Hi, I’m back from my travels in France with my family. We moved in a cat/house sitter for whilst we were away and off we went to France camping, with the same plan as last year except this time with no house rental in the middle, just a 2 centre camping trip for 2 weeks.
It didn’t go exactly to plan!
I’m going to share a little of the highs and lows in picture form, I had great fun travelling with the camera, my eclectic collection of lenses, and instagram and shooting what I saw.
Tuesday morning and we were all set to go, and very excited.
However, just after Toddington on the M1, as we were going down the middle lane, a left-hand drive lorry didn’t see us and pulled out into our car, right into our left hand side! Luckily quick reactions from Gary and nothing in the outside lane meant he pulled out the way, and there was no hard impact. When we both stopped, there was as scrape all down the side of the car, but we were ok (although I was shaking like a leaf and told the lorry driver to go away from my car window – I was frighted I might rip his head off!). The kids really didn’t seem to understand how serious this might have been, luckily!
First night is in Rouen, in a very swish Novotel with a space-age family room pod-type arrangement, a last bit of extravagance before we arrive at our campsite the next day.
The next day, Wednesday we got up and set off for our long drive to the campsite near Angoulême.
About an hour into the journey we broke down and part of the engine was on fire!
It turned out our AA cover only covered for roadside assistance, and being on a toll road, we didn’t qualify for it. Using Gary’s broken French we got towed away to the nearest town – Alençon. It was a bank holiday, so the garage wasn’t open. This was not going to plan.
We set up in a local Campanile Hotel the mechanic drove us to, and waited. We could only get 2 rooms, which was not great.
We were a mile and a half’s walk into town on an industrial estate, with no car, so the afternoon of Thursday, after much waiting about and no idea when/if the car would be fixed, we moved to a hotel Ibis in the town centre, which was nicer (a new family room that had just been refurbished) and with a much more ‘proper’ French aspect.
We decided to take a hire car the AA arranged, for the next day (Friday) even though if we used it to complete the journey we would have to leave our stuff behind – their cover only covers passengers, so they are not obliged to give you a big enough car to carry on your camping holiday.
So, Friday we went out for the day whilst they went to see if they could borrow the tool they needed from Skoda down the road to fit the new part – and if it would work!
We went for a drive to a chateau close by, and had our first nice holiday day (albeit with the worry hanging over our heads of what exactly was going to happen).
We then went back to the garage, and was told that the Skoda garage would not lend them the tool, at which point Gary offered to fit it himself! We had already checked out of hotel number 3, and waited for an hour – not knowing if our holiday was over, if we would have to downsize/change our plans and use a different car or just give up!
But yes! With half an hour left to get the hire car back across town and get back to the garage to collect our car before everywhere shut for the weekend, the car was fixed!
We now had 5 hours to go 500km to the campsite before it shut that evening…
We made it just a little late, and the lovely campsite had left us details of our pitch. At 12.30 at night, we finally settled down in our tent to begin our holiday.
The next installment is less dramatic, I promise, and is just a collection of what I loved. You can got straight to it here ‘France, deuxième partie (2)‘
- find out EXACTLY what your breakdown cover actually covers you for i.e ‘roadside assistance’ means just that, but doesn’t cover you for toll roads – but how else do you get down France!
- if you are camping with a lot of stuff (we had roof box full, estate car full and 4 bikes on the back) what their obligation with regard to continuing your holiday entails
- make sure you know more French, with our broken Franglaise we were at the mercy of the very helpful people we met, but they don’t all speak English – obviously! Ordering a meal is not the same as arranging hire cars, repairs etc
- Life is what happens whilst you are making other plans!