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Published: October 18th 2019
We left the camping site early and hit the road . Eventually we left the road works of Germany and found ourselves on some very rainy Belgian roads. You know you are there when you see the traffic building up around Brussels and hear the dee dum dee dum of the concrete under Gabbys wheels. We needed diesel and stopped at the first garage . We forgot that you cannot just buy fuel in Belgium . You have to go into the cash desk and get your card authorised. We failed miserably as the cashier was disinterested and just pointed and said machine. Not much help. We still had a few miles left so it was not a problem. A few more miles under our belts and tried the second garage. Same story - no diesel without authorising the cards. We gave up again and travelled on. By now we were on the third garage riding on fumes. Wrong side - this one only served trucks and lorries. We eventually headed off the motorway for Dunkirk . Surely we would find diesel there . We set Silly to find a petrol station. She took us to one that was closed. We
tried again and found a Le Clerc supermarket with one unmanned pump. Whatever happened we were going nowhere until I filled up. Card in , hope for the best and eeked out 137 euros worth which just about filled the tank.
It was time to head for our overnight aire at Gravelines. We skirted the town and its walls and parked up along with a few other vans on the edge of a muddy estuary. The machine to pay was a bit complicated . Rather like the petrol stations along the way. It cost 4 euros to stop for 24 hours paid again by credit card. There was nothing near where we were staying but we could get our TV to pick up English stations and the town was not too far away. We even had a view of the town walls from Gabbys windows . ae
We crossed the road in the rain and headed for town. Despite the poor weather we were going to find a fitting ending to our 2019 holiday. The town is encircled by ramparts and moats and fed by the river Aa, The fortifications were modified by Vauban. We had to pass
through what once was a gateway. Sadly it had been rather mutilated and somehow made us think that the rest of the town would be the same. We were in for a treat and an unexpected one at that. Picking our way through the roadworks we found ourselves in the town square.
The town square was empty and the shops were closed . We found the arsenal with its french style gardens. They were full of flowers and colour. Small shops and museums . Wonderful modern sculptures placed around the gardens . All had titles and all were placed there to make you think. It was a thoughtful place. The roses were still out and blossoming as if it were summer. Tall mauve Verbena and pink Black Eyed Susans clambering all over the neatly clipped boxed hedges. It was a lovely place. We wondered round it for what seemed like an age. Paths that weaved in and out of the park and up and down banks . Steps climbing up to the top of the ramparts and down to the waters edge.
We walked over to the boulangerie. A older lady was serving on her own. Her shop
was full of every type of bread you could imagine. Two young girls aged about 7 and 9 were out shopping for their mum. They wanted a certain type of bread . Even without any French it was fascinating to watch the patience of the lady serving them. Like a good grandmother she went to each loaf, lovingly picked it up and described it to the children. She spent what seemed an age making sure they knew what they were buying and she counted the money out with them . There was just me and a man watching her . He smiled at me,. I smiled back. She came to me "Madam?" I asked for a baguette, she parcelled it in the half sized bags the french use for bagettes. She showed me another. I had no idea what she meant and had to smile and explain I didnt understand , I pointed to Portuguese Tarts - then to a couple of cakes . She parcelled them up lovingly . I went away happy . What can be nicer than being in a French boulangerie and smelling bread and seeing lovely cakes.
We walked back to Gabby and settled
in for the night . It goes dark early at this time of year . We talked about getting up early tomorrow for our train. We were not looking forward to British weather which no doubt would be more Autumnal. We were not looking forward to getting home . What about our next trip? France definately. Train booked , Gabby will have her new batteries . We pencil in the northern coast of France - the DD beaches . We may struggle with campsites as they will be closed but we will find aires . Who cares really ? Not us . Wherever we end up will be a holiday and we will make the most of it. Thankyou France and Gravelines for our last night which turned out much better than we expected.
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