Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Oxfordshire Cricks arrive in Normandy

Tuesday 20th July

It’s very hot but a bit grey today and we are going to nip over to check out a possible campsite for the Oxfordshire Crick’s family hols. Well what a disappointment, they wouldn’t take bookings and said you can turn up on the day and see if there is a pitch vacant. Also it was ½ mile to the beach down a busy road and when we went to look at the beach it was covered in very smelly seaweed, unlike the other beaches all along here which are great! We did look at a couple of other sites which were either unsuitable or full. Eventually, as we wanted to do our washing and also Joan’s hair we booked into a very nice site in a place called Merville- Franceville Plage. There is a lovely beach 300 metres away and the town is only ½ mile so tomorrow we will have a wander around and then off to the beach.

It could only happen to Joan, having obtained the little token for the machine and loaded it all up it won’t work! Having been called, I did all the manly things like banging it and checking it was plugged in etc, then went around to the office. Oh no that one doesn’t work, they said as if I should have known, try the one next to reception. Now if something does not work before you get there, why is it my fault that she has loaded it and put her soap plus softener in? Anyway we bundle it all up and try the other machine. Hurray it works! Clothes are washed and we hang them out on the line erected just in time by yours truly. It dries nicely = very happy small person.

Wednesday 21st July

Oh dear, small person has face like smacked bum, it’s raining!!! This apparently is a major disaster as we need to wash our sheets and seat covers? Joan is mollified when I point out gently that it cannot be helped, God controls the weather and anyway they have a drier here. At this point as if to prove me right, it rains even harder! As this is a labour intensive process our trip to town is postponed as hair also needs attention.
Hurrah we have finally got “the Oxfordshire Cricks” booked in for the whole nine days! Joan was getting really worried that they would arrive and not have anywhere to stay. Having spent an hour with the lady in the office we have finally agreed to spend 6 nights on one pitch and then move to another just around the corner for the last 3,so back to the washing.

Everything has tumble dried beautifully then....Disaster!!! Somehow the main seat cover has a huge black mark on it possibly from the machine or a third party interfering with our washing. A very frustrated Joan is calmed by my agreeing to hand wash it. Then we do her hair which turns out really nice just as the sun comes out, so we end a pretty fraught day all smiles, and stroll into town anyway, even though the shops are closed.
The town centre is very pretty and has a green with a bandstand on it.

This is also where the tourist information centre is with a nice pond and flowers in front. While there, we notice a couple of future entertainments that may be good for the children when they are here.

Thursday 22nd July

Today we moved to a free aire just behind the beach where we will stay for two days. As we turn the corner the whole of the main street is a huge market and the small one is wreathed in smiles. As these things go it was a pretty good market actually and we spent a couple of hours wandering around and bought some lovely olives and fruit. For the rest of day we just relaxed and visited the beach. To be honest we are soo excited about the children we cannot settle.

Friday 23rd July

We definitely needed a plan today so we decided to cycle to Pegasus Bridge, a round trip of about 14 miles. What we forgot was the hill which seemed to go up forever. However it was a lovely day again and so we just took our time and to be fair thoroughly enjoyed it. Is it possible we are at last getting fit or is it just that coming back we were able to engage ‘freewheel gear’ hmm? ( see previous pictures of bridge).

Saturday 24th July

Today we move 10 miles along the coast to the aire at Ouisterham for our last night before the family arrive. I must be a bit stupid you know, I have never looked at the possibility of actually getting the ferry to here from Portsmouth. It would be pretty cost effective actually and as soon as you dock you just drive around the corner and park for the night, then nip down to the beach, so we went to find out more about it. After dinner we wandered along to the town bandstand and enjoyed a concert of French music for an hour.

Sunday 25th July

It’s today! They are coming! We are just like a couple of kids, so excited. But first I take Joan to church and head off intending to return in about an hour. That WAS my intention honest, the road to hell etc! In the event I drove a short way out along the coast road and got stuck in the most horrendous traffic jam. After what seemed like ages I discovered the cause was a huge boot sale and with no possibility of turning off I just had to keep going. Finally I came to a junction and got away from it at last. I determined to head back towards the church but took a road heading inland a bit to avoid the traffic. Sometime later when Joan texted me to come and get her, I replied I am not sure where I am? Fortunately for both of us it was a fine day and I managed to get back about 20 minutes late. However such was the euphoria of the day she just smiled and said that’s ok, it was nice watching the world go by.

As we arrived at the campsite in Merville-Franceville a text came through saying we have arrived! As it was only about an hour or so drive from Le Havre we got all set up and prepared to greet them. About 5 hours later they arrived! We had by then been texting and worrying about where they were. This was of course my fault apparently as Andy had told me they were going to amble along the coast road and enjoy lunch at a French Bistro. Nevertheless we were delighted to see them and of course the children were really excited to be here.

After all the trouble we had last year with their tent the new one went up like a dream and was very good indeed. As soon as it was set up we all trooped off to see the beach. Andy and Carole were both delighted with the beach and of course the children were straight into the sea. If anybody remembers last year it was cold and pretty miserable but the weather this year was fantastic. As I have already said the sea was so warm even I went in.

The biggest problem Carole had all of the holiday was keeping the children from getting sunburnt as they are so fair skinned. We were so lucky with the weather that at least twice a day she or Andy had to battle with Joseph and Eleanor, who of course like most children, didn’t want to stand still long enough to have it rubbed on. When we returned to the campsite Andy did the most extraordinary thing, he gave me my birthday present, which was heavily disguised as a bottle of English single malt whisky. Then he had the cheek to announce he had always wanted to try it! Well I said when I open it on my birthday next Saturday you can have a glass, he was not amused but everybody else was.

Up until now I have made this a daily record but I will now just mention all the things that happened over the next 9 days. We did all the things that families do on holiday and one of the nicest was that we were able to eat outside for almost every meal. We started every morning with Croissants, pain au chocolat and a couple of baguettes.

The next day we went to the shops and the children bought things with the money that we and Carole’s mum Joan and had given them. Joe is very canny with his money and selects very carefully but little Eleanor is only 5 and would like to buy everything! Having said that she bought a little fairy doll thing and played with it most days to my knowledge, and Joe got a shrimping net which he also used every day bar one on the beach. Both the children were amazing in the sea and seemed to have no fear at all, just straight in as soon as we got on the beach.

Next I must mention the cheese, the Camembert cheese that had taken up residence in our van and was taking over. I am not a lover of soft cheeses but according to the reception it got when Carole opened it, it was a very good cheese indeed. By now it was not so much a case of spreading it with a knife but more a case for spooning it onto your bread! As it was so warm it was now residing in our fridge for its last few days.

We did a couple of trips out to the Normandy landing beaches. It was such a long way that we all went in the van which turned out to be a very good choice as when we got to both Omaha beach Arromanches we were able to park very close in a special place for campervans. First we went to Omaha beach where we saw a moving event. A group of American children were taking part in a special ceremony with an address from the lady mayoress and then in pairs they raised the flags of all the nations who landed on ‘D’ day while their national anthems were played, quite moving.

Actually the French do not allow any commercialisation near here and a very impressive monument has been raised on the beach, which is quite empty and apparently not a lot of people use it like a seaside beach.

We could not really judge this as when we were there it was high tide so there was little room on the sand. As we looked along the beach it was possible to see the cliffs which the troops had to climb. They looked scary enough without somebody firing at you!

Everybody by now was hungry and Carole and Joan had been looking forward to having moules frites today which they did but sadly it was not up to the standard they have come to expect in France, and 8 or 9 were not edible as they did not open.

Next we visited Arromanches. This is Gold beach where they put the dock that was floated across the channel from England, a lot of it is still there and it is quite impressive. Andy and I went into the museum while the rest of them stayed on the beach.

When we returned we found a cold wind had got up and they were all ready to leave.

This webpage gives a lot of information about the beaches if anyone wants to read about it. http://homepage.ntlworld.com/ratpit1/

It’s Saturday 31st July, a very important day as it’s my birthday!!!
It started beautifully with Joe and Eleanor giving me a card from Carole’s mum and a present and singing happy birthday twice! Then I had 2 birthday spins from Eleanor and lots of giggles from Joe, smashing. I had been asked what I wanted to do and I had chosen to have lunch at a restaurant just across from the site which looked pretty good.

This was a really good choice, the meal was superb and the moules frites for the girls were excellent with lots of umms and aahs etc.

By now the heat of the day was past and we headed straight for the beach, where if the children had had their way I am sure we would have been until it got dark.

Sunday 1st August

It was a bit overcast so we all piled into their car and went to Ousterham. We left the girls on the beach while Andy, Joe and I visited Pegasus Bridge and toured the museum. While we were in there it had the cheek to rain, after 7 days of almost continuous sunshine. So we shot back only to find the beach tent and a couple of towels, they had done what any sensible woman does at a time like this......gone shopping!

Monday 2nd August

This is the last full day of the holiday and we awoke to discover it was pouring with rain, but by about 1.30pm it had cleared and was blazing sunshine for the rest of the day, so we got our last day on the beach until about 7pm. Everyone was in the sea which had huge rolling waves which were great fun to jump.

Eleanor and Joe were in so deep, almost to their necks and Carole, her first time braving the water, had a brilliant time with them and later went back in with Andy. Great stuff!

We then went up at a nice little bar overlooking the sea for a drink, and on to the night market which actually was a little disappointing with very few stalls. Finally Joan and Carole went to the Boulangerie and bought some very nice little cakes for our last meal together.

Having gone to bed a little worried about what the weather would be like in the morning we were pleasantly surprised to awake to sunshine and blue skies. The tent was dry and we were all packed up and away by 11.30am.

The Oxfordshire Cricks set off to spend a little time visiting places along the coast road to end at Le Havre by 5.30pm for their ferry.
Meanwhile we set off for an aire at ‘Forges Les Eaux’ where for €5.75 we got electricity and water. This was about halfway to the Eurostar terminus where we are due to return home at 6.20pm Wednesday.

Next morning we finished the journey and after a brief stop in the hypermarket and a top up of our diesel we went to the terminus 2 hours early. After a very brief check we were sent along to the boarding area and the man said just a minute and made a phone call in French. We were not sure what was going on and thought we were going to be given the full customs treatment or made to wait till our proper time. However he put the phone down and said carry on down there and we were immediately loaded onto the train and left very soon after. So there we are, the train left Calais at 4.20pm and we drove off in Folkestone at 4pm, 2 hours early.

So there we are, the end of a perfect holiday made even more so by the weather, thank you God. The only fly in the ointment had been that we had to move to another pitch as we had been told our one was already booked. We did this with the minimum of bother and the new tent again received full praise but we then sat and watched ‘our pitch’ lay empty for the next couple of days! We were NOT amused but frankly I would be delighted if that was all that ever went wrong.

Thank you for reading this blog. I hope we have managed to show what a great time we have had this year and that it has entertained you.

Lots of love
Bryan & Joan

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Amazing beaches, heroes and the playground of the rich.

In answer to all of you who have asked, Ingrid and Jo’s favourite TV comedy sketch is “Dinner for one” which is on ‘You tube’.

Saturday 17th July
Needles to say this morning it is a beautiful sunny day with very little wind, but we have taken our picture of the Mont St Michel and climbed all the stairs in it so really it isn’t worth staying so we are off to the seaside. We have decided to go to Ouisterham otherwise known as “sword beach”, as this is one of the Normandy landing beaches. We have actually been here before so knew where the Aire was and arrived fairly early so had no problem getting in. They have introduced a new machine to pay and it caused us no end of bother until a very nice French couple came and helped us, and phoned the number on the box to complain it wasn’t working. Somebody appeared almost immediately so that was ok. This is right next to the ferry port and as you can see they are very much in evidence when they are in. Fortunately they do not go out very early and we are always up late so they are no bother.

Then it was off with the bikes and a cycle along the prom, by the wide sandy beach.

In the main square they had a tent trying to get people to sign up for the blood donors and outside to grab the interest, a brilliant modern jazz band. We stopped for a while and decided to come back tonight as it appeared from some posters behind them they were going to have even more music later.

Carrying on along the promenade we came to one of the memorials to the Free French Commandos’.

We had run out of brandy and thought we had seen a supermarket as we drove in so decided to cycle to it, having first picked up a map of the area from Tourist Information. The only problem with this was that somebody small and blonde left the map in the van! However we pedalled along a cycle track by the Port and soon found ourselves going along a canal bank. Joan asked after about 7 miles are you sure it’s this way? No I’m not sure but its fun finding out pet, I said.

At about the ten mile mark we came across Pegasus Bridge and had a look around the memorial walk.

We then decided we had probably missed the supermarket by not being on the road, because somebody prefers cycle tracks. Our mum’s didn’t have any stupid kids! So we set off back along the road this time. This road suddenly became her worst nightmare, very busy with a central crash barrier and I realised we had somehow got onto a major road. Most of the cars were doing at least 70 and the small ones blood pressure was at around 270!

We did though come across the supermarket just outside of town, and got the Brandy so that was alright. Later after a meal we decided to walk into the main square and listen to the music but sadly there wasn’t any music , just country and western rubbish being played very badly so we walked down to the beach and along back to the van, enjoying a beautiful sunset.

Sunday 18th July
We are going on a mission to check out a couple of campsites, then onto a little aire at Deauville which is free, and has free electricity and water, which will be nice. What a stroke of luck, as we arrived at the aire which was full, a French chap signalled to us that he was leaving soon, which was really nice of him, so we got on. Next we went into the centre on the bikes taking towels etc. WOW! It is amazing here, I had just said to Joan that it used to be a playground for the rich, but it obviously still is, looking at these boats.

Today is something special and there are a lot of vintage Buggatti’s parked at strategic points plus a superb very old Rolls Royce in first class condition. The whole place just reeks of money, I don’t know much about designers, as those who have seen me dressed will attest, but I do know, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Channel, Hugo Boss etc are not cheap!

The beach was manic and absolutely crowded but it is so big it was not packed. I know that sounds silly but it’s true, all the beaches along here are very wide and you have to walk a bit to get to the actual sea so there is plenty of room for sunbathers.

I think we will stay another night so we can wander into the centre and just look around. Later we watched the slow drag home for all those who had spent the day at the beach, just like bank holiday traffic at home, it looked horrendous and it was boiling hot.

Monday 19th July
We did just that and it really is a nice place to wander around, with a lovely fountain in the centre and lots of beautiful old buildings, as we arrived at the fountain Joan’s face lit up as she saw there was a market on. After a very short time we realised that it would be necessary to arrange a fairly substantial bank loan just for a pot of jam! Still it was fun looking around apparently especially at shoes. I think I may have said it before but I am sure if we took some of these French ladies to Newcastle they would probably have heart attacks at how cheap things are or get serious back trouble carrying all their purchases. Even a small beer is expensive and very small, so it was back to the van for lunch and zwei radler pick up towels etc and down to the beach for the afternoon.

It is soo hot we definitely needed the swim we had and we have just heard from Andy & Carole so we know which way to head tomorrow. As soon as we return from the beach Joan starts baking a smashing cake, eat your heart out Ken! Now she is cooking a lovely chicken dish, wow what did I do right?

I can tell you the chicken was delicious but the cake was fantastic! Goodnight.

5 Days to go and they are coming YIPPEE!!!
Lots of love Bryan & Joan XXXX

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Mont St Michel and back to Normandy beaches

Monday 12th July
As I said we are now on a lovely aire at Le Treport where we get electricity in the price of €7.20. It is laid out just like a small campsite and with the sun shining we are sitting out on the grass in our chairs enjoying a beer. Our battery was very grateful to be plugged in and still has not finished recharging but we will certainly not worry now if we go a few days without electricity. The journey here was very simple and although we stopped off at a possible campsite for Andy, Carole, Joe and Eleanor we were still here by midday. The campsite we went to look at was in two different books, one said it had a beautiful sandy beach, the other rocks, so even if we were not going for them we would have gone just to see which it was. In the event not only is it rocks but the first thing we saw was a sign in red saying currents dangerous do not enter water! Not quite what we were looking for at all, still at least now we know.

Time for me to get the blog written, up to us arriving at Le Treport, so we can nip to Mc Donald’s tomorrow and get it posted and as you know by now that’s been done. We also downloaded a load of emails most of them rubbish but a couple needed dealing with. The blasted wi-fi will not send replies from our outlook so sorry if you are wondering why we have not replied but we did try! Don’t stop sending your personal emails as we enjoy reading them a lot.

Tuesday 13th July
Quite a productive day really, cycled to Mc Donald’s got blog posted and downloaded emails then on to supermarket, did large amount of washing, then cycled into town and along sea front, smashing. Sadly the beach here is pebbles as otherwise it would be perfect for our needs. At this rate I can see Carole opting to go back to last year’s place! It’s still very hot until quite late and we are sitting out when suddenly they started letting off lots of fireworks, we looked at each other and said, Bastille Day! This happened last year we remembered, it was a beautiful display and went on until almost midnight.

Wednesday 14th July
We’ve decided on another day here as Joan has not had her moules and frites yet so we spent our day getting a bit of essential shopping, milk etc, cycling to town and strolling around, plus lunch. Joan had her moules in a restaurant beside the port just like she did last year with Carole. This I do not believe, last year it rained when we went for our lunch, this year it poured, and we had to cycle back to the van and got soaked. Still the sun came out red hot shortly afterwards and dried everything. Then another brilliant firework display at eleven pm, where do they get the money?

Thursday 15th
Awoke to rain today so decided to head off on route for Le Mont St Michel, via a place called Vimoutiers where there is a free aire. The journey was straightforward and we arrived fairly early so having set up we went into town for a wander and a drink. On the way in we encountered several teenagers all sitting on the gate we had to pass through. Joan pretended she would have to limbo under the gate as the way was blocked, which totally threw them, but they were as good as gold and very polite. It is apparently where they all congregate every day.

Neither of us had realised we were in the home of Camembert cheese and so we nipped into the little museum and while there bought one for Carole who we know loves it. I tried to ask the young lady how you knew if it was smelly enough and ready to eat but she mistook my question and changed the one she had sold us for one with a longer shelf life and advised us to take it out of the fridge in good time for their arrival.

Oh dear the responsibility, they take their cheese very seriously do Andy and Carole as those who attended their wedding will remember. Anyway after a wander around the town, a visit to the patisserie and a beer at a pavement cafe, we had a look inside the lovely old church then made our way back and again encountered the youngsters who were just moving off. When one of them spoke to Joan, she replied we are English, which was like a magic word. All at once it explained her eccentric behaviour and also the signal for a couple of them to show their ability to converse with us which was lovely.

Then it was back for one of Joan’s new party tricks, she pours two glasses of wine or brandy, depending on which end of the meal we are at. Often one glass will be slightly fuller than the other but bless her, just so they will be equal she drinks some of the full one so they are level, isn’t that nice? (She really thinks I am that stupid, honest!).

Friday 16th July
It was dustbin day today so of course we were awake about 6am! Anyway after an abortive attempt to return to sleep we decided to make an early start and so we arrived at Mont St Michel about 11.30am. In fact we probably would have been even earlier if it had not been for the fact that the silly sat-nav couldn’t find the aire. What was worse was we actually drove past it but we were so intent on seeing the Mont which appeared on our right that we were actually looking the wrong way! Still, first we nipped along to take a look and see if we could find the aire just below it, which apparently floods from time to time.

We did see it but it turns out that they all leave and move to higher ground just before high tide. Anyway having found the right place we had a quick lunch and cycled back to the Mont. We did the tourist thing and walked up and up until nearly at the top we suddenly encountered a ticket office which wanted £17 for us to go right to the top. You will not be surprised that at this time our legs became very tired and we retreated back down by another route.

The point is, the Mont itself is the spectacle with only mud flats and the car park to see from the top, whereas inside it is a fascinating place, with shops, hotels and restaurants all tucked away like a medieval town. Every corner you turn is amazing. I was not the only one who was fascinated that the roof tiles are actually made of wood. Of course there are huge crowds all over the place so God only knows what it’s like when it’s really busy. One old couple had sort of managed to get into a seat in a larger than usual firing slot and fallen asleep, it was manic.

Having thoroughly enjoyed ourselves we returned, cycling against a horrendous wind and arrived back at the van exhausted. Joan said she would like to return at night and take some pictures of it lit up which seemed like a good idea at the time. As we both sit here surrounded by wet clothes it doesn’t seem so good. Having decided to walk as it was such a nice night with fairly clear skies, we kept going until we had got pretty close. She took a couple of shots with the zoom and then we started back. Just about then we felt a couple of spots of rain and pulled our hoods up. After a very short time it stopped and we pulled our hoods off and congratulated ourselves on getting away with it, Ha! Almost immediately the heavens opened and just chucked water at us in bucketfuls. We managed to run a bit to a covered hotel entrance and waited until it eased enough to paddle back to the van. What made it worse is that the pictures are not too good either, we need a tripod!

So there we are another wonderful week in paradise
Lots of love
Bryan & Joan XXXX

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

From Luxembourg to france and the seaside, Yippee

Sunday 4th July
The girls went to church and Ken and I got the vans ready to roll. When they returned I was ready to leave as soon as we had put the bikes on and Ken only had to empty his waste water. Kathleen said don’t wait for us we will see you there, which is good because if you go in convoy you have to signal if you want to stop and we were only going a short way, besides they needed supplies. It was only 47 miles into Luxembourg what could possibly go wrong? Joan said just follow this road out onto the motorway and turn off when the sat-nav says, easy. Well, no actually, at the precise moment it said turn off Joan was busy checking the route for the next part of our journey in a few days time, so I followed the instructions and it took me onto a ‘B’ road.

This turned into a forestry track only the width of the van and ended with a 1 in 3 down into the outskirts of the town! If we had met anybody or come across low hanging branches God only knows what we would have done. The small person by now was hyper and swore her blood pressure was higher than it had ever been. She was making unladylike threats to severely reduce the Garmin people’s ability to reproduce, plus questioning if they had any idea who their fathers were!! We did wonder why we had bothered to buy a very expensive sat-nav that we entered the size of the van into so that it would NOT take us along roads which are unsuitable and we will definitely take this further.

Very shortly we were in the campsite at a place called Mersch and booking in, when a very surprised K&K drove in. They had been shopping and thought we would be all set up by now. We cycled into town to check how we got to Luxembourg City and discovered it was very simple and cheap.

Monday 5th July
As I was about to leave the van for our day in Luxembourg Joan said, is that the shirt you are wearing? Quick as a flash I replied of course not, I was waiting for you to give me the one you prefer.
This morning we went back on our bikes to the station, left them there and got the bus for €1.50 and after a very comfortable 25 minute journey we were there. The driver was very helpful and showed us where to get the return bus and off we went.

We had alighted at the start of a pedestrian area which was more or less deserted, very strange.

We noticed that several of the shops did not open until 12.30pm on a Monday so we continued our wanderings as by now it was 12ish. We did the tourist thing and started taking a few pictures when we came upon the most upmarket McDonalds we have ever seen, a pavement cafe with tables and umbrellas outside.

A trip into the church was very informative because having had a look around we were leaving just as a load of Polish people came in with a guide who of course spoke everything except Swahili, and he’s working on that. Anyway a lovely little lady who was working there was giving him information in English which he promptly translated to his enthralled audience and every time she said that’s probably enough, they all said no please continue, so I got a potted history of the country. In the middle of the city there is a gorge which is a beautiful park but we were too tired to go down into it so just took pictures and after a quick lunch we returned to prepare the van to stay on a few aires. It was our last night all together as K&K soon go home and we shared our last few bottles of wine together.

Tuesday 6th July
This morning we were heading up to a campsite in the north of Luxembourg when I stopped the van and said to Joan do you really want to go there? She said not particularly, why? Because I want to go to France and more especially TO THE SEASIDE!! She said something about acting ones shoe size but did agree with me that we had done a lot of sightseeing and fancied a paddle in the sea. Also we found it quite expensive in Luxembourg, except for the diesel which was €1.007 a litre, WOW!!

So we headed for Charleville Mezieres where there was a very nice aire. On arrival we turned in just behind another van and although it was full we all parked along the roadside.
This is quite common on aires and we did not think too much about it, levelled the van and had lunch. Just then a miserable bloody Frenchman came knocking and said you cannot stay here, parking interdit! He then threatened us with the police and a £50 fine, and stormed off. A very nice Belgian gentleman said he thought it would be fine and not to worry.

Later we realised we were blocking the old fools view of the river a bit. I should say here that the French people we usually meet on aires are really helpful. Having smiled politely we walked into the delightful town and enjoyed a bit of shopping and returned for dinner, planning to ignore him. Joan was a bit incensed and was determined to stay just to spite the old sod, convinced that even if the Police came they would let us stay until morning. I was a little unsure and felt we would not relax or sleep well so should probably move on. As we returned we both saw the clearway sign which had been obscured when we arrived by another big van, oops, so we realised we would have to leave after all.

First though we had our dinner then packed up, it was now 8pm and we headed for a place only about 50 miles further on called Catillon which was a huge Aire with loads of room. The sun was shining, the scenery was lovely and the roads were empty so we had a good run there. We arrived at about 9.30pm, totally relaxed and slept like logs knowing we would be at the seaside tomorrow, yippee!

Wednesday 7th July
The sun is streaming in but I had very carefully picked a spot which would be flooded with sunshine first thing, only to discover we had huge trees behind us and should have been on the other side, oh well. For once the sat-nav actually got it spot on and we arrived at Fort Mahon Plage at 11am and found the campervan place already filling up. It is next to a car park with public loos and has water and a place for dumping waste water etc at €7 for 24 hours. Fortunately there is a slight breeze as it is just getting hotter and hotter and according to the tourist office is actually expected to hit 32°, smashing. The place is packed and more and more vans keep arriving and slotting in everywhere they can, they have even moved the barriers which set aside an area for coaches to park. After a spot of lunch we set off to the sea which is actually a fairly long walk of about ½mile through crowds of people milling round seaside tat shops and ice cream parlours.

Having reached the front you still have to walk out about ½ a mile to actually paddle as the tide goes out so far! It is a great beach for kids as it is very shallow for a good bit so they can play on the edge safely. With all these people about you would think it would be packed on the beach but it’s so big there is still lots of room, although at high tide it may be a problem, I’m not sure. If you imagine Bamburgh beach with heat and lots of people it’s like that, miles of very fine sand. The public toilets in the car park are of course a disgrace but we have our own so no problem there, (why are people so dirty?). Although it’s all right here we think it is a bit like Blackpool and know there is another place only about 2 miles up the road where we can park almost on the beach so we decide to cycle there and see what the score is tomorrow. The evening just seems to go on and on and sunset isn’t until about 10pm.

Thursday 8th July
Woke up so early because the old sun is shining again, it feels like another scorcher, but at least there was a nice sea breeze last night so we slept like babies. This morning I hear that voice all men will recognise instantly and know a job is coming along.... Bryan ...yes dear?.... you know how I said we should park this way around so as to get the sun on that side away from the fridge? ...Yes dear... Well would you mind turning it around the other way so we can see what people are doing. But I thought we were going to move to Quend if it’s available? Yes but if we can’t because it’s full, we will be facing the right way won’t we (plus sweet smile). So of course I moved the van or rather turned it around to face the other way, and then set off to cycle to Quend plage.

Quend plage is as I said just about 2 miles up the road but is a lot nicer. We went straight to the Aire as we remembered where it was from last year. It’s situated actually in the car park which is just behind the sand dunes at the back of the beach. You just have to walk about 200 yards and you are on the beach. There was a couple called Kay and David from Derbyshire there and we had a nice chat with them then went back to Mahon plage determined to return with the van early tomorrow morning. It is always a good idea to settle somewhere on Thursday for the weekend.

On our return we cycled down a back road to the van and discovered a very nice little car park/Petang court, with a spotlessly clean loo which we used for the rest of our stay. Another trip to the sea was definitely called for as it was again very hot and this time with swimming costumes and chairs. I realise everybody will not believe me but it was really pleasant so we went in for a swim, it was great but somebody small and blonde forgot the camera!

Friday 9th July
I was a bit worried about leaving Fort Mahon as it was pretty full and I was concerned that Quend would be full. Anyway off we went and as luck would have it somebody had just pulled out from a prime site overlooking the sea, great!
Here we are with a sea view, it doesn’t get much better. As soon as we were all set up I got the chairs out and wound out the awning for a bit of shade. Just as I tilted my chair back Joan says, Kay the girl from Derbyshire says there is a supermarket just outside of town so let’s ride our bikes there. So off come the bikes and we set out, at the same time looking at several campsites to see if they may be suitable for Andy & Carole and co. (None were suitable. It is a damn shame that the country who virtually invented family camping now only have rows of very expensive chalets/mobile homes).

At around the ten mile mark we can see for some considerable distance and there is no sign of any supermarket so we head back. I have done something really stupid, (no change there then!), usually I pack a couple of bottles of water but forgot. Joan remembered there was a little shop in one of the campsites we visited so we grit our teeth and carry on. Sadly as we arrive they have just closed but there is a sort of bar next door so we went in and paid €11, nearly £10 for two tiny plates of chips and very small beers, still it got us home. Whereupon Joan says, shall we go for a swim now, so we did, this time with the camera.

Later when we returned I cooked us a meal, and washed up as I do every night. Then this cheeky little sod says do you fancy a walk around the town? So, I’ve moved the van, cycled 20 miles, been for a swim, cooked a meal, washed up, dried the dishes and put them away, not surprisingly my reply was NOT in the affirmative!!

Saturday 10th July
Oh dear, the small one cried, it’s foggy. Actually it was just a sea fret and would probably soon burn away but it was a shame for all the people on day trips who had been pouring into the car park since early this morning. Still it was time for some serious thinking, how do I keep Joan amused? Oh yes of course, what about a little hand washing, by me of course as she didn’t have any rubber gloves. But she hung it up and kept moving it around until it dried so she was kept pretty busy, problem solved and we got clean clothes, am I clever or what?

(Joan says – Bryan forgot to mention that I didn’t spend my time lying in the sun eating grapes, I gave the van a thorough clean inside and the only reason he cooked the night before was that I’d cooked the previous three nights. Anyway, I have to keep him on the move or he’ll get lazy!)

As I thought, the mist had cleared by mid-day and we set of to find the church which was not listed on the official map we had been given by the tourist office. When I asked the girl there behind the counter she was a little bemused but started to tell me in French, my accent must be improving!

She was going on about small white something and pointing at the door? When we looked out of the door, immediately opposite was a little white church hiding behind a big tree! Boy did we feel stupid!

In fairness it was not on the official list but as a sort of picture in the corner. When we went and had a look at it, it was delightful and Joan said I am really looking forward to coming here tomorrow.

After a spot of lunch we set off to walk along the beach to Fort Mahon which we could see in the distance. It turned out to be a fair way, over an hour there and back, but we managed it and in the process noticed that the beach is cleaned every morning as the tractor rake lines were still there. In the evening we went out into the square to listen for a while to the local brass band and got chatting to some locals between tunes. Our French is still appalling but we seem to manage and they expressed dismay when we left so we must do something right? I think that we mangle it so much they dine out on it for months afterwards.

Sunday 11th July
You would not believe any more cars or motorhomes could get in here but they are still arriving and going in. Fortunately we have a lovely spot and really nice neighbours with two girls. Joan is off to church and I am going to cycle a couple of miles to get some water as we are getting a bit low what with having showers etc. It’s almost impossible to get to the water point here and I can only get 15 litres which here would cost €2 but is free 2 miles away and I can get Saturday’s paper there. With hindsight I realise we should have filmed this car park because it’s amazing and people are still trying to get in. The streams of people staggering down to the beach with multiple cool boxes are only surpassed by those who having found a spot to park in immediately get out a barbecue and fire it up. On my return I put the water in the tank and went to meet Joan who has enjoyed church and also has met the people we were with last night, who were delighted to see her.

It is now mid afternoon and several of the big vans including our neighbours are attempting to leave, rather them than me. Oh that’s nice, they approached us and thanked us for being such good neighbours and said goodbye. At the same time they introduced us to another family who are taking their place but who speak no English, well that’s alright we speak no French! After a short trip to the beach because there is a bit of a nip in the wind, we notice an Irish number plate. Later the owners, a lovely couple called Derek and Lynda, stopped by our van and after a brief chat as they were going to the beach, they said pop over later to our van.

It’s strange, out of the wind it is still scorching and its 8.30pm but the wind has an edge to it. About 9pm we went into Derek & Lynda’s van and chatted until well past midnight and consumed rather a lot of wine plus Derek shared his last tin of Guinness between Joan and me. Well Spain finally won the world cup. I know because from time to time Derek put the match on so we could catch up with the score, I must say it looked like a good game.

Our van has surpassed itself and after 5 days without a plug in we are going to head for Le Treport where electricity is included with your fee. The only trouble with this is we have not had any wi-fi and the computer battery is gone, I wish somebody would produce a laptop which works on 12volt. Apparently what I need is an inverter but I don’t think they do much good for the battery although Paul has one and he wouldn’t have if it was harmful.

So there we are, a bit long but I am afraid if we don’t get wi-fi that’s what will happen. Hopefully the pictures will help to break it up a bit. We are now at Le Treport and have electricity so I was able to complete this up to date and tomorrow we will cycle to McDonalds and hopefully get it onto the web.

Lots of love to you all
Bryan & Joan XXXX