thought I'd do a rolling diary of our family holiday to France, the list of characters are myself, Mr Mousy, our 2 lads, George 20 and Harry 18 and ruby 8 our Scottish terrier.
We set off from South Wales this morning, booked onto the euro tunnel 17.50 crossing. The journey has been good so far, but different to a journey with just the 2 of us, we usually listen to an audio book...nah boys not having that! We've been spotified to within an inch of our lives, they have eaten half the food in the van and our normally spotless interior is covered in crap...and I'm loving it..
Still feeling in the holiday mood even the news the Chunnel is shut, we are stuck in traffic and it's a sweltering hot day won't dampen the spirits in this van, Haz has been getting used to his new camera by taking shots of the passing vans, we've now got bomb disposal squad racing by....
What ever the incident was, we are now past it. 2 hours parked up on the M25, made some new friends, a middle aged couple behind on their way to the opera asked us very politely for some milk, slightly random.
We are now 20 miles away from the Chunnel which had reopened, we've been in the Moho for 9 hours now, slightly flagging but the lack of fuel both in the van and the last three petrol stations we have tried is giving us all a welcome boost of nervous energy. Plan A is to pull over and start ringing petrol stations to find one with diesel. Plan B will see us parked/stranded in Kent.... Gulp
Boys still smiling though, old enough for a beer!?
Fear not fellow funsters we are safely in France although it's been an awful journey. We got to the terminal and were offered an 05.50 train, not the best of timings but I was bouyed by the thought of all that duty free shopping, not the beer and wine but Molton brown! We had left our number with customer services and half an hour later we were called to say an extra train was leaving "did we want to be on it?" Of course we abandoned the display of Prada sunglasses and got going. It was now 11.50.
We had a nice chat with a train driver who said not to stop anywhere near Calais as the immigration problem was horrendous, we saw quite a few groups of people as we drove out of Calais it reminded us of downtown Maputo in Mozambique! Sadly they didn't seem to be selling us oranges or cashew nuts..
The boys had by now passed out in the back but we drove on for an hour, on almost empty roads. We came off the motorway and into a village, found an empty Carpark and crashed out. We woke up a few hours later to find we were in the Carpark of the village school!
Onward to Troyes...
So to carry on from the last post I'll update you all about yesterday. Prepare to be bored...we were and we lived it!
We woke up somewhere in France in a school car park. At 2 am in the dark it looked like a secluded place to park, daylight revealed the school entrance that would bring a horde of French mothers and their little darlings. We left the boys sleeping and took the dog for a quick walk. It was 7.30am and sunny. Martin used his school boy French to buy coffee but we couldn't see a bakery. Conscious of the school run we drove off in a hurry heading towards Reims.
We put 100 miles under the wheels and arrived in Reims, we passed 3 bakery's that we couldn't park outside of, finally I spotted a good one. Mr Mousy went in for deux baggets, huit pain au chocolate and huit croissants. Unfortunately it was a butchers. This set the tone for the rest of the day, gadgets not working, the wrong phones left on charge, the cable for the iPad not charging, the sat nav insisting we were in Poland, realising we had left all the aires, French passion and the travel books at home...the list of minor calamities went on. And it's hot, really hot, air con in van struggling to keep us cool and outside is like a pizza oven. We are all endlessly drinking water and so filling up the toilet cassette.
We drive on to Troyes. A friend has recommended a trip to the outlet park.
In this heat even I can't summon up the enthusiasm to shop but we all take it in turns to just stand in the shop entrance with the dog under the aircon units. Lots of strange looks. We can't understand how the natives look so cool and chic as we are all really struggling in the heat. George has just returned from a month in Singapore and even he is wilting.
I realise this holiday has disaster written all over it, drastic measures are needed..
I send mr mousy off to buy an apple cable so we can use the iPods sat nav. I get out last years camperstop book which ironically has survived mr mousys previous book cull. I say ironically because it's so difficult to use, we had managed to buy a copy that the index or map index number doesn't match the page numbers and of course we can't remember how many pages back or forward you have to go. 19 or 7? Bloody nightmare!
I realise our style of holiday, drifting from aire to aire with good restaurants and a bit of sight seeing in between is not working for the boys.
We need a campsite, with electric for the hab air con, near water for swimming, with cycle tracks in dappled shade and an endless supply of baked goods...
We found all that at...
Now finally enjoying a holiday, although I'm worried about our route to Annecy tommorow!
Today started with a quiet walk down onto the beach with ruby, I was surprised to see so many people up and about at 7am, fellow campers enjoying breakfast and the site owners watering the plants and tidying around. I felt a bit shaky, the boys have been crashing in the rear transverse bed leaving the drop down over cab bed to Mr Mousy and myself. Climbing into bed is no problem but getting out another matter, in my mind I am a swift footed gazelle or at worse a sure footed mountain goat in reality I'm part elephant bouncing off the bed onto the table before landing in a heap onto the floor.
I've swiftly put a sundress over my head, slapped a hat on, collected the dog for a quick walk around the pitch but as its a beautiful day I venture further getting to the beach before I remember I'm not wearing any underwear and my face still has pillow creases on it.
I get back to meet Mr Mousy now up and ready for a bike ride. I get changed and off we go, Mr Mousy casually shouts over his shoulder "just to let you know I've disconnected your front brake"
We cycle along the beautiful cycle track that hugs the lake shore, the birds are really loud but the shade from the trees very welcome as even at 9.00am it's a scorcher.
I explain to Mr Mousy that my outfit of baby blue linen Capri trousers and lemon and blue flowery top is my homage to tres chic. Straw hat the final touch. He says I look like Miss
12 miles later I'm regretting my outfit choice and praying for my padded pants..,
Last edited: Jul 2, 2015
This was a weekend with a secret mission...to win over the hearts and minds of our 2 sons George and Harry to the delights of motorhoming. Some of you may have met them last year at the ill fated Ilracombe rally. We had a 2 berth autosleeper van then so they followed us down in a car and slept in 2 little pup tents. We caught the tail end of a hurricane so the weather was awful, I didn't sleep very well for worrying about them out in the tents as the van was swaying in the wind and the rain was lashing down. When I looked out at first light they hadn't been washed away but the wind was so fearce you could see the outline of their bodies as the wind pushed the tent down onto them. It took us two nights of this to think about moving the car to provide a windbrake! Needless to say they were less than amused and not loving the motorhome life.
In January this year we changed the van to a Hymer with 4 seat belts and 2 huge beds. Although twin singles at the back would of been a better layout, for the majority of the time it's just Mr Mousy and I so a transverse over the garage was ideal.
The boys are the youngest of our four kids and have always got on well, they will have to get on even better to share a bed this weekend! Harry the youngest stands at 6 foot 5 inches and George isn't far behind...big boys to have in a small space! With this in mind we had planned this weekend with military precision, lots of time out of the van, meals out, exciting activities and beer, lots of beer.
We set off from home near Llanelli on Friday afternoon for the horrid drive to Aberystwyth where George is at uni studying Geology. No matter which way you go the roads are awful, plenty of blind bends, twists and turns, sheer drops on one side, cliff walls on the other all made worse by the Hymer being LHD, Harry got to sit in the front (the suicide seat) for the white knuckle journey. It's only Mr Mousys fourth outing driving this bigger van, so I was happy to read my kindle in the back.
We arrived at the campus and woke George up (well it was 7pm and he is a student, what did we expect?) he had packed...the most enormous bag..he was working on the principle don't know what to bring so I'll take everything.
30 minutes later we were at our Britstop (330) a lovely village pub. We all enjoyed a lovely meal, some drinks and a good catch up on family news.
After a quick dog walk up the road we settled down for the night. Let's just say the overcab bed was an experience for us. Not bad to climb into but really difficult to climb down from...the next morning we found the hidden ladder under the bed, too late.
Muffled voices from the back...Harry saying "Bro, you are a nightmare to sleep with...you need to respect my space, what's with the cuddling up?!" We tried not to smirk when they emerged, rumbled and tousled from behind the curtain.
The drive to Blaenau Ffestiniog woke them up, wooden valleys, rushing rivers and waterfalls with the snow covered peaks in the background. The colours were dull greens, beige, browns and grey. Like an old water colour painting left to fade in the sun, the colours were muted and flat. The weather dry, cold and grey.
We stopped off at The Lakeside cafe for a full welsh breakfast. Mostly Welsh spoken but so different to the Welsh we are used to, this sounded almost Nordic and when the cafe girls spoke to us in English we were struck by how their speach varied to that of South wales.
The view from the car park..
A walk around the lake..
Onwards to the slate mines just outside Blaenau Ffestiniog where the boys were booked into zip world.
They spent the next 2 hours flying through the air at high speed, which they loved. Perfect timing meant they were back to the van for the start of the rugby Wales vs Ireland. A great game and Wales won so a happy van. Even Ruby was enthralled with the game...
We then went down into the old slate mine to warm up with a bit of jumping around..
This is such a good idea, a cavern full of trampoline nets.
It totally wore the boys out so after another dog walk, we spent the evening in the van, chilling out and eating ( I'd forgotten how much teenagers eat!).
We have self levelling jacks on the van but maybe through user error we had never managed to get them to work on "auto" mode. We needed to reset them on a completely level platform, after spending one Sunday afternoon driving around tescos car park with a spirt level, we had just about given up on finding somewhere level. So we were pleased to see a weigh bridge at the mine. A sneaky 10 mins later and we'd managed to recalibrate the jacks. Success.
The next day shone bright and clear but still very cold (we must be soft southerners). A nice walk with ruby and we were ready for the long trip home.
A successful weekend. George thought the van was "super cool" and Harry said the weekend was "awesome". We'd had a lot of fun with plenty of giggles. The boys had teased me all weekend about the happy bowl liners (Let goggle be your friend for that one!).
We'd seen amazing scenery and been lucky with the weather. A win for Wales and a win for us, mission accomplished.
Its Thursday and the weather report for the weekend forecasts wall to wall sunshine, spring has sprung in all her glory, my daffs are out, primroses are littering the lawn like left over confetti, there are buds on all our trees and that wonderful feeling of the worst of winter being behind us. "The season" stretches ahead, it's time for a weekend away in the van.
I start to look up sites which might be open, I know roughly where I want to go and my requirements seem simple, somewhere peaceful with nice walks where we can chill out for a few days. Quickly before I head out for the day I log onto ukcampsites and start skimming down the list, finding sites which are open is tricky but I fire off an email to a place which sounds ideal, 23 acres of walks right on a tidal estuary full of nature. I explain in my brief message that we don't need any facilities (in case their shower blocks aren't yet open) just a place to park for a night or two.
I return home to the sound of the phone and a lovely friendly voice the other end is the site owner..
"Have you been before?" she asks
"No" says I but I explain we know the area well and their site looks lovely, I'm relieved to hear it's open and they may have availability, but I sense a hesitatation...
"Are you both Naturists?" She asks,
It's this question which causes me to pause and I realise my mistake, in my haste I'd misread naturalist for naturist, this is in fact a nudist site
Now fellow Funsters its at this point I should of owned up to my stupidity, thanked this lovely warm friendly lady for calling back and excused myself.
BUT instead I find myself waffling on about going topless in France (many moons ago) and a brief foray into skinny dipping. Followed with the immortal phrase "my husband is". We are swiftly booked in for Saturday night.
By Thursday night Ive told half my friends, the kitchen designer and the kids about the weekends plans...but not Mr Mousy.
He's been away with work all week and is so stressed out he's notsleeping. I imagine all sorts of ways of telling him, from thesubtle...(don't worry about packing any clothes this weekend) to thedirect...I've inadvertently booked us into a naturist site and your the nudist.
In my minds eye I keep getting the same response from him regardless of how I broach the subject...neatly summed up by him uttering the phase FFS whilst rolling his eyes heavenwards.
Luckily my daughter is so bemused by my ineptitude that she tells him as he starts the 5 hour drive home. So by the time he drags his weary face over the threshold, he is past caring.
I've been holding onto the fact that's its March and i just can't picture people walking about in the cold naked. So I blithely say lets just go and see. Mr Mousy has far more important things on his mind due to work and so takes the path of least resistance.
We set off with the hope and expectation of good weather. Vaguely knowing our way except for the last mile or 2 which we use the vans sat nav. Big mistake, we turn into a lane which rapidly gets so narrow the stone wall and banked hedges on each side are mere centimetres away. There is a thunk as my mirror hits a tree and I stop admiring the snowdrops which are inches from my nose and start paying attention to the hedge. In these situations it is the fear of the unknown that's proves most stressful, how long is this lane? Will it get narrower? What if a car comes in front of us? Etc.
we have opposing ways of dealing with this stress, I try and make light of the situation whilst Mr Mousy gets wound up. We are now at the marital situation of Defcon 1.
We finally make it onto the site with no damage to the van, but I get the feeling the last thing Mr Mousy wants to see now is a naked male site warden....
So I approach the site office attached to the house with a small measure of trepidation, now I'm no prude and I like to think I'm broad minded but I'm slightly nervous about meeting a naked man but to my relief Mark the site owner is dressed, I'm greeted by a beaming smile and a warm handshake.
He comes out and shows us all around the site, it was an old quarry with the stone being taken away in barges up the estuary. 40 years ago the owner started building dams and so there are now beautiful lagoons teaming with wildlife. There are natural swimming pools, jettys, bridges and 3 islands. With walks down to the water and around the site, it's a magical place, so peaceful and we start to feel ourselves relaxing.
Mark is so friendly and welcoming, he's obviously had newbies here before and luckily we don't feel pressured into immediately stripping off. . His motto is clothed or unclothed all are welcome.
After a spot of lunch we step out for a walk, the sun has sadly stayed at home and it's overcast and windy but we explore all around the 23 acres, we watch the heron come down to his post on the lagoon and languidly fly off again at our approach. We see the signs of the otters who live in one of the lakes, a path of grass on the bank rubbed smooth by their bellies as they slide into the water and there are half eaten crabs and clam shells littered around.
We walk further along the banks to the estuary, the tide is out and the wind carries that salty muddy air. We hear the plaintive cry of the curlew and although it's bleak it holds a wintery beauty. We notice the landing stage where kayaks can be hired and we know there is a lovely pub and restaurant within paddling distance. We are enchanted by this place.
Other than a few caravans the camping fields are empty. There are not many people about but we can imagine in summer it will be full. How blissful it would be with sunshine and warmth. To skinny dip in the lagoon and laze about on the grass.
Well fellow Funsters I'd like to tell you our next walk was sans clothes but sadly the weather let us down and rain set in so we retired to the warmth of the van and a lovely fish pie. We did try something new and adventurous I did the washing up naked whilst Mr Mousy helicoptered his way up and down the van....all I can say is it's lucky we have an eye level oven and grill.
So is naturism for us? Well maybe...in baking hot sunshine on some far slung shores I might be tempted but for a drizzly weekend in Wales? Perhaps not.
The welcome we received was outstanding and if this sounds like your bag send me a PM and I'll tell you where we went and who knows maybe one day we will meet beside that lagoon, I'll be the Funster wearing the sarong.