France 2013

After our trip to the south for the Dunsfold and Shoreham air shows it required a quick turn round to get ready to depart for France.

We got home from Shoreham at lunchtime on the Monday and by mid afternoon the bed was stripped, sheets washed and on the line drying. We had appointments to keep on Tuesday and Wednesday, the lawn needed mowing and all our airshow kit and clobber had to be unloaded from the motorhome and replaced by holiday kit. We needed to stock up the fridge and store cupboards for the first few days as the last thing one wants is to have to shop as soon as you arrive at your first stop.

Thursday 5th September 2013.

Our ferry from Dover was booked for 11:10 on Thursday so, with the vagaries of the Dartford Crossing and the M25 in mind, we would need an early start. We also needed to fill up with diesel and top up the gas tanks.

We were up at 5am and ready to leave at 6:15 to nip into Ipswich for fuel and then onto the already busy A12 on a lovely sunny morning. A bit of ‘stop, start’ down the A12 in fog patches but the M25 was clear and we made good time, if this carried on we might even get an earlier ferry. There was the usual dilemma of M2 or M20 but as I think the M20 is the better road and there seems little difference in distance we went that way.

As we climbed up over the downs towards Brands Hatch we were passed by a police car with blue lights on which we soon caught up with as he started a ‘rolling road’ to bring the traffic to a halt. That is where we stayed, stationary, for almost two hours.  We heard via the radio that a truck had broken down in a vulnerable position and a van had ploughed into the back of it. Eventually the hard shoulder was opened past the scene and the huge backlog of traffic filtered past.

The motorway ahead was almost empty so cruise control was set to 70mph and we resumed our dash to Dover, now certain to miss our ferry. As we got closer to Dover the ETA on the sat-nav showed that we might just get there in time. Passing slow moving trucks through the town and straight through Passport Control without having to stop we arrived at check-in 20 minutes before sailing time. However, it seems we were too late to load and we were put on the next ferry an hour later. We needn’t have rushed after all!

Having booked the Club Lounge we travelled in comfort and quiet with our complimentary glass of Champagne and we ordered a snack for lunch. Definitely the way to travel to France and cheaper than the tunnel.

We arrived at our destination on the banks of the river Seine without further drama. Le Mailleraye-sur-Seine is one of our favourite aires (GPS 49°28’59.80″N 0°46’25.76″E) and usually our first stop of choice. The problem is, it is also a favourite for too many other people, particularly when the weather is good. We arrived to find all the marked out pitches alongside the river full and there were two vans in front of us who had gone to the service area to fill up with water before pitching. Almost at the far end and at the back row there was just one space which I quickly dived into, phew! It was a lovely warm, sunny evening with people sitting out between the ‘vans’ and along the bank while other strolled and chatted as they went past. Later  ‘messieur’, from the local commune (council) came along in his little van to collect the iniquitous amount of €5 from us for 24 hours of peace & quiet and one of the most pleasant views one could wish for. What a bargain! We might just stay for a few days.

The Aire at Le Mailleraye-sur-Seine

The Aire at Le Mailleraye-sur-Seine

An example of the size of ship that passes just feet from our door.

An example of the size of ship that passes just feet from our door.

Friday morning and I lie in bed looking up through the roof light at grey sky. When we arrived here the previous day it was glorious and had been for weeks. It seems we put a curse on this place when we arrive because every time we have been here recently the weather has been wet and murky. Mind you, I shouldn’t complain as the weather forecasters had predicted this would happen several days age and for once they were right. Perhaps it was just early morning mist and fog lying along the river and it would clear as soon as the sun got stronger which it seemed to do but not for long as the cloud thickened. The sky got darker and we had a little rain but we just sat watching the river as, by this time spaces had appeared on the river bank and we had moved to a spot with grandstand views of the river and ships passing by. As the day wore on the sky brightened and by evening the far bank was lit by sunlight again promising a better day to follow.

Far banks of the Seine lit by the evening sun.

Far banks of the Seine lit by the evening sun.

Saturday 7th September.  

A bright but chilly start as I walk up to the village for our morning croissants and baguette. Fresh French croissants with jam all washed down with strong coffee must be my favourite breakfast. No matter where you buy croissants in Britain they are never a patch on the French village bakers, it must be all in the freshness.

The sun soon warms thing up and much of the day is spent sitting on the river bank enjoying the sunshine. One of our neighbours reports that he has a good wi-fi connection using his antenna to link to SRF FON, the French equivalent of BT, so I fix up my iBoost on the roof and try my luck. After the rigmarole of trying and failing to log in ( it helps if one uses the correct password) I have success and get a good, free Internet connection. The lovely day is rounded off with a BBQ supper and the obligatory glasses of red. When in France………!
Sunday is almost a repeat of Saturday but we walk up to the village in the evening and get a pizza to take back to the motorhome.

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