I must admit that the aire at Arras isn’t the nicest place in the world to stay the night and some of you would be saying it is just a car park and everyone is parked far too close but it turned out all right in the end. The local circus man stopped shouting out his exclamations (with an echo) about 10.30pm and then it all went very quiet. I managed to sleep nearly the whole night through, no doubt helped by a bottle of Bordeaux, only waking when the rain made a short sharp visit. This was a 7 van aire but 9 of us had squeezed in and there were another 5 out in the road, none of them got towed away. I was up and dressed by 7.30am which to anyone who knows me is a bit of a surprise. Our alarm is normally set for 8.30am and then it is a major struggle to get up by 9.15am but for some reason this motorhome malarkey is making me get up very early. We actually got up, dressed (not washed, we had no water) breakfasted and had driven off the aire by 8.30am. Yes, really!! We were heading to Cambrai to try and get some water and as we got close a motorhome service area flagged up on the sat nav. I pulled in and it looked more like a campsite than just a service area so got out and the office was closed. Walked into the site and found Johnny English with a fag hanging out the corner of his mouth and he said the owner had just gone into town and the water tap was over by the toilet block. I filled up with water and drove off before the owner got back – result. Cambrai itself looked inviting so we stopped by the canal and had a good long walk around and gawp at the cake shop windows. Mistake of the day. Well really, how was I to know? I only have a degree in Mechanical Engineering and maths was a major part of the course? The GPS co-ordinates in our aires book are in degrees, minutes and fractions of a second whilst the GPS references in our French Passion book are in degrees and fractions of a degree. I thought I had it sussed and did my little conversion of 60 minutes in a degree but obviously I managed to get something wrong somewhere. We started off and had a very nice drive through the French countryside, every so often Lucy would say “that’s a nice house”, or “I wouldn’t mind living there”. The driving was easy and I kept to 50 mph most of the way which again will surprise some people. I was well chilled and then we get the announcement “You have arrived at your destination”. To be honest it didn’t really look like a farm producing cider, it was more city centre, so we pulled over just as a French man was walking past. Now this is something that you are allowed to do when abroad but forbidden from doing in England: you are allowed to ask directions and it is even better if they can’t speak English or understand your feeble attempts to speak French. In the end I passed my sat nav to this guy and he managed to input where we needed to go. When he handed it back to me mistake number 2 started. He had given me a place 40 miles away which was just plain silly so I just entered the name of the town we were looking for, La Flamengrie which was only 10 miles away. Silly Frenchman obviously didn’t have a clue about setting up a sat nav (spell check just changed that to sat nag for some reason!). Off we went and found La Flamengrie and we tried to interpret the instructions on how to reach our final destination. In the end we circled a number of times looking for the road to Papieux and eventually found some one else who now has a life time of free beers in front of him whilst he recounts the story of when he met two Rosbeefs in a motorhome. It turns out we are in the wrong department altogether, we want La Flamengrie in department 2, not department 58 and where we want to get to is over an hour away. We gazed at the sat nav in disbelief and noticed an aire not too far away so we headed there for lunch and to work out our next plan of action. We’ll forget La Flamengrie and head straight for Charlesville Mezieres, looks like a nice aire on the banks of a river so off we go again through picturesque French villages. After an hour driving along Lucy suddenly says “this is La Flamengrie” and as she says it I see a road sign pointing to Papieux so a quick u-turn and we follow the instructions and end up in our first French Passion site. We were directed where to park and then have been left alone. This is a cider farm (can’t think of why we chose this place) and we were hoping to polish off a bottle or two of home made cider but we’ve seen no one selling the stuff.So far today, we have managed to spend zilch, all the shops in Cambrai were closed, we got free water and the French Passion site has been free, so far. Word of the day We think word of the day should be Rappel. We’re not really sure what it means but you will see it on road signs and our best guess is that it is slow or take care. We’ve seen it a couple of times with the 3.5 ton sign and a much slower speed limit so it appears to be saying vehicles over 3.5 tons should travel slower than everyone else. I’ve been slowing down and haven’t been beeped yet so it can’t be completely wrong. In fact I haven’t been beeped once yet!!
- Embry to Arras (49miles)
- La Flamengrie to Dun Sur Meuse (95 miles)