Wednesday, August 8

France, first time visit.


We decided it was time we had a taste of foreign roads so had a trip to France. Planning started a good while before, not choosing the site or how to get there, but what was needed to take Felix (the cat) along.
First he needed chipping and his anti-rabbis shots, he needed a passport, then worming and tick skin drops just before travelling. Information is hazy on the government website for cats, clear enough for dogs. All in all it was trouble free, with all our and the cats info being held on computers the authorities know exactly who you are. The only interest in Felix was leaving France and that came from the border policewomen who were just interested in seeing and cooing over him.
I booked everything through the Caravan Club, a package of ferry tickets and campsite, some sites, this being one of them, don't take pets full stop, others no dogs of certain breeds. Before booking I fired off an email to the site explaining he never leaves the van, would it be OK to bring him, they said yes as long as he stayed indoors.
We set off on our adventure mid afternoon, picking Diane up from work and heading south, first stop Glenrothes, got there for teatime, just north of Edinburgh and handy for the motorways. Next day off to just south of Birmingham for an overnight stop before going to Portsmouth for the evening ferry. The idea was to take it nice and easy on the way down, could have been done speedier and next time we probably will, giving us more time over there, for our first time I was a little apprehensive. Got too Portsmouth so early we had a little detour into Southsea, being a very hot sunny summers day at the start of the English school hols the place was heaving. Had a good look round, did a few caches and had a curry, we were still queueing for the ferry four hour early, but still not the first there.

The overnight ferry was fine enough but we didn't get much in the way of sleep, getting into Le Havre about eight, it was only a 60 km or 40 minute drive to the campsite, one of the reasons for choosing that site, didn't know how I would take to driving on the wrong side of the road. Bit of a baptism of fire, as I had been told by a guy at the Birmingham site, its straight out of the port and into the city centre of Le Havre.
Got to the site at Le Brevedent early but this wasn't a problem to the fantastic manager or owner, anyway waiting for the pitch to become vacant, managed to get some sleep in the car park.

Van at Castel Camping du Brevedent.

When we woke up well after mid day the pitch was empty and about 30c, just wanting to settle in on our first day I sat out in the sun, in shorts and sandals, never had a real opportunity to do this combination of things in the four year of campervaning in the UK, one hour later my knees and feet were burnt. The site was great, the French really know how to do this family camping, it looked like a bit of a gypsy camp after the regimented Caravan or Camping & caravan Club site, with all the washing out drying on lines but hey ho !

Day two and not really into having a drive so we went for a walk. Not really walking county at least not the Normandy countryside, the coast maybe different, but the information area at the site reception had a map with walks around the quieter county lanes. So we set off for Blangy-le-Chateau, paths through woods and high hedged country lanes meant we were usually walking in the shade which was great given it was another hot sunny day. The village was very pretty, clean, marvellous how other countries can keep their environments clean of litter and fly tipping. Lots of allied national flags, saw them on large flagpoles in every town and village that I noticed, I guess in gratitude for kicking out the Nazis. Once the bar was open we had a drink, not used to this type of thing, usually driving, but it was great, probably should have made it two, don't know when I will get another opportunity, we then walked back to the site.

Di with some locals.

Day three and we headed off  to the coast, don't think a visit to this area would be complete without a trip to the invasion beaches. We went off towards Ouistreham the eastern end of Sword beach, it was also a place to get some fuel. A lesson learnt 3/4 of a tank cost just over £50 even with the bank charge for the foreign transaction, normally £75, I didn't realise this till I viewed my statement, for the future fill up over there. Ouistreham seemed a little ordinary so we made our way along the coast to Lion-su-mar, walked along the stray and got photographed with a tank. When we got back to the van it had a note from the police on it, apparently we had parked in an area reserved for buses, we had seen this but there was another motor home parked there so thought it was maybe ok. I think the note said there could be a fine of 40 euro for this, didn't seem to say were you might pay it so I ignored it, think it was just a friendly warning, anyway we will see at the border control.

Me with a Churchill tank

We travelled along the coast but it was all much of a muchness, decided to go off to Bayeux and if you go there you have to see the tapestry don't you. Another parking faux pas, think we parked in the museum staff car park, didn't notice till we got back they all had permits in the windows.
The viewing of the Tapestry was great, the interactive talk was very good and informative, we both enjoyed this medieval experience and can recommend it. Had a little geocaching walk around the city centre, always a good fall back if you dont have a real plan.
Off back to the campsite via the toll roads, very quick and comfortable and worth the 4 euros.

Last full day in France and decided on a whole day in Honfleur, sounded great from the Rough guide. Still a bit panicky driving in towns and this little place was very busy, desperate to find parking and seeing most had height restrictions, we saw a sign for Motorhomes. It wasn't just a car park as such you could stay for the night and even had electric hookup, 10 euro for 24 hours. I had heard of these places before, no frills but great for a night, in fact the only regret was we didn't stay for the night, could have had a night on the town and it seemed a great town to have a night on. This was another HOT day, laminated board said it had been 32 C but think it could have got up to 34 C.
Honfleur is a lovely small harbour town, it reminded me very much of Whitby but with a bit of je ne sais quoi. Wonderful how they keep there villages and town nice and clean abroad.
On the way back to the site we missed a turnoff somewhere along the way and went on a right satnav adventure, but got back for another lovely evening sat out.

We spent the morning on site making the most of the weather, then made our way slowly back to Le Harve. once again getting there early. Ferry back was a bit easier not going over night. Got a ferry pitch on a site just 20 mins out from Portsmouth, Caravan club staff still available just to guide you in, We will certainly be doing more of this, already making plans for next year, will spend more time over there, go further and learn some language.

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