France in the sunshine

6th November to 14th November 2018

We went into this trip with a rough plan which involved driving through France and then onto the Spanish north coast, to enable us to travel where we missed last year, covering the area west of Santander.  The route then would involve driving down Portugal arriving in it’s southern parts by Christmas.  There would be an element of change for the route through France as even though our routes are never quite the same they have always only covered the regions considerably west of Paris and always seem to include a drive by of Rouen and Bordeaux when driving south.   Determined to do something different this year we decided to draw a line vertically down from Adinkirke in Belgium, where we would stop by briefly to pick up tobacco, through the entire country of France. This imaginary line took in Paris, Limoges and ending in Toulouse where once we had reached the Toulouse area’s capital city we would veer west to San Sebastian, our gate way to the north Spanish coast.

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Having a new road atlas for this trip didn’t prevent us going way off target!

Therefore it was a surprise to even us that after almost one week on the road we found ourselves just north of Montpelier meaning our entry in Spain would be from the north east coast into the Costa Brava which in geographical terms was the complete opposite of our initial plans. This had happened due to number of decisions made whilst driving, the first being that we chose to circle Paris by it’s eastern road net work. The second thing which bumped us more east than we expected was to avoid a toll road which was the direct route south to Toulouse, instead choosing to head south east on toll free roads at around Cahors.

Maybe it was the draw of new places which encouraged us to deviate so considerably, but one thing we both agree on was that it was one our better trips through France for reasons beyond seeing something different; and that was the weather.  Normally the French part of our travels involve rain and biting cold, but this year we have enjoyed on the majority autumn sunshine which has been a pleasant surprise and has allowed us to hold out a little longer than usual and not giving in to the allure of warmer climes.

Our journey started at Grand Fort Philippe just north of Calais and this place is becoming our favourite Calais stop over.  The free aire lies just outside a simple French harbour town and alongside a coastal walkway which goes south west to Oye Plage, a walk completed by Rita and I on our first morning.

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Early morning on Oye Plage looking back at the estuary harbour of Grand Fort Philippe.  It was vast and very empty when we visited.

We then headed south from our quick Belgium stop and ended up at Doullens near the Somme.  It seemed quite timely to have stayed here as we were approaching the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One and this was very apparent in Doullens town centre which had a street exhibition demonstrating how international the war was showing many black and white photos of North Africans fighting on side of the allies.

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Milly -la- Foret had a bustling centre surrounding the old wooden market canopy. 

From Doullens we aimed to get past Paris, stopping over at market town Milly-la-Foret where we imagined a place where commuters travelling into Paris to work would live. Keeping with the southern direction our third night was spent at a very small village called Fromental, in the Limousin region. We were drawn to this location by the camper contact reviews which described a village community shop above and beyond being a rural village, it is strange as to what attracts us to certain places!! The village certainly had a community hub, which incorporated a library, post office and shop that sold almost everything at reasonable prices.  The whole hub was staffed by one person from the village, we did not enquire to the set up but it was certain that the community wanted to keep hold of some local amenities and service.  In support of their community and to say a little thanks for the free over night parking we purchased a bottle of red wine, frozen oven chips and tin of peas to the assumed amusement of the staff member as she probably thought ‘typical Anglais!!’

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We lunched at one of the many roadside chateau’s en-route to Fromental.

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Fromental had a sense of community and the village Chateaux’s grounds were open to the public to walk around.  Rita enjoyed squirrel hunting here…….

South of Limoges our next stop was Uzerche, a walled town that sits high above the river Vezere whose skyline seems dominated with turrets and towers.  It was here where we joined the 11th of November remembrance parade which was an assemble of representatives from the local emergency services and people from the town.  It was interesting to note that it seemed a one minute silence is not observed in France, instead on the 11 o’clock chime of the near by Elise St Pierre the party, led by the three smart elderly town’s men holding large flags, processioned down the town’s one street to the war memorial where a series of readings were voiced.

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WW1 memorial at Uzerche

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Uzerche is described by the Lonely Planet as one of Limonsin’s prettiest hill top hamlets.  We stumbled by this wonder by mistake really as it had a free aire!

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We completed the river side circular walk which starts and ends from the old railway station car park, the location of the motorhome aire.

In the afternoon we drove a little further ending up at a small village south east of Cahors called Arcambal.  This was a perfect one night stop over as it had free services, local bakery and a bar restaurant.  The later we visited for a sunset aperitif and the friendly owner kept the place open a little longer than usual for us to enjoy a second round.  Almost immediately after our second drink was served a mini bus pulled up full with teenagers.  A man, who later we learnt was a vicar, entered the bar and enquired whether it was open and the owner must have replied, ‘normally I would be closed by now if not for the couple outside’, and therefore chose to accommodate the large party. The vicar was so pleased that they were able to find a refreshment pit stop on a Sunday evening in the countryside that he even bought us our third round!

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The minibus with it’s refreshed teenagers and Vicar driver heading home after their day trip, Arcambel

Since now we were tumbling south east, for Monday night we reached as far as Salasc in the Parc National Regional du Haut-Languedoc.  Salasc was a tiny rural village which photos can describe better than my words. Our memory will be the 4km walk we completed in the surrounding hillside which we all including Rita really relished. The weather was still treating us well, in fact on this walk we stripped down to our t-shirts.

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We completed this walk at Salasc.  It was hard work as it was within the hillside that surrounded the small village.

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Set deep in the National Parc, Salasc had a back in time feel

So now we were truly off our intended route and it was when we turned off at Cahors all of our intentions vanished regarding travelling back west to San Sebastian.  Now we were making plans to visit the French Mediterranean coast, north west of Montpelier, as this was a part of coast that we missed on our 2016 tour where we joined the sea side at Montpelier from Andorra and then proceeded to move east towards Italy.  The chosen coastal town for our visit was Gruissan which proved to be good choice.  Not only had the aire stopped charging 9 euros per night during the winter months but also the town itself was quite charming and unique with it’s harbour, castle and heavily curved promenade and proved to be a pleasant place to while away an afternoon.  It was also a popular stop over for motorhomers, some evidently staying for long periods, and in total there were 87 motorhomes there!  Could this be a sign of things to come??

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As we enjoyed our drinks at the town centre PMU bar we noticed this cat, who seemed frustrated that the fishmonger below was closed for the day.  Gruissan

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Our waterside parking at Gruissan.  The aire was much fuller than this photo suggests, it was only an area of damp sand next to us that put other motorhomes off from parking next to us (we think!!!!)

That concludes part one of our French trip as obviously we will be back here in late March 2019 if everything goes to plan.  Overall we have really enjoyed ourselves.  It was really refreshing to discover or revisit some different regions en-route to Spain and we have really felt to have been travelling again and not just commuting.   Plus the weather has been fairly mild meaning several times we have been caught sitting outside enjoying a drink in a cafe.  So for a while it is au revoir France and buenas dias Spain as upon leaving the Languedoc region we will be entering the Costa Brava.

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Not forgetting our Rita.  She has been enjoying herself we think and we have made sure we have spent time out of moving along to make sure she has her fun too. 

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Roving South.

6th November 2018

RV Sunset

From today we are out on the open road again!!

The time has finally arrived for us to jump into the van and start making our way south.  We have plenty of time this year too, almost 5 months to be exact.  This extended period is a key point, after all this could be our last tour of Europe as EU citizens and we want to make the most of our current privilege of unrestricted travel and time within the EU zone.

We don’t really have a plan as per usual and initially our travel plans will depend on the weather and potential meet up points with fellow motorhoming friends.  Portugal will definitely feature and therefore France and Spain will have to be enjoyed as we travel through, but the mix of time spent in these countries will be made up as we go along.

All we can say at this point is that we are both very excited to get out on tour again, to feel the freedom of the open road where who knows what lies around the next corner………

Brexit

Who knows what the future holds for us.  Maybe this will be the last time we enjoy all the benefits of being EU citizens.

“If I could choose the life I pleased
Then I would be a rover
And if the road was not for me
Then I would choose another
Across mountains and valleys deep
I would take these weary feet
If I could choose the life I pleased
Then I would be a rover……”*

*lyrics by the Levellers

Leaving Normans Bay.

October 2018

It is funny how you end up at and consequently get to know places.  A little while ago I had never heard of Pevensey, never mind Normans Bay and now looking back over the last two summers it has been a place where we have termed as home.  So as the title of this post suggests after two summer sessions of working on ‘The Bay’ it is time to move on.  We are not just moving on to the normal winter sun travels either but moving on completely as next summer we will be working elsewhere in the country.

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This photo does not do the great weather justice.  Summer 2018 was a scorcher and it was brilliant to see people, locals and holiday makers alike, enjoying the beach at Normans Bay.  This was early on in the season too, May bank holiday.

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The wild flowers on the beach were in force during the summer months

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The sun rises, especially at low tide, made for some excellent photo opportunities.  

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Silhouette of the nearby Martello tower

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Sharon and Rita walking along the groins on Normans Bay beach.  Dog walking has enabled us to meet some of the locals from Normans Bay village too, notably Annette, who managed to arrange access to a piece of local private land called the Ballast Hole which certainly Rita has enjoyed immensely as it is inhabited by many rabbits and local foxes.

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Whilst beach combing I found this fisherman’s ice box which I re-purposed to become the tractors tool tray.  The box had washed up from a trawler originating from Port Bessin, France

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The land in and around Beachy Head became one of our regular day trips

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#BOTB, you know who you are!!  World Cup 2018 added a little spice to post work drinks

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Touching on work, you can not forget all the weird and wonderful campers that have visited Normans Bay.  This one was an old Swiss post office truck.

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Summer 2018 was the best weather since 1976.  Sharon and Rita dropping me and Kev off in Bexhill-on-Sea, enroute to see the Levellers.

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Walking down the beach 2km to the local shops and pubs will always be one of my lasting memories.

As these photos suggest, being so close to the sea has been the major highlight of this location, we are literally 50 metres from the beach.   Living coast side is a unique experience, one that we hope to repeat some time in the future.  We will hold fond memories of Normans Bay in all aspects from the goings on of the camp site, getting to know the local area and working/living with our colleagues to more over arching aspects such as the great south east coast weather.

So, over the next few days we will be bidding our good byes to Normans Bay…….it has been fun getting to know you……..So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night
I hate to go and leave this pretty sight, so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu
adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu……….

 

Visits and Visitors, Summer 2018

As we were to be working in the same place two summers in a row we had set ourselves the target of getting off site as much as we could to visit some of the many interesting places that are nearby in Sussex and Kent.

This objective started well as we did manage an overnight stop over at Crowborough back in May, however after this things went a little bit awry……Summer 2018 in Normans Bay will definitely be remembered not for our visits away but for all the visitors we had.  Not a bad thing at all, in fact it has been a pleasure to catch up with some old and new friends whilst we have been here.

So in visiting order from April to September……..

Crowborough

We spent a pleasant night away at Crowborough visiting Joy in the local hospital, walking in the Ashdown forest and of course we stayed on the Club’s site.

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In April we had Mike and Mandy pass by for a night of catching up with our travels on their return back to the UK.  Their travel blog can be found at http://www.motleysmagicalmysterytour.wordpress.com.

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We visited the Midlands passing by both our folks.  Rita and my Dad enjoying the spring sunshine.  Was that to be an early sign of a good summer?

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In June Scott, Irene, Iris and Fynn visited.  It was great spending some time with one of my best friends and his family.  My memory will be the BBQ on the beach.

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June also saw Mick and Sheila, now retired Normans Bay managers, pass by the site in their Volkswagen camper.  Otis and Rita got along like a house (camper?) on fire.

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Now annual visitors, Chris, Pete and Al came back to the Bay.  This time we did a pub crawl within the local area taking in the ancient church at Westham village.

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By June the weather had really heated up.  We spent several evenings with Joy and Tracy at their home in Uckfield.

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Also in June we had a flying visit from Tim and Martha who we met earlier in the year in France.  It was superb that we met up again and hopefully we will see them all back out on the road at some point.

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My parents visited us in July and this photo was taken at Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne.  The weather was still fantastic.

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Kev also visited in July and we went to see the Levellers play ‘We the Collective’ at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea.

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Late July we had a visit from our old neighbours Janet and Elize and her friend Scarlet.  They managed to complete the Seven Sisters walk whilst they were here, something that we have not completed yet.  Our time is now ticking.

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In early August a last minute visit of Joy and Tracey’s friends Jo and Debbie was organised.  A night of dancing and drinking ensued to celebrate Jo’s birthday.

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Our old Normans Bay colleagues Frank and Rosie revisited for one night in August.  It is always fun to meet up with them.

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We visited the Camping Unplugged team and friends Katie and Pete at Lordswood Forest in Kent.  Here they are operating and developing an ecological campsite and we thought it was a special place off the beaten track.  http://www.campingunplaugged.com

Steve and Maryann

Sharon’s brother Steve and his wife Maryann visited us late August for a fun evening spent in the Bay.  Since ‘Eurosuntor’ hit the road we have managed several meet ups with Steve and Maryann spanning four countries in all:  Switzerland, Germany (for a total of 30 minutes!) France and of course the UK.  Where will we meet up next?

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We left the site again in September visiting both sets of our families.  My parents were on the Shropshire canal which made for a different meet up location.

Finally, Karla and Tony, Sharon’s sister and husband visited us last Friday for a relaxed day spent around the Bay.  Unfortunately I forgot to take a photograph of us all together messing up completely this theme.  Never mind, there is talk about a London visit in October as Jodie, their daughter, is arranging a birthday party so hopefully we can get an up to date photograph then to complete this post.  The socialising is not over yet though as October also brings Joy and Tracey’s wedding……………

Beautiful Days 2018, Devon

BD2018

 

After a break of a couple of years I was lucky enough to have the chance to go back to the Beautiful Days music festival in August 2018.  It is an event that I have been going to on and off since 2005 and over the years many a good memory has been made.

For 2018 saw me go in a hired Volkswagen Caddy, which was to be my living quarters for the four days, meeting up with old and new friends:  Kev, Barney, Enzo, Scarlet, Kathyrn, Darren, Cessil and Mark…………

Do you fancy a drink,
Just the one,
To clear your head,
We won’t be long.

It’s a beautiful day,
To waste away,
There’s plenty of time,
For another one.

You know you shouldn’t do it,
But see no reason why,
So you blow your mind,
Yeah, yeah,
Uh-ha*.

*Lyrics by Levellers

Living with Rita

03 August 2018

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Rita

I have been waiting for this month to post this update as now we have had Rita for over six months.  In summary, our life has predictably changed and now most things that happen need consideration outside of just ourselves which takes a little getting used to. Only the other day we passed a local music festival poster and we both looked at each other and thought the same thing “that looks good, we could go” and then both shouted out in unison “Rita!” the new buzz word for ‘maybe not’!! Joking aside though, the benefits do out weigh the restrictions and we have all come on a long journey in mutual appreciation since that memory milestone day when we left Sao Bras with Rita in our ownership.

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A typical Rita pose on her corner of the sofa.  

I must admit one of the first major adjustments we had to make was understanding and attending a dog’s toilet rituals. Being new to dog ownership we had no real idea of when she wanted to go as she gave us very few signs, how long was too long? At times maybe I worried too much, especially during the night as I would lie in bed thinking that Rita might need to go to the toilet and there has been nights during the first few months that I have got up and taken her out in the early hours for her typically to do ‘nothing’ but then at least I can sleep through knowing that I have given her yet another chance to go to the loo even at the cost of her peaceful slumber. Thankfully those days have past now as we all learn each other patterns and I imagine that this will be a continuous process.

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Tucked up for the night

The next thing was food, initially we really struggled to get Rita to eat, which we thought was incredible as we were under the belief that dogs are ruled by their stomachs. This lasted maybe a month, whilst we were still on the road and we don’t know what made her turn the corner but one day it seemed that was just eating normally from her bowl instead on us taking her to the bowl or even moving it to her in hope that she would start eating, which invariability she would do after a little time. Moving on to today, she is a dog completely governed by her appetite as she just loves her food, so much so we have limited her to her correct portion size and now she has dropped from 13.5 Kg to a really athletic and fit looking 13.2kg. To put it short, Rita has very little trouble eating now and only yesterday she managed to swipe a chopped Saucisson Sec (it was French week in Lidl last week!!) from our table top which she managed to devour half of in the few minutes our backs were turned.

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Rita on her morning beach walk

There has been several other more psychological phases to her adjustment to spending time with us, firstly she had to get over the shock over leaving her home with Maria and Adrian (www.2ndhand4foooters.com) which is documented earlier in the year and after that she had to realise that she does not have a fixed home but instead learning that the motorhome and us are her constant.  She managed this too, to our relief, so we were shocked once we landed on the East Sussex coast where we would live and work for the summer months that she found this to be an obstacle.  We were obviously unsure of the problem, but what ever she was experiencing left her really anxious and stressed as she would bark constantly searching for us as we worked around the campsite grounds.  We tried leaving her outside and inside the motorhome to no avail and at this point with a little internet searching we educated ourselves about dog separation anxiety.  Rita was definitely showing all the symptoms so much so that during one her chewing frenzies she managed to call the ‘out of hours’ emergency phone which surprised all the campsite staff as we could not see anybody outside the office door ringing the bell only to find later a very molested phone hand set inside our van!  So after losing one TV remote control, a baseball cap and pair of my favourite flip flops we decided to build a space for Rita outside of the van in the hope that she would relax a little as she would be able to see us out and about showing her we were not leaving her. It worked, thankfully, and she completely changed almost overnight, happy with her space and her house.  She does not even go to the toilet in her space, meaning that it is part of her ‘home’.  Sure, she is still too pleased to see us when we return back to the van and we are now even ignoring her on purpose for the first 5 minutes so she understands what we expect from her, and that is a ‘calm’ dog, instead of celebrating her wildness, running in circles and jumping up as fun as it might have been.

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Rita’s house under construction

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The finished article.  Rita has a habit though of removing her padded bed!

So overall I think the threesome is doing very well from all angles considering our story. Rita is definitely much more confident about all aspects of life: she really enjoys other dogs and will always choose play first over all other responses, she is getting braver with strange people remaining slightly wary but not cowering as she would. Furthermore, above all, she has stayed the perfectly behaved dog coming back when she is called, sitting down when required and generally having a happy and kind disposition even with those ‘sempre triste’ Portuguese eyes that she has. Sharon and I often comment that Rita makes us look like accomplished dog owners as she is so well behaved and we chuckle knowing that for the most part that is all due to her and we also remark that we are really fortunate as we really did not know what we could have been getting into. People say when they hear Rita’s story that she has really fallen on her paws with her new life but we know deep down that we are the lucky ones!!

An update from Rita’s perspective:

“Dear oh dear, these two are really funny.  They keep talking to me and giving me fuss all the time which to be honest is really nice.  What I am struggling with though is the food, it is wheat free happy clapping health food and the same every day in the same portion sizes, completely boring.  In my past life, if I fancied a little piri piri chicken I would just pop down to the bins at the back of ‘Frango Louco’, sometimes I fancied seafood so I would go and visit the nice lady who cleaned the kitchens at the local Marisqueira and flash her my oh so lonely sad eyes.  It was only the other day though that I let my appetite get the better of me as I took a small nibble from a foreign looking sausage that they left out for a few moments whilst they watered their outside plants.  I thought I had got away with it but I was unfortunately caught in the act and was banished to my bed for the next half hour and they would not even look or speak to me.

The other thing that has changed is the toilet business, they keep picking the damn stuff up and placing it in little bags and then they proceed to carry it around with them.  How would you feel if you did your business and then somebody placed it in a bag for the whole world to see?  It is so demeaning.  I used to be able to go anywhere with complete dignity and decorum, this new world is weird.

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On a walk over Beachy Head, I get to go to some amazing places

The next stumbling block that I ask myself about is where are all my free wandering doggie pals?  Oh we used to have some laughs, me and Roberta, barking at the horses or teasing that big grumpy Serra running free most of the time.  Now most the dogs I run into are tethered with a rope type thing being held back by their ‘human’.  As to the dogs I do see running free on the nearby beach they don’t seem too interested in old fashioned play, instead preferring to chase an inane round object that is thrown in one direction. Even my relativity sensible humans tried that with me, they waved this yellow round thing in front of my nose and then hauled it down the beach I just shook my head and gave them that look “I thought you knew me better, do you really believe I think that is a rabbit?” I just sat down, and then one of them even threw the object and chased after it themselves as some sort of demonstration, boy that was funny!!!! To be fair though to my two uprights, they are quite relaxed and at all times possible I am off the lead thing and I have learnt that I keep my freedom if I come back when called and in turn they have learned not to keep shouting my name out too much as I can be trusted you know.

Finally, I think I am getting used to this new life.  It seems varied and I see a lot of new places, meet new people and enjoy a safe nights sleep on my corner of the sofa. I have regular exercise and get to run free several times a day in the near by field and beach and get the chance to meet lots of other dogs. And even though I complain about the food, at least it is regular even if bland so all in all ‘tudo bem’.”

Rita Beach 2

One day I am going to catch a sea gull, I keep practising every morning.

A French fortnight (week 2) and one hour in Belgium

14th March to 20th March 2018

With only one week remaining we had only a few more hundred kilometers to cover whilst in mainland Europe.  We also had a new task to complete of taking Rita for her ‘import’ health check at a French vets before we reached the tunnel and using Mick and Sheila’s advice we had arranged this to be done in the town of Nonnancourt, which lies directly west of Paris on the N154.

Before reaching there, we had an uneventful stop over at a 4 euro private camperstop just outside St. Maure de Touraine.  If we passed through here again we would not be taken in by the blue camperstop ‘aire’ style signs that are attached to the lamp posts as you approach the town because these lead you to the private site, as on an afternoon walk with Rita I spied another sign, right in the town centre, that directs you to a free parking area outside the town hall close to all the town’s amenities and sights.  Oh well, win some you lose some but we feel comforted that this one night will not dilute our free night percentage too much (on this trip we have had free nights 78% of the time, which is quite low for us thanks to the very extended unplanned stay at fee paying Manta Rota).

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The 4 Euro camperstop at Ste. Maure de Touraine to be fair was very pleasant and peaceful as it was located in a small field on the outskirts of the town.  It also had a novel charging approach as everything you used had a separate price, including even draining your grey water.  Needless to say we used none of the extra facilities to minimise our costs.

Courville sur Eure was our next place where we stayed choosing to ‘moor up’ outside of the municipal campsite as in winter this is a permitted motorhome parking area.  It was also really pleasant lying next to the river.  Even though the weather was wet we still managed a lengthy walk around the town picking up an expensive Leffe beer and cheaper wine in the local PMU bar plus of course the obligatory baguette purchase from one of the several bakeries.  The locals must love their bread here as there were five bakeries in total serving this seemingly small sized town.

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Only in France would you see this sign stating that the hardstands intended for motorhomes could not be used to play boule.  Courville sur Eure.

Before arriving at Saint Andre de I’Eure we passed by the vets in Nonnancourt.  At the moment we swung around the corner at the town hall’s entrance we realised at once that we had been here before, way back in January 2016.  Like last time the aire was closed meaning that we would move on to near by Saint Andre for the night.  Before this though we had to make our appointment at the vets which was organised by Sharon speaking in French with the receptionist some weeks ago.  Using our acquired directions we set off on foot to the vets only to find that it had moved meaning we had to dash back to the van and drive around to their new location.  It was no big deal at all, in fact we were still early and we smiled to ourselves when we checked in with the receptionist as in her diary all that was written in on the 3pm slot was ‘Anglais’!!!

Saint Andre seemed like a very normal town and I imagine tourism would be low.  However the aire was practical, safe and of course free.  We parked next to quite a shabby old Talbot van which looked like it had not moved in ages and I always find this intriguing.  Therefore I did not miss the opportunity to chat with it’s owner on my return from one of Rita’s walks.  His name was Pascal who was originally from the Czech Republic even though he had been in France a long time.  He lived in St Andre on the aire in his muraled motorhome and he seemed pretty much installed there and even his son and daughter went to the local school.  He seemed a happy peaceful character and talked positively as we shared a beer and a couple of hand rolled cigarettes about the town inhabitants and local police in terms of their acceptance to him, which as he was Rastafarian living on the margins of accepted society spoke volumes about the town and France’s culture.  This may link to the fact that in France you can easily become of no fixed abode without the obstacles placed on you in the UK.  In France you apply to a local mayor and then he assigns a nomadic status for you which entitles access to all the same rights as a person with a conventional residential address which is considerably much better, easier and less discriminative than the UK, as anybody who has attempted to move outside the traditional system will acknowledge.

With our days now numbered we wanted to move much nearer to Calais and have the luxury of our final two night stop over before going home.  Montreuil was highlighted on the map and again it was an Aire that we had been to in 2016.  Then we drove around the ring road without entering the town centre to access the aire in hope to use the services only, but resurfacing of the car park prevented us from stopping.  What we did use though on that visit was the new automated toilet which we smirked to ourselves as we read the camper contact reviews was believed to be a location frequented by a local prostitute with her clients, really sometimes I wonder what these people are seeing or even what world they come from!!!!

This time we did park on one of the motorhome dedicated spots, which are nicely partitioned by small lines of shrubs, for the planned two nights.  Montreuil is an interesting town and I recommend anyone to go there.  If you like shops and restaurants there are plenty of these placed around the square and the streets behind but it was the wall that surrounds completely the town that we really liked, especially as you can walk along the top of it enjoying views of the old town to one side and the countryside on the other.

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It was cold in Montreuil as Sharon’s clothes demonstrate.  However the weather did not distract from the town’s splendider.

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The walk on top of the wall was a great way to pass a few hours.  Montreuil or Montreuil-sur-Mer as it was once a seaside town but due to tidal changes it now lies 10 miles inland.  This fact reminded us of Pevensey where we worked last summer and will be returning to this year where the now inland castle was once on the coast.

After two relaxing nights we woke up early and decided to use these extra hours to drive to Belgium so that we could make a bulk tobacco purchase.  Once again we choose Adinkirke as our destination and we were literally in and out within the hour as we refrained from having some Belgium frites for lunch.

Adinkirke

It always seems wrong buying tobacco in bulk but when you look at the economics it just makes sense.  Tobacco Alley in Adinkirke, Belgium.

As we trundled back over the border we noticed that Grand Fort Philippe now seems to sport an Aire, we don’t know whether this is just a location we had overseen or whether it was a new installation, inconsequently, upon arrival we were pleased with our new find.  On the morning I took a long walk out to the light house in the strong winds, we even spotted a large seal on the estuary sea defence who seemed completely oblivious to us walking just several metres above.  I like these small wind swept north west coastal French towns, not maybe for their beauty or their weather, but for my time spent imagining (in a positive way) who lives here and about the lives they lead.

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The estuary at Grand Fort Philippe

So on the 20th March we were unhappily waiting for our train back to the UK where we would be based until November.  We have had a another great trip, this one life changing again, but for a different reason than the others.  The life change would be now having Rita in our lives but we are both looking forward to see how that chapter develops.  It also shows us how different things can turn out as originally this was supposed to be a trip with a more cultural emphasis where we would use last summer’s earnings on entrance tickets to cathedrals and museums, instead though it has gone on dog food!!!!

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Rita has turned out to be a fine motorhome dog.  New challenges lie ahead for all of us as we return to the UK where we will be in one place for six months.