Week 17: France to England (via Belgium)!

A campsite with a sense of humour and a lifeguard to watch over you!

We left the Wild West themed campsite in France and carried on our trip to Compiègne. When we arrived we went to the site of the Armistice Treaty signing on the 11th November 1918, signalling the end of World War I.

From here, we went on a bit of a trip to the Thiepval Memorial, in Authuille, France. The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens (who also designed the Cenotaph in London) and is a memorial to the missing 72,337 British and South African servicemen of the Somme. We chose to spend the next two nights in the town of Péronne.

We had started to feel, like we’d been on the move for too long again! Things needed to be sorted out and chores (washing) completed! We also needed to find a vet for our return to England – yes, we’ve decided to return, and just before we ran out of tea bags!

Chores completed, vet accomplished we set off again for Ieper (Ypres) heading north through Lille. In Ieper, we headed off to the Menin Gate and the historic town. We didn’t stay for the Last Post, but maybe we’ll return when the weather is a little warmer.

From Ieper, we set off north to Bruges and we stopped at the Tyne Cot Cemetery, outside the village of Passendaele. It is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth Soldiers in the world, for any war. It is one of the best cemeteries we have been to. We were going to stop in Bruges, but Albi has strained a tendon in his foot, so he’s on short walks. We headed to the Belgium coast instead.

We chose Bredene, after a trip to the Dutch Border and slowly heading back towards France. The campsite is one we have added to our list to come back to. (There will be a list of our campsites and stopovers (good and bad) soon!). Here, it would appear our past has caught up with us, with an email entitled “Speeding Etrusco Bloggers”. We have received a speeding ticket from Latvia, we’re not proud of breaking the speed limit, but it did make me smile, imagining the lovely Nortia, flying through the Latvian countryside!

After Bredene, where there was an amazing Chinese Restaurant, almost next door, we set off again and after completing a trip down the coast, we found a campsite on the beach in Dunkirk. Who knew how lovely the beach was here?

We chose to stay two nights, here, and get ready to return to England. We set off on our bikes on Saturday – into a head on wind which wiped the sand off the beach into our faces. We followed the trail and found the beaches where the Dunkirk Evacuation took place – Operation Dynamo – in May and June of 1940.

On Sunday, we made a slow journey to the Tunnel, to return to England. The journey was pretty non-eventful. We made our way to the Pet Check-in and as always Albi sailed through and was able to return to England, now it was our turn! The queue was massive. We were directed to Self-Check-in, something we have always shied away from, but it was easy, you either enter your booking reference or card you bought the ticket on and your boarding pass! Next, Border Control – France easy now Britain, again all OK, we were on our way! We boarded early and arrived in England.

We’d booked a night at the Bearstead Caravan and Motorhome Club Site, outside Maidstone, Kent. We’ve got ideas of where we plan on going from here, but there is nothing set in stone. We’ve got one eye on the weather and our route is in our heads!

Next week, you can find out where we’ve been and what we’ve done. We’re hoping the weather is kind, but it’s England and it’s October! As always thank you for reading, we’ll be in touch soon…

Week 16: France

Col du Grand Colombier

We left St Tropez, with the weather app and the radio giving weather warnings for bad weather for two days. We knew we would be unable to avoid it completely but we decided we would start our trip back to England.

We headed north and picked up the Route Napoleon at Castellane and headed up to Digne-les-Bains, a thermal spa resort in the Alps. The Route Napoleon follows his route from Elba to Grenoble to ready himself for his battle at Waterloo. The weather wasn’t too bad on the drive north and was even sunny when we arrived, but the rain was still due.

The rain did arrive, just as we were starting to cook dinner. Thankfully, the awning was able to provide protection to the chef and his barbecue. Expecting worse weather, we put away the awning before turning in for the night and we were glad we did. The weather got worse throughout the night, including the start of the thunderstorms. Waiting for the gaps in the rain and the storm, in the morning I was able to take the dog out for his walk… but a few steps in the rain started again and even heavier. The paths were flooded and I was drenched through. I was taught an expression in my school french lessons, which I have never deemed appropriate to use before, but today was the day – “je suis trompée jusqu’ aux os.” (I am soaked through – literally to the bone!) After having returned to Nortia, and drying the dog, we decided to move off the grass onto the roadway and continue getting ready to leave. As I was already soaking wet, I continued to do the outside jobs, whilst Ric carried on inside in the dry! Once moved I was able to change, have a lovely warm cup of tea and plan the day’s journey.

We continued up the Route Napoleon towards Grenoble, stopping for a nice warming bowl of French Onion soup in Gap (all cooked in the MoHo in the Supermarket car park – we weren’t the only Motorhome there either)! We continued on to the chosen campsite, but despite it looking open the office was closed and despite ringing the bell as requested if it was closed, there was no response. It was definitely becoming one of those days! As we returned to Nortia and reversed up the steep slope onto the road, a figure appeared at the office but stubborn as we are it was too late we were moving on! We found another overnight stop at Lépin-le-Lac, a small campsite on the edge of a lake in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alps.

The following morning we thought about visiting Geneva, as we were so close. After a lunch on the banks of the River Rhône, we followed signs to the Col du Grand Colombier. Neither of us knew what to expect, but as we got higher and higher, we checked the internet and it turns out that it was a mountain used for the climbs in the Tour de France 2012 and the view at the top were worth the trip, so we carried on. The top is 1412 metres above sea level, not one of the highest we have been up, but the road was very steep and twisty with a number of switchbacks. There were a couple of hairy moments, especially where you could see the drop down, those cyclists definitely have some balls! The climb is rated HC ( hors catégorie) which is the most difficult hill climb.

The view from the top was just amazing, you can see Switzerland and Lake Geneva, the Alps and France. We were even above the clouds.

We headed off to our overnight stop in Gex. We’d told Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav that we didn’t want to go to Switzerland anymore and yet we saw the border approaching. Oh well, another country for the list. We continued on along the outskirts of Geneva and then we had to park up at CERN. We seem to be having an unprepared day, neither of us realised it would be on our route and even better it was free to visit. CERN is the European Organisation for Nuclear Research and it is home to the Large Hadron Collider.

After Gex, we headed to Besançon and travelled up through the Jura Mountains National Park . The National Park does not allow dogs! The signs even say leave your dog at home! We climbed higher up the mountains through the ski resorts and descending down into the valleys below. There is a more autumny feel here and the leaves are turning orange and red. There are more signs indicating activities for Halloween and Toussaint – All Saint’s Day 1/11, a national holiday in France). The french schools also break for the holiday on Friday for two weeks.

Next we headed up to Colmar. Neither of us has travelled along the eastern border of France before and Colmar, was just so beautiful. We headed from the campsite a short walk to the area known as La Petite Venise, with the canals and historical houses. Colmar even has a minature Statue of Liberty on a roundabout on the outskirts of the town, in honour of the designer who was born in the town.

We headed west from Colmar towards Compiègne, stopping at a lovely campsite in Andelot. We were the only people there and there were cows in the field in front of us and behind.

As we continued towards Compiègne, we started to see the World War One memorials and grave sites, the area is known for. There are cemeteries for all nationalities here. We stopped at the Necropole Nationale – Cormicy and then the Berry-au-Bac Memorial to the Armoured Cavalry (tanks). The campsite for the night had a Wild West Theme.

Next week’s adventures will be following shortly – we haven’t had WiFi for a long time and our internet providers say we’ve been out of the UK for too long. We’ll endeavour to deal with this on our return to England, but for now, thank you as ever for reading – we’ll be back soon….