Our last night spent on the road on the way back to Paris, was in France, in a little village called Loulay, just north of Bordeaux. I’m sure in the summer it is the most delightful village, the evening we arrived, it was blowing a gale, the rain was throwing it down and everything looked rather sad. We parked up in probably the smallest of Aires that we have come across to date, we squeezed in between a family saloon and three Post Office vans. It was Valentine’s Day and we hadn’t made any plans for dinner, (always so well organised … NOT) We decided that if possible we would push the boat out and get a couple of takeaway pizzas. We set off for a little walk with Charlie reluctantly being dragged along, oh how he hates the wet! We were chuffed to find on the village square, a pizza takeaway, closed!!! So we went on to a little delicatessen and stocked up with a couple of goodies, homemade Duck pate, warm fresh bread, a bottle of wine and some crisps! Yes it was indeed a nutritionally well-balanced meal but delicious none the less. We slept well, and didn’t hear a peek from the locals, who had decided the best place to be in this terrible weather was in their warm houses. We woke again before it was light, well before 5 a.m., there was a slight mist and we decided to get up and go, hopefully making as little noise as possible. I do wonder how the residents feel about having a motorhome aire close to their homes.
Within minutes of leaving the Aire, we questioned whether “Stupid Sat Nav Lady” had got the right direction! What a surprise eh? She had said to turn left out of the square, we were sure we had to turn right! The Hubster decided to pull into a little layby on the other side of the road, as he pulled into the middle of the road, I saw a signpost and told him, it was OK, we were going in the right direction, he straightened up the van and we continued along the road, As he popped the van into second gear, we saw five or six lights shining at us, waving up and down and back and fore, they were torches. It was the police!!
“Bonjour Monsieur, can you turn off your vehicle please!”. It was 5:30am, pitch black and very foggy. There were 5 officers! 4 men and one female officer who did all the talking! (Typical! Ha Ha!) She wanted to know, where we were going, where we had been, which direction we were taking, which Nationality we were etc. and of course she wanted zee papers! Passports, insurance policy, van log book, and the MOT. Well that’s all well and good, but all our papers are stored under one of the seats in a safe!!! It is installed at an awkward position which makes it very difficult to open. No worries, she tells me, they aren’t in a hurry;. so I climb into the back of the van, I pull up the cushions and open up the locker, I pull out the pile of summer cloths, spare blankets, sewing box, three pairs of shoes and manage to open the safe (thank goodness I hadn’t forgotten the code!) I passed these to the police officer and three of them peered at the sheets of paper by torchlight. To be perfectly honest I think I could have handed them a Utility Bill because I’m quite sure they didn’t know what they were looking at, as they handed back the papers very quickly saying all was in order! They then chatted more informally, wanting to know how our trip had been, which had been our favourite place and giving us directions to the motorway junction before wishing us well. All in all not too traumatic but what on earth were they doing out there at that time in the morning and in the middle of nowhere? All very strange.
We hit the motorway and it was lovely and quiet, as to be expected at that time in the morning. We thought we’d had enough excitement for one day, thanks to the gendarmes. In France they have a wonderful system, depending on which motorway you are driving on – they have a dedicated radio station, which is really informative, they tell you of any broken down cars, road works, delays etc. Well, we heard a brilliant one as soon as we hit the road, WARNING – a vehicle has been spotted between junction 34 (where we got on) and junction 35 ( the direction we were going in) driving the wrong way! Yes, that’s right some clot was driving down the wrong side of the motorway! Our eyes were peeled, looking out for headlights coming towards us, it was exhausting, it was dark and foggy. We didn’t come across anyone, so we hope they were apprehended before they caused any damage. What made me laugh about the whole situation was that, I could imagine the report going out over the police radios, and you can be damn sure the gendarmes that stopped us would be saying “Aha, that’ll be the Brits in the Camping Car!”
The rest of the journey was pretty boring if I tell the truth although I did get a feeling of being a Pac Man chewing up the tarmac and swallowing the miles! Apart from another warning over the radio that at the next exit there was a delay due to a Wild Boar on the motorway. I tell you it’s so much more exciting than going from London to Manchester via Birmingham, although the weather did remind me of the UK!
One of the things I love about French Motorways is the way they put up signs along the route, that show why a town or a region is well-known – be it a castle, bridge, famous person born in the area, a gastronomic speciality or an invention. They are very proud of their heritage, it became a bit of a standing joke as we passed each one, I would say “Ooh, I’d really like to see that!” looks like I’m going to have to make another list. This country is bigger than it appears!
We arrived safely at my sister’s house in time for lunch, it was so lovely to see all the family again. We had so much to chat about – I’m sure you can imagine! So now, it’s time to put our serious hats on and sort out formalities. Yuk, I hate being a grown up! Harry has been cleaned inside to within an inch of his life and is parked up at the neighbours house! I pass him as I walk Charlie and I swear he looks sad, he’s ready for another trip! We won’t disappoint him, Harry like Charlie, needs to run free!!
I have a couple of ideas rattling around in my head, so even if you don’t hear from me for a while, trust me, in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger we’ll be back! I think this is just the start of another adventure.
Oh just a little footnote, a huge hello to all the people we’ve met on our travels, and thank you Judy and Steve for pointing out that you are having beautiful weather, we, on the other hand, are both suffering from Trench foot, it’s so wet and miserable here at the moment! Charlie has taken to crossing his legs rather than go out and relieve himself – poor little chap!