing the essentials this morning. Jane did take a few last night with her camera. I've never used it, so haven't a clue how or even if it's possible to upload them. It won't be until I have a Wifi connection though.

    A good day for covering the miles without distractions. It has drizzled steadily all day - mostly varying levels of intermittent wipe. Pleased to report that the new pair of series wired solar panels still managed to put some useful charge into the batteries, despite no actual sunshine all day. Not that it mattered today, as we were driving, but the voltmeter was showing a charging voltage whether we were stopped or moving.

    We had a couple of those eggs we got last night for breakfast. Jane is more of an egg connoisseur than I am, but she pronounced them as very good. I left two more in the pan a bit longer to ensure they were properly hard-boiled, so as to add something to the lunchtime stop.

    Very little to report from the journey itself. We stopped for lunch on the D910 south of Tours at a nice picnic area by a fishing lake at Port-de-Piles. Judging by the information board, there are some nice walks & cycle rides in the triangle formed by Port-de-Piles, Descartes & Dange-St-Romain, should anyone be there with time to kill. By the way, sorry about the lack of accents etc - haven't the energy to look up the required key combinations.

    We stopped for a cup of tea around five'ish at the aire de repose at Maine-de-Boxie, a little way north of Angouleme. Nice setting, but probably not the idea overnight stop for the sensitive - a lot of lone men appearing in cars for no apparent reason. No doubt those disappearing into the surrounding woods were just going for a pee in preference to using the toilets provided. :whistle:

    So while we drank our tea (& ate our ginger cake), I had a look on searchforsites.co.uk for somewhere close to the route to stop. As a result we are on what appears to be a popular aire just off the N10 a little south of Angouleme at Roullet-St-Estephe. About 15 vans here now, which is probably something over half full. Rather a contrast to last night, when we were all alone. I can't tell you much about the village, because it's still raining & I've done my share of getting wet for the day. There is a motorhome dealer just over the road though.

    So only about an hour's drive to Twin Lakes tomorrow. The weather forecast is for showers mid-morning to early afternoon, so I think we will have a leisurely drive over to arrive around mid-day as originally planned, have a bite to eat, wait for the rain to stop & then put up our day shelter. That would be called a drive-away awning, except that it doesn't attach to the van, so is either the ultimate drive-away, or isn't an awning at all, according to your point of view. Once that's up, I can get a lot of stuff out of the garage, making getting Jane's electric wheelchair in & out a relatively simple job. At that point, a shopping trip into town will be called for. Jane has run out of wine & has been suggesting a raid on my beer supplies, so getting her resupplied is going to be a priority. We only put one bottle of white in the fridge when we left - seemed a bit daft to bring wine to France!
     
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  17. TheCaller

    TheCaller Funster

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    Following on from Jane's wine supply crisis (easily resolved); whether or not she raids my beer supply I will soon have a looming beer crisis. As I'm in France, I will of course partake of a little of the home grown red, but I do really prefer beer.

    What are the recommended French beers for someone who is a real ale bitter drinker?
     
  18. Munchie

    Munchie Funster Life Member

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    Errrr England????
     
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  19. lindylou

    lindylou Funster

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    As a regular beer drinker, my husband takes a selection of Brit beers with him but enjoys Afligen and Pelforth which have good body and rich taste unlike the usual lager type beer. Pelforth do a blonde and brunette but also an in between which he prefers. Not a French beer bur Leffe brune and blonde are both great and available in larger supermarkets at a fraction of their cost in UK. Hope this helps.
     
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  20. TheCaller

    TheCaller Funster

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    Thanks for those suggestions. I'll see if I can find any of those when we hit the supermarket tomorrow. I've have brought some with me, but they won't last the trip.

    I don't really mind whether it's French beer, or imported from Belgium, Germany or even England (some hope!), but I feel that while I'm here I ought at least to give it a chance! :)

    I don't really mind a decent lager, but finding one can be a problem in England. Probably a better chance over here. The way the weather is at the moment, only a full bodied red wine or an English winter beer would be properly appropriate. :(
     
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