Dave the motorhome’s in an oddly free of charge field (N49.87496 E0.79059), stood above the small resort town of Veules-Les-Roses in northern Normandy. We’re a few feet from the edge of the grey-white chalk cliffs which characterise this coastline, although the view’s been obscured by a low electrified fence and bushes, the soaring seagulls give away the location of the precipitous edge of land. It’s dark as I write this, at 11:30pm, with the Milky Way visible in the sky above and the flashing red lights attached to slowly-spinning wind turbines in the fields around us.
Our aged map came out last night, to make battle with both of our TomToms. Which would be the best (cheapest) route north from lower to upper Normandy? The obvious path would be over the Pont De Normandie, the cable-stayed sweep of concrete we’d spied over the past day to the north of us, which had until a few years ago held records for it’s general massiveness. Only problem was: it’s a toll bridge, they’d be after our wonga! After a bit of faffing we worked out all the other bridges along the Seine towards Rouen were also toll, and that we’d only be looking at about €6 a vehicle, so decided to go for it.
The sun shone as we woke, the air crisp, feeling like the early Autumn air of a British day. Fortified with cereal and coffee, we hit the road with a plan to bounce along the coastline. Rose had spotted Etretat, and its famous cliffs, as a place to nip and see, so we advised our respective and much maligned TomToms of our destination and swept up off over the bridge.
As we cruised off the other side we punched at the ShatNav: get us off the toll road, quick! And with that we found ourselves in among the slightly dishevelled back streets of Le Havre before pulling through out into stubbled fields, north and west to the coast.
Eretrat, it would seem, is a popular little spot. Sign after sign pointed off left and right, advising of parking locations. One worryingly said something along the lines of ‘last car park, 100m’, as though after that we’d drop off into Hades. With a bit of great info from campingcar-infos.com, we ignored the lot and found ourselves in designating motorhome parking on the edge of town, free of charge and with loads of room for all three vehicles. Ju even got the chance to snap a registration plate of a camper from Andorra – not bad going as we skipped the place on our way into France many moons ago!
The agile set up of having a car available meant we could all skip off into the Golf and head back into the packed town. At the Tourist Info office Ju jumped out to grab a map, being entertained by an American lass who was rather un-amused at the fact parking was in short supply and making the French folks well aware of her discomfort! Armed with our 1000th free map, we headed for the ‘falaise’, the famous cliffs, bagging the last free parking place this side of Paris and stomping off up the path.
Being a Saturday, and as the sun shone, there were a fair few folks. German, Italian, English, Australian and (presumably, somewhere) Andorran accents drifted in the breeze. We climbed the path, Mogwai less than impressed at yet again being higher than a single step, fooled about and admired the view. I noticed an odd sensation at the sight of the cliffs, mirroring the white cliffs of Dover, could it be homesickness?
Our hour’s parking up, we decamped in the Golf, and took off back to the vans. More satnav prodding and we headed off in convoy for an aire at S-Valery-En-Caux, marked out in our All the Aires France book as ‘the best aire in France’, and raved about on the campingcar-infos.com site. When we finally pulled into the thing, after cruising through a busy Fecamp, we rounded the edge of a low cliff and found it rammed silly, with a reversing van edging past us as we floundered about trying to get back out. The spot looked great, close to the sea and the town, but the little place was stupid busy and who needs that? We regrouped, found this place and trundled off through the town.
The parking spot here’s perfect for us, loads of room, free of charge and it feels uncluttered with room to breathe. Once we’d got the vans settled in we headed off down the short path to the town for a look about, to generally chill out, throw stones for Mogwai, eat crepes, shoot the breeze, buy bread and look in the church, all the things little seaside French towns are perfect for.
As we headed back up towards the vans we came across a small cemetery, one corner of which was set aside for ranks of perfect laser-cut white stone slabs of Commonwealth War Graves. We’ve seen many of these over the months and years, spread across much of Europe and Africa, but they never fail to upset me. This one, it seems, was to victims of the disastrous foray of the British Expeditionary Force into France in 1940. One survivor’s recollections are recorded here.
Feeling thoughtful we headed off through the fields, the sun lowering in the sky.
And pretty straight into a tip-top BBQ, with spear-caught Portuguese fish, Nuremberg sausages, roasted veggies and lashings and lashings of Lidl lager!
Fed and watered, Paul fired up his 1000W generator and off we went into Wher’dmadaygo for an evening film watching on their 40″ telly (OK, it may not be that big but it’s not far off – anyone recall Max and Paddy and their motorhome will get the picture!). It’s some feeling to be sat watching a big TV again, in the comfort of their 8 meter long van, after squinting at out laptop screen for a couple of years! Maybe we will get used to the comforts of a house pretty quickly…?