The morning was still but cloudy. I was up around 0800 and walked down to the Boulangerie to buy some breakfast but, like everything else, it was shut! So breakfast was a poor affair - coffee and a small orange for me and tea and the remainder of her egg-custard for Cathy. As we emptied waste and took on more fresh water it started to spit and that set the weather for the day - still and cloudy, interspersed with periods of light and heavy rain. We needed some food so I drove towards Granville and the large Le Clerc supermarket. Just before we got there I spotted a 'Mr Bricolage' - these are large DIY stores and we'd being looking for a 'Ned' to help us fill up with water without a hose.
What's a Ned? It's what Steph & Ian call their plastic drainpipe u-bend. It fits perfectly into the water filling hole and makes it easier to fill up from a water container or watering can, doing away with the need to use a hose all the time. It's called 'Ned' because it's bright orange so reminds them of the colours of the Nederlands! I managed to find something similar, only in a grey colour similar to our van, Nido. So ours has been christened 'Nid'! I also bought some flexi hose to make filling containers from a tap easier, a small mat for our van's floor and some 'noise short' martial to reduce rattles when driving. Mr B shopping done, we drove to Le Clerc to fill up with food and water, the drove to Coudeville sur Mer to eat lunch with a sea view. On arrival Cathy prepared the food and I switched the fridge from battery to gas power, to be greeted by an audible alarm, which meant the gas bottle was empty. But that's OK, we have another full one. I went out, disconnected the empty one and shuffled them over so I could connect the new one. But I just couldn't get it on. I managed a few turns before it became so tight I couldn't make any more turns by hand. Twenty minutes later Cathy told me to come in for lunch and try after, which I did but with the same result. I then spotted the full bottle had a dent in the top which meant it wasn't completely round, hence the problem. I managed a few more turns but could get no further by hand. The thought of another 5 days without gas was too much - no hot water for showering or washing up, no hot drinks, no fridge; I wasn't going to let the 2014 gremlins this time! Gas bottles in France have different fittings to the UK so I couldn't just go and buy another. It's this sort of thing the EU should be sorting out - standardised fittings across the EU, not straight cucumbers! My last chance was to try and get it screwed on with some mechanical help, so it was back to Mr Bricolage to buy some mole grips. I tackled it again in their car park and it seems to have worked - we have gas again!
The plan was to stay on the Aire in Granville tonight, but as we drove into the large town, the satnav took us down ever smaller, tighter roads. In the end we decided to go somewhere quieter, so drove back out to have a cup of tea (now we have gas!) and think of where to go next. We parked by the beach just outside Jullouville, had our tea and sat looking out to sea. Cathy went for a walk on the beach to collect stones for the garden and I followed. On our way back it started to rain heavily and we were both soaked when we got back to the van, but we enjoyed the walk! Thinking about where to go next, we decided to head up towards the D-Day beaches, then start heading east towards Calais.
I found a nice looking Aire at Grandcamp Maisy, near Omaha beach. But I also a nice one next to a river on the way up at St Fromond - we'd try this one first and if it didn't look great then we'd carry on up to the coast. But it was a lovely Aire, right next to the river and with plenty of space. Only one other van was parked up, a Pilote van conversion. The bridge next to the Aire was the scene of fierce fighting in 1944 but the Americans finally crossed the river here, their engineers working under fierce German fire to build a bailey bridge across - several dozen US lives were lost over the 3 days it took to achieve the crossing. More importantly, there was a restaurant and Boulangerie within 2 minutes walking distance! Cathy had a snooze while I sat in the passenger seat and looked out over the bridge and the river, only able to imagine what it must have been like here 70 years ago. The memorial next to the bridge shows a photo of a platoon of the first US soldiers crossing the bailey bridge
When Cathy woke up I checked the restaurant was open and could see people sat in there, so we got ready and walked over to find, in those 15 minutes, all the lights were off and it was 'F*****G SHUT!! The gremlins were once again kicking us when down. I really didn't want to cook in the van again, particularly with it raining - it's harder when we can't have the door and skylights open. So we decided to head off to find something to eat. By now it was dark and still raining so finding an open restaurant would be hard. So,we ended up eating crap at MacDonalds :-( The only positive side was they thought I was eating in so gave all the food on a tray - we now have a McD's tray for Nido!
Back on the road, I keyed in the coordinates for an Aire at Grandcamp Maisy, on the coast and part of 'Utah' beach. It was thankfully only 20 minutes' drive and we pulled into a hedged pitch with about 5 vans already there - the most we've seen on any Aire this trip. We finished the day with a cup of tea and some patisserie. We have a few damp coats and clothes slowly drying out in the van, but at least we're warm and dry. Tomorrow we'll follow the coast road east, stopping off at war cemeteries and museums. And tomorrow we are definitely staying in a town where we can get something to eat, Rural France is most definitely closed in October!