Set off at lunchtime on the 25th October after booking a £45 return through Myferrylinks 2nd birthday offers. Called at a friends in Birmingham on the way down and set off from there at around 6pm for the run down to Dover. As they were close to the M5 my satnav took me M5,M40,M25,M20 ,had never done this route for Dover and was surprised at how easy a run it was compared to the M1 Dartford. Was going to use Canterbury for the stopover (my ferry was at 11.50 and the clocks went back so really 12.50) but as it was getting on for 10pm i opted for Dover Esplanade.
The clocks going back gave me an extra hour so i fed the meter for a couple of hours parking and had a look round the DeBradelie shopping outlet on Cambridge Rd. http://www.debradelei.com/ It was a good crossing and after lunch on board and a need for fuel i headed for Gravelines and the Intermarche for fuel.I carry 3 credit cards ,Caxton,Nationwide and a Tesco and the only one that would work was the Tesco so i made a note not to fill up at a 24hr station and to use the Caxton to draw cash and pay that way.As it was 3pm when i fuelled i decided (mistake) to go down to Lille which was only an hour away,unfortunately after an hour of riding round Lille i could not find anywhere to park. As i intended visiting some of the the first world one sites i thought Arras would be a good base for a couple of days and only an hour or so from Lille so off i went in search of the Arras aire
A cloudy start but when the sun came out it was a warm and pleasant day and even had shorts on.
Main tourist office is on the place des he'ros and has a lot of info on the war and the lift to the top of the tower at 2.70 euros is worth it for the view.Also had a visit to the war graves and cathedral and went to the archaeological site but unfortunately it is only open in the summer.Plenty of bars in the place des he'ros but it was expensive at 3 euros for a glass of local brew.
A foggy start to the day again but again clearing later when the sun got through. Off today to Vimy Ridge where the Canadians lost so many fighting for the ridge.Its only a 20 minute drive from Arras and has a monument that can be seen for miles .It also still has the bomb craters and unexploded mines and also the tunnels and trenches are a main tourist attraction with coaches from everywhere.The is ample free parking on the ridge and also at the main centre and the centre also has photos and videos of what happened in ww1 and also a tour guide every couple of hours
After spending most of the day at the Ridge i made my way back to Arras and another night frequenting the bars (i did find the cheapest and best bar which was an Irish bar ).The aire was also busy with no free places and a couple of vans parked on the road outside so i would think in summer it would be a very busy aire .It is free and the usual services with a jeton available at the tourist centre.
Leave Arras at 11 due to a few to many beers (a couples to many for me ;-) ) so drove up to Cattalon sur Sambre a free aire with 4 places with all services and electric and had lunch here on the canal .I have used this aire before and a good stopover but not a lot in the area.
After lunch i carried on to the aire at on a marina and close to a busy town but as there were only 8 spaces and all taken and the campsite closed for the winter i decided ( after talking to another English couple from Yorkshire who were also looking to stop) to travel on to Montherme which was a bit of a hairy drive as it had started raining and the route was through busy narrow forest roads.
Stopped 2 nights at Montherme which is an aire right on the river Meuse with level grassed pitches with parking mesh. It is 6 euro a night with electric which is collected in the mornings.The services were about half a mile out of town and free .Again a small village with just the usual shops a chippy near the aire and a bar in the local hotel which closes early. There are good walks down the river and some good opportunities for a few landscape pics.There area few free stops in the area but i personally like this spot .
Friday 31st Luxembourg
Set off for Luxembourg along some rough Belgium forest roads,nice scenery but my Eagles cd kept ejecting from the cd player due to the poor road surface.Stopped at the border town of Martelange to fuel up at 1.13 euro a litre and litre bottle of Smirnoff and Bacardi for a tenner plus a case of Leffe so not a bad stop for shopping .
Arrived at Fuuselkauf on the N15 at Heiderscheid about 30k from the centre of Luxembourg at 3pm. Here for 3 nights and at 10 euro a night with electric and use of the camp-site for toilets showers and washing facilities its good value.The stopover is on the opposite side of the road to the campsite and has electric,water and TV point on the pitch and also has dump facilities, also there's a chippy ,supermarket and motor home dealer close by also on the camp-site side is a bar restaurant with reasonable priced beer .
There is a bus stop outside the camp-site which takes you to the station at Ettelbruck and then .a train into the centre of Luxembourg with the buses regular and if you buy a return ticket (which gives you travel anywhere in Luxembourg) for 4 euros it also includes the train. So for less than £3 you get 24 hour travel anywhere in Luxembourg which makes it a very tourist friendly country. My problem was that this weekend was a public holiday so all the shops were closed (perhaps saved me money)but all the tourist attractions were open so i spent Saturday and Sunday wandering round and taking pictures. I did the hop on hop off bus tour and as it was 3pm o the Saturday i also used it again on the Sunday as the ticket was for 24 hours and they are also every 20 minutes even though the tour was an hour long. The Museum was also very good value and gives a good history of the country.Its worth checking bus times as the last bus back with it being a holiday was 6.45 and the same on the Sunday.
Had my first problem with the van here when the habitation door lock barrel broke on me meaning i couldn't open or lock the door from outside . Did my washing here so i had plenty of clothes for the remainder of the trip.
Mon 3rd November
My next stop was a place i had meant to visit a few years before when i saw a picture on a website of Dinant in Belgium so i left Luxembourg (i will be back ) for the rough Belgium roads but not and found a stop at a shopping centre on the border where i got a really good deal on J.P.Chenet so stocked up with a few cases. Arrived in Dinant and drove down the quayside but it was very busy so nowhere to park near centre but found a spot near the casino on the edge of town which looked ok and there was an RV parked close by.I did go to the tourist office to see where i could park and was told any where on the front by the river except facing the office and i was ok where i was . The views in Dinant were stunning and i was a bit disappointed that the weather had turned and it was raining quite heavy on and off . I did manage a visit to a chocolatier for a couple of lattes an crepes despite the showers.
Tues 4th Nov
It was raining quite heavy so my planned trip on the cable car to the top of the cliffs for the views were scuppered so i set off for Ypres. As i had been to Ypres last year i headed for the same parking spot which is at the side of the Menin gates on Leopold 111 -laan ,which was very quiet with me the only motorhome there.
There is a campsite close by Camping Jeugdstadion for anyone who wants to use a campsite. I went to the cathedral which is worth a visit and stocked up with chocolate before going back for a bit of lunch and then return at 7pm for the last post. I thought i got a smell of gas when i had lunch but presumed it was one of the bottles running out (i have a gaslow system) .After the playing of the last post i went to a bar for a beer but found that most of the town seemed to be closing early so i opted to go back to the van for an early night .Here i found my second problem as the gas regulator blew and as my Internet dongle wouldn't work in Belgium and only France i decided to move on and park at Gravelines where i could google a dealer for a gas regulator.
Wed 5th Nov
Spent the night here and found a dealer in Calais ,(Calais Caravannes ) so took the faulty regulator off and went down to Calais to see if i could get a new regulator. The dealer was closed until 2 so had a bit of lunch by a boulangerie while there the weather turned with torrential raid and sleet. At 2 i went down to the dealer and after a bit of a struggle they managed to adapt a regulator to fit .They also fitted it for me with me holding an umbrella over the fitter which i thought was excellent service .
With my gas now sorted i headed off to Wissant ,the rain was torrential and a few of the roads on the way down were flooding ,but i arrived at the wissant aire and closed the blinds and had a pleasant night watching a film and listening to the rain.
Glorious sunshine this morning so had a look at the door lock but even after removing the inner cover couldn't suss it out .Went up to Auchan to fuel up 1.22 euro and see if they had any offers on the wine (they hadn't) so called at Calais Plage for lunch. Met a couple from Suffolk area who had a similar van to mine and who were going over to Cite -Europe so i also headed over there to get a bit more wine and with the intention of spending the last night there .After shopping and a consultation with my new found friends we decided as there were people hanging about in the bushes that it did not seem same to stop here so headed back to Calais Plage to spend the last night there .
A mixed day weather wise and its a dinner time crossing arriving Dover lunchtime with a very rough crossing .I decided to go anticlockwise round the m25 as the run down was better .It was very busy (it was Friday afternoon) but once i got on the m40 i had a good run up and with an hour or so stop in the midlands i was home in 7 hours.