Finally in France
I have commented before that Stella has a penchant for goat tracks. She must have resented my little joke and held a grudge ever since. Today she avenged herself by taking us down Ram Lane. Of the several narrow white roads marked on the map that went off in the rightish sort of direction she chose this particular one. No! A narrow, gravelly, single track road with high hedges and overhanging trees. Should we back out onto the slightly less narrow road on a bend behind? Or assume that it would improve? We proceeded and the road deteriorated. Pot holes, grass down the middle, broken surfaces and puddles of unknown depth. Hedges left leaves wedged in the hinges on both sides, branches scraped the roof! Fortunately no on-coming vehicles. But – enough of that mini drama – we have learned our lesson about optimism and tiny lanes! After a very tense and very slow mile or two Ram Lane turned onto a real road.
More slightly-dashed optimism as we arrive at the Eurotunnel terminal – all trains too full to get an earlier one than booked. It was the middle of half term after all. So we had a superfood chicken salad in the terminal while we waited – after all, we are new to this and need a break until we get the hang of it:-)
We set Stella to “Toll Free” and roll off the shuttle. Finally – foreignish soil under Portia’s wheels! Our plan was to get down to the fermette in Burgundy in three stops taking a route west of Paris for a change. From all the books we have about French aires I had selected Montreuil-sur-Mer for a first stop. It is several miles inland in fact but we had decided to avoid the actual coast, where there are many lovely beachside aires, due to rubbish weather – wet, windy and cold. Our optimism that it would miraculously become sunny and hot as we arrived in la belle France was dashed:-(
Finally, optimism is justified as we arrive at the aire in Montreuil to find eight beautifully laid out pitches, with a nice view, only two minutes walk from the town centre. In the coach park adjacent is a frighteningly automatic toilet (free) and a service point for water and electricity for a small fee. What a privilege! We could not be happier:-) Thank you people of Montreuil! We are the third to arrive and it fills up later. We arrive just after closed o’clock (2:15) and go food shopping.
We know Montreuil from camping trips when were young and flexible. It is historically significant for many things but most recently as the British Army Headquarters under General Haig in the First World War.
Now it is an attractive, busy old town with butchers and bakers and traiteurs. Mmmm – a good chunk of the lasagne changes hands for a few coloured beads and shiny mirrors. We manage a little walk around the town and its medieval ramparts before impending rain sends us vanwards.
Settling in for the stay we find Neil’s carefully researched wifi access devices work outside the UK – hurrah! The satellite still picks up the BBC – hurrah! We seem to run fine without electric hook up (but are miserly in our usage). Water and heating are running nicely on gas. All neighbours are staying quietly inside out of the rain. Resisting the newly acquired lasagne we eat last night’s deferred chilli but allow ourselves the fresh baguette – maybe we are beginning to get the hang of it.
I pored over All the Aires and France Passion to plot our next destinations. France Passion is an organisation that lists places where self sufficient travellers may park overnight for free. These are farms, vineyards and other local producers of various things. I would like to find one of these if possible.
Things discovered today:
- trust your instinct not your satnav. Sorry Stella:-(
- remember the third dimension when approaching vegetation – width, length and height! Easy to forget the latter. Easy to lose a satellite dome! We didn’t as it happened.
- entering geo-coordinates is more complicated than it looks. Fortunately I know Montreuil is not on a small island some way off the coast of Norway and, see first point, I revert to navigating by postal address! There is a complicated mathematical formula to convert one standard geo-coordinate format to another. Life may be too short to fettle this. Don’t you just love standards?
- be grateful.