Sunday 18th November 2012

We left Bolton for the second time on Wednesday 31st October, 18 days later we are sitting in the motorhome under the shade of tall oak trees in Southern France about 50k from the border with Spain. Not that we need the shade….today it’s raining, first rain for a week, we’ve had some lovely balmy, sunny days while we’ve been on the move so far. Tonight is our 51st consecutive night in Liberté Too.

As we left to drive to Hull for the ferry, Hattie gave me my first beaming smile. Brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye, I can tell you.

At the weighbridge en route, we found we were alarmingly over our payload so at the first opportunity we lost almost 200 kg of weight by just about emptying the freshwater tank. We decided we would have to reassess the situation once we got to Liberté.

The Hull Zeebrugge crossing was “lively” with gale force 8 to 9 winds but we were okay. We had a double cabin which was much more comfortable and roomy than our usual bunks. Once off the ferry we headed in pouring rain through Belgium to Luxembourg where we spent one night and got some cheap fuel.
Being stopped by the Belgian police for pulling out in front of them in an aire and having to turn round to avoid a low and narrow bridge were the “highlights” of the drive through Belgium, they really should learn something from their neighbouring countries about how to look after their road surfaces.

It was great to arrive eventually in St Jean de Losne….it has a “coming home” feel about it when we arrive at the boat, not that we had the energy to visit that night, we waited till the next morning when we set to with the jobs that needed doing to winterise her. First job was to unload the new leather cushions that had taken 6 months to get there! Great success, they fit well and look very smart. 

My phone has not really captured the colour
 very well but you get the drift!

I cracked open the accordian for a few blasts of Waltzing Matilda, Schottische and my other favourites. I can still play it…yeah!!!!

A very busy week ensued, winterising jobs for Liberté and removing weight from Liberté Too. All marred by the heating in Liberté Too failing resulting in no hot water or central heating, not fun in the autumnal chill. We were very glad we had the secondary truma blown air heater installed. Many e-mails and phone calls to the UK, a trip to the Pilote and supposed Alde agent in Dijon were unsuccessful and much stress was encountered. I was relieved to be able to communicate with a bilingual Alde France employee who eventually secured an appointment for us for Monday 12that an Alde agent in the Auvergne, so the next leg of our trip was planned around that visit. Bearing in mind our previous penchant for getting lost in Clermont Ferrand, we were relieved to find that this time we went nowhere near the place!

In the meantime, Nigel brought hilarity to the boating community by stepping off the end of our pontoon in the dark carrying a printer! The printer was brand new, (and floated!) bought for the MH but surplus weight we could do without so it was heading to the boat to be left there. Wonder if it’ll still work? Oh, he also had his wallet in his back pocket containing 600 euros which have now been dried out and thankfully you’d never know owing to my swift administrations with paper towel and a rolling pin! The next evening was quiz night which was very enjoyable and good to catch up with people we hadn’t seen since May.

Our first stopover on leaving St Jean was a night (pouring rain) at Decize in the company of Jenni and Roger, it was as always great to see them and Roger surpassed himself again with a wonderful curry. I shall hurriedly gloss over the fact that Jenni overcooked the rice and had to start again!

Next morning, still raining we headed off towards Roanne, the aire being next to the port. We met some other English boaters who came into the motorhome for a drink in the evening, they had met J and R at Decize the week before.

Good news on the Monday morning, our heating problem was diagnosed and fixed and we were on our way within an hour and a half……great relief all round and we could feel ourselves beginning to relax at last. Not to mention the joy of being able to have showers again! It was a circuit board malfunction (trés rare, so I was informed), so new one fitted and tested. Voila!

A lovely few days ensued, travelling through some gorgeous scenery in the Auvergne and the Dordogne valley. We have strolled around some remarkably quaint villages we would never ordinarily have seen, been in churches and town squares all so different and unique.

Tea and biscuits en route in the Dordogne

Now at the coast west of Bordeaux, we have at last seen and climbed up the Dune du Pyla and wondered at the remarkably vast forest de Landes which stretches for miles to the east of it.
We have learned a valuable lesson, that is not to park under oak trees on windy nights in autumn….the cacophony of falling acorns is not conducive to a good night’s sleep especially the tympanic tones of the ones that land on the Sat dish! The next day of course, those that remain on the roof roll about when you set off and skitter off the front noisily when you brake!

Soon we will be in Spain and I will be out of my comfort zone, not being able to speak a word of Spanish. Meanwhile, today is a rest day…….we’ve had croissants as it’s the last Sunday in France for a few months. And it’s still raining!

Surprising sight…steps up the Dune du Pyla

It was worth the climb!