France June 2010
Sunday 6th June
Left home in good time for our tunnel booking in the hopes of getting an earlier crossing after a leisurely day getting ready, having a good meal and left about 9:30pm, arrived at the tunnel around midnight and checked in very easily and no earlier crossing time was available so parked up and went into the lounger area for a coffee. Shortly after finishing our coffee there was a an announcement of an earlier, extra crossing at 1:15am for anyone that wanted it and of course everyone did. We duly boarded and made our crossing.
Monday 7th June
Emerged from the tunnel around 3am local time and exited the terminal straight onto the autoroute and headed south. Still very dark and couldn’t see much at all except to the extent of the headlights. Around 5am we needed to stop for some fuel and pulled into service area or ‘Aires’ as they are called here. We drove around looking for somewhere to park but everywhere was taken up by big trucks. We spotted a sign indicating caravans and followed that to an area away from the rest. But that was a loop road and was jammed full with camper vans and caravans nose to tail all obviously fast asleep. Bet we woke a few as we drove around with headlights on and low gear. So it was back to the main building and just parked up outside there. Made a coffee and used the ‘facilities’ and headed off again without having the nap I had hoped for. We found out that the fridge in the caravan wasn’t working when connected to the car. I suspected a bad connection at the car/caravan, couldn’t do much about it at that stage or time of night in the dark.
It was soon starting to get light now and we pressed on and by the time we got to Rouen it was time for people to be heading for work and we had to switch roads and that meant taking a route through the city but on dual carriageways. We nearly got caught out, following the sat-nav advice as there was series of little underpasses that avoided the traffic lights and we accidentally went down one of these and was alarmed to see, once we were on our way that there was a height limit of 2.6metres. I wasn’t sure of the height of our caravan but we got away with it, the next one was 2.3metres and very tentatively negotiated that, the next was 2.15 metres and I thought we were really pushing it now but we got away with that too. I saw a sign that the next one was 1.9metres and no way would we make that with losing the top of the caravan or the aerial at least, Fortunately there was an escape road now and we were back on the dual carriageway and stopping at traffic lights. We were then our way to the autoroute to Le Mans and that passed uneventfully and shortly before Le Mans we pulled off to an ‘Aire’ again and this time just a rest stop. We stopped for a nap here and some breakfast. I managed about and hours sleep but I was ready for it after about 5 hours at the wheel after a full day before and no sleep. Managed to get the fridge going again, just a bad connection with the plug into the socket.
We decided we would get off the toll roads at the next opportunity as it was now light and we were a good way down France by now. We went through Le Mans and no sign of the 24hr race to take place the following weekend. On leaving Le Mans the Sat Nav offered us a new route to save 7 minutes on our journey which I accepted. It seemed a bit ominous at first with quite narrow country roads but then it opened out onto a nice smooth surfaced road and quite wide and hardly any traffic at all. We found a nice pull in type lay-by to stop for a sandwich and a drink for lunch in the sunshine.
After setting off again we passed by Saumur and on down to our site at Avanton a few miles north of Poitiers. A very nice site and run by an English couple. It was mainly occupied by English and Dutch people and was remarkably quiet. Just what we needed to relax after our journey. It was 525 miles since leaving home and exactly 12 hours after emerging from the tunnel at 3am! Just a nap and then something to eat and an early night, around 9pm and slept right through until 9am the next morning.