The traffic on the southern section of the M25, past Gatwick Airport, is surprisingly light. We had expected jams because there would be many people returning from London after watching the Royal Wedding yesterday, but no, the traffic was moving quite freely, and we arrived at Brian and Linda’s ahead of schedule.
On Saturday afternoon, we all went to Rochester, to attend the “Sweep’s Festival”. This is a very old festival (400 years old, according to the literature), which has been revived for the past 30 years or so. It is connected with Chimney Sweeps (hence the name), and seems to consist mainly of Morris Dancing, with of course copious amounts of Real Ale.
Saturday is rounded off with a Chinese meal, cooked by Brian, ably assisted (that is supervised) by Linda. Victoria is the only daughter at home, so we have her company, along with her boyfriend Graeme. I hope his meeting the "Reays" experience has not put him off.
Sunday Morning, we have the obligatory church going by Kathleen.
While she is there, Brian takes me to see the area where our Great, Great, Great Grandfather (on our mothers side) was born, in Gillingham, before he moved to South Shields. It is an amazing coincidence that over a hundred years later, Brian should return to live within a few miles of our ancestor’s birthplace.
After a Sunday “Brunch”, we set off for Dover and the Ferry.
This is the first time we have used Norfolk Line since they were taken over by DFDS. They are running almost an hour late, not a good omen!
We wait patiently on the Dockside, watching the seagulls.
Once the ferry arrives, it is quickly unloaded, and we are equally quickly onboard, and on our way to Dunkirk.
We do not make up any time on the crossing, so we arrive almost an hour later than expected, at about 20:00 French time.
Guines, La Bien Assise (ACSI-2011 945)
Our regular overnight stop, when we need one after getting off the ferry.
It is well placed being just a few miles from Calais, but for some reason it always gives the Sat-Nav a problem. So, as we leave on Monday morning, Sat-Nav wars begin. To prevent divorce, the Sat-Nav is turned off, and Kathleen relinquishes the driving to take over the navigating.
As far as I can see the only difference between and female navigator and a Sat-Nav with a femail voice, is, when the Navigator makes a mistake (and they do occasionally, but we will not mention that), the Sat-Nav does not shout abuse at her.
Monday 2nd May 2011 Aire at Catillon sur Sambre (N50 32.155’ E1 35.563’)
Just off the N43, with room for four vans, right beside the La Sambres et L’Oise Canal.
It is a very pretty spot, spoilt a little by the noise as heavy goods vehicles pass over the bridge (which is able to open to allow boats to pass) on the N43. But the traffic died away to almost nothing overnight, so it did not disturb our sleep.
There is free unmetered electric hook up. The Aires Book (All the Aires France, 3rd Edition), and the sign at the Aire say it is 5Euro per night to stay, but no one turned up to collect any money, and there is no facility to pay with a credit card or whatever, so we had a freebie.
There is a path/cycle track along the canal, in both directions (ie North towards Belgium, and South).
I cycled along the path to the South for about three miles, after about two miles you come to a lock and a cafe (closed when I got there).
I went on for another mile, but did not come to any further signs of life, except for a few people fishing from the banks of the canal.
As you can see, Kathleen opted to top up her tan, rather than join in the healthy cycling.
We had a major panic in the evening, Kathleen could not find her bottle of Gin. Now a campervan is not a very big place in which to lose something the size of a 1Litre bottle of Gin, but we had managed it. After turning out all of the cupboards, she eventually found it, I have not seen as big a smile since I gave her 100Euro to spend.
The site is on a hill, just a short distance from Nancy. It is not full and so far seems very nice. We got free wifi (because we said we staying for three days), I am not sure if this concession is extended to everyone, or if the chap in reception did it as repayment for the entertainment we gave him with our poor French. We went there to ask for a Bus Timetable, a tourist map of Nancy, and a Wifi password.
Just time to explore a little, and find a shop to buy wine for this evening.