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Published: March 14th 2013
Finally on our way!! We've spent a week getting the van sorted (thanks dad!) waiting for credit cards and travel ex cards to come through and going out for drinks and toooo much yummy food with friends and family-even managed to squeeze in a few days in Carlilsle with the lovely Penny and Family :D Took our little cat to live in Brighton for the year with my gorgous couisins Gilly and Ewan and spent the night at Anges dad's too nervous and excited to sleep!
The fog around Brighton/Dover did little to dampen our excitement though when we finally (after forgetting where on the bloody ferry the van was) drove off at Calais into yet more fog...and rain...we were thankful that we had researched a campsite for the first night so that we didn't have to spend the first few hours getting lost! We quickly decided to head south asap....but to visit Paris for a few days first as it was so close.
The next morning we set our sights on Paris and trundeled off towards a randomly picked destination of Marines.... but problem number one-disaster struck! The fag lighter was broken=no sat nav! Luckily
we had charged the sat nav via the hook up the night before....un-luckily this only lasts about 2 hours max....ok no problem I thought, we have three maps, we can navigate via these. Problem number two: the maps are shit; what kind of maps foget to put roads on them?! Je ne comprends pas. Anyway, we navagated via town names and eventially made it to our destination....Problem number 3 all the campsites are shut! Ok so, we expected this, its out of season, but we needed an electricity to charge the sat nav and somewhere safe to leave the van so that we could travel into Paris-hopefully via train/bus-and not have worry about the van. We drove in circles for a while, getting unnervingly closer and closer to Paris...at one point nearly having a heart attack seeing signs for the Notre Dame! Trying to avoid Paris is a lot harder than you think when none of your maps have an accurate portrayal of the road network on them and ALL roads lead to Paris...ALL roads. Everyone had warned me about drivin in Paris and what a nightmare it was, the guidebooks, the internet, you lot, and I desperatly wanted to
avoid it. After a few emotional hours of driving we ended up somewhere along the river oise...still not sure where....and when we saw signs for camping we were giddy with excitement. We follwed these signs deeper and deeper through the town towards the river...the roads got smaller, other peoples driving got faster, and eventually we pulled up staring open mouthed at the locked gates of a very closed campsite. Luckily the woman who lives next to (or maybe owns?) the campsite is so very lovely, and not only let us stay on her land, but gave us a postcard to remember her by and went to church to pray for us the next day...we asked her to show us where we were on our useless map, and she couldnt even work it out they're that innacurate! So we were lost, but we were by the river, it was quiet, beautiful and we had a bottle of wine to drink and beans for dinner....bliss :P
The plan of action for today included finding a mcdonalds so we could use the internet for free to work out where to go, and getting a new map from a garage. Both
of these things were accomplished within an hour, and with the help of a very friendly garage man we were headed for a campsite near Paris! With relative ease (and only a couple of 3 point turns) we made our way to the most expensive campsite ever.... but it was right next to Paris and we only intended on spending a couple of days to see the sights.
What we didn't bank on was the snow!! The expensive campsite was worth it for its heated bathrooms as we spent a good few hours there thawing out our clothes, shoes and ouselves after two days exploring Paris and then having to walk over two miles home both nights (Due to the weather buses were off). If we thought England was bad for shutting down after snow...well Paris is worse, no grit on the roads, no information about transport being suspended, and everyone still tries drives like a lunatic (we even pushed a stranded Parisian out of the verge, who was very suprised by our willingness to help). The prostitutes were still out in force however!! Paris was beautiful in the snow, but its bloody cold in the van. We had
put the awning up as soon as we arrived thankfully and it made a big difference not getting everything soaking wet. We had three duvets and night-times were not to bad once you got a couple of glasses of wine in you!
We had a lovely time wondering around Pairs, but beware the pickpockets! It was awful actually, I don't believe they were french but they work in groups, target tourists and surround you with clip boards trying to get signatures for some kind of petition. While they try and distract you the others go for your bags and pockets.....the third time this happened to us we were just trying to walk away but the band of boys simpled followed us jostling Ange and I and managed to get into Anges pocket without her noticing......I think they may have been disapointed by the frence phrase book they found there though!
The snow was still thick on the ground, but icey, and we ummed and arred about leaving as we were worried about the condition of some of the smaller roads and tended to prefer them to driving on the very expensive tolls. Turned out that the
roads in the campsite were the worst of the lot. As we headed to the Loire Valley the sun came out, the snow melted and we could finally put on our sunglasses! What a lovely drive 😊 We arrived after closing time at a campsite in Saumur, called the number provided and were met by the lovely friendly manager who was happy to greet us and not botherd at all about the late arrival or even being paid.
We are now camped on the middle of an island in The Loire River. Its so beautiful, we spent today exploring Saumur and cycling to get wine and bread, and tomorrow were off to a neighbouring town on our bikes along The Loire to see vine yards and cave houses from the middle ages.
Love to you all xxxxxxx
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