Monday, 12 July 2010

July 7th, 2010 - July 10th 2010

 As we were packing up to leave Stenay, an English chap and his wife (Ray and Jan), engaged us in conversation. They too were planning to move on, and head for Charlville-Mezieres.

Kathleen is now focused on shopping for wine, to take home with us, so we call at Aldi and Lidl on the outskirts of town.

Charleville-Mezieres – Aire

First impressions of this aire, are good.

It is located just outside of a Campsite (Camping Mont Olympe), overlooking a Marina on River Muese.

All of this is within a public park area, with walking paths, rowing boats, tennis courts etc etc.

The aire itself is free, with a charge of 5 Euro / day for electricity (if you want it), there are only four hookup points, but there is parking for 8 vans in marked bays, and room for probably at least as many again in unmarked spaces.

When we plug in our power lead, we find the electricity supply is on, but Kathleen’s Catholic conscience, will trouble her if we do not pay, so I go to reception and pay up our five Euro.

We have a good view over the Marina, from our van.

When we arrive at around lunch time, five of the eight marked bays are occupied.

By 16:00, there are 12 vans there. The secret seems to be with these places, you have to arrive not later than about 15:00 to get a space.

We set off to buy bread for lunch, as we walk past the campsite, I notice a campervan we had seen yesterday, at Stenay.

The couple in it had very kindly explained to us how to get into the Aire, at Stenay etc, and where to get bread. They were able to tell us again, where to get bread in this new place. We do not know their names, only that they are from Whitehaven. So, they shall be known to us as “the English couple who knew where to buy bread”.

We return with bread and also a little treat, Apple Tart, to find that Ray and Jan (another couple who we met at Stenay) have arrived.

The park area, campsite and aire are effectively on a large island in the River Muese. There is a pedestrian bridge over the river to make a short walk to the very attractive town centre.

Kathleen keeping cool by a fountain in Charlesville-Meziers.

Shopping street in Charlesville-Meziers.

Ducal Square in Charlesville-Meziers, where we rest with a cool beer.

Thursday and we leave Charlesville-Meziers, saying goodbye to Jan and Ray.

We pass an aire at Catillon-sur-Sambre, it looks pleasant, by a canal.

We are pretty sure this is where Joan and Bryan a couple of nights ago. But it has no facilities at all, so we continue on to the next aire we have picked out.

Le Cateau Cambresis – Aire

The Aire at Le Cateau Cambresis is a fairly typical basic overnight stopping place with some facilities.

It has marked parking bays for five vans, with space for probably one or two more at a push.

There are four Electric hook-up points, with free Electric and free water.

It is beside a busy and noisy road and about five minutes walk into a town which has seen better days.

Things follow a familiar pattern, we are the only ones there at 14:00, then another British van arrives (Andy and Shiela from near Plymouth), and then  one by one four French vans, so the place ends up full.

Andy and Sheila walk into town to eat in the evening and tell us there is a good restaurant in the Hotel, there.

Friday, it is getting near the weekend and the need to find a church becomes Kathleen's obsession.

The plan is to stay on an Aire at Escalles (south of Calais), but when we arrive there, the Aire is full.

We set off for our second choice, which is north of Dunkirk. As we pass Dunkirk, we stop and ring Norfolk Line to see if we can get on a ferry today, instead of 09:00 Sunday morning. It is now about 14:45 on Friday, and they tell us we can go on the 18:00 this evening, with no extra charge other than the usual £10 fee for changing a booking.

When we arrive at the check in, they are still checking in vehicles for the 16:00 ferry, and since it is not full, they put on that, soon we are on the dockside, going through the usual search of the van by Immigration, looking for illegal immigrants, pets etc

Welwyn - Caravan Club Site

We arrive at Dover, at 17:00 UK time. We decide to make an overnight stop, rather than drive the 350 mile shome, having driven for most of the day already. The M25 and Dartford Crossing are there usual traffic jam, and we make it only as far as the Caravan Club site at Welwyn by 20:00, but by 21:00, we are all set up, and eating Spaghetti Bolognaise cooked by Kathleen's fair hand.

Saturday, and we have a leisurely drive home. As lunch time approaches, Kathleen expresses an interest in having a bacon sandwich.

This is such an unusaul request from her, that I begin eagerly watching out for truck stops which may provide a decent bacon sandwich.

Before I succeed in finding one, Kathleen changes her mind (well it is a woman's perogative) and declares a desire for a pub lunch.

So we stop off at Retford for a pub lunch, just to keep the "holiday spirit" going a little longer.

Kathleen even kindly offered to pay for lunch, out of our "holiday fund". Since we both contribute equally to this, I failed to see how this could be contrued as a "treat" to me by her, since I was paying half anyway!

The end of another trip!

Very enjoyable, particularly enjoyed Germany, and would recommend it.

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