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A new month and who
knows what's in store. Take today for instance. A McDonalds appeared a
few km after I got on the road.
Before that I wandered around and took a few pics of where I was
camped. I didn't like the look of the large billy goat and by his looks
the feeling was mutual. His harem looked much more placid.
At Maccas I dealt with all my mail and had a good long chat with Sue
and Shaun - so far so good. Then when I tried to upload the diary it
again refused to connect - just like yesterday. I spent a long time
trying all sorts of things but to no avail.
The view of the Loire on the left was just 100 metres or so from my campsite last night
The trip today was through the beautiful Loire Valley and there were lovely
views of the lush and fertile countryside with the occasional glimpse
of chateaux, castles and old towers.
The laptop battery was getting low but I rang my IT savvy mate Rob to
see if he could solve the mystery of why my FTP won' t work. Unfortunately the battery gave
in/out before we got anywhere so I'll try again with a full battery in
I've gone to a small country Municipal Caravan Site tonight and will
stay tomorrow as well. I urgently need to do a pile of washing and
being on power can charge a few things like the phone, the laptop and
the camera for starters.
was going to be such a restful day but Murphy decided otherwise. Tom
took me to a nearby maccas and Rob was able to get into my control
panel and check this out. After a while we decided it must be that
Maccas blocks ftp access so I can't upload the diary from there. Damn!
I then went into the pretty little seaside town of Porcit where I
discovered all the shops close from 12.30 till 2.30. It was then 12.45
so I had to wait nearly two hours for a Tele-shop to re open. I filled
the time walking the hilly streets, looking into shop windows and
sitting looking at the boats in the harbour. When they did open again I
soon found myself the owner of a French dongle. The helpful man said
that after the first two free days I could choose how long a connection
I wanted and pay on the net. I explained that two other companies
wouldn't accept Aussie credit cards and he generously offered to use
his own card and me give him cash. It meant staying put a couple of
days but it would be worth it I thought.
Back to the van and try to connect. It went through the motions but
wouldn't connect there either. The man made numerous phone calls in
between trying to serve other customers. In the end he decided my
laptop is not compatible with French telecom and gave me my money
back! I don't really believe that but whatever it was I still have no
You may still read this as Rob said send it to him and he will load it
for me. The files took a very long time to send but if it works I'll
just send the days words and pics and that should be quicker. It means
another visit to maccas - 11km from here.
Murphy's final dastardly trick was to put barriers down that limited
exit from the car park to 2 metres and I'm 2.something. They were open
when I went in at lunchtime but were down when I tried to leave at tea
time. I'd already walked a long way before that and when I asked in a
perfume shop where the police station was, a very kind lady escorted me
there and insisted on coming in and explaining to the cops what had
happened. Very kind indeed. I soon found myself in a police car and
back to the car park. The keys didn't fit so the amiable gendarme left
me there at my vehicle while he went elsewhere for the keys. I was soon
out of there and back at the park where coffee followed by a beer were
the first items on the agenda.
I arrived at the nearby
Maccas nice and early and the first thing I looked at of course was my
diary. Rob had done well and even uploaded the report and pic from
yesterday. Thanks Rob - my many readers salute you!
Then I made use of Skype to make phone calls to friends and then I
decided to ask a good friend to use their credit card to overcome the
T-Mobile problem. Apparently if you purchase a 'booster' it will work
in Europe. I'd no sooner hit the send button when another friend
emailed offering to do the same thing. Maybe, just maybe, I'll be able
to access the net here as I did in the UK - although this won't be
unlimited access. Keep your fingers crossed as Rob's off up the
Oodnadatta Track in a weeks time and Internet access is very sparse in
It was a bit late when I left Porcit (spelt it wrong yesterday) but I
still set my target as Rochefort where I am now in quite a nice
Municipal Caravan Park with water views front and back. That's the view
from my back door and you can see why I booked for two nights.
The view of the estuary on the right is what people have to look at if their site's on the other side.
Tom's got over his sulks after I told him off for taking me on the
costly Motorway and now has me on much quieter toll-free roads that
often pass through charming little towns and villages and give me views
of the farmlands we are passing through. I did have a bit of a worry
when I was running low on petrol and it was a long while before I found
a servo open on Saturday afternoon. The warning light came on before I
found one but later in the trip of course there were a number of
service centres open.
Rob often boasts
about his jardinaire - and I must admit it cooks a beaut barby - but
Rob, just look at this. Now that's what I call a jardinaire. (Bit hard
climbing up to turn the meat though).
I believe what I meant was a chimenea (chim-ih-nee-ah) (also spelled
chiminea) A chimenea is a freestanding front-loading fireplace or
oven with a bulbous body and usually a vertical smoke vent or chimney.
There's something significant about the date - but what?
had a lazy sort of morning, walked around the park, went to maccas for
a Skype talk with Sue and then Chris, dealt with emails and generally
caught up with things before going for a drive to the Ile d'Oleron that
took me over two magnificent bridges.
Unfortunately it wasn't possible to get a position where I could have
done them justice in a photo. It was a busy road and nowhere to stop.
The view from the top of the bridge on the left was superb - a passenger might
have been able to get the shot but I was too busy watching the traffic.
highlight of my day though was a ride in a beautiful Morgan
sports car. I've been a Morgan fancier all my life but until I met
English couple Hilery and Frank today, I'd never ridden in one. Frank,
who obviously just loves driving this superb motorcar, took me for an
exhilarating spin around the area including some bursts of
acceleration passing slower vehicles. Thanks Frank - a life-long
Pity about the dappled shade in the picture but I'll try to get a better pic in the morning before I leave.
I got back to the van after sharing a couple of reds with my new
friends, I found I had some more friends waiting at the back door.
I won't bore you with
my McDonalds morning but my dongle still doesn't work despite John's
best efforts in the UK for me. The money's in the account but that's as
far as we've got. More news tomorrow!
Today's trip was great - again Tom took me on wide roads, less wide
roads and very narrow and twisty roads, but it was all good fun and he
took me through country that started off with a lot of maize and
dairy and then changed to sunflowers and some grapes and then became
almost all vines as I neared my destination.
Every so often there were chateaux in the distance and ancient churches in the little towns.
I'm in a lovely France
Passion free site - a Chateau no less - and I'm the only camper here.
That's the view of the valley from my camping spot and the vines are behind me.
The owner, Philippe, brought me a bottle of his white as a gift to drink with
dinner and invited me to stay as long as I like. I certainly will as it
will be a good base for exploring the Dordogne region and the Bergerac
Philippe speaks a little English and with my smattering of French
we get on OK. (BTW - I do sometimes drink white - especially when it's free!)
Oh boy! Since I wrote the above I took the computer to the house
(Chateau) to show the pics of the vineyard. Philippe had gone home so I
has a sort of conversation with his non anglais speaking parents. We
got on famously and I sampled an aperitif made from what I believe
were green walnuts - delicious. Then a trip to outbuildings where
I had a glass of rose from the barrel and a glass of sweet white
that Vi would have loved. Somehow we had a sort of conversation and I'm
a little on the wobbly side. Phew!
After that I visited Philip and Lorraine, an English couple who own a
lovely property next to the vineyard. More wine and conversation and
they offered use of their computer in the morning to save going to yet
another maccas. If they have a wireless connection I'll be right.
Unfortunately the computer idea didn't work! Their PC was not on a
wireless hook-up so I couldn't tap into it easily. (Rob probably could
have done it!)
So yet another trip to a maccas which gave me a chance to look at different scenery but none that cried out to be photographed.
I had a chat with Chris in Adelaide while I was on the net - great
thing this Skype. To actually see each other as we talk thousands of
miles apart is just amazing.
John in the UK has done all he can to get the dongle working but to no avail yet.
The degustation ('tasting' to us) hasn't happened yet but I'm quite happy staying here a little longer.
The supermarkets here don't give you bags - just like a number in Oz
are trying - so today I did a bit of shopping and bought a bag for use
today and in the future.
There's an incredible array of products and produce and the 'check-out
chicks' all sit at the registers - something our own people would find
much less tiring.
Trying to read the labels is interesting - very few have any English
words on them but there are some recognisable brands like 'Special K'
The pic on the right is the front of the brochure advertising the chateau's wines.
Boy oh boy does Tom get confused! This afternoon for instance he tried
to make me turn right every 100 yards or so. I/we would have finished
up in the mighty Dordogne River! I was on a little road parallel to the
river but Tom's map had us in a field a bit away from the river. Sorry
Tom but I wasn't having a wetting for your sake!
He kept re-calculating many times after that. We were in apparently
uncharted territory but he did his best. If he hadn't sent me up a dead
end I wouldn't have taken the lovely Dordogne River shots - so thanks
The whole of the area's activities is centred on grapes
and wine and to see the lovely straight lines of lush green grapevines on the flat and
on the hillsides is just great.
The pic on the left shows the river near Moulon and the many Chateaux and vineyards in the district.
I bought another dongle today with the proviso that if it doesn't work
I get a full refund in the morning. It doesn't and I will! I'm beginning
to think it must be a setting in the laptop that's causing the angst
but I can't work out what it is. Since writing that I've had another play and stone the crows it's worked!
It was a work-around method but by crikey it's good to sit here and be on the net without maccas noisy atmosphere.
The coffee machine worked off the inverter this morning but not tonight! Show yourself Murphy darn you.
Well we done it! With
infinite patience, the man in the electronics shop and me, went through
all the hoops to get some time loaded on to the dongle. We used a shop
computer but even then it was agonisingly slow loading each page. Then
a call to the hot line and they were going to put the time for us -
until they struck the old foreign credit card problem! Then they came
up with the simplest trick of all. Buy a top up from the shop, ring a
number, quote the top up number and hey presto it was done just like
that. And can be from any shop in the future that now all my details are
That took quite a few hours but a cup of strong coffee and a croissant revived
me and I looked at maps and the France Passion Directory and decided to
head for this chateau on the coast north of Bordeaux. I hate cities and
was pleased Tom took me on good roads that skirted the outskirts. Pun
Once again I'm the only one here at the Chateau Tour Castilon -
amazing. It's a nice spot about 1.5km from the village/town of Saint
After getting settled, I went for a stroll along the flower
bordered track and came to the ruins of an old tower. Further along
I saw a number of fishing piers. No-one was fishing and the tide was
out but I'm sure a lot of fish have lost their lives on this stretch of
thought you might like to know exactly where I am. Going straight up from
Bordeaux you will find St-Estephe. Well I'm not far from there and it's
in the Medoc region on the Gironde estuary.
Libourne, where I finally got the dongle to work, is to the right of Bordeaux.
barrels are just a few of the many at this chateaux - you should see
the vats! Unfortunately they are not in a position for photos. I'm the last of the big spenders - bought just one bottle.
In the afternoon I went for a drive of about 100km round trip to the
tip of this peninsula where the Gironde meets the Atlantic Ocean at
Point de Grave.
It is interesting countryside although quite flat.
I found out how the French spend their Friday afternoons in summer while I sat in the shade sipping a cool coke.
and I both will be sick to death of reading about my dongle! Today when
I fired up the computer ready to check my email I got a message in
French that I took to mean I had no credit! This after hours finding a
way to put credit on in the shop. I was by now about 140km from there
but decided the best thing was to go back there and try again to
sort it out. More hours on the computer and the salesman on the phone
to the company. The final decision was that buying a top-up in the shop
wouldn't work and it had be done by credit card! Mine don't work
with the phone companies! "What about using your card and I'll give you
the cash?" I asked. A big smile and "Certainly". In what seemed a flash
I had 12 hours browsing time plus another two days bonus of unlimited
browsing. It could have happened three frustrating days ago. Only small
problem is getting back the useless 20 Euro paid in through the shop.
It will be added to my credit said the girl on the phone. Ha Ha - and
pigs might fly!
I hope that's the last time I talk about the dongle.
I was near a maccas so I took the opportunity to contact my eldest
daughter only to find her partner is in hospital and so far they
haven't been able to find a cause for his violent headache, nausea and
dizziness. A bit worrying!
By the time I left Liborne it was late afternoon but I decided to press
on to the a farm well south of Bordeaux that I'd picked as today's
destination. What I didn't anticipate was terrific traffic snarls on
the motorway south. This reduced progress to a crawl twice and sitting
in 30+ degrees creeping along, when moving at all, was not fun.
The farm where I'm now camped is much different to the places I've
stayed at in the wine regions but it's pleasant enough and there is
just one other motorhome here.
No pictures today folks - I was beat when I arrived - I'll see if I can do better today.
I said I needed some
R&R and today was it. The motorhome hasn't been started all day, I
haven't walked anywhere, I've taken no pictures and I've read my Kindle
quite a lot.
Tomorrow I'll have to shop as the cupboard's getting quite bare.
Towards late afternoon a motorhome pulled in and then later two more
arrived. The first couple, Hubertus & Elke, from Germany are
spending just three weeks in France in their rented vehicle. They are
very friendly and helpful and over a couple of beers they shared a lot
of good information with me.
This farm specialises in Fois Gras and other duck (canard) products so
I bought a small tin when the owner made a brief appearance at tea
time. I'll give you a report when I open the tin. Apparently the season
is over and the ducks have been eaten as there are none around.
I rang Jackie and the hospital is still in the dark about her partner's health problem.
I forgot to tell you
yesterday that I watched live timing of the Silverstone Grand Prix and
had the inverter hooked up all the time charging the laptop and my
phone. Plus I used the net a lot as it was my last unlimited free day.
This morning the car battery wouldn't start the engine and I had to ask
the farmer for help with jumper leads. I won't be doing that trick
again! Still no resolution to 'Duck's' health but he will be going to
Perth for an MRI scan one day soon.
Today started with travel through flat wooded country with lots of pine
plantations but after lunch I came into the undulating
Pyrenees-Atlantique with magnificent views around every corner and at
the top of every hill.
Unfortunately the road was narrow and twisty so I couldn't stop for
pics. The houses on the hillsides and in the valleys were all white
with red roofs and looked fantastic against the rich green backdrop.
It's not sunny today for a change and the hills are a bit misty but I
have a great view from the area I'm sharing with a few chooks.
I wonder if the black sheep in the flock over the fence is an animal version of Murphy?
Every day is different.
This morning it was misty and drizzling with rain - and I'd left my
chair out all night! It soon cleared up and Tom took me through some
lovely country as we avoided the high speed toll roads and sampled some
good, but lesser, routes.
We did go through a couple of major towns and one had the most
beautiful floral display but there was no-where to stop for a pic and
just after that there was a clever example of the art of tree pruning -
can't think of the name - but it was in the middle of one of the
countless roundabouts. I've never seen so many of these in my life! Tom
must have been sick of telling me to "cross the roundabout - second
Someone asked the price of fuel so today I took a pic after paying a small fortune to fill up. 95 - E10 is what I use.
I'm at a Fromangerie (Cheese maker) today and the owner gave me a guided
tour of the operation. He had no English at all but with gestures and my
smattering of French I understood most of it. Then a sip of red and a
taste of cheese convinced me I needed to buy a small amount. The van
will be full of cheese if this keeps up.
Once again I'm in a scenic
location here at Lombres in the Pyrenees and the road often winds
through pretty little villages. It's two-way traffic so you need to
keep your wits about you.
There are lots of
workmen here and they look to be doing major renovations. A load of
materials arrived on a big truck and the driver did a fantastic job
unloading - he used a remote control to operate the on-board
The date didn't mean
much to me until I tried to shop at lunchtime. The supermarket was shut
and the notice said words that meant open until lunchtime. A small
supermarket in the nearly town was open and when I asked what time the
chemist next door would open he explained that it was the 14th July.
The penny/franc/cent dropped. Of course - Bastille Day! That also means
the Chateaux where I'm camped is also closed for tastings so I'll have
to wait until the morning for that treat.
Avoiding all the toll roads and choosing to stay at out of the way
villages means that Tom leads me through some of the most scenic routes
and on twisty single lane roads through picturesque little towns and
Today was a great example. He started off taking me on a
boring high speed motorway complete with the obligatory countless
roundabouts but then, after a good bit of that, we were back in the
real countryside amongst hills and valleys and stunning views.
sunflower and maize mostly but with quite a lot of barley - some
already harvested. Nearer my destination at Villesiscle, grapes began
to appear once more and I only have to stroll 5 metres to touch the
vines where I'm parked at le Chateau Robert. (Not you Rob!) Every
so often a little village appeared just crying out for its picture to
be taken despite the hazy conditions.
This was a red letter day. Ever
since being told I needed to renew my hormone implant in three months,
it's been niggling in the back of my mind as to how I would accomplish
this. Today I did it and it turned out to be a pleasant experience
- if having a needle stuck into your stomach can ever be called
'pleasant'! A helpful chemist directed me to the doctor - I decided to
walk and it was quite a long way. The doctor was a very pleasant
- and good looking - young French lady working alone and once again it
was a combination of her little English and my bit of French that got
us by. She hadn't done one in the stomach before as she usually gives
injections in the 'derriere' but she was willing to have a go and my
worries were over. Let's hope it's doing its job and fighting the
can't count! Several times today he's had me leave a roundabout at the
wrong exit and that has once or twice seen me in the middle of
congested town centres where I didn't really want to be. Naughty Tom.
However he's made up for it by taking me along routes where the
wonderful vistas were in danger of giving me sensory overload. You can
only take in so much - and unfortunately most of the time when the view
appeared I couldn't stop for a pic. I did manage a couple though and
one tonight where I'm camped at a winery near Frontinac and have
already sampled - and bought - some of their fine muscat and champagne.
If I ever write a book on this trip I should call it, 'A McDonalds Tour
de France!'. Or maybe, 'How I went deaf trying to hear in McDonalds!'
Today was the noisiest ever as I was trying to talk to my daughter
Jackie in Kalgoorlie.
I think this was my first glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea or an adjoining lake - but there were sure plenty of oyster beds.
The campsite view tonight is enhanced with olive trees - always something different to gladden the eye.
I said I liked out of the way places -
but this? It's a France Passion site - but you need to be a rally
driver to get here up the steep and twisty gravel road! I'd be amazed
if anyone ever visits here but it will do me for one night.
quite what I envisaged for my first night in Provence though. I'm not
that far from Nice and Cannes but this is a far cry from the Riviera!
Along the way, Tom brought me glimpses of blue sparkling water and
hundreds of pleasure craft at times between stretches of traffic laden
motorways. Then he showed me stunning views with brooding hills in the
distance and ancient villages in the valleys.
I didn't get many pics as
there were once again few places to stop and snap. At one stage I did a double take as I thought I was back in Central Australia!
I'm well stocked up now after a shopping spree along the way. The
supermarkets are lovely cool interludes when it's so hot on the road.
To give you an idea - it's 34.5C in here now at 5pm - and we are in the
shade under a tree! Lucky I like it hot.
Two weeks from now I'll be getting ready to return to the UK but I haven't booked anything yet as my itinerary is too flexible.
By the way - the comments you send are very encouraging and make
keeping the diary going a worthwhile thing. Stay with me as we climb
the Alps on our way home. (Just click 'Send a comment to Lionel' below
if you want to say something,)
There are some days best forgotten and
today is one such time! I woke in the night as usual for a scheduled
comfort break - usually about five times a night - but this time the
igniter on the fridge was flashing. Yes - I know I should have turned
it off once the fridge lit but I forgot. The little camping Gaz bottle
that Paul gave me had run out. I settled back to sleep with the
thought that I'd better renew the bottle in the morning but I'd
hardly got zuzzing again when my phone started telling me its battery
was flat! Try again and sleep eventually came.
No coffee this morning! I changed the bottle for a nice new one at the
first opportunity and went on my way with the thought of coffee at my
morning stop. No such luck! No gas - or even gaz - came from the jets
and I presumed I'd got a duff bottle or the regulator was crook. I
continued on and even the beautiful panoramas constantly unfolding
could not take my mind off the lack of gas problem - I rely on gas for the
fridge when I'm free camping. I decided to look at Cannes while I was
so near but heading into that city and its terrible traffic confirmed my
love of the countryside and the uncrowded roads I adore.
I decided to return to where I'd bought the new cylinder - more than 100km -and hoped
they'd be still open on Saturday afternoon. Fortunately they were
and I bought a new regulator at a special price and that seemed to be
Then I spotted the 'Lavage' cubicle outside the shop and, glory be, I
could do my much needed washing while I did a little retail therapy and
enjoyed the long awaited coffee. Beautiful!
Washing done and dried, I consulted Tom and my France Passion Directory
and decided to head north to here - Valensole. A good choice as
the site is right next to a lavender field and the perfume in much
nicer than yesterday's 'eau de donkey'! I struck up a conversation with
a nice French couple and once again his English and my French allowed a
certain intimacy helped by a little of their Scotch. Tomorrow I have a
Board Meeting and this seems a good place to take part in it.
I heard from a couple of people that
some of the text on the 16th were obscured by a pic. I don't know how
that happened but my guess is that you are using some version of
Internet Explorer. I just opened the diary in IE and was horrified!
Gone was the lovely page background colour and the reddy/brown
typeface. Gone was the page layout that sometimes takes a bit of work
to achieve. Instead was stark white pages and black text with pics
often one under the other!
I use Firefox and it reproduces my pages perfectly.
This morning they were harvesting lavender right next to the camping
area and the air was heavy with the lovely fragrance as I was involved
in the ACC Board Meeting using Microsoft Messenger to reach fellow
Directors in Australia.
After the meeting I relaxed with my Kindle - a great piece of
technology that lets me buy e-books from Amazon in the US, pay
instantaneously from my Credit account in Australia and the books are
downloaded straight away, wirelessly, into the Kindle.
How I wish I hadn't used all those
glowing adjectives earlier but had saved them for today. Actually there
are no words to describe the indescribable beauty of the Alpine scenery
that kept unfolding all day long. Those majestic mountains, the
sparkling lakes and rivers. the lush green valleys, the climbs up cols
and the long descents back down to the lower levels were awesome to use
a word I hate but in this context is valid! One descent of 5km was
12.5% - use of gears and brakes very advisable.
You didn't realize how high you had climbed until you got a view of
where you had just come from - incredible. And equally it was amazing
to see the valleys and towns below during descents.
It was about 250km of the most memorable day's driving it's been my good fortune to have ever experienced.
Tom still can't count!
I could have taken hundreds of pictures today but settled for just five. They are here.
I'm the only camper tonight - in a farmyard with calves for company but the location here at Granieu is superb.
was very different. Gone were the rugged mountain peaks and
hair-raising twists and turns and in their place was the lovely smooth
highways through the Rhone Valley. The river itself was beautiful - but
sorry - again no pics. I kept thinking there would be another chance
but it wasn't to be!
Each day takes me further north and I may have to amend my return date
for the UK. However in the mean time I'm still enjoying my France
Passion stopovers - today it at a Cave in the Jura District. Caves it
seems are like cellars - except the one today seemed like a real cave
with wine barrels and vats in different parts and the temperature way
I sampled some of the local wines but wasn't
too impressed except the aperitif wasn't too bad so I parted with 12 AU
for a bottle.
Churches seem to play a very
prominent role in French life and even the local church in this sleepy
village where I'm staying was quite impressive. It's warm here
still so I took my camera while wandering down to the little village
bar for a cold ale!
Yesterday I was talking about it being warm
- today is so much colder and then my friend Ros sent me a picture that
really made me shiver!
You may remember me talking about my visit to
Castleton in the Peak District - well this is how it looked earlier in
come to the conclusion that France must be over-run with deer!
Everywhere I've been, I've seen these deer signs - mind you, I've yet
to see one bounding across the road.
The bridges across the River Seine are famous - but I don't think that includes this one way upstream.
Today dawned grey and wet. Much
colder as well so I decided a singlet would be in order under my shirt.
It drizzled all day and the wipers were on intermittent all the way.
This was farming country and the harvest was well under way. Barley was
the main cereal I saw and had either been cut or was waiting its turn,
while the straw was lying in rows or had already been made into huge
I found a McD's along the way with great reception from the car park so
used a fair bit of their bandwidth talking to Chris in Adelaide,
checking my bank accounts and dealing with email. I don't want to use
all the dongle time before it runs out as I use that to post the diary
each night. It was nice to have peace and quiet and not the usual
clamour of lunchtime diners all talking loudly in French.
I also did some route planning and booked a ticket for the Euro
rail back to the UK on Monday morning. It's cheaper during
the week so that's why Monday was the choice!
Tonight's camp is at a farm with a shop selling its own cheese, fresh
bread and produce. The cheese I liked was similar to Edam so I indulged
in some together with a bagette with a crunchy crust, a pork sausage
and a cheese tart. Wicked extravagance!
It looked like it would be just me here but a nice Belgian couple came
in - and they speak good English - and then as we were talking a Dutch
family arrived - also English speaking and friendly. It's the first
time I've been able to communicate without trouble since arriving
at Dieppe nearly a month ago.
No hurry to be off this morning as
there was less than 200km to go to my chosen stop at Girondelle. The
day was off and on showery and then sunny and the roads sometimes very
narrow with blind corners at times hiding approaching farm tractors -
good fun just the same as long as you were alert.
I passed by some horses with water in the
background and thought it would make a fine picture.
As I drove on I
became more and more convinced
that I should have stopped so after
about 3km, I turned round and went back! By this time of course the sun
had decided to go in but I got the shot just the same
Verdum, as I drove through thick forests, I came to this memorial from
WW1. There had obviously been a lot of fighting around there because
signs pointed out areas from the war.
I didn't go in to look around
as war sickens me and I'm always sad and horrified when I'm reminded of
what those poor servicemen suffered in such appalling conditions.
The sign at the car park reflected how little respect some people have for others - even in a place like this.
How can I describe the lovely night I
enjoyed last night? Girondelle is a small village with no shops but
where I camped belonged to a boarding house for want of a better name
that also advertised meals. When I walked in there were five people
sitting around a low table sipping drinks. It turned out to be the
owner and four guests from Belgium - some spoke English. I was made
very welcome and soon had a glass of the rhubarb wine aperitif in my
hand. I asked if they took credit cards for the meal and showed my
remaining 20AU note. "It's OK", she said.
After more conversation, one couple left and the three of us sat at the
nicely laid out dining table for a very different but interesting meal.
It started with Black Pudding and apple sauce that was surprisingly
good, then thinly sliced roast pork with a mix of creamed potatoes and
a green vegatable and a plate of soft fried eggs. Again surprisingly
nice. Then came a selection of three different cheeses - one redolent
of garlic - with crusty bread and concluding with fruit salad and home
made ice cream
I didn't mention the large carafe of a nice red wine! Another Belgium
couple came and sat at the table while we had coffee and tea and
husband Jon asked everyone to speak English for my benefit - very
although unfortunately our hostess only spoke French.
A night to remember and 20Eu well spent.
Today's journey was pretty ordinary until we reached our planned
destination only to be told they were full. Oh dear! Tom and I had a
hasty conference and found another place about 45km away so headed for
that. Unfortunately is was the most built up section we had encountered
in France and as we headed for Armetieres (know the song?) it was one
speed-retricted zone after another and I thought we would never reach
here - Neuf Berquin.
What a surprise when the helpful owner showed me the power point for
connecting the van plus two toilets and a shower! I was a bit concerned
that the gas might run out overnight but now the fridge is on power,
the camera battery is charging and best of all the coffee machine works
and I'm enjoying a lovely fresh cup as I type this. Heaven!
I've been meaning to tell you about the traffic lights here. Besides
the normal lights they have a little replica down low so if you are
close to the line you can still see when the lights change. Brilliant.
There wasn't much to photograph today but it was interesting seeing
a huge barge going into a lock on Le Canal Nord.
There wasn't too much
room to spare.
Le Canal Nord
This wasn't a brilliant day to mark my
last day in France. An ordinary drive along quite good secondary
roads with no outstanding scenery brought me fairly early to my
overnight stop at Audingham, near Calais, where I will use the
'Shuttle' to get back to the UK in the morning. I'm booked on the 9.50
train that arrives at Folkstone at 9.20! There's a 1hour time
difference that accounts for arriving before you left.
I did find a nice quiet Maccas to have a chat with Jackie and found
their trip to Perth had been OK and the scan done. Now we just have to
wait for the results - probably on Tuesday.
This place is a tourist shop plus a licenced bistro so I indulged
myself at lunch-time in a huge, rare steak with chips and salad washed down by a
glass or four of red. I wasn't driving any further so no worries. It
was the first steak I've had since leaving home and it was delicious.
The French dongle time expired today so I won't post this entry until
I'm on the net in England tomorrow. No pictures today folks - sorry.
Computer problem - there will be a delay in updates - back soon
to Rob and the staff at the Apple Store in Cambridge my computer didn't
stay dead for long! The first time I had trouble was the day after I
arrived in the UK when I tried to load the software for the Internet
Dongle. That time it was the Grays, Essex, Apple people who came to the
This time it was exactly the same - I arrived back from France
yesterday and tried to reactivate the UK dongle and once again the
computer refused to restart.
I made an appointment by phone - thanks to Roger, the helpful warden at
the Caravan Club site at Houghton Mill, who looked up the address on
Google and then let me use their phone to make arrangements. I arrived
at the huge shopping cmplex right in Cambridge only to find the car
park had a height barrier so I couldn't get in! It was raining now and
the streets were busy but I eventually found a spot with a two-hour
parking limit and set off in the rain to find the store. My appointment
wasn't until tate afternoon but they must have seen I was soaking wet
and took pity on me because Rob came and checked the hard-drive and
then re-installed the operating system including the latest updates.
It worked and if you are reading this it's because the dongle is
I was sitting at my table trying to get the computer going when a lady
came to the open window and invited me to join the group she was with
known as the 'Loners'. It was happy hour time and I joined their
friendly gathering for a few drinks and then they produced a lovely
dinner and I shared that as well. It was a lovely evening and this
morning I had coffee and cake with them before heading for Cambridge -
they even made me an honorary member. There were only five ladies and
two men at this get-together but they have about 400 members altogether
who travel alone with caravans or motorhomes.
The Euro Tunnel was a different experience and remarkably fuss free. As
I drew up at the self-service window my name appeared on the screen
together with my booking details and I just had to confirm before
passing through Immigration etc. Very smooth - as was the train ride.
Above is the view as you drive to your spot and then for travel the doors connecting each section are closed.
I'm sitting on a roadside parking area and am about to try to send this. Cross your fingers - here goes.
Thank goodness that worked!
I'm staying with my cousin Pam at her daughter and son-in-law's lovely
property at Modbury Hall Farm near Kings Lynn in Norfolk and I have my
own shower and toilet plus power - great spot.
Pam said she had a surprise for me today and suprise it certainly was.
We, Pam and her friends John, Anne and Beryl, went to Sandringham
where unknown to us when we left home, it was the Annual Flower Day and
there were cars everywhere.
Luckily there was parking at the Park House Hotel, run by the Ryder
Cheshire Foundation, where we had a delicious lunch and then a bonus - a
thrilling air show
The hotel was where Princess Di grew up and I had
my own pic taken near a picture of the Duke of Edinborough and Queen
Elizabeth when they were much younger.
The hotel is for disabled people to give their carers a break.
June asked me last night when she
looked at the diary, "What happens if there's nothing to write about?"
Well that hasn't happened so far and there's always something that's
interesting - at least to me.
Take last night for instance. Colin who owns the lovely Classic 1968 Lotus, asked
if I'd like a ride while dinner was getting ready. Of course I would.
It was a great thrill and the acceleration and roadholding were superb.
When the speedo hit 110mph Colin remarked that we were doing a genuine
after a relaxing morning we went for a drive and finished up at a
typical English country pub where we had a huge Yorkshire Pudding
filled with mince and gravy and vegies on the side. Then a ginger plum
pudding actually made with plums.
The afternoon was nicely rounded out by a visit to an historical
windmill that still produces flour. Today though was a maintenance day
and painters were at work high up in the sails -if you look closely you
can see one man at the top of the bottom sail.
We had a cuppa there and looked around the shop but didn't go on a mill tour as it wasn't in action.
The famous Castle was built in the 1,000s and has a commanding view of the town and the River Swale.
Tomorrow there will be the next and last page as I start my
final stage of what has been a thrilling and exciting journey.
Click to join me as we count down for take off on the 17th.
free to email any
queries you may have - I'll try to help