Week 1 – Day 1 – Monday 31st December 2018
Ardrishaig to Carlisle via Sauchie – 220 miles – 24.8 mpg – 44 mph
We returned from Belfast late on Friday evening after a lovely Christmas with our family, including, for the first time, Eilidh, who at six months was too young to understand what was going on, but who gave everyone great pleasure as she is so contented and so easy to smile and giggle, even though her first tooth arrived when we were there.
The van came out of storage on Saturday morning and we loaded it up and prepared it for the long journey ahead. Having been away six months last year we have a far better understanding of what clothing and food we need to take. As ever, when we go away on any trips we always call in to see The Navigator’s mother before we go, hence the diversion to Sauchie before heading to Carlisle.
Week 1 – Day 2 – Tuesday 1st January 2019
Carlisle to Ashby de la Zouch via Leeds – 250 miles – 25.4 mpg – 53 mph
Last New Year’s Eve we were in a British Bar in El Campello with Alan and Ann from Wales watching Elvis and a few other top artists entertain us to a great show of hits, mostly from the 60’s so how were we ever going to top that. The venue was our usual spot in the Kingstown Industrial Estate, which was obviously deserted, an early night, the final three episodes of a Mafia six part series about a crime family in Montreal courtesy of Netflix. The Bells were celebrated with a glass of sugar free Irn-Bru and ten minutes of Jules Holland’s show. It’s amazing how being only a few miles over the border wipes out any trace of Scottish TV and Jackie Bird on BBC1 so we’ve no idea if Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham were revived to entertain the nation from a studio in Glasgow sometime in November, pretending to be Edinburgh Castle. That’s what it feels like anyway and no matter how bad it is, it’s in our DNA that it must be watched, well, a few minutes of it anyway to count us in to the new year before switching over to BBC Alba, where, although you don’t understand a single word, at least its a bit livelier.
Even though it is a national holiday and I had a 250 mile drive in front of me there was to be no bacon or flat sausage for breakfast, I was back on the diced banana and granola and even though I tried to explain to my personal chef that by the time the weekend comes, when I am allowed a cooked breakfast, we will be in deepest France, a nation not particularly renowned for its cooked breakfast ingredients. No luck. The cross I have to bear even though my Type 2 is well under control now. Hey Ho.
After breakfast we headed to Leeds to see Emma on our way to tonight’s overnight destination of Ashby de la Zouch, a lovely little town although we did not get to visit the town centre as we parked up for the night in Ashby Park, a business park just off the A42 in the company of two Romanian trucks. Hopefully they will not be revving up their engines at the crack of dawn to get on the road before the worst of the traffic.
Week 1 – Day 3 – Wednesday 2nd January 2019
Ashby de la Zouch to Boulogne – 266 miles – 25.1mpg – 50mph
Last night was fairly quiet apart from an engine noise coming from one of the Romanian trucks parked some distance behind us at 1.30am. I wasn’t sure whether it was from a fridge unit on his trailer or his engine to heat his cab as it was a freezing cold night. This will be news to The Navigator as she slept through the whole noisy episode!
Usually when we do this leg from the East Midlands to Dover we stop off at Berkhamstead, have a bite to eat then head off after the rush hour traffic has cleared from the M25 but this time we (I) decided to live dangerously and drive to Folkestone and spend the afternoon there before the short hop to Dover and the 00.45am ferry.
After topping up with diesel at Tesco before we went any further south, as much to launder some Scottish banknotes, as there was still half a tank left! The drive was uneventful and we arrived and parked up on the Folkestone seafront where there is free parking for 5 hours in the winter. After lunch we went out for a walk to reacquaint The Navigator with the town as she swore blind she had never been here before insisting it was Hastings we had stopped at a few years back, but once she saw the bell on the beach she had to admit I was right after all.
I am now about to describe two events that blew the Navigator’s mind! We were walking along the old part of the seafront where all the fish shops are situated to see the statue of the mermaid overlooking the beach. On the way back, heading towards the town centre we passed two women out walking their dog. A few seconds later I heard someway saying, ‘excuse me’ so turned round to see the two women walking back towards us.
‘Are you The Navigator,’ said one, ‘and you must be Angus,’ said the other. Slightly taken aback to have been recognised some 500 miles from home, it turned out that Debbie, Maggie and Sasha the dog, were subscribers to this blog and had recognised us. They are fellow motorhomers although they’re between vans at the moment. If you are reading this ladies, it was lovely to meet you and thanks for following us, literally!
The Navigator could not get her head round the sheer coincidence of meeting subscribers so far from home. Later it started to rain so we didn’t think any traffic wardens would be out and about so we made dinner and relaxed before heading to Dover where we parked up for a couple of hours and had a nap. Our reservation was for the 00.45am P & O sailing but when checking in at 11pm we were put on the 11.45 sailing so we drove straight on to the ship without queuing. I wasn’t sure what the ship was called but it could have passed for the Marie Celeste, if there were twenty vehicles onboard that might be a generous estimate.
What it meant though was we got the pick of where to sit, or rather stretch out on a couch for another nap, well I did anyway. And this is where The Navigator’s mind was blown again, this time with some technology which is not her strong point at the best of times!
Just after we cast off and I settled down for a sleep, my phone started ringing and it took some time to register it was my phone as it a very rare event for me to recive a call. Texts, e mails, Viber messages, Hangouts yes, but seldom an actual phone call. The number was one I didn’t recognise and initially thought the Indian phone scammers were putting in a night shift tonight. I answered it and it was a proper English accent that asked if it was Angus speaking. I confirmed it was and he asked if I was on a ferry that had just left Dover. He then said he was from the Swift tracking service and needed to know where Bessie was so I told him she was downstairs en route to Calais. I never knew this, but apparently they can detect when the van is in motion when the keys are not in the ignition, so when the ferry started moving their system was alerted. This was news to me, as well as The Navigator but it reassured us that if ever it was stolen and carted off on the back of a truck, it could easily be traced.
I confirmed all was well and thanked him for his diligence. It was good to know the tracking system was working, but slightly concerning that I hadn’t received a call when we took the ferry to France back in July on our way to see the Tour de France.
Once off the ferry we were asleep within the hour in our next stopover of choice, the Auchan Hypermarket car park at Boulogne.
Week 1 – Day 4- Thursday 3rd January 2019
Boulogne to La Mailleraye sur Seine – 129 miles – 25.7 mpg – 39 mph
We had driven this same route back in July and it is a lovely drive through rural Normandy. It was a cold brisk morning when we set off towards our first stop, a Lidl we have now visited three times in two years! Ten minutes south of Lidl is the massive bridge over the Seinne, the Pont de Brotonne and on the other side we had our first sighting of the ‘gilet jaune’ but it was around two o’clock by this time and they were huddled around a brazier having their lunch so we were not inconvenienced by them.
The other thing that was notable on the journey today was that every speed camera we passed had the camera lens spray painted yellow rendering them useless. Bless those men, and women, in their yellow vests!
We arrived at Mailleraye sur Sienne ten minutes after the above picture was taken. We were on this Aire back in July heading to see the Tour de France and what a difference six months made. Back in July it was in the middle of the summer heat wave and we sat out all afternoon then topping up our tan and watching the boats go past us up and down the Sienne. Today it was freezing cold and only about thirty degrees, so cold in fact that the borne was covered up to prevent frost damage. It was also a euro dearer this time, a whopping seven euro now with no sunshine and no facilities! To rub salt in our wounds the BBC weather app was showing Ardrishaig thirteen degrees warmer (or not so cold) after driving seven hundred and sixty miles south!
Before we set off from the Aire we had a superb sunrise made all the more special by seeing it through the freezing fog on the river.
The program I use to write this blog has just been updated and is a million times easier to use than before and there are loads of new toys to play with and one of them is the ability to create a grid of images, as below. You can click on the smaller images anywhere on this page to see them full size.
Week 1 – Day 5 – Friday 4th January 2019
La Mailleraye sur Seinne to somewhere near Paris – 224 miles – 24.8 mpg – 37 mph
I will gloss over today as there will be a special blog to come describing where we ended up so I won’t spoil your surprise. The Navigator was surprised too as she had no idea until this morning that we were heading here!
Week 1 – Day 6 – Saturday 5th January 2019
Somewhere near Paris to Dreux – 129 miles – 25.7 mpg – 39 mph
We stayed over at this place that cannot be revealed until the next blog, went sightseeing until early afternoon, then headed west to Dreux to spend a couple of nights there. Dreux is about an hour’s drive west of Paris and the reason we headed there was to get on an Aire and service the van again. The Aire we are on is part of the 150 strong Pass’ Etapes chain which we use quite a lot – anyone coming to France in a motorhome should check them out HERE.
Week 1 – Day 7 – Sunday 6th January 2019
Dreaux – 0 miles – 0 mpg – 0 mph
Another grey cold day but at least it is not raining. There were four other vans on the Aire last night including another Brit beside us but we never saw them as our blinds were drawn by the time they arrived. The choice The Navigator had this morning was either get up at the crack of dawn to get a bus to the station then a train into Paris for the day, or, don’t get up at the crack of dawn and have a walk into Dreux as the indoor market was on today. She chose the latter. It took about 45 minutes to walk into the city centre and apart from the market and a few bakers the only sign of life was at an outdoors ice skating rink.
Rising in the middle of trees, the ancient castle, the Saint-Louis royal chapel overlooks the historic centre of Dreux. This chapel of Neo-Classical style is the cemetery of the Orléans family. It was up quite a steep hill and as my war wound was giving me gip we gave it a miss. The city is quite compact and has quite a few timber framed old buildings in the centre with the highlights being the Saint-Pierre church, the 16th-century bell tower and the Marcel Dessal Art and History museum which was closed. We bought some pastries, well you have to or the French take offence and were back in time for lunch. A lazy afternoon followed all on our own as the other vans had moved on. Only a German McLouis came in to join us for the night.
Tomorrow we head about four hours south to the Limoges area, hoping the temperature rises…
This Monday morning its 50 degrees in Ardrishaig and only 42 degrees in Dreux!
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