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The Short Way Down - to France

Well its 8pm Saturday night, it’s the 20th September and Herbs, Martin, Sandie, myself (and Eric lol) are ready to set off on our adventure to France. We had a good steady run, cold but clear until we got to Grantham when the A1 closed for repairs and we were diverted here there and everywhere. We eventually came out in Stamford where we had to stop for fuel before Herbs ran out cos of his 100 mile tank range.
First Petrol stop

We needed to stop anyway to get warm and get some caffeine into us. It seemed we’d stopped across from a biker pub that was playing live music; ooooh could’ve murdered a pint there and then. Time to press on for another 100 miles. Next stop on the M11 for a proper coffee, leak and chill for half and hour, making good time for the train so no panic. Got to the tunnel at about 3am and our train wasn’t until 6.20am. After 10 minutes shut eye, it didn’t seem long before we were called to board the train. We’re lucky that we were booked on the first train cos they were only going every 2 hours after the fire incident two weeks earlier. It’s now Sunday, September 21st and it took just short of an hour to get there as there was some delay in the tunnel which slowed us down. At the other side though it was clear skies and morning mist, quite picturesque. Quick stop for fuel before heading down the A16 to pick up the coast road for the camp site.
First fuel stop in France

We got to the campsite around midday after taking our time coming down the coast road for about 70 miles, still running on adrenalin. After booking in, we were told that cos it’s the end of the season there was no shop, bar and the small two toilet blocks were closed. Didn’t bother us really cos there’s a supermarket at the top of the road and we weren’t there to get drunk every night. After setting up camp, the boys went to try find a local shop for basic supplies but its Sunday and everything closes in France on a Sunday.

After travelling 350 miles to get there we were pretty hungry by now so we unwillingly pulled our leathers back on and went for a ride into St. Valery to find a restaurant. Eric was famished! Had a lovely steak and chips (except Sandie, she never gets a nice steak in France lol), quick walk and got some buns from the patisserie. There was a craft fair open to buy some wine so we were now sorted. Back to camp to drink and chill before finally hitting the sack at around 7pm after being up for around 33 hours straight now.

Well the cockerel didn’t disappoint, starting at around 5.30am. I quite like hearing, just makes me laugh after the last time. It’s Monday morning already, 22nd September and it’s so nice to not be at work. We all went for a quick swim in the indoor pool which was all steamy cos it was quite cold outside. The boys decided it would be funny to go jump into the outdoor pool which was freezing so of course we girls had to do it to avoid getting the piss taken. My god, talk about chapel hat pegs. Now cos all the shower blocks were closed they’d merged the men and women into one in the main block so we all had to shower together!! (Calm down Steve, we all had separate cubicles lol) nice dose of porridge then off to the supermarket to stock up on supplies. Even at the busiest time of day, the shops are empty and still between 12 and 2pm everything shuts in France, even the supermarket. What a way to live!
St Valery

After tucking into French sticks and smoked cheese we took a walk into St Valery which is about 2 miles from the camp. Glorious blue skies today, nice in the sun, cool in the shade but its dry so no complaints from us.
Favourite Bar

Stopped at our favourite bar for a beer and a chill out and then a walk around the gothic part of the town. What a gorgeous place. Took a slow walk back and stopped at the supermarket again to finish shopping after being thrown out for it closing it lunch time. Back to camp, lit the bbq and tucked into steak and sausages and French beer. Hmmmm, this is the life. By 8pm it’s already dark here and we were still all tired from travelling so we called it a day.

Tuesday, September 23rd and we’re up early today cos we’re going exploring to the city of Amiens which is supposed to be very gothic. It started to rain again before we left but it was that fine drizzly stuff that gets you wet without you knowing but in true British style we soldiered on. By the time we got 10 minutes away from where we were it had stopped anyway which was great. It took about 2 hours to get to Amiens after loosing Martin and finding our way through the road works. Sandie’s alarm on her bike started playing up and we just happened to pass a big bike place so thought we’d stop there for a new battery for her key fob but that was just closing for lunch so had no luck but they didn’t stock them anyway.

After finally getting her alarm to stop going off we set back off into the centre to find somewhere to park and explore. Found a multi storey that went underground but it was easy enough to figure out. We managed to find some batteries for Sandie at a local newsagent which was a coffee shop too so we stopped for a break and lovely warm baguette sandwich. We went in search of the famous cathedral, Notre de dame de Amiens.
Notre de dame de AmiensNotre de dame de Amiens

My breath was taken away when I walked through the front door of it; the photographs just don’t do it justice at all. It was so stunning. You can just see Herbs stood there which gives you some idea of the size of it. It is home to the famous crying angel which we see all the time now as icons of religion or could even be confused with cupid.

We did the mandatory visit to the gift shop where Sandie was in her element cos of all the gargoyles there. Another quick walk around the town and set off back to the car park where Sandie had to have her mandatory fight with the ticket machine lol. As we got back to camp you could see it had rained there all day and we’d managed to escape it all. Off for another silly swim, shower and Ravioli, more beer and French bread before turning in for the night.

Wednesday, September 24th and its been raining most of the night but luck is really on our side as it stopped just for us getting up and cleared up totally. Porridge and a trip to the supermarket (intermarche) to stock up on supplies and beer. After lunch we set off to find this proper French chateau which was closed when we got there but on the way we found this most amazing twisty windy road which was just awesome. Well worth the trip just for that. Not many of those roads in that region as it’s so flat. Reminds me a lot of Lincolnshire. We headed back into St Valery to chill out for a bit at our bar with cocktails and a dessert. Who said you can’t have your dessert before your main course!!! Eric has been starving all day so needed the sugar.
Picture of camp

Thursday, September 25th and woke up to glorious skies. We’d all had an unsettled night with the cats fighting, owls squawking and the cockerel waking us at some ungodly hour. The joys of camping I guess. I was up early as usual to be joined by our new friend Fred, the campsite kitten who’d been waiting for me to get up I think. Everywhere I go I adopt a cat! Herbs just shakes his head when the next one comes along, here we go again. We all had a slow breakfast and showers, no point in rushing cos everything’s shut from 12-2 anyway. Today we’re heading north up the coast. The first town we stopped at was a seaside town called Quende des la plage (which I think means by the sea). Gorgeous place but what a ghost town. Mind you everywhere is cos it’s shut for the winter. Took a walk down the beach front, just glorious.
Next seaside town was the town of Berck where sat on the sea wall eating a Buffalo sandwich which was like a baguette style burger with mayo and a can of cold coke. It was nice, although it didn’t quite agree with Sandie later on. Next stop was the quaint little town of Le Crotoy, one of my favourite places we went. They have a steam train that goes all the way from St Valery to Le Crotoy to the famous water tower (used a pic from last time as didn’t take any). Le Crotoy Water Tower

Lots of fresh shell seafood shops and little bars where stopped and had a Leffe to cool down a bit. Back to camp now for a swim and tea, no doubt Eric will be starving.
Pool slide at the camp site

Friday, September 26th. Well after a really cold night, I wasn’t going to get out of my tent in a hurry.
No rush to get up

The morning is still very fresh but it looks like it’s gonna be a beautiful day. Eric is starving as usual, surprise surprise. The girls sorted out the tents ready for the trip home tomorrow while the boys had a game of Frisbee. We decided to go for a little ride south down the coast this time. Got to keep exploring, too much to see, so little time.

The first town we stopped at was a town called Ault, which like the other towns we’ve visited was deserted. What a gorgeous view from the top of the chalk cliffs. Looks a bit like Dover, yes we really did go to France!
Ault cliffs (looking a bit like Dover)

We took a walk down to the bottom and had a clamber over the rocks and clambered back up again. Stopped at bar for a cold coke, as it was a scorching day, still not a cloud in the sky. Bet it’s raining at home.

After that we drove back up the coast to Cayeaux Sur Mer, just really drove through the town and headed back to the campsite. Eric was starving and just didn’t have enough food to get us through the day so we stopped off at the Intermarche again for supplies. Went back to the tent and stuffed ourselves so much that when we went for a swim after, I just couldn’t be bothered. It’s our last night tonight so we’re going to go find somewhere for a nice meal.

On the way into St Valery we’d found a nice little Pizzeria which looked nice after driving past it often enough. Each of us ordered a pizza, how big were they!
Big Pizza's

To be honest no one was really hungry cos it was only a few hours earlier that we’d stuffed our faces anyway. We ordered as best we could with the help of our phrase book which can only do so much. I ended up with anchovies on mine which were massive and as everyone knows a little goes a long way with them things. I ate only a little and left it, the cocktails were nice though. It was dark by the time we walked home, very, very dark in fact down the long lane. Lit the bbq just to keep warm a bit and had a quick beer before hitting the sack. We’re up at 6am in the morning to set off home.

Saturday morning September 27th, 6am and we drag ourselves out of bed and start packing, in the dark too. By 7.45am we were just about ready to go when Sandie’s bike decides to die. She’d been having trouble all week with the alarm going off willy nilly and now the immobiliser had kicked in and the ignition just would work. The boys tried all they could but in the end we called Mark at Jumbo’s for advice on it.

The only way to sort it before having to call breakdown people out was to retrace all the alarm wires back to find the fault. The boys worked hard and together they sorted it in the end. We all shrieked with delight when it started up! We’d already missed our train by this point but we weren’t worried as you can usually catch the next 2 after without being charged and with the delays anyway we would be fine. So we set off about 10amish and got to Calais Eurotunnel terminal about midday. Our train wasn’t until 2pm so we had plenty time to eat and do some duty free shopping. I treat myself to a bottle of Malibu and some perfume I’d wanted for ages. We’d had quite a cheap week so why not. Two hours passed quite quickly and soon we were on the train heading back home.
On the Channel Tunnel

I could have easily stayed another week, just look at that sky. We arrived back in the UK about 2pm and took a steady run home and luckily no delays. We got home about 7.30pm feeling very tired and very cold and with a very numb bum. 1009 miles my clock read now, wow.

And now you ask, who the hell is Eric, what was else do you call a worm that makes my tummy constantly hungry lol. I was always hungry so the others said I must have a worm so why not give it a name.

All in all a really fabulous trip was had by all, the culture, the way of life. I think we all contemplated living there at some point or another. Where next year? Well that remains to be seen.
Sunshine & Blue Skies

Lisa, Herbs, Sandie & Martin

September 2008