Eventually!! After missing the original departure date of the 28th December, we finally hit the road on Sunday 19th January 2020.
Carol, our landlady (female version of Rigsby-Rising Damp) since the 20th December having only expected to have us for 8 days threw a party to celebrate our leaving -we weren’t invited but she did see us off on the Sunday with a last bacon sandwich as we removed our seemingly vast amount of motorhome belongings out of her spare room.
The reason for our late departure was a mix of teeth and bureaucracy issues. The latter being DVLA and giving everyone at Elddis and us a good run for their money patience wise over form filling and CEO omissions issues. The teeth drama, was a bit simpler if not the best solution for David-who’s front bridge fell out before Christmas -a plate was finally fitted on the 16th January.
Both were sorted within days of our being seen off in Champagne by my eldest brother David, Chris and Claire my niece, and at one stage it looked like they would be saying goodbye to us on their own in Champagne while we waved bon voyage from the shores of Dover.
So on Sunday 19th January we headed to Portsmouth to visit and say goodbye to my Mum at Kingston cemetery and have a last drink with cousin Gary and his wife Zoe. Concierge Campsite in Chichester is a very lovely, well thought out site and set a very high bench mark for our future stopovers, and so we weren’t too upset when the one night turned into two due to Buster having a small electric issue sorted out.
Having left there, we headed to Herne Bay where we managed to get a bit of cycling done. It turned into a bit more of a cycle cross country than I would have liked. Cycling over muddy grass and then beach shingle whilst avoiding unleashed dogs is quite hard when you haven’t as of yet managed to get your stabilisers off!.
We also entertained for the first time in the van- with Louisa and her son persuading us local fish and chips were the way forward and we both had to agree they were excellent. It was lovely to see them and to be able to show them the many home comforts of Buster, our Elddis Encore 250.
Saying goodbye has been what is it’s all about in reality over the last few weeks and that has been hard for both of us and on the Wednesday before we headed off to France we had a last pub lunch with friends Pat and John- who brought more essential supplies for us of homemade marmalade and cake to add to the Thai curry pots previously given. Five jars of marmalade should see us, may be not Paddington ok for a while and who knows there might be some equally superior homemade marmalades to be found on the journey.
The journey across the Channel was thankfully uneventful and we made good mileage as we headed to Epernay, a champagne region in France. Our first French dinner was a lamb Rogan Josh cooked in house having followed a more traditional French drink of Pastis on my part. Some traditions and old habits are good, but squat toilets don’t fall into that category in my view and I was quite surprised to find one in this bar, but I took to the task rather than running back into the bar sheepishly or crossing my legs till we got back to the van.
David and I then spent two lovely evenings and days with my brother and co, with three tastings and two cellar tours. More tastings were obviously done in a variety of bars and with the average glass of fizz being €4 who could and would resist. After sad farewells we were heading on south but wanted to stop at an Aire that was on a local champagne producers site which was actually only a very short drive away, and after parking up on this lovely full amenities site we took a walk into the local town-Vertus. After the two mile walk a glass of something light and bubbly was required, and this was found in the local Tabac along with the usual stares from the natives upon entering. One local in particular seemed to be taking more of an interest and upon his leaving in broken English, but better than our broken French he asked if we had liked the champagne as he was the maker. With all eyes upon us we responded yes, which was actually true it had been very lovely. We were then surprised when we were served a rose champagne from the same guy in another bar. Was this guy the Moet & Chandon equivalent of the area or perhaps the local ‘godfather’!
Life in the van thus far has been excellent as we have organised, reorganised and reinvented things within Buster BB and within our own expectations, but life on the road other than goodbyes has been like putting on an familiar old pair of shoes. Beyond the jars of marmalade Buster has been packed with one home made jar of pickled onions two jars of mint sauce, 2 packets of Bisto (powder not granules-ugh to the last unless desperate), many pills and potions plus bizarrely a roll of baking paper which has already moved with us twice before unused and has now been dumped in a bin in Epernay, but somehow I know I’m just going to need that bloody baking paper for something before long!
Upon waking on Monday morning and not finding a horse’s head outside the van we decided to brighten up a very wet Monday morning and have a tasting at Serge Jumal’s just to confirm that his champagne was as good as previously tasted and once confirmed we set off with three more bottles to add the our collection in the van.
Stay with us as we head further south and to Geneva-ouch our pockets are hurting already.
Top tips of the Week
Make sure your foot and more so toe is out of the way when you heave open a petrol station door-saves for a black big toenail
Don’t throw away the slip of paper with the exit keypad number when parking up on an Aire -saves for having to pay twice