France and the Year of Covid -19
We had to wait for the sale of our RV in the US before we could purchase a caravan in the UK. The company we used Camping World USA were very poor in corresponding with us which we found very annoying. They even advertised our RV with incorrect information at first and never added all the extras that it had which would have made it an even better buy (solar etc). The first time we knew it was sold was when a US $ cheque came through the post. This then had to be sent back to be paid into our American bank account as it should have been in the first place. So eventually we purchased our caravan a Elldis Riva Gold 554 with a star light window 🙂 We then had to wait a month for it to be ready and our cheque to clear! In the meantime we brought a Ssangyong Korando 4×4 for towing.
Our first outing overlooking a small lake at Rosebush Holiday Park when we collected the caravan. Having found the microwave faulty we then had to take the caravan back to the dealer 3A’s Caravans Carmarthen at the end!
We finally got our caravan back with a new microwave after the boss of the company stepped in and sorted out the service department! Not happy. The winter was then in full flow with heavy rain and we only manged a couple of days away.
Sunday March 8th 2020.
With all the impending problems of Covid -19 getting worse around the world we made a decision to try and have our holiday in France that was booked. If we did not go we knew that we would have lost our ferry booking money and costs of insurance etc at that stage. The thoughts were that if things got worse, we would hide inland in a small campsite. Little did we know what was about to happen.
So we went to our storage facility and hooked up the caravan which we had previously loaded a few days before.
The first problem was simply getting out of the storage area as, whilst the caravan was on hard standing, we had to turn it and pull it over some grass that had been rained on for the last 6 months. Alan backed the caravan out to the right but was restricted by a electrical point and when pulling forwards the car had to go up an incline with subsequent wheel spinning even in 4 wheel drive. By using the plastic levelling ramps under the front wheels we managed to extricate ourselves and went on our way to a campsite near Cardiff for the first night.
We arrived at the site just as more torrential rain started – this is why we are going away! A bit tricky positioning ourselves in the heavy rain but finally managed the task and stayed hooked up for the night. Went to use the TV (came with the caravan) in the evening and found the remote would not work and as luck would have it, we must have the only TV that does not have buttons on it to operate:( Decide it can go in the bin.
Drive to Poole for our ferry at 08.30 on the 10th. Yes we are taking it easy:) Well at least we thought we were having ignored Mr Google via east of Bristol to Bath and taken a slightly different route to Bath. That worked but south of Bath was very, very twisty and not to be attempted again. Finally made Poole and went to the out of town shopping for a new TV. Must remember that the UK does not have large wide and long parking spaces for American size vehicles! You park over 2 consecutive spaces, get out and then find you are taking up the road space to the next lot of parking bays! Ok – instead we took up about 6 or more spaces parking across them (we are nearly 12m). Brought ourselves a new TV – yes it was a bit bigger but hey. It was also lighter.
At about 17.30 we went down to the harbour and parked in the queuing lanes that were marked up for the ferry. sBrittany Ferries website said they charged £10 for this but no one ever asked for any money:)
Woke up at 06.30 and took Lui for a walk after a cup of tea. Found that they were checking in vehicles already but using different lanes which was good. Having moved to the next lanes after check in, Alan went and got himself some cereal to eat, but Colleen did not want any breakfast although she had made a flask of coffee for the crossing. Suspect she was concerned about being seasick 🙁
Crossing on the Barfleur was smooth (or so Alan thought. Colleen and the guy opposite did not quite agree). Had an interesting chat with an Algerian who had been in the UK for a very long time. He was off to the desert in the South to hide from the virus – kill it with the heat!
We first went to Carrefour in the west of Cherbourg which was not the easiest to get to or for that matter to get back from thanks to Mr Google’s narrow bridges, inclines on steep hills etc! We brought a 15kg Antargaz Calypso bottle. Everything was automated and the French instructions easy to follow but any small mistake on the machine you went back to the beginning: frustrating as you had to enter address, telephone number etc. But hey presto finally an electronic lock opened and you got your bottle 🙂
Then we drove to Coutances and stayed overnight at Les Vignettes – a municipal campsite for 13.85 euros. You could walk to the town via playing fields, children’s playground etc which was a pleasant area.
The campsite at Coutances shown on the right was on a plastic parking grid system so you did not have a problem getting stuck in the mud 🙂 Also it was big enough to stay hitched up – a big bonus and timesaver.
Today we took it easy again and headed via Rennes and Nantes for the A10. Once on the A10 it would be too late to get to Arcachon so we stopped in an aires for the night. We discovered the next day, having pulled into the next aire to get the wing mirrors right, that there was a separate area for caravans away from the lorries!
This French language is difficult … every time we open our mouths Spanish comes out!
Having taken it easy and relaxed we arrived at Arcachon at Camping Nature. For some unknown reason Colleen had had a suspicion that was going to a naturist campsite and I think she only believed me when we arrived! It is a very big site bit they only use the beginning during the winter. We were offered a site and told we could come back and say we wanted to go elsewhere. In hindsight we should have moved to are C from area P we were in. There was no one in that area and it would have been better for sitting outside. Near the motorhome waste water dump site (ideal for the caravan waste water). The only downside we would have to walk back to the shower/toilet block and chemical waste disposal as the other facilities were closed in the winter. The site was huge and we would not want to be there in the high season!
Apart from going for a few walks around the campsite we did nothing today! Colleen tried out her new bike on the forest tracks outside the campsite but not a good place for the first time … Some of the tracks had a deep carpet layer made up of the pine needles which was great to walk on but not for a bike as it had been made inches deep. Lui loved it though!
We then put the awning up which meant we had somewhere to put the bike as well – not to mention the chairs, BBQ, huge table and wet coats. All we needed now was a ground sheet! So off to Decathlon to buy one and look at bikes for Alan.
Today we found a better place for Colleen to try out her bike – we spotted on the way to Decathlon yesterday. Returning to the campsite, we went to the sea front. Arcachon looks like a really nice place – out of season!
So the campsite is fully set up with our luxury camping chairs and stools which had a tray top to make small tables if needed. Hmm that means a stool for Colleen and a small table between us for drinks!
We had a chat and decided as things appeared to be deteriorating with Covid-19 we decided to travel back just before Easter.
Sunday March 15th
Went back to Decathlon to buy a bike and found that on Sunday it was shut as well as Carrefour where we intended to food shop. Lidl shut 5 minutes before we got to it!
Sylvia telephoned from Switzerland and said things were getting serious in France and having talked to her we decide to return to the UK. First we had to get the dog to a vet for his passport stamp.
Contacted a local vet and were told to come at 10.30 and telephone when we arrived as only 1 person at a time allowed in.
Funny thing was, when Alan went in to pay they spoke Spanish by mistake. So when he was paying he used Spanish – much to their amusement. On the way back, we shopped at Lidl to get supplies as we had left the place at home empty.
Called the Caravan Club to change our booking and as expected busy lines but after leaving our number they called back within 1 hour as promised:) Put on a 21.30 ferry from Cherbourg on Tuesday 17th to Poole. So we packed up a wet awning as the only time it rained since our arrival was last night! Finally left about 17.30 with the intention of driving as far as possible and then stay overnight in an Aire on the A10. Brittany Ferries then called when we were about 150 km south of Nantes to say the ferry was cancelled and could we get the one that evening! No chance. Impossible to get there in time so they asked if we could make the 08.30 the next morning in Caen (Ouistreham port on the coast)- we did not think we could make either as we Alan would be too tired to drive all night (Colleen’s cataract means she can’t share the driving). They then said the last one going was 16.30 on the 17th which we said we would make.
Ended up driving through the night and used the motorways as good and simple when tired. Cost about 90 euros compared to 30 on the way down though 🙁 Arrived at 03.00 and parked in the ferry lane behind others. When we finally got to the check in desk, they said the ferry was full and we were on the 16.30 so had to go away.
Went to the Carrefour tired and thoughtlessly parked near the entrance to have breakfast. Suddenly started to get surrounded by French cars and had problems getting out of the spaces we had taken. We could have been there for hours waiting for people to move as they were parking tight in to us. Just got out before being locked in and parked across 6 spaces elsewhere.
Went back to the ferry lane for the next departure and the police would not let us stay and told us to go to the Camping Car Aire which cost us 10 euros. Daylight robbery! It was the port Aires for motorhomes but no restrictions on caravans as in many places. Emptied our tanks and had lunch there before going back to the ferry queue. We were very relieved when we finally bordered – it was an anxious time. We had reclining seats as originally we were going to be overnight – we were given some on this ferry which turned out to be good as only a few people in the lounge – ha, first had to ask some non paying people to leave our seats which were at the front for the view! Colleen was not impressed by the lack of footrests and was so tired she fell asleep on the floor …
During the crossing no crew were about and everyone asked to stay in their cabin or seat throughout. Good job we had a flask of coffee and some food. Crossing was flat as a mill pond!
Delighted to be back on British soil, we set off and made the decision not to go via Salisbury and a possible overnight spot on route but via M3/A34/M4 being all dual carriage way and motorway. Unfortunately the A34 which normally has lots of pull off for overnight was signposted closed. Ended up going further east in the wrong direction. It was then big problem trying to find somewhere to pull off in the middle of the night. Eventually spotted a lorry with space behind him on the far side of the road.
Slept as so tired but not for long as cars going past were shaking the caravan. A motorbike at goodness knows what speed had an incredible impact on us 🙁 So off again about 07.30 to find somewhere to stop and make tea and breakfast.
Finally home in the afternoon and emptied out the caravan at our place and parked up overnight to take back the next day.
Thursday 19th March
Sorted out a few things in the caravan and put it back in storage.
The whole trip reminded us of going to Spain and, not knowing when all the different local village holidays were, we took out our big trailer to get things and all that happened was that it got a ride around the place. Yep we had pulled the caravan for a long, long way and not exactly had a holiday! …. Next time!
We now entered a 14 day self isolation period having come from France where a lock down had staretd and foreigners should leave.
Still under lockdown in Wales due to Covid-19 with a 5 mile travel radius allowed. It looks like July 11th it may be lifted.
It has now been 108 days and if lifted on July 11th it will have been 116 days for us.
The World as we knew it has changed