SUNDAY 2-6-24

Yesterday evening's entertainment was of a BBC Proms MGM Musicals concert by the John Wilson & his Orchestra. Most enjoyable, sadly we'll never see the likes of such songs and performances again.

After going to bed I was being disturbed by a lot of rain droplets falling off the trees above our parking space. I told The Chef I'd need to move the vehicle to the other side of the road because I was unable to differentiate between a noise from water hitting the roof from possible sounds of some scrote outside the vehicle.

Unfortunately I discovered this morning that by moving us, The Chef could then hear the occasional noise from a refrigerated HGV trailer across the way. I heard it but, unusually for me, didn't find it disturbing.

This morning whilst The Chef was scrubbing up I set about dumping and taking on fresh water. I couldn't believe my luck as in the darkness of the night I had actually re-parked the grey water outlet right over a storm drain, so that was that quickly sorted.

Wandering over to the toilet block with the toilet cassette i noticed that the refrigeration trailer had actually been uncoupled from the tractor which was nowhere to be seen, so it looks as if the driver of the vehicle had the cheek to uncouple his load and leave it next door to his fellow HGV drivers whilst he drove off and re-parked somewhere nice and quiet away from his trailer unit. I'd always assumed those trailers needed to be hooked up to the tractor unit for its power supply, but I guess not.

It was a damp, drizzly morning as we slipped back on to the toll road heading for Boulogne, but rather than trust the satnav to take us the way we wished to go, i.e. nowhere near the Paris ring road, I just fed it the co-ordinates of the road halfway round the Chartres bypass.

Last night, peed off with the satnav with up-to-date mapping but crap graphics I went in to its menu and changed the setting from 'Fast' to 'Easy', the other options were a nonsense, like 'Short', 'Green', 'Economical'. What do they mean? So today we were running on 'Easy'.

Needing a baguette and today being a Sunday we knew it was going to be tricky finding one, however The Chef, seeing a sign for a Hyper U store at Dreux, suggested we take a quick look. Well, the store, like most other supermarkets (though not Lidl for some strange reason) was closed, but just past the store entrance I spotted a Boulangerie, so I swung in  only to see it too was closed, but I could smell hot bread, and as luck would have it there was another Boulangerie, only this one was open. Armed with her purse The Chef returned with a baguette and two pastries for later.

Back on the road we went heading towards Everux, again on the 154 highway, most of which is now dual carriageway reflecting the importance of this cross country route to avoid gay Paree. Soon we were enjoying lunch before having to face getting through Rouen. I swear we've never been through it the same way twice.

Thankfully 'Mr Easy' came up trumps and took us the way we should always have been taken and in no time we were clear of what must surely be the ugliest city in France.

Then it was all pistons pumping to a motorhome Aire I'd spotted at Boulogne sur Mer on Google Maps. Unfortunately to get there' Mr Easy' felt it would be much better to bring us off the motorway one junction too soon and take us for a lovely ride over roundabouts, speed humps and traffic lights, rather than come off one junction down on to a road which would have bought us to a roundabout three hundred yards from our destination.

Never mind, we got there only to find a barrier and a pay-us-ya-dosh machine. The Chef is usually pretty good with those things but even though she was following the instructions in English it had her beat. So that was that. I backed out and we parked for free across the road where we had a leg stretch and a nice hot drink. My original thought was to spend the night there but it was a pretty noisy spot and with the locals having provided motorhomers with an aire across the road I felt we'd be moved on at some time, and I really didn't want to do any more driving once I'd switched off.

So, having decided before the trip we'd spend a night at the Auchan supermarket car park before leaving I felt we should make for there. Oh joy of joys, there we roadwork's on the motorway at the point we need to rejoin it with contra flow traffic. Only we couldn't because it was our side that was closed and so we went for a lovely drive around the area again, even travelling down the same downhill road heading back towards 'Boggy' with a stupid speed limit of 25mph, only this time the bastards caught me on a speed camera.

How lucky we were then to find our way back to the motorway and able to join a long traffic jam through the contra-flow. I had intended with all the grief to just get the hell out of that area and go beyond Calais to find a picnic area, but in a weak moment I found myself leaving the motorway and heading for the Auchan Supermarket and the nearby signposted crematorium. So here we are for the night having joined two other motorhomes.

Tomorrow we shall make our way to Citi Europe to amuse ourselves for the day before dossing at an Auchan supermarket car park, a stone's throw from Citi Europe and the Le Shuttle complex. Being that close should ensure we'll arrive at the complex in good time for a our Tuesday morning crossing.

So that's it. There's no point in posting anything tomorrow, 'cos nothing aint happening.

It's been a L-O-N-G seven weeks, and at best I think I would describe the trip as 'Disappointing', but there you go. We said we'd 'See Portugal' and we did just that. The people there are very nice and fortunately in many cases, bi-lingual. The scenery was beautiful, but the roads, other than the toll roads, were pretty crap, as were their campsites. Then it was Spain, good old Spain. It was good to visit some old haunts, but we've seen enough of it now, and that is complicated by the fact that motorhoming is becoming too popular and there just aren't enough campsites to cope with the demand, which makes it a nightmare for folk like us who just wish to travel from one place to another. Because of that I predict caravanning and motorhoming will change and instead of folk touring, they'll go to just two or three campsites per trip and book a long stay at each. This will give them the certainty of a pitch, together with a discount on the fees because they're staying for a number of weeks. That way they'll keep their mileage and fuel costs down. Sadly that's not what we would wish to do, and that's why we're giving up this lifestyle next year.

All I have to do when I get home is proof read this nonsense, which, believe it or not I really don't get time to do whilst travelling, and then begin the task of preparing and repairing the vehicle for its next trip.


It was another peaceful night at Camping la Plage (N44.824453° E1.169497°), and I'm sure we'll return here as part of our farewell tour of France next year. As I lay in bed half asleep this morning I heard what sounded like the burner on another hot air balloon, but since I leapt out of bed yesterday to photograph one I couldn't be bothered to make the effort again. But then I heard a second burner, so it sounded like there were at least two up there. and so yet again I made  the effort. It was well worth it as I managed to capture picture of the two before climbing back in to bed, before only minutes later I heard more burners and when I looked out of the skylight above the bed we had one right above us, and it was flying low, and just like in 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' the flying machines kept arriving.

I couldn't believe just how low to the water some of them were prepared to fly for the entertainment of their passengers, honestly, they were just a few feet above the water at times. I'm surprised they are allowed to carry out such stunts, but still, it was entertaining for those of us on the ground as well.

After that I couldn't settle and so followed The Chef over to the lovely clean toilet block. After scrubbing up and breakfast it was chores time to prepare the vehicle for the road.

While I parked at the dump station to rid us of a full tank of grey water, The Chef went to Reception to pay for our three night stay. As we have the ACSI discount card we were charged a total of just forty-eight euros plus visitor tax, so we were pleased with that.

We excelled ourselves by being on the road by about twenty to ten, however the satnav had been lying in wait for us and sent us the 'pretty way' shall we say losing us an hour plus wasted fuel.

We knew we had plenty of time to make our journey to Calais, which was just as well given the Satnav's behaviour. Today it was more about times than locations and we had decided to come off the road at about 16:00 because tomorrow is Sunday and the HGV's will be parked up for the day wherever they can find a space, and we didn't want to miss our chance of a space.

I'm guessing last week was half term for school children because we were continually being overtaken by Brit motorists who had their foot on the floor, presumably racing to Calais.

After lunch we looked at the map to see we were making good progress and therefore would stop somewhere between Vierzon and Orleans, a distance of about fifty miles. We touched lucky after about fifteen miles by pulling in to check out a picnic area. as soon as we entered the area there was a height restriction bar across the road which meant HGV's couldn't access the car parking area, which was a great result because those lorry drivers will grab any space they can find.

So here we are parked up for the night and the area is already starting to quieten down. Tomorrow, taking full advantage of the HGV's being off the road we will cover the cross-country leg of the journey travelling Chartres/Dreux/Evreux to avoid the delight of Paris and it's ring road.

Quite where we'll spend tomorrow night I've no idea, but I'm sure it will be a surprise to us both.


FRIDAY 31-5-24

Yesterday evening we watched the final episodes of 'The Worst Week of My Life' series two. Not having neighbours close by meant we didn't have to be extra cautious regarding the televisions volume, not that we have it loud anyway.

This morning whilst contemplating getting up I heard what sounded like the heater on a hot air balloon firing off, so I threw some trousers and flip-flops on and popped out with the camera. I wasn't a sight that took the breath away, but a good start to the day, with just a little envy of the folk onboard who must have been enjoying a terrific view of the river and countryside, with the added bonus that there don't seem to be any overhead power lines to crash in to.

Having scrubbed up and fed we went for our walk to the village beneath the castle on the rocks.

As soon as we set out we noticed red spray paint signs on the ground together with little white flags stuck in the ground along our route. Clearly there is going to be some kind of running event here over the weekend. I'm so disappointed at not being able to join them.

it was a delightful walk across the fields and when we arrived at our destination we rewarded ourselves with a coffee followed by a visit to the nearby boulangerie for a couple of pastries. Cakes would have been nice, but we'd have had difficulty getting them back without damaging them.

The weather guess forecast for today was constantly changing and we were mindful that there was a possibility of rain showers whilst we were out, but thankfully they were wrong as usual and we arrived back home without need for the macs I carried in my backpack.

Lunch was noodles with a sauce, a nice easy filling meal, though The Chef doesn't rave about them.

 Then it was chores time, and since the vehicle is too small internally for us both to get stuck in without getting in each others way, The Chef pretty much had the afternoon off as I cleaned through top to bottom, before then topping up the vehicle screen wash and fresh water tank.

We're off tomorrow morning heading home. The journey to Calais should only take us a couple of days, but I've allowed three just as a safety margin, plus the Shuttle fare if cheaper if booked further ahead. If I'd booked the day before we wanted to cross it would have been about one-hundred and fifty pounds more expensive. So we cross at about 10:20 on Tuesday morning, meaning we get home at a sensible time.

The Chef has worked out the meals we're having on the way back to try and use up what's onboard, so much so that this evening we're having a barbecue but I'm only cooking chicken drumsticks because ''Er in charge of the kitchen' has decreed that the two remaining nice beefburgers bought from the English Butcher at Puerto du Duquesa are coming home with us, whilst the two remaining sausages will be eaten tomorrow evening, who knows where, together with egg and bacon - proper British nosh.

So that's it, seven long weeks and lots of sunshine, dust and grit and it's all over. Fingers crossed for a safe journey back, where we can be entertained by the electioneering of lying politicians treating us all as gullible fools, which is the same mistake the orange man from New York made, and now he's going to pay the price. The poor American public have somehow ended up with two geriatrics to choose from come their election day in November, but we shouldn't feel smug because we're not much better off.

THURSDAY 30-5-24

Last night's viewing entertainment was the second series of 'The Worst Week of My Life' starring Ben Miller, and other fine actors. We spent the time with the electric ceramic fan heater on stand-by just incase, but we didn't need it in the end.

The weather forecast was for rain during the evening and overnight, but all we got was a little light rain in the form of short showers during the night. This was reassuring as the Brits I was chatting to yesterday, who know the campsite owner fairly well,  were telling me that when the river Dordogne burst its banks it flooded the campsite up to the toilet block, which meant that our pitch would have been under water. So that's why there are vacancies at the campsite. The owner has not been taking bookings given the uncertainty of the situation.

We got up late because there was nothing in particular to get up for and the forecast was for more rain in the morning. Annoyingly we've not had rain but it's been rather windy, and it's a cool wind which isn't a nice experience for those of us who are returning from a warmer climate.

After scrubbing up and dressing in warmer clothing including trousers, we formulated a cunning plan for our return home. It looks as if we'll be booking a Shuttle crossing back to Blightie on Tuesday morning.

After lunch we went for a walk down the road in to the village of La Roque Gageac, which is really just a row of shops, hotels, and restaurants running parallel with the river, but a nice spot never the less. When we were in Reception yesterday we asked why so many villages had their road signs turned upside down. Apparently it's something to do with supporting French farmers and means 'We walk on our heads'. No, don't ask me either.

Typically, having wrapped up warm the wind dropped and the sun came out, so it was jackets off as we made our way back home with the thought of getting our chairs out and enjoying an afternoon of sunshine.............. but of course it was not meant to be, and by the time we'd walked the half-mile back we were back to wind and cloud, so it was an afternoon indoors with the door open.

Tomorrow the weather forecast has changed and instead of a sunny, dry day, it's to be a dry morning and a wet afternoon, and so we'll set off for our walk as early as we can in the hope we get back before the rain starts.

We have a quite spot in the corner of the campsite now as a number of fellow campers left this morning - maybe they know something we don't.


We got to watch the final third episode of 'SAS Rogue Warriors' last night in what was almost our own private rest area. There were three HGV's there all night and two or three more came and soon went again, and I bet we didn't see or hear more than four cars before going to bed.

As we had all the facilities we needed at the rest area we enjoyed a lovely hot shower before topping up the fresh water tank and dumping. We needed to do that because there was no way to know how today would work out. If our intended destination couldn't take us then we were pretty much on our way home.

Fortunately the satnav functioned pretty well today and elected to take us across country to Vezac on the side of the Dordogne river, rather than past Bordeaux then turn right along the E70 toll road. We did have one long deviation due to roadwork's but other than that it was a pleasant two hours of driving through the countryside.

We arrived at Camping la Plage, (N44.824453° E1.169497°) to find several empty pitches. The Chef went in to book and because we had been here before we didn't have to have our passports checked, basically we were trusted to pay on the way out. A number of pitches were crossed out on the campsite map because the Dordogne had recently burst its banks and they'd been flooded. This worked well for us as we were able to bag a pitch down by the river with not too many neighbours.

We've booked three nights because I think we'll pretty much go straight home from here. It's been a cloudy day with a few very light rain showers. Tomorrow is half and half with Friday due to be dry and sunny, so we'll go for a nice long walk on that day.

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday we woke up in Zaragoza, Spain to a blue sky and warm temperatures, now today we've got a cooler, breezier day and cloud with a little rain. Maybe our enduring  hot temperatures down in Spain and Portugal was a blessing if France and other more northerly countries have been enduring heavy rain. I'm already starting to feel a bit silly wearing shorts, so I think tomorrow I will grudgingly change in to trousers.

It will be nice to rest up for a couple of days before making our way home, but I'll have to remember to book the return le Shuttle crossing before it's too late.

This evening's culinary delight from my darling Chef is to be Thai Chicken Curry, which I'm sure will be followed by a bit of telly. Looking at the weather forecast I think tomorrow may just be the day to stay in and watch the film 'Oppenheimer'.


TUESDAY 28-5-24

Well, today has been a bastard - full stop.

We had a peaceful enough night on the free Zarragoza Camperstop, even managing to get dumped this morning.

Today's master plan was to drive to the Canfranc Station Hotel (N42.755262 W0.514767). I'd seen it mentioned on a couple of travel programmes, not least one episode as Michael Portillo continued his tour of Europe by train . As I recall the story, the large railway station was built on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees and was to be joined by something similar on the French side with a railway tunnel joining them. For some reason or other it never took off and the station sat empty for many years before being converted in to an hotel fairly recently. My thinking was to visit the location and then drive through the Tunnel du Somport and in to France.

I knew it was north of Jaca on the Spanish side, and so pumped in the GPS location and off we went. We travelled a number of miles along a good motorway before being told to turn right, and so we did. My, My, what a lovely drive we had through the Pyrenees mountains, with the road being very narrow in places, so much so that at one point we met a motorhome coming the other way and I had to pull my wing mirror in so that we didn't touch. We did think it would be a good idea to let a coach past so that we could follow him, assuming he'd be a local lad and knew the road. How wrong can you be? After we let him past I noticed the vehicle was registered in Poland and was clearly being driven by a mad man. Even on narrow, blind sharp corners, he just commanded the bit of road he needed and to hell with whatever might be coming the other way. In fact we had to  let him speed ahead, so that was a bright idea down the pan.

Unfortunately there are no pictures of the narrow, winding, hairy part of the journey through the mountains because my darling photographer had both hands firmly on the side of her seat.

After about three hours we stopped for lunch, giving me the opportunity to check on Google Maps what was going on. Imagine my horror when I discovered that we were just north of Aragnouet on the 929, and miles from where we wanted to be. Instead of staying on the motorway section to Jaca and then a little further north to Canfranc the satnav had taken us for a ride through the mountains in a north-easterly direction. This being the mountains, you can't just hang a left at the next road junction and cut across country to get back on track. So we were stuffed and had to forget about the station, instead we'd carry on until we reached the A64 toll road where we'd head west to Pau and then drop down along the E07 to a campsite we had earmarked. Unfortunately the satnav seemed to have other ideas, so much so that I took it off the dashboard and replaced it with the old Snooper, which we carry as a spare. Now the problem I have with these two satnavs is that the Snooper has good graphics but out of date mapping, it being ten years old now, and the newer, cheaper satnav having very good, accurate mapping, but lousy graphics, and that alone has caused us to make many a wrong turn, especially off a roundabout.

So now it was the Snooper's turn to make our lives a misery as we struggled in the middle of Pau. Eventually I slammed my hands down on the steering wheel and told The Chef, 'That's it, I've had enough, I can't do this anymore we're off home and you can choose the route'. And so she has, electing to follow the master plan with us going up to the Bordeaux are before turning right and running along the River Dordogne. We enjoyed that the last time we did it, but we weren't doing it in the summer holiday season.

So here we are. Pissed off having been on the road all day, burned through half a tank of fuel and got nothing for it apart from some lovely scenery, and now parked in a picnic-cum-rest area at junction one of the A65 near Bazas, about forty miles south of Bordeaux.

What a difference a day makes. Never mind we're on our way home. It's been great being away from Broken Britain and all the rain (I don't think we've seen a drop of the stuff since the start of this trip six weeks ago), but it's all too much like hard work now and it will be nice to get home and see folk.

Whilst I have been sat outside at a picnic table in the sunshine typing up this dross, my darling Chef is preparing good old bangers and mash. It will make a nice change from all those salads.

Tonight's visual entertainment will be the third and final episode of 'Rogue Warriors', covering the formation and early years of the SAS. Oddly enough it was on BBC4 at the same time as the 'Rogue Heroes' series, based, I assume on the book which both Rosina and I read and enjoyed. I couldn't record both of them as there was something else we were recording at the same time, so when I saw the DVD on good old Amazon UK, I bought it, and it forms one of our large selection of DVD's we've bought along with us. This series includes interviews with a few of the original regiment filmed in 1984, including Reg Seeking, who after the war ran a pub in our home town of Ely.

The official Camperstop


MONDAY 27-5-24

Another lovely peaceful night. We were up in good time in the hope of getting away in good time. I dumped everything the hard way even though we were very close to the dump station. This saved us having to join a queue to use it.

I was hoping to be away by ten o'clock and we probably were, however before leaving town we wanted to stop off at the local Carrefour store.................................and then it began.

The supermarket was only a couple of miles away but the satnav just went crazy. It seemed determined to get us out of town by sending us down all the narrow roads around the seafront area and then insisting we travel up one way streets the wrong way. Not once but many times. There were some points in the area we passed three times as we went round and round. All we needed was just one direction sign to show us the way out and eventually we found one. It goes without saying that after half an hour we found ourselves on the correct road just a short distance from the campsite. Why the hell the satnav was sending us round in circles we had no idea. So that was that. Sod Carrefour, we'll just get out of town and on to the motorway and then look for something as we crossed country to Zaragoza.

Then our luck changed and we saw signs for the supermarket which turned out to be just off our route, so we were able to stock up at our chosen store, but only by luck. Then it was just up the road where we filled up with fuel, before setting off, a full hour after having set off.

Google Maps had told me that the journey was something like two hundred and fifty miles long and would take us three and a half hours to complete, which seemed about right. The problem was the satnav told us it would take five hours twenty minutes, and the thing is, it's often damned well right. And so it was today. Our journey commenced at 11:00 and ended here in Zaragoza at 16:20, having had about a thirty minute break for lunch. Why it should have taken so long I've no idea, especially as for much of the time  was either doing or exceeding the speed limits on the motorways.

Heading north up the coast of the Costa Del Boy we passed the exit signs to some familiar places. When we reached Sagunt we turned inland and the roads slowly became much quieter. Very often we were only sharing it with the odd HGV.

The landscape was very picturesque the soil and rocks continually changed colour While we were parked in a picnic area for lunch a Brit parked opposite us and seemed quite interested as we adjusted the ride height on the air assisted suspension. While The Chef was in the supermarket I checked the tyre pressures and ride height. The tyres were fine which is surprising considering what they have been subjected to on some roads on this trip, but the ride height was out. One side was 30¼" and the other 30¾", so I dropped the higher one down. As we were bombing down the motorway I could tell I'd got it a bit wrong as we were wallowing a bit. Hence the adjustment at lunchtime. Both are no on 30¾" and the ride seems much better.

We had to go around the outskirts of Zaragoza to reach our camperstop (N41.683467° W0.890432°). My word it was busy, so much so we decided to look down at the unofficial extension, which is the poor end really but with more space between the vehicles because you decide yourself how much space you want between you and your neighbour. Having backed in to a space next to a young Dutch family with grizzly kids we went one better and parked up the road away from all the campers, although since we've done it several more have joined us, including the Brit we saw at lunchtime. He's now our next door neighbour, though I doubt we'll be spending time engrossed in conversation with him.

So tomorrow we head for Canfranc on the southern side of the Pyrenees. Meanwhile The Chef is now preparing tonight's culinary delight - macaroni cheese, which seems like a good excuse to have a glass or two of red grapes, part of my five a day.

Oh, and if you haven't heard, the little brown chap at number ten has decided to ignore advice from The Samaritans, and commit political suicide by calling a General Election. I doubt if there has ever been a political party  more deserving of being kicked out of office than this one. In fourteen years they've managed to bugger up absolutely everything. There isn't one thing in all that time that they've got right. They had an eighty-seat majority and could have done so much with it, yet did nothing, except fight among themselves. the problem is the alternative is equally frightening.  Our shadow (no I didn't live in that house) deputy leader is already lining up new laws to give the union barons yet more powers to make the public's life a misery.

If only there were a political party that was middle of the road and spoke for the average man in the street. Never mind, at my time of life there isn't much they can do to make my life much more of a misery, but I do truly feel sorry for the younger generations.