Monday 9th September
Yesterday was a bit of a quiet day so you’re getting two days worth here, whether you want it or not. One of the consequences of trying to fill in the gaps, or see the bits we missed, is that those places are spread far and wide and need lots of driving. Combine that with being a bit tight and not wanting to pay toll fees means we don’t travel very far and have to make do with whatever we can get to, therefore, we are at an aire in Dieue very close to Verdun.
Huge French war cemeteries are all around us, a reminder of the suffering that this area, and much of northern France went through.
After 150 miles of French D roads, thousands of roundabouts and millions of bouchons (potholes) we have arrived at the aire and have squeezed into the last spot (far right). By using the D roads we managed to save about €10 on the tolls so tomorrow I’m splashing out and spending €13 to get to nearly Germany.
As aires go, this is pretty good. We have a free aire, free water and a free elsan disposal point. We also had some entertainment watching the local kids drinking out of the elsan tap hose until the killjoy lady next door to us told them what it was used for. The town has also made up a little walking tour around the old town. Big tip for following walking tours in France is to take a photo of the walk; sometimes the signs are a little sparse. The aire is over the to the far right and situated on the banks of the Meuse canal. The town used to contain dozens of shops, artisans and traders, every profession you can think of. Today we found a bar, a kebab shop and a dog parlour.
Being close to the canal and its bridges made it a target during both world wars. This bunker was built for and by French soldiers in the first world war and then used again by civilians during the second world war. Note the sign giving useful information on the area.
Inside the bunker looks just as inviting as it probably was during either of the wars. Dad, I think French air raid shelters smell just the same as British ones.
Lucy has been looking for somewhere to do the washing so Google came to the rescue once again. She’s not impressed.
Monday 9th September
At last we have arrived in Germany (not the Netherlands as our daughter would have you believe, Deutschland, not Dutch Land).
Taking the toll road was a lot less stressful than all the back roads we had been using but the tolls do mount up, just put them on the credit card and forget about it. We are only just inside Germany, a large town called Kehl which is on the banks of the Rhine. On the other side of the Rhine is Strasbourg, our destination for tomorrow, nice little bike ride, stretch our legs, or something.
I spent ages trying to find an aire near to Strasbourg. Camper Contact is my usual go to app for finding places to visit but it was only coming up with 4 spaces at the University for €35 per night. At our last aire the service point was covered in stickers for alternative aire finding software so I had a look at a few of them. Camping-car.infos was first up. This was one of the websites that was available six years ago but only online. All in French and a marker for each location which tries to convey too much information (for me) which ends up being slightly confusing. I’ve got 14 days free access and a yearly subscription is €15. Next look was at Meinwomo.mobi which has more entries than Camper Contact but somehow I have managed to get myself into an endless loop of not being able to log in without my password or user name or something else. Third up was Park4Night which has thousands of places to stop at. There must be a dozen places in Strasbourg but they include places where someone may have parked in a residential area and not got told off or the back of a building site, etc. Places that you might not necessarily want to leave your motorhome. Price is £10 per year but other than offline access to the database I’m not sure what you get.
All three of them showed this aire (stellplatz, we’re in Germany now) at Kehl (as did Camper Contact when I went back and had another look). It’s €8 per night and holds 40 motorhomes. We arrived at 1pm and it looked full, luckily just one space left. Only slight problem was that the automatic machine took coins only and we only had shrapnel. Only thing we could do was leave a note in the window and go looking for change.
Today’s beer for the day, guess which one is mine. Lucy spotted milchcaffe mit Baileys, her German is improving by leaps and bounds, how on earth did she work out what that was? Rotten bar tender wouldn’t give us any coins so we had to go shopping in town. One electrical screwdriver (€1), a bottle of hand soap (€1) and a packet of sweets later and we had enough change to get us 2 days worth of parking tickets.