Friday, 29 July 2011

At last wi-fi! So, from pouring rain to sunshine

We wandered around france mainly in Normandy. Broke down and had to spend a lot of money to get it fixed. Then we had some rain, met some nice people and after they left the sun started to shine.
The end

Thursday 14th Bastille Day! Very strange, the last couple of years we have had fireworks on the night before Bastille Day but this time nothing, not a sausage. Anyway we found the little town of St Pair sur mer so nice we decided to nip back there, also it was market day which we always enjoy. After lunch it was so sunny we headed for the beach which was fairly empty and as with all the beaches around here the tide was a long way out so after a stroll we determined to return when it was a bit further in, around 4pm. Actually it was 4.30 when we got back and finally we actually paddled for the first time in France this year! The water was quite warm and if we had had the sense to bring our costumes we would have actually had a swim. All we managed was to get our shorts a bit wet and sunbathed for a while until they dried. At long last a proper day on the beach, well about 3 hours all together. As we planned our next couple of days, stupidly expecting the weather to settle, we finally heard lots of fireworks go off and they continued until way past midnight.

Friday 15th started with rain and very grey skies so we headed back to the nice little aire at Erquy. Apart from its proximity to the sea we thought it was a lovely little town and I hoped the weather would be nice in the evening so I could take Joan to the restaurant we had visited with the bus driver. It really looked like it would be very pleasant in the evening and according to the bus driver, the food was excellent. Fat chance, it absolutely poured down, with winds so fierce we were rocked to sleep! On our arrival though we were lucky to get the very last space, the place was full and it was only 12.30pm. One nice thing that happened was we met a lovely family from Northern Ireland, William, Hazel and daughter Leslie. They had a bit of trouble with their fridge so we were able to put their fresh milk in ours until the next day.

I am pretty sure I mentioned that it was virtually impossible to get a front row pitch overlooking the sea here previously, as people tended to let their mates know when they were leaving. To be honest we were quite happy with the view from our pitch but imagine our surprise when we suddenly had the chance to move to the front, so we took it like a shot. Of course we now had a great view of the storm clouds rolling in and could easily judge the amount of rain falling by how far we could see. We did however get to see the tide fully in and in fact on the Saturday evening we were convinced the reason they had let us park in the front was because they had heard the sea was going to come right over the wall! It was so blustery it did come all the way in to the sea wall driven by the strong winds. Instead of a trip out for a nice dinner Joan settled for a roti chicken from the market, and veggies.

As the weather was so bad we decided to go back into Normandy and headed for Le Mont St Michel where we knew the aire offered electricity in the fee. While we were there it got even colder and I tentatively said shall we go south? No I don’t think so said Joan. Then Andy phoned and said why don’t you go south? Next morning with no improvement in the weather Joan suddenly announced I think we should head further south, I have planned a route via an aire where we would get electricity so we could charge everything up, maybe watch a video and you could complete another bit of the blog.

Sadly the blog does seem a bit downbeat but I assure everybody we are actually having a good time but would like it to be a wee bit (a lot) warmer. So hopefully at St Gilles Croix de Ville, our next stop we will be a bit warmer sorry that was just wishful thinking.
Lots of love Bryan & Joan xxxxx

Monday 18th July
Well here we are about 90 miles south at a lovely little aire at Nozay. The place is great with free electricity and very clean toilets; in fact the smell of bleach nearly knocked me out! It is a sort of park with a lake, and loads of picnic tables all spotless, crazy golf in season and over a bit there are swings and a skate park. Joan was a little concerned that at night it might get a bit rowdy with teenagers congregating but it didn’t. When we arrived it was definitely warmer and we went for a stroll around the lake. It was so nice to just enjoy the warm sun and the park. While we did this Joan was busy supplying all the local midges with some blood and later she discovered several bites, oh dear. After A very pleasant afternoon I was just about to get the table out for dinner when it started to rain, so we ate inside and then enjoyed a DVD.

Next morning we headed for St.Gilles-croix-de-vie a place we know quite well and have visited several times. It’s a nice little town and was really as far south as we could realistically go before heading back north. After settling in we went straight to town and enjoyed an ice-cream in very blustery winds but at least the sun was shining. Sadly not for long and the weather just went from bad to worse. The only high spots were we met two English couples Angela and Tom from Plymouth and later Yvonne and Harry from Stanley only a stone’s throw from Gateshead! They were all lovely people and it made us feel a bit guilty for complaining because we have had really hot weather earlier in Belgium and Paris and they only have their fortnight’s holiday to get some sun. Still they are both heading further south tomorrow so let’s hope it improves for them.

Wednesday 20th
Right that’s it, we have finally given up on the weather improving and have planned a route slowly back up to our rendezvous with the children, Andy & Carole, most with electricity. I am so exasperated that we cannot get this stupid computer to connect to the various free wi-fi spots we see. We did manage to get on at a Le Clerque supermarket so hopefully I will manage it again soon.

Now we are sitting on an aire at a place called L’epine on the Noirmoutier-en-I’lle and it’s still raining!!! However we did manage to stroll along to the beach and take a couple of photos so at least this bit of the blog will have pictures.

This evening is a very sad one for us, we do not usually watch any DVD’s on holiday we just stroll or sit outside and sip wine while chatting. But as my continuous bleating will have shown, it’s all we have to do at night, that and reading our kindles, thank god we have them! Anyway I said sad occasion, why I hear you ask. Well it’s the last episode of “West Wing” tonight, probably only Stephen & Reena will understand what we are on about as they gave the series to me, but it’s been great to watch and we feel we know all the characters personally. Oh well all good things etc.

Well would you believe it we didn’t watch it after all. Why? Well we met a very nice family from Northern Ireland and spent a very enjoyable evening chatting and drinking an excellent box of Cote de Rhone, well most of it, in our van. They certainly are a very talented lot, the little boy Ben has just passed his grade 2 violin and he’s only 9! He also plays traditional Irish music and has already made a couple of CD’s with his band.

Steve the dad is a librarian and published poet and is at present working on his first novel. Finally Marie-Therese the very pretty mam is a school teacher and plays several musical instruments; she teaches music and is also an artist who has had a couple of exhibitions. So you would think their world was perfect wouldn’t you but sadly Marie-Therese has a very serious back problem which seems to be getting worse and the medics cannot give her any hope of a cure at present. They have the most delightful vintage van that they managed to get at a very reasonable price on ebay, amazing!

Thursday 21st July
As we said goodbye to our new friends we recommended St Pair-sur-mer, it would be ideal for young Ben as it is right next to the swings and a small skate park plus they said he wanted to swim and the beach is very good. After they left we headed for Noirmoutier for a wander around the shops intending to return to the aire, hoping it would be nice enough to visit the beach. Sadly the weather wasn’t good and so we decided to have lunch in a restaurant and found a really lively place full of locals. Joan had her first Moules which she said were very good. Then as the weather did not appear to be improving at all we decided to head slowly back up to our meeting with the children. Heading first to Nozay where we had electricity last time only to discover it wasn’t working! The big joke was all these French chaps had been trying it and getting quite incensed about it with lots of waving arms and complaining loudly. When the chap called to collect our money they were just paying their money quite tamely when Joan asked about it! After a slight attempt to correct it he said, oh well, stay free then went around giving them their money back! Around about 5pm the weather became really nice and we dared to hope tomorrow would be nice.

Friday 22nd July
We headed for St Pair-sur-Mer and the weather really did seem to be suddenly remembering it was July not November! As we approached the motorway turn off we passed the vintage van going the other way but we weren’t sure if it was them although I said to Joan there cannot be two vans like that in Normandy. Having got a really prime spot at St Pair we went for a few hours on the beach then as we got back to the van I noticed their van opposite and shortly afterwards they came back. They had taken our tip and they really liked it there. As we had said, Ben was having a whale of a time and he and a couple of French lads were playing quite happily. That evening Marie-Therese and Steve invited us over and we again enjoyed several jars together.

When we arrived we had noticed that the field next door was all marked out for some sort of event and also there seemed to be lots of painted numbers on the aire. Saturday mid morning a gendarme knocked and we thought oops! But he was a very friendly smiley chap and he just told us we must leave by evening as there was a huge car boot/antique sale that happens only twice a year. I of course being a law abiding citizen said, right away. No! No! He cried, only after lunch!!!

For those who don’t know, lunch is sort of sacred over here they even allow free parking in towns from 12.30 to 2.30pm so people can stop for lunch. I still remember the look of horror on a couples faces last year when having parked we enquired where we pay, non, non it is dejeuner they said in unison. So for the second time, having got a really super spot we had to move on. Which was a shame because Joan’s bargain shopping antenna were beginning to quiver.

Having all said goodbye again we headed for Gouville-sur-mare (plage) an aire which we were informed was by the sea and we could get water and electricity for 4€ a night. We were delighted to discover that it was indeed almost on the beach and had really clean toilets close by. The only problem was I have managed to lose our little yellow thing that attaches the hose to any tap , plus you get an hour’s electricity as you pay so you have to be very near to stretch your wire across while others want to use the other facilities, nightmare. We spent the next 4 days and nights here and it was great, the weather was really good and we actually got into the sea. Yes I did say the sea!!!

There should be a picture of me swimming here but it's escaped!

Wednesday 27th
Awoke to grey skies and so she who must be obeyed declared it was time to go where we could get all night electricity and charge everything up ready for our last couple of stops before Fermenville. The place in question is Lessay which is only about 10 miles up the road so no rush. When we arrived it looked as though we had been misinformed as there didn’t seem to be any water or electricity points anywhere to be seen. They were there though and a friendly Frenchman pointed it out to me, having plugged in we set off to explore the town and discovered the most delightful little park with two little bridges and lots of lovely flowers.
Photo of us on bridge

Spent a pleasant time walking around the village and Abbey and next day set off for an aire at a place called Sciotot where we were delighted to find ourselves overlooking the sea and a beautiful beach. It was so nice we had to have another swim and spent most of the afternoon on the beach. It is a very flat beach and we did not realise how far the tide came in. Suddenly Joan said, we need to move that’s coming all the way up here, and she was right! As we left the beach lots of others were streaming off or climbing onto the rocks.

Friday 29th July
After a very pleasant night we set off to our final destination at the campsite in Fermanville to await the arrival of the Oxfordshire Crick’s.
Can you believe it we are on line at last and so I will get to post this blog finally!!!

Lots of love from us in the lovely sunshine on the Cherbourg peninsular.

Friday, 15 July 2011

So that’s what the little red triangle we carry is for!

Wednesday 6th July
Leaving fairly early we headed for Vimoutiers where we bought the Camembert cheese last year and they have a really nice aire. After horrendous traffic and rain we did not arrive until 3pm to find the museum for the cheese was closed, Quell disaster! What was worse was that it did not open until 2.30pm the next day so we popped into the tourist office where the lady said well why not visit the farm where they make it? After a lovely warm sunny evening and night we headed for Camembert next morning although it was not as easy to find as she seemed to think, but we got there eventually. We know what we bought is fresh because they made it in the next room as we watched. Well they sort of bagged it up and packaged it in the little wooden boxes in that room.

Those of you who follow the blog will think us lucky to see it but we just quickly detoured to avoid the mayhem which is the Tour de France, what a circus!

We got to Coudeville plage aire around 2.30pm and the sky looked very threatening but we went for a walk along the prom which seemed to stretch for miles. The beach was lovely sand but it seemed there was nothing else around, no shops for food etc, all a bit boring really.

Just as we spotted a couple with ice creams we noticed the sky really looked like a storm was brewing so we made a dash for the van, as we arrived, it poured. Phew!
Next morning a circus arrived with lots of hooting and noise plus half a dozen camels which they put out to graze all along the road, needles to say we left immediately! Two circuses in 24 hours, lucky us!!

We then headed into Brittany as we keep saying we want to go there but never quite manage it. Erquy was a delightful little place with a really nice aire. We were amused at first as we watched the antics of people trying to get the sea view places, but ours was a pretty good view and as the weather was starting to behave itself we were not intending to be in the van until the evening. Then of course if there was a good sunset Joan would be out right on the promenade joining all the others with their cameras.

On our first night we walked up and over the steep hill into the town which seemed a really nice place, and returned via the beach. This seemed like a good idea at the time but began to look decidedly dodgy as I realised the tide was on its way in as we got to the bit where we had to go out around the rocks. However nothing ventured etc and as it turned out we had about 30 minutes to spare, so that was alright, although Joan seemed to be walking very fast as she was convinced we were going to get cut off.

Later that evening we asked a friendly Frenchman when the market was on in town and he pointed out a notice on the gate. This stated that tomorrow, Saturday, there was a free bus to it at 9.30am returning about 11.40 or 12.40pm. This free lark was to become a bit of a theme.

We caught the bus and boarded with a throng of fellow motorhomers plus locals all jollied along by a very friendly lady driver who as we got off told us where to get the return bus later. We spent a few hours happily wandering and purchased a few food items then returned to the appointed place. Nothing! There was no sign at the appointed time of any sort of bus/coach. After about 20 minutes sitting on the sea wall we saw the bus going the other way and as we stood up she stopped, holding up the traffic both ways.

Grinned broadly she shouted something so we nipped over and got on. She chatted away in very fast French and set off in the opposite direction to ours. We assumed that as we had the bus and the driver in sight we should eventually end up back home and relaxed. We knew the alternative would be to walk over the rocks around the bay and tried to remember where the tide was going, in or out.

Our verbose driver suddenly parked, stopped the engine and announced Coffee! So we followed her into a very nice little restaurant and she ordered. I of course expected to pay but no, she would not hear of it and finally managed to explain to these two English people that she was going back at 12.30! So we enjoyed our coffee and eventually, as she slowed her speech a little, actually managed a little conversation. When we returned along the route to the pick-up point our fellow passengers seemed very impressed to see us already on board. A lovely day topped off with a very spectacular sunset at about 10.30pm.

Sunday 10th July I think we might have stayed at Erquy but we wanted to check out a couple of possible campsites to ensure they are near nice beaches for the children, coming soon. As they are arriving at Cherbourg this time it makes sense to be closer to there and we have all discussed possible sites before on this peninsula. First stop was right up the top but when we arrived we were not at all impressed and headed for a site we had all seen on the internet that looked really good on the west side. When we finally got there, they did have a super pool and water slide but it was certainly not as good as the very high price would indicate, anyway they had no room on our dates.

Finally we headed for a site called La Chausee about 75 miles south of Cherbourg. Having driven 250 odd miles we decided to book in, as they had wi-fi and we had laundry that needed to be done. Seemed a fair exchange to me. I hadn’t had anything prepared so all we did was check with Stephen why Mc Donalds wi-fi won’t work and download emails.

Now I should say that for a couple of days now we have been having the odd problem starting the van and yesterday I even asked Joan to check where the AA/ins cover was! This morning Monday we had real trouble getting started and I thought we would be stuck on this campsite while it was fixed. However it did start and ran ok so we set off to leave a deposit at a campsite which Carole had found and which sounded brilliant, then around to an aire nearby.

What happened next could only happen to us according to Joan. We nipped in for some diesel and naturally switched off but after filling up, the van would not start. I did all the technical bloke things like hanging on the starter for ages, swearing at it and pressing on the throttle, nothing. Fortunately we were on a slight slope back so I thought I will run back and park, thus not blocking the petrol pumps. I’m nice like that. The French twit that would not move when Joan pointed out our plight, made me brake. I told you there was a slight slope down but also there was one indentation into which my wheels fitted perfectly, isn’t that great? NO IT’S NOT!!!!!

So here are Joan and I rocking the van back and forth to get it out so I can jump in as soon as it gets rolling, scary stuff. Well we did it and put our little red triangle out as all good motorist do, (hence the title above). I have to say that the AA was very good and after about 30 minutes this huge recovery lorry arrived. The chap got out and did all the clever mechanic things like opening the bonnet and hanging on the starter then looking into the engine compartment, coming around and hanging on the starter again.

However we knew he must need further training because he didn’t swear and forgot the sucking of the teeth while shaking the head indicating a huge bill. (Little did we know!) No, he needed to take us to a garage. He showed me how he wanted me to run back, turning so I ended up going uphill a bit , with him and of course Joan pushing, Hey I know how to entertain a girl! I then had to freewheel down into the huge car park at the bottom of the hill and stop and wait for him with his lorry. All this with no power steering and no power assisted brakes, ho hum.

We were loaded onto the lorry and taken to a very nice garage where it was pointed out to us that the recovery was free but we pay for everything else. All without shaking heads or sucking teeth, how French, (apparently). We then sat there for what seemed hours and we heard them start it up. Oh good I say, they have cleared the fuel blockage, we should be away soon. WRONG!

Finally the boss who brought us in, gives us the telephone so a chap from AA he has been talking to can tell us that the van needs a new fuel pump and regulator which will cost 1330€, is that ok? Well actually no, I say, but realistically what choice do we have so I say ok. I asked him to check if they thought the problem was due to bad servicing. The mechanic said no, there is a lot of this work at the moment, they think it may be a problem with the diesel. So we wait again and it suddenly occurs to us that they must close soon and our van is inside the garage with all our gear. Yes they do close and it’s in an hour. So what do we do? They explain that we can have a car and go to a hotel arranged for us by the AA. Just then the AA ring again, but a different branch, and tells the garage owner to put our van outside so we can sleep in it, hes not happy but he did and kindly provided us with electricity then left and locked the gates. We are hoping tomorrow he will turn up with a baguette!

Looking on the bright side, last night’s camping cost us 30€ tonight is free, it’s an ill wind.

Thanks to all who have emailed with the news from home, it’s appreciated so please send more! Love to your mam, Maria, I’m glad she’s
Lots of love to you all
Joan & Bryan XXXXX

Tuesday 12th July
Oh joy it’s absolutely pouring with rain, and has been since 6.30am. Why we awoke so early is totally beyond me. We cannot do a thing until they fix the van and of course the part has to be delivered before they can start. The staff arrived about 8.30am but no baguette. The AA rang to see if we were ok which was very nice and all we could really say was yes. However the prospect of another night here is not a very cheerful one. Still we have each other and free electricity so it’s not all bad.

The weather improved mid-afternoon and became sunny, so around 3pm they came out and said the part is here, please take this car and go and see Granville and return about 6pm hopefully all will be done by then. You see some people would have said we should have made the insurance people provide us with a hotel/B&B but we have everything we need in the van and where would we have gone during all that rain? As it was we were making cups of tea/coffee and had lunch, all nicely in the dry.

Granville was very nice and amazingly we got straight into a parking space. When we returned they had still not completed the work and in fact it was not done until 8.30pm! The other strange thing was, the bill was actually less than we expected, not by much but still a bit of a shock. When we left everybody was all smiles and we headed for an aire fairly close by as Joan was determined not to go too far until we were sure it was fixed, fortunately.

After a very pleasant night planning our next trip while enjoying the odd glass of wine, we awoke and tried to start the engine. It appeared to be as bad as the original problem but did start eventually. On our arrival back at the garage they showed great concern and apologised profusely. After another hour they explained that there had been a blockage in the fuel line and all was now well. Which it was, the van sounded really good but just to be on the safe side Joan insisted I stop at the first supermarket so we could stock up and of course have to restart the van.
This time it started immediately and we were on our way at last to a campsite at Fermanville. The site is very nice and fairly near the sea but there always seems to be a hitch just lately for us. This time we have free wi-fi, actually in our van, but our stupid computer (whose days are numbered!), will not connect to it!!!!! So why am I writing this? Well you never know I may get it sometime.

Bryan & Joan

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Paris when it sizzles!

We travelled to Paris, spent a lot of money, saw some sights and relaxed in the sun. The end.

Sunday 3rd July
After a leisurely start we had a fairly trouble free trip until we got to the outskirts of Paris where we hit huge amounts of traffic. Fortunately most of it was going the other way so it wasn’t too bad. On arrival at the campsite recommended by Angela & Paul they informed us it was the start of many Parisians holidays plus a bank holiday, so not a bad trip considering.

As we had been told, the site is very nice and the owners friendly, they even gave us a free ‘T’ shirt each. We had a wander up to the station to get our tickets for Paris tomorrow, which means we can go on the trains, metro and busses all day for 14€ each. Had we realised just how expensive it was going to be when we got there we would have arranged a second mortgage beforehand but we were determined to enjoy ourselves and worry about it later. Fortunately, later we realised it was too late to worry so we haven’t bothered!
Guess where?

Our train dropped us just before the Eiffel Tower near the military museum, as good a place to start as any. I am not going to bore everyone with a blow by blow account of our day but suffice to say we did most of the touristy bits. Obviously for Joan, Montmartre was a must so naturally while we were there we visited Sacre-coeur.

We were on the second floor

Next I surprised Joan by taking her past the hotel we stayed at for her 50th birthday trip, just the other year.

Notre Dame

The Latin quarter

After a very full day which included paying £9 for two orange juices and a fiver for one small beer! We decided to return, as Joan was beginning to flag a bit in the extreme heat plus her cold is still pretty bad. All in all a lovely day and as we had had a fairly substantial lunch we felt more tired than hungry so settled for a light salad.

Tuesday 5th
Just relaxed, walked to local shops and prepared van for using aires, off to the seaside tomorrow yeh!!!

Would you believe it's 8.30pm and still 25 degree's!

Lots of love, Joan & Bryan xxxxx

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Blog part two, just taking advantage of free wi-fi Sunday 3rd July

Well I am in the dog house again!

We decided as we were paying a fortune in diesel to carry our bikes around we ought to actually ride them! Having been given directions and a map for a path to the local village and spoken to a chap in an adjacent caravan who comes here all the time, we set off. He said it gets difficult in places but you should be ok, turn right out of the campsite, across the busy main road and turn left and go straight on, easy.

We set off, negotiated the very busy main road and found a path alongside a disused railway line. So far, so good, but “we” had forgotten the map she was given! I ignored a sort of road that seemed to go into a farm to the right as he had said carry straight on, although Joan wanted to follow it. So when we came to a dead end at a sweet corn field I just carried on, as there were footprints to follow it seemed obvious, especially as he had said it was difficult in places. Having struggled for some time and been ripped to pieces by brambles, stinging nettles etc we came to a lake! After returning and taking the turning into the farm which apparently was obvious, we got to the correct path and found the village, shopped and returned on the correct path.

That was Friday and I am still being reminded about it, ho hum. However I discovered today that he used to teach at her old school St Josephs and he shuddered when I mentioned Form 4G, so I think there’s a bit of revenge here but cannot prove it.

Apart from that we have managed to totally relax and tomorrow Sunday we set off for Paris, where hopefully this brilliant hot weather will continue.
The only fly in our ointment, which we are applying liberally to our cuts, is that Joan has managed to get a stinking cold but she’s a fighter and hopefully will pull through. Must dash her glass is empty!
Lots of love US xxxx

Friday, 1 July 2011

Having left home on 16th June we finally get to blog!

Before I begin I apologise to everybody for no blog updates but we haven’t had wi-fi!!

For those (Stephen) who only want a short prĂ©cis:- We left home, travelled to Leafield for 3 days, then onto London for a week. Went through the chunnel to France then on to Belgium for 4 days where we visited Bruge and we’ll return to France tomorrow. The end.

At last we may have wi-fi so it’s time for us to update our blog properly.
We finally left home on the 16th and stopped halfway down for a night’s well earned rest. At last we were off and absolutely determined NOT to overdo it. The place we stopped was very basic but suited our purpose very well. After a leisurely breakfast we set off for Leafield and arrived in time to cheer Joseph and Eleanor on as they took part in their school sports day. The rest of the weekend was great, culminating in Joseph’s birthday on Sunday the 19th.

After he opened his presents he took us to see a steam operated saw mill. This was great as it was one of the 4 days in the year when it is all working. So the huge steam engine is operating lots of other machinery in this big building. While we were there Joe made a poker on the forge

and spent his birthday money from Aunty Jacqueline on a model of “Stephenson’s Rocket” which hopefully he has constructed by now.

Having had a very interesting couple of hours we all had a walk through the woods.

Then later we went for Joseph’s birthday dinner where Andy and I had already dropped off his surprise birthday cake. Having enjoyed a lovely Thai curry they brought out his cake and he loved it!

Off to London in the morning after another brilliant visit to the Oxfordshire Crick’s.

20th June - we leave Leafield and head for Mitcham where as always, Angela and Paul give us a warm welcome. It’s always good to spend a few days just shopping and chatting to Angela plus of course we get to see Stephen & Reena and Jamie & Tim. Thursday night we spent with Stephen & Reena at an Indian restaurant with lovely food and then on Friday we had another lovely meal with Jamie in Richmond, sadly Tim was ill and unable to come. Hope you are better now Tim?

Saturday 25th June - So with a bulging waist line we set off from Angela’s at about midday for the tunnel, intending to stay close by and go over at our booked time of 7.30am Sunday. We got there at 4pm and were asked if we would like to go then? So off we went arriving in Calais 40 minutes later, great! We drove along to Gravelines and found a lovely little aire at Port Fort Philippe. We nipped straight into the village for our first glass of wine and would have eaten there but the miserable pig behind the bar put us off. We ended up in the local chippy which bizarrely did not do fish! So poor Joan had to have crab, shame, these came with the most enormous pile of chips, and we asked for the small portion. (The diet starts tomorrow!).

On our return to the van I was concerned to see we had a voltage discharge showing and as we were not plugged in it was a big worry. Having decided it was too late to start trying to fix it we were delighted when about 11pm there was a knock on the door and a lady pointed out to us that the outside lights were on, phew!!

Sunday 26th June - our next task was to take a look at the local beaches but none of them were very good and the campsites were pretty poor. The sites were also a long way from the beach even though one was called “La Plage” and the other “Des Dunes”. An English woman we spoke to on the first site said she wouldn’t recommend it because of the dirty facilities and lots of noise from teenagers. This is a shame as the children want to come over in August and if we had found a good one it would have reduced their car journey considerably.

So off to Belgium to see our Friend Simone at a place called Middelkerke. The campsite is very nice and she was delighted to see us. For our part we were a pleased that she was looking and coping so well since Egide her husband died only a year ago. This campsite has a lovely beach about a 10 minute walk away and a small town about 1 mile each side of it. The only problem was I found the sand very sharp as it was full of broken sea shells, it also seemed to be very windy at times.

Joan decided on Sunday that she wanted her hair cut on Monday. (Ken, you will relate to this!), as she opened her eyes at 7.30am, (mine were still closed!) she nudged me and said “will you cut my hair now please. ” And good morning to you to dear I replied. (I like to start the day with rapier like wit.) I pointed out that if she was going to start Kathleen’s larks she would have to swim a mile and cycle 27 miles later, she was not amused.

Simone insisted on taking us into Bruges on Tuesday so that saved us all the bother of moving and finding a campsite/Aire near Bruges, plus of course we had our very own super guide.

We had a beer and then a very nice 3 course meal in one of the main squares with Kir to start. Over the last couple of days the temperature has soared into the 30’s which has not been too bad at the coast but when we were walking around Bruges it got pretty overpowering.

We were so full when we left Bruges that the only thing we managed in the evening was an ice cream from Simone’s favourite ice cream parlour. We knew it would be good as they were queuing outside on the pavement and that was at 8pm. Then back to our van to drink far too much wine, we think Simone is a bad influence! With all the exercise we’re feeling a bit fitter now and the only fly in the ointment is a total lack of wi-fi.

On Wednesday after another good day and a ride on the tram we had a last meal with Simone and said our fond farewells at 10.30pm as she was off back to her home in Antwerp. Tomorrow we head for Soissons back in France and hopefully my first Baguette!!!

Thursday 30th June Today was pretty uneventful, we arose early and had a pretty good drive to Ressons-le-Long near Soissons where it appears half of Hebburn have a caravan/holiday home!

Friday 1st July A red letter day I got my first Baguette and we have bloody wi-fi, YEH!!!!

Lots of Love
Joan & Bryan xxx