Saturday 1 October 2022
Nido's parked up at Wissant, our last aire of this six week trip to France. The alarm is set for 0400 tomorrow morning ready for our 0750 Shuttle and, so long as Salty's EU Pet Passport passes muster again and assuming no train or UK road delays (bound to happen now!), we'll be back in our home on Ynys Môn (Isle of Anglesey) by this time tomorrow.
We've had a walk along the seafront and on to a noisy and busy beach with Salty; the over-stimulation set him off barking so he came back to the van for some 'quiet time' and we went back for another walk. Although there was a strong onshore wind, it was warm and sunny. Consequently we were in t-shirts and shorts; everyone else was wrapped up in fleeces, scarves and quilted jackets. I'm not sure who was out of sync, but we felt very comfortable! We're now hunkered down in the van, something to eat then an early night.
The main effort yesterday was two fold: a trip to the vet for Salty to take his worming tablet and have a 3-year rabies vaccine booster and meet up with a friend and his dogs, also travelling in France in his motorhome and also visiting the vet ready to return to the UK. Both accomplished.
We met up with Nigel in his A Class Rapido motorhome, with his two dogs onboard - Judy (who is an elderly lady now and prefers to stay in the van) and Matt (who is much younger and Salty's walking buddy). We met at the aire in Buchy at around midday and spent an hour or so stood outside in the sunshine, catching up on our respective trips. We left first for Salty's 2pm vet appointment, with a plan to all meet up at another aire later that afternoon.
The vets in Buchy was very good. I booked his appointment via their website before we left home. The practice is on a small industrial estate just outside the town and is clean and modern with five vets in the practice. We were soon chatting to the vet who spoke excellent English. After Salty had taken his worming tablet (which I sneakily wrapped in ham!), the vet gave him is rabies booster. Although Salty's rabies booster runs until October next year, there's no guarantee we'll be back in Europe then. UK vets can no longer register rabies jab in an EU Pet Passport, so if it had lapsed, his pet passport would have become invalid. Now he's covered until 30 September 2025.
Nigel's dogs weren't booked in until 3pm, so we continued to the aire at Mesnières-en-Bray to make sure there was room for both vans to stay the night; otherwise we had a couple of reserves. Luckily there was plenty of space, so we parked up and had a spot of lunch and a cup of tea until Nigel arrived about an hour later. We took our dogs for a walk while Cathy had a bit of peace of quiet - not really, she spent the whole time giving the inside of our van a really good clean! One of the reasons we picked this aire (apart from being free) was that the village had a pizza machine! It was just opposite the entrance to the aire, so later we bought three and spent an enjoyable hour or so (with a bottle of red) in Nigel's van catching up. His ferry's booked for this evening so he left early this morning to make his way to Calais. We followed on a bit later, topping up with diesel close to tonight's stop.
We've had a blast on this trip, extending our summer by several weeks and even having to head north early due to the extreme hot weather in the Dordogne. This is our first long van trip after a three year break due to the Covid pandemic; it was eagerly awaited and we've enjoyed the journey. But we're ready to return home and pick up our retired lives. The garden will be a jungle, so will need taming and Cathy has lots of plans to move plants around, plant new ones and add some structural changes. I have a busy period coming up with Môn SAR as a bunch of new recruits start their six-month training programme on Wednesday, I have a couple of watches booked in with the National Coastwatch Station at Rhoscolyn and it'll be back to the tools on Friday, working on improving and maintaining the footpaths and coastal path somewhere on Anglesey.
Like most countries around the world, France has been impacted greatly by the financial crash of 2008 and the Covid lockdowns. In our early trips to France, before we had the van, we used to eat at many of the small, family-run bistros and restaurants dotted around France. Similarly, nearly every village had a Bar/Resto or Tabac and a boulangerie. Sadly, the financial crash wiped out most of the former and the lockdowns took out many of the latter. Sadly, many French villages are a shadow of their former selves, with no bar, boulangerie, boucherie or shop to act as the community hub. Combined with many young people moving away from the countryside and into the cities, lots of these French village and hamlets are slowly dying and it's sad to think they could be empty and forgotten in a few years. France isn't unique of course, many other countries including the UK have suffered a similar fate. But it's particularly sad as it's these institutions that make France special and, in a selfish way, we miss them.
So we head back to the autumn and coming winter, hoping the fuel bills are affordable and, probably like many others, thinking where we can make savings to survive the cost of living crisis. It's going to be a very difficult 12 months for many. Because of this, we're uncertain if we'll be travelling into Europe next year. We'll need to wait and see how the finances stack up. But we have some plans for exploring more of the UK in 2023. We're planning on a fortnight in the Lake District in the Spring, meeting up with some of my old Navy friends for some walking and reminiscing. Then before the main summer holidays we're looking at two weeks in the Highlands of Scotland, spanning my 60th birthday in July (only seems a short while since I was 18 and partying all night!). Then perhaps a trip to either the Yorkshire Dales and east coast, or the south coast, covering Dorset, Devon and Cornwall into the autumn. These are all loose plans and subject to change - aren't they all. But it'll give me something to do on the dark winter nights, planning where to stay and researching places to visit.
I hope you've enjoyed my very amateur blog posts and thanks for staying the course. If you've read them all - you deserve a medal! I started the blog as a reminder of all the places we've visited in motorhomes over the years, otherwise I'd soon forget! Looking back, we've had a great time and hope to continue them for many years to come.
That's it Folks! See you back in Blighty!