Day 1 From home to France 30th June
Weeks of planning and research had finally come to fruition. Everything was packed in the car, the bikes were on the roof and Archie had a shiny new pet passport. Paul had actually, finally turned his PC off and we jumped in the car. We drove to the bottom of our very short road, had just rounded the corner when it happened. BANG!! One of our neighbours had reversed out of their drive without looking and hit the caravan squarely on the corner.
We were devastated. We thought it was our holiday down the pan. On inspection, whilst our pride and joy was looking very sorry for itself and will probably cost quite a lot to repair, the damage seemed to be pretty much cosmetic (although none the less annoying) and after consulting with another neighbour, caravanner and key witness, we decided to go for it.
We were delayed by about half an hour by the incident, by the time we exchnaged insurance details and had consoled our poor neighbour who was distraught and very close to tears. I ended up feeling very sorry for her despite the damage she had caused, no one was hurt, it was all repairable and we had a very good witness. It could have been SO much worse.
Luckily, we had allowed plenty of contingency time and we set off up the A3 in reasonable spirits. All was going swimmingly and then just as we approached the Hindhead Tunnel portal, we noticed brakelights coming on and then we ground to a halt. Here we sat for 45 minutes, finally ascertaining that the cause of the delay was a load of spilt gravel ! Could things get any worse ?
We continued our journey, hitting a few rough spots on the M25 but arrived in time to check in at Eurotunnel, by the “skin of our teeth”. Check-in was a simple matter and there was no requirement to show Archie’s new passport, so we sailed straight on to the train.
We were a little concerned about how Archie would react to the train, as he is a bit of a wuss when it comes to trains, but he did not bat an eyelid. In fact he snoozed all the way across, until that is, we started eating our late lunch !
The journey to our first overnight spot was uneventful and we were greeted by Guy, the proprietor like old friends. We had checked ahead and been told by his wife Bridget that the on-site restaurant would be open, but on checking, we were told it was not open. We ordered our bread and Viennoiseries, for tomorrow’s breakfast and went to our allocated pitch.
We had decided to do a very rudimentary set up, to save time, so we did without hook-up, used an old washing up bowl for our waste and employed a kettle to fetch water from the tap – we have done this before and it worked out fine.
We did not fancy cooking on our first night, so went off in search of food. We had heard tell of a friterie in nearby Lederzeeler, but sadly this was closed, so it was off to Saint-Omer the nearest “big” town. Sadly it seemed that Saint-Omer was also closed but we did take the opportunity of having a little explore, despite our grumbling tums.
There is a canal (canalised portion of the River Aa) running through St Omer, which connects with the Neufosse canal before exiting in to the North Sea. We also particularly liked the old ruined St Bertin Abbey, closed during the revolution and demolished in 1830 – all but the tower.
The 157ft high Tower collapsed in 1947 due to WW2 shelling. The ruin created a suitable backdrop for the dramatic statue of St Bertin, who unlike most Saints had a fulfilled, long and happy life lasting 94 years.
By now we were getting desperate, and to our eternal shame, we had to resort to the local “Drive In” McDonalds, although I must say the French Franchise does seem to produce a higher grade of burger and very good coffee ! Worth bearing in mind if you find yourself in similar desperate circumstances.
Day 2 Buysscheure to Luxembourg 1st July
Camping La Chaumiere (where we have stayed before) really is in the sticks and there was not a sound to be heard all night. We slept until 9 and then Paul went to collect the bread. Whilst out on his walk, he met another camper who told him that the lovely Bridget has left Guy and he is managing the site alone now, very sad and perhaps the reason for the restaurant closure.
After breakfast, packing up was a quick matter and we were on our way to Luxembourg. The first large place we passed through was on an unusually high (for this region) piece of land. It was called Cassel and there were some beautiful Gardens of Remembrance. It was particularly poignant as today was the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. The gardens have a vantage point over the fields of Flanders and we took a moment to think of our poor dead boys.
Actually, the entire trip was like a tour of WW1 battlefields as the route took us near such famous names as Armentieres, Loos, Bethune , Tournais and Mons.
We crossed into Belgium around midday. We thought it was time Arch stretched his legs and relieved himself. We stopped at the very first aire in Belgium and it was like a dirty, disgusting run down car park. We would have driven straight out but the traffic was backed up so we had a quick stretch, Archie performed and Paul found some – er – human waste. Yuk!
We pressed on towards our destination and eventually found a very pleasant aire, complete with a Starbucks so we stopped for lunch. I hastily knocked up some rolls whilst Paul went to get the coffees. Very nice it all was too.
Belgium is pretty flat and – dare I say it – unremarkable. Sorry Belgian people. We crossed quite a few rivers and canals – some very wide, with some large locks and commercial shipping. But the most impressive was at Namur, where the road crossed the river Meuse. Namur is the capital of Wallonia, one of the 3 regions of Belgium (the others being Ardennes, home of pate and the Flemish region – home of er……) and hosts the Walloon Parliament.
We crossed the border into the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg around 3 pm and found it to be very woody. It is, apparently, the size of Northamptonshire and, interestingly, it is the only Grand Duchy left in the world.
We were heading for Camping Kocklescheuer which is just south of Luxembourg City. We are staying for two nights, giving us a day to explore a bit. We found the site easily and did a proper set up and then had a snooze (or beepy, for the initiated). It’s very pleasant on the site, although it does seem to be on the flight path for the airport!
We awoke refreshed and eager to orientate ourselves. We set off towards Bettembourg in search of food but once again, struck out. We really need to get better at this!! We are too fussy (OK it’s me. I am too fussy). We weren’t that bothered as there was an on-site friterie. We arrived back on site at 8.10. The friterie closed at 8 pm. I hope this run of bad luck ends soon!
Luckily, I had brought a couple of pouches of ham and cheese risotto in case of emergencies, which this seemed to be. I have had worse things to eat. But not much! It was fuel at best. We read for a while to let it digest and also did a little work on this blog and then it was time for bed. Fortunately the aircraft noise had more or less subsided and we had another peaceful and restorative night.