I came out perhaps prematurely as I have problems with my van but the way I see it is, being in the UK has not helped me solve any of the van’s problems at all. I’m not scared of trying to sort things out in a foreign country so, why the hell not be somewhere i like and risk breaking down, than stay in rainy, grey Britain and risk breaking down?
I was tempted to hang around in wales after the mechanic called Rob helped me change that hose and told me where the temperature sensor was, but when could he fit me in? Would he actually be able to solve it? He actually said getting the inlet manifold off was an awful task and that’s one of the things I want doing so…
So anyway I booked up at the last minute and came here and headed for Rouen simply because it’s a place I like, I feel comfortable there, there’s everything I need including an auto parts store I’ve been to before, a Peugeot garage I’ve been to before, a launderette I’ve used in the past and it’s a beautiful old city. Most of that is listed in this post…
The aire I use is right on the riverbank and in an industrial part of town, it’s well used but no-one bothers you down there and I can do jobs on the van that I have planned.
Christmas dinner is not lamb this year, it’s a joint of gammon that I got from Aldi cheap, but aside from that I have all the trimmings and will enjoy a very full dinner as always.
Where I stayed: Aire de Rouen, Quai Jacques Anquetil, 76100 Rouen. N49.433254, W1.096490. Free No services.
We stayed in St Venant for about a week. It’s a free aire just on the edge of a small town in France, right by a canal. The walks along the canal were lovely and we went for miles one day. I hadn’t taken any lunch or water or anything so Jack was OK slurping out of the canal, but I was a bit thirsty and hungry when we got back after about 5 hours. I was tempted to lie down by the canal and slurp from it like Jack did, he made it sound so tasty. But the bits off moss and twigs and unidentifiable plastic rubbish put me off. I had this mental image of me slurping up a used condom or something…
Never mind we loved our walk and the weather was great most of the time. The parking area was right next to what looked like a tiny park. There were 3 chestnut trees there and hundreds of some of the biggest conkers I’ve ever seen all over the ground. I picked a dozen up for the grandson so I could teach him how to play when I get back to the UK. They were dropping continuously too.
Anyway, the first morning I awoke to several voices all happy and obviously bantering but I could make out little of what was said. Then I heard the unmistakable sound of the steel balls of petanque. I looked out and sure enough, there they were, all merrily playing their game amongst the conkers. I love the whole idea of what they do because the community comes together to play a social game, they chatter and banter together, men and women – young and old.
As it turns out these people met every morning briefly and every afternoon to play their game. There were also many who like me, simply sat and watched them play because it was relaxing and fun to watch others enjoying themselves. It was especially funny to see them tripping over the conkers and shouting loudly while their mates laughed loudly. Honestly, 12 men laughing in French is such a funny thing. I did have a little chortle but I wondered inf my laugh would have an accent and maybe they’d think I was taking the pee lol
Anyway so in St Venant there’s a lovely Boulangerie and Patisserie that I frequented. I bought a loaf called Allouette and she cut it into slices for me and it was delicious, like real proper bread should taste, not the doughy, sticky crap we get at home. Sure Warburtons make some nice loaves as do Hovis, but they cost a stupid price. This large loaf was handmade, exceptionally tasty, bigger than a standard Warburtons loaf and only €1.20. And don’t get me started on the cakes….
So on the way to the bakers is a council office with some fountains outside and as it was a hot day I let Jack at the water to see what he would do. Here’s some videos of him playing…
He only really learned how to do this in Salzburg. Prior to that he was always a bit shy of going into moving water, although seas and rivers didn’t bother him. But he got the taste for it in Salzburg and now he can’t get enough!
This is what life is about. Nice places, nice people, nice memories.
Where I stayed: Saint Venant, Pas-de-Calais , Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, 62350, N50.62573, W002.54857
So, last night I left Innsbruck after not really seeing anything. Why? Cos I booked my ferry ticket for Sunday night. So I have to get all the way to Calais and also get Jack sorted by a vet for the worming thing. By the way I used my Tesco vouchers for the first time for the ferry. I’d found the link somewhere ages ago so I logged on and used almost all of the ones I had to make up to £60 of credit. You can’t book online when using vouchers so I rang the lad and he had it sorted in a couple of minutes flat. In fact it took him longer to go through the legal stuff than it did to book the tickets!
I booked into the Calais sailing which I’ve never used before. I’ve always travelled from Dunkirk. Not from preference, I just tend to use whatever is cheaper. I doubt the journey is any different anyway, it’s matterless to me.
I filled up with diesel, set the sat nav, and within a few miles was climbing the biggest bloody mountain ever. It honestly went on more than a Tory minister and of course since Berchtesgaden I have a morbid fear of hills cos when you go up them you can guarantee you’ll be coming down them again and that’s when the brakes fail.
Now I’ll stop my story and explain something here that not may know. When your brakes fail it isn’t the actual brakes themselves. I learned about this when I first had brake failure going through the Brenner pass in Switzerland. What happens is everything gets hot and if there is any moisture at all in the brake fluid or if it’s simply old, it prevents it working properly, and the hotter the fluid gets the less it works. That’s basically brake fade.
What can also happen as well is if the rubber bits of the brake pipes are in poor condition, they swell, taking the pressure from the brakes.
Now, I’ve supposedly had mine done twice since I was in Italy, (once here and once here) but clearly they’ve not been done.
However, coming down the other side wasn’t as bad as I thought, certainly not steep enough to make me need to use the brakes loads. It was madly twisty which you can see on the map, although some of the bends are way worse than they appear on the map.
Also on Google map it doesn’t show that the whole journey was in deep forest. It’s actually a beautiful route to enjoy, perhaps I’ll do it again one time when I can actually rely on the brakes. When I get back to the UK I’m going to strip them all down and rebuild them properly that way I know it’s all done. Apparently all brake fluid needs to be changed every 5 years.
The rest of the journey into and then out of Switzerland was gorgeous. I went through Zurich and Basel and although I only saw them from the motorway I definitely want to visit them at some point in the future.
Vaguely in the back of my head as I drove, I remember a sign I’d seen and it was only just dawning on me now what it was. It was a reminder that to use the class 1 and 2 roads in Switzerland you must buy the vignette. It’s much like Austria’s except you can buy only 1 year which runs from December 1st til Jan 31st and it doesn’t matter when you buy it, it runs out then. Personally I can’t get my head round how this works. If it is valid between December 1st and Jan 31st of the following year, that’s 14 months. So what if you buy it in February? Does it then run out the following December? It’s a barmy system to be honest but the vignette is only €38 so it’s not worth missing it out.
Except I had. Oops. Let’s trust to luck that no cops stop me then!
The border guard
But come on, given my luck, we all know it was going to end in tears and sure enough I got to the Swiss/French border to find police active there and stopping all vehicles as they went through. Bugger.
It would not have mattered if I’d come off the motorway and taken a lesser route through, it’s only class 1 and 2 roads that the vignette is needed for. Unfortunately I was on a class 1 road, the motorway. And so they stopped me and instantly looked at the windscreen in front of my rear view mirror, which is the place the vignette is supposed to go.
I quickly started thinking of a story, so when he asked me where I’d come from I said Innsbruck and that I was heading for Calais. He instantly asked where my vignette was and I pointed to the Austrian one which was still valid. He said “No you are not in Austria now you are in Switzerland yes?” I nodded. “So you need a Swiss vignette yes?”
So I hung my head in shame and said “I am sorry, I saw the sign as I left Austria and it didn’t register and I then forgot about it.”
He nodded but smiled and said “You know the fine is 200 Francs?” (€185)
I said “Yes, I can pay you now if you have a card machine?”
Then the most curious thing happened. An angel came down from heaven and tapped the policeman on the shoulder, and whispered in his ear. The policeman smiled and looked at me and said “The angels are looking after you tonight, so I am not going to fine you, but please make sure you pay when you return.”
Now I know what you’re thinking…did angels really come down and whisper in his ear? Well my friend sometimes you just have to believe…
He waved me through and on I went and honestly, I don’t begrudge €38 so when I return I will indeed buy that vignette.
I was more tired than I thought I would be so I looked for the next stop on my route which turned out to be an aire in Thann. I got there about 1am and it was deserted so I found a spot in the massive car park, 4 other vans were already there. It looked nice enough but I just needed to be able to work the next day so I checked I had an internet signal and went to bed.
To be woken at 5am by screeching banshees from hell right outside my window.
Ok, a train going through the points, but it sounded like screeching banshees. Or how I imagine a screeching banshee would sound, because I’ve never heard one, but anyway it was bloody noisy. Jack of course decided it was a threat to us so he set off barking ferociously at it and I did have to have a chuckle when he coughed, made a massive yawn and then carried on barking for all he was worth. Bless him.
That was it. I managed to get back to sleep but another train came 15 minutes later, and another 15 minutes after that. Until about 6:30am which is 7:30 their time when dozens of screeching school kids wandered past on their way to class. I knew I had no hope of more sleep so I took Jack out and we wandered around for a half hour. It turns out the railway is about 20 metres from the van and crosses the road and through the town. A bell rings whenever a train is due and once it’s passed the cars engines rev as they pull away. Noisy Nora!!
Anyway work was uneventful, the weather was incredibly hot and muggy, but I found a vet in Moosch about 3 miles up the road and rang to see if I could get an appointment after work that afternoon, to do the dog’s tablet for his passport. I was pleased I conducted the entire conversation in French and I thought everything was fine until she was saying something I simply could not grasp at all nor guess what she might have been wanting to say.
Eventually she got a colleague to come and talk to me and she simply wanted to know how long we’d been in France.
After work I found the vets no bother at all, parking out front, and the receptionist I spoke to answered in English so that helped.
What’s more difficult than not speaking much French is when people speak to you and you continually have to tell them that you don’t speak French. In my case the truth is my French is limited but passable but I can’t understand what they say. So the young woman who came in after me and sat beside me and tried to ask about Jack just smiled when I said “Je ne comprends pas, desole.” I hate having to continually say that but, learning to speak French is difficult enough, far more difficult than reading it, but listening to it is the worst.
I swear the French have a secret language that they only use between themselves!
The vet was very thorough though, Jack had a good going over and she asked relevant questions. She even confirmed that Frontline was no longer adequate protection for ticks in France and I should use Seresto instead. The collars are only about £20 and last for 8 months so it’s a much cheaper option than Frontline. France has a bigger problem with fleas and ticks than the UK does so if Seresto is good enough for France then it’s good enough for my dog.
I was happy that the bill was only €42 as well, because that chat she had with me constituted a consultation and they always charge for that. Just for the tablet alone the vet near Calais charges €55.
So all done, I set the satnav for Calais and headed off but we got about 200 miles short of Calais and I spotted a sign for an aire, the aire d’entrange so I decided that as I was working overtime today I’d pull in and get a decent nights sleep.
After work I got another half hours sleep, and then sat wasting time on the internet, just because I could.
Where I stayed: Haut-Rhin , Alsace, France, 68800, N47° 48.523′ E7° 6.341′ and Aire d’entrange, 57330 Thionville, France, N49.404965, E6.112637
Tick. Ewww. Awful things. Remember when Jack’s face got covered with them? I’d never seen so many ticks!
Well there he was hanging out the window looking so sad, and feeling sorry for himself cos I would not let him out. Despite the fact he’d been out on the tether for an hour and sat in the direct sun the whole time until he was almost too hot to touch!
So finally I feel sorry for him and take a break from work and let him out. And he spends the whole 15 minutes digging holes in the ground. *sigh*
Anyway we come back in and he cleans himself up for a change, then comes and sits next to me while I was working.
I idly rubbed his ears and something felt ‘off’. So I looked and this is what I found…
The small tick is the type I normally find, they’re sort of ‘standard’. But the big one, never seen anything like it.
I put it next to the coin for scale.
I got them all out (there was 5) with the large tick puller and I squished the big one out of curiosity. It burst and the amount of blood that came out was amazing. Very thick and dark red too, almost purplish.
Jack gets Frontlined every month but clearly that isn’t putting ticks off so I may now have to find something different to treat him with. These things don’t tick my box!
Finally, after waiting since March, I dropped the van off at Camper NE today. I’m due to get it back next Saturday morning and I have a brand new Astra to play with in the meanwhile.
They are rebuilding the bumper assembly by hand, using fibreglass as they are not manufactured anymore since my van is ‘obsolete’ having been made in 2004. The side panels are simply wood clad with aluminium but those also have had to be made by hand as the patterns don’t exist now.
I find it difficult to believe that since the accident in March it’s taken this long to sort it out. And I still haven’t got my excess money or the replacement computer from Silverbeck Rymers. According to them they are bound to contact me only once every 3 months with updates, and as I’ve called them several times the 3 months starts from when I last rang them. Absolutely appalling if you ask me.
I’m in the Rex hotel in Whitley Bay for the time being. It’s a bit run down, but the beds are clean and the dog is allowed so it serves me OK. Plus it has a bath as well as a shower so I’ve been lazing in that every night. The beach is about 150 yards form the front door too so me and Jack have partaken a little of that. I have a relative in Whitley as well so it was nice to catch up with her and she showed me some local shops.
Jack doesn’t like the hotel room. He’s very clingy with me and isn’t eating much, but he’s loving the beach. No phone signal, but the dongle works fine which is just as well as the hotel internet is good, but keeps dropping now and again for a few seconds. That wouldn’t bother me when not at work but work demands an always on connection so I use the dongle for that.
I find it very odd to be within four walls again. I pulled the plug out of the telly and watch Star Trek and movies on my computer. But the view is of a brick wall 5 feet away from my window so I’m glad I’m only here for 9 nights.
We were walking in our favourite place in the park and Jack as you know is banned from being off lead here after getting badly bitten, and after getting stuck down a pipe. So he’s wandering about on the long lead and started investigating a drain cover he’d found in the grass. I tugged him to follow me but he wouldn’t so I went over to see what he’d found. As I approached I heard a thud, like a heavy body hitting the floor but with a wet sound, and then nothing. I looked down the drain but could see nothing.
Jack was scrabbling about like mad so obviously something was done there, and I decided it was probably the rat or whatever it was that bit him the other week.
I stood there a little while letting Jack hone his hunting instincts and suddenly I heard a mooing. Yeah, just like a cow. Right, imagine a cow, with it’s mouth closed, mooning dejectedly. That’s what it was like. No I haven’t been smoking or drinking anything!
Here’s the drain, all you can see inside is 3 pipes coming from north south and west. They’re about 10-12 inches in diameter so whatever is down there can’t be huge. Like, it’s not a cow even though it sounds like one :s
We left after a while, and we may never know what lives down there…
Things got hairy here, for what reason I have no idea but everyone was asked to leave the car park, and when I parked along the road I got 11 hooters in one day! That’s the worst anywhere. Public holiday maybe? I have no idea but I came out to Jesolo anyway and it’s very relaxing here, especially for Jack who loves his purple Kong when it’s packed with misfits lol He sat in the grass for a few hours happily chewing away totally oblivious to all the spiders and god knows what that were crawling all over him.
Sadly we’re not allowed on the beach at all. We did go to see it, it’s the Adriatic I think, and it was virtually empty even though there was tons of furniture out there. I wonder if it’s just off season? We did miss the chance to have a little run around and a paddle in the water but hey, we’ll live! lol
Jesolo has a main street where all the shops are. At least half of them are tacky gift shops selling the same old rubbish as you get the world over and yet people seem to like it. There is the obvious bars and cafes and hotels and a jeweler who
had a private, armed security guard on the door. We walked this each day as it was about 3-4 miles long so was good exercise.
Whilst I was there a parade of cars and vans filled with football fans waving flags and banners and tooting their horns constantly drove up the main street. I think they were Juventus fans and everyone thought it was fun. Except me. Football hating grump that I am. The spectacle was fun though. There’s more photos of Jesolo here if you’d like to see them.
You can’t make this stuff up!
There we were walking through the park, with Jack on the lead for you know what and what! But we got to the top end of the park by the new marina and I took him off so he could run around a little.
As he ran around stretching his legs I started day dreaming like an anxious parent, what if he fell in? how would I get him out? I was idly thinking there was a ladder about 100 feet away, so no worries if he fell in I’d go in for him.
Just then re came running past me and I’ve never ever known him be so distracted, but he turned to look at me…and fell over the harbour wall!!
I’ve seen Jack on the side of cliffs, hanging on by his claws and he’s never fallen, I was absolutely amazed! It sums up this weird time over here.
Anyway as I’d been daydreaming, I simply had him swim to the ladder, and went down it far enough to grab him and fish him out. He didn’t seem perturbed in the least and frankly, I laughed my head off, partly because it was exactly what I’d been daydreaming about!!
Here he is none the worse for wear, but soaked and smelly lol Oh and where is his flashing night light? Torn off when he barged under a fence last week chasing frogs!
Just got round to contacting DVLA today about my lost driving licence. Someone told me you could contact the British Embassy and they’d sort you out but when I rang them they were about as helpful as a sack of garden waste. I tried to get a replacement online, but the DVLA’s system won’t recognise my address and when I rang this lovely patient girl said “It will work, log in and I will talk you through it.” 15 minutes later she agreed it would not work and she could only think that the Post Office had not updated them with post code details LOL
Never mind I paid £20 over the phone and will have a new driving licence in the post within 2 weeks. So in 2 weeks I’ll order my mail, then book onto a campsite and wait for it to come.
By the way I did pop back to Lidl’s and the camping shop and ask again if my wallet had been handed in but no luck 🙁
My thermometer said 36 degrees today. I doubt it was really, but it was very hot and Jack, freshly shampooed again last night and having enjoyed an early morning walk today, has a long relaxing sleep on the sofa. It’s a dog’s life eh?
Despite his fright in a drainage culvert yesterday, Jack decides to nip down another one and investigate. I hadn’t seen where he’d gone, he disappeared into a stand of trees and bushes so when I faintly heard his yelping I wondered what was wrong. On finding the culvert pipe my heart sank cos this is one of my worst fears…him getting stuck somewhere that I can’t rescue him from.
I called him over and over again and all I heard was tapping in the water as if he was walking but getting nowhere. The ground around the culvert was rank and filthy, and it was too dark to see more than a foot or two inside as the pipe was so small. After calling him and shouting and cajoling it was clear I was panicking him and in fact he was frightened now. So I spent a little while calming him as best I could until I could hear nothing at all from him. I was really worried now and began to fear having to call some authorities out to help me, but I decided to head back to the van and get a torch and see if I could see him.
As I walked away I called again lightly saying “This way” which is what I say when I want him to follow me, especially if we’re changing direction. I heard him yelping again so I stopped and was sure it was coming closer. So I ran back to the pipe and to my utter relief his backside came into view, struggling furiously to reverse out of the pipe which was not as high as him.
I grabbed his tail and gave a tug and brought him sliding out of the pipe filthy and soaked and stinking but otherwise safe. RELIEF!
Here’s a photo, you can clearly see how small the pipe is compared to him. No wonder he was stuck! Jack is now banned from being off the lead in that section of the park where there are many culverts, mostly hidden by weeds and marsh growth.
Parco San Giuliano is enormous and we still haven’t explored all of it yet, but we do a little more each time. Today we explored a slightly wild section that edges onto Venice lagoon. The entire park is littered with drainage culverts most of which are situated at the end of drainage channels and most of which are seriously overgrown with weeds and marshy type grasses. It must be a haven for wildlife, and so of course it’s exciting to the extreme for a little dog. I’ve been keeping him away form them a little as there are loads of birds in the reeds and he would have one killed before I even knew it was there if I let him have his way.
Anyway as I walked I noticed he was not keeping up so I backtracked and through the reeds saw a large half filled culvert and I just knew he was in there. I called him and could hear noises and then he stared barking so I knew he’d found something. Then the barks turned to yelps so I put my angry voice on and called him out. He came straight out, blood streaming down his chin! Grr!
I got him to a fountain and got him cleaned up and it was two nasty half inch cuts on this chin. They were very neat so I assume they were cuts, and assumed again they were off one of the large rats that live in some of the culverts.
Jack of course didn’t care one bit. He wanted to go back in! lol
I got to Broadford for about 7:30am, so I walked the dog down by the loch then came and had breakfast. Booked Jack into the vet’s for a checkup on a little lump on his gum, then went off to the post office. It was only 10am by then so I was surprised to see my camera there. I’d talked to Fraser from HDEW cameras on the phone yesterday, and he said they’d be posting 4:30pm Friday. So great postal service there 🙂
Fraser had asked if I wanted a battery, but as I had sent only the bare camera back, I wanted only the same in return. I did though ask him to check that the eye cup was attached, as for some reason Canon don’t attach them when they send the camera out.
HAHHAA! you guessed it…NO eyecup!
Never mind, I rang them and they’re sending one up. I’m staying here for a week so no loss there.
Battery charging now, testing the camera later on. I’ll keep you updated of course!