From Spain we entered France and our first French overnight stop of Capbreton. It's actually quite shocking how much prices increase as you cross over the French/Spanish border. Not just fuel and wine (and the total absence of any beer worth drinking) but just general produce as well. Lidl is 20-30% more expensive on most items and we find ourselves wishing we had stocked up. The perils of crossing a border on a Sunday.
Back on the motorway we keep seeing decorated Renault 4's hurtling past at breakneck speed. It turns out they are all returning from a 6,000km charity rally to Morocco, the Tous En Pour Le Trophy, where each car must carry at least 50kg of goods to donate to local causes. Much of their route in Morocco is off piste which could account for the poor state of many of the cars. Yes, that's right we couldn't not mention Morocco even though we're in France!
We're aiming to get 200 miles a day under our belts as we head up towards Calais and our next stop is Le Mans. A big city it might be, but it has a free aire right in the center with free water and waste. A grey day contributes to a relatively uninspiring walk around and back in the van for tea. We're really not fans of big cities, it has to be said.
|Gace Aire infront of the Chateaux
We arrive at Saint-Valery-en-Caux and then realise it is in fact a weekend and the aire is no longer free. Still, we've managed to avoid paying for the last 6 nights so we cough up €4.50 a van for the privilege. The aire is a prime location right on the harbour walls and we watch fisherman bringing in their catch followed by a swarms of seagulls. Wrapped up in our winter coats which have been unpacked from the depth of our van, we walk up to the top of the cliffs. Why can't the French clean up after their dogs?
We're getting nervous now, the winds have not let up and we sail tomorrow back to blighty. The Dover Port website describes sea conditions as "Rough" and "Gale Force 8-9 winds". Sophie starts looking pale. Adam's mum, despite her not long conquered fear of ferry's, seems game for anything. We arrive at Cite De Europe, all the motor homes are abandoned at funny angles all over the car park and we soon see why as we are buffeted in danger of being toppled over unless we do the same. We do the only sensible thing - buy as much wine as possible to weigh down our vans! After which we head for the ticket office in Calais where the winds rock us to sleep.
|The beautiful Montreuil-Bellay
We roll off the ferry and towards customs. We don't actually know how many bottles of wine we have or if the limit is 90 liters per person or per van. As we snake through the checkpoint 8 customs officials stand with arms folded and weigh us up. Adam almost makes the decision for them, since we always get stopped here anyway. But not this time! We get waved on through, maybe we're looking too respectable in our old age?
Despite 23,000 miles on the 'wrong' side of the road and it feels like we've never left home. Roundabouts feel a little strange though, but apart from that all seems fairly normal and we cruise back up to York in a little bit of a daze. Nearly home we stop for for Fish and Chips. Well you have to, right?
So that's it. We're home. Or is it? Over the next few weeks we will be writing about all sorts of topics which have been asked by our readers that we would like to share for the benefit of others.
The BIG question - did we manage to spend 334 days and 23,336 miles away in Europe for under our budget of £10k? Find out next week as we start to blog our breakdown, tips and a little bit about how many people have been in touch with us during our trip.
Is there anything you would like to know? If so please don't hesitate to e-mail (you can reply to our blog subscription e-mail), comment, tweet @EuropeByCamper or post on our Facebook timeline.
Thank you all for following, it's over for now but not for long!
Adam & Sophie