Finally taking the plunge.
After a brief break where we got our Norwich house in order - we swopped our ten year old tyres for all season Avon tyres and thought we were ready for the big trip. Sadly on the way home from the garage an oncoming lorry clipped our mirror on a narrow section of road. Luckily the mirror remained intact but lost its back casing and the fish eye mirror underneath.
After we rang the garage and heard there was a 5 week waiting list we thought 'sod this' and decided to go for it anyway. We bought little adhesive fisheye disks from eBay which gives the extra view for cyclists. We can replace the casing when we return from eBay. However it shook me up a bit as I realized that large vehicles will own the road even if there's not room and look out every one else. It was probably no bad thing as it'll keep me on my toes ( it wasn't my fault - but that doesn't make much difference!)
As our oven is lousy in the van , I made an impulsive purchase of a Dutch oven (very heavy cast iron pan and lid) which you can use as an oven on the hob top so I'm excited about dry cooking with that.
Here is the tale of my first little baking effort.
After.... (The bottoms)
The tops .......
Although more than half had to be chucked - I was actually encouraged by this as it proved they were cooked right through.I had kept the heat on high, not believing a low flame would cook them. Now I know!
We loaded my bike on the back with the correct warning sign on it for Europe.
There's room for another if we find Martin would like to cycle too.
We have a very vague plan to go down the east of France, cross over around the Dordogne valley and up the west coast but are very flexible and at this point - just to get over into France in our trusty Lenny will certainly feel like an achievement.
I think I got distracted when I was looking out CDs to bring as we only seem to have my circle dance music on board which is mainly eastern European. I find it very restful but the nasal bagpipe sounding pipes tend to put Martin's teeth on edge after a few hours.There's always something we forget. It was my socks last time but luckily Martin didn't notice when I borrowed his. This time I forgot my guitar but bought all my recorders, my hand drum and my bongo drums as well as the big keyboard. You never know when you'll need them.
Finally it was time for off and this time we weren't racing to recharge the engine - having allowed it to drain like before - and we were able to enjoy a more leisurely departure via a supermarket where we couldn't think of what English stuff we would miss for a month. We bought a huge box of Yorkshire tea bags and marmite and thought that would do. Looking forward to the French cheese, chocolate and wine.
We proceeded to our 'Brit stop' pub in a village near Ashford 'The Running Horse' who kindly allowed us to stay in the car park if we'd consider eating there.We love being forced to eat out! The village was called one of the longest names I've ever seen for such a small
It was a 17th century ex coach house overlooking a village green that was big enough for a cricket pitch.
A lovely rural Kent vignette for a few hours.
The next day was very exciting as we were going to catch the shuttle UNDER THE SEA to get to Calais France. The Folkestone terminal was exciting enough - it was like an airport. Lenny looked quite tiny alongside large lorries as we waited for our train to be called. I was amused to see a cordoned off area for dog walking and I imagined Pip stretching his legs there. (We sadly had to leave him behind with Poppy until he gets more settled.)
Finally our train was called and it felt very bizarre to drive onto a train platform and onto a train. You drive along inside the train until it's your turn to stop and someone slides a screen in front and locks you in place but there is a little corridor beside your vehicle that goes the length of the train for if people need to find a loo or get claustrophobia of something.
When the lights flashed and bells rang we started to pull away. The windows slowly went dark and it felt very odd but the dee dum dee dum noise told us we were indeed still on a train. After 35 minutes of swaying around, daylight appeared again and we stopped next to another train platform with French signs outside - clearly we had arrived! One by one the vehicles in front pulled away and it was our turn to turn left out of the train, drive along the platform and onto the ramp. I think they must've told all the officials to smile reassuringly at newcomers as I'm sure I was looking very anxious because everyone kept beaming at me.
It's always scary to suddenly change the side of the road you drive on and this time was no different. I felt like I was way further over than I should be and it took a while to adjust. Meanwhile Martin was really enjoying being a near side passenger at last and not facing traffic head on as it were. The roads quickly emptied -everyone raced away while we were crawling along - and suddenly it was beautifully rural and peaceful.
Rolling green fields on each side as far as the eye could see, a Bulgarian choir shrieking through the sub woofers, sat nav primed for our first camp site 100 kilometres away - we were on our way!
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