You might even be surprised by the kindness of strangers
04.05.2011 - 04.05.2011
Bright and early we headed out to cross the English Channel aboard a DFDS Ferry from Dover. Most people use the P&O Ferry to Calais, but we were headed for Dunkirque. Lauren was expecting a ferry similar to our Sydney Harbour Ferry, long lines of uncomfortable chairs on a very flat surface and thought Doug was mocking me when saying it was “just like a mini cruise.” Lauren says for once; Doug says usually; either way (unfortunately) - Doug was right.
A leisurely 2hour ferry ride across the Channel gave us not only onboard breakfast, shopping and a newspaper but also a constant view of our journey.
Once upon the French side Doug worked out what side of the road to drive on, and we were off. The aim was to camp in Le Manns for the night. Who knows where the camping site was, but we were sure we’d work it out once we arrived as everyone camps for the 24 hour races ... Don’t they?
Warned off from the Toll Roads due to the “extortionate” cost we were hesitant to use them, but with time against us we found ourselves “sucking up” the price and looming on. At one point we decided the cost must be skyrocketing after flying along at the recommended speed limit for close to two hours and chose to excite the motor way and find a cheaper (ie free) alternative route. With a 50euro note in hand, Doug ventured off to the paystation expecting little in change. The cost? 9.50euro! Obviously we used the Toll Road’s more!
We took a random turn at the request of our growling stomachs, stumbling upon the tiny village of Neufchatel. After noting the public invitation to a local funeral we found an opportunity to practice our French in a local cafe. To success I might add! (well, we ate Steak and Frites at least.)
As the hand of time wasn’t waiting for us we knew we had to start looking for that “obvious” campsite. We expected finding a campsite via the Satnav would be easy. Oh how wrong we could be! The search term camping just wouldn’t yield a result, camping was not even a preset Point of Interest!. We drove round and round the town of Le Manns looking for either signage, or at least a Tourism Information Centre.
Talking of Tourism Information Centres don’t be fooled into thinking that an Office de Tourism is anymore than a map on a board. However there are the occasional exceptions to add an element of surprise.
At one point we somehow found ourselves sitting outside a sports centre debating what to do next. A sweaty man jogged into our sight and we beckoned him in our finest French, unsure we’d be able to understand the response. To our astonishment we must have found the only Frenchman within 10kms who could not only speak English, but was willing to admit it.
This man had no clue about a local campsite ... Could you direct a foreigner to your local campsite? More than willing to help he disappeared, only to return with his iPhone and two friends with Google at hand to assist. When they found the site online it became apparent that we were right on closing time. His three fingered running partner was kind enough to call ahead for us, imputing the address into our satnav whilst also dripping sweat down the inside drivers door frame. 15mins later, with a quick detour out of a Moroccan gypsy village, we were finally pitching the tent.
This in itself caused enough problems so late in the day. But, eventually 1 hour later we were setting ourselves up with a baguette avec jambon et frommage and a glass of red wine watching the sun set, looking onto another day.