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Published: August 29th 2013
Today would be the longest days drive we have had on the BBA V2,right across northern France, virtually one side to the other.Our apartment here had been OK from the point of view of facilities inside but we were a little disappointed with the location on the ground floor of three because we really didn't get any sun on the balcony because of the forest being so close and the tall trees.We have high hopes for our next apartment which is in a converted farmhouse in a very small village not far from Dunkirk.
We plan to take all day to cross the country,well that is from 9.30am until probably 5pm or thereabouts and we will opt for the shortest route which is just on 400km.The fastest according to the GPS would have taken us well into Belgium and added another 50 or 60km onto the trip although the arrival time would have been earlier.
Our path took us northwest towards the Belgium border under partly cloudy skies and it wasn't long before we started to notice a small change in the style of housing and then as we crossed one of those nondescript borders, the letter depicting the
country on the registration plates on the cars all became 'B'.The 'border' crossing here was in fact a street that ran down a slope and we must have passed over it part way down.We wonder who delivers the mail to the street,would it be the French or the Belgians.The language on the road signs is similar with some minor variations.
With Virton behind us we came across a series of villages with the word 'Thonne' in them,including one called Thonne-a-long.The Thonne we were to find out was a small river but what all the bits added to the place names related to we could not work out.
We were only in Belgium for about 20 minutes and the GPS map indicated that we had crossed back into France and sure enough the letters on the car number plates virtually all became 'F' again.
The shortest route in the past has taken us on some narrow country roads and today was no different although there was such little traffic that we were able to maintain a good speed and actually started to pick up time on the estimated arrival as the GPS factors in a fairly slow speed
for these narrow back country roads.
Near Sedan we passed a large industrial plant making a wide range of products for the construction industry.This is not the first time we have noticed how large industrial plants have been located away from large population bases which we guess spreads the economic base of the country around.
We also crossed the Muese River at Sedan and recalled that this river was the one we spent time around during our day in and near Verdun,the site of WW1 battles.Sedan had also featured prominently in WW2 being the place that the German invading army in 1940 outflanked the French defensive Maginot Line and crossed into France fighting and turning the Allied forces,including the British Expeditionery Force, towards the sea at far away Dunkirk.
When you travel long distances by road not only does the scenery change but also what happens in towns that you pass through and at Charleville-Mezieres,a rather conservative looking town,the place was abuzz with yourn people in their late teens and early twenties all heading to the Cabaret du Vert,a huge festival of arts including concerts of all music types,cinema etc.Poor old Vicky got very confused as road
diversions sent us this way and that as we progressed through the city which of course had been all part of the shortest route!
The roads we were now taking were heading us in a more north westerly direction.The farmers in the countryside were the busiest we have seen them,all baling hay in great quantities in preparation for the coming winter.
Looking ahead on the GPS screen it seemed like we might have to negotiate some of the outer suburbs of the large city of Lille as the journey on the shortest route between A & B continued but thankfully all we ended up doing was moving from one highway to another as we skirted the city.
Before we knew it we were back in the countryside again and the land ahead was dead flat except for the odd small hill located here and there.
On one of the hills was the very picturesque town of Cassel which had existed since the days of the Roman empire.We had a need to top up the cash we had with us to pay a security deposit to the owner of the apartment we were heading for and Cassel looked the last of the towns of any size before we arrived in Buysschure(which doesn't appear on our atlas map as it is so small)for an ATM to be located.Cassel was almost totally destroyed in a 3 day battle as the Allies used it to hold back the advancing German army in the days before the Dunkirk evacuation.It was rebuilt immediately after the war and it was quite amazing to see just how 'old 'the buildings that are there now look so authentic.
The time we had told the owners of the apartment we would arrive was getting near so rather than stop any longer and take a stroll around the town we decided to make a trip back here over the next 3 days.
It was just another 10 minutes onto Buysscheure and after passing under the dual Eurostar and TGV railway line we turned off the main road and headed into the village community of about 30 houses.
Romuald and his wife and family of four were waiting to greet us and show us around the apartment that had been created separate to the main part of the large farmhouse which he was still renovating.Our apartment was very spacious with kitchen,dining area,toilet,shower and two bedrooms,one of them being upstairs in what was originally a loft.
It had been a long day and a cold beer at the table in the large grassed backyard was most welcome.We have a busy 3 days ahead with trips planned out into the surrounding towns and countryside and unfortunately the weather for tomorrow,at least,looks like it may bring some rain.
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