The middle of November and after some pleasant but cold days the weather turned wet and murky.
Reading Motorhome Fun, my favourite motorhome forum, it seemed that folk down south in Spain were still wandering about in tee shirts while we were huddled up in coats and hats and lighting the log burner.
Time for a change.
After much discussion about all the things that needed to be done at home and preparations for Christmas we decided that nothing was really that urgent that it couldn’t be left until later or not done at all. The thought of warmer weather and a bit of sun was just too tempting.
The Chunnel was booked for Friday afternoon and off we went on our long drive south.
We were greeted in France by rain as we left the shuttle and drove the short distance to Cite Europe and its free aire (GPS 50.93282° 1.81111°). After a fairly quiet night and a quick dive into Carrefour for some supplies we were on the road south and into more rain and even wet snow lying beside the road.
We arrived at La Mailleraye-sur-Seine (GPS 49.48334° 0.77386°) to cold but bright weather and some weak but welcome sunshine. After lunch we wrapped up and went for a brisk walk beside the river, returning to tea and tiffin in a cozy, warm van.
More rain that night and a constant light clattering on the roof as sycamore seeds and twigs were blown off the trees above in the high winds. I could have parked in a better place, away from trees but didn’t think about it until the early hours when the tail end of Storm Angus came our way.
Watching the news it seemed that Angus had caused a fair bit of mayhem in the south of the UK but we had got away lightly.
Day 2 in France and we drove the well worn path (by us anyway) down the N154, past Evreux, Chartres and Orléans to our next stop at the small town of Lamotte-Beuvron and another free aire (GPS 47.59837° 2.02303°).
We drove through some showers and one band of heavy rain but when we arrived it was bright with some watery sun and much warmer, a surprising 16ºc.
According to the BBC weather man the cause of all the bad weather was the jet stream looping south across Spain and France instead of its usual track north of the UK. It was due to move back north in a few days so things should improve.
Day 3 and we continued south on the D2020 to join the toll free A20 motorway, past Limoges and into the Dordogne.
Despite the cloud and occasional rain the autumn colours in the forests were spectacular, so bright and vivid it looked as though they were in sunlight rather than the gloom and drizzle.
We had intended to stop at Souillac for the night but as we left the A20 it was still early in the day so, after a quick lunch, we pressed on across the hills to Rodez.
To try and avoid awkward navigational moments in a large motorhome I use two sat-nav’s together and let them argue which is the best route. They were happily singing from the same hymn sheet until we reached the middle of Rodez. I suspected that we had taken a wrong turning when we started to climb towards the old part of the city but CoPilot seemed happy for me to turn left at the next junction. Mrs Garmin had a hissy fit and stopped communicating just when she was most needed. I required her help right there and then but she refused to co-operate and had to be reset while waiting at lights. CoPilots instructions looked a bit iffy as the street had a HGV restriction, never a good sign. We went down a narrow steep street only for the daft thing to tell me to turn round and go back. We ended up in a warren of narrow steep back streets with both sat-nav’s telling me to go down even tighter and steeper looking streets.
Eventually we emerged onto a wide thoroughfare and back to the correct route…….Phew!
After that stressful tour of Rodez we were very glad to arrive at the aire (GPS 44.35785° 2.59423°) and find several spaces free. Once again, although it was cloudy and looked like rain, it was warm even though we were almost 2,000ft high.
Day 4 started with more rain and drizzle as we left Rodez and headed east to join the A75 north of Millau. The A75 is always a super road to drive with terrific views all the way south. This time it was so dark when we arrived at the junction to join the motorway that the street lights were on at 10am. Heavy rain gave way to drizzle and as we approached Millau the sky started to brighten a little. We left the motorway and dropped down into the valley to pass through Millau. The rain had stopped and there was a good view of the viaduct, although clouds clung to the hillsides around the town.
Back onto the A75 south of the town and we ran into thick fog (cloud). Fortunately the traffic was very light and as we started the decent from the hills we dropped out of the cloud and into clear air.
Once again the autumn colours in the valley were spectacular with vineyards adding to the mix. All colours from gold to brilliant reds lit up the valley floor even though there was no sunshine.
We arrived at our fifth free aire at Gruissan (GPS 43.10415° 3.09963°) in time for a late lunch. We were surprised by the number of vans on the aire as it was now late November. There must have been 40 taking advantage of the barrier being open and the office closed.
By now the temperature had risen to a very pleasant 20ºc although it was still cloudy and a storm was promised. A low pressure area was moving up the Spanish coast in our direction and heavy rain was forecast for the next day, Wednesday. Rather than venture into Spain as intended we would stay put and batten down the hatches until the weather improved.