Category Archives: road trip

Home for the next few days

A short drive later we’ve arrived at Grange Farm in Brighstone, a lovely little campsite overlooking the sea which at this time of year is nice and quiet, just how we like it. Our pitch is level and we have electricity but best of all our door opens out to a view of the sea, I grabbed a quick shot of Lolly and Bumblebee with the sea in the background.


The facilities look fine, showers, toilets, laundry, waste disposal if you have one of those big motor homes and loads of safe places for kids to run about, there are also plenty of animals too including sheeps, pigs, horses, alpacas and wild rabbits, there are chooks and ducks too but at the time of writing there is an avian flu outbreak so anything with wings is being kept in a barn till the all clear is given.

There is a costal path that runs along the bottom of the site right were we are so every now and again a bunch of ramblers wander past, when we checked in we were told that might happen but we don’t mind.

Before setting out Lolly made us a cup of tea and we scoffed a scotch egg each, I had a cake too because why not, we’re on holiday!


We’ve downloaded about 20 or so walks you can do from the National Trust of which we are both members, we picked an easy one along the coastal path from our campsite, it starts by making your way from the campsite down to the beach, the waves crashing against the shore throw up a mist that makes the coastline look almost foggy.


We looked about the beach for a little bit and noticed there was loads of plastic waste that had washed in from the sea, sad times.

I did get a nice picture of Lolly though by an abandoned lobster pot.

From here there are signs for the costal path that take you up to the cliffs edge, we followed the steps up and walked for about an hour or so without seeing anyone or anything until we came across what looked like some fly tipping Isle of Wight style.


It seems this was a regular spot for burning stuff and is probably cheaper than paying to dump it responsibly. At this point we decided to head back and go to the pub, it took us about an hour to get back to the van and 15 minutes to walk to the pub, The 3 Bishops. 


The food here was really good, I had a double patty cheese and bacon burger and Lolly had a fish pasta that had more fish than pasta in it, if you are over this way pop in.

After we finished we headed off back to the van to chill, watch a movie and then bed. 

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Day 3

Our 3rd day in France has turned out to be somewhat epic, I can honestly say this is the best view I’ve woken up to on a Tuesday in a long while. 

Our day started much like any other on this trip, tea with the added bonus of a nice lie in.  There was much faffing about and we didn’t get ourselves ready to do anything on the bikes till about two, we met a bloke in the car park called Sven who was from Norway but his accent was a mix of Scottish, Irish and Norwegian, he gave me his bike pass for five euros as he paid for the day but was too shattered to ride anymore, result, a ticket to the bike park costs 25 Euros and when I say bike park I mean a lift up 3200 meters to the glacier and a while mountain to play on. 

Being a glacier, there is snow at the top, we were wearing shorts and t shirts and there was at least one dude snowboarding, it was fairly cold. 


We decided to chip off sharpish and make our decent to warmer climes, before we set off I asked Lolly to get a picture of me on a mountain bike on an actual mountain.  


The way the tracks are marked out is a little confusing, the one we were following shared the same name ia a few runs that are sign posted for winter activities, we ended up on a few reds which I was alright with but lolly struggled, we stopped by a lake to take stock and find our way to a blue run down. 


The blue run we took was definitely not a blue, more a red in my book, I loved it but Lolly wasn’t so keen and walked a lot of the trail, when we got to the end of the blue we had the option of another blue or a green, we took the green which lolly found a lot more enjoyable. 

As if mentioned earlier, I always wanted to see what a ski resort looks like in summer, below gives you an idea, slightly like Mars! 

As we made our way down there were a few photo ops. 



Once we reached the bottom we swerved into a bar for a couple of beers to celebrate making it down in one piece. We really enjoyed the downhill trails and if you are ever in this neck of the woods it’s a great day out. 

We finished our beers and made our way back to the van to make some food, BBQ pork loins, rice and salad.

Our food was awesome, we watched the second episode of Stranger Things, loving it! 

Tomorrow we’re off to meet Lindi and Ian, 7am start, they have a shower in their motorhome, winner! 

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Day 2

Not a lot to say about day 2, we made our way to the Alps which meant 12 hours on the road, not all of it was driving, we stopped at an Aire and I grabbed a couple of hours sleep in my  laybag while lolly consulted the maps and Aire books looking for the best place to stay, we settled for Les Deux Alps. 

We managed to get a shower as well, fairly ghetto setup in a car park and at lease one motorist saw me naked but it was worth it to feel clean again, you can see the shower laying on the roof to the right. 


After a lot of driving we arrived and were greeted by some stunning mountain views. 


We cooked some burgers, drank some booze, watched the first episode of Stranger Things and went to bed, we don’t have to drive anywhere tomorrow so we’re off exploring the mountain, can’t wait! 

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Day 1

Our trip to France started with a 21st birthday party in Hertfordshire and camping in a bloke called Bob’s back garden. He has a lovely house in a little village called Furneux Pelham and had offered to host Billies 21st. Billie is Lauren’s cousin. When we arrived there was a good sprinkling of family chatting away and some of Billies guests in the pool, they’re quite a sensible lot, if someone had let me borrow their house and pool for a 21st birthday it would have been proper carnage!

As the evening progressed the only people that seemed to get smashed was us oldies, either the 21 year old massive didn’t drink or they held it down well, I was probably too smashed to notice. 

Bob’s garden is massive as demonstrated by the small band of travellers that stayed the night in their wagons taking up no room at all. 

Our alarm went off at 05.00, nothing like getting up at stupid o’clock to go on holiday, we made a brew and then lolly went for a dip. 

We had a chat with Lollys mum and dad who are also travelling to France, made a fairly loose arrangement with them and then headed off for the ferry. 


The roads were deserted apart from the odd tool driving in the middle lane forever, rather that then traffic. 

In no time at all we could see the sea which meant Dover wasn’t too far away. 


The crossing was relatively uneventful tho I did buy a new Bluetooth speaker, haven’t tested it yet but am sure it will sound way better than the one I have at the moment which is average at best and a blatant rip off of something that should be way more expensive. 

We left Calais and made straight for a little village called Chemin du cal serin, it’s about 2 or so hours drive heading in the direction of Marseilles. We’re stopping in this village as a couple we met last year recommend the Aire, for 5 euros a night you get water, electricity, WC and a nice view of an old castle. 

When we arrived all the spots were taken so in true Mark Ashley / Croydonia style we made our own space. 


We hadn’t eaten since we arrived in Dover so we set about getting some food cooking, chicken on the trusty Cobb and Lolly knocked up a lovely salad, rice and coleslaw.


After cooking the chicken the Cobb was still roasting hot so we cooked up all our sausages before they went off and chucked a couple of corns on and left them to cook while we went for a wander up to Coucy-le-chateau-auffrique. 


What’s surprising about this place is there is a whole little village built around the ruin and there is a community of friendly goats roaming about the place too, they are really friendly if you have food. 

Much to Lollys dismay we’d arrived just as the local boot fair was packing up so no wandering about looking at people’s stuff they’re trying to get rid of, we did however have a good look about the town and unfortunately just missed the tour of the castle. After about 30 minutes we came across the track we’d come so decided to head back down to the van, do all the washing up from earlier, have a little wander and then crash for the night. 

We took a walk down a lane not far from the van which will be forever remembered as mosquito alley, bastard things everywhere, I’d already been bitten once and now have a temporarily inflated foot. I’ve been bitten a few more times since that walk, we retreated to van and watched the final two episodes of Wayward Pines, ate a considerable amount of chocolate and then went to bed. 

All in all a successful first day, no fuel issues either which is a bonus, the only downside to living like this is not much in the way of showers, we do have a camping shower but I’d set that up a bit late so it hadn’t heated up very much by the time we got back to use it. 

The combination of solar panels and split charge system is keeping the battery charged and fridge powered up which means our food keeps and if I ever get any beers they will be cold. 

We’re off to the mountains tomorrow, I’ve always wanted to see a ski resort in summer so that’s what we’re doing, with any luck we’ll have a shower too! 

 

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And we’re off !

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It’s that time of year when Lolly and I pack up the Bee and head off in search of sunshine and adventure..

We are heading to France again but all we’ve booked is our crossings, everything else will be made up along the way. I’ve added some solar panels to the van so we can go a bit more off piste and not rely on having to be hooked up to keep the fridge going.

Our crossing is tomorrow AM, we’re off to a 21st birthday and then the adventure begins which i’ll update here as it happens, can’t wait to get going!

Missing the train. 

Our last morning and we woke to no rain, a bit of sun and a small patch of blue sky, marvellous. We had a few things to see before we headed home so we did our usual morning things, packed up the van and parked it in the campsite car park.

Our first port of call was lidls for breakfast, 2 pain au chocolat’s each, they went down fairly sharpish and we made our way to town. We parked up our bikes by the stadhuis and headed in there to have a look at the gothic hall.


It’s a pretty impressive hall and also the only place you can get married in Bruges, I can think of worse places to tie the knot!

There is a kind of display of coins and notes but understandably, none of it is in English so we had a brief look and then made our way to the Belfry if Bruges.

The belfry is not for the faint hearted, it’s a 366 step climb to the top with a few stops on the way, the stairs are thin and windy and there is two way traffic.

I did take some pictures of the top but they are on my other camera, i’ll add them when I get home.

The highlight for me was being in the bell tower when all the bells started going off, what an amazing sound!

We still had some shopping to do, I was also trying find somewhere that sold a cool little hat I’d seen, food was also required.

After trying various beer shops i’d pretty much given up on finding my hat so we stopped off for some food at a bar we went to the day before, it’s was heaving that day so we’d given it a swerve but today it was ok, we sat at the bar and just out of curiosity I asked if they had any of the Christmas chouffes in stock and the hat you get if you drink three, they only had two left but they also had a hat, they said I could have it for drinking two, result!


We had one each and that was all I could have as I had to drive later, they’re 10% each. Lolly ordered a bush Noel with her food and I had some water. Our food was pretty good, I had Trappist cheese croquet to start followed by rabbit in prune stew with potato croquet, Lauren had scallops in a cheese sauce followed by a Flemish stew, all were lovely.

Time was against us, we still had some beer to buy, a 10 min ride to the van and then at least an hours drive to Calais.

We got the beer, made the van in ten minutes, arsed about with the sat nav and eventually got off to Calais, we missed our train despite my best efforts, no dramas though, we got put on the next one for free.

We had a great time in Bruges, the Christmas market was rubbish but the food, beer, historical stuff and atmosphere of the town was great, when I get home I will update this post with all the places we visited, meanwhile, here’s some pictures of us with beers.


This was near the end of the beer and food night, the beers are starting to take their toll !

On Lollys birthday night I had to order the weakest beer they had as I was half cut when we got there, this beer was cheaper than water….

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Bad times. 

It was all goin so well until we tried to get off the Eurostar, starter motor decided to just spin until it burnt out, joy, can’t start the van. 

We got towed off, bump started and were on our way again, we can’t turn the van off as we won’t be able to start it again without a bump start, feels like we’re in that movie speed!

It was all looking better, then this happened on the A16. 

  
Hopefully nobody is hurt, we’re not. 

  
It at least gave me a chance to call ahead to a vw garage in Bruges to get the van fixed, hope they can fix it today, we need to sleep in it tonight. 

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Onwards to Bruges!

  
So here we are on the Eurostar waiting to depart. Should have left 30 minutes ago, never mind! We’re on holiday and that’s all that matters, tonight we’ll be scoffing waffles and quaffing beers, that’s the plan anyways. Must remember not to put petrol in the van 🙂

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Le Conclusion

We’ve been home almost a week now, I went straight back to work, Lolly had the remainder of the week off before starting her new job. It’s the longest trip we’ve done in the van both in distance (just over 2000 miles) and time (21 days), I thought it would be a good idea to write down what we would do differently next time and things we (mainly me) would like to do to the van for our next adventure. 

I also need to cut my grass!

  
Moving About

We both agree that whilst it was nice to move about and see different places if we do it again, we’ll get as far as we want to go and then stay there for a while, maybe spend a couple of days getting somewhere, hold up for a week, then move on somewhere not too far away, stay there for more than a couple of nights, less moving the better. It’s a pain packing up the van every other day, taking all the thermal curtains down, putting the bed up, moving the surfboards from the back to the front and then back again when taking off, it would be much easier if we could arrive, set up camp and then leave it like that for a bit.

Stuff

I doubt we’d take much less, maybe less clothes (especially if we head back to Montalivet) and i’d deffo find a better way to store the body boards as they take up a lot of room in the van, there are a couple of things i’d take next time for sure. I will definitely have on board a reverse polarity adapter for the 240v hook up. We came across this twice, once in an aire and once at a campsite, from what I have read a lot of the Flot Bleu aire’s are wired up reverse which could wreak all sorts of havoc on your electrics, luckily our PMS 3 has a reverse polarity indicator.

I’d like to see if I could get another top box on the roof, in there i’d put all the bedding and one of those fold up table and chairs for when we eat or just wanted to sit outside the van.

Van upgrades.

Solar, I definitely want a solar solution for the leisure battery, whilst I enjoyed staying at the campsites with all their facilities I also really enjoyed staying at the aires, most of which had no electricity supply. I could keep the fridge going for a lot longer which would mean Lolly would have ice for her G&T’s (plus the ice won’t melt and flood the fridge), i’d have cold beers and our food would keep, the split charge kit has massively helped keep the charge up when on the move as has rewiring the fridge.

A pop top, i’ve never really seen the point of them until I saw Dickie and Julias van, I really liked the fact that they didn’t have to fold down their seats in the rear when it was time for bed, they just popped the roof, put their duvet and pillows up there and climbed up to crash, they also have a sunroof so I wouldn’t have to ditch ours which is a feature I really like. I would however have to revisit how the top box attaches to the roof, rails bolted to the pop top would do the job.

An awning, more for rain than sun, it does sometimes rain when cruising about the place in summer and to have a shelter to sit under while nature does it’s thing would be much nicer than having to sit in the van with all the stuff we just chucked in to prevent it getting wet !

Curtains, Van-x preferably, our just kamper thermal curtains are great but they are annoying to deploy, lots of licking and then occasionally falling down in the night, curtains for the rear and two side windows would be great.

Location

We really enjoyed France and both feel we have a lot more to explore and will definitely be going back, we’d both really like to do a similar trip in Spain and then maybe Morocco, dreams for now but you never know !

There is a part of me that looked enviously at the size and space the huge motorhomes had that we were frequently parked up next to, also having your own toilet and shower means you could do a whole trip without ever going to a campsite using just your own facilities, what puts me off is pretty much all of the owners had upwards of 20 years on us, we’re not ready to roll with the olds, we’re still reasonably young and happy being in the cool crowd with our lovely yellow T4  !

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Le End

As we left Chambord a lot later than intended we drove through the night, French motorways aren’t like ours, no cats eyes, no lights.

This would be fine if you had a decent set of headlights, we don’t, DRL’s look nice but even with night breaker bulbs installed they’re still not that great, that being said they were good enough to get us to our destination, Plage merlimont.

The aire is well sign posted though you are sent through a new housing estate and we did wonder if our sat nav had crapped out  as an aire couldn’t possibly be in among all this new housing, it wasn’t, you go through the estate to get to the beach and just before the beach is the aire, it’s nothing special, just a car park for motorhomes with free fresh water and somewhere to empty your waste water if you have any, I cracked a beer, Lauren made some food, we both put the thermal curtains up, ate our food and crashed.

It was a bit colder this closer to England and we’re both fairly certain that’s why we slept so well, best nights sleep on the last day of the holiday because it was cold, how very English..

Sun greeted us the next day despite the forecast being rain, I took a picture of the aire for no particular reason other than to demonstrate how unfantastic it was.

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As always, first thing in the morning I needed to use the loo so I took a wander toward the beach where I assumed the toilet mentioned in the aire would be located, as I got closer I noticed there were a lot of people looking out to sea, I couldn’t really see anything so figured i’d use the loo and then go see what everybody was looking at, turns out there was a colony of seals on the beach basking in the morning sun.

I’ve never seen so many seals, they didn’t look like they were going anywhere in a hurry so I walked back to the van, made some tea for myself and Lolly, grabbed my camera and we both went back to look at the seals, Lolly has a theory that seals hang out on the beach so THEY can watch the humans that come to look at them, I see no reason for this not to be possible!

I don’t really do much zoom photography and as such I don’t have a very good zoom lens, the photo below is the best I could do with my 28mm-135mm.

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Lolly had our binoculars we got free from the national trust, we sat for about an hour just watching them lay about in the sun, we spotted a few more swimming in and then quite quickly the tide followed them, we had a great spot to watch them from but had to vacate fairly swiftly to avoid the incoming tide, it was starting to cloud over and just before we headed to the shore I took a nice shot of the seals from a distance.

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Before the weather turned we took a walk along the rest of the beach, after about an hour we returned to the van, packed up and went to Aldi, Lolly’s mum has a party in the not too distant future so we bought a load of cheap booze, 24 beers for 5 euros, we bought 7 crates and 8 bottles of fizzy wine for a toast! We also bought lunch, bread, cheese and ham, very continental, there was another beach not too far so we parked up and went for a final beach side picnic.

The sun came out again which was lovely, we ate our lunch and basked in the warmth knowing our return to Blighty was only a couple of hours away, turns out it wasn’t. We thought our crossing was at about 18.00 but we’d figured when we’d booked the crossing that we’d want as much time in France on our last day as possible so our crossing wasn’t till 20.50, I was a little upset to be honest as I’d kind of got my head in a space where we were off and I didn’t want to hang about for another couple of hours, that was until we went back to the beach and saw these!

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What you can see here are the remains of a german StP bunker that featured a tank turret, ammunition bunker and open emplacements for 5cm KWK pak guns though I couldn’t tell you which bit relates to what, I got all that information from here.

We spent a good bit of time walking among the remains of the bunker and photographing the various structures and their artwork.

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If you look closely on the second picture you will see a sign that states in French the beach beyond is a naturist beach, more naked people but nothing quite on the scale of the naked site. The beach is massive, we walked for at least half an hour before turning back and we hadn’t even got halfway along it, on our return trip we came across a jelly fish.

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I threw it back into the sea but I think it had perished, I know jelly fish don’t really do much but this one did nothing when returned to the sea.

When we got back to where the bunker was I set the camera up and got our last picture of the holiday.

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From there we went back to the van and drove to Calais which was about an hour away, we were delayed (not immigrant related) so i grabbed a burger king and Lolly bought gin with the last of our euros, the remainder of the trip involved a train, the M20, the M25, remembering to drive on the left and then bed, work the following morning, joy.

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