Clearly, there have been changes…

It rapidly became clear that this blog could not go on as planned, as a detailed record of our trip with reviews of sites and so on. It proves to be just to difficult to marry together free time with a Wi-Fi signal, available bandwidth and a power supply. Bandwidth has been a particular issue.

Regular readers will have noticed a new style of posting – I am trying out Instagram as a way to squirt a literal snapshot of where we are and what we are up to. I am not very good with Instagram or my phone aps in general so there may continue to be some hiccups until I sort myself out.

Apart from these Instagrams I will try to write odd posts as a summary or to highlight special features. The site reviews are almost certainly going to bite the dust completely.

There is a draft post on file for the fifth week of our trip but as we are leaving the site we are currently on, I may well not be able to complete it for a while yet.

So, here’s a very quick and dirty summary: It is the eighth week of our trip and today begins our fifth week in France. Time is passing quickly and we are enjoying ourselves. We have reached Brittany and are at Camping Les Salines near Plurien and Sables d’Or Les Pins.

The weather has been mostly kind but we have had some refreshing rain from time to time. Will try to add a gallery of photos for our travels whenever I can. Today’s featured photo is from Monet’s garden at Giverny, a stopover that certainly requires a gallery all of its own.

Week 4: Finally, France

The drive from Huntingdon down to Folkstone began in less than promising fashion. It was raining and the traffic was slow, tailing back from roadworks. The sun did emerge eventually. We wanted o get the M25 over and done with before stopping. Services were few and far between thereafter and we were not far from Canterbury, so we did not stop at all until we reached the park and ride.

We had lunch at the nearby pub and serviced the van and killed time until we could set off for Folkstone, where we were  moved up the queue and caught the 20:50 hrs shuttle.

Waiting to be called at Folkestone terminal

Farewell to Blighty

We were on the other side almost before we knew it and took the brief ride to Cité Europe where we parked with seemingly dozens of other vans in the car park.

We took advantage of our proximity to Carrefour in the morning and bought a few supplies before setting off for Boulogne-sur-Mer.

The Friterie van across the road provided our lunch of frites and mayo and, fuelled up, we set off to walk into town.

I loved the beach huts.. very “French”

We were looking for a Pharmacy as it appears that off the counter remedies are not a thing in French supermarkets.  Pharmacies don’t appear to be all that common either as we failed to find one.

I was very taken with this monument and the bird upon it

our Carrefour purchases provided a delicious evening meal.

a Special Offer that could not be refused

On Wednesday we left Boulogne and on spotting an Intermarché on the edge of town, we called in for more supplies.

Vincent at the supermarket

Our destination was a  France Passion site not far distant. We wanted to take a scenic route (and it was, very) so turned off Motorways and Toll roads on the satnav. This resulted ultimately in our being routed round a single track road with no passing places but plenty of ditches. We met the school bus coming the other way. He appeared to desire us in the nearest ditch. 

It was a relief to arrive at Les Vergers de Brunembert, where we had a very pleasant stay and fully sampled the produce before moving on to Montreuil-sur-Mer on Thursday for a two night stay on the free Aire there.

We had a fabulous time in Montreuil, which is actually nowhere near to the sea any longer. It is an attractive  historic town within walls which can be walked in a complete circumnavigation. The weather was wonderful and we were able to take full opportunity of walking on the ramparts and indeed without the walls, where a leafy green area surrounds the town. This area can be accessed directly from the Aire, which is a positive bonus for travelling canines. Nell was a happy dog indeed.

A short drive on Saturday took us to Rue and our first French caravan site. We booked in for two nights at Camping de la Maye.

Rue is another pretty town but not at the same level as Montreuil.

Rue

Rue

Rue

and that was our first week in France.

Week 3: Working our way down

We bid farewell to the peace of Sweethope with some reluctance but had in prospect the excitement of a trip on the preservation railway in Alston, so left in good spirits – though not before we struggled to pay our dues. At Sweethope you pay when you go but we found a “Gone to Hexham” sign in the window. There were envelopes available to leave the money but no sign to tell us how much to pay. we rang the contact mobile number, determined the cost as £13, and left the cash.

As we approached Alston the Diversion signs were out. We knew the diversion from a previous encounter. It is a long and awkward one to go around and miss a few yards of street closure in the centre of Alston. We made a rapid decision to miss out the railway and head straight over to Teesdale.

Hot dog

It was chilly up at Cow Green and the weather was not terrific, though we kept dry when taking Nell for a walk. It was not sufficiently good to feel that we wanted to go ahead with the planned barbeque though. I made hot dogs in the van and we sat and watched the sun sink and the sky clear over from Cumbria.

On Wednesday we travelled down to York, where we stayed at the Caravan and Motorhome Club’s Rowntree Park site and the following day popped over to Pocklington for a couple of nights at The Mile farm shop.

The Mile Farm Shop

On Saturday we put a few miles on, making our way down to Cambridgeshire, where we stayed two nights at the National Trust’s camp site at Houghton Mill.

Houghton Mill

Tomorrow we leave Houghton and go to France. We will head for the Aire in Canterbury and park up there until it is time to go for our shuttle.

Cottages in Houghton

It is hard to believe that it is finally happening and that we truly are off to France after so much anticipation and planning.

Week 2: Southward to England

Week 1 took us from home to mainland Orkney and then to Scotland. We were last seen at Culloden Moor.

We left Culloden Moor on Monday morning, having business in Elgin and Turriff, and ended the day at Huntly Castle caravan park. We stayed for two nights at this peaceful  location. We have visited Huntly before and no doubt will do so again. 

We chose the scenic route from Huntly to Cellardyke. It would have been stunning if the weather had played ball but thick humid air and low cloud served only to obscure the otherwise wonderful views. It was still a pleasant drive, when not actually chucking it down – though a long one. We stopped at Braemar to make lunch. The weather improved considerably after that point.

Somewhere around Glenshee, with photography limited to shooting through the car window

We had booked two nights at the Silverdyke caravan site but when we found that The Cellar had a cancellation and therefore a table available for Thursday dinner, we promptly booked another night and stayed until Saturday morning.

I am growing very fond of this part of Scotland and will be happy to return to Fife and the East Neuk time and again.

Cellardyke

Saturday took us to Sunnyhills . It felt like a long drive in the hot sun and Bank Holiday weekend traffic as we worked our way slowly around Edinburgh and southward to the Border.

Ceridwen approaches England

On Sunday morning we enjoyed a Full English at Sunnyhills then set off for Sweethope Loughs.

Sunnyhills Breakfast

We sat out the rest of the holiday weekend in peace and quiet… chilling out, eating and strolling with the dog.

We sought out the circular route around the larger lough

Week three will start by wandering down to Co Durham tomorrow. From there we will go to York and Pocklington, then break the onward journey to the Channel Tunnel with a couple of nights in Cambridgeshire. Week four will begin with the Channel crossing. The adventure will finally begin.

Week 1: Well, it happened

I have been remiss, I know but really you can have little conception of how hectic things have been. The important thing is that everything that needed to happen, happened. The passports arrived, Boatmail was organised, Post Office Redirection is in place, shock absorbers were fitted, the MOT was passed, Nell’s pet passport was updated, practically everything that we owned was sold, the house was entirely emptied, passage was booked and… we set off.

In fact we set off for Kirkwall last Monday, the 14th and stayed overnight at the Picky camp site. Vincent was MOT’d on Tuesday morning and passed with no advisories. Nell had her immunisations topped up an hour later and we set off for Stromness to see if we could book the afternoon boat. By supper time we were parked up at Sibster Forest.

Wednesday morning saw us set off for Dunbeath, where we planned to stop overnight at the harbour. We were nicely settled in when we realised that we really needed to do some forward bookings. There is no Internet and no phone signal at Dunbeath, so we drove off to Brora and went to stay on the CS there where we have stopped before. We did our planning and booking and then took ourselves off to Sid’s Spice for dinner.

Thursday morning took us to Beauly, where I traded in my camera kit at Ffordes. A heart-breaking moment but I really did need to get something smaller for the van and lighter for me to carry. I now have a mirrorless camera, an Olympus OM-D EM10 Mk II and four lenses to go with it. I haven’t done much with the camera yet due to the manual being on a disk and us not having been on a hookup at Brahan Estate, where we stayed for two nights.

Whilst in Beauly I had my Camping Haircut done. I am in need of a paper bag to put upon my head. We had breakfast at a Deli in the town, a place that deserves a special mention: Corner on the Square – worth seeking out if you are in the area. Good coffee and the cakes looked great but we confined ourselves to pancakes, bacon, banana and maple syrup.

Parking was easy in Beauly. We went straight to the Brae View car park, which is unmarked. We backed into the bushes, out of the way but it really was not busy at all. It would be suitable for overnighting and offers the possibility of entertainment as it faces onto the Shinty Club ground.

The Brahan Estate site was as peaceful and therapeutic as ever. It really is one of the very best sites that we have used to date.

Parking at Brahan is between the oak trees lining the drive

We dodged the showers and walked the dog by the river and I tested out the basic functions of the camera using the kit lens and full auto settings. Important that I get this right as this blog will depend on it!

Out with Nell by the River Conon

On Saturday I was disinclined to be dragged from my idyll and to drive into Inverness in the lashing rain in order to go shopping. 

Halford’s came first, and some new speakers for Vincent as he had blown one. Then next door to Cotswold Outdoors for new walking shoes for the pair of us.

New Shoes

We also purchased some packing “cubes”, some head nets, a rain mac, Bridgedale socks and a collapsible kettle! More on these later.

COMPENDIUM FACT: Cotswold Outdoors offer a significant discount (15%) for holders of CMC or National Trust cards. This came in very handy indeed.

Tesco followed, as Tesco seems always to do so, and Argos, and then we settled at Culloden Moor for two nights, of which tonight is our second. For the first time this week we have the full trinity of  EHU, Internet signal, and showers.  also laundry facilities, though this is a matter that I struggle to be excited about.

There we are then. Up to date. At least as far as our latest adventure goes. I have not forgotten that there are older ones to document.