13th June – 20th June
On our way to Beachy Bay, we parked near Seaford to visit the Seven Sisters where the South Downs plunge into the sea with these mammoth chalk cliffs. The chalk here is about 250m deep and the cliffs are about halfa million years old, formed when the melting icecaps of northern Europe gouged a channel between France and England. We parked Matilda and walked along the path next to the Cuckmere River to the cliff tops. The view was breathtaking, we were so high from the ocean below. On a clear day, you can see France, not that we did today as while it was sunny, it was windy and misty on the horizon.
We then made our way to our home for 2 nights, the Black Robin farm which is predominately a sheep farm with 1000 sheep, some cattle, goats and a pig! Our walk today again took us along the cliff tops from the farm, past Beachy Bay, the Belle Tout lighthouse and almost up to the Seven Sisters from the opposite side to where we were yesterday. It was more spectacular from this side with the sun shining on the white cliffs. We covered almost 9 miles (14 kms) in total with varying heights of elevation. We had lunch next to the lighthouse before returning along a different path, opting for the lower level nearer the beach however this meant a huge climb back up the top. Four and a half hours later we are back on the comfort of Matilda enjoying a nice cuppa.
Our travels today took us to Hastings, about 21 miles from Beachy Bay. Another surprise here, Hastings is a lot bigger than we thought it would be, very similar to Brighton and it has a nice feel about it. A quick stop for the weekly shopping before having our lunch, then off to find our free park for the night. We have decided on a side street which runs along the side of Alexandra Park, very close to town. Once parked we set off to the seafront via one of the small malls in town and had a bit of a look around. Back to Alexandra Park which is huge with many ponds for the ducks, squirrels running around and some beautiful gardens. Lots of rhododendrons, a rose garden and many different varieties of trees including beech and red cedar. There is even an Aussie pine tree, a public bowling green and tennis courts which are well utilised.
Not a very good nights sleep due to the amount of traffic on the road we had parked on. We journeyed to the old town, which had some lovely buildings and then onto the Stade Area. This area on the seafront is home to distinctive black clapboard structures known as net shops. These were built to store fishing gear back in the 17th century but some now house fishmongers who sell off their catch. We also visited the Fishermans museum which had many exhibits including a 1912 fishing boat.
We next walked up the west hill and went into the Smugglers Adventure where we explored underground caverns and heard smuggling yarns from the Sussex coast. We sat at the park on the hill to have our lunch. Sadly half of mine got stolen by a very game seagull who swooped down and took my sandwich out of my hand!! Cheeky bugger! Back to Matilda where we decided we would move onto Rye a day earlier than originally planned. We have found an alcove in between two houses just off the street so unless we are asked to move on we will stay here tonight and perhaps tomorrow night as well. It’s a lovely street, reminds us of Privet Drive, Little Whingeing. The only difference is there are lots of pigeons but no owls!
Last night ended up being quite eventful. Dave was already asleep and I was in that stage where you aren’t awake but you’re not quite asleep when there was a knock on the door. It was 10.30 so I wasn’t sure whether I dreamed it or not so just lay there for a minute or so. Next thing the knock was even louder, Dave heard it this time so up he got and asked who it was. It was the local constabulary so he promptly opened the door. Apparently the neighbours weren’t happy with us being there so they rang the police to have us moved on. The policeman was really nice about it, we think he was a bit peeved that these people were being so adamant that we couldn’t stay, so he kindly escorted us to another location that we could stay at overnight. We had a bit of a chuckle about it then went promptly to sleep. We had a nice walk around Rye, up the cobbled lanes, one in particular, Mermaid Street where the crooked half-timbered Tudor houses had very unusual names. There was “the house with two doors”, “the house with a seat”, “the house opposite” to name a few.
We visited St Mary’s church with its lovely stained glass and the Ypres tower which has a long history as a fort, prison, mortuary and museum (the last two at overlapping times). It is said that you can view the Dungeness nuclear power station and even France on very clear days, which again sadly today wasn’t.
We drove to Canterbury through some nice scenery to our home for the next two nights, the park and ride station. The station has a separate section for motorhomes with fresh water and a dumping station for the grey waste and the toilet waste, all for £3 per night, plus you get a ride on the bus for up to 6 people into Canterbury. There are about 15 other motorhomes here and everyone agrees it is a great idea to have this type of facility available. Pity there aren’t more of them!
We took the bus today into Canterbury. It had a lovely feel about it, lots of medieval alleyways with some lovely old structures. We walked around the perimeter first, then ventured into Beaney House which is an art gallery, museum and tourist office all in one, around the shops before arriving at the Dane John gardens to have our lunch and climb the historic mound to view the city. Next stop, the Cathedral. We have seen many cathedrals in our travels so far, and this one is up there with regards to its beauty and size. This world heritage gothic cathedral has a bloody and violent past with the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket. King Henry II is said to have exclaimed “who will rid me of this turbulent priest”. Four knights set off for Canterbury and murdered him. Soon afterwards miracles were said to take place which has seen pilgrims visit for the past 800 years. Sadly Henry the 8th destroyed his crypt and all that now marks the spot is a candle. There are beautiful carvings, an exquisite fan vaulted ceiling, 12th century stained glass windows and the cathedral also houses the tombs of King Henry IV and Edward, Prince of Wales, known as “The Black Prince”. Truly worth the £21 ($41) entry fee.
Had a quiet day today. Did a bit of research on where we will go in France and then went to Go Outdoors for a couple of things and sat outside for an hour and hooked into the wifi so Dave could download the info needed for Europe. Decided to stay at the park and ride again tonight. As we are about to leave the UK, we had our last pub meal at “The Old Gate” hotel which is next door to the park and ride. We both had the slow cooked beef pie and it was lovely.
After breakfast we drove to Dover, our last stop in the UK. You used to be able to park on Marine Parade however the locals have complained and it is now forbidden although there were a few foreign motorhomes parked there. We found a park and had a walk into town and along the seafront. The port is huge, with many ferry companies and passenger liners docked, loading and unloading passengers, cargo etc. We found where we needed to go in preparation for our journey tomorrow. Spoke to a nice English couple in their Motorhome who had just returned from their holiday to Lapland and Norway. They have been to Norway three times and were very happy to give us some tips for when we eventually get there. Back to Matilda for lunch before heading to our CL spot for the night. We did try and park at the top of the White Cliffs, however it was £6 so we decided we will just see the cliffs from the deck of the ferry tomorrow.
Of all of the lovely towns and villages we have visited, we have only found two places that aren’t truly Motorhome friendly. Rye and Dover although some of the other beach towns did make it difficult to park. Having said that, we have had a wonderful time in the UK, we have met some nice people and seen some amazing sights and are excited to begin the next leg of our journey.
21st June – 28th June
We had an early start today. The alarm was set for 7.30 but we were awake well before then. Not sure if it was excitement or anticipation of the day to come. We had breakfast, tidied up and set off for the port of Dover. First mishap of the day, we took a wrong turn and when Dave tried to turn around by reversing in a driveway, the steepness of the driveway caught Matilda on her undercarriage. We slowly drove off the driveway and fortunately there was only very minor damage. A break of plastic around a screw that holds the bumper in place. Once our hearts returned to our chests, we took off again with Dave reversing up the road to our original starting place. After arriving at the port, we were very surprised at the lack of border checks. One man took our passports, scanned them and gave them back. That was it! No checks of Matilda, we could have been carrying anything. Off to the queue where we waited about 30 minutes before being directed to board the ferry. Once parked, we proceeded up the stairs to the family area. Didn’t feel like we were on a ship, more like in a hotel lobby. We watched the ferry leave the port, 15 minutes early, then had a walk around. There was a casino, duty free shopping, a restaurant as well as a food hall where we stayed for most of the journey. Once directed it was back to Matilda for offloading, again no security checks which we found quite amazing.
Driving on the right hand side of the road has not been difficult for Dave except for when we took a wrong turn, I forgot to check the traffic out of my window and got beeped by a disgruntled Frenchman as we had pulled out in front of him. Pardon! That’s French for sorry. We stopped along the way at Cap Blanc Nez where there is a memorial to the soldiers from WWII as well as bunkers, bomb craters and look out posts in the fields with a view to the cliffs of Dover. On the way to our first aire (area for camping cars) at Le Portel, a suburb of Boulogne-sur-Mer, we stopped at a bakery, mainly for change but we bought a baguette and a cake. Dave was first up and he did really well. Fortunately the lady in the shop spoke some English so had a good idea of what we were after. It’s my turn next! We are parked with 10 other motorhomes, all French for the cost of €5 ($7.25) per night and once settled we heard some music so we decided to investigate. There was a parade going on just a few streets away, don’t know what it was for but we went for a look. Lots of floats with dancers, bands, even a muppet show float. One of the groups lit firecrackers and some of the onlookers threw confetti.
Very enjoyable and a nice introduction to France. We had a quick walk around the seafront but it is extremely windy today. We stopped for a drink with the locals in a small pub on the way back and we have found them to be very friendly. We are now back in Matilda and after a nice French gentleman taking a photo for us, we are enjoying another nice cold beer. Sante’.
It rained all of last night and is very wet today so we are having a “home” day. A spot of cleaning and a movie was the plan, however the rain eased up a bit so we donned our wet weather gear and went for a walk into the village centre of Le Portel. As it was 12.30, all of the shops were shut which is normal in France, although I’m not sure if this is the case in big cities. With the exception of restaurants, cafes, tabacs and patisserie’s, businesses close anywhere between 12 and 2 then re-open for the afternoon. Very strange, something we will need to remember. As we can’t get any English television, we did end up watching a movie after dinner. It was past 10pm when we went to bed and it was still daylight. As the weather yesterday wasn’t very good, we decided to stay an extra night here, so with clearing skies we took off on foot to explore Boulogne-sur-Mer. First stop was the square Dalton where we enjoyed a cafe au lait before venturing into the old town in the Upper City, a hilltop island of centuries-old buildings and cobblestone streets atop the rectangular, tree-shaded ramparts. We visited the Basillica of Notre Dame which was built in 1827 with the dome towering over us at 105 metres, stopping along the way for another French pastry to have with our lunch, which we had after walking around the castle walls and moat. We continued on through the pedestrian mall and side streets to the riverfront where many fishing boats were moored, some offloading their catch of huge crayfish, crabs and all types of fish which can be bought from the little shops on the front of the harbour. There is also a sea life centre called Nausicaa on the harbour which is said to be the biggest aquarium in Europe. We didn’t go in but on walking around the building saw a pool with seals swimming around. We have come home after our 17 km walk to sit in the glorious sunshine.
Our drive today took us to Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, a beautiful seaside town. The journey was picturesque through some of the countryside along very well maintained roads. Our first stop was at E’taples and was our original destination but after a walk around the little town and a visit to the boulangerie for a baguette and another piece of French pastry, we decided to move on. We found the aire that we had bookmarked, but at €13 per night ($18.92) for a car park plus services, we went for option 2, a street which is near the beach and a bit out of town. We walked through a pine forest to the Le Canche river mouth and then along the walk path to the main beach area about 1 mile away. The tides here as in the UK are huge and you would have needed a packed lunch to reach the water. There were a lot of young English girls playing games on the sand as well as a group of people riding horses. We had our lunch watching them at their games before heading into town. Lots of shops, restaurants and bars here, obviously geared for tourism with some very expensive apartments and houses which had closed shutters on them, so it obviously isn’t high season just yet. Wifi is not as easily accessible as we had hoped it would be in France, hopefully that will change so we can call our kids and keep in touch with everyone.
Our short journey today took us to the sleepy fishing town of Le Crotoy. We are staying on the edge of the estuary in this huge Aire called the Baie de Somme. There must be at least 60 vans here, the majority being French with the odd van from Belgium and the UK. We had lunch before venturing into the village, forgetting that the shops close at 12. All of the restaurants were full of people with of course seafood in abundance. We walked along the the shoreline and around the streets, stopping in at the local church for a look. The tide again is very big here so the estuary was dry in most parts, with the boats moored at the marina on dry land. We stopped at a bar for a drink, but only to pass the time until the shops opened, although we did have a beer! We watched a game of pétanque, which is just like Bocce being played under the shade of the trees in the Main Street before heading back to Matilda. Today has been really warm and a lot of people are sitting outside their motorhomes enjoying the weather before the change that is due tomorrow comes.
Another change of plan and a very short drive today took us to the beautiful medieval town of St Valery-sur-Somme on the opposite of the estuary to Le Crotoy. A much prettier town with flower boxes along the promenade and in the streets as well as on the houses. From our location in another well catered for aire, we walked along the promenade past some beautiful houses as well as lots of restaurants. We also saw a huge number of sheep that had been herded down to the water for a drink. We then ventured down the back streets into town, firstly visiting the old town where the remains of the castle stand and also a monument to Joan of Arc who was said to have been in-prisoned here before her execution. A visit to the local church where again model boats were hung from the ceiling. The weather again was really warm although thunderstorms were forecast but didn’t eventuate. Warmer weather is on the way!
Our journey today has bought us to the town of Dieppe, 40 miles from our previous destination through the French countryside. Lots of fields with wild poppies growing which from the road looked beautiful. We checked into our home for the next three nights, Dieppe Vitamin which is an ACSI site. We have only stayed in one other ACSI site, and that was Briarfields in Cheltenham and as was the case there, this one is immaculate as well. There are two pools, one outside and a heated pool that has a spa and watersides. The toilet block and laundry facilities are good, and the park has 40 Motorhome sites and many onsite cabins. It is extremely well looked after and the staff, although not English speaking are very friendly. They can even understand my very poor French. Would definitely stay here again. We didn’t do any sightseeing today, it was more a housework type of day with all of the washing up to date and a sparkling Matilda, not that Dave lets her get too dirty. Even her bling (solar panels) got a wash today as there was a ladder available for all to use. Oh happy days!
We rode into Dieppe today and as luck would have it, there was a yachting regatta on. All of the beautiful yachts were on show in the port at the marina before the beginning of the race. The road over the entry to the port was closed so that the draw bridge could be raised to let the boats through and they could start their race. It was great to see. We locked the bikes up and had a walk around the port past marquis that were set up to sell sponsor goods. From there we then wandered along the promenade on the seafront that had a few shops selling beach toys, hats, wind chimes and ice creams and headed to the old town. A beautiful gothic church that was built in the 13th century stood just behind the pedestrian mall and unlike England, all of the churches that we have come across so far are free to enter. Having said that, no money paid to enter means there is no money to restore, so some of the churches are in desperate need of work and today’s was no exception although it was still beautiful. We walked back to the marina area and had our baguette with cheese and corniches, a very French thing to do! The only thing missing was the glass of wine. Back on the bikes to work off our lunch and we rode around the town before returning to the campsite, very tired and ready for a swim as the weather today again is very warm. We stayed in the pool for about an hour spending most of that time in the spa. What a life, but some one has to do it!