|Winter tour to Spain - January/March 2011|
Summary We had no plans at all other than to meet a family commitment. The only preparation we did was to buy a Channel Tunnel ticket, travel insurnace and an ACSI discount card. Armed with these, some maps and a sat nav we set off deciding where we would go as we went along.
The return journey from Coquelles totaled about 2,500 miles and used 531 litres of fuel at an average price of 1.31 Euros per litre. This gave an average consumption of 21.4 miles per gallon. We used 8 campsites, 9 aires and wild camped once.
Our favourite place of the trip - Calpe.
Days 1 to 6 - outward through France to the Benicassim, Spain
Days 7 to 16 - Benicassim and south to Guardamar
Days 17 to 36 - Guardamar and north to Javea
Days 37 to 46 - homeward bound, north through France
Day 1 Wednesday 19th January - Left home early for the Channel Tunnel on a crisp but dry morning on the first leg of our journey to Mediterranean Spain. The early morning mist soon cleared and we arrived in the sunshine in good time for our train. I had allowed for some delays but we had none to speak of and now had plenty of time to have lunch and a coffee while waiting to board.
The train left on time and 35 minutes later we were disembarking and en route for our night stop at Le Crotoy aire. We did the first 45 miles on the A16 autoroute paying a toll of Eu5.90 to leave at Junction 25 and continue the last 17 miles on ‘D’ roads to our destination which we found quite easily.
There are two aires at Le Crotoy and we chose the one with a short walk into town. To my surprise, 5 motor homes were already parked here. I had not expected this at this time of year. The aire overlooks the small harbour and the Somme estuary and a short walk along the harbour front brings you to a number of restaurants all of which were closed at this time of year, in fact there was hardly anyone about although I did discover a fishmonger open. The charge for parking for the night was Eu5 and it was a further Eu2 to use the services. Noting the parked French motor homes had paid we did likewise but did not bother using the services.
Le Crotoy Aire - We liked the Le Crotoy aire and its convenience to town. Located at the end of the harbour it is a large unpaved but firm area with plenty of room to park. There are good views over the Bay de Somme and we will use it again in preference to Le Touquet.
We had no firm plans for our journey which I anticipated will largely be controlled by the weather. It was predicted to get colder over the next few days and snow was forecast for the Pyrenees over the weekend. We didn’t intend to travel great distances each day and hoped for a window of opportunity to cross the Pyrenees via the Somport Tunnel. If the tunnel was closed the plan was to turn left or right depending on the forecast!
Day 2 - A leisurely start after walking the dog to watch dawn breaking over the Bay de Somme (dawn was at about 0800hrs). We finally left at about 1030hrs heading for Rouen and stopping for fuel on the auto route, Eu1.40 per litre. We had lunch just outside Rouen in Saint Adrien on the banks of the Seine, a place we had stopped a couple of times before. We normally then head for Chartres but this time we decided to travel via Le Mans so headed down the D438 to Brionne where we stopped at a Carrefour supermarket for a few groceries (wine) before heading for Bernay and Broglie. Broglie had a nice aire but although we could park overnight, there were no services open in the winter and we left for the next nearest aire at the village of Le Sap just off the D438. Here the services were fully functional and we could top up with water before we settled in for the night. A days leisurely run of 131 miles.
While preparing the evening meal Wendy noticed a large rodent type creature in the adjacent field. What could it be? It was very large but very rodent like foraging in the grass. Even with binoculars we could still not determine exactly what it was in the fading light, but it was not as first thought, a Coypu. It looked very otter like with a white bib and whiskers but it was very much larger than our native British otter. After watching it for about an hour we decided it must be a large Otter. We eventually lost sight of it in the ensuing darkness but did see it take a swim in the adjacent large pond. This was a first! Neither of us had ever seen a wild otter before.
Le Sap Aire - This is a small quiet free aire adjacent to the village fire station and opposite a large pond. The road past the aire also serves as access to some offices and is subject to some road noise as workers come and go. We had it to ourselves and had a quiet night.
Day 3 - We awoke to find there had been a sharp frost and the temperature was -1C at 0700hrs. I had a chilly 5 minute walk into the village with the dog, found a boulangerie and purchased some bread and croissants. I then walked back. We left at 0920hrs in brilliant sunshine which lasted all day although the temperature barely rose above 5C all day. We intended to travel about 200miles further south. Our first stop, about 100 miles later, after passing through Le Mans, was for lunch at a Super U in Ecommoy where we had also spotted GPL for sale. The overnight chill had considerably depleted our gas supplies and we needed to top up because the outlook was remaining cold. After lunch and topping up with gas, we continued south down the D338 towards Tours. The going was becoming tedious and to avoid most of the traffic and Tours we joined the A28 toll road at Neuille Pont Pierre and for EU2.20 we bypassed the worst of Tours and then decided to take the A10 toll road to Junction 30, Poitiers Sud, where we could easily pick up the toll free N10 dual carriage way south towards Bordeaux. The cost of the A10 toll was EU17.70 but we made very good time and started looking for a night stop along the N10. We eventually decided to head for the quiet village aire of Londigny a few miles off the N10 arriving there at about 1600hrs. The days run was 235 miles.
Londigny Aire - This is a free aire next to the church amongst trees. The bells ring at 1800 and 0800 but nothing in between so we had a peaceful night and the aire to ourselves. There are no shops in this small isolated village and the water was turned off on the aire, possibly due to the extreme cold. It wasn‘t much above freezing when we arrived and was -2C at 0700hrs in the morning and there was a bitter north wind making it feel very much colder. I don’t think we could have picked a quieter spot! However, our water partially froze in the overnight chill wind.
Day 4 - I walked the dog around the village, there are some lovely views and most buildings looked very old and were built out of stone not dissimilar to our own Cotswold stone. At about 0930, we headed south again down the N10 dual carriage way stopping for an early lunch just before Bordeaux. We then carried on around Bordeaux and onto the A62 for Toulouse but leaving it just before the toll section to take the D113 to Langdon where we took the N524 towards Pau. There is a nice aire at Bernos Beaulac which we considered stopping at but it would have given us a longer journey to Zaragoza along slower roads over the Pyrenees so we carried on as far as Aire sur L’Adour. This last section of about 80 miles is fast and straight and there is little point in taking the newly finished A65 auto route. We arrived at about 1500hrs on the large aire by the river. Two other motor homes were already there and a few more joined us later. The water was on here and for one euro I topped up the tank for the evening. It still remained cold and on arrival the temperature was only 3C. It quickly fell to 0C as night descended and remained so all night. The days run was 195 miles.
Aire sur L’Amour aire - A warmer night on a quiet aire at which 11 motor homes spent the night. It is not as the book describes, next to a church? It is adjacent the river and next to the camp site and about a 5 minute walk into a pleasant town with all facilities. The normal charge is Eu3 for the night and one Euro for water and you can park for up to 72 hours. I paid the 1 euro for water but no one came and collected the parking charge.
Day 5 - I walked the dog along the river bank into town and after a quick look around walked back. In spite of it being a Sunday morning a café was open for breakfast and so were a couple of Boulangeries. We left at 0930 just as the sun was breaking through and by the time we got to Pau 30 miles on, there was not a cloud in the sky. I could not believe there would be any problems using the Somport Tunnel in this weather and the sign just after leaving Pau on the N134 confirmed the tunnel was open. It remained fine and sunny all day, there was next to no traffic and conditions for crossing the Pyrenees were better than I had encountered in the summer. However, it was very cold, even the small waterfalls which tumbled down from the roadside cliffs were frozen solid and frost still lingered in the shady spots. Once through the Somport Tunnel the descent to Huesca and Zaragoza was swift in spite of road works which seemed not to have progress much at all since we came this way last year. After getting ourselves lost around Zaragoza, which still looks like a building site, we eventually arrived at Camping Ciudad Zaragoza at about 1530hrs after a journey of 203 miles. The roads had been very, very quiet. Perhaps the cost of fuel, the cold, or the lack of snow for skiing kept travellers off the roads?
Camping Zaragoza - Little seemed to have changed on this relatively new site. It is going to take a long time to mature. We received a cheery welcome and for Eu21.66 we had a pitch with electricity and water and we settled in for the night. BBC TV reception here was marginal with my 85cm dish and after the wind blew it over I gave it up as a bad job. With night fall the temperature had plummeted again and I could not be bothered fiddling with it in the cold. Camping Zaragoza is a good safe night stop especially if you have spent several days without electricity and need to charge batteries. The toilet block is heated, showers are a little spartan but there was plenty of hot water.
Day 6 - We were off at 1000hrs heading down the A23 for Benicassim and Camping Bonterra Park. There is precious little to see down this fast route in fact we even had to leave the autovia to find fuel not long after leaving Zaragoza. The brown and dull green countryside is vast and sparsely populated, even the autovia was devoid of traffic and we mostly had the road to ourselves. It was another cloudless day and only the occasional contour trail of a high flying aircraft pierced the blueness of the sky. After lunch we left the A23 joining the N225 for the coast where we picked up the N340 to Benicassim arriving at about 1500hrs. We were relieved to find there were plenty of pitches available. We picked a sunny spot and settled in for a few days on this 15 Euros a night ACSI site. The days run was 210 miles.
We had an enjoyable 3 course meal with a bottle of wine in the on site restaurant that evening for Eu9.90 each.
Day 7 - It was another bright, sunny, cloudless day. Since our last visit, a cycle way had been constructed along the route of a defunct railway to Orpesa and we set off along this. It passes through tunnels and cuttings and gives fine views of the coast. Its about 5 miles to Orpesa from the site, we walked about halfway and then decided to return to Benicassim for lunch. Not much is open at this time of year in fact we found it is a bit like a ghost town. Walking back along the sea front passing the empty early twentieth century villas, one once used by Ernest Hemingway, we found only one café open. We had a drink and a sandwich here before finding our way back to the campsite to sit in the sun for the rest of the afternoon followed by a lazy evening.
Day 8 - It was not a very inspiring start. Skies had clouded over during the night and the dawn did not bring any sunshine. However it was warmer and it drizzled now and again but did look as though it would clear up. We attended to the housekeeping chores, had a light lunch and set off for a walk along the sea front and around town. The sun never came out, the cloud increased and on the way back it started raining quite heavily. We retired to the motorhome for the rest of the day. We did successfully tune in a number of Spanish digital TV channels and watched some of the European Ice Dancing championship on one of them. Later we watched a film on satellite TV before retiring for the night.
Day 9 - It was a considerably warmer night. We awoke to a temperature of 10C but it was raining. This persisted all day and apart from the dog’s early morning walk the only time we ventured out was to visit the local supermarket for groceries.
Day 10 - Overcast skies but we went into Benicassim for a look around and a coffee. Immediate observations were there were many more dropped kerbs and ramped accesses to premises than when we were last here 4 years ago. All the busses appeared wheelchair friendly too. However, we were informed that you could not take a dog on the busses so we still could not use them. After buying a few groceries we returned to site just as it started raining. We remained there for the rest of the day.
Day 11 - A sunny warmer day dawned and we set off to walk along the scenic cycle way which runs along the coast to Orpresa, a distance of about 5 miles. We had a light lunch there and then walked back. On our return we booked a table in the on site restaurant for the evening’s show and dinner. A singing Duo entertained, the restaurant was full, and it was a good evening which became livelier as the evening went on. We retired at about 2200hrs for tomorrow we head further south.
Bonterra Park - This is a well run site close to town and the beach and is very good for walking and cycling. Pitches are serviced. The only drawback is the toilet facilities for the disabled are not heated, the main block is. At this time of year the area can also be a bit lifeless.
Day12 - Today on another sunny warm day, after 6 nights at Bonterra Park, we headed south down the N340 and A7 towards Valencia and Elche via Alcoy arriving at my brothers villa 180 miles later. This scenic route is now nearly all autovia, only a tunnel through the mountains remains to be finished to complete this alternative route to Elche and Alicante.Day 13 to 15 - We remained at my brothers for 4 nights, celebrating his 25 wedding anniversary whilst there. Day 16 - We set off for Alicante following the sat nav to a garage where we knew we could top up with gas. Four nights without hookup with temperatures of 2C at night had considerably depleted our gas supply. The Repsol garage we found easily was on a main route into Alicante and was easy to get into and convenient for travelling further south. It was in fact a gas depot and only sold GPL, presumably in bottles as well as dispensing it from two pumps. We pulled up behind a car already being filled by an attendant to await our turn. On getting out my vehicle to remove the filling cap from my external filler in the skirt of our motor home we were promptly informed in no uncertain terms that we could not have gas. Even though I did not understand Spanish, the tone of his voice and the jesters to leave made this quite clear. I repeatedly requested GPL but in spite of much pleading and an English speaking Spaniard telling the attendant that I could have a gas tank, I was refused gas. I didn't dare open my locker door to show him the installation and in the end resigned myself to the fact he was not going to give me any gas. I did not immediately move off in spite of being requested to do so but started setting up my sat nav for my next destination. The attendant returned to his kiosk and while I was fiddling he came back and for what ever reason decided to let me have gas. I thanked him profusely, I was nearly out, and we went on our way after paying for the gas. We headed for Camping Marjal. I had phoned them the day before to try and book a pitch only to find none were available at this popular site. However, we still decided to turn up and see. On arrival shortly before mid day, none were available but there might be if we waited a while. We were in no hurry and the next nearest site at Santa Polla had also looked full when we passed, so we decided to wait. An hour later we were settling in for a seven night stay on a fully serviced pitch which included piped digital BBC and ITV TV signals.
It was 10 years since we last stayed at Marjal. The area was now much more developed and there was also much better access to the beach and the town.
Day 17 - House keeping chores and a light lunch over we explored off site a little following the track to the beach which was about a 10 to 15 minute walk. The last section of about 150/200 metres is via a boardwalk over the dunes and it gives good wheelchair access to the beach. We spent a pleasant couple of hours strolling along the beach in the sunshine playing with the dog before returning to site for our evening meal. Once the sun starts to set, the temperature drops dramatically and it turns quite cold. Most retire to the inside of their heated vans to watch TV.
Day 18 - I walked to the nearby Mercadona supermarket, about 15 minutes away, for a few groceries after which we had an early lunch. We then popped into the site restaurant/bar for a drink and to listen to the Country and Western singer and watch the line dancing. It was another warm cloudless sunny day and after a while we again headed for the beach returning for our evening meal and settling down in the van for the evening.
Day 19 - We had a slow start, coffee in the sunshine before heading for the restaurant for Sunday lunch. Menu del Dia for Eu9 each included three courses plus a drink. Suitably satisfied we sat and read in the sun and listened to the musical entertainment for the on site Dutch residents. It made for another relaxing day in the sunshine.
Day 20 - A slightly more energetic day, we walked the 3 miles to Guardamar, had a coffee, a look around the town centre and walked along the sea front stopping at a restaurant for a light lunch and a drink before walking back to site. Although Guardamar has a nice beach and parks amongst the dunes, overall we were not that impressed with the town and its seafront.
Day 21 - We awoke to find the site enveloped in a sea mist. It did clear by 1100hrs but the sun was never very strong all day and there was a chill wind. It was definitely not a day for sitting out. We had a meal in the on site restaurant in the evening choosing, a jug of Sangria, a Paella, sweet and coffee. I thought this over priced at 40 Euros, Menu del Dia was definitely better value.
Day 22 - Another thick mist enveloped the site. Visibility was down to less than 50 yards but it cleared quicker in a stronger sun than the previous day. My brother and his wife joined us for the day. We had a three course lunch in the van and walked to the beach on a much warmer sunnier day. Tomorrow we move on.
Camping Marjal - Is an excellent site with fully service pitches including piped TV. However, the local area was disappointing. The beach is ok but is about a 15 minute walk from the site. A Mercadona supermarket is a similar distance away but the nearest town of Guardamar is about 3 miles away and it and its beach front did not impress. We were also disappointed to find that the unisex wheelchair accessible toilet facilities did not have any hot water supply. Ok in the summer but in the winter, far too cold. There are other accessible facilities with hot water in each toilet block but they are not unisex which makes life difficult if your partner needs help. We used the van's facilities.
Day 23 - A clear day dawned and we checked out and headed up the N332 along the Alicante sea front to Albir and Camping Cap Blanch. Arriving just after noon, 56 miles later, we found the site very full but there were two pitches vacant. We selected the better of the two, got hooked up and then headed off into town to buy some vegetables. It was only then we took stock of our campsite surroundings. It was not a particularly good pitch. Trees and a large block of flats obscured the sun for a large part of the day and it was a long way from the single amenity block and the site entrance. TV reception was impossible but we did have good free WIFI reception.
Day 24 - Another sunny day, it cannot last! We decided to walk along the sea front to Altea. It took an hour, inclusive of a coffee stop. We had a light lunch in a seafront café and then made the return journey after which we settled down outside the van in what remained of the sunshine before preparing the evening meal.
Day 25 - A late start, walked into Albir, shopped and returned to the motor home to BBQ the fish we bought and had a quiet day.
Day26 - We had morning coffee in the sunshine on the sea front and then returned to the motorhome for lunch and to read until shade descended on the pitch. We then set off on a walk to the Parc Natural, a park with a tarmac walk way running round the coast’s hills to the lighthouse. It offers excellent views of, Albir, Altea, Calpe and the surrounding countryside. It is a lovely walk but we did notice three nests of processionary caterpillars in the pines at the entrance on leaving and we had not kept our dog on the lead! Fortunately he had not strayed from our side and had come to no harm and it was an enjoyable day.
Day 27- We left the dog in the van today after his morning walk. He was a little weary and was not at all bothered about this. We visited the local butcher and then settled in at a restaurant in the sunshine for a drink and lunch. The menu of the day did not appeal and a two course very enjoyable meal with wine and coffee came to 40 Euros. We were back on site by 1500hrs and prepared to leave the next day after a 5 night stay.
Camping Cap Blanch - This was our second visit to this site. It is very handy being right on a nice seafront in a scenic sweeping bay and not far from town. 95 percent of occupants of this large site were over wintering Dutch caravaners. Site staff were friendly, electricity was only 5 amps but the WIFI was free and good. The area being only a 10 minute bus ride from Benidorm has many street side cafes and was far livelier than Benicassim. The site's major drawback is it only has one facilities block and many of the pitches are a long way from this and it can make empty the loo or going for a shower a real chore.
Day 28 - The weather forecast is for rain today but we got packed up in the dry and were on the road for Calpe by 1030hrs. It was only a short scenic drive away but on arrival at Camping Calpe Mar, we found it full with no vacancies. The larger pitches were in fact booked until the 13th March! We had seen signs to other sites and followed one of these to Camping La Merced, not an ACSI site but it did have pitches available but at 22.70 Euros a night with electric. It looked very cozy and the log fire burning in the reception and bar area was very welcoming. I had no sooner checked in on this small site and it started to rain. The log fire was indeed going to be most welcome!
Day 29 - A bright sunny but windy day dawned. We walked to the La Fossa beach sea front and back before settling down to a light lunch and a lazy day in the sun shine.
Day 30 - Lazy sunny day, caught up on the housekeeping chores and visited the supermarket to buy more groceries.
Day 31 - It was another bright sunny day, the warmest so far. Walked into Calpe and had lunch in a sea front café then wandered back. Sat in the sunshine and chatted to other site occupants until sunset. We have decided to move on tomorrow after a 4 night stay.
Camping La Merced - A small (80 pitches) friendly, family run site in a pleasant location about half a mile from the beach. Supermarkets and restaurants were all within easy walking distance. Wheelchair accessible toilet facilities were available but we did not check these out.
Day 32 - Left site at about 1030 and 22 miles later arrived at Camping Javea. There were plenty of spare pitches to choose from but all the larger ones had been taken. With the help of another camper we managed to just fit on our chosen one.
Day 33 - A bright sunny day and we decided to do nothing today other than have a BBQ and sit in the sun. This we did after I had taken the dog for a walk along the lanes which meander around the orange groves next to the site.
Day 34 - Walked to the seafront which took a good 20 minutes. Unfortunately I forgot to take any money so after a quick look around to get our bearings we returned to site to relax in the sun.
Day 35 - Walked to the sea front again found a pleasant restaurant for lunch and walked back via the Consum supermarket and then relaxed for the rest of the day.
Day 36 - Decided to stay another day but to spend this doing very little because the next few days we would be on the road heading for Calais. Did some last minute Supermarket shopping and sat around enjoying the sunshine on a warm day. We had a nice meal in the on site restaurant in the evening.
Camping Javea - Is a large level gravely site with two service blocks and three different sizes of pitches. All the larger ones were occupied. Access to the site is best if you follow the signs. Don’t be fooled into taking the very narrow route offered by a sat nav. There are no passing places and there is a weight limit of 3.5 tons on the bridge across the river. The correct approach is through an industrial site and Camping Javea is at the back of this amongst the orange groves.
Day 37- Left Javea at 1030hrs and headed for the AP7 for Valencia then the A7 and A23 for Zaragoza. The days run was going to be a long one so we used the toll section to Valencia, a distance of about 50miles at a cost of 7.60 Euros. Once off the A7 and onto the A23 traffic became lighter and we made very good time arriving at Camping Zaragoza 270 miles later at about 1530hrs. The site was nearly empty but there were at least a dozen later arrivals at this popular night halt. After settling in, we logged onto the free WiFi, checked our emails and the weather forecast for the next 36 hours. It was a mild outlook and was expected to remain dry so we decided to use the Somport Tunnel rather than go round the Pyrenees via Pamplona and St Jean de Luz.
Day 38- True to predictions the day dawned bright. We left site at 1000hrs to continue our journey up the A23 to Huesca, Jaca and the Somport Tunnel. The weather was glorious, the air clear and the drive over the Pyrenees breathtaking. We stopped quite a few times to take photographs of the snow covered peaks. In contrast to our outward journey the temperature was at least 10C to 15C higher and instead of frozen waterfalls, water tumbled down from the mountain sides and the river, which the road followed, was a much stronger torrent of water. On approaching Pau, the skies clouded over for a while but by the time we reach our destination, the aire at Aire sur L’Adour at 1530hrs, the sun was out. The journey of 204 miles seemed much longer and arduous than the outward one and the town of Aire sur L‘Adour was a welcome sight. 15 vans stopped here overnight and unlike our outward journey 3 Euros was collected from us in the morning.
Day 39 - A grey start to the day, overcast skies threatened rain. We had a look round town which was bustling on a Saturday morning. It was too cold to sit outside a café for a coffee. We therefore had to forego the continental pleasure of idling time and watching life pass by. We couldn’t visit the indoor market either, no dogs allowed, so we bought bread and returned to the van for a coffee before setting off at 1115 hrs along the D932 and D933 towards Perigueax. Our destination was the aire at Caumont sur Garonne 80 miles away. It was a pretty uninteresting drive past endless pine forest much like that between Bayonne and Bordeaux. It was made worse when it started to rain as we pulled into an Aire de La Repos for lunch and another coffee. However, we did see a very small herd of wild boar cross the road about 100 yards in front of us. We found our night stop easily, arriving at about 1400hrs to enjoy the peace and quiet of this canal side location and village but getting on the marked pitches was a problem with our large van which was only solved by reversing down the access road and onto the pitch. I had a look around the locality and then retired to the van. Caumont is an old but tidy village boasting a Post Office, a grocery store and a café. All were closed on a Saturday afternoon but I noted the grocery store was open on Sunday mornings.
Caumont sur Garonne Aire - An apparent tranquil canal side location with marked bays for 9 motor homes. An MV service point provided full facilities, water 1 Euro for 15 mins supply and electricity also 1 Euros for 2 hours. However we had a disturbed night, perhaps because it was a Saturday evening but we had just fallen asleep when we were awoken by our dog barking furiously. It is thought someone or something had banged or pushed the side of the van. Nothing could be seen in what was a well lit area and we drifted back off to sleep. However the road was intermittently busy well into the early hours of the morning and dogs could be heard barking close by and neither of us slept soundly.
Day 40 - The day dawned bright and we visited the services, topped up with water and headed for Perigueux at about 1000hrs arriving at the aire by the riverside, 73 miles later, just after noon. The skies had clouded over during the journey but the rain held off. After a light lunch we strolled along the riverside into the old town spending and hour or so wandering round the narrow deserted streets before greyer skies and a short shower dictated that we returned to the van to relax by the riverside for the rest of the day. The showers continued until late afternoon but the sun shone as the day drew to a close.
Perigueux Aire - This looks to be in a new location, it certainly was nothing like described in our 2009 guide. There were 40 individual marked bays and full services by the riverside and it is 15 minute walk along this to the old town. The free bourne was not working, we assumed it was turned off for the winter, and the charge for the night of 5 Euros was not collected. We had a very peaceful night in the company of 11 other motor homes.
Day 41 - Another bright sunny morning but cold. After emptying our waste, we set off at 1000hrs for Limoges, the A20 to Chateauroux and the D956 towards Blois. We night stopped at the aire at Selles sur Cher arriving at about 1600hrs. The days journey 178 miles.
Selles sur Cher Aire - Has 15 marked pitches adjacent to a campsite and the D956. A token is required to obtain water and electricity from the borne. We needed neither and in spite of it being adjacent to a main road we had a peaceful night until 0600hrs when traffic levels built up again.
Day 42 - Took the dog along the banks of the Cher into town, had a look around and walked back. We only had 206 miles to go to Forges Les Eaux, where we had made an appointment to see the vet to validate our dog’s passport, so we decided to meander about halfway today via Cheverney, Chambord, Chateaudun, Chartres and then onto Camping Ilots de St Val just north of Maintenon. On route we called in at some aires to check them out, only one impressed and that was just north of Chateaudun at Marboue. The days journey 116 miles.
Camping Ilots de St Val - Not the best of sites and when I had to cough up 21 Euros, I was asking myself why we had not stayed on an aire. We did need water and electric though to recharge appliances and batteries. There were no hard standings and the ground was pliable but not so soft that I would become stuck but, had it rained, it might have been a different story. There was no motor home service point either and the only source of water was in the single facilities block, all outside taps having been isolated for the winter. To fill our on board tank I had to carry water from the facilities block to the pitch.
Day 43 - Although it was only a short drive of 93 miles to Forges Les Eaux, it was a tedious one via Dreux, the D928 to Mantes, the D983 to Mangy and finally the D915 to Gisor, Gurney en Bray and Forges Les Eaux. There were many speed restrictions complete with sleeping policemen and it took over three hours and we arrived well after lunch time. We settled in on a sunny afternoon along with several other motor homes.
Forges Les Eaux aire - Full facilities were not available until the 15 March, just as well we had taken on water at the last campsite and charged the batteries because not only was the electricity not available the water was also turned off.
Day 45 - Overnight we had decided not to pass the time travelling up the coast but to head for St Omer and the La Coupole WW11 museum and then on to the site at Escalles. It was a cold night and we woke up to a frost and freezing temperatures. It was a cold morning walk with the dog. On packing up I noticed our Gaslow refillable bottle was showing empty, we would need both gas and water before our next night stop. We set off at 0930 and made excellent time stopping at a BP filling station on the A28 to refill with LPG. I was surprised when only just under 14 litres of gas was required. The bottle could not have been all that empty because it holds 22 litres! We arrived at La Coupole just after noon, ate a snack lunch it the van and then visited the museum housed in the site of a V2 rocket launching concrete bunker. The entrance fee was 9 Euros each and the complex was totally wheelchair friendly. We were both very impressed with this modern museum and could have spent much longer watching the films and looking at the exhibits but I wanted to allow plenty of time to get to our planned night stop.
We left at 1530 hours heading for Escalles which is near the Channel Tunnel terminal. To our horror we found the road to the site supposedly closed. However, traffic was ignoring the signs and driving over the very rough section of road which had obviously been dug up for whatever reason but not yet resurfaced. We did likewise only to find the site, contrary to our guide books, closed. After an irate discussion and fearful that the road might be well and truly closed the next morning, I decided to head back the way we came and night stop at Gravelines. We headed back searching for water on the way in the aires but found none. We knew there was none at Gravelines and our tank was nearly empty. We arrived to find only three spaces left and settled in for the night using what water we had very sparingly. It was just as well we had stayed on a site two nights previously and taken on water and recharged our batteries. I was also relieved we had obtained gas without any trouble for there was a bitterly cold wind blowing from the north.
Gravelines Aire Our guide showed two aires in Gravelines. The first we tried we found the route blocked and building works were in progress where we thought the aire should be, it clearly did not exist anymore. We kept our fingers crossed and followed the signs for Port du Plaisance where we found the second nearly full aire by the side of the old fortified town and the marina. No services but a nice aire convenient for exploring the immediate area and worthy of a longer stay.
Day 46 – We were up early and had a steady drive to the tunnel. We arrived early enough to catch an earlier train and on immerging from the tunnel the sun was shining, it had come with us! We stopped at the Ashford Tescos, shopped for the weekend and we were home in time for a light lunch. The weather had been unbelievable. We only had two days without sunshine but it had been cold at times and when the sun did disappear the temperature fell rapidly such that it was not comfortable to sit outside. We needed the heating on most nights. It was a very enjoyable trip but I doubt we will do it again in the winter. Sites are too busy and we both like warmer temperatures and the pleasure of sitting out in the cool of the evenings.
A photo gallery of the trip is available here
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