679-693: Travelling North and the First Birthday Party

A very late post …. lost our internet 10 days short of returning to the UK and then, somehow, we’ve been amazingly busy!

679 – Wednesday 5th April 2017:  Driving Day

We hadn’t driven all day – since we flitted from Portugal to Nice…. 8 hours travelling – and a nice aire in Cusiance – near where we had stayed before on our way home, this time last year.  Met a motorhome neighbour….  Now, when a young lady meets a nice Swedish man – what does she say, eh?  Obviously – in fluent Swedish – “I’m drunk and I love you”!!!  K seemed taken aback when his hands suddenly became more tactile…. and her Swedish wasn’t that fluent, either… I wasn’t impressed.  Perhaps, that’s the direct line Oscar should try with Kensey?  K’s excuse was that she learned it from some sailors?  I wanted a Harry Potter wand – to turn the Swedish man into – a tartcitron with extra mushypeas – deepfried!  

A quiet night…..

680 – Thursday 6th April:  Langres

Driving for a few hours, we stopped for lunch at an aire in Langres…  A Dutch van parked alongside us (a bit close) – they appeared tone a bit taciturn….  However, quite understandably so – when we saw they unloaded a completely shredded rear tyre – and the chap closely inspected their spare which he had fitted. We picked up some of the local cheese – orange skin  and the lady in the shop gave me some paper bags so it could breathe … nice.

We walked the walls around the town and thought it a pleasant town.  We drove on a France Passion vineyard … with views over fields, including one with Llamas, one sheep and one goat!  Peaceful and on an Oscar walk, I discovered that the town housed the country retreat and museum to Charles de Gaulle.

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With M. Didier – something to do with encyclopedias.

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All that remains of the funicular, as Langres is built on a rocky promontory.

681 – Friday 7th April:  Vet Day

We contemplated visiting the de Gaulle museum etc, but at EUR16 and with limited time to us, we declined.  Met Robyn and Kensey in a car park very close to the centre of Troyes.  We wandered and imbibed several glasses of Chablis with Robyn.  Oscar had his first visit with a non-English vet.  A thorough examination and prescribed the worming tablets required for the pet passport.  My vet had said that he should not have a certain type as they contained a medicine already in his Advantix or Advocate …. I tried to get the vet to give him Droncit, which I knew was OK, but no go.  Fortunately he gave me the tablets to give to Oscar with food later that evening.  Completely against the rules, but I was able to ring my UK vet practice and verify if this particular tablet was OK for him to take.

Robyn had identified a Sport Centre parking just on the outside of Troyes, which was a lot quieter than the city centre car park would have been on a party night.


682-683 – Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th:  Moving North – Another Shangri-La 

Robyn, again identified another superb aire at Mareuil le Port.  Not on most of the apps, just as well or it would have been over run!  A park next to the river.  The motorhome bays had their own water and concrtete patio area.  As well as electric for those of us that parked where it worked.  So lovely we decided to stay two nights – Robyn longer.  Robyn started hand washing, so I got the old twin tub out and was guilted into doing a load of ours too.  Perfect sunshine and a gentle breeze for drying the washing and us being outside pretty much all the time.  J lost a bet over when the Sicilian earthquake devastated the SE corner … 1693 is now engrained on his memory!  Consequece for J was to get the ladder out and clean the road kill on the from to Robyn’s van!  We had a ‘slight’ incident where I slammed j’s hand in Jez’s door.  Bearing in mind we have to really REALLY slam it, I was convinced all the bones in his fingers were crushed to a powder.  The neighbouring French motorhomers shot out with some magic Arnica cream and J did not have bruising or swelling.  I’ve bought some now, for the next time I try to damage him!  BBQ both nights.

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Foot care! 

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Amazing Pitches.

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Kensey basking in the sun.  Oscar finds the shade … they are so incompatible!

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Pilates class … who is absent?  That would be the photographer!  Oscar tied up or he would try to join in ….

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… he seemed to derive much enjoyment just watching … little perv!

684 – Monday 10th: Bergues for an Overnight

A longish drive up north and we overnighted at Bergues, just 35 mins from the Tunnel.  Far enough away from trouble and really quiet.  I took Oscar for a walk around the Vauban fort and walls and then into the town centre.  Being British, I was all bagged up to poop scoop by one of the outer paths, to be told, most insistently, by locals that it really was not necessary to pick up not in towns.  J struck up a conversation with our Belgian neighbour who told him that he had fought in the war and was on his way Normandy in his motorhome to meet up with some surviving members of his regiment.  Just how old would this have made him?  Almost 90 at least!

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685 – Tuesday 11th:  Back to Blighty and with the Reads

Early for our tunnel crossing as slightly anxious about how long the Pet Reception area would take.  In the event, it was super quick and we caught an earlier train.  We did not experience the sinking feeling we had this time last year … the sun shone and the M25 behaved!!!!  We parked up straddling Ian and his neighbour’s drive (they kindly move out and we pay motorhome parking rent in the form of a bottle of whence became).  A great evening, only marred by the fact that Nicky’s father really was not well.  Got to watch Robot Wars with Jimmy …. forgot how much I used to enjoy it.  

686 – Wednesday 12th:  Sinead and Shane

Ian and Jimmy were off to Barcelona the next day, so we took Jimmy for a blowy walk along the sea shore and for a muffin and hot chocolate in Rusty … Ian could pack and still deal with work (he works from home).  We then legged it to Farnham to Coxbridge Farm, where we stay near my family home.  We collected the car from the Aged P’s on the way and then battled our way up the M3, M25 and cut across W London to Ealing.  It all felt incredibly built up and busy.  just where do all these people come from?  Our destination was to dine with J’s baby daughter and partner, Shane in their new flat.  

687 – Thursday 13th:  Supper with the Aged P’s

We sorted out the rest of the garage and lugged a LOT of stuff back over to the Aged P’s for storage in their attic.  We now have room for the bikes 🙂  It will be interesting to see how oscar copes with us on bikes!  The former Welshie, Will, knew to avoid wheels and when I called him to heel, would run around the back of my bike and trot along bedside my left foot.  Somehow, I am in no doubt, that Oscar is not going to be so bike friendly.

I cooked at Rothbury for the Aged P’s and since we were sampling the Portuguese Moscatel that I’d squirrelled away (had buried it deep in the garage so we were not tempted to drink it when our own supplies ran out) and the Rasteau from the France Passion Cotes de Rhone vineyard we’d stayed on, we stayed the night.

688 – Friday 14th:  Supper with Caroline and Terry

Another boozy night with food away!   It started with a bottle of proper Champagne to celebrate J’s forthcoming BIG birthday.  We started the night here too!

Their No. 1 Daughter is Maddy’s bestie and they had news of the intimidation and bullying that goes on for freshers on the Uni Hockey Tour to Croatia.  She had been forced to eat and drink all sorts of obnoxious concoctions, including the pee of one of the lads …. Just horrid.  Given how much anti bullying education goes on in school, it is just incredible that they are all too intimidated to speak up.

689 – Saturday 15th:  Meeting the NEW Boyfriend

Maddy (she now spells her name Madi) and Brad came to supper.  Their friends have dubbed them Bradi!  We really liked him.  They’ve known each other a few years and he seems to have the measure of how she will wind him up when she’s bored!

690 – Sunday 16th:  Cooking and a Turkey Easter Supper

I spent most of the day food prepping at the Aged P’s.  So that I could use her kitchen, Mutt moved her food prep to Clare and Chris’ house.  Cx2 have, for the second Easter running, been tow path support crew for Louis who was competing in the Devizes to Westminster rowing race.  The competitors have to camp and prepare their own food in the evening.  The support crews, literally wedge food in them as they pass by, but it means very early starts and a lot of driving.  Hence Mutt cooking an Easter meal at Clare’s.  J and I have not had a proper turkey dinner for 2.5 years … just scummy.

691 – Monday 17th:  BIG Party No.1

We had a great evening with some England based friends for the first of J’s 70th birthday parties.  The raffle, where you can steal what someone else has was fun … with people hunting down the whisky, port and the camper van mug.  The BBQ sauce bottle nearly ended up with Clare – she did keep offering it around.  Madly, so busy I forgot to take any pix. 😦

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Besties Maddy and Dayna – besties and their youthful mothers!

Frances and Edward gave J two hedgehogs … we named the Van Jez, which is Slovenian for Hedgehog (so named after it’s brand Adria Sonic Supreme – Sonic the hedgehog.  We’ve named these two Jez and Belle … Jezebel.

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692 – Tuesday 18th: Cleaning

Thank goodness for dishwashers!  And I had forgotten (put it from my mind) how long it takes to clean a proper house, and we only cleaned a few rooms!  Think we’ll stick with a motorhome.  No garden either!!!

693 – Wednesday 19th:  Warranty Work

Our list of Jez faults, included a dodgy step, no hob ignition, a leaking kitchen sink, no rear view / reversing camera and some smaller items such as bits of trim falling off.  An early start and down to Family Tavel Centre in Bristol for the repairs.  Nearly all completed and at no charge :).  Having walked Oscar in Stoke Park for the best part of 2 hours, we left him in the car whilst we shopped till J dropped!  I then carried on – buying something pretty much from each floor in John Lewis!

Then over to Stephen and Kay for a lovely tapas / grazing supper.  They are really pleased with their new motorhome – an 8m AutoTrail …. I have storage envy!  

We had booked to stay in Bristol for a few days, but the doctor had rearranged J’s over 70 DVLA for tomorrow and I was off on a TRIP!  Barcelona with Maddy – Ola!

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Stoke Park with the Dower House in the distance … we lived next to it for 3 months.

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Pleased to be back in time for the bluebells.






352 – 355: The Long SLOW Road Home – Part 1

352 – Thursday 7th April 2016:  The Long Road Home

We are now on our journey north – home.  We are booked in for catching up with friends and family, as well as maintenance work on Chardonnay and us!

We decided to avoid EXPENSIVE French motorways and enjoy the cross country route … and we sure are.  Other than a circuit of Grasse where we initially missed a sign post and then a following the said signpost, ended up down a road that banned motorhomes as being too narrow … actually no problem.  Guess they were concerned in high season when every other vehicle may be wide.  But a minor panic moment, as I consulted Maps.Me on the iPad and could not see an alternative route, even had we been able to do a 13 point turn!

I had completely forgotten how stunning parts of Provence are – the mountains through Dignes les Bains, Sisteron and up to Grenoble demand a re-visit. Great rocky peaks and gorges … hiking country.  Pix taken on the hoof …

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A chapel atop!

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A geologists deam.

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I thought the cloud looked like the Pillsbury Dough Man climbing over the hills!

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You can just make out the tendrils of snow!

We stopped at a small town called Laragne-Monteglin – pretty with mountains in the hinterland.  An evening wander and I bought a French book.  I had eye balled a book some days ago on the bus  (leaning over my neighbour’s shoulder) and understood most of it so thought a similar book would help my French.  On seeing a book shop I entered and requested something well written, current language and no technical words.  The owner embraced my request and gave me a local Provence writer – however, I have had to download a French English dictionary … perhaps too well written.  I have promised to let the book shop seller know how I get on with it.

Pitch was flat and safe with other motorhomes, toilet emptying but water replenishing switched off!

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353 – Friday 8th April 2016:  Driving on

A run along the back roads of Laragne-Monteglin, followed by Pilates (in the car park!):

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Fruit growing territory 

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Spring blossoms.  A lot of Forsythia and the hills in the background.  Our run was along the flat valley 🙂

Another biggish driving day and we stopped at an free aire in Cuiseaux – a little north of Bourg en Bresse (spotted the cathedral multi coloured roof as we drove past).  A notice declared the free electric was low ampage and not for heating, just lights.  We tested it at the risk of having no electric as the fuse box was locked … no worries … heating, cooker, lights all on.  Thank you Cuiseaux.

354 – Saturday 9th April 2016:  Grr Wifi and Aah Dole!

A circular run past the sawmill (la scierie) and the very smart and gated abattoir – a perfect 4km.  I left J to the washing up and ventured to the tabac to purchase a wifi top up.  The assistant kindly agreed to telephone to validate the purchase … the recorded instructions spoke to fast for me in Antibes and the shop assistant there had validated for me too.  Code validated, but a technical error.  Need to ring to sort out.  Not possible on my English phone though, so the lovely lady rang on the tabac phone … 20 mins later (J had washed up and made Chardonnay moving off ready), it was established she had sold me credit for voice not just data.  I know damn well I’d asked for seulement data, pas d’appel; c’est pour un domino!  GRRR!

We had identified two aires in Dole:  one noisy, no services but central and the other further away but with services and a river side view.  Who minds a shortish walk!?  Gypsies on site all cabled up together with large dogs, but they seemed harmless and there were other vans there.  After lunch we walked into town.


Waterside pitch.  All the other motorhomes were huddled in the bus car park … not sure why when we had the sound of the weir and the view!  People sculling in the morning.

Dole is on the river Doubs, which runs through the centre.  Gray slate roofs over mellow amber stonework.  And the birth place of Louis Pasteur.  His father was a tanner with a shop near the river:  you can peer through and see the works.  M. Pasteur even returned in old age and placed a plaque on the wall.


On the outskirts.  Every Italian town or village has a Piazza Garibaldi … can’t seem to get away from him!  Not sure what he was doing here.





Louis Pasteur birth house.


In search of free wifi, we even forced ourselves to stop at a bar ….. J consumed a couple of pleasant Cotes de Rhone, and I quaffed stirling Macon 🙂  And only EUR3 per glass.  Bonus.  Used to paying EUR4 in Italy, but you do get a load of nibbles there.  We miss them, but perhaps better for our calorie intake!

355 – Sunday 10th April 2016:  Troyes Joy

We both ran … short: K as she also did a Pilates session, but J short as he has a twinge in his calf again :(.  Just hope this will not keep him off running.

A short drive up to Troyes.  Scenery is getting more interesting … it had gotten a bit flat – industrial sized fields.  Some pretty villages along the Seine.  We are parked up in a large car park, no services, but only a short walk to the old town.  The guide book describes Troyes as:

“Troyes is a delight, a city of magnificent Gothic churches and charming C16th courtyards … The city is famous for its heritage of stained glass and sausages (andouillettes), its knitwear industry and factory shops.”

Well, we saw a number of churches, but the cathedral was about to start a service so we could not fully appreciate the stained glass.  Lots of wooden leaning and overhanging buildings.  No sausages!  But we saw factory outlet shops on the drive in, including a McArthur Glen sign!  A really large old town centre and well worth the stop.


Fish scale wooden tiles.


Eglise St Pantaleon: exterior.


Eglise St Pantaleon: interior.  A really different quirky feel to it … wooden roof, statues, unusual stained glass.


Eglise St Pantaleon: quirky!


Eglise St Pantaleon: and more quirky!


Not camera tilt … these wooden houses are supported by stone bookend buildings.


Part of the finely restored St Peter and Paul Cathedral.


Haven’t seen many language faux pas recently!  I’m booking in!


Glorious sunshine.  A lovely town.  End of the day and my new favourite Beer!

My Aged P’s are nearly always away and have travelled extensively.  I’ve never met anyone else who has visited all bar one of the states of the USA.  Usually when I say I am visiting a place, I get the response that I have already been there as a child with them …. this is the email correspondence – start at the bottom!  They are in France.  Can we NOT do anything first?

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And finally a joyful Jade reunited with her duck (replacement one)

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