We’ve been on the road now for 10 days, and have found our way down to Pujols, a medieval hilltop settlement in the south of France. More detail of all that to come , but firstly as a good skinflinter must, let’s tot up the financial hit that we needed to take to get going on this little mini adventure.
Leo the campervan £6250
Insurance £371 once they had decided our island driving licences were not completely suspicious
Breakdown cover £90
Ferry crossing Poole to Cherbourg £160
followed by slightly unexpected costs:
a new battery for Leo £101
Chairs (Sale price as we are at the end of the uk season) £10
Awning and groundsheet ( after our trial run of an overnight near Bristol to visit a friend from university, we realised Tiddler in the van is a bit like a bee in a jam jar). Extra ‘living’ space was a must. Second hand from a Facebook selling site £75
Legalities, including breathalyser kits, warning triangle, high vis for Tiddler ( Digger had two for us from his work fortunately) GB sticker, headlamp deflectors etc £50 ish
ACIS camping discount card, for low season, already saved us £10 on our trial night away £17
Gadgetry, water container, electric hook up adaptor etc £30
Completely unexpected costs:
Speedo shorts for Digger. We still haven’t fathomed the logic but trunks are a big ‘nil point’ in French pools. Digger is not impressed with the look. €8
All in all then, it’s not exactly been a budget get away to start with, but as my Grandad always said, ‘ The more you eat, the better you’re paid’. Sometimes paying out in advance is a necessary evil. Let’s hope Leo stays the distance!
First few nights in Framce were spent in a little ghost town of a coastal village, in St.Jean de la Riviera, in the La Manche region of lower Normandy. This was just a short hour drive from Cherbourg, so just giving Digger enough time to get used to driving on the right. Of course, that is the norm for him in Bulgaria, but not in a right hand drive vehicle, and following French road signs. He’s coping admirable however, with me as co-pilot with different scale maps in various stages of falling apart at the seams spread over my knees. Tiddler wants to map read too, but she tells us every map leads us to, based on a half remembered conversation from Papa, Dorchester.
Digger and Tiddler scooter round the campsite observing countries of registration on the vehicle stickers, and taking note of our fellow campers. The English couple watching ITV news out the back of their motor home. The Dutch chap with his cunning two washing up bowl system. The French man doing a sun salutation on his groundsheet. Before long we are Bonjour-ing and Bonsoir-ing like the best of them, and ordering croissants to be delivered for breakfast and drinking red wine at lunch. Leo is clearly the poor man’s version of a motor home. We are slightly in awe of the sleek, refined vehicles all around us. Driving Leo in this part of the world is clearly like taking a mongrol to Crufts.
Both at this campsite and the next, there are bouncy castles and covered pools. Digger gets his money’s worth from the speedos, and Tiddler seems to be the only child on site so gets the bouncy castle all to herself, and I sneak on for a crafty bounce myself seeing as no one is about.
The next castle however is real. We head down and stay for two nights in what is clearly the des res of sites in Beauvoir, a well aimed stone’s throw from supposedly the biggest attraction in France (excluding Paris) and receiving upwards of three million visitors per year- Le Mont St Michel. On a slightly damp day in October we were glad to have taken the advice of our neighbours and get there early before the rampaging hoards of tourists, including numerous school parties of slightly sulky French teenagers, scoffing Nutella crepes and sneaking cigarettes on the ramparts, before entertaining the crowds by going barefoot through the grey mud flats, shrieking and slipping over and scrawling French graffiti and quite possibly rude words in the sand.
As much as the abbey and village isolated in the estuary had their charms, I actually preferred the view and vista we saw the previous day as we drove along the less well travelled coastal road. In the late afternoon sun, shining a warm golden haze on the maize fields, the island rose eerily into view like a distant backdrop in a movie. Tiddler thought it was a pirate ship, sailing through the swaying landscape, with the archangel Micheal the flag on a crows nest, and I like that idea better.
From here we continued south: next post to include goats, lighthouses, chestnuts and a breakage!