Dave the motorhome is feeling a little oooh la la, parked up in a car park in the French city of Pontarlier (N46.90180 E6.34966). The place was in our French database of places to park, but with little information other than GPS and address, on entering the town we saw one sign telling Camping Cars (that’s us in France!) to follow the signs for camping – we sort of deviated from their signed route and are here with a Dutch VW and a French Hymer.
Last night I moved all of our laundry under the awning before we headed for bed. Jacqui and Mike’s Dutch neighbours on the campsite had mentioned that a storm was due overnight, but as we could see the stars we figured it probably wouldn’t happen so left the washing out – sort of. I was woken in the night by the patter of light rain on Dave’s roof, nothing serious so I closed my eyes to go back to sleep. A second later my eyes were filled with bright red light, as lightning flashed nearby. I crept out of bed, gathered in the laundry and rolled in the awning.
As I shut Dave’s door and started to re-hang all the still slightly damp clothes up in Dave, the rain got seriously louder and louder. The lightning was coming down all around us and the thunder was so loud that Dave shook as it rumbled; Pampered pooch barked at it to let him sleep, but with no luck. I sat with Charlie for a while until the worst of it passed, then nipped back to bed and fell asleep listening to the hammering rain on Dave’s roof.
This morning we were woken around 9am by people hammering things, we can only think that the rain caused a few tent problems on the site. We prepared Dave for the off and ate Pain au Chocolat’s for breakfast (very French, even though we were still in Germany). As I got Charlie out of Dave to say a sad farewell to Jacqui, Mike and Mille the 11am brewery bell started to toll (they’ve kept up the tradition of ringing it twice a day to get the workers in from the fields for food) at which point Charlie started to run in panic. He made a beeline for the tent opposite us, I chased after him and went straight through the only patch of nettles for miles, fortunately the people in the tent saw the funny side and thought Charlie was cute – once again his big brown eyes get him off the hook! When Mike and Millie returned from the swimming pool we hugged and said our farewells, this seems to be becoming a theme of these last few weeks – sad goodbyes – but as Jacqui and Mike don’t live too far away back in Blightly, we’ll certainly see them again, maybe even for a weekend away in our vans!
With the rain still coming down we decided it was a good driving day, and as we drove out of the campsite satnav happily chirped at us to head in the direction of Freiberg to once again run the Umweltzone challenge.
We had just passed Lake Titisee when a series of road signs flashed up warnings of major roadworks in Freiburg, we couldn’t understand most of it but I spotted the words Einen Stunde (one hour) on one of the electronic signs and at that all the cars in front of us made for the slip road, so we followed. Finding ourselves in a small town which was signposted as a dead end we pulled over, wandering where on earth the other cars were going!?, and got the map out. There was another route we could take, but it would be much longer, still it would be better than sitting in a queue of traffic in the Umweltzone! So, we turned around and retraced our tyre marks back past Lake Titisee then onwards south through the Black Forest.
Dave climbed over mountain passes and kept his tyres cool on long descents and only a couple of hours later we made it to the main motorway. In truth it probably took longer going the way we went even if you factor in an hour sitting in traffic, but hey the scenery was good and it’s not like we’re in a rush.
We reached the Rhine and I sat with the camera ready waiting to capture the ‘France’ sign, welcoming us into our last (and what was our first) country of our tour, but there wasn’t one. Nothing to mark that we’d changed countries except for the road sign telling us of the speed limits – very disappointing.
The rain was still coming down, so we ploughed on along free bits of motorway, nipping off onto National Roads when the motorway was Péage (toll), a crazy system. Just after 3pm we stopped in a motorway parking area for a late lunch and checked out the map again. Progress was good, but slow compared to the lovely free German motorways. We would easily make our planned stop in Montbelia as it was only about 15 minutes away, so we found another place to stop a further three hours away – well we might as well be sitting in Dave getting somewhere instead of sitting in him in a rainy car park.
What little motorway there was had gone and now it was long twisting roads through small towns and villages. A couple of hours later Jay admitted that he was done in, so I looked for a nearby Aire only to find there were none, we seemed to be in a black hole of Aires. Normally in France they are in pretty much every small town and even some villages, but there was nothing for at least half an hour, so with that as our only option, I stabbed in the co-ordinates for the car park in Pontarlier. Almost as soon as I’d turned satnav back towards Jay we flew past a yellow sign which said something about Pontarlier, then we passed another one the same – the road 16 kilometres ahead was closed, so we needed to follow the deviation. Grrrr!
Of course the deviation took us down even smaller, winding roads so it was another hour before we reached Pontarlier. As we parked up the rain was throwing it down, so we fired up the laptop, grabbed some pillows and blankets and settled in to watch a film. The film was called ‘Im Juli’ and was a German film with English subtitles, so my brain is now totally confused as it was just starting to come to terms with being in France. Still we’ve got a few weeks here for it to get used to French once more.
Jay’s reading up about where we are in our Rough Guide to France, we often find that we head for somewhere because it’s got free motorhome parking only to find something good there to see anyway – he’s just told me that there is a divinely aromatic Nestle factory in town – I might pop in tomorrow see if they need any tasting doing.