Summer 2016: Adventures in Europe, part 10- Homeward Bound

Day 26- Saturday

Location – Trier Campsite, €25 pn with electric

Miles driven – 300

Weather- showery but sunny and warm in late afternoon

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on the banks of the Moselle River on the outskirts of Trier. It’s not the nicest campsite we’ve been on, but it is serving a purpose. 


We were up early and drove 4 hours to Trier and its 110 space aire, arriving at 1.00. Annoyingly, the aire car park was completely taken over by the ADAC world championship rally, and there were rally cars, stewards all over the place and a big cross through the Motorhome sign. Not quite knowing what to do for the best, I pulled over and promptly got whistled at by a steward- turns out I had stopped in a pit stop!! 😂 Bluebell’s been officially everywhere now! Lol

On the exit road there was a sign for a campsite so we pulled in and luckily they had space, Keith wanted to see the Roman remains here and I could tell he was disappointed the aire was shut. They probably could have included a note in the Camperstop Book as I’m sure it would have been known about.

After a quick lunch we walked along the banks of the Mosel River to the old town. We saw the Roman bridge, the lower columns were 2000 years old!


We crossed the Roman bridge and went into town, the outskirts of town are awful, seedy and filthy, I was crossing everything that the historic centre would be nicer. Once we got into the Market Square, we relaxed, it was very pretty indeed and had a lovely character- high wooden building etc, lovely.


A short walk from the Market Square and we reached the most impressive of the sights in Trier, the Porto Nigra, which is the worlds largest preserved a Roman City Gate. What an amazing sight. Keith went inside whilst I had a cheeky wine, payment for dog sitting!


We then did a walking trail which included other Roman remains, including the amphitheatre, Roman baths and Basilica. My favourite was the amphitheatre, it was surrounded by banks of vineyards and was a bargain to go in, only €4 each. You could go underneath the arena and right around the top of it. It was very easy to reinact Russell Crowe’s Gladiator!


Roman sights visited, we headed back to the market square for some beverages, Keith was happy he found somewhere selling Kristellweissen (spelling!) I settled on the local wine. We moved onto a pop up wine stall also in the market square, I tried the local fizz which was delicious, and Keith had a pino noir white. 


We then had a meal, only our second meal out of the trip- opting for a local restaurant also on the market square, we both had pork schnitzel and frites, which was delicious.
Day 27– Sunday

Location – Oye Plage- municipal aire, free GPS: n50.977090, e2.039650
Miles driven – 280 Weather– showery but sunny and warm in late afternoon

Bluebell the motorhome is almost back where she began 3.5 weeks ago! We left Trier bright and early and did a full service fill/empty before checking out of our campsite. 


We were on the road for 9am, and as a result we were filling up with ridiculously cheap fuel an hour later in Luxembourg- €0.92 per litre! After squeezing as much as possible in we were back on the road and soon in Belgium. Our toll free route took us through Belgium, round Brussels and back up to Calais. It was an easy journey and we were pulling into Gravelines aire at 2pm. Sadly the fair was in town opposite the aire, and we didn’t fancy a noisy night, especially at €7 for the night, no services, so we carried on to where we spent our first night on Oye Plage beach aire. You can imagine our shock when we arrived and there was a great big height barrier blocking the carpark- considering we had stayed there literally 3.5 weeks ago! Oh well, we trundled down the road to the municipal aire in the village and found a space alongside another Brit, shortly followed by several others!

We had a good chill, watching a couple of movies, and had an early night after prawn egg fried rice for tea.

Day 28- Monday Location – Home- Norfolk, UK Miles Driven 150 Weather – Sunny

Bluebell the motorhome is sat having a well earned rest having carted us and our mad dog around 2900 miles Europe for the last 28 days, with barely a problem -other than the tyre incident in Brugges and lack of power on hills!

We started this morning having had a lovely quiet night at Oye Plage, and having bit of a lay in. Once up, we decided to give ourselves a head start on packing up, stripping the sheets and loading up the washing bags- 2 huge Ikea bags full of dirty washing- oh joy!


After a thorough clean at the service point on site we head 30 minutes away towards Wissant, we were heading to one final WW2 site of our tour- the would have been launch site of the awful V3 guns set to bombard London with over 1600 bombs per day – Fortress de Mimoyecques (GPS n50.517 e1.4530)
It was only €5.50 to go in, and you got to explore right through the under ground tunnels, 600m of them. It was so eery in there, but so fascinating. Thank goodness for the French resistance who along with the RAF aerial surveillance noticed the site being built and therefore bombed it heavily so it never got completed.


After a very enjoyable visit (feels not quite the right word but I’m sure you understand!) we headed to Cite Europe, right next to the Eurotunnel Departure, for a chill, shop, and to give Bluebell a thorough clean – one less job to do when we get back. I had a good hour exploring the French supermarket- I’ve really missed the choice, sorry Germany but your supermarkets weren’t (in my opinion) as good as the French, before whipping us up an early tea. Keith got on with some bits of maintenance- we’d lost a few screws here and there. At 6pm we moved round to begin check in- a longer than normal process, not entirely sure why as the actual passport check was minimal, again! 8pm and we were on the train and by 11pm we were home and ready for bed!


We have had a brilliant tour- seen some absolutely amazing sights, eaten and drank some cracking food and drink. Our general opinion of Germany is we loved what we saw, but not sure we would rush back. We found some parts of it hard work- all outweighed in the end by the good stuff obviously, but we came back feeling satisfied but ready for home!

Thoughts now turn to our next adventure- lined up for October Half Term, and my birthday! We are thinking about visiting South Wales- but as ever, who knows till nearer the time!

 Until Next time

Lx

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer 2016: Adventures in Europe, Part 1

Day 1- Wednesday

Location: Oye-Plage, Nord- Pas de Calais. Free aire, no services GPS n50,99703 e2,04228

Miles Driven: 152m Norfolk – Calais, 10m Calais – Oye-Plage. Total 162m

Weather: overcast, some sunny spells

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up by the sea alongside several other vans from across the continent and we are waving to the big ferries traveling between Dover and Dunkirk. 


We set off from a wet and miserable Norfolk late morning giving us plenty of time to reach our 6pm Eurotunnel crossing from Folkstone in light of recent reports over the weekend of hours and hours of delays. Of course, we had a remarkably quick journey, reaching Folkstone in around 3 hours, making us 4 hours early, and predictably, due to the summer holidays we were unable to travel on an early train! Oh well, we parked up and operation chill began with an immediate afternoon nap and a cheeky Burger King for good measure -Keith was suffering with a migrane hangover (we’d had a boozy night with friends in the village last night!) and before we knew it we were gliding through passport control at an alarming rate considering the extra high security alert at the moment and on our train waving Au Revoir Angleterre!



We initially thought we would drive straight to Belgium but on the train had the realisation that we are over here for 4 weeks, longer than ever before (and boy doesn’t Bluebell know it, her cupboards are filled to bursting!) so decided to pick an aire (French Overnight Parking spot for motorhomes) from our Bible (aka Camperstop Europe) ten miles E of Calais. Twenty minutes later and we rolled onto Oye-Plage, conveniently located a stones throw from a nice little locals bar, 5 minutes after that we were propping the bar up enjoying our first continental beer of the trip, a nice refreshing Pelforth each, thoughts turning to where next?! We’ve been slightly less organised this time round, with only a loose plan of a route, we have chosen to embrace this and so tomorrow we will be sampling a few Belgium beers/chocolates in Brugges. 

Day 2- Thursday

Location: Bruges Air. 25€ per 24hrs , full services inc electric GPS n51.195670 e3.226380
Miles Driven: Oye-Plage- Brugges 64miles
Weather: mainly sunny
After a great sleep we woke feeling refreshed and eager to explore so we wasted no time and set off around 09:00, stopping at the municipal aire in the village to do our services (fill water/empty loo and waste water etc). 

An hour or so later we were saying Au Revoir France! Bonjour Belgium! and 30 mins later, thanks to our trusty CoPilot and Camperstop app we were pulling into our secure aire on the edge of Brugge and ready to explore! What a perfect day!  

More pics of Brugges next time. Tomorrow we are heading towards Waterloo to visit the battle of Waterloo battlefield.  

Until next time 

Lx 

PS you can follow our journey using a real time location tracker by following this link: https://track.gs/LXADWw

Ah, Paris; Part 2- Montmartre and a night trip along the River Seine

We woke up on Wednesday feeling massively satisfied that we’d managed to fit in so many attractions already. We decided to head over to Montmarte on the metro. At 130m high, Montmarte is Paris’ highest point, and is often referred to as The Artists District. The journey from George V to Blanche on the metro was very straightforward and we both found the metro very good value- we basically got a single ticket which was €1.80 each and meant we could travel anywhere as long as the journey time didn’t exceed 1.5 hours. Excellent value. 

Our first sight after getting off the metro at Blanche was the iconic Moulin Rouge.  

       

Obviously I couldn’t resist having a little go at the can can outside – given that Moulin Rouge is where the can can originated from. Jacques Offenbach, composer of The Can Can is buried nearby. 

Using our trusty Lonely Planet and Eye Witness city books, I navigated us on a great walk around the Montmarte area, passing some fabulous sights along the way. 

   
^ The house where Van Gogh lived between 1886-1888 (his brothers house)
   

    ^ Le Moulin de la Galette- Renoir painted his master piece Bal du moulin de la Galette here
 ^The passer through Walls- Le Passe-Muraille is the title of a story by Marcel Aymé about a man named Dutilleul who discovers that he can (you guessed it) walk through walls. The statue is situated in a place named after Marcel Aymé in beautiful Montmartre.
   

^ This small city centre vineyard produces thousands of litres of wine per year! 
   

  

  Lapin Agile-  Pablo Picasso’s 1905 oil painting, “At the Lapin Agile” helped to make this cabaret world famous.
   
    ^ All this walking and exploring is thirsty and hungry work, and what better place to stop for a crepe and vin rouge than Woody Allen’s favourite cafe, featured in his film “Everyone says I love you”
   

 ^ Place de Terre – a bustling market square full of artists selling their work, cafes great for people watching and just a lovely vibe

We hadn’t  realised it but we’d actually climbed very high, and down all the little streets there was a view of Paris.  

    We were now right up as high as the Sacre Coeur – and wandered round to the terrace over looking Paris below. We could see the Montparsse Tower, and Gare De Nord station, but the Eifell Tower was  just round the corner so wasn’t on the skyline.  
   

   
         

After a quick visit inside we decided it was definately lunch time. Today was going to be our traditional French meal, and we had spotted a lovely looking bistro right on the market square so worked our way back to it, picking up several souvenirs en route!  

        

I opted for the menu of the day- Escargot (snails!) to start, Chicken with mushroom sauce with potato daulphinaise , and a cheese board to finish. Keith went for French onion soup to start and fillet of pork for main. It was absolutely delicious and the service was brilliant. We had wine and beer and the whole thing came to £60. Amazing. 

We’d walked for miles, and feeling happy, fed and watered, we decided an afternoon nap was definately in order so we made our way to the hotel and snoozed, wanting to feel refreshed for our river trip on the Seine that night. 

We woke feeling refreshed and headed back towards the Eifell Tower to pick up a river boat for our evening cruise. We hadn’t pre booked, but it didn’t matter- we went to the first kiosk under the Eifell Tower and paid our €13.50 and booked onto the 21:30 cruise with Vedette Du Pont Neuf. It was handily located next to a nice looking bar and snack bar, and was a great spot for people watching for a couple of hours.  

 

    

The hubby (haha) did good and got me some champers to celebrate the end of a lovely break, and before we knew it, it was time to board our lovely boat. Unlike a lot of the other companies, our boat was a lovely open topped wooden boat and the journey was a highlight of our trip. Seeing Paris turn from dusk into night, and all the twinkling lights was wonderful.

   
           

   
     

We got off the boat deliriously happy, it was wonderful sailing down the Seine at night, you can understand why it’s called the city of light. 

We bought crepes and a small bottle of wine and went into the Trocadero gardens, for a mini picnic. We’d been told the Eifell Tower would start twinkling on the hour, and at 23:00 we saw it, crepe and red wine in hand. It was gorgeous!!  

 

All that remained for our last night in Paris was a stroll hand in hand, back to the hotel, via the Arc De Trumph. 

   
       

We had the most amazing break- we saw all the sights that we wanted to see, ate and drank some amazing food and drink and fell in love with Paris, particularly at night!

We were fairly impressed with Eurostar, it was nicer than flying, and fairly stress free and easy. We didn’t think much to the hotel, our room was dated and had lots of loose wiring, no access to drinking water or tea and coffee making facilities and the lack of shower curtain meant every time we took a shower the entire bathroom flooded. But location wise was good, although if we go again we will go for a hotel in the Latin quarter. 

Our main honeymoon is in America in August, we fly to New York and travel on Amtrak trains for 3.5 weeks through Washington, Chicago, Denver, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, Flagstaff National Park, Hollywood, San Fransisco and Yosemite National Park. 

Now the wedding has happened we can grab a few motorhome breaks in the meantime- in fact we’ve just booked tickets for Jimmy’s Sausage and Beer festival at  Jimmy’s Farm in Ipswich which has got Chas and Dave and Topload performing, so we’ve booked a caravan club CL down the road. 

Until next time

Lx 

Ah, Paris; Part 1- Le Tour Eifell, Musee D’Orsay, Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, and the Latin Quarter 

Bluebell the motorhome is safely tucked up at home having a rest, whilst Keith and I have been celebrating our recent marriage with a cheeky little “mini moon” sans Bluebell, courtesy of the Eurostar and lastminute.com

   
 We’ve had a fab 3 days and crammed so much in, our feet have barely touched the ground! We departed London St Pancras on Monday morning and enjoyed a stress free journey, starting as we meant to go on, with some vin rouge and saucisson! 

Three hours later we were checking into our hotel, Amarante Champs Élysées, a “top secret” choice off last minute, handily located a minutes walk from The Arc de Triumph- and right in the heart of the VERY designer Champs Élysées area. Great location for exploring; not so great for grabbing a morning coffee- we had to walk almost an hour to find a coffee for less than €10 each (no pastries included in that!) on our first morning. Motorhome 1 : Parisian Hotel 0  
 

Bags dropped, we hit the streets- our first port of call, the most famous landmark in Paris- The Eiffel Tower.

   
    We’d been advised to take our trip up the tower at dusk into nightfall, so that’s what we did, and my word- it was absolutely breathtaking. We joined the (shorter than daytime but still v. long!) queue at 20:30 and got down at about 23:30- so the attraction took 3 hours in total. There was A LOT of waiting around, and to be honest the whole system seemed a bit chaotic; you queued for a ticket (but only to get to floor 2) then again for the lift, then again on floor 2 for the ticket to the top, then again for the lift to the top- you get my drift. Having said that- it was absolutely AWESOME and actually at €15.50 each (with today’s exchange rate that’s around £12) we thought it was remarkable value for money. And just look at the views…   

                         

It was really good to ‘get it out of the way’ in the nicest possible way, as often when you arrive somewhere on holiday, the first day can be a write off. If we had waited to one of our 2 full days we would have had to sacrifice another attraction. 

Tuesday dawned and we were up and about early. We’d got lots to do- it started with a hours walk to the Musee D’Orsay- we could have made it easier by getting the metro however we like to walk round new cities! Plus, we were after a coffee! We arrived at the Musee D’Orsay and another long (but at least moving) queue. I got our place, whilst Keith set about sorting some caffeine out, and actually the queue didn’t seem too bad. I think we waited for about 40 mins in the end. 
   
 The Musee D’Orsay is a fabulous art gallery set in an old railway station on the banks of the Seine. It’s home to lots of works by Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Dagas, Picasso plus lots of sculptures. It was a wonderful place to explore- our personal favourites being Dagas’ “L’orchestre de l’opera” and Monet’s “Plage d’Etretat”- particularly of interest having visited there last year. An absolute highlight of the Musee D’Orsay is being able to stand inside the clock face. Absolutely wonderful, and another bargain- the museum cost €11 each (£7 something)

   
 

 
   

  

 

I really enjoyed visiting this gallery, and would highly recommend it. Keith’s done the Louve before (I haven’t) and he said he enjoyed Musee D’Orsay far more. 

From here we walked along the Seine to Il De la Cite- home to Notre Dame cathedral, our next stop. 

 
   

After a quick refuel at Cafe Esmarelda opposite the cathedral, we joined the shorter queue and avoided the Quasimodo con men- trying to crash our selfies and then get us to pay them! Notre Dame Cathedral is wonderful. It’s a very special place for our family- Keith’s stepdad, Steve, and his (Keith’s) best friend, Andy, wrote a musical called Quasimodo- based on the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, which of course is set within The cathedral. Sadly Keith’s stepdad passed away 2.5 years ago, and Andy’s father passed away only a couple of weeks ago- it was an incredibly moving visit. The rose windows in the cathedral were stunning and we lit a candle for both right beneath.  

  

     
   

           

Next stop was Sainte Chapelle– with the most impressive stained glass windows we’ve ever seen! It’s nestled right in the heart of the Palais de la citie, and although with it, came another hour and a half queue, it was well worth the wait, and probably one of our favourite places we visited.

              

By now, it was most certainly beer o clock – all this sightseeing was thirsty work! We crossed the bridge back over into the Latin Quarter, and soon found ourselves in the hustle and bustle of the lively area packed with bars and restaurants.  

      
     The Latin quarter is home to restaurants from every part of the world- we opted for dinner in an Italian restaurant, and it was delicious and very reasonable on price. We fancied a last drink before we returned back to the hotel- we’d been out since 09:30 and walked over 10 miles! We popped into The Piano Bar for a swift cocktail whilst Happy Hour was on- 3 hours/ €70 later we emerged having had the most wonderful evening we’ve ever had on holiday. There was a live pianist and singer cabaret act, and we absolutely loved watching them- they were top class performers – Dominque, the singer, worked the room, had an amazing voice and a warm personality. They were fab.  

      

By now we’d been out for 14 hours in the same clothes, were midly tipsy, had blisters on both feet but ever so happy! We walked across Il De la Cite, past Notre Dame, and admired her all lit up, before getting on the metro back to our hotel. We couldn’t believe how much we’d fitted into our first day and a half in Paris!!   

         

France May 2014: Pt 6 D Day and the Normandy beaches

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up in the free aire at Arromanches Les Bains. We’re parked up alongside over 20 hired motorhomes that seem to belong to the BBC however they are unoccupied, infact – nosey pants here had a good look through the window of one (or five!!) earlier and the beds aren’t even made up? We’ve been told by the tourist office that the aire is closed until 10th June, but bearing in mind we’d already driven onto it, parked, had lunch and a wander by the time we found this out, plus there are 3 other non BBC vans here, we’ve decided to be brave and stick it out here. The security van has just done a round and seems happy for us to be here so that’s good enough for us! 20140529-214315-78195771.jpg
There’s not much breathing room in the spaces here, but it is free!

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Our neighbours- 20 odd hired motorhomes belonging to the BBC – although no one seems to be staying in them!!

Today we had a contemplative but pleasant drive along the Normandy coast, passing the pretty Courseuilles sur Mer, Deuville and Trouville. We’ve done this tour before ( read here ) but never made it Site Hillman, so that was our first stop today.

Site Hillman was given the code name HILLMAN by the Allies, and consisted of 18 concrete bunkers buried 4m deep and linked by tunnels. It was surrounded by minefields and barbed wire, and was defended by guns, machine guns, and armoured gun posts. On 6th June, the 1st Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment captured Hillman and the bunkers seem to have been untouched since.

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the entrance to Site Hillman

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It’s free to visit Hillman, and is very interesting, if not eerie! There are info boards dotted about – I’d highly recommend it as a place to visit

After our Hillman visit, we carried on to Arromanches as we were concerned that there are only 19 spaces on the aire there and didn’t want to not get a space! As it happened, we bagged the last space, so celebrated with lunch and a stubby. By this time, I’d noticed all the other motorhomes had BBC signs on the dashboard, and were infact hire vans, but we put it down to prep for all the coverage from here next week. Still not sure why they are in motorhomes and not hotels though!!

We got soaked on our initial walk into town, and had to retreat back to Bluebell for our waterproofs. It was then that we noticed the no access sign blocking the aire. This definitely wasn’t there when we drove in as we wouldn’t have been able to get by it. Still undetered, and suitably dressed in waterproofs, of course the sun came out as we returned into town. Nosey Norris aka me, went I to ask about the aire at the tourist office, where I was told it was closed til 10th June! :-/ I decided to keep quiet that we were infact parked in the aire and we carried on up to Port Winston via the free shuttle train!

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Soldiers patrolling the beach here at Arromanches – one of the anniversary events

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the view of Arromanches from the 360 degree cinema

After a good look around and soak up of the very busy atmosphere, plus a purchase of a couple of new stickers, we opted for crepes and a vin rouge which was delicious and then headed back to Bluebell. We’ve got an excellent internet Fon signal here thanks to motorhome wifi. After dinner we enjoyed an evening stroll into the town, which was more enjoyable as it was far less busy than earlier today. As much as we’ve enjoyed revisiting, the huge crowds were off putting- but seeing as this is one of the key sites of the Landing beaches, a week before D Day it’s hardly surprising.

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Next week, we’ve heard there is lots planned for the D Day anniversary itself- Chris Evans brings his Breakfast show here on Friday morning, there is a big concert and even a Prince William and Kate will be here. So no doubt they are already beginning the preparations and tightening security.

Once the anniversary celebrations are over, be sure to visit Arromanches if you haven’t already- seeing the remains of the landing platforms in the sea is really a humbling sight.

One final thought for tonight…

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Until next time
Lx

France, May 2014 PT 5 Honfluer

Wednesday:

Bluebell the motorhome feels like the poor country cousin! She’s parked up in the official motorhome aire at our beloved Honfleur, along with over 240 other motorhomes. It’s like the forecourt of Brownhills!! There are motorhomes in all different shapes and sizes here, occupying the 240 official spaces, and seeping out into the surrounding lane and squashed into corners. We’re fairly confident that we could leave our door wide open and not get burgled (although don’t think we will try!) there are some SERIOUSLY swish vans here, including my personal favourite- a very fancy looking RV with 4 pop out sides, smart car garage and the front looks like an articulated lorry front, rather than a bus! Seriously cool, and worth a fortune I would guess!!

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a jam packed aire!

This is our 4th visit to Honfleur (you can read about the others here, here and here) and we think the €10 for 24 hrs overnight parking including services and electric is worth every single penny. Clearly other people share our thoughts as we’ve never seen this aire so busy! The aire is situated 5 mins walk away from the picture perfect harbour, that is lined with tall historical buildings, all painted in different colours, and overlooking the sailing boats moored in the small square harbour. There are oodles of restaurants, art galleries, regional produce shops and cafés dotted along the way, all of which we’ve enjoyed before, and I am sure we will do so again next time- however today we chose a happy stroll through town for a couple of hours in the drizzle, nosing in gallery windows picking out the paintings we would buy if we were rich, and enjoying the atmosphere of everyone else spending their money! We’re not being tight – but we are being careful with pennies this time round with our wedding this time next year. 🙂

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gorgeous harbour here at Honfleur

One expense we did sort today was Jazz’s return to England vets trip. This time last year we stopped here to sort the same thing out, and our visit to Honfleur was with the same intention this time. You can easily travel to France with your dog(s) now, providing they have had their rabies jab and have their own pet passport. To re enter the UK you need to take your pet to a vet 5 days – 24 hrs before you intend on travelling home, and the vet will administer the pooch with a tapeworm tablet or injection, stamp their passport and charge you a princely sum for the privilege. Today we admit, we got stung €43- however in the end we outweighed the convenience with trying to find the best deal- the vet could see Jazz there and then, so we didn’t need to make an appointment for a future time/day, plus the vet was opposite the aire so we didn’t need to move Bluebell to get Jazz there. Also the vet spoke very good English- I am capable of making an appointment in French and some basic conversation during the appointment itself, but obviously if the vet speaks English it does make the whole experience slightly more stress free. 🙂

One other note for today- we’ve been very impressed with our Motorhome Wifi and Fon set up so far on this trip. It’s the first time we’ve tried it in France, and I was curious as I had read some conflicting reviews of its performance in France. We’ve only dug it out 3 times, but every time we’ve found an SFR PUBLIC WIFI FON within range and therefore entered our FON login and hey presto, we’re online! This has saved us some pennies (again, don’t mean to sound tight!) as usually we’re forced (!!) to drink in bars after a couple of days just to check emails (being self employed, as much as we’d like to switch of for 10 days in reality we can’t)

So there we have our day, money saving but soaking up the atmosphere none the less and having a really great time. Tomorrow we’re continuing south or is it west?! towards the WW2 landing beaches.

If you’ve never travelled to Honfleur before, be it in a motorhome or not, we would seriously seriously recommend coming here. It’s a beautiful place, and if you worked your ferry/tunnel crossings wisely, we think you could make it here on a long weekend trip easy peasy. It’s 3.5 hours from Calais on the payage. What are you waiting for?

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Until next time

Lx

France May 2014; Pt 4 Dieppe and Etretat

Monday

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on the port side on the aire at Dieppe, along with around 20 or so other vans, all shapes and sizes, including a couple of other British vans. There are two aires here, both €7 for 24 hrs parking- one with services and one without. We naughtily filled and emptied at Dieppe 1, and on going to get our ticket saw Dieppe 2 across the other side of the port, so drove round and decided we preferred that location.

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The Aire at Dieppe

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a couple of choppers for company in the motorhome aire at Dieppe

The weathers been rubbish today, drizzling all day, but we still enjoyed our wander round Dieppe, taking in the history and the chocolate shops… ahem, along with the grand architecture. We both learnt about the first attempt of liberation of France by mainly Canadiens back in Sept 1942, and found the town a nice place to spend a rainy afternoon.

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The castle at Dieppe

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Dieppe town centre

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The Port at Dieppe

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Keefy getting our baguette from the bread van that visited the aire this morning

We had a good chat with another British couple on their way back from 6 wks in Portugal- lucky things, it’s always nice to swap stories with fellow motorhomer’s. Our spot on the port was brill- we watched the passenger ferry leave and also a beautiful wooden sailing boat, along with a large barge carrying what we think was wind turbine sails. a real mix of old and new.

Tuesday

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on her 1st France Passion site of this tour- we’re on a dairy farm near Etretat, which specialises in butter and goats cheese. Nom nom. We arrived around lunchtime, went to say hello, check we could stay tonight and to find out what time the shop open/closes. The France Passion scheme works in the same way Brit Stops does- your host welcomes you to stay for free, but you’re expected to take an interest in their produce etc. There is never any obligation to buy, however we usually do as we’re local food and drink junkies!!

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Parked up by the chickens on our France Passion site
After a hearty lunch (Camembert, saucisson, baguette of course!!) we unloaded the bikes with the intention of cycling to nearby Etretat- a town we’ve seen signed when on the payage, but never managed to get too. Etretat is on the map due to its amazing 3 sea arches, and what a sight they were! Even if by the time we’d got there we could barely stand due to picking a particularly hilly cycle route! Of course once there we couldn’t NOT take the cliff path to the view point at the top, so by the time we were back at our bikes we were cream crackered. Oh well, we’d cycled pretty much the whole 7 kilometres up hill there, so we were quietly confident that the laws of physics meant that we would return downhill. I’m not sure how, but it seems physics weren’t on our sides today as somehow, we managed to pick an equally up hill journey back!

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The middle sea arch at Etretat

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The arch on the left is the middle of the three and the small arch on the right is the baby arch

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we enjoyed finally visiting Etretat having passed the signs for years!

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the town of Etretat is very pretty

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the larger of the three arches, that is only visible from sea or a hike up the side of a cliff!

Once back at Bluebell, we swiftly went up to the shop to have a chat with the owner of the farm (so impressed I managed a whole conversation in French!!) we’d discovered they made yogurts, butter and goats cheese, the butter is made on site but the goats cheese isn’t because she doesn’t keep goats, and that she thought we were crazy for cycling to Etretat. Oh how we laughed! We came away with some salted butter and goats cheese, both of which we’ve devoured as a pre dinner snack- well it’s been a tough day!! They were absolutely delicious!

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another pic of us on the France Passion

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We enjoyed visiting Etretat, the sea arches were better than I’d hoped and the town is also very pretty – there are some lovely wooden buildings to enjoy housing restaurants and creperies, lots of souvenir shops, a nice stretch of pebbly beach (no dogs though on the beach, although they are allowed on the promenade) and a really buzzing atmosphere. If you’re not a member of France Passion (you should be, it’s fab!) then there is a conveniently located motorhome aire just on the outskirts of Etretat that you can park at for €8, or day parking on the Le Havre road.

Until next time
Lx

France May 2014: Pt 3 Le Hourdel and Cayeux sur Mer

Sunday:

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on the free aire at Le Hourdel which is just south of St Valery Sur Somme on the Baie of the Somme.

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On the pitch at the free aire at Le Hourdel

When we woke up this morning it was clear blue skies and we couldn’t believe our luck! Without further ado, we emptied, filled and headed to our next stop, situated on the seaside with plenty of cycle routes to try out. Perfect 🙂

We arrived 45 mins later, bagged the last space on the aire and enjoyed a cuppa in the sun before giving Jazz a little walk down to the beach. The beach here is stoney rather than the expanses of sand found further north or is it East, I’m confused!, but it’s equally pleasant to wander down, and there are lots of birds to watch if that’s your sort of thing. Across the bay you can see Le Crotoy and St. Valerie is to the right.

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View from the beach at Le Hourdel

On the beach there is a ruin of what we thought may be a WW2 Pill box, but there wasn’t any info about it so we aren’t sure; whatever it used to be on closer inspection it’s rather big, probably not in the same position as it used to be and now seems to be home to various wildlife.

We picked up our bikes from the van and cycled the easy 1.5Km to the village of Le Hourdel, where there were two restaurants, a small harbour and a not particularly pretty lighthouse. We then cycled back on ourselves and carried on beyond the aire on a special off road cycle/pedestrian track for 5km to the seaside resort of Cayeux Sur Mer. The weather by now was a mix of clouds and sunshine, and we enjoyed an hour or so looking round the souvenir shops, walking on the beach and eyeing up the pretty beach hits. The cycle ride was lovely and just the sort of thing we fancied doing today.

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The Lighthouse at Le Hourdel

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Think we may have took a wrong turn here?!

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Once back at Bluebell, it was chill time, so we’ve literally sat outside reading, listening to music, dozing and watching people come and go. The rain came about 6pm but it’s not dampened our spirits- we’ve been luckier than we could ever have dreamt of with the weather so far, considering that we are on the north coast of France and are both agreed if it changes from now, we won’t mind at all.

Until next time
Lx

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France May 2014: Pt 2 Fort Mahons Plage and Montreuil Sur Mer

Saturday:

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on a large aire at Fort Mahons Plage, along with around 40 other European vans (and one other Brit!). We paid €9 Euro to stay here tonight, which includes unlimited water and disposals and whilst at first I thought this was slightly pricey, Keith seemed happy enough to stay here and make full use of the water tonight and before we leave tomorrow. Long showers all around!

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The aire at Fort Mahons Plage

I have to say, I’m pleased we did stay as we’ve had a great time here! But before I tell you about that, let’s skip back to this morning’s adventure! We awoke to sunshine peaking through the roof vents again, and although there were definitely more clouds on the scene, it didn’t dampen our spirits after such a great day yesterday. After breakfast we drove the 20 mins inland to Montreuil Sur Mer, described as “an incredibly pretty fortified town” in my “What to do and see within 90 mins of Calais” book that I got a few years ago off Amazon for about a quid! We soon found the motorhome aire, conveniently located 2 mins walk from the town centre, and even better- free! We soon found the market square, which was a hive of activity seeing as the market was in full swing, and naturally our priority was to find the saucisson stall. 5 mins later and €10 euros lighter we emerged happy as Larry that we’d got 6 new flavours of saucisson to get stuck into at lunchtime!

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The next two hours were spent exploring the town ramparts and the beautiful and oh so typically French streets thanks to the free town map from the Tourist Office. It really is a gorgeous place to visit- the town walls are well kept, enjoyable to walk round (free) and offer lovely views of the surrounding countryside; the cobbled streets are so enchanting that they inspired Victor Hugo to make the town the setting for a major part of Les Miserables after only half a day here back in 1837. We absolutely loved exploring Montreuil, in fact it’s made it’s way onto our favourite/most pretty French town list. Happily, the weather behaved during our time here too!

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After lunch (fresh warm baguette, Camembert and saucisson!) we headed back to the seaside on a 20 min journey to Fort Mahon Plage. During our journey it tipped itself down, but luck seemed to be on our side as by the time we pulled up/topped up water/emptied etc, plus delved into the saucisson once more (rude not to, no?!) and cracked open and finished the €1.20 bottle of red we bought earlier as an experiment, the storm had passed and ever since the sun has been out!

Wanting to make the most of the sun, we took a wander through the resort to the beach, which is a huge stretch of Blue Flag beach, had an ice cream and sat and watched the world go by. On our walk back to Bluebell we passed a fishmongers selling fresh mussels for €3 a litre. I’ve always fancied cooking fresh mussels on one of our trips, so nipped in to grab a litre, and ask how best to cook them. The very French fishmonger slowly talked me through it patiently: (so impressed I understood him!) butter, onions, small glass of white wine, parsley and told me this is what’s known as Moules Marinaire- THE regional meal. I already knew this, having eaten it many a time here before in restaurants but having never cooked it for us myself, I was so excited I skipped all the way back to Bluebell (nerd alert!!)

After finishing off my wine sized bottle of cider we picked up for €1.80 (flipping love this country!!) I set to the Moules, and it was (even if I do say so myself!) AMAZING! Will definitely do this again- to think it cost less than €5 for a hearty and tasty main meal for us is extraordinary!

Oh and by the way- the €1.20 bottled of red experiment…. It’s no Pape but it’s certainly drinkable and dare I say…… Tasty! It complimented our mid afternoon cheese and saucisson feast admirably and we will definitely be picking up more!!

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Until next time
Lx

France, May 2014 Pt1 Le Touqet and Stella Plage

Friday: Bluebell the Motorhome is parked up on the coast behind a large sand dune on a free aire in France. But the question is, what coast are we on?! When we booked this trip, back in February, we booked with the intention of driving to the Mediterranean for a few beach days in the sun. But, given the fact the weather forcast was grim for pretty much the whole of France, and we are currently saving for our wedding day (exactly one year today to go!) we made the decision on our drive down to The Tunnel not to venture the 700 odd miles each way to the Med! This would save us at least £500 quid in fuel for the wedding fund, and with it being the 70th anniversary year of D Day, we thought Normandy would be a good place (and significantly cheaper!!) to head for, without feeling like we’ve compromised.

So, back to my opening statement: Bluebell the Motorhome is parked up in the blazing sunshine (not forecasted!!) on the Free aire at Stella Plage; just south of Le Touquet.

We arrived in France smoothly, quickly, (thanks Eurotunnel) and less stressed at the promise of saving some dosh, late last night and made the 2 minutes drive from train to Cite Europe aire, along with 10 or so other motorhomes for some serious shut eye. We must have needed it as we didn’t wake up til gone 10am!! Feeling heaps more positive, less knackered, and encouraged by the bright blue sky perking through our roof vents, we doned our shorts and picked a beach aire in our “All The Aires France” that was an hours drive away.

Our mission this week is to travel this stretch of coast without using toll roads, and we enjoyed our journey leaving the motorway at Bologne on the Route Nationale road towards Stella Plage. When we arrived, we were pleased to see there were plenty of spaces free, and enjoyed a walk over the sand dune and on to the beach. We narrowly averted a storm with a lunch break in Bluebell before off loading the bikes and cycling the 30 mins journey to ale Touquet. Most of the journey was on a special cycle path resulting in an enjoyable 10kms or so round trip.

We enjoyed visiting Le Touquet, it’s got lots of character, and has some interesting Art Deco buildings, some tasty looking fancy chocolatiers, designer clothing shops and a lovely stretch of sandy beach and promenade. The town of Stella Plage, where we are staying is also really nice- it’s got a handful of bars, cafés, patisseries, shops and a small supermarket where we stocked up on Camembert, wine, cider, and sausisson- which we then consumed whilst happily sat outside the van in the sun, reading, chilling and marvelling at how something as simple as wine, cheese and fresh bread can taste so damn fine!!!

Who needs the Med anyway?!

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the free aire at Stella Plage

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Le Touqet