Vive La France – we have arrived :)

Yes we made it, so far hassle free and considerably easier than we anticipated.  To be totally honest, there have been a few skirmishes between driver and navigator but other than that it has been relatively plain sailing.

Arrived in Calais to thunder and lightening, which made for an interesting drive through the torrents out of the port and onto the A16. We were determined not to pay the toll so needed to exit before the first toll booth, slight problem in that our marvelous map book doesn’t show enough detail to see where toll starts. We headed off at exit 31 and did a little, unplanned, jaunt around Boulogne before finding the road for Le Touquet, for no other reason that it was somewhere to head for.

On route we stopped off at the Etaples war cemetery. Over 9000 graves and every one kept immaculately. We knew from family history research that my great grandfathers brother was buried there. Amazingly we walked down one line of graves and then started across and found his grave within 10 minutes. Really humbling to think that over 9000 men didn’t get to go home. We left one of our poppy’s as a tiny mark of respect for someone we never knew but to whom we are related and to who we owe so much.

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So the next thing was aires – where to stay and what to do. First one we looked in at was Le Touquet, this seemed a very wealthy town, incredible houses on wide avenues and everything kept immaculately. We found the aire right out on the marina, water, ehu and seemed secure so there was nothing stopping us. No lets move on as the next one will be even better. Oh how wrong can you be, Berck aire is a dump, so much so there are 6 foot mounds of earth barricading in several caravans. We beat a hasty retreat and set off for Le Crotoy. There are 2 aires here, one for €12 a night as you enter town, a second for €5 a night right on the sea front. We parked up on the latter amongst 11 Belgian vans and settled down under thunder and lightening, keeping our fingers crossed we would still be here in the morning and not washed out to sea.

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Next morning we awoke to clear blue skies and much warmer, so we headed out for a walk along the embankment which faces back to the town. Le Crotoy is very much a holiday town and even out of season there were plenty of people around. We have so far resisted a visit to a Patisserie, not sure how much longer we will hold out though as the one here looked way too good.

Le Crotoy

Le Crotoy

This morning we decided to head off towards Caen as we want to visit the Normandy landing beaches and go to Bayeux to see the tapestry. We set the Sat Nav to avoid tolls and hence we found ourselves in the middle of Rouen.  Not bad in that its is a beautiful city and we crossed the River Seine amongst some fabulous buildings. It is bad though when there is a tunnel with a 2.2 metre height restriction and we are 2.9 metres and we are 20 metres from going into said tunnel! Panic set in whilst we literally stopped in the middle on the road to decide what the hell to so, whilst several kindly French motorists hit their horns and made some unfamiliar hand gestures. Our only option was to cut over the central reservation but to do so we needed the other lanes to stop to allow us to get round the height barrier. After a few minutes a lorry stopped which allowed us to get out and across – we both started breathing again as we left Rouen behind fairly sharpish.

We decided Caen was too far and changed our plan to go up to the coast for the night. We are now at Villers Sur Mer, a stones throw from Hornfleur and Le Harve. The seafront is full of the most gigantic old chateau type hotels and apartments.  There is a marina in the middle of town and just up the road we passed the biggest casino we have ever seen (no – we will not be betting the budget). We are parked up on another aire tonight. This one was a little testing in that it had a barrier so I spent a good 15 minutes working out how the hell to pay the machine and get in. Once in we started the search for the water, after 10 minutes we gave up and Iain went and asked the French camper next door. Very helpful, showed us where it was – down the road- and explained in full French what we should do. We nodded a lot, smiled, looked like we understood and waved him goodbye. Then sat down and tried to work out what it was we should do as we didn’t understand more than 5 words – our French needs to improve quickly.

We plan to stay in Normandy until the end of the week as plenty we want to see. It strikes us both as very like the Fens – mainly flat, large fields and small villages. We are loving the beautiful half timbered houses and relatively quiet roads so there isn’t anything making us move to far, until of course it rains then we may think heading South is a good option.

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14 thoughts on “Vive La France – we have arrived :)

  1. Looks like you’re off to a good start. Honfleur is lovely but the enormous aire is almost too big!! I don’t know if you’re doing WW2 beaches, Pegasus Bridge, Ranville etc etc – there is just so much to see and not enough time to do it!! I am writing this in the rather more modest and less exotic surrounds of Coniston Water where I am spending a few days. Keep the Gap Year news coming – I sense it will be a good read for all your followers. I notice the other day even HM The Queen sent her first tweet so we all need to keep ahead with our social media skills!!

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    • Off to Utah beach first, as you say so much to see. We used the aire at Villers Sur Mer, only 8 bays and really good.

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    • thanks – we are following your exploits too. Hope you are enjoying the Algarve, we will miss it this year.

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      • Yes, we enjoyed it last year and just as much again this year. Weather has been very good and still is but now getting to that chilly evening stage just after sunset.

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  2. Well no black eyes yet …Water some Motorhomes have obtained water from cemetery’s if you get stuck. Rouen not the best of Places to find your way through

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    • Rouen was good to drive through – just that one tunnel that got in the way! Normandy coast is awash with good aires and plenty of water – both the rain and fill up types 🙂

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  3. I read this and was filled with envy, that is until I got a phone call to go work at the end of season F1 race in Abu Dhabi. I will wave as I fly over in an Emirates A380 from my Business Class seat. Not the same as a 12 month long adventure but think, this time last year I was in Siberia, sorry Sochi for 7 months. All in all a result methinks. Ian can do a French Drivers Ed Class on line, in English for 20 euros……. Time for winter sun Baxter’s, head south……….

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    • Ah we may change our route and visit you there (just a few wrong turns needed)! Iain is loving driving here, we are getting the hang of it now – avoid low tunnels and its fine:). Abu Dhabi sounds wonderful, hope you are taking Binty for some shoe shopping xx

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    • We will be following your route down but heading into Spain for a few weeks before we go along the Med coast.

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  4. I must say; 1) glad your having a great time (if slightly different from the original plan), 2) the picture of dad on the sea wall looks suspiciously like Rhyl and 3) in France isn’t it fresh food every day? What do you need a fridge for?

    x

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    • your Dad is still in Rhyl, left him waiting on the harbour wall 🙂 Send our love and hugs to the three tiddlers xxx

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