Thursday 28th June – Home to the Tunnel
We set off a little later than planned, for a variety reasons, with which I won’t bore you, but finally arrived at The Drum Inn (our first overnight stop) in Stanford, near Ashford at 17.30. The last time we were here, two years ago, we were pretty much the only people on site, but word must have got around and tonight it filled up pretty fast (15+ Units) but we had managed to get a prime spot thus avoiding the need to unhitch. Setting up was a quick matter as all we had to do was hook-up and put the steadies down.
Our table for dinner was booked at 19.00 and Paul had high hopes of watching the England v Belgium Match but to his disappointment, it was a World Cup-free pub (they DO exist!). The food was reasonable but slightly over priced for pub grub and we finished our meal in time for Paul to catch the 2nd half back at the van. Unfortunately, Belgium won 1-0 so not the best 45 mins of the first day of the holiday for Paul.
As we had a very early start, we went to bed early, feeling quite excited at the thought of being back in France for 2 weeks.
Fri 29th June – The Tunnel to Troyes
6.15 arrived way too quickly and we both leapt in to action, preparing breakfast to eat in the tunnel, upping the corner steadies, unplugging the electric supply and moving off. Several other campers were departing at the same time and we all made our way to the terminal in beautiful sunshine. We arrived in plenty of time for our booked crossing and managed to grab a coffee before being called – which was just as well as the queues for customs were particularly lengthy for some reason. As we were waiting to board, a delay of 30 mins was announced and so our breakfast (Special K with Red Berries) was devoured in the car, rather than in the tunnel.
Boarding and crossing were as efficient as ever, aside from the delay, and we soon found ourselves heading south through the French countryside. We traditionally stop at the first services to savour some proper French coffee and a pastry (in this case a crispy, sweet Chausson du Pomme).
It was a reasonably long drive (c. 400km) but we weren’t in a hurry and we made plenty of pit-stops. We eventually arrived at Troyes at around 17.00 about an hour later than expected, as Paul had to make a business call.The campsite – Camping De Troyes – was very easy to find, pretty popular and very conveniently located. There were not that many pitches left but we managed to squeeze between a couple of other English motor-homes and all was well.
After a restorative cuppa, we set off to explore Troyes, which was “shut” the last time we visited – due to Bastille Day preparations. It truly is a beautiful city and after a couple of circuits and a pop to the Supermarket for a couple of provisions, we partook of some fine dining courtesy of McDonald’s, albeit with a French “Royale” flair.
The campsite is set in woodland, with good facilities, swimming pool, onsite bar/restaurant and spotless showers/toilets – which we took advantage of, it having been a long hot drive. We then retired, ready for a slightly longer (c. 450km) hot drive the next day.
Sat 30th June – Troyes to Doussard
We left Troyes at 09.00 and after another long and hot drive, we arrived at our campsite – Le Lac Bleu – in Doussard, at the Southern end of the beautiful Lake Annecy. around 17.00. This was the second time we had visited the site. We rarely vist the same site twice but we had liked it so much in 2016, we decided to return and had booked the exact same pitch. Our arrival seemed to cause much consternation, there was a lot of staring (maybe it was the motor-mover?) and we actually had to politely turf off a sunbathing couple who had a taken a fancy to our pitch. After quickly getting setup, we immediately went for a swim to cool off.
Once dried off, we went for a bike ride to survey the “Voie Verte” a fantastic cycle path that runs all the way along the bed of a dis-used railway line from Albertville (site of the 1992 Winter OLympics) to Annecy, with access directly opposite our camp site. We rode up to the landing field (or “atterissage”) for the Paragliders, and whilst downing a cool biere, we watched as many landings took place – this being a really popular centre for Paragliding, Hang Gliding and Micro-Lights.
Whether it was the tiredness, alcohol or sun, we will never know but we found ourselves signing up for each of us to have a tandem flight the following day and with a €50 Euro deposit paid there was no going back!
Excited but with a large dollop of apprehension, we rode back to the site and had dinner at the on-site restaurant, which was a very pleasant end to the day. We had resolved to go to bed early and get up early to make the most of the daylight and so with every window open, plus a fan we settled down for the night with the temperature still in the high twenties. The last time we had visited this site, Archie had been with us and I could not help but think of him as I drifted off to sleep. We had loved taking him on holiday with us and gladly accepted the restrictions his presence placed upon us. We had resolved, as we knew it would be a bitter-sweet time, to do as much as we could to holiday differently, so that his absence would be less marked. I think we may have made a good start?
Sun 1st July – Le Lac Bleu
Our jump was not scheduled until 13.00, so we had some time to do a quick provision shop at the nearest large Carrefour. After getting everything stowed, we cooled down with a quick swim before heading off to the landing site for 12.30 check-in.
We were transported to the launch site, along with 3 other jumpers, the instructors and all of the gear in a “Delta Evasion” (very macho) transit van. The launch site is at the Col De La Forclaz. It was quite a narrow, steep and winding road to the top of the mountain giving everyone lots of time to chicken out! We were made of sterner stuff though and on arrival at the summit, grabbed our harnesses, hiked the last few hundred yards and lined up on the launch pad. This was basically a large section of astroturf – a runway that took you over the edge of the mountain.
I went first, with my crazy instructor Patrice, who had over 30 years experience of flirting, sorry I mean flying. Once hitched together and the para-wing laid out flat on the ground, Patrice told me to start running, which I duly did and within seconds we were airborne. It was all so fast I didn’t have time to feel nervous!
It is absolutely amazing…. I could bang on about it for hours but I’d run out of superlatives! And it ended all too soon. I had told him we were staying at Le Lac Bleu and he took us over there. He also let me fly the thing for a while, which was fab.
Paul, who had followed me in to the air with an equally experienced, but rather less flirty female instructor (typically he cannot remember her name) actually landed before me and managed to film my landing, which was very graceful (if I say so myself!) and not at all bumpy. We were both exhilarated after our experience and celebrated with a beer and a hotdog – French style. Here’s my landing!
Still smiling like Cheshire Cats, we returned to the campsite for another swim and then started to prepare the boat for our first outing on the lake. The electric outboard quickly took us out to the middle of our section of lake and from our vantage point, we could really appreciate the beauty and splendour of our surroundings. The lake is like a bowl, with its sides fashioned from mountains, including the landmark “Teeth” (as I call them), which are more correctly known as “Les Dents de Lanfon“.
With the outboard turned off we gently drifted, whilst catching some rays and reading our Kindles. Once we had reached the desired temperature, we returned to shore and had yet another swim – so refreshing.
Next job was building the Cadac to cook our Chinese Pork dinner, which was delicious and then a quick bike ride to work off our supper, which made us a little hot and sweaty, so guess what – we went for another swim. Seems like I spent most of today getting dressed and undressed, but that really was our last swim of the day and we happily retired to our bed, wondering what adventures tomorrow might bring.