Tag Archives: Motorhoming

To Alsace & back – Days 10 & 11

Rocroi to Embrey – 15th October

The last of our Kugelhopf was consumed at exactly 13:55hrs today. What the heck am I going to enjoy now?
On a more sobering thought we stopped en-route today just outside Arras where there was a British Cemetery dedicated to the fallen in the First World War.

First World War British cemetery at Duisanes, nr Arras

Many, many people have visited these special sites over the years, many, many tourist, motor-homers and residents cannot help but be moved by these beautifully manicured spaces of remembrance. Although sad, they are a fitting reminder of our past and worthy of an occasional visit to show our respect, also to remind us about the horrors of war. So many, so young, so sad – I do not know of anyone in our family who fought in either the first or second world war, yet I shed a tear for these brave young men, not only British, there were boys and men from all over the commonwealth and respectfully German graves as well. More than 3000 people are buried here, this a tiny plot given by the locals as a token of their respect for helping to liberate their country.

I do not know this person or their family – I just thought it fitting to remember him. Maybe at some future date I’ll look into his history.

I hope this is not an intrusion for the family.

Nothing I can add

Onward to Embrey – today was a 150 mile drive, I’m beginning to think this is about my limit when driving in France. Janette did offer to drive for which I am very grateful, I just prefer driving than being a passenger. Embrey is a wonderful little aire, about 50 miles from Calais. We came across the first British motor-homers, David & Joyce who were on their way home after a 10 week European trip which included Croatia. Seasoned travellers.
When we left Rocroi we tried to fill up with water from the Urba Flux point – what a nonsense, two euro’s stolen from the card and still no water came out. This was the first time we had attempted to use the service point at an aire, before we came away I was worried about these things – this did not fill us with confidence, however, we had plenty of bottled water, so was not really a problem. When we arrived at Embrey there was a ‘Fot Bleu’ machine so we gave this a go – much easier, a machine to dispense ‘Jetons’ bought with our euro loaded card, pop the jeton into the machine and hey – ho, easy peasy, we had some water.

Ferry back to UK – 16th October

Because we were only about 50 miles away and our ferry was at 14:00hrs we took a slow drive along the coast from Bologne to Calais. Neither of us had driven this before and it was an absolute joy. Such a change to hammering down the ‘peage’ worrying about getting to the ferry on time.
A beautiful day – gave Hilma a last drink of French Gazole, we then topped up our tummy’s with some pain-au-raisin as we stopped overlooking La Manche in glorious sunshine. We had never stayed in this region before and were very surprised by the diversity – just inland rolling hills and valleys whilst within a few miles dunes and beaches, definitely worth a couple of days stopover in the future. There I go, planning what to do next. Well I think at the end of a holiday that is a normal thing to do. We are already thinking about Ireland, Brittany and the Camargue – how are we going to fit it all in?
We will!

To Alsace & back – Days 8 & 9

Eguisheim to Millery – 13th October

So we leave the beautiful autumn golden vines of the Alsace to turn our noses North for our homeward journey. We are not in a hurry though, we are going to take 4 days to get back to the ferry and enjoy the slow drive back. Climbing out of the Rhine valley was gorgeous, this time of year brings a charm all of its own, the countryside bathed in a low light with the trees glowing, each one on their own autumnal journey. At the top of the climb (a few km’s of 6% but very manageable) we stopped for a coffee and Kugelhopf in a layby.

The Kugelhopf in all it’s uneaten glory!

Today we are off to an Aire at Millery (Lat: 48.8159N / Long: 6.12701E) situated just above Nancy and on the banks of the R.Moselle. Upon arrival there were 4 vans well spaced apart, by the time darkness fell there were 14! A bit of a squeeze. We had a little wander around Millery finding the old outdoor Lavarie that had been lovingly restored along with the church. There was some signs that the older residents were not in favour of such ‘rapid’ change with a huge sign on someone’s garage asking to sign a petition against the tide of change.

Fantastic timber work in the reconstructed Millery lavoire

The dodgy duo – enjoying the setting sun on the banks of the Moselle

The Friday night youths were out on their busy little hairdriers but by 10:00pm all had quietened down.

Millery to Rocroi – 14th October

An early mist greeted us coming off the Moselle which made the aire very atmospheric, someone had already left at 6:00am, someone else had launched a boat both of which woke me early. Cup of tea in bed then!
We did get off to an early start making sure our fog lights were working – but there was a snag. Although our pull-out bike rack has lights fitted it did not have a fog light, that was fitted on the main light cluster and was hidden by the bike cover. I didn’t feel comfortable traveling without the fog light on display (I’m sure the Gendarme wouldn’t approve) so off came the bike cover and the glorious fog light could now shine through the spokes giving the French tailgaters an ample view of Hilma’s bottom (note: not Hilma’s ample bottom).
A coffee break half way (with more Kugelhopf of course – Janette is going to get the recipe) and we decided to motor on all the way to Rocroi, set up camp and then have lunch. Upon reaching the edge of town we were stunned by this pretty little aire (Lat: 49.92347N / Long: 4.51705E).

Hilma sitting pretty at Rocroi

The Rocroi Aire – just below the town fortress walls

There were already some vans ensconced on the site but there was plenty of space. In ‘All the Aires North’ book by Vicarious Books it states there are 6 spaces – but clearly there is room for more. As I write this there are 8 of us and probably more to come if last night was anything to go by.
After lunch we decided to take a walk around the old town walls which in fact is a Star-Fort built by Henri II started in 1555 and gradually added too throughout the centuries.

The manicured walls and ramparts of the Rocroi star fortress

A fascinating walk, there are circuits for bikes around the outside and fitness exercise stations to work off all that Kugelhopf!

Janette – doing an impression of Olga Korbut (for those people of a certain age who remember)

……. and in final selection training for the SAS

The real Olga Korbut – for the avoidance of doubt

To Alsace & back – Day 3

8th October
Lac du Val Joly, Eppe-Sauvage

Before leaving our overnight stop we decided now that we no longer have Raggs we need to do some brisk walking (good cross-training to compliment my running). Walking down to the lake we found a mini entertainment complex rather like a smaller version of Center Parcs. Lots of activities that could be done in the high season with plenty of cycle and walking routes to suit all. A great place to stop, maybe for a couple of nights and explore the surrounding paths. That said I would think at the height of the season space would be at a premium. Even at this time of year there were 17 motorhomes on the site (could easily fit 30).
Because we were splitting the journey to the Alsace over 3 days we could choose our route without having to feel like chewed cardboard at the end of each day. The first part of today’s journey we had to negotiate our way through Verdun – Mrs. SatNav did a great job of getting us around the town, not sure we could have done it without her. Once out on the open road we revert to the Michelin regional maps at 1:200,000 (1cm = 2km) which I have to say (backed up by a road atlas) are good for getting an overview of the route whilst giving great detail. The problem with Mrs. SatNav is she wants to take us the most direct route which may not be where we want to go (or dare I say it, even suitable for Hilma’s girth).

Eppe-Sauvage aire

The view from Hilma – first night in France

Lac du Madine, Heudicourt-sous-les-Cotes

We aim for Lac du Madine (Lat: 48.93533N / Long: 5.71557) our 2nd overnight stop in France. Driving through some beautiful countryside with the maple trees turning a warm golden yellow also gave us a warm glow inside. The Aire is large, again near a lake which is an obvious magnet for holiday destinations. Although this site could easily take 50 vans there were only 5 vans spread around the site – all looks a little tired, beware the showers & toilets – better off in the van I reckon.

Dusk over Lac du Madine

Before supper went off for a 3 mile run near the lake on grass, through woods and good paths. Afterwards we both went for our constitutional walk with the bins, spotting a Great White Egret, hundreds of Mute Swans, Coots galore and the odd Gadwall. Slept like a log!

To Alsace & back – Day 2

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The Ferry – 7th October

Today was an early start – this was to be our first foray onto a ferry (sounds like a good soundbite – foray onto a ferry – I think I’ll copyright it and then the BBC can buy it off me for some exhorbitant fee and make some cheap ‘fly on the ferry’ documentary – or has that already been done?) with Hilma and to foreign lands not so far. France was calling.

Hilma waiting patiently at Dover – note the Euro light stickers in the wrong place!!

Nearly every motorhome blog one reads tells of how the French have got it sorted regarding motorhoming. Last year we bought the ‘All the Aires France’ books by Vicarious Books so was able to plan 2 stops en-route to Eguisheim in the Alsace, our planned destination.
There has been many a time we have previously driven through France (without a motorhome of course) and got caught out with driving times, ending up like chewed cardboard by the time we arrive. Not this time – we plan to travel a mere 140 miles to our first night stop at Eppe-Sauvage (Free) next to Lac du Val Joly (Lat: 50.11965N / Long: 4.13925E). No tolls for us, just motorways and D roads (still haven’t mastered the map roads to reality numbering yet).
We hugged the Belgian border most of the way making good time and the aire proved just what was described on the tin. We have not tackled a ‘Fot Bleu’ (water, waste and electricity unit) yet and just looked at the machine wondering what the heck to do. As we are travelling we don’t need hook up yet and our batteries are getting topped up either whilst driving or by the 100w solar panel installed earlier in the year. Hardly used any water so no need to fill up yet. I’m hoping we can make it to Eguisheim without servicing Hilma with the necessaries!

Eppe-Sauvage aire

Hilma at rest after her epic first journey to France (with us anyway – who knows where her previous owners took her)


Eppe-Sauvage aire

The view from Hilma – first night in France

North Coast 500 tour – Days 6-8

10th May
Janette and I went off early to take a look at the Terns – they turned out to be Arctic Terns performing some lovely ‘floaty’ type aerobatics. Didn’t hang around or get too close as we did not want to disturb them.

Arctic Tern coming in to land – Brora

Arctic Tern with lunch – Brora

Arctic Tern – zooming past – Brora

Went to the shops on the bike this morning – why is it (despite having a list provided by Janette) I always end up buying more? Always happens. In this case my excuse was ‘when confronted with a local baker’s shop full of lovely cream cakes I really do think (especially on holiday) one should give in to temptation and support the local economy’. Whilst I was out purchasing said ‘necessary’ cakes Janette was being much more sensible and buying Halibut for supper off the fish man who visits the site regularly.
Late morning we take off on the bikes and planned to cycle around Loch Brora – as we passed Clynelish Distillery that old devil temptation kicked in again – and we were only 15mins into the ride. We had quick chat with a lovely lady in the ‘tasting room’ and decided it would be better to do some ‘tasting’ on the way back! Good decision! Stopped for lunch at Doll Ford Bridge – what a glorious spot, off the beaten track and only 30mins from the CC site at Brora. Dippers, Sandpipers and trout rising to a Mayfly hatch – sounds idyllic – well, yes it was!
Continuing along the side of the loch we eventually came unstuck with our plan to cycle all the way round – the track stopped at a farm despite being shown on an OS map as going all the way round. Back we went and cycled up the other side instead keeping the time in mind as we didn’t want to miss our appointment at the distillery! Taste we did and didn’t fall off. I rang my friend Peter as he wanted a bottle of Clynelish, his answer machine was on so I left a message that I had purchased a 35yr old malt for £1,200 rather than the 38yr old at £1,450. He quickly rang me back to cancel and go for a £43 bottle instead! Ha!

11th May
Back on the road after 3 nights at Brora which we thoroughly enjoyed. Amazing drive from Brora to Wick – some of it very winding and steep. Drove down to Wick Harbour rather than into town, parked Hilma up had a wander, back to Hilma for a coffee and then off again to Tesco for provisions as apparently (according to Janette) the cream cakes I bought would not last us another week.

Hilma at the Harbour – coffee is ready

Some amazing metalwork gates (7 in all) installed in 2006 reflecting, in art, the culture and history of the area can be found covering old holes in the wall at one end of the harbour. A real gritty working harbour with great character.

One of a series of 7 gates next to the harbour

Amazing metalwork

Fancy a pint here?

Wick Harbour pots

Common Tern (at Wick Harbour) – note bill is tipped black whereas Arctic Tern is all orange/red

On to John O’Groats – well some people must like it! Highlight of the day though was an amazing lady who had lost the use of her legs and using a special bike cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats, taking 10 days 8hrs and 4mins, raising £18,000 for Cancer Research.

Best thing by far at John O’Groats this day

The obligatory John O’Groats snap and Janette looking cold – it was! Stroma Island in the background.

Every self respecting motorhome should have something from this window (NOT).

Drove on to our destination for the night at Dunnet Bay – stunning views of a 2 mile golden sands beach. Amazed it has not rained once yet – very, very windy though.

12th May
We had planned to cycle to Dunnet Head today but the wind was so strong I do not think we would have enjoyed it (or even got there!). So off we went in Hilma up to the most northerly point of mainland Britain. The RSPB ‘shed’ was closed and just to proves how strong the winds get here the roof was ‘roped down’ for good measure. Did the touristy bit and wandered around reading all information boards.

Top of the world (well the UK anyway)

The area was used as a look out point as during WWII the Royal Navy had part of it’s fleet anchored in Scapa Flow within the Orkney Islands which can easily be seen on a clear(ish) day. Is it still used as a Royal Navy base I wonder? We then went off ‘birding’, hoping to see our first ever Puffins – we were not disappointed, there sat 6 of them outside their burrows on the cliff side. I’m sure there were more of them out at sea gathering food for an evening snack of sand eels, yum.

Clowns of the sea – our first ever Puffins spotted

Later took the telescope to the cliff edge to spot what the ‘rafts’ of birds were out to sea – mainly Razorbills and Gulls. By far the most majestic birds out there were the Gannets, flying close to the sea one minute and then finding a thermal and soaring like gliders up, up and away before returning to do the same. Close in were Guillemot, Kittiwake the amazing Fulmar (looked like juveniles – possibly last years? – still quite speckled on their wings) performing their wonderful acrobatic flights so close in to the cliffs. Late on in the day we saw a huge bird which ended up being Giant Skua – mobbing and dwarfing the smaller gulls and birds around it, almost with ‘hawk’ like dives now and then.
Ended up spending all day at Dunnet Head because it was such a magical place despite being blown about by the strong winds. Will do again at some point I’m sure.

On the way back stopped at a passing place to look at a fishing notice, put the emergency flashers on and when came to start off again Hilma refused to start up again. Not just that, the injector light that had caused me so much angst before the holiday was on again. Janette calmed my jangled nerves and we checked the fuses, sure enough a 10A fuse had blown on the emergency flasher slot. Replaced (yes folks – keep loads of fuses with you) it with another and Hilma started like the good girl I know she is. However that damned light was on again, but knowing the history I am a little more comforted knowing what has caused it to come on. When we got back to the camp site I checked out the manual (all in German so had to do some google translating – yes the MiFi unit installed was working fine) and it turned out there should be a 15A fuse in the slot – duly replaced. The only thing now is do I pay another £85 to get the fault cleared off the dashboard?
Tomorrow we are off to do our first ‘wild camp’. Not sure where we will stop, we will see when we get there I guess. It will give us a chance to try out the solar panel as so far we have been ‘hooked up’ to the grid.

North Coast 500 – Days 1-3

5th May
And they’re off – like a ferret down the trousers, like a greyhound out the trap, like Red Rum winning the Grand National – more like a snail with the scent of a Pansy in it’s olfactory senses. After the stress of getting the dash light sorted (previous post) we were all packed and ready to go with an early start in mind. Thwarted at the last minute – Janette runs a couple of chocolate shops with an online presence (Chocolate Gourmet) and the checkout system was not working. I attempted to sort but it was having none of it – I suspect a recent upgrade may be the issue.
Anyway this is about our trip not work! We decided to take 3 days to get up to Inverness, the start point for the tour. Setting off about 9:00am, destination Lochmaben close to Dumfries, a little CL site. Weather was gorgeous, no annoying dashboard light, Hilma purring up the motorway like a seasoned traveller, what is not to like. The sense of release and freedom always surprises me when we set off whether it be for 2 days or 20.
This is the start our second year with Hilma and so far (and I can’t see this changing), we love it.
6th May
An early(ish) start for the drive to the next site in The Trossachs (I know all those jokes rattling around – sounds painful, etc.). Maragowan was the destination, a CC site, very pretty, sitting next to the River Lochay running into Loch Tay. Very busy – we do prefer the smaller sites but this was a convenient stopover so we would only be here one night. Booked a meal at the Bridge of Lochay Inn, a short walk from the site, talking ourselves into treating ourselves ‘as we were on holiday’.
7th May
I have got back in to my running and had a fantastic early morning run along the river before breakfast – beautiful sunshine but chilly. We were on the road by 9:30am and driving on the A827 along the side of Loch Tay. Mrs.Garmin tried to take us down a road that had a narrow bridge (7.5ft) and as Hilma is of the same girth we gave that a serious miss (although I’m sure the drive would have been spectacular). Warning – this A road felt like a B road – twisty and sometimes narrow. Our next destination was Culloden Moor just outside Inverness ready for the true start of the NC 500. Great views all the way and we found the site easily enough – went for the usual afternoon walk to stretch the legs.
An Oystercatcher had decided to take up residence on Pitch no.43 and was duly roped off!

Ensonced on Pitch 43 and not moving

Spooky, eerily quiet

Dark and dingy with the promise of light.

Not sure what kind of moss – possibly a Liverwort of some sort?