Washing day! Verneuil to Dormans – 5km

Yes everyone has to do it. The washing. We have been out now a week and the time has come. We drive a staggering 5km from Verneuil to a smashing little town called Dormans. Surrounded by vineyards we find a municipal campsite which has everything we need.

After stocking up on some food, and of course drink, at the local Carrefore supermarket we find the site. CAMPING MUNICIPAL DORMANS. It has everything, a swimming pool, a park, crazy golf and of course washing and drying facilities. 14 euros gets us in and we can choose our own pitch. This is the first time we have had to pay for a nights stay in 4 nights having previously stopped at France Passions and an aire or two. We get a nice spot with plenty of shade from a tree with a view of the town church on one side and vineyards on the other.

We get everything out, tables, chairs and the awning. We are starting to look the part…

The weather has taken a turn for the hot… Very hot. The forecast for the next week is even more heat with a possibility of reaching 30 degrees…

Today we do nothing else. It’s great. Just the laundry and sitting in the sun. By the end of the day we have done 4 beers and a bottle and a half of wine. Splendid.

Tomorrow we’ll stay here a do some walking or cycling.

Well that was alright. Abonnay to Verneuil – 45km

What a fantastic first stop in the champagne region. After some fresh French pastries we leave Champagne Foureur. A great night of fish and salad and to go with it we open and finish one the two bottles that we bought yesterday.

It’s a nice feeling sitting drinking the champagne in the courtyard of the maker. Mega.

It’s a short drive again today, 45km.

We have to pass by but end up in Epernay the capital of the champagne world. Once we navigate our way out we find one of those big drive in car wash stops. Jess needs a wash so in we go.

6 euros later our van is shiny and new again. Off we go…..

30 minutes later and after a lovely drive we finally arrive at the village of Verneuil which is the 2nd of our champagne stops. The house of Jacques Copin is very very tidy.

It’s closed for lunch so we service the van which comprises of emptying the grey water tank, filling up with fresh waster and dealing with the chemical toilet. Which is nice.

There is space for many vans here and we are the only ones so far. The facilities are brilliant, clean and tidy with everything you need. We are greeted at 2pm prompt by one of the staff who is very pleasant and helpful, gives us the thumbs up on what we have done etc and we arrange today’s tasting for later on in the day. Best check our livers are ok!

The tasting was excellent. The young chap who hosted us was the third generation of this new champagne house that was founded in 1963. We try three champagnes we buy two of the popular ‘Traditional’. He gives us a excellent tour. We are the only ones on the tour which makes it even better as we can spend more time observing and asking questions which he duly answers.

A short walk in the town and a bit of shopping before going back to the van for showers and a sit in the sun before cracking open a bottle of our new purchase and pile of home made quesadillas… Classy! 


First champagne stop. Rozoy to Chamery – 51 miles

After a lovely peaceful stay for the night at the Aire in Rozoy sur Serre we get a shift on and make for Reims, which is one of the main towns in the champagne region. On the way we fill up with 70 euros of diesel which gives us a full tank good for 560 Km more or less. We stop at another charming Aire in the town of Chamery which is just a few clicks south westish of Reims.

The town is nestled in slopes of finely manicured grapevines for as far as the eyes can see.

The town is dead, but really dead. We are the only two human beings walking the streets looking for a champagne tasting house. Nothing, how can this be? In a flash we decide to move on to the next days destination which is the town of Ambonnay. As usual the drive is like an oil painting. It’s only 30 minutes away but the countryside is just beautiful with long rolling green hills and vineyards. The roads are long, straight and tree lined. What a way to spend your Monday afternoon.

Now this is more like it. Ambonnay is a beautiful town, a champagne town. We are looking for a France Passion, a champagne house. It didn’t take long to find the place and we are welcomed in by the owner M. Foureur. His family have been here doing this champagne thing since the 1600s. There is only room for two vans and we bag the last space. It’s a tricky one though. We have to reverse the van down a narrow courtyard with a few tight bends but we do it. Finally.

What a place. A family run champagne house. They are friendly and down to earth. Mme Foureur meets us in the tasting room which is basically an annex to the office. The smell of old wood and dusty concrete is intoxicating. So is the champagne. We try three champagnes and buy two bottles, a blanc de blancs and a 2008 vintage. The lady of the house then takes us down to the cellars. She is amazing, she talks us through the processes and indulges us with our questions.

We are really squeezed in here and the family are so accommodating. Well worth the visit with their six cats and two dogs. The biggest sales market for the Foureur house is Belgium and Italy.

Dinnertime… Water, beer, wine or…… Yeah lets get that blanc de blancs champers down us…..

Free Camping…! Macquignies to Rozoy sur Serre – 51 miles

In France they do a thing called Aires. Basically it’s a plot of land with some services like water, electricity and tank emptying facilities etc. Very handy. The French really have this motorhoming thing down to a fine art.

The goat farm the night before was a hit. We met ‘Miss’ the sheep dog who was so friendly we could have taken her home. 51 miles later we are in one of these free aires in a small town called Rozoy sur Serre.

When we arrived there were two other vans but they were only there for lunch and departed an hour or two after we arrived. It’s a very nice spot, peaceful. The local chickens make a habit of visiting on a regular visit which is nice…

There is a 4.5km walk to be had so we get the boots an off we go. It’s great to get out and about and get some exercise after our long one hour drive!

We get back to the van and we are joined by an elderly gent from the UK who is traveling alone in his own little van with his bike strapped on the back.

After dinner we use one of the empty spaces next to us to play the traditional French game of boules. Hayley wins. Only just though…..

Tomorrow we are planning on hitting the champagne region starting with the town of Chamery.

France Passion. Oo la la! Poperinge to Macquignies – 109 miles

 

First things first. This best beer in the world thing needs addressing. We leave the campsite and make for the Saint Sixtus Abbey. It opens at 11am so we have a quick coffee while we wait and get in the line for our share of beer booty. It was worth it. We pick up two cases of Westvletern 12 beer, the best, so we are told…

Today we are looking for our first France Passion stop. We have chosen a goat farm in Macquignies for our first go. We did look at a chicken farm on the way but it looked a bit empty and we couldn’t raise the host so we quickly moved onto our second choice and set off for the farm Chevrerie des Sabatiers.

There is a constant pattern to the weather at the minute. You wake up to a dull cloudy day but by 2 in the afternoon the skies break and you get lots of sunshine through the clouds up until night fall. The temperature is very pleasant, not too hot at night.

After getting trapped down a long narrow twisty lane and then having to reverse 200m back, we arrive at the farm at around 2 in the afternoon and we meet the host, a very pleasant gent, looks like a farmer and smells like one too. He is charming and points us to our parking space next to a barn and leaves us to it. Right next to us is a small field of about 20 goats of various colour and size.

Love goats. So placid and so cute. They do that staring you out thing before carrying on chewing grass. We crack open a bottle of the ‘best beer in the world’ which is ok I suppose but to make sure we open another while admiring the goat fest next to us.

We take a look around the farm and find that the barn is chock full of goats, but loads of them, leaping about eating, sleeping and just doing goat stuff.

And look here is me with a new lady friend. Very very sweet she is too.

With France Passion you don’t have to buy anything from the host but we did. A fine goat’s cheese laced with tarragon… Delicious…

Liked it so much we stayed.

We like it here in Poperinge, well it’s actually Westvlertern. We get the bikes down off the back of the van and go for a good bike ride. It’s a fantastic place for bike riding, flat smooth roads that hardly see a car. Brilliant.

What we found out is that there is a small abbey in this town of Westvlerten called Saint Sixtus but what we didn’t know is that it is supposed to be the home of the best beer in the world. Apparently. As our luck would have it it’s closed on a Friday so we miss out. They only brew a certain amount and consequently only sell a certain amount. Maybe we can get in tomorrow morning, Saturday, before we leave.

We spend the rest of the morning and into the afternoon cycling, trying to get lost before finding our way back to the camp in time for a sit out in the late afternoon sun with a cold beer, or two.

 

Tonight Hayley knocks up a paella on the van for the first time which was a success. Well done H.

Tomorrow we are going to try out a France Passion. No it’s not how it sounds.  if only! France Passion is a scheme whereby farms, vineyards, restaurants and guesthouses allow you to park on their property free of charge. You don’t have to buy anything but it’s polite if you do. We are looking to stay on a goat farm tomorrow.

Let’s see how that goes….

 

First Trip. Calais to Poperinge Belgium – 47 Miles

Calais to Poperinge Belgium. 47 Miles today

Up at 9:30 this morning. Today is the crossing over to Calais on a mid-day ferry. As expected the weather is miserable, light rain, strong wind and a bit chilly.

We use the camp services and fill up with fresh water. The campsite was pretty good. Very clean and tidy with helpful staff with a great view of the sea from our dining table…. You’d pay a fortune for that elsewhere.

The drive to Dover is short, 25 minutes or so. I do the drive. Nervous as hell but it all works out well. Why nervous? I have only been driving three years this July and now I am driving an expensive band new motorhome through Dover. Gulp!

We get directed onto the ferry. DFDS are the carrier, miles better than P&O. Clean, bright and tidy boats… Jess is squeezed in between a few vans and some rather large 40 foot freight trucks.

Our first stop will be somewhere in Belgium. But where…? The level of freedom is a bit scary really. In one of these things you can go wherever you want. What a frightning thought.

We decide on Belgium, to get away from Calais. Don’t know why. Calais is probably a lovely town to visit but we hear such bad stories about the place. Imagine living there with that media stigma attached to you. Crap really. Very sad.

An uneventful crossing to Calais. We are directed off the boat ‘…Right. Stay on the right!!’ We keep it short and simple and head for the town of Poperinge in Belgium and to a campsite called Camping Stal ‘t Bardehof

A short 47 miles today. No big deal. We are in no rush.

The Belgian countryside so far is a lovely place. If you like cycling and walking then this is the place to be. It’s flat, very flat but the countryside is lovely.

After finding a suitable pitch in the empty campsite (clearly we are at the start of the season) we go out for a walk and stumble upon a military cemetery. It’s beautiful and peaceful and bang in the middle of nowhere. Who would have thought.

We take a look around and find that most, if not all, of the stones are to young British servicemen from the the 1st world war. So sad all those young men some as young as 18 buried here.

It’s such a peaceful place and something we just happen to stumble on. In all we have a good long walk and on the way back tot he site we find a small bar/restaurant. It looks like something out of Hansel and Gretal. We can’t help it and decide to go in and try some of this famous Trappist beer.

 The staff are friendly and the place has a nice cosy feel about it with a couple of locals at the bar a few more locals coming and going. We start off with an easy 9.5% Trappist beer called Westmalle. Now the thing is we had not eaten all day and this beer suddenly left your legs feeling a bit numb. Scary. We finish it off feeling a bit, well numb, and that was only one beer. With a steadying pace we make our way back to the van for a dinner and early night.

So far so good.

 

 

Departure Day. Isle of Wight to Folkstone – 158 miles

After months of talking, saving and moving our pennies around, the day has finally arrived. Yes it’s the 13th but we’re not the superstitious types. ‘Jess’ our luxury 6m motorhome has been in storage for some weeks while we closed some jobs off and made some final adjustments to our plans.

Ready for the off…

List after list of items has been made and checked off. We feel confidant but not overly as we have done this before but on a boat. Several years of living in a small space has served us well in making sure we have the essentials on our van and that we are not overstocked with stuff that we will never use. Back in May 2017 we hired a van in France just to see how we would get on with it, needless to say it was a success. The final items… bikes on the back….

Don’t forget the bikes!

We finally set off at 2pm to get the 3pm ferry from Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight. First stop is to be Folkstone which is quite a drive, up the M27, A3 across on the M25 then down the M20 into Folkstone. We don’t really have a plan as such of where we are going once we leave Folkstone, we land in Calais but what happens then is anyone’s guess. There are two dates I need to make while away. I have to be at the Night of the Prog in Loreley, Germany. This is an annual prog rock festival. The idea is to get there in the van, do the show and then carry on with our tour. Start of July I have a quick day return to London for a meeting…

Tucked up on the ferry.

Finally at around 7pm we arrive at Folkstone at the rather dull named Folkstone Camping and Caravanning Club Site. The coast of France is less than 30 miles from the beach at Folkstone. What a view. The weather for our first day was stunning, hot and sunny with clear viability. The bad news is that the day of our crossing tomorrow over the channel is forecast for strong winds, rain and heavy skies. Great.

We try and forget that for a while and have a few cold beers on the beach and look out to sea with a great, clear view of the coast of France and sit and plan our next few days out as best we can. Where will the first stop be? Too many options to choose from but then again we have plenty of time.

Today has been a long 158 miles…!

Are we there yet…?

No. Not quite, almost…

Here she is. Our very own, new Roller Team 590 T Line motorhome. She will be ready for collection end of March. Right now we are spending time trawling the internet for all the stuff we need to kit her out ready for our adventures. We will probably do a few nights

RT 590 T Line
RT 590 T Line

around the UK as a bit of a ‘shake down’ to see what works and what doesn’t. We can’t wait…

We spent a whole two hours in a sweltering 4 degrees of cold at the dealers today measuring every single cupboard, drawer and space that we could find. We have built up an extensive list from knives, forks and spoons to hi-tech alarms and tracker systems.

There is still quite a bit to do and stuff to buy, but come the start of April she will be well kitted out and ready to go… Hmmm. Where to first…?

Here we go…!

So our sailing boat has been passed on to new owners who we hope will love her as much as us. After 14 fantastic years in the Med and the UK we decided on a change.

Del & H
Derek and Hayley Jones

How about a motorhome? Everyone’s at it. We did a lot of research into what motorhoming was all about, the pros the cons and so on, shortlisting all the compact vans that were around. Why compact? We don’t need a big van, it’s only us two and maybe, just maybe a dog later…A compact van is easier to handle and maneuver on some of the more challenging roads and cheaper on the ferries.

Which one shall we get…?