Tuesday 23 June 2015

Journey Beginnings: Yorkshire, UK - Biscarosse Plage, FR

England and France, 20th – 24th December 2014

Leaving the UK

The start of our journey was in the same vein as most of the things we do: massively behind schedule.  We had the van taken to be weighed on the Friday before our Sunday ferry, only to discover that we needed to ditch approximately 220kg of weight to be under the 3.5 tonne weight limit after we’d spent a couple of weeks packing the van.  Having left Matt’s house,
we’d called at a weighbridge en route to meet his parents, brother and godparents for a meal in York, so that we had a weighbridge ticket, expecting that it would easily be under. But that wasn’t the case!

Saturday was spent sorting through everything in the van and offloading as much weight as possible, weighing and making a record of everything taken out.  We were helped by there being more water in the waste tank than expected, which we measured out into a bucket (60L so 60kg). After getting to the point where we couldn’t possibly think of anything else to remove (other than the roofbox Matt, cough cough), we finally decided that we could just about manage if we stuck to not filling up the water tank to full and emptying the waste water at every possible opportunity while we were away (we would later discover upon having the van reweighed a couple of months later in the UK that the payload was significantly smaller than the figure we found online due to the optional extras added to the van and fresh water not being included, but we were unaware of this at the time).

By the time we had finally finished preparing the van it was around 11:00pm, and our ferry was first thing in the morning.  We left our location in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire (Jo’s family), and travelled 234 miles through the night down to the ferry in Dover, stopping several times for caffeine (and at one point we experienced the first casualty of the trip in which a McDonalds ketchup sachet was spilled on Jo’s freshly washed jeans), until we finally arrived in Dover around 5:00am.  There is a small section along the seafront where there are no parking restrictions for motorhomes, and although there was some noise from locals, we managed to get a couple of hours sleep before the ferry.

Driving through France

The ferry crossing was calm and when we arrived on the other side we made our way across to park by the dock in Calais so we could get our bearings and plan our route.  We wanted to get to the south-west coast so the next couple of days were spent mainly travelling south, stopping just for eating, shopping or sleeping.  As it was a Sunday when we arrived we struggled to find an open supermarket in France, so we had to make do with the bits of food we’d brought with us from the UK until Monday morning – something to bear in mind for future travels.

Aire at Cléres, France
Aire at Villaines-les-Rocher, France
Our first overnight stop was in an Aire de Camping Cars in the village of Cléres, nr. Rouen in Normandie (GPS N49.60228, E1.11667, €0 + extra charge for fresh water), which was quiet spare for a few church bells during the night, and was also occupied by a couple of other vans.  After a lie in to catch up on some sleep we travelled down the N10 and our next overnight stop was an Aire in Villaines Les Rochers (GPS N47.22083 E0.49583), which again was free of charge and also had free fresh water.  Both of these were found using the Camperstop Europe book.

In the morning at Villaines Les Rochers, after another lie in we replenished our fresh water and emptied our grey water tank, and went for a walk around the village.  It was fairly quiet and most things were closed up over the Christmas holidays.

Aire at Bourg-sur-Gironde, France
Our journey from here was much more scenic than the previous few days as we were travelling down a lot of open country lanes and the sun was out for a fair portion of it.  Our final stop was when we had made it down to the Bordeaux region and we stopped in a town on the River Gironde called Bourg-sur-Gironde.  This Aire was a parking area on the waterfront section of town (€0, fresh/grey/black water facilities available outside the town campsite a minute’s drive away, no charge). After dinner we tested our 3G mobile internet with our new 3 SIM that uses UK data allowance with their ‘Feel at home’ scheme.

Washing baths in Bourg
In our exploration of Bourg we came across some old washing baths that had once been used by the locals for cleaning clothes – not sure whether anyone still used them or whether it was just there as a tourist sight.

As the town was a harbour town we saw a great deal of boats, but not many people.  We spotted a wreckage of a boat that was half submerged in the water which Matt took a couple of pictures of.
We made it to Arcachon Bay, and drove through the centre of Arcachon itself.  It looked like there was some form of Christmas market going on, but we couldn’t see anywhere suitable to park and it was getting on a bit so we decided to find somewhere to stay for the night and to come back and explore Arcachon in a few days when we visited the Dune du Pilat.

We made it down to Biscarrosse Plage, and when we were exploring the town there were a lot of signs for no overnighting where they have cracked down a lot on motorhoming (we have heard this is widespread across this stretch of France now to keep most people paying for the Aires), and although there were a couple of French motorhomes dotted about we didn’t want to be disturbed in the night and asked to move, so we decided to stay on the Biscarrosse Aire (€8 a night, includes one use of  water service point, no EHU).  The Aire was in a wooded area that was also a parking area for cars for the beach, but as it was Christmas Eve we were the only ones there overnight. We settled down for the night with a film on DVD.

Signing off for now,
Matt and Jo

Foreboding skies over the harbour at Bourg-sur-Gironde 

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