Monthly Archives: August 2017

#LeCercle17 Day27. And now the end is near….,

(2550miles). Here we are then, Calais! Managed to get Mutts through customs, albeit the woman checking his passport grimaced a few times, which caused heart convulsions for the “other half” but in the end he was approved, I’m sure I heard him breathe a sigh of relief.


The last couple of days have really just been a question of marking time, as we waited for our crossing. Two things in the last 12 hours confirms the hols are over. Firstly it rained all last night, secondly I once again have long trousers on!!

All in all, we’ve had a fantastic trip, but this will be our last in the Chucklebus, after four years and two Grandkids, we’ve decided to upgrade to a bigger wagon. Over the next few weeks we will commence the process of selling and later start to source Chucklebus Mk2. Sad to see her go, she’s been brilliantly  reliable, but needs must.

So after nearly a month of traffic-jam free driving, I find myself inwardly bracing for the joys that await me on the M25. I can feel my stress levels rising.  Perhaps I need another holiday?

That is All!

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#LeCercle17 “The Pointy Upwards Bit” Day 19-23(The Regiment)

(2370miles) Firstly, Important News Alert! Yesterday morning I became a Grandfather for the second time. Baby James and Mum are doing well and we are extremely proud of our new grandson and his parents. What a lovely little lad.

No lets have a quick look at the route so far, today, Day 23 (The Regiment)……….


We had a great couple of days alongside the marina at Montagne Sur Gironde. Really hot  weather which allowed me to improve on my sun-burn, so that I’ve moved a degree closer to deep burn! and as a bertie bonus “frittes” for tea both nights! We spent most of the time at the port watching all the other van owners, and I’m pleased to report we can now pronounce Bon-jour like a local #fact. Anything beyond that and things get sticky (see below!).


On the Tuesday(Day 20) we departed early in the morning and headed further north to a tidy little village called Mervent, where I made an absolute tit of myself in a packed local shop trying to ask for a token in pidgin French for the aire we were parked on! In the end the exasperated shopkeeper ejected me from the shop and frog-marched me across the square to the tourism office, where a nice lady very calmly in perfect english explained that camper van parking was free!….Ewwwwww!!

The village is located above the River Vendee which cuts through the Vouvant Forest that surrounds the area. The aire was pretty much just a car park with some bins, but it suited our needs for 24hrs. We took the opportunity to get a few kms under the belt, walking through the huge swathe of forest that covers this area.


The hound enjoyed the stretch, he’s really good on the long travels, but never misses the opportunity to get off the leash, occasionally he comes back as well!

Wednesday. Again up early and on the road, today we were on a mission to visit St Nazaire, the atlantic port that was used by the Germans as a submarine base during WW2. It was also fitted with a huge dry-dock that allowed the repair of warships. With access directly into the Atlantic, this was major headache in this early stage of the war. The sub base had 12 U-Boat pens, concrete reinforced, a really impressive piece of engineering and almost impossible for the allies to destroy.

Sub Pens

This all changed on the 28th March 1942 when a party of 611 commandos and navy personnel using a mixture of craft and a disguised British destroyer HMS Campbeltown loaded with time-delayed explosives struck at 0130hrs in the morning. They rammed the Normandie Dry Dock gate with HMS Campbeltown, shot up the enemy garrison and once the ships explosives detonated made the dry dock unusable for the remainder of the war.

Campbelltownjpg

The statistics speak for themselves:

  • 169 Men Killed.
  • 215 Captured.
  • 89 decorations for bravery.
  • 5 Victoria Crosses awarded.
  • 228 men made it away from the raid and back to the UK.
  • Over 300 enemy killed.

At least two of the men, both commando’s, came from my own regiment. Ernie Chappell, from Newport, S.Wales was captured and spent the remainder of the war in captivity. An audio account of his service with the Commandos is held by the IWM. Another Commando & Royal Welchman; LCpl George Stokes, aged 22 was aboard HMS Campbeltown when it rammed the dock gates. He was part of a demolition party and was later killed in the town during fierce fighting with the enemy. He is buried at a lovely little cemetery called ” Escoublac-la-Baule” which is about 13kms west of St Nazaire. So of course we also made the visit to see his grave and pay our respects to him and all the other men buried within.

George Stokes. St Nazaire

Escoublac-la-Baule CWGC Cemetery

Here’s an interesting piece from the Commonwealth Graves Commission site about the origins of the cemetery.

“The cemetery was begun with the burial of 17 British soldiers killed in the area during 1940, 21 others who died in local hospitals, and a number of British servicemen whose bodies were washed ashore after the sinking of the troopship “Lancastria” in the Bay of Biscay on 17 June 1940. Subsequent burials include men killed in the St. Nazaire raid in 1942, and airmen shot down in the area.

The cemetery now contains 325 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 74 of which are unidentified. Three Polish servicemen are also buried here and one man of the Merchant Navy whose death was not due to war service.

Throughout the German occupation, Louise Jaouen, a resident of La Baule, dedicated all her time and energy to maintaining the graves. With money collected secretly from the generous local people she provided a cross for every grave and a small monument, had hedges planted, and employed a permanent gardener to tend the cemetery. Her devotion to this work was later honoured by the award of the King’s Medal for Service in the Cause of Freedom.”

By any stretch of the imagination, this was a brilliantly planned and executed raid by these men. I’m filled with admiration for them and I really enjoyed the visit.

Since the visit to St Nazaire, we’ve been slowly tracking north east towards Calais, we had a couple of days in the Loire Valley, which was only dampened by the weather, which is noticably cooler and wet. Like a true brit, I still gamely wear shorts every day, just to remind myself I’m on my hols! Last night we stayed in the town of Blois. The main focus being access to a vet this morning for Mutt’s obligatory worming dose, prior to the British customs palava early next week. We used Clinique Veterinaire du Pont Gabrial, which were excellent. So now Mutts is sorted, tensions are eased slightly and we are parked up on a little campsite at a small town called Courville Sur Eure, which is twinned with Alveston near Bristol. We know that fact, because all the shop windows are full of Union Jacks, which is not like the French. Apparently they are celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Twinning….Good on em!

At the rag-end of the trip….It’s only just over a fortnight since I was whinging about the heatwave, now I’m moaning about the chill in the air and discussing if shorts are appropriate wear for the run home?

The image below sums up the desolation and emptiness we feel as our adventure draws to a close!

No? Too artie for you?  Ok then, here’s a snap entitled:

“Solitary Deckchair and Van somewhere in France”

That is All!

 

 

 

 

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#LeCercle17 The Bottom Bit. Day 13-18

(1831miles). Dear reader, it’s been quite a few days since our last cosy fireside chat. Firstly 18 days in and internet is now an issue, hence the rationing of these blogs. I just need to have enough allowance to find a vet for Mutts on Friday for his obligatory worming tablet, otherwise we face a fond farewell at customs, Kent. A six month farewell!!!

Over the last few days we’ve been mainly bumming about on cheap aires(motorhome parking areas) in small villages across the Dordogne and into the Bordeaux region. Normally paying about 5-7 Euros per nights it’s a economic way of seeing the country.

We are now on the “up bit” of our adventure, tracking north alongside the Atlantic. With quite a distance still to go, but without the mountainous areas that we navigated over on the eastern side of France.


Yesterday we stayed at a wine producing Chateau. Parked right alongside the vines, it should have only cost 5euros per night, but I hadn’t factored in the cost of the 4 bottles of red I would be shortly buying off the Chateau owner! 38 bucks!! (This is just between us right? For god sake don’t tell the other half). He must have watched me ambling towards him to the sound of till bells ringing in his ears!!

A nce view to wake up to this morning though. The Chateau owner must have put it up in celebration of his good fortune! It should read:

(Sponsored by Motorhomedreamer)


We’d also spent a few days in the Dordogne, very pleasant walking country, and with the van we were able to avoid all the busy campsites and search out the quiet rural backwaters. We are on a whistle stop tour of the exterior of the country, but you could literally spend a month just exploring one or two regions, something we plan on doing in the future.



Currently we are parked up alongside the Gironde estuary marina at Mortagne Sur Gironde. South of Rochforte. A very cool place to spend a couple of nights.


Tonight an air of expectation hangs over the Chucklebus! Chippie tea!! Mutts is nearly wetting himself in anticipation! He’s currently doling out the death stare to every other dog that passes our van!


We are staying here till Tuesday morning then moving further north. We are hoping to visit the port of St Nazaire later this week. I quite fancy having a look at the WW2 submarine pens and scene of a daring British Commando raid in 1942.
So at this point dear reader, as the siren sounds for chicken and chips….

That is All

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#LeCercle17 Les Lobster Anglaise. Day 10-12

(1437miles) Remember the other day when I was whinging about the French weather?  I was right, it was bloody hot….so much so that Daughter No1, my personal weather watcher, sent out the following Code-Red Dad Warning from her London HQ at 1829hrs yesterday!

Is it dead hot over there dad? Saying on the news that Europe is a heatwave!

Very thoughtful, but by then the damage was done! Over the last few days I’d been getting a bit cocky with sun-related issues, I’d even started to take my top off😲. That’s not happened since 2008, but needs must, and by yesterday morning, I was fully convinced I was a local and reached for the factor 15!!! What could possibly go wrong? Now basically in terms of sun protection for my skin, factor 15 is cheap margarine with a tadge of lanolin added in for good measure. I might as well wander about in the desert surrounded by solar mirrors! By the 1829hrs message, I was already lobster pink and regretting that I hadn’t reached for the factor 50, which is my usual weapon of choice. Obviously this was man-sunburn and completely on another level, far more serious than other types, and only top nursing and sympathy will aid my prayed for recovery!

Children and persons of a nervous disposition should leave the room now………………


Look, before you start the heckling from the cheap seats,  in 1980 this was a highly sought after tattoo! I had to go all the way to Kings Cross in downtown Sydney to get it done! On reflection I think the tattooist was drunker than me!

So what have we been doing. Firstly we trundled down to Puy St Martin in the Alpine-Rhone region and stayed on a free aire for two nights. Smack bang in the centre of a small village, with a bar and pizzeria, it ticked all the boxes. By day it was absolutely boiling, by night the ever present mistral wind picked up, which helped circulate the heat, but we kept the van door open for most of the night. 

Hunkered Down

Keeping the Mutts cool was a major task, so he was kept under the shade all day and exercised in the evening.

One extra for dinner ?

This morning(Sunday), we were up with the local cockerel 🐔, van packed and by 7am we were heading down the motorway towards Montpellier with the intention of beating the tourist traffic, heading towards the Riviera. Even at that time of day, the traffic was quite heavy. We then swung north, our original plan to sit by the Med for 24hrs was binned, it was overcast and very windy. So we consoled ourselves by driving over the Millau Bridge, apparently the tallest bridge in the world. When I say “driving” I mean “piloted”  at its highest point it’s over 1000ft….. and it was designed by a Brit!

Image©keeplane.com


Now we are based for the night alongside Lac de Paraloupe in the Midi Pyrenees with the intention of slowly heading towards the Dordogne and Bordeaux  tomorrow.


 The suns shining, but it’s definitely more tolerable. We brits and the weather eh!

That is All.

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#LeCercle17 Le RostBiffs (done nicely)! Day 6-9

(1063 miles) First of all a picture paints!


Each day is now blending into another as we carry on deeper into France. This is a country of huge contrasts, as a Brit I can only admit my burning envy. In one day you can travel from the rooftop of Europe to the Mediterranean, and the transport infrastructure supports it.

Another thing to discuss; the weather! Jeez how hot is it here? I incorrectly surmised that yesterday’s drive along roads snaking through alpine forests would be pleasant and breezy! No such luck, with the outside temp in the mid 30’s a mobile tin can was the last place on earth I needed to be.

Confession Time. I made a fatal error of wearing underpants with my shorts (I’m middle-aged, leave me alone)! Two hours into the drive, I screeched to a halt, staggered out of the driving seat, probably a kg or so lighter than when I climbed in it, shuffled to the back of the ChuckleBus, removed said dripping underpants, sunk a litre of water, climbed back into the seat and carried on the journey!! (Too much detail?). At some point during that interaction I may have also shouted “Laundry” in the direction of the other half!

So whilst I struggled with personal dampness and rapidly falling body-salt levels, the other half and Mutts, hung their heads out of the van windows, like a couple of teenagers riding the Sunday train to Barmouth!

At our destination I emerged from the wet seat in a dreamlike state, light-headed and not smelling too good! I’m slightly nervous about the next leg further south. I might buy a vest!!!


Chappelle Des Bois. A winter ski station in the Haute Jura Region”, we spent two nights here parked upon the ski station car park, for free! We were about 1100metres up and the only downside was the flies that swarmed the area. The weather though was glorious.

On the second day we did a really nice forest walk on the far side of the valley up to St Bernard’s Roche. A very steep climb up, but well worth it

The Start! Bright-eyed and bushy tailed

Not so chipper now!

The reward…..


The other half thought this was a mobile phone mast!! Surely not?


Camping Piat, Brides Les Baines. After the drive from hell we’re located south in the Rhone-Alps Region. The village, so wiki tells me, was one of the Olympic villages for the 1992 Winter Olympics. It’s quite a nice area, known for its thermal waters, great views and enhanced by cheap site fees, which I always like. We’re the token brits in this area, we haven’t seen any others for a few days, so I guess this is off the normal Brit motorhome trail. A small site, run by Fred and Nelly, it’s highly recommended. The village is just a 3 minute walk.

The views

High St, Brides Les Baines

Next? I know, you’ll think I’m crazy, but I’ve half a mind to point the chucklebus towards the Med!! At the moment half of Paris has decamped to the southern French coastline and the place is probably rammed! But I do fancy one pic of the old girl(chucklebus) with the blue waters of the Med as a backdrop. We will drive two hours further south tomorrow, I know not where, and probably make a decision later in the evening.

That is All.

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