Everything Changes…

We have been at this campsite for 3 weeks now and wow I have just got to mention the extremely hot weather… the whole of Europe has it seems had a massive heatwave this year, the temperatures here in the last few days reaching up to 40°c converted this becomes a staggering 104°f  now those of you who reside permanently in hotter countries will probably just chuckle and shrug this off as pretty average… but for the likes of people like me acclimatised to cooler climates, this is a very unsuitable and uncomfortable temperature… did I mention us Brits are pretty much used to rain, damp and the cold, to us 18°/25°c are pretty good summer temperatures, the country becomes a pretty humid hot pot if we hit good weather summer months…. We mostly just don’t do well with extreme temperatures in fact I myself am pretty lousy with extreme temperatures either way hot or cold I suffer with super low blood pressure and extreme temps can lower that even more so I struggle, sweat or shiver with just normal minor temp changes….

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Well after struggling with the higher temperatures for several weeks now in the back of my mind I have been begging for the standard normal cooler UK weather… yes I hear you all thinking I must clearly be some sort of lunatic!!! but in the height of this heat I was actually resorting to sharing the dogs wet cooling towels with her and hugging a frozen hot water bottle!!! yep I actually got my hot water bottle out half filled it with water and I froze that bad boy!!!  You will never know quite how much I appreciated having a freezer in the motorhome at this point…. Although I did notice I was receiving some pretty strange looks from people who must have thought I was crazy to be carrying what appeared to be a hot water bottle around with me in this heat… I am thinking of looking up how to do a rain dance for extra relief…

The fire risk in Europe is very high at the moment and sitting in a crowded campsite with so many people having barbeques or burning citronella candles is also making me slightly nervous, I am surprised the site hasn’t told people not to use their barbeques right now, the family opposite us had their barbeque right up close to the separation hedge yesterday freshly lit with flames leaping from it and with someones caravan just a couple of foot away on the other side of the hedge… Amazing how people can be so complacent and lax about it right now especially after witnessing videos and pictures of the sad disaster of raging fires that took place in Greece just this week, there are fires breaking out it would seem everywhere as countries battle the intense heatwave and these fires are spreading so quickly with the dryness of the trees, shrubbery and land as a whole…  just today we heard that somewhere we had visited during our tour “Tarifa” is sadly burning badly right now as I type…

With all this talk of high temperatures within this blog post it leads me nicely onto info regarding your motorhome fridge/freezers the last few days I have seen several social media posts from people asking for advise as their motorhomes/caravans fridges/fridge freezers are struggling in this heat, now further conversations reveal these people tend to turn up their fridge thermostats to full in the hopes that this will compensate and help with the fridges performance, this in fact doesn’t help as it just makes the fridges work harder increasing the workload and forcing the fridge to work overtime… turn those thermostats down people ours is a dometic 3 way fridge freezer and currently roughly on the halfway point and our freezer is freezing my water bottles no problems… if you have a freezer make sure you fill it with frozen goods/pre frozen freezer blocks if you are only just starting the fridge up or just to help it maintain temperature and while on you want the freezer compartment to be almost full as it helps maintain the temperature a half empty compartment won’t be as efficient if you haven’t much food in it try filling it with something like a loaf of bread, a bag ice cubes or freezer blocks the rest of the way… it will help with the freezer temperature in the long run and also be much more economical…

Now at the risk of sounding like a meany or some miserable old person… let me be the first to admit I am not always the most maternal of women, it’s obviously the school holiday time… but I have noticed the clientele of campsites are much, much different during these busy times compared to the off season or year long, all weather clientele and than those we have grown used too over the last year, I have started humorously calling these people in my head “fair weather or part time campers”… The parents are clearly so much more stressed out during this time, which is of course unsurprising, but this also means so many of the stressed out people are far less friendly…  We’ve only had 2 families even say hello or have a chat in the last 3 weeks we have been here, but both of these families were may I add lovely with really pleasant children, one little girl with her little brother in tow came to ask if she could pet Toffi, with her Mother and father closely following also asking to make sure this was ok with us and in conversation telling us they had had a staffie as a family pet, of course Toffi was in her element and both children were very cute and aware of how to handle a dog correctly…

 

Toffi hasn’t really wanted walkies in this heat and to be fair it wouldn’t be right to walk a dog in this heat for the good of their own health, so apart from a the quick bathroom break walks during the day of no more than a few minutes she is walked when she wakes early before the sun fully heats the day and then in the evening when the heat from the sun is starting to ease we take a stroll and she gets to stretch her legs… the rest of the day she spends lounging in front of the fan (that in all fairness in this heat is just moving around hot air) with a cooling towel placed upon her belly in fact below is a rather fetching and sophisticated photo of her sporting and modeling said cooling towel…

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Luckily where we are at present there are small streams running alongside a tree shaded lane and the big lake has been more than handy as she’s been dipping in and out of these on her walks and gaining some relief from the heat… although she gave herself and us a scare the other day when she lost her footing at the edge of the lake and fell right in, Toffi is most definitely not a elegant water dog in fact her swimming ability is completely inept and lacking in any type of style, she definitely has absolutely no finesse while in water, at one point even her little head went under and she had the look of sheer panic in her eyes… yep we have to be constantly ready to jump right in and rescue her due to her inability to float…

Whilst on the campsite we can hear the sound of a local church whose bells ring out parts of the tune Frére Jacques a french nursery rhyme but we couldn’t work out entirely where the church was that was playing the tune, until one evening we took a walk down to the next tiny hamlet here of Bar de la Buzancy, a lovely quaint little hamlet the locals waved a hello to us as we passed by with us also disturbing some of the local dogs along our way through, taking a couple of little photos the time was 8.45pm and just as we were walking past the church there its bells rang out the very tune we had been hearing, surprisingly they were pretty loud, well loud enough to startle me as I really wasn’t expecting it to be from this church…

 

 

Brother John rhyme lyrics in French and English below:

Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques
Dormez-vous, dormez-vous?
Sonnez le matines, sonnez le matines
Ding ding dong, ding ding dong

Are you sleeping, are you sleeping
Brother John, Brother John?
Morning bells are ringing, morning bells are ringing
Ding ding dong, ding ding dong

 

After strolling through the hamlet it was time to find our way back and head back towards the direction of the campsite, as we were walking along the pathway 3 French Gitan/Gypsy families in their vans towing their caravans drove past us they all beeped their horns and waved at us and of course we waved back at each in turn, the French Gitan are so much more accepted and seem quite friendly, its really lovely and of course I was quickly full of humour, telling Pete I had now come to the conclusion that we were obviously fully accepted into the full time gypsy travelling lifestyle and community, Pete however said they were more likely only waving and beeping due to the fact we had Toffi with us, because of the breed of dog she is… after all she always seems to get lots of attention from everyone wherever we go and it seems to make it just so obvious that we are British travellers all this just from our choice of dog breed!!!

We then wandered down the road and came across the local graveyard by this time Toffi needed some water and there’s always water available in graveyard so in we wandered, while there looked around… well I never knew that that once you buy your plot your grave can be pre fitted and be ready & waiting for you to pass away and be put into it… maybe it’s normal but it seemed pretty bizarre to me and just a little creepy!!!

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This past week or so has been a little bit of an emotional rollercoaster for myself, I had to make the painful decision to hand my notice into my employer of nearly 2 decades, and to be fair it took a shockingly heavy toll on me… while working there I had made such good friends, which if I am honest, some of these people had become more like family to me than work colleagues over those many years…  I had already missed being in the company of many of them terribly over the past year of my sabbatical… and now had to face the reality of never working with them or perhaps not even seeing some of them again…

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Both Pete and I had worked for the same very well known International Corporation in well paid positions for the better part of our entire working lives… together we had racked up 45 yrs of working for this very company, so although we’ve survived well for the last year with me being on an unpaid sabbatical and without these wages coming in… it’s still a very scary thing giving up your employment entirely and moving on, especially when you have never known not being employed, we have certain incomes to live on and so far we have budgeted and managed well whilst living on the road… but we have thought of other ways we could perhaps earn extra income if we needed to, perhaps we shall look into these things further if need be or we shall just carry on living the dream and travelling as we have been this year…

I’d had a message from my brother telling me my mother had taken a rather bad fall and has broken her fema bone and is now laid up in hospital… I have spoken with her and she seems to be in good spirits, well as good as can be given the situation anyway!!! The doctors will know more on Monday of how they can proceed with treatment… I am really hoping for her that the bone can somehow manage to heal itself in a splint rather than have to be operated on as this very same leg that was severely injured in a motorcycle accident she was involved in many, many years ago… back when I was still a teenager… My mum has had so many operations on this leg in the past, that many that I have lost count of the exact number… so it would be awful for her if she had to have yet another… so I am keeping my fingers crossed for Mondays news!!!

We return to the UK in just over 2 weeks from now, where we will be catching up with family and friends and then looking into buying a suitable 4×4 vehicle for towing a caravan instead if successful maybe next year our travels will be with a car and caravan instead of a motorhome…

Enough of my miserable old person ramblings for today, we’ll see what tomorrow brings!!!

Take care

Donna x

 

The village of Buzancy in Ardenne!!

We arrived next at Campsite De La Chaume, a quaint nice little campsite that had a relaxed atmosphere and very friendly, helpful owners, the camp is placed beside a small stream amongst a small patch of woodland and nearby to the small town of Corcieux…..

 

 

We stayed here for 8 nights from the 30th June to the morning of the 8th July and to be fair we did very little exploring during this stay as the temperatures where a high 30°+ and our poor little Toffi was battling with the heat and pretty much unwilling to move far from the Endless breeze fan that seemed to be on constantly for her, with an added device of a wet dog cooling towel wrapped around her belly, although I have to admit I was pretty much enjoying sitting close to the fan with some cuddles thrown in too!!!…

It’s not wise to walk a dog in extreme heat and I certainly didn’t want her feeling unwell so chill time took over and we relaxed and allowed Toffi to determine when was and wasn’t a good time for walkies!!! We had purchased Toffi one of those gel filled cooling pads for her to lounge upon on sunny warm days but after her only using it a couple of times her claws had torn the outer material and the gel started seeping out from the inside… so I was glad that at the same time I had purchased the dog cooling towel which is much more hardy… I have no idea how these work but once wet down they remain cold to the touch and you either lay it across their belly or around their necks and I must admit it actually works a treat… she thoroughly loved it and happily laid with it over her belly keeping her nice and cool back at the motorhome!!!

 

We literally only managed to walk the short distance to the village on a couple of occasions during our stay, even then Toffi struggled on one of those trips… so we didn’t get many photo’s of the place as we were more concerned with keeping the dog cool in the streams along the way than we were with taking photos…

There were some other Brits on site who we chatted and made friends with, one chap called Richard who funny enough originated from Saltash, and is friends with the owners of a camp we shall be visiting in a few weeks time, hopefully we can get together at some point when back in the UK and chat about all of our adventures and equipment over a few glasses of wine…

As mentioned we left Camp Chaume on the morning of the 8th July 2018 at 9.30am we had for us anyway a long 200km journey to our next camp, we also had to get grocery shopping, so we made that our 1st stop… shopping done by 10.30am and us €190 lighter, then with diesel purchased and another €70 lighter off we set, food shop costs in France seem obscenely expensive and to be honest in some supermarkets the fresh food doesn’t seem to keep very long, unless you are fortunate enough to buy it from local farmers markets where the fruit and veg available are much fresher…  so we tend to do fortnightly big shops we fill the freezer and fridge with enough to keep us going for a couple of weeks!!! If we come across a local market that is always a bonus!!!

I hadn’t adjusted the satnav since Switzerland and it was still set to Toll roads etc we decided to keep it on for the tolls mainly because we were already expecting it to take us approx 6+ hours and so we didn’t mind if we hit the toll motorways in the hope that it may have sped up the travelling time, but to be fair although we hit the motorways we didn’t hit any toll motorways and as expected we managed to roll into the next camp at 4.30pm after… yep 6 hours driving…

We stopped for a couple of short 10 minute breaks along our way for Toffi to relieve herself, stretch her legs and for us to snatch a quick sip of coffee from a flask and a snack for ourselves, luckily in France no Lorries are allowed to drive on the roads over the weekends unless carrying essential perishable food based products, being used for essential food based production or if they are carrying livestock… this means the roads are much lighter on heavy goods vehicle traffic but the laybys and truck stops are full with lorries waiting for Monday so they may start to move on, this meant that on a couple of our attempted rest stops we were unable to park and were forced to move onto find the next chance of stopping…

 

 

France is such a slow country to drive through, but to be honest it’s also a great country to drive through its so scenic and tranquil but no matter how hard I try the speed and mileage just don’t seem to add up for me… for example it seems to take us on average 1 whole hour to drive just 30 kms/18.5 miles according to the satnav, no matter what type roads we take, partly this is due to us being in a large vehicle with dimensions of 3.2m in height 7.2m in length and on top of that towing a trailer, so we are further restricted by laws here to HGV speed of just 55 mph on motorways/dual carriageways, sometimes up to 50 mph on single carriageways, 30 mph down to 18 or less mph through some towns or built up areas…  so yep its slow and steady all the way through France… should be fun on our next journey as its approx 280 kms distance from here so should be a good 8+ hrs driving… we will see!!!

We had pre-booked and paid for a comfort part grass and part hardstanding pitch for a whopping 30 nights at our next stop La Samaritaine, we figured the school holidays are starting and the sites are starting to get busy so the same as we handled the Christmas period we thought it was better to find somewhere settle in and sit the family holiday season out…  the site knew our dimensions and needs before we arrived so we also knew we would get pitched up without trouble…

True to their word once we did finally arrive tired and beaten from the long journey we were given a choice of 4 different suitable pitches, there was one pitch that Pete really liked the look of it was really long but I decided it would be awkward to keep the dog under control leash wise and to play fair so that if a longer rig turns up they might well need that space, so we chose pitch 83 instead it’s still plenty big enough for us, we eagerly got ourselves set up even getting the bikes out of the trailer straight away so that we would make sure we made use of them during our stay here!!!

The site is nice with large pitches we have a fully serviced pitch which means we have our own water/drain/electric on pitch this saves us from the worry of having to fill the water tank manually over that time period or even moving the motorhome to a water point to fill it when needed once set up which is always nice…

We have been here for 11 nights already… and much to my shame I haven’t even updated this blog in weeks… The site we are on is called La Samaritaine and run by a Dutch family it’s part of a group called Flower camping, it is clean tidy and very well maintained with a great, friendly, helpful reception team who all seem multilingual, I spoke with a lovely young lad briefly who must have been in his teens helping with the family business behind reception he stepped in when others were busy and spoke perfect English with me, was so gentlemanly and well mannered his parents have a lot to be proud of, there is a great takeaway cafe bar on site which also do good honest food and their chips are amazing… we’ve used it a few times already and we were very grateful it was there the evening we arrived being just too tired to cook something ourselves, you can even order a whole cooked chicken on a Sunday for €7 which was also lovely, if possible we plan to do this again on Sunday and make ourselves a lazy roast dinner with some roast potatoes, veg and gravy!!!

There is a large bone shaped pond on the outskirts of the camp where people can swim, although I admit I haven’t been brave enough to swim in yet as swimming in ponds isn’t really my thing… but there is a also a seperate beach part to it which is great for families and they are all having a great time there!!! The pond is also great for a relaxing picnic and walking the dog around in the cool hours of the day there are so many interesting types of insects here and the wildlife is abundant, so the pond has a great impact and seems to be an important part of the biodiversity here… we also had a small frog visit our camp pitch I very almost stood on the poor mite but I can assure you I made sure he was safe and well…

 

 

 

Just past the large pond is a small walk into the town, where horses graze in the fields on one side and cows in fields on the other side there are 2 interesting semi circular buildings along this route, one which is sadly almost derelict belonging to the bovine area part of the structure the other renovated into stables and clearly for the Equine half of the structure but both great magnificent buildings now and in their past nonetheless…

 

 

It was the important French day of Bastille on the 14th July here and the French get to celebrate the French revolution and from what I can gather the storming of Bastille prison to release the political prisoners… obviously we couldn’t let it pass without buying a few bottles of wine for reception to share out between their diners on site so they could raise a glass between themselves for their special day of celebrations!!!

We strolled into the nearby town where we found the ATM upstairs in a locked building a local man allowed me to follow him in to gain access to the cash machine and I promptly broke the bank door on the way out much to an older couples horror… it was one of those situations where you wish the ground to open up and swallow you whole… I apologised and quickly made for my escape!!!

The rest of the walk in the town was pleasant enough we took photos, relaxed on a local bench surrounded by pretty flower beds and took interest into the history of the buildings and statues in the town…

 

The weather has been so very hot 30°+ with mostly full on sunshine and blue skies since we have been here with just a couple of cooler days, on those days we had managed to venture out, the rest of the time Toffi and I can be found sheltering and trying our hardest to keep cool inside, shaded away from the hot sun… whilst Pete can be found sat outside on a lounger enjoying the sun and heat, topping up his tan!!!

Well hopefully we shall have more to tell you regarding the lovely area before our time here is up until then take care…

Donna x

Campsite De La Chaume 8 nights total cost €105/€13.1pn also collected 1 stamp for our sites & paysages free stay and another stamp into the next claim booklet (as they are only allowed one stamp per booklet to gain us 5 nights free stay per completed booklet)            GPS N48°10’5″ E6°53’23”

Campground La Samaritaine €657 for 30 nights which works out to still be a reasonable €21.90 per night at peak holiday season for a fully serviced hard standing and grass pitch                 GPS N49°25’34” E4°56’24”