Saturday, 6 September 2014

France–4th September 2014– Life’s so much better in shorts

We have now arrived in Mersault, just south of Dijon for a couple of nights stay. At last we are back in shorts and sandals after what can only be described as a miserable August, weather wise. We only chose this as a stop over on our way south and I must say we are not disappointed. This morning we walked about 10 minutes into town and it is very picturesque. Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera and regretted it so much that we are going back into town later this afternoon to take some pictures.The view from the campsite which is slightly raised from the town and terraced is beautiful. We couldn't believe it when we arrived yesterday afternoon and the site was nearly full, with about 6 vans pulling in immediately behind us. This morning it is empty and we are the only van on our terrace. a-empty

Was it something we said?

I've decided to write my notes more regularly as I forget to write down some of the strange and funny things that we come across when I'm on catch-up. 

So a couple of things dog related that I forgot to mention before.When we were in Ermelo and Meerke and Nol were taking us out, Connie came with us, she sat in the back of the hatch-back but wouldn't lie on the floor, she just had to lie on the top of the spare wheel where she often fell off, I do love my dog but she's pretty stupid at times. On the first day I thought she was a really stinky dog and was embarrassed at the smell, she's just a dog, she hadn't been rolling in anything nasty, but wet dogs can be pretty smelly; so when she accompanied us on our second day out she went out smothered in Calvin Klein. It did the trick.

Another dog related item I forgot about when we were in Oberwessel and one evening we went out to a pizzeria for dinner and there was a man there with an enormous dog. Now this dog was the size of a shetland pony. He said it was a turkish sheep dog and was only a puppy – an 80kg puppy. He said it would grow to approximately 120kg and currently he ate 6kg of food a day. This thing stood up to my hips at the shoulder, much larger and heavier than a great dane. He explained that there are two types of sheepdog, one which runs around the flock barking at anything threatening and this type which doesn't bark, but is just a silent killer and when alerted by the barking one, stealthily hunts down the intruder and goes for the kill, whether it be a wolf or a bear. Our dog weighs 10kg so he eats 3/5 th of our princess' weight per day. Now I don't like to be crude but think of all the poo it would create and you would have to pick up, and imagine travelling with that in a motorhome, especially with the old dutch woman who screamed at me “Off the Camping, Off the Camping” when my dog did what dogs do in the road. Yes of course I removed the offending c**p.
Kangal – Turkish sheep minder

Back onto our current travels. We are back on the road again and I'd forgotten just how much fun it can be finding LPG. We were on 4 flashing lights at this time, which means that you have used up all the gas, and the reserve and now it is just gasping for breath so this was to be our first priority of the day. Actually in this case we had no trouble finding it, we just couldn't get to it. We left our campsite in Nancy and the nearest lpg was just over a mile away, so that was our first destination to Le Clerc. 

The satnag directions seemed a bit higgledy piggledy and of course we went the wrong way, but only once that was enough. Then we wanted to turn left but it was nothing over 3.5 tonnes except buses. Iain then suggested that we do a “U” turn on the dual carriageway and as I was already half way across the road and there didn't seem much of an alternative, I thought it might be a good idea. Well it might have been, but it wasn't. I got stuck half-way across the road and had to do a bit of a 3 point turn to get round. Great! traffic coming at me from all directions.Back in the right direction, as soon as we found Le Clerc, we headed towards it. Just as I was about to go into the entrance, Iain shrieked, “STOP” and it was then that I saw the 2.3 m height barrier. Luckily I wasn't past the point of no return so pulled into a car park on the retail park to re-assess. 

This was the wrong Le Clerc, we could see the right one so we then headed towards it only to find when we drove in that there was another height restriction of 3 m this time. Still not enough to get under. A quick drive around the petrol station and we were off again to our next choice.Fantastic, here we were, no height barrier, in a town with lpg available. It's much cheaper in towns than on motorways by about 15 euro cents and with a 200 litre tank completely empty that makes quite a difference on the fill cost. Plus we needed petrol as well. But NO, the connector wouldn't connect and Iain in exasperation said lets go, we'll get some on the motorway. That was the third failed attempt to get lpg, in hindsight we should have sought assistance as you will find out. Now these connectors are different in all countries so you have to carry all the types you will need, it can be a real pain. We have only ever had problems connecting in France, everywhere else seems to be ok.

As we approached the motorway, on the slip road I put my foot down to get onto the motorway before a huge lorry and there was an alarm going off and the momentary splutter and mis-fire as the van goes over to petrol. At least this time it was only a momentary splutter, not like the time when we were going up the 7% incline and hair-pin bend in Zarultz in Spain. So anyway, with a quarter of a tank of petrol we knew we could get about 70 miles – if only we could find a petrol station without a height barrier in time.

Our first services were about 15 miles away and we pulled in only to find a 3.4m height barrier, so I followed the lorry signs. This was my first mistake – the lorry refuelling stations only have diesel – the one thing we didn't need. I reversed about 100m back to the entrance of the petrol station. We know we can get under 3.5 m, we did that in Spain too. So I inched forward to the barrier checkpoint and Iain walked ahead looking at the roof. It wasn't long before he gesticulated wildly that there was no way that we would fit. So I had to reverse back from that entrance and of course by this time I had someone right up my backside.We drove off through the lorry refuelling station and back onto the motorway. 

By now this was getting serious. As long as we've got petrol it doesn't matter if we don't have gas, but we only had a quarter of a tank and these height barriers were fast becoming a problem. This was the fourth aborted attempt to get gas.The satnag said there was another lpg fuel station about 15 and then 45 miles further, but of course we didn't know if we would come upon the same problem so we set off in hope, me driving as economically as possible and keeping an eye on how much petrol we were consuming.

So 11 miles later we pulled into the next service station – oh look there's another height barrier, this time 3.35m, even lower. A four letter expletive was heard to come out of my mouth, preceded by an “oh” . But I was determined. The height of the area of the pumps looked plenty high enough to accommodate us and I had spotted a gap in the wall. Iain said I'd never get through there and I said “Just watch me”. So I inched my way through, having to do a bit of manipulation and reversing back and forth and hey we were through.

Height restriction barriers everywhere
Just watch me!!!!

Guess what – the connector wouldn't connect – again. This time I marched into the service station and I said “Bonjour madame, assistance por l'autogas s'il vous plait”. I must have been desperate as normally even though I know the words, when I open my mouth it still comes out in English. I know this isn’t good French, but it was enough. 

Out trots the swaggering male attendant to show the stupid Englishman how to do it and low and behold, he mimed the instructions and connected the gas and woosh woosh woosh, it was doing the same thing. Houston we had a problem. So he promptly wiped out the inside of our connector and tried again. Eureka no wooshing and we had connected, we would soon be happily on the road again. The attendant then stood there holding the button for Iain, very kind of him as we were refuelling the engine tank and not the habitation tank – which meant he had to stand there for about 20 minutes – poor guy I felt really sorry for him.

So lpg topped up, petrol to half a tank and we left the garage 250 euros lighter. What with shopping, campsite fees and payage to pay and the fuel this was to be an expensive day. I always have fun at the payage, I have to get as close as possible, minding my wing mirror, then have to put the van in park, take off my seatbelt, open the door and then and only then if I'm lucky I can reach the slot to put my ticket in, and then of course the credit card. So I did all this and put in the Caxton card, knowing that it may be rejected (it's not always accepted at toll booths), and the machine spat it out immediately. I then put in our visa credit card and this was also spat out immediately. What next? Suddenly Iain noticed that we had a green light and the barrier was up so I hurredly went through. I just hope that at 40 euros we weren't charged twice.

Anyway as I said earlier we arrived at a very pretty campsite in Mersault. This seems to be a mainly transitional site, probably the time of year but the town is well worth the visit. Having walked into town in the morning, the sun was shining and it was pretty warm, for the first day in ages, so we just sat around all afternoon chatting and enjoying the warmth. We laughed when we realised that we had managed to while away half an hour on the topic of “What is the best time of the day to have a shower?” But it is important. Shower blocks can be a bit chilly in the mornings. By the afternoon you are getting pretty hot so it's a case of timing it correctly, not too early or you will be all sweaty again soon after, but don't leave it too late or it is getting cool again in the shower block. Oh joy of joys, is that all we have to worry about these days? Sometimes we really struggle to know what day of the week it is and I have to check on the computer calendar.

So showers had we walked into town again, just to get some photos which I'll share with you here. It was a shame that the sun was by now in the wrong place as it rather ruined some of the lovely photos I would have got in the morning. But these give you an idea of how pretty the town is. We would certainly recommend Grappe d'or in Mersault as a great stop-over or even a couple of days. It is also right on the Grand Cru Route if you want to visit the region.

Town Hall, I’m just sorry I didn’t get the morning picture with the sun on the roof

So here’s a bit with the sun on – it was striking

You might just make out the painting of the old lady in the window

How about this for a county retreat?

And then there were the views from the campsite:-a-view1a-view2We spent a very pleasant evening with a couple next door to us called Pat and Raymond who live in France and had just come back from touring the Czech Republic. They were also fans of touring Croatia and it's a shame that we couldn't be around longer to find out more as those are a couple of places that we intend to visit. They were a sprightly couple and it turned out that Pat's daughter was only a year younger than us. As I've said before, these older people we meet are truly inspirational. This was the first time since Somerset that we'd actually been able to sit out in the evening, albeit that we did need jumpers. 
Who put that tree there overnight?

So this morning it's a quick update before we pack up again and set off. A longer journey today of about 250 miles to Avignon, so we want to get an early start. I won't be posting until we get some internet, I absolutely refused to pay 13 euros for just two days internet – and that was the best deal. The previous campsite had been 6 euros a day, but they gave it free if you stayed more than one night. But 13 euros – that's just taking the ****. So hopefully no one has been frantically trying to get hold of us over the last couple of days.

When we are travelling, I like to take photos of different and unusual campers and caravans that we come across.  I’ll set up a separate page for them but here’s a couple that took my interest on this campsite:-
This was really cool – a Knaus with a young single German man – He was quite tasty too

Another Knaus but nowhere near as cool

It's nice this year, although we are doing long trips, at least unlike last year, I'm not frantically trying to pick up email every morning, just in case we have already been called back to the UK, which as you may know, the call actually came just 5 days after we arrived in Spain.

Somehow we actually managed to get off before 9.30 which is quite an achievement for us. I like to have the bulk of the journey completed by lunchtime, saving no more than 100 miles for the afternoon.Actually our journey didn't bring any trauma for a change. We found more of those height barriers and Iain checked each motorway services as we went past and they all had those dreaded height barriers. Of course with a journey of 250 miles we would need to refuel the LPG, but at least we had half a tank of petrol just in case. I think sometimes there is a sneaky way in and sometimes there are barriers that can be lifted, but we just made the decision to keep going and if we ran out then so be it. We haven't experienced this problem before – does anyone know if it's a new thing in France or just in this region?We'd just have to get some lpg in Avignon, before getting back on the motorway. We thought by the time we had pulled into every service station on the way just to check, we'd probably use up 20 miles of gas just doing so. The amazing thing is we got to Avignon and although the tank was gasping for gas and all the lights were flashing, we actually didn't run out.

We're staying in Avignon for 3 nights, this morning, when I've finished "playing" with the computer (as Iain puts it) we're going to have a walk into town.  It's forecast to be 31C this afternoon so we don't want to be walking the dog around in that heat.  Of course by staying 3 nights that will give us a chance to do the same walk tomorrow to take the photos - because I'm always forgetting the camera.

Sorry about the jumpy pictures. I've just discovered Microsoft Live Writer which means that I can do all my blogging off-line including pictures and then post in one go.  I have always known I could do off-line blogging with my tablet, but I prefer a proper keyboard and do it all on the laptop. So I'm experimenting with it at the moment and it's not exactly perfect - but practice might make it better.

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