France

The lake in Pouzauges
Our first big trip is a week in France in February, less than a month after taking ownership of Cleopatra, our campervan. During the preceding three weekends we have camped an hour or two from home, slowly optimising the equipment we need and the way we store it, and getting used to living in a van. We feel ready for spending seven days and nights in her.

We arrived a little more than two hours early for our Euro Tunnel crossing hoping for an earlier slot. This wasn't all that successful. We were allocated to a crossing half an hour earlier than we'd booked, but services were running half an hour late so it didn't look liked we'd gained anything, albeit we wouldn't be delayed as we should have been.

Driving onto the Euro Tunnel train
As we passed beneath the channel we sat in the back seat and ate carrot sticks which we dipped in a tub of hummus. It felt rather like sitting in first class!

The sun greeted us at Calais. We had Google Maps guiding our direction within seconds of driving off the train, reporting an approximate journey time of five and a half hours to our destination, Pouzauges, south west of Calais.

We'd ordered an electronic tag for the toll roads. These allow you through the toll barriers without need for cash or card payment and seemed like the easiest way to travel. Pulling up to the barrier for the first time I was sceptical it would work, but almost without coming to a complete standstill the barrier rose and our tag beeped.

Fitting headlamp converters
The toll roads were dual carriageway and almost deserted. Cruise control was set and we drove without hold up of any kind, while Google Maps slowly adjusted the expected time of arrival, earlier and earlier.

We stopped to fill up with fuel and answer the call of nature after about an hour. We were able to fill up and pay at the pump with a credit card which was good as it put off having to try to converse with a real French person. If there was going to be a barrier to our European travels it was going to be language. I can remember exactly one sentence from French lessons at school and it would not serve me well to use it. I can say only: 'My name is Mark; I am 12 years old.'

FRANCE 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8


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