Week 13 – Day 1 – Monday 25th March 2019
Fort Mahon Plage to Gunthorpe – 189 miles – 25.1 mpg – 37 mph
This was our final day on the continent and it was like so many on this trip, bright and breezy. After a lazyish morning we had a walk up one side of the main street and down the other by way of a sand dune in the middle of the town to get a picture of Bessie in the Aire. You can see her with the black cab in the following picture. Yesterday afternoon when we arrived the Aire was pretty much full but late on Sunday afternoon the weekending Frenchies departed for home.
The shopkeepers of Fort Mahon Plage did not get to share the last of our depleted stock of Euros as nearly every shop, restaurant or cafe was closed, which seemed odd as there were quite a few tourists wandering about. The beach was looking as magnificent and deserted as ever but a few hardy souls were braving the biting wind to walk their dogs and there were a few sand yachts belting up and down the sand.
Working on the assumption that you can’t bring back too much wine, we headed to a Lidl after lunch as space behind the passenger seat was deemed the perfect size to stow another two six packs of wine. And the wine chosen to remind us of another great trip through the French vineyards was, er, a South African Chardonnay Colombard at €1.99 a bottle!
From there we headed to our usual place to kill time before/after the ferry and that is the car park of the massive Auchan supermarket at Boulogne sur Mer where we had dinner and rested knowing that there were no potential migrant stowaways lurking about here.
P & O had sent me an email the other day to inform us that the sailing had been bumped back an hour and a quarter to 02.45, which was not ideal…
We set off for Calais around midnight and due to a slight navigational error we ended up in the lorry queue and after going through a security scanner and getting weighed, we were redirected to the exit where we found the correct lane for motorhomes. In years gone by your vehicle was checked to ensure you were not over the duty free allowance, but nowadays it is stowaways that the police are looking for and we were searched quite thoroughly by the French police who took great delight prodding Bessie’s nooks and crannies.
Week 13 – Day 2 – Tuesday 26th March 2019
Fort Mahon Plage to Gunthorpe cont.
The sailing was calm thankfully and as it was the middle of the night, the ship was not busy at all, in fact we were the only motorhome on board which was unusual. We landed just after 3am and headed for a Tesco on the outskirts of Dover to fill up with diesel as it was cheaper to do it in the UK than France where the price per litre varies between €1.45 and €1.55 on average but one petrol station I saw had diesel at €1.72!
From Dover we headed for a layby just off the M40 where we had a sleep for a couple of hours before heading on to Gunthorpe, just north of Nottingham for Bessie to have its first year’s habitation check tomorrow.
One of the things that stood out about the first leg of the journey from Dover was the complete lack of motorhomes, either coming from, or going to Dover. Usually, no matter what time of day or night you travel on the M20, M25 and M40 you are guaranteed to see motorhomes, but not this morning, and I can only think the prospect of disruption because of Brexit had something to do with it!
Week 13 – Day 3 – Wednesday 27th March 2019
Gunthorpe to Gunthorp – 0 miles – 0 mpg – 0 mph
Not an exciting day today as we sat in Lowdhams coffee shop all day waiting for the van to be checked over. The van was much later coming back from the workshop than we expected so we spent another night there as we were in no real hurry to set off tonight.
I mentioned in the last blog post that we were parked next to a Chausson motorhome at Chateau Chambord which was also bought from Lowdhams and was also heading back there at some point to get a few faults sorted out and low and behold a Chausson 711 was parked next to us on the rally field but it wasn’t Maxine this time!
Week 13 – Day 4 – Thursday 28th March 2019
Gunthorpe to Carlisle – 229 miles – 24.8 mpg – 46 mph
After a good night’s sleep it was time to set off and we took a longer route than usual, just for a change of scenery we and passed Newark, Lincoln and Scunthorpe before rejoining the A1M near Leeds. From there it was up to Scotch Corner where we stopped for lunch before heading through the desolate, but beautiful scenery along the A66 to join the M6 at Penrith before stopping off at Carlisle yet again for yet another great Chinese to round off our holiday.
Week 13 – Day 5 – Friday 29th March 2019
Carlisle to Ardrishaig – 237 miles – 24.0 mpg – 46 mph
It was a lovely bright sunny morning and after breakfast we set off quite early, well, earlier than usual for us, and made good time heading up through Scotland where the further we drove, the darker the skies became. We went straight to the care home near Alloa to see the Navigator’s mother who was in good spirits.
After some shopping, and topping up Bessie with fuel, we headed through Glasgow, over the Erskine Bridge before following the A82/A83 all the way to a very chilly Ardrishaig.
You can see from the following picture that the oncoming cars had their headlights on just after 4pm, but at least the daffs were in bloom!
We emptied the food from the van, leaving everything else until tomorrow. The house was freezing cold, and after a chat with our neighbours the log fire went on to try and put a heat in us, and the house, before having dinner and watching Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson mumble their way through The Highwaymen, a new film on Netflix.
Another trip comes to an end and this one was different from the previous ones as we were on a campsite for 60 days – so what did we think of it?
THE DRIVER’S VIEW
I enjoyed it, almost surprisingly, as I normally get itchy feet to be on the move, seeing new places etc. Two of the biggest factors in making it such a pleasurable experience were the fantastic weather, and the people we met there, and en route.
The final reading from the trip recorder showed that we (I) had driven 4,050 miles at an average speed of 42 mph, the fuel economy was 25.1 mpg and the total driving time was 94 hours and 38 minutes. 94 hours of driving may seem a lot, and it is I suppose, but it was all done in chunks of 2 to 4 hours, so was not too tiring. Plus, when you are abroad everything is different which makes the journey more interesting.
The people we met along the way, and at El Campello.
Barbecuing and eating outside in the winter months.
Healthier eating – especially the oranges, as you would expect!
Going on the Benidorm Cooking Experience.
Visiting new places like Versailles, Carcassonne and Chambord.
Cheap food and wine in Spain.
Being able to use UK Apps on the continent to watch TV, YouTube, news etc.
Not a lot I can think of to be honest.
One of my regrets in life is not learning a foreign language and that is brought home when all around you are French, Spanish, German etc. and you are limited to the basic greetings instead of a proper conversation.
It was a long round trip to drive and we made the most of it by visiting new places in France and Spain. Maybe next year we could sail from Portsmouth to Santander or Bilbao to cut out the long drive through France.
I asked The Navigator to give her views as well so here goes…
THE NAVIGATOR’S VIEW
Another winter away and our first in Bessie and we had a great time in her. It was our first venture staying put in one place for a substantial length of time and it didn’t disappoint.
After taking two weeks to reach Camping El Jardin we got set up and very quickly settled into life on the Mediterranean coast. We knew the campsite was well situated to meet all our needs – supermarkets nearby, trams to Alicante or El Campello then trains to further afield if needed. And endless beach for long walks or paddles.
And this year, sunshine from the moment we arrived until the time we left.
The site, although full most of the time, is very quiet but can get busier at the weekend when the Spanish people, who have permanent pitches on the site, come for the weekend.
The British visitors are vastly outnumbered by the French, German and Belgian tourers but it doesn’t stop people speaking and being friendly. At any given time there were about 15 to 20 British vans and several have come for numerous years we were the newbies this being only our 2nd visit. As you will have read in the blog we made friends with other couples and met up with them each Friday night to swap stories.
We kept in touch with our daughters as we would do at home daily through Viber and we talked twice a week through Hangout (Skype). As they don’t live near us, we are not in the habit of seeing them, weekly or otherwise so these Apps are essential to keep in touch.
I wondered how I would take to not being busy or have something planned to do each day but very quickly got into the routine of doing very little and thoroughly enjoying it.
As Angus has said in the blog, dishwashing can take longer to do as a little chat with the person at the next sink can take anything from a few minutes to half an hour, (or an hour – Editor) likewise doing the laundry or just speaking to people as they pass by your pitch. So everything is done at a much slower pace and the day passes surprisingly quickly. Chores, interspersed with reading, knitting, walking and cycling pass my day normally.
We hired a car for a week and ventured further than the bikes can take us and enjoyed that experience as we did with our cooking class in Benidorm, a great Christmas gift from the family. So, two months passed in a flash and I’m sure next year three months will pass in a flash too as we have already booked in to Camping El Jardin again.
Back home now and getting back into bricks and mortar and water ‘on tap’ is lovely too but it’s great to have the best of both worlds – time at home and time away.
Bessie was emptied, cleaned inside and washed before going back into storage ready for the next outing, which will be a solo one for me in a few weeks time, as The Navigator will be working all week…
After the van was put back in storage we had a big job planned to finish off the back garden as it was landscaped last year but the contractor made a hash of finishing it off so we had to do it and it involved moving over 3 tons of wood bark which is not to be recommended at our time of life, especially as one of us has just become an old age pensioner! (hint – not me).
And finally, two weeks on from being back in residence, this little bundle of tricks has arrived to visit her Granny and Grandad for a week…
If you haven’t already done so, you can subscribe to receive an e mail when future blogs are posted. In the next few weeks I will hopefully get round to editing and posting videos featuring our visit to Versailles, Carcassonne, The Benidorm Cooking Experience and Chambord.