After a long stint back in the Salt Mines we are back out on the road for four months. Destination sunshine, but instead of the usual Santander crossing we took the Poole – Cherbourg route this time. Horrendous journey down to Poole, accidents galore and way too much traffic on the roads, 8 hours later we arrived at Poole where they kindly allow you to park up overnight on the dock for the princely sum of £5.
Next morning we were loaded on the Brittany ferry pronto and off, blue skies, calm seas and a fabulous breakfast saw us through the 4 hours and arrival at Cherbourg.
We headed off to the coast for a free stop at the Plage Sciotot (N 49 30 2.1 W 1 50 50.4) A few hardy souls around but as night fell everyone left except us and a few surfer vans. We congratulated ourselves on choosing to drive down through France, smug as bugs we were thinking of pottering around in a bit of winter sun for the next couple of weeks.
Typical Baxter plan, lasted all of 24 hours, then we hit fog. Really thick fog that was freezing, down to minus 5 in the daytime. We took cover at the aire at St. Nazaire (N 47 14 13 W 2 18 01 ) For aire, read small parking area no view, just fog and an eerie feel to the place. there were two motorhomes already there, after an hour we realised they weren’t inhabited – just kind of dumped. We knew this was a blip and fully expected the sun to be back next day – nope!! Next morning it was worse, frost so deep it looked like a good layer of snow and for so dense we could see 50 metres from the van tops.
Ooooh fab – winter sun in France
We rapidly agreed that France in fog and frost wasn’t going to so much fun. Digging deep in the budget we hit the toll roads and try and find clearer weather. By the time we reached Bordeaux the fog had cleared, still freezing though so we headed for the campsite on the ring road, Camping Beausoleil (N44 45 20 W 0 37 39 ) mainly as the tram / bus to the city runs from a few hundred metres outside the campsite. I went to book us in, met with a rather stern lady on reception so I decided to lighten the mode by giving her the benefit of my O’level standard spoken French – she remained stern looked askance and immediately re-started the conversation in English :).
New Years Day, wrapped up against the element we took the bus to meet the tram – (€3 each bargain). We love trams, our favourite mode of transport, maybe not so much after a whole city has been out celebrating until a few hours previously. Eau-de-puke and spilled beer was very prevalent, as were some puddle type areas on the floor we avoided as best we could! I would like to write a very detailed description of Bordeaux, suffice to say we loved the recently restored neoclassical architecture, the city appears to full of things to see and do – but quite honestly it was too cold for us do much more than wander around at a fairly rapid pace to prevent frostbite.
The biggest disappointment wasn’t the weather, it was the “Miroir d’Eau”, water wasn’t on so it was just a case of standing on a concrete slab remembering how it looked on Google pictures.
Back on tolls, still in fog and we crossed the border at Irun into Spain – 10 minutes later fog lifted, sun shone – hurray for Spain. We crossed in seconds, the traffic coming in from Spain was queuing back over 4 miles in two lanes. Lots of French checks going on with police and transport, think we will avoid that route going home, but that’s too far away to worry about for now it’s all going to be about Spain :).