I didn’t realise how long it takes a tractor to warm up. Farmer Pierre started up at 7am precisely and then let it idle for a good 30 minutes before moving off. Whilst Lucy took her shower I ventured out to take some photos of the farm and the wisteria but they had locked the gates into the courtyard, it’s probably to block out the sound of the tractor.
The gates were still closed at 8.30am when we moved out. The aim was to get to Dunkirk and sit on the beach or watch the boats but it was chilly and as we approached a place called Bruyeres we could see an aire sign on the sat nav so we popped in there hoping to empty the toilet. It was an aire without any servicing facilities at all but the town looked interesting so we got out and had a wander round.
Originally built in the 10th century it had been fortified over the years until there was quite an imposing defensive wall around it. We were pleasantly surprised to find a number of bakers open as well as cheese shop and butchers.
One of the seven gates into Bruyeres
Defensive fortifications at Girondelle
The aire at Girondelle
No idea why there is a huge papier mache statue of Abraham Lincoln other than the locals make these figures and parade them through the town during their festivals. From Bruyers we changed plans yet again and headed for Gravelines. There are two aires here plus a separate servicing point and again this was a very well fortified town. The aire we chose to have our lunch in overlooked part of the marina but cost €6 euros for 24 hours, not bad but we only wanted to eat our lunch. Funny thing happened whilst there, a Frenchman had to ask me about where he could park and how much it was but his English was very poor. He was one of the most pleasant Frenchmen I have ever spoken to this trip, mainly because I knew the answers this time and he needed something from me! After lunch we made our way to the ferry terminal, there used to be an area set aside for motorhomes right next tot he terminal but after trying a couple of times to squeeze into very small places gave up and arrived at the terminal 2 hours early. Lucky for us they put us on an earlier boat. Uneventful crossing and then a horrible drive from Dover back home in ran and road spray. Not happy to be home at all.
This trip was meant to be a taster of what we could be doing for the rest of our lives and it has shown us that it is easy to do, relaxing and something that we want to do a lot more of. It has also shown us where our money has been going and some areas that we really need to look at because we will be on a much stricter budget than we have been.
Site fees came in nearly on budget. I had allowed €10 per night and we actually spent €110.85 (€122.55 if you include the alcohol we bought on French Passion sites).
You need to remember that this €122.55 included an expensive meal (€53), 2 litres of fruit juice, 1.5kg of sausages, bottles of wine, cider and beer, cheese, pate, ice cream and 2 nights electricity. Just taking the meal out leaves us with €69.55 or just under €7 a night which I am very pleased with.
Fuel was the biggest expense and something that we need to and can address. Since this wasn’t a real practice we travelled much further than we should have done and consequently went well over budget on diesel. in total we spent €289.11 on fuel. That includes 180 miles making the return trip from home to Dover which we won’t need to do every week. Assuming a fuel consumption of 25mpg and a fuel cost of €136.9 per litre the cost of fuel used whilst in the UK is about €51 therefore our European fuel cost was €238.11 Over a month that comes to €714.38 which is most of our budget.
All of the aires we stopped in allow you to stop for 48 hours so we could have halved our diesel straightaway. We have aimed for larger towns and then have begrudged paying the entry fees and ended up wandering round the shops and then have then had to look for aires in more rural areas. Next time we could just forget about the big towns and buy our bread and supplies in local shops. Over our 10 days we travelled an estimated 956 miles (excluding the UK). This is 96 miles a day, If we could half that and only travel every other day then our fuel cost could come down to €178.60 per month.
We have more food now that we started with and spent €104.96 on groceries and had budgeted for €100 so that is a realistic figure to use.