Enfin – a swim in the sea.
A leisurely forty minute drive from Le Portel and we arrive at our last French overnight stop in Wissant. This is another aire we have selected after seeing it on the OurTour blog as being handy for Calais but far enough away not to have to worry. And it has certainly been worrying this year. Having said that, we have never seen any sign of the desperate people trying to hitch a ride to the UK. All we see is acres of flat land surrounded by miles of barbed wire fencing.
We get there so early that other vans are still leaving. But it turns out that vehicles come and go at all times of day here, depending on the time of their crossing. We pick a nice shady corner so we can put out awning, chairs etc. without getting in anyone’s way. Even some handy drying bushes! This is where it becomes apparent that not getting water at Le Portel was a mistake:-( This aire has facilities for draining everything but no fresh water for filling up. It seems that you have to leave the aire and go to the municipal camp site a five minute drive away to fill up for a modest fee. To keep your space you can put chairs and things across your space so as not to lose it. We have seen this done elsewhere, notably Narlay, where the facilities are quite a long way away. The gauges on our two water tanks (fresh and grey) do not often tally despite the fact they both have a 100 litre capacity and the levels complement each other exactly. The fresh water tank can be showing 100% full one moment then drop to 70% after one small washing up and a cup of tea! At the same time the grey water tank will rise from 1% full to only 5% full for the same operations. Apparently this is true of most water level gauges and a bit of common sense is needed. Some swift assessments and we decide we can manage the day and night without a refill if we forego showers in favour of … umm… a flannel… a swim?
We walk through the charming little village to the sea – yay! The tide is in and at the north end of town is a lovely sandy beach backed by grassy dunes. The sun is hot, the water is cool and we have a lengthy wallow knowing it will be our last sea swim for a while. We somehow manage to get lost wandering back but compensate with an ice-cream in the commercial sea-side strip in the centre. Loads of restaurants if you fancy a final meal out. We didn’t as we still had a fridge full of food to get through. Not to mention the green tomatoes I had ruthlessly stripped from my three late-planted bushes in July. Despite all the stone-shifting it had taken to make a bed to grow them in, I had not had so much as one ripe fruit. So they accompanied us while they ripened (together with some of the beautiful pelargoniums I could not bear to abandon). I had had to leave the two basil plants that were thriving between the toms:-(
Before and after.
Wissant is definitely an aire to come back to. We even discovered there was a path out the other side of the aire that took you to the beach even quicker. But for this trip we needed to get to bed, pack up and go. It was an easy ride to the Tunnel and a helpful border guard asked if we had checked everywhere as we queued to board. I thought he meant gas off, cupboards fastened, fridge on 12v etc but realised later he meant had we checked for stowaways:-( The crossing was uneventful. The train does look a little on the tight side as you roll up but is actually simpler than nosing into a car wash, both have rails at tyre level to keep you straight.
Arriving back in the UK at about 13:30 we had decided not to try and get home in one long drive. Getting home late to unpack and clean up after a long drive would not be much fun, so we find a small Caravan Club site off the A1 to spend the night. It is a PYO fruit farm and the camping is just a big field with a couple of fresh water taps and a couple of tanks for emptying the black stuff. We are surprised to be told that grey water is supposed to go in the bushes around the field. We have no pipe to direct it deep into the bushes so end up just nestling as close a possible to the hedgerow to drain out. You seem not to need such a pipe often but we must get one – we did try by taking a short length from the local builders merchant to check the fit but forgot to go back to buy some.
The farm shop and café are very pleasant in a rural fashion but the price of a cup of tea and a cake was a bit of a shocker – about the same as central York. And, judging from the imprecations echoing across the rows of plum trees, they clearly think they have a problem with customers eating more fruit than they put in their punnets! Sours the atmosphere a bit – children are never going to manage to resist a juicy plum while they pick, even the well behaved ones – which these were. And judging from the price per pound, a little shrinkage had been well factored in already.
The sun stays out on a calm, clear and chilly evening and rises cheerfully again in the morning for our final departure of this trip. We have some difficult family business ahead of us for the next few weeks but hope to be back on the road to take advantage of autumn and winter somewhere in the south of Europe. And I will try and remember to take more photos next time!