As I’m writing this, we are currently bombing down the A1 towards home. The sun is shining, there still isn’t a cloud in the sky, and this morning we were treated to the most spectacular sunrise at Bamburgh.
Thursday we left early after another very peaceful night at our secret Brit stop location. We were heading to another Brit Stop location in the county of Angus. We’ve never been to Angus before, always in a rush to get north, or in a rush to get to Edinburgh. It’s a beautiful county, with rolling hills and pretty rivers flowing through.
Our stop for the night was a farm shop and craft centre, and we enjoyed some cured venison from their farm shop for lunch. It was so good that we bought a couple more packs to bring home with us (however they’ve already been eaten!)
Just down the road there was a waterfall and gorge that we had been told was worth a visit. We walked down, and were stunned when we got there. It was probably the most impressive waterfall and gorge we’ve seen. It was so steep. The photos we took don’t do the sheer drop justice. It was terrifying but equally amazing to stand at the top and look down.
We had another peaceful and undisturbed nights kip and set off about 9am. We were heading towards Berwick upon Tweed. The sun was still shining, we couldn’t believe that we had done the whole time in Scotland with blue skies! Especially when we left in such dubious conditions!
We arrived at Berwick upon Tweed at lunchtime and had a wander. We’d been looking forward to visiting however unfortunately we had a bit of a disappointing visit. First of all we spent 30mins of our 2 hours parking trying to find the public loo. Without being too graphic we try to avoid doing certain things in our toilet in Bluebell, therefore when we arrived we decided we both could do with using the facilities at Berwick. We followed the signs for the loos round the town with no luck at finding them! We stopped at the tourist information centre and were instructed as to where they were. We still didn’t find them. We ended up doing another circuit of the town and just as the situation was getting more desperate than it was we found them by chance more than anything. We then were charged 20p each to go. Wouldn’t mind this if the toilets were clean, had loo roll, didn’t stink- you get the gist.
Feeling rather more comfortable now, we set about an explore of the town. Don’t know if we were unlucky or if it were a typical day there, however we encountered several strange folk who stopped us in the street and had rather odd conversations with us- one lady was quite honestly mad! She walked by us, then turned back and made a big fuss about how she wasn’t going to stop us but she couldn’t help herself. She then gave Jazz such a fuss and wanted to know all about it. Then she said he’d get shot if he were on his own?!!
By now, we were starting to wonder what was going on. We enjoyed the town wall walk and soon it was time to go back to the van as our parking had run out. We had spied some cheap diesel on our way in so decided to fill up. A coupe more strange incidents with folk resulted in us leaving with a bit of a bad mood – one of these incidents involved someone nicking our space in the diesel queue- a pet hate of mine!
We decided that we must be tired as were both grouchy and couldn’t wait to get back on the A1. We headed for Bamburgh. We had wanted to wild camp here last year but after reading some motorhome forums got cold feet as it seemed they didn’t like motorhomes overnight parking there.
We found a lovely spot for a cuppa, that was far enough out of the town for us not to be a nuisance. It had the most amazing view of the beach, the sea and the castle. We made the executive decision after a cuppa and a wander down the beach that we would chance it and stay over night. There weren’t any signs whatsoever and so we battoned the hatches down and hoped for the best. By 8pm another couple of vans had joined us. We had a very peaceful night and awoke to the most impressive sunrise we’ve seen. An early morning dog walk down to the castle with sun rising on our our left was a fantastic way to start the day. Granted today is the day we journey back to Norfolk- our ETA is 2:15pm, but our pleasant start to the day really has rounded this amazing holiday off perfectly.
Jazz has been very well behaved, he loves motorhoming, he nests himself at the back and looks out of the windows, however right now he has made a nest on all the dirty washing!
We’re just driving past the Angel of the north now, the road is clear, and we can’t believe how lucky we have been!!
Today is a combined blog for today and yesterday as yesterday I was too sozzled to write! 😉
Where to start- first of all, the weather…….. Has been AMAZING. I mean proper good, sunshine, blue skies, no clouds, you name it! We have worn our sunglasses permanently since Yorkshire, yesterday we managed to go from two fleeces to one fleece, and today- we managed no fleece, short sleeves and a paddle in the sea!! Tomorrow, we already have our shorts out ready,so if it rains- its our fault!
We have covered a lot of miles since Loch Lomond and passed through the most stunning roads we’ve ever driven on. Even though we have both done Loch Lomond, Glen Coe, Fort William and Ullapool several times before, driving the 400 odd miles we’ve driven in pure blue skies and sunshine and seeing the tops of mountains (including Ben Nevis!) has been simply spectacular.
We had a wonderful drive through Glen Coe yesterday, again a first for us with it not raining!! We restocked in Fort William and carried on up to Applecross. I had read about how wonderful Applecross was, and how spectacular the drive over the pass of the cattle was. I’ve been looking forward to it for ages. Never in a million years would I imagine that we would be lucky enough to do it in fab weather- we saw all the way to Skye. Driving over the pass in Bluebell had been on my mind a little- I knew from what I had read that it was achievable, but I was still nervous. My lack of being a good passenger unfortuantly meant that Keith didn’t get a look in in attempting it. We pulled onto the pass and my stomach had butterflies in. We got about a mile up and we hair pinned round allowing us to view where we had driven already. To our surprise about half a mile behind us was a large beer truck and a couple of other motorhomes. Immediately I relaxed, if they could do it then I could. If we got stuck, then at least we had the beer truck for company!! Needless to say half an hour later we were tucked into “a room with a view” space outside the renowned Applecross Inn. We were keen to eat there having read rave reviews and we were lucky that they allowed to pitch in their car park in return for us eating and drinking there later.
A quick doggy walk and a beer in the beer garden overlooking the bay followed and later that evening we wandered down for dinner. The meal was every bit as delicious as we’d anticipated, we both had mussels from Skye for starter and I had scallops and bacon on rice for main, whilst Keith had freshly caught haddock. It was Devine! We washed our meal down with several drams of whiskey and subsequently awoke feeling a bit delicate this morning.
We still managed to hit the road for 8 am today and within 15 mins on the coast road round from
Applecross, we had seen 4 magnificent stags stood by the road and also a herd of angus cattle blocking the road. The scenery on today’s journey was unsurpassable, we have seen stunning coastal views, mountains, lochs and moonscape. It’s been absolutely stunning. We were heading for Clachtoll beach campsite, an old haunt that we visited on our very first motorhome trip in Daisy in 2010. We weren’t sure if we would travel as far as Clachtoll today, but we did, we couldn’t help but see what the next view would be!
So here we are, we are pitched right by the sea on Clachtoll beach campsite. We’ve cooked our Aberdeen Angus (not ones from earlier!!) steaks outside tonight and walked the beach, paddled in the sea, recharged our batteries, had loooooong hot showers and drunk some gin and wine.
We are having the most fantastic time in the world. Tomorrow, we will head north towards Durness. Once we’ve passed Stoer, we will officially be the most north on mainland that we’ve ever been. We saw a sign for John O’G today- 170 miles on the scenic route. We have 6 days to travel this, so shouldn’t have any more long drives! Apparently the weather is set to stay too!
There were two villages on our list of places we hadn’t visited yet – Stow on the Wold and Bourton on the water. We got up bright and early – well 9 am, skipped breakfast and headed towards Stow, where we decided to enjoy breakfast and had a wander. It’s another lovely town- the stone they use in the buildings here is so pretty! Stow on Wold is full of tea rooms, antiques shops and posh hotels, and during our hour or so here I spotted at least 3 ladies in full length fur coats and posh hats. Needless to say, I felt rather underdressed in my mud laden walking trousers and campers hair do, but never mind! 🙂
After a wander round, we decided that we’d have a late breakfast in Bluebell and hit the road 5 miles or so to head to Bourton on the water. I had a walk lined up, and we were keen to explore the village later in the afternoon, as the guidebooks seemed to suggest this was the quieter and more atmospheric time to visit.
Bourton is very motorhome friendly, the main car park has a seperate zone specially for motorhomes, and there are signs everywhere saying you can park and sleep overnight. We were pleased as we wanted to stay there overnight but both campsite were shut! On closer investigation the charges for the car park were astronomical!! And very confusing. If you parked in the special motorhome bays, you were charged a pound an hour or so more than the other bays. It should basically have cost us £13.50 to park from 1200 to 1800 then another £8 for overnight 1800-0900. Whilst we both agreed we would pay these charges this time as it meant we could park and relax, we did think it was slightly greedy- there were no facilities at all there and £21.50 is an awful lot to pay to park!! Anyway good on you Cotswolds council for taking the step, but we feel it just needs a bit of realistic refining price wise.
We enjoyed our walk and loved Bourton on Water- it’s dubbed as the Venice of the Cotswolds and you can see why. It’s so pretty!!
After we had thoroughly explored the area we were trying to find a cosy pub with a roaring fire, similar to those we had enjoyed earlier in the week. Unfortunately Bourton seems to have more tea rooms than pubs, and the one that we found, the Kingsbridge, although very friendly, felt more like drinking in a wetherspoons than a rural retreat, so after a quick drink we headed back to Bluebell. By this time it was coming up to 5pm and conversation started to turn to plans for the evening. Our options were to pay the extra £8 to stay overnight and chill in the van or to hit the road back to Norfolk, as we were due to leave tomorrow morning early anyway. We decided given the weather was very cold, we would prefer to get going and then enjoy a lay in Sunday morning in Norfolk rather than sit in a car park for £8 and have to get up at 7 to drive home. So we had a quick bite to eat, packed up and hit the road. 3 1/2 hours later we arrived back home with lovely memories of our time in the Cotswolds. We loved every second and will definitely return soon.
We had a lovely lie in this morning- we didn’t wake up until 9:30! All this fresh air and walking is giving us both a healthy glow that’s for sure!
We awoke to a frozen water tank again today- but had left taps open all night and the tank off so hopefully we averted any damage! We had arranged to meet Krystle in the car park at Chipping Campden at 11 and so after a quick breakfast we hit the road. It was a short drive to get there and soon found Krystle and Flashy. We decided to have a quick cuppa before we begin, but due to our frozen tank, we found a lovely little dog friendly coffee shop on the high street which had the most amazing selection of cakes. Somehow we managed to resist the cakes for now and settled with a quick coffee/tea. We were soon on our way- we had opted for a 5 mile walk up to the summit of Dover hill viewpoint. During the walk we tried Jazz off lead for the first time! I was a bit scared, but I didn’t need to be. He loved every second and never strayed further than eyesight from us, always coming back to check where we were!
The countryside here is beautiful. Rolling hills with chocolate box villages dotted around. Everyone we’ve met so far have been so friendly, and the pubs and tea shops have been dog friendly, most offering free boneos for our four legged friends.
After another stunning walk, we headed back to the village to find a pub for lunch. We stumbled across The Red Lion, a gorgeous Olde world time capsule with a fab log fire that we enjoyed relaxing in front of! Keith was particularly enjoying the Olde Trip ale that was on tap! After some delicious baguettes and homemade chips we couldn’t resist but to head back to the coffee shop at The Noel Arms we had been to this morning to sample some of their sweet treats!! So we wandered down and settled ourselves in front of another log fire, with the dogs flat out at our feet and enjoyed a cream tea. It was terribly refined, and utterly irresistible. Krystle and I mused over how far we had come from our lambrini drinking Uni days!!
Keith and I decided we would like go try and find a site closer to a Chipping Campden rather than trek back to Winchcombe where we had intended to stay. A quick look in the camping and caravanning club book and a couple of phone calls later and we had found a site 2 miles away for a mere ten pounds. We bid our farewells to lovely Krystle and Flash and hit the highway to find our site. We are pitched up on the very friendly Greystones Farm. Unfortunately we had a slight “stuck in the mud” incident but friendly farmer Rob came to our rescue in his traccccor and we were soon settled with the heating on full and a beer in our hand. All this fresh air is making us everso tired so I imagine an early night is in order. We don’t actually have any plans tomorrow- so we will see where we end up!!
I’m writing this from the same campsite that we stayed at last night, Pinnock Wood Farm just outside of Winchcombe. We had such a lovely evening here last night that we decided to stay again tonight- at £14 a night for a pitch with electric, it’s worth every penny in this weather! It’s glorious during the day, but bitterly cold. It’s so cold that when we woke this morning we had no water as we had frozen!!
Luckily for us, we thawed by lunchtime and with no signs of damage. But our original plan of wildcamping in Broadway tonight seemed less appealing with the forcast saying it could reach -5 tonight, we opted for the electric fan heater option!
We had a great day in Broadway today- it was difficult not to keep breaking out in song and dance seeing as we were in Broadway! A totally different experience to being on Broadway, USA I’m sure, but still, we enjoyed our day there. It was a nice treat for Keith when we arrived- the first thing we saw was a Thomas Kinkade gallery- Keith is a massive Kinkade fan, so he had a browse whilst I waited outside with Jazz. When it was my turn to nip in, the observant gallery manager insisted we bought Jazz in- she was a big dog lover and was happy to welcome four legged friends into her gallery.
Krystle, Patrick and Flash arrived shortly after and we set about a walk up to see Broadway tower. It felt quite a slog on the way up, but the views were fabulous and once we got to the top we were rewarded with views for miles. The tower was an interesting building, and we all agreed we could happily live there!
We had a brisk walk back down to the village- the prospect of a late pub lunch and a pint certainly helped! We found a gorgeous little pub called The Swan, and were welcomed in like long lost friends. The menu was mouth watering! Keith and I both had BBQ pork ciabatta with home made chips and it really hit the spot!!
So here we are, back at the campsite and chilled to the max. Krystle is coming back to walk with us tomorrow- the joy of having friends who are also teachers and sharing the same holidays as us. Tomorrow we are heading towards Chipping Campden 🙂
Well after what has seemed a ridiculously long, depressing winter, we FINALLY got the chance to nip Bluebell out this weekend for a night away. We had been recommended this site as a perfect retreat for the night, and so back in January we got it in the diary and got the count down underway!
We invited our friends Tracy and Andy and their dog Murphy to join us in their motorhome, Dolly.
We couldn’t believe our luck when on Saturday we awoke to a glorious blue sky and sunshine- despite the weather intimating all week it was going to be wet and dismal! It just goes to show, you should always stick to your guns when it comes to the weather and holidaying in Britain!!
Despite a slightly stressful start- we needed to Jump start Bluebell, once at home and then once more 20 miles down the road after we had stopped for fuel. Amazingly we were rescued by the Shell petrol station manager in his MOTORHOME!! What are the chances eh?! Anyway, thanks to him and some jump leads we had inherited we were soon our way, albeit a little worried about the state of Bluebell’s battery, but nethertheless, nothing was going to dampen our weekend.
We arrived to the fab little site around 3 ish and were shortly followed by our friends. Quick beer and a ham butty later and we were ready to investigate the local surroundings. We made it as far as the pub a 10 min walk,and decided we definitely all deserved a quick drink! 3 hours later, we stumbled out, back up to the campsite, a bit wobbly and had a lovely chill in our van. Before I carry on, I must tell you a little story about what happened whilst in the pub.. We were sat minding our own business, putting the world to rights with Murphey and Jazz happily munching their rawhide under the table. Somehow- I managed to get my finger trapped in Jazz’s collar and he managed to get tangled with Murphey’s lead. A bit of a commotion followed, with the dogs howling and the pub being silenced. The next thing we know, the pub cat, a rather large ginger fluffball, called “Asbo”, wandered very cooly over to the our table- lifted his front law and punched both Jazz and Murphey on the side of their heads, then walked off! Very very funny!
Back to our stumble back up to the campsite – we cooked a spag Bol in our van, got into our p.js, drank an awful lot of red plonk and had a flipping lovely night. To say we were slightly merry doesn’t come close- poor Andy achieved the most spectacular exit of Bluebell we have ever witnessed- he literally fell straight out off the van and ended up in a heap, breaking his watch in the process. It was funny, sorry Andy!!
Next morning, after a blissfully quiet nights sleep and unbelievably escaping a hangover (get in) we enjoyed a big full English brekkie in Tracy and Andy’s van and then headed down to the beach for a walk to blow away the cobwebs
You can tell it was a boozy night, first time ever where I haven’t taken at least one pic!
Here are some pics of our walk – does anyone know what the bird is?
It’s been on our both our bucket lists, and before we had even picked up Bluebell, we had already booked our Island Hopper ferry ticket for the Easter Holidays!
We literally COULD NOT WAIT! Finally the day came when we could set off, and we set on our very excited merry way. We had booked a small certified site in the lowlands to spend a first night at. In actual fact, we probably should have wild camped, as after our long drive we were fully charged and carrying water. Never mind, you live and learn. The site was nothing special, although we had it all to ourselves and bought some of the farmers homemade honey. My goodness me, it was yum diddly dum!
The next day we set off to our first proper stop – Glencoe for 2 nights. However as we passed Loch Lomond we passed a number of wild campers parked up, the sun was shining, the Loch looked stunning and so we thought “sod it, lets park up here for the night”. This was one of the advantages of Wild Camping, we didn’t have to worry about letting down a campsite, we were free to roam! We had the most perfect day chilling on the bonny banks of Loch Lomond, the weather was stunning. We walked to the pub and had a lot of fun sampling some of the Scottish Whiskeys off of the Whiskey menu. It was one of those perfect days, and reinforced to us why we were enjoying this wild camping business.
We were settled in our van watching some TV that night and there was a knock on the door… “Uh oh” we both thought, but it turned out to be a random guy who was towing a speedboat back home after a days fishing somewhere. His trailer wheel buckled and he lived in Glasgow and needed to go and get some tools. He asked if we could keep an eye on his boat overnight and he’d be back first thing in the morning to fix it. We were a bit dubious and suspicious, but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and kept an eye on it. The next morning we woke up as the sun rose and went down to have our cuppa on the banks. We saw the guy arrive and set about fixing his trailer. The reflections on the Loch we just spectacular and despite the ungodly hour I was having lots of fun playing with my camera and tripod! I was trying to get a good pic of Keefy and I with the loch behind us and the next thing I knew this boat guy was tapping me on my shoulder and asking for my camera. It turned out he was a professional photographer and to say thanks for looking after his boat he wanted to take some pics of us both on my camera. Cue him starting to boss us around, ” you stand here, you stand there” etc but give him his due, the photos were AMAZING a perfect reminder of our perfect night spend wilding on the banks of Loch Lomond.
We carried on up to Glen Coe that day and did a mammoth walk to the hidden valley. As usual, the Glen was simply stunning and we had a fab time. We were just chilling with a cuppa back in Bluebell when “one of those moments” happened. This guy pulled up in the car next to us, got his bagpipes out and just started playing, with the backdrop of Glen Coe. It was lovely!! About 2 mins later 3 big bus loads of tourists came, got off, took pics, tipped him and drove off. 2 mins later he was off. We were so happy to have him to ourselves for a couple of minutes, it was just lovely. So atmospheric!
We stayed at Red Squirel campsite that night. What a mistake. Now we were getting into this wilding business we found Red Squirel massively overpriced and rather annoying. Never mind, we slept well and were up bright and early the next day ready to head towards Inverness.
We stopped for a visit to the Battle of Culloden site as I’d promised Keefy that we would. It was a very moving visit and I found myself really becoming overwhelmed by the history of it all. We then drove round the coast looking for a place to park up with a view of the sea so I could try and spot some dolphins..! We tried about 5 places, with no luck and ended up settling for the night in a small carpark on the road to Fortrose. About 6pm the heavens opened, and to our surprise we were welcomed to the north by a very very heavy snow “shower” – I say shower, it lasted for 12 hours! About 2 hours in, our carpark looked like a ski slope – we had a slight incline to get out, and so we started to worry that if we stayed overnight we may in fact not get out! So we packed our things up and left in the hope we would find somewhere nearer the A9 so that we were less likely to get stuck. We ended up parking right underneath the Inverness A9 bridge. It was pretty cool actually! We woke up to loads of snow the next morning but managed to get on our way. Next stop Ullapool! The roads gradually got worse and worse but we carried on, hoping for the best. it was on this road below that we saw the most amazing sight. A stag stood proudly by the side of the road. Amazing. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the camera in time to get it. But this pic shows the level of snow on the roads we traveled on!Before too long we arrived at the gorgeous Ullapool. Excitement was definitely brewing, we had had an amazing time and we hadn’t even left mainland yet!
We spent the night wilding on the carpark looking down over Ullapool and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon stocking up on supplies to take across to the Hebrides, namely beer, as we had read there weren’t an awful lot of pubs or offies..! We also had a nice pub crawl round Ullapool. We were really enjoying spending some money in the local towns, we made sure we spent at least the amount we would usually spend on a campsite, and usually more.
The next morning the day had arrived. We were off to the Hebrides! Woo! We boarded the ferry like two excited children and set on our way across to Lewis. We were aiming for The Butt of Lewis for our first night- the more north westerly point of the UK. It did not disappoint. We were able to park right under the lighthouse, and it really really felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. We did have a few cars roll up throughout the night which was surprising, but nothing that bother me – I’d got my 6 foot 4 bodyguard there to protect me.. 🙂
Next day, seeing as we were the most north westerly in the UK, we did the only option and, drove south! We headed through Lewis taking in all the sights and before we knew it we had reached Harris! We were staggered at the change in landscape between the two islands, and as soon as we set our wheels onto Harris, we fell in LOVE! A fantastic combination of mountains and the most fabulous beaches I’ve ever seen. We spent a two days exploring and loved every second. We stayed on the car park overlooking Hushinish bag. Wowee, this place is STUNNING. You must go! We had a very chilled out night there drinking gin and tonics and watching the view. For us, this was what it all is about.
Next morning we begrudgingly hit the road, we honestly could have stayed there for a week! But alas, the rest of the trip was calling. We set off south and went round the coast of Harris thoroughly loving every single corner we drove around as it gave us a new view. We couldn’t get enough! We were heading to Leverburgh that night and were intending on stay on the car park of the ferry port ready for our early morning ferry. We did, and following recommendations from fellow members of wildcamping.co.uk we ate that night at the restaurant on the car park- The Anchorage. It was every bit as good as the reviews we read, and some more! The view, the atmosphere, the food – all second to none.
That’s the restaurant on the left……
Next morning – onwards to Berneray and North and South Uists. We were very impressed with the island hopper ferry ticket by the way. As we weren’t in peak time we didn’t need to book, although we did- and it gave us an excuse to stop at the lovely red phone boxes dotted around to pre book. Neither of us had phone signal and the number you ring is freephone so win win.
We did the Uists in one day. We had been lucky with the weather so far, but unfortunately our time on the Uists was a bit more traditional in the weather sense… as in bleak and rainy. We just didn’t enjoy The Uists as much as Harris. We picked a lovely place to park overnight though- overlooking Baleshare Beach.
Next day we head off towards Eriskay and enjoyed a night overlooking the beach there. The islands were now getting smaller and the beaches were stunning. We stayed a night before getting the ferry to Barra. We were the only ones on the ferry! When we arrived we spent an hour driving round the whole island, so that we could pick our place to stay. There is only one road around Barra and we soon found a lovely spot. We then drove to the town to get water and provisions. We asked at the tourist info place where the best place to watch the plane land was and she told us about this hill to climb where you can see it well. We parked up where she told us and hiked up to the top. We were just in time. We managed to get a great view of the small Flybe plane landing on the beach of Barra. 20 mins later, refuelled and loaded with new passengers off it went again. Fascinating to watch!
The next day we drove across the causeway to Vatersay, which was an absolutely lovely small island, but unfortunately for us, very motorhome unfriendly. We instantly got told off for parking in 2 separate locations. We weren’t planning on staying we just wanted to do the walk around the Island. Needless to say we did our walk then drove back to our spot on Barra. Beautiful Island though.
Before we knew it, our last day on the Islands had come round, so we spent our final day climbing the hill on the island and were rewarded with some spectacular views. We then chilled until our ferry came to take us back to mainland, Oban.
We arrived late in Oban and found a carpark to grab a few hours kip in. We had had such an amazing time, The Hebrides had been everything that we had hoped for and more. Our favourite Island by far was Harris, and we will definitely return.
We managed our whole time on the Islands wild camping.
We found water daily with no problem at all.
Not once did we go into a pub whilst on the Islands – not because we were being tight, but because we didn’t see a single one!!! So make sure you take plenty of booze if you are into that, which we are!
We did however have a fantastic meal at the Anchorage restaurant, Leverburgh and if you are ever passing there you should definitely go!!!
We headed to Southwold for a weekend with my Dad and Jenny in May 2011. The weather was glorious and the Adnams was even better. Did you know that they did Adnams gin?? For me this was like a red rag to a bull.. Yum Yum.
We had a great weekend exploring the sophisticated seaside town and enjoyed some rather lavish fish and chips, washed down by some Broadside of course. Life doesn’t get much better than than IMHO
France. I love it. I love everything about it. The food, the drink, the people, the countryside, the cities, the fashions, the language – everything. Ever since my first trip to France aged 13, I’ve been hooked.
I couldn’t hold off any longer, February 2011 was the time for us to hit the ferry to France. I was so excited! We had a few things we were wanting to do once over there:
1) Visit Hornfleur and eat Moules and Frites over looking the harbour
2) Visit the Bayeux Tapestry
3) Visit the Thiepval Monument in the Somme (my Great Uncle died during the Somme and is listed at Thiepval)
Our itinery was fairly loose, and we were going to “wild camp” as often as we could, something in which the French were reknowned for, and well equipped for. I’d been telling Keith ever since we got Daisy how we should get our selves across the water and do some motorhoming, French styleee.
The French have this awesome awesome system called “Aires”. An aire is usually an open space/car park area specially set aside for motorhomes, or camping cars as they are know in French. Often they have services such as a water tap, maybe electric, waste dump etc, and quite often they are free or a minimal charge. The aim is to attract campers to the village/town, they stay for free, and then spend money in the area on a meal, in a bar, at the market- wherever and whatever. What a great idea. UK needs to wake up to this, sooner rather than later in my opinion.
Anyway, I subscribed to this fab website http://www.motorhomingfrance.co.uk/ which list all the aires in France, and exactly where they are and what they provide. I had even marked them all on our road atlas for france. Talk about being prepared. What I failed to realise was that a) February isn’t a very popular time to motorhome in France, therefore b) hardly any of the aires that we visited had any fresh water or electric available. More on that in a sec..
First stop in France was the glorious St Valery Sur Somme. What a gem. We arrived in time to park up in what we would learn to be the best aire of that trip. We managed to park up, plug in to get eleccy, fill with water and wander down into town for a Croque Moseur and a litre of red all before 2pm. All was fabulous in the world, we were happy as larry. We had a lovely afternoon exploring the town and headed back to Daisy later on. We had a perfect night on the aire and couldn’t believe we had waited so long to come and do this! Next morning, Keith went for his shower in Daisy and discovered we had no hot water. This later developed into no gas. Bummer. One thing we had been told- make sure you have enough gas, as the french system is different and incompatable with English vans. Crap. We had no gas on the first day of our holiday, and the gas powers the hot water system, the cooker, and the heating, and we are in the middle of winter in Northern France. Our lack of organisation on the gas front was made up for by our over organisation on the things we had stocked under out seats. A quick delve and we felt reassured- we found our electric heater, our old camping stove that we thought we’d cart with us “just in case” and athough we couldn’t do much about the hot water system, we decided just to grin and bear it and book on a site a couple of times for a good hot shower.
One thing I hadn’t quite realised is that in France, in February, pretty much every single campsite is closed. I mean it, we called loads and could not find a single one within the whole of Northern France! So no hot shower for us then this week. Oh well we kept saying, we are camping!
Back to the camping and the tour. Hornfleur. Magical. Especially when it was sunny, which it was when we visited. The aire there is great. 5 minutes walk to the centre of town. You just can’t complain at that. I think we paid 3 euros. Try finding a b&b for that much.
Bayeux Tapesty – one of those moments when you think, yes, I can cross that off the bucket list. AMAZING
Normandy Beaches- especially Arromanches- what a great place. So erie, we sat having a beer in a bar and it felt like we were there in the 1940s. It was so atmospheric, the landing crafts still visible in the water, you could easily imagine the soliders there. Fab
Omaha Beach and the American Cemetry. I have to be honest, this wouldn’t have been my first choice of places to visit, but my Keefy wanted to, and my goodness am I glad I did. It was very interesting. And so unbelievably emotional. We stood on Omaha beach and I just couldn’t help myself, I was so overcome with emotion I found myself crying.
Rouen. Now- this is where we had a slightly unfortunate/worrying incident in Daisy. I was driving. If you have never driven to/in Rouen- here’s a thought. Dont! Seriously the worst place I have EVER driven. EVER. The ring road was like the M25 mixed with Spagetti Junction x 100. To cut a long story short, I had an argument with Sarah (the sat nav), disagreed with the directions, swerved off the duel carriageway to get to road I was SURE we needed to go down. I was so busy “being right” I missed the height barrier signs, and then of course the height barrier, and bammed right into it at 40mph. Even this didn’t stop me, I carried on and then realised- what is the height barrier protecting. The underpass of course. So I had to reverse up a duel carriage way, the wrong way, back through the height barrier that we were too tall for (all with traffic coming our way of course, pipping etc). Screeched onto the main ring road again and hoped and prayed that nothing had fallen off the top of our roof. As sods law would have it, we couldn’t actually pull over for about 10 minutes to check everything. The worst 10 minutes of my life. I wasn’t sure even if the roof was still there. THANKFULLY it was and all was ok. Or so we thought. Later that night we discovered a leak, and unfortuntely that was the beginning of the end! We needed a new roof vent for a start and over the next year we would discover more leaks. But at this point we were blissfully unaware so after several stiff drinks, we could see the almost funny side and were ready to carry on with enjoying our week in France.
Next day we headed to the Somme. We had an incident where we had to stop on the toll road and use the side barrier for Keith to get onto the roof to fix the roof vent. (oops) Luckily we had the right equipement with us, including the high vis jackets, which I was enjoying wearing since we’d bought them specially for the trip (it’s illegal not to have them when you drive in Europe)
The Somme was a great place to visit too. Thiepval was another moving experience as was the circuit of Remembrance that we took part in having found a leaflet with the driving instructions on.
We ate so much lovely French food, and drank some fantastic wines. We survived without hot water and heating for a week and we didn’t have electric either. We showered in cold water using bottled mineral waters as the taps had frozen up and we spent a fortune! But, we had a great week, despite the fact I nearly killed Daisy. Would we do it again? It’s taken me a whole year and a new van, but now we have Bluebell, yes I really think we would. Although I don’t think Keith would let me take Bluebell back to Rouen….