Monday, 8 May 2017
Reims to Bingley
Tuesday 2nd May 2017 We left the beautiful City of Reims and headed north with an uneventful drive and arrived at Banteaux (N50.06280 E3.20105). This is a nice stop over next to the canal with all services including electricity for €5/24hrs but the weather was cold and miserable, we were the only folk there and we didn't bother exploring the quiet town. Wednesday 3rd May 2017 From Banteux we set off on the national road to Lens and a motorhome stopover next to a drive through Macdonalds (N50.43245 E2.82009). Space for 6 vans but a large overflow car park adjacent, it's free to stay here with the benefit of Maccy D's WiFi. It poured down with rain all day and I don't think the folk from Lens would disagree if I said there isn't a great deal to see in their city so another day of not doing much at all. Thursday 4th May 2017 Our last stop before our ferry on Friday evening was to be Bruges. The motorhome parking provided there is outrageously expensive at €25/24hrs and if you go over the 24hrs it's another €25 so we didn't want to get there too early in the day so we set off first for Dunkirk where we could park behind the dunes, have some lunch and set off for Bruges to arrive late afternoon to allow us a full days sightseeing the next day. The parking for motorhomes in Dunkirk has no facilities but it's free and it's next to the beach and the promenade with lots of shops, restaurants and cafes (N51.05298 E2.41425), I would imagine it would get pretty busy here in the summer. So after a bite to eat and a stroll on the beach we set off for Bruges and arrived a little after 4pm. (N51.19582 E3.22569). Although the parking here is expensive there are the usual facilities, waste water and wc dump, fresh water and electricity and it's only a ten minute walk to the old town. It's a bit noisy during the day with traffic noise from the nearby road and the adjacent coach parking but it was quiet enough at night. Friday 5th May 2017 We spent the day exploring Bruges together with thousands of other tourists including lots of school parties with kids frantically running about filling in work sheets. Another cold and grey day but we were still impressed with the city which still has many old buildings and plenty of museums. The Cathedral was undergoing some renovation but it was free to visit. On a better day weather wise we would have taken a canal boat trip but the folk we saw huddled up on the boats looked frozen so we didn't bother. I would have liked to sample some of the beers on offer in the many bars but as I was driving later in the day I abstained although I did buy a selection of bottles to sample on our return to England. The restaurants here aren't cheap by any stretch of the imagination but we found somewhere that didn't cost an arm and a leg and managed to bag the last table. We returned to the van, emptied everything that needed emptying, paid our €25 and set off for the 20 minute drive to the ferry port at Zeebrugge. Now, we've been on a few ferries over the last few years and experienced some pretty chaotic loading arrangements and delays whilst everyone gets loaded before finally the motorhomes are squeezed on. But this couldn't have been quicker or easier. We checked in, obtained our boarding passes, followed the signs and parked up anticipating a long wait. No sooner had we stopped than a guy came over, checked the van for stowaways and ten minutes later we were on the ferry and collecting our room keys - brilliant. We were impressed with the "Pride of Bruges", a couple of bars and restaurants and lounges spread over three decks, helpful and cheerful staff and everywhere spotlessly clean. The only downside was our cabin which had bunk beds and I'm getting to the age where climbing a ladder to get to my bed has kind of lost it's appeal. I checked whether cabins were available with two lower beds and I would have to book a 4 berth to avoid mountaineering in the future or use the Rotterdam/Hull route where the ships do have two berth cabins. But apart from that small inconvenience I think this will now be our preferred route to mainland Europe in the future. It avoids the long drive in England from Yorkshire to the South coast and back again. Once we had docked at Hull on Saturday morning it was only a couple of hours drive before we were back home in Bingley. Some statistics from this trip: We left home on 28th September 2016 and arrived home on the 6th May 2017. We spent just over 5 months in Bolnuevo. We made 21 stops in France (13 free), 14 stops in Spain (7 free), 7 stops in Portugal (5 free) and one stop in Belgium. We covered 4,300 miles which was one of our shortest trips. We no longer record our fuel consumption nor do we keep a detailed breakdown of how much we've spent or what we spent it on. We'll spend the next few months in the UK visiting friends and family, servicing and MOT'ing the van, replacing some hanging wardrobes with shelves and taking a trip to the Highlands. Then, late summer we'll set off again for Europe, spending the winter in Spain and heading for Greece next spring. Thanks to everyone who has followed our journey via the blog and commented. Bye for now, Pat & Phil.