Bonjour mes amis…
Yes folks we are off again, this time for only a few weeks, and, believe it or not there is a plan, well, maybe not a plan, half a plan, a kind of plan none the less.
This summer we are spoilt for choice with our sporting events, with the World Cup in Russia probably the highlight so far but with Wimbledon, Test Match Cricket and other events on the way to entertain us, it promises to be a great year for those of us who like watching live sport, or on TV.
That said, the sporting event I, and The Navigator (believe it or not) are most looking forward to is the 2018 Tour de France and we are off to France to hopefully see 5 stages whizzing past us. The route varies every year and this year it is passing through Brittany and Normandy for a week or so making it accessible for a quick hop over the channel. The red crosses on the following map show where we hope to see it, although the locations are not confirmed until we get there.
The reason the locations are not confirmed is that there are reputed to be 10,000 motorhomes following Le Tour every year so the places I have in mind to park up might be taken by the time we get there. We are crossing from Calais then heading almost 465 miles west to the outskirts of Quimper, Falkirk’s former twin town where stage 5 is ending, although we will be somewhere in the countryside to see it.
I realise we could sail from Plymouth to Roscoff or Portsmouth to Cherbourg / St Malo but these Brittany Ferries crossings are all over £300 in the summer season, so, as we have 4 or 5 days to drive there, and it won’t be anything like that amount for diesel and overnights, we will meander through northern France to arrive a day or two before the race arrives.
After this leisurely drive, the next 5 days will be pretty hectic as we head east following the race back towards the Calais region. We will then have another week to relax in France, or maybe Belgium, before returning for The Navigator to do some holiday relief at her former job.
That’s the makings of a plan and it will be interesting to see if it works! If you are watching the race on TV look out for Bessie beside the road somewhere on stages 5 (hilly), 6 (hilly), 7 (flat), 8 (flat), and 9 (hilly).
Week 0 – Day 1 – Friday 29th June 2018
Ardrishaig – Carlisle – 179 miles
After a couple of days preparing the van for 3 weeks away we finally set off this afternoon and headed to our first stopover, Our usual spot at Carlisle in the Kingstown Industrial Estate (54.923343,-2.950213), not far off the M6. As it was a Friday night there were few trucks parked up so it was a very quiet night with no disturbances, although at one point a boy racer thundered past us and not only did we hear his souped up machine, but felt it as well when the van shook as he passed far too close for comfort. Fortunately that was a one off and he never returned for another lap around the Industrial Estate.
Week 0 – Day 2 – Saturday 30th June 2018
Carlisle to Ashby de la Zouch via Leeds – 255 miles
After a good nights sleep I woke to find an e mail from the National Lottery to say I had won the Euro Lottery last night, well £2.60 anyway, so after deducting the £2.50 cost of the ticket the holiday spending budget was swelled by all of 10p! Ashby de la Zouch is a lovely little town just off the A40 at Junction 13 and is only half an hour from East Leake where we lived for 16 years so used to visit quite a bit. Among the many delights there is a 15th century castle and a compact main street with lots of individual shops. It is a good base to tour from and the nearby Staunton Harold Estate is well worth a visit.
Having said that there was no time to see it this time as we arrived quite late after stopping off in Leeds as we had two missions there.
(1) Dad had to set up Emma’s new TV and connect up her Chromecast so she can watch YouTube videos and Netflix films. I’m not sure what Netflix make of our viewing habits as our tastes are a polar opposite of Emmas who is logging in on our password! The setting up coincided with the France v Argentina game which was superb. This World Cup has been far better than many predicted and has produced some great games.
(2) Drop off an emergency supply of Scotch Pies!
After leaving Emma we headed for our usual stopover place in Leeds, but since our last visit in October huge concrete blocks have been installed on the road making parking impossible so we headed down the M1 and ended up at Ashby de la Zouch.
Week 0 – Day 3 – Sunday 1st of July 2018
Ashby de la Zouch to Boulogne sur Mer – 307 miles
Last night was spent parked up in the Ashby Park Industrial Estate (52.748229, -1.452560), and, like Carlisle there were only a few lorries parked up so it was another quiet night. Today will be long and tiring as we (I) am driving to Dover for the 1am Monday morning P & O ferry, which, because of the hour, was only £42.50. This is fantastic value considering we were £160 each way on the Cairnryan to Larne crossing recently to visit our grandaughter for the first time, and that was in our car, not an 8 metre motorhome!
We had all day and evening to get to Dover so we had a relaxing morning, the highlight being a full English breakfast, a rare treat nowadays, but when in England… We had hoped to meet fellow motorhomers Kay and John Bywater from ‘Uddersfield’ today but they had prior commitments so we will catch up with them another time. We first met Kay and John in Dinan when we were a few weeks into our 6 month trip (week 3 – day 22 to be precise) through France, Spain and Portugal and you can read about our encounter HERE.
We spent most of the morning in the huge Tesco car park on the outskirts of Ashby, bought a handful of things, although I was not tempted by the En-ger-land merchandise at the entrance! Lunch was taken and Bessie was topped up with diesel and then it was off down the A42, M42 then A40 to junction 2 at Beaconsfield where we parked up and I caught the Russia v Spain game from half time onwards. Not the best game so far it has to be said.
After a snooze, a cold shower and some Spag Bol, we set off again for the last lap to Dover just as we did back in early October last year. On the drive from Ashby the outside temperature gauge topped off at 86 degrees, but the highlight was seeing the Red Arrows flying from west to east near Banbury. It was far more comfortable when we set off at 7.30pm as the temperature had plummeted to 83 degrees.
At Dover I topped up on diesel again and we headed for the port which was a doddle to get through this time as neither French Immigration or British Customs were interested in even looking at our passports and we weren’t chosen for a search so we cleared in record time with 2 hours to kill before departure so I had a quick nap.
The Pride of Kent was quite busy, more because there were a few coaches on board than cars or motorhomes. One thing that caught my eye was the number of Romanian vans and pickups towing trailers with British registered cars on them. They must be legal or they would not have cleared customs (you would think) but still….
Following disembarcation it was only a 45 minute drive to the massive Auchan supermarket car park at Boulogne, again a safe and quiet stopover away from any potential migrant issues in and around Calais. It was just after 4am when we got to sleep in the heat of France.
We continue west through Normandy heading for Brittany. Stay tuned for some new locations and there may be a surprise in store for The Navigator!
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