.........we meet at the hairpin bend

.........we meet at the hairpin bend

SUNDAY 8-09-19

We were lucky enough to get a good night's sleep last night. We had the noise of a continually running engine from an HGV all night but it wasn't a problem as it was far enough away, and a constant noise, rather than an engine which turns on and off all night for their refrigeration units.

We were up and scrubbed in good time and I dumped our grey water while The Chef popped across to the petrol station shop to buy a nice fresh baguette for lunch and we hit the road about 09:30. I think the satnav objected to working on a Sunday as it sent us the long way around the Lyon area, adding about thirty-five miles to the journey. In an attempt to save a bit of money on toll fees we were going to Grenoble and then drive down the mountain road through Sisteron and Grasse to eventually arrive at Cannes where we would travel a short distance on the toll road to make use of a Truckstop for the night, should we get that far.

We have travelled that route two or three times in the past, but I have to say I won't do it again. Saving money is ok, but the journey was really hard work, great views but hard work. We were up and down the sides of mountains twisting and turning round I don't know how many hairpin bends, and going through countless small communities where the speed limits are up and down all the time, 30/50/70/90kph, though 90 kph is now 80kph. The French arbitrarily changed that speed limit overnight from 90kph to 80kph but have yet to get around to change the signs, though the police and their speed cameras are bang up to date when it comes to fining an unsuspecting traveller.

There were to have been a couple of cut-off points before the coast. Firstly Sisteron which has an aire for motorhomes, though is usually full, but may have had a space for us to spend the night in. The second was Castellane which looked in the Camperstop book, to have a large, good aire for six euros a night as opposed to the usual free of charge, but that would have done us admirably.

As it turned out we just kept plodding on, taking a break at lunchtime and one again in the afternoon up in the mountains for a hot drink. It was beginning to look as if we would be able to make it all the way to the Med coast today, which meant that all we had to do was get on the toll road at Cannes and pull in to the Truckstop a short distance eastwards. We would normally expect to travel down that road for about eight miles anyway, so to get a free nights accommodation in to the bargain seemed a good idea.

Sadly though, best laid plans and all that - we missed the toll road entrance and even worst, found ourselves on the Grasse to Nice road up in the hills going through villages. There was no other option but to feed our campsite's GPS co-ordinates in to the satnav (N43.641882º E7.137931º) and try our luck there. Luckily we arrived dead on 18:00 and were able to take the only pitch they had available, small, yes, but available. They do expect that better pitches will become available tomorrow as folk move on, so fingers crossed.

As Freddie Fendt is now ten years old I got the garage to change all of the brake fluid as well as the brake pads on the front end before we came away. I think after today we can safely say they're now bedded in.

So there we are, much against my expectations we made the journey in two days. It's been two days of hard work, today being by far the worst. In future we'll either have to use the toll roads all the way down or try approaching from Italy having travelled through Germany and Switzerland.

Yesterday we travelled about 380 miles from Ypres in Belgium, at an average speed of 58mph at 33.2mpg. Without resetting the trips this evenings figures are total mileage 728 miles at an average speed for the whole journey of 31mph at 31.7mpg, so you can see what a huge difference travelling on mountain roads makes. Incidently fuel prices on the toll roads were

1.55 to 1.67 per litre and the cheapest was 1.40 at the supermarket fuel stations.

Tomorrow we'll have to hang around a bit to try and sort out a better pitch before setting up shop, so tomorrow I'll start another 'chapter', 'Nice Area', hope to see you there.


SATURDAY 7-09-19

I had a late night last night trying to upload the short video on to Youtube for the blog. I gave up in the end and left it to be done first thing this morning.

We had a few very heavy showers during the night but we don't mind that too much, it does make being tucked up in bed seem even more cosy, provided the noise doesn't get too bad.

We had all the chores done in good time this morning and were on the road by about 09:30 (we always avoid the rush hours, leaving the roads for those with a greater need).

We've made good progress today and now sit on a Truckstop about forty miles north of Lyon having travelled about 380 miles. It's nearly all been toll road which is going to cost us, but it is definitely the quickest and safest way to travel. The route today was very boring, it's been nothing but agricultural land for mile after mile. It does make you appreciate just how big and rural this country is. After lunch I told The Chef I needed some music on as it was getting difficult to concentrate with it being so boring. So on went the MP3 player (remember them?), played through the vehicles radio system. There's nowt like plenty of 60' and 70's music played loudly to keep you going.

As for the journey to the Med, we are compromising on cost and not going right down to the coast and then run all the way along the West-East toll road, that really is an expensive one. Instead we're going to Grenoble and then down the hill on 'A' roads through Sisteron, Digne-les-Bains and Grasse. It's a winding route but at least we'll be going downhill. We're now well positioned for tomorrow's drive. I doubt we'll get it all done tomorrow as we won't be able to drive at anything like the speed we've managed to do today, but we'll see.

This evenings meal has been a creation by The Chef comprising of new potatoes, peas, mince and gravy, all prepared back home so that it just needed heating through, and is exactly what works when holed up on a Truckstop, unless of course you want a salad. I did bring with me the remains of a bottle of red wine I had at home, so I finished it off with the meal, so now I guess I'll have to have a 'Gaviscon' chaser.

Following last night's ceremony at the Menin Gate I was thinking to myself 'What if we'd had access to a faultless Crystal Ball back in 1914. What if we could have looked in to it and seen that fifty or less years later they'd all be the best of friends, and told the Belgians that although we sympathised with their plight, they should grin and bear it because it will all come right in the end, therefore we won't be participating in the Great War.' Think how many lives could have been saved if we had, and with no WW1 there wouldn't have been a WW2, so millions of lives would have been saved, meaning we wouldn't have been short of labour in our factories etc, which means that we wouldn't have had to rely so heavily on immigration.

But then............... think on......... without the two World Wars we wouldn't have had  moving ceremonies at places like the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday - nobody would qualify to attend. Poppy makers would be on the dole, stuck at home watching repeats of 'The Jeremy Kyle Show'. So all things considered maybe we need a war or two to keep things ticking over.

The parade past the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday will, I've no doubt, undergo considerable change over the coming years to reflect today's modern armed forces and society in general. With the emergence of the LGBT movement I can see future parades of veterans headed by folk like Michele (I'd like to be called Frank now) sat in a wheelchair with a crew cut, wearing a suit, tie and piercings, being pushed by the likes of "Nosher" (Call me Shirley) Biggs, sporting a long wig with a beret perched on top, skirt, make up and high heels. It brings a tear to my eye, but Society will continue to evolve.

Well I think I'll have that Gaviscon chaser now, after which I'm going to pop across to the Truckstop shop to enter that national French competition 'Guess the Serial Number of Brigitte Macron's New Bus Pass', followed by a DVD and an early night.

75th anniversary at the Menin Gate

The service at the Polish Memorial

The service at the Polish Memorial

Ramparts Military Cemetery

Ramparts Military Cemetery

The Menin Gate

The Menin Gate

FRIDAY 6-9-19

Having arrived at Citi Europe at 23:45 local time last night we quickly got ready for bed rather than disturb the neighbours. This parking area (GPS: N50.932880º E1.811049º) is becoming increasingly popular these days.

After a reasonable night's sleep we were up and in to the Carrefour Hypermarket just across the road. I don't think we've ever spent so little, mainly because The Chef has meals onboard to see us through until we reach the Villeneuve Loubet, just down the road from Nice in the south of France, plus I'm reducing my wine intake and now trying to drink less of it but better quality, which means I can't stock up as you don't seem to be able to get much good stuff in boxes.

We set off for leper, or Ypres in Belgium at about 09:40. I had intended to leave about ten but since we were twiddling  our thumbs it made sense to leave earlier, and I'm glad we did because we hit a long delay about thirty miles down the road due to road works. On our way here we passed the spot where, back in November last year, whilst coming to Ypres to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the end of The Great War we became stuck in mud having followed a number of cars across some very wet grass to  get around a broken down HGV, and sure enough the deep ruts we created are still there, now not nearly as visible due to grass having grown through them. So whatever happens to Brexit we can say we've left our mark in Europe.

We arrived here at Camping Jeugdstadion in leper www.jeugdstadion.be (GPS: N50.846893º E2.898102º) at about 11:40, and although we're not supposed to turn up until 12:00 they let us in. This is about our fourth visit here. It's a great location being just a short walk from town and the Menin Gate memorial.

After an early lunch we set off for a walk around town ending up at the Ramparts Military Cemetery. I have to say, if you've got to end up in a military cemetery then this must be one of the nicest to be in. We've been here before but had never noticed the high percentage of Canadian, Australian and New Zealanders, mainly Maoris' who are buried there.

Firstly then, about the Menin Gate.

Historically, the Menin Gate of Ypres was simply a crossing point over the moat and through the ramparts of the old town fortifications, on the road to the nearby town of Menin. It had a special significance for the troops though, as it was from this spot that thousands of soldiers set off for the part of the Front called the Ypres Salient – many destined never to return.

This became the chosen site for one of the grandest and most haunting memorials of the Great War. The new Menin Gate was built in the form of a Roman triumphal arch, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.

The vast, white, Portland-stone walls of the Menin Gate are engraved with the names of nearly 55,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers lost on the field of battle but with no known graves; a son, a father, a brother. In fact the walls of the Menin Gate were not big enough to accomodate all of the names; a further 34,957 names of the last and untraced are inscribed on the walls of Tyne Cot Cemetery to the east of Ypres.

During the inauguration ceremony, in July 1927, the Last Post was played for the first time by buglers from the Somerset Light Infantry. Since 1928, buglers from the Last Post Association have been playing the 'Last Post' regardless of the number of attendants or weather conditions.

Unfortunately though, the Germans fancied their chances in a rematch which lead to the Second World War, so from May 1940 when Ypres was occupied, the Last Post was played every evening by buglers at Brookwood Military Cemetery, Sussex back in the UK.

On 6th September 1944, notwithstanding heavy German resistance, Ypres was liberated by the 1st Polish Tank Division under the leadership of General Stanislaw Maczek. On that same day ‘Last Post’ was played again at the Menin Gate, and has been every night since. Tonight was the 31,520th occasion since 1928.

So why are we here?

I'm not sure quite how it happened but a couple of years ago I became a member of The Last Post Association www.lastpost.be , and having paid my annual dues I received an invitation to attend their special ceremony tonight at the Menin Gate. As it turned out with our delay at setting off on this trip the date has worked in perfectly to allow us to attend before heading south.

Needless to say it rained and we got a bit wet, even with our macs on. We started off with a short ceremony at the Polish memorial on the wall near the excellent  'In Flanders Field' Museum, and then walked down the road behind a piper and the standard bearers. We even had an area reserved for us inside. The Chef managed to bag a place right at the front, but as I wanted to video it I thought it best to stand at the back and hoist the video camera high on the monopod, rather than get in peoples way.

I have to say we've seen better services, but never mind. I'll attempt to upload a small part of it as these things go on and on, as well as gobble up gigabytes.

Tomorrow we need to leave here in good time as we're heading south to the Med in the hope of finding a bit of warmth sunshine.


Well we're all prepared for this fairly short trip. A couple of days ago I walked in to town and had another haircut from 'Blind Brian'. Even he said "See you about Christmas time" which gives you some idea of just how cool it feels around my ears right now.

Fortunately all went well with the family member The Chef accompanied to hospital this morning and was home in time to do the last minute chores before we set out.

While she was away I cracked on with a few remaining jobs like cutting the lawn and washing the vehicle.

We left home bang on 17:00 for a 21:50 crossing on Le Shuttle through the Euro Tunnel. We had decided to cross The Channel for this trip, and as a compromise by not staying in the UK we will try and watch our pennies a bit more on this trip which was to start with the Channel crossing. But to my surprise Mr Peando's multi-coloured ferryboat was eighty-six pounds single whilst the Euro Tunnel was just twenty-five pounds more, so we treated ourselves since it is a far nicer experience.

The journey to the Euro Tunnel terminal took us just two and a half hours exactly which pleased me greatly as we travelled during the rush hour. Although it was fairly busy we managed to keep moving.

The weather on the way down was quite pleasant with sunshine but a cool breeze. Still we mustn't complain as it's nothing compared with what the folk in the Bahamas area are having to endure due to Hurricane Dorian. Such dreadful devastation.

Lucky for them that British aid agencies are ready to fly child molesters and perverts in to the area to render assistant armed with food parcels and bags of sweets for the kids, supplied I believe by the Rolf Harris Foundation.......... just when local folk thought things couldn't get any worse.

Whilst we sit here waiting for our crossing we are looking forward to a night's sleep at Citi Europe next to the Tunnel complex (GPS: N50.932880˚ E1.811049˚) before setting off for a flying visit to Ypres in Belgium, before heading south on Saturday......... more of that tomorrow.