Friday, 22 July 2011

Another cancellation

Cancelled Nottingham again because of the weather. Provisionally rebooked for September.
Regarding Brighton, the course which motivated the visit has been cancelled due to insufficient takeup. We'll go if the weather looks good.
And we've bought an Asda £5 toaster.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Day 1 (3rd July)

Original full tank @£1.287 from Asda
103 miles to the Rookesbury campsite, an extra 35 to pick up the 2nd bike in Lymington. We passed a broken-down Eriba (possibly a Puck) on the way and felt a bit guilty for not stopping. A break at Lyndhurst on the way for additional bread and cheese supplies. The new Garmin satnav is hopeless and we'll be seeking a refund from Amazon when we get back, meantime, we're back to the old, fat but reliable TomTom Go500. The 2nd Brompton looks to be in good condition for a 15yo bike. Two excellent pints of 49er in The Borough Arms while waiting for the vendor to arrive.
Pre-marinated BBQ chicken and salad: on a preliminary washing-up foray, met a lady with a wonderfully small and secure bottle of washing-up liquid: she's had it so long that she cannot recall where she got it, but it's so useful that she keeps refilling it: we're still using a 10yo bottle of vasile rescued from the camper and which had leaked copiously in the van since our last outing
I’m travelling with a new small camera, a Pentax Optio LS1100: remarkably cheap and effective and the only downside is a flimsy battery compartment cover. Forgot to get a toaster, but the van is filling up and we must beware of filling it with kelterment.

We found the French Connectors inherited from Gerald, one wired each way to be used in conjunction with a £6.99 B&Q circuit tester (bought after rejecting a superficially identical £19.98) model from the normally pound-efficient nearby electrical trade supplier.

Day 2 (4th July)

Alarm at 5, bunny count of three as I emerged for a fox's breakfast. The real breakfast was tins of breakfast compote and prunes with lashings of yoghurt.
Departure at 6.15 after a smart hookup (note above on benefits of weight reduction), but something is squeaking. The Norman Arrow is a new (to me) boxy design of ferry, a multiple- storey car park with a barn and cafe on top, nevertheless, comfortable and efficient.
Our extensive and effective money-saving wheezes came to the fore with black masking tape borrowed from another chap in the ferry queue (£6.99 on headlight deflectors) [photo]; GB magnetic sticker found in the glove compartment (£3.49); cheese sarnies (£7) flask of coffee (£8.60). You can't spend it twice (unless you spend it on an income producing asset, which consumables are not). Also in the queue was a small vintage Saab convention.
The journey from Le Havre to Chateau de Lez-Eaux was relatively pleasant and stress-free with the old satnav, but the poor old thing became rather perturbed towards the end when we followed Caravan Club directions rather than Tom’s. We were pleased to learn that because Gerald the caravan is so small we were only charged Class 1 tolls – around €3.10, €1 and €5.70 all the way.
We thought we knew the first campsite from earlier years with Gerald the VW, but I think we were mistaken. They had a band playing the first night we were there, Group Foumagnac, "a mixture of popular and lively Celtic and Irish music": their setup and practice a few hundred yards away sounded just like being at Cambridge Folk and their performance was better than many bands we have seen at Cambridge.

The Bromptons have been taken out on a first mission and are relatively successful: just two problems – me getting used to the gears and, more importantly on the red one, picked up yesterday, seems to have been reassembled with the front fork in reverse, so it folds, but unconventionally.
It was a pleasure to reacquaint myself with pâté de canard for lunch and it will be chicken curry tonight.
I made the mistake of giving away one of our 907 Gaz bottles when we sold the camper, not realising that they cost £60 to replace – even on eBay they are remarkably expensive. The going rate in France is more like £45, so we’ll invest in another. Then:
·      We are very unlikely to run out of gas; and
·      I can run the Cadac and a burner simultaneously.

DAY 3 (5th July)

Excellent curry last night,
Fry onion; add chicken thigh; later add chicken breast, garlic (real) and ginger (potted); seal the chicken then add curry paste to coat it; add a tin of chopped tomatoes and simmer for 30 mins; add garam at the end.
The plan had been to visit Granville today and Avranches tomorrow, but the site map shows the sea 4km away so it’s a walk this morning and probably just Granville tomorrow, unless the sea fails to detain us.
[later] Finding the sea was trickier than the arrow on the site map implied, but when we found a map at the other end our route was pretty much optimal. At Kairon we found a church, which has one piece of modern stained glass amongst the numerous standard windows.

We followed a few false trails and considered giving up but (largely by heading downhill whenever possible) eventually found the turquoise Bar de la Plage and a welcome glass of Pelforth. The bar was opposite a depressing example of the nadir of the camping experience, peeling caravans packed to capacity into a mobile slum.

We found the beach eventually. On the way back, I snapped this topiary at the Chateau
[later] Significant volumes of rain, though at 8:30, the sky seemed to be clearing from (what we now know to be) the sea.

Tea was rather a cheat, two tins of M&S Hot Chicken Curry (our emergency store) emptied into fried onion, garlic,  ginger and chilli. Not bad at all. The campsite has a market every Tuesday evening – we bought dry cider and some strawberries (had we known they were €5, we might have walked on, but those folks should be encouraged). Anyway, while preparing to cook the curry, we suddenly realised that we were vegetable-light and so the strawberry vendors came to our rescue with carrots for 30c supplemented by tin of sweetcorn from the site shop. Thus, the curry accompaniment was a melange of carrot, broccoli, sweetcorn and (ostensibly microwave) rice.
The cooking plan for tomorrow is a fried breakfast (sausage and bacon we brought) and for tea (assuming we get the gas bottle) bbq chicken with a stir-fry.

DAY 4 (6th July)

Good breakfast. The efficacy of the Cadac lid as a washing-up bowl is a boon in those campsites still in denial on the benefits of sink plugs.
I am reminded of my Camping Advice from an earlier era: #46c, “when in the shower, turn your sandals upside-down”. Those logs have retreated into a forgotten internet place. [found some!]
[later] After raining reasonably hard for the second half of day 3 and most of the night, today has been sunny, cloudy and dry: and so to Granville, a large but quiet maritime town

with a cathedral full of modern stained glass and ceramic pieces. The second highlight, after we took a well-earned pression in recognition of our climb to the cathedral, was that we had brought the wrong wallet and had plenty of £s but no €s to pay for the bier and cidre. The problem was soon rectified by the insertion of plastic at the Société Générale, but it remains to be seen what Barclays charge for the privilege [€50 = £47.76, could have been worse].
We passed a Lidl on the way to Granville and called there on the way back to spend the cash we had – it is much cheaper than the Geant Casino where we later returned with the right wallet for petrol and a bottle of Gaz. Still on for bbq chicken and a stir-fry tonight, but France seems to lack the concept of a stir-fry sauce and the soy sauce was a silly price, so it will be a curry-paste-stir-fry.

DAY 5 (7th July)

The weather doesn’t know whether to shit or cough. Today we’ve had heavy rain, bright sunshine and drizzle. As I write this in Chateau de Martragny, an impressive thunderstorm has just arrived. The journey from Les Eaux was uneventful: an earlyish rise; breakfast of croissants, baguette and comfychair; and a leisurely packup allowed departure before 10 o’c and a prompt arrival at Martragny. Given the dodgy weather, we set out for the nearest of the three daily markets but (if it was ever there) it had given up before our arrival at Asnelles which was greeted by heavy rain. We continued to Arromanches (site of the Mulberry Harbours that my father worked on) which boasts an extensive D-Day display, some leftover D-Day hardware in the sea, a large party of English schoolchildren and not much else, except the church (rebuilt in C19), which has some relatively recent stained glass, which obliquely depicts WW2.
Eschewing a bar in the town, we headed towards Bayeux, in search of a supermarket for tonight’s salmon and (after some supermarket- and soul-searching) a pack of Hollandaise sauce. On the way to the Intermarche, we noticed an impressive-looking church not far off our route and tried to locate it on the way back. Taking (what seemed like) the appropriate turn, we never saw it again and may try again tomorrow on the way back from Bayeux itself.
Back for a bier, a read, then salmon, hollandaise and a stirfry. We watched two episodes of Frasier on the DVD player, which has performed excellently – opting for the 9” screen rather than a 7” was definitely a good plan. We brought Leap of Faith (not yet played), Frasier, Outnumbered and Due South.
One entertainment failure has been the lack of all-night radio – my normal response to sleep failure is BBC Radio 7 (now rebranded as 4extra) on a pillow speaker. We failed completely to provide for radio entertainment and information although the car will supply a noisy 198 long wave. Tonight I might hook up my ipod to the Dab radio and listen to my current story,  Reginald Hill’s Stranger House.
Tomorrow, scrambled eggs for breakfast then the tapestry and back for butter chicken from a Patak bottle.
The original plan had been to camp again for one night at Rookesbury when we return to Blighty, but if the weather remains dodgy, we’ll head straight back for London: no point in spending a soggy night in a field with no awning as we couldn’t be arsed to raise it for a one night stop.
The talk for next summer is of a long ferry down to Spain. We did that years ago and cut straight across to France on the way to Rennes-le-Chateau and the Mediterranean,  but this time a tour of Spain may be the plan.

DAY 6 (8th July)

Saw the Bayeux tapestry and found a market on the way at Trévières. A modest market where we bought veg and pêches. The nearby church proudly displays a statue with war damage.

We failed to find the hidden church or, indeed, any supermarches on the way and so will try again later.

The tapestry is a remarkable thing, perhaps the first portable cartoon as cave paintings are perforce static displays. Photographs are not allowed and so these images, showing the comet and Harold getting one in the eye,  are sourced in Google. We entertained ourselves (and probably annoyed our fellow observers) with our witty and trenchant interpretations of the images and inscriptions. In the gift shop we bought cartes postales for the grand-meres (which, unusually for us, we managed to both write and send while still on holiday), my usual commemorative fridge magnet and I secretly sneaked in a DVD of the tapestry so that we can relive the pleasure tonight.

Bayeux cathedral is large but visually unexciting.
We found the supermarches and the way to the church but the latter, in Sommervieu, is not accessible as it is owned by some Fraternal Ordre de Christ.

One more night (with butter chicken) and 8 o’c alarm clock with an intended 10:45 departure. A dry awning would be good, but looking increasingly unlikely.
The principle: we have concluded that caravan camping is superior to camper camping because of the added freedom the car provides.
The details: the bed is significantly larger, far more comfortable, and much easier to put up. The water supply (cold in both) is usable in the puck. We haven’t used the cooker in either because curries tend to linger and, in any case, I would prefer to cook outdoors. The external table is also a boon.

LAST DAY (written on 10th July, the day after returning).

The butter chicken was very good, for a bottle.

More rain overnight, so we packed a wet awning, the clincher in deciding to head home. The journey to the ferry was well-timed but the ferry ran an hour late. The gendarme on French border control insisted on opening the Puck to look for “stowaways”.
Although in first place on the ferry, there was no advantage as they let the cars off first – the only effect was a covering of spray, which dried to a hard salt coating I spent this morning washing off.
We eventually arrived back at home closer to 9 than the estimated 7 o’c and managed to get the Puck back in place with some neighbourly help.
A jolly good trip.