I guess the first thing to explain is why we decided not to go straight to Morocco
in the new year, as was the plan at the time we decided to stay in France for Christmas.
Essentially it all boiled down to tax, or rather the lack of it. Moglets tax disc
was due to run out in May 2011, which if we were in Europe at the time would mean
no tax therefore no insurance, which is a bad thing. Outside of Europe it makes
no difference at all as we would be in countries where we wouldn't be able to get
UK based insurance anyway, so the whole thing would be a bit irrelevant.. But what
happens when you start the drive back? At some point we would take a ferry out of
Morocco and arrive in Spain, where we would be without tax and valid insurance, and
with an out of date MOT we’d have no way of rectifying the situation until we arrived
back in the UK. Bit of a bugger really.
So, knowing what we already knew about having to cut the Africa bit of the trip short
and heading to Iceland at the end of the summer, we decided to make a whistle stop
trip back to the UK to get Moglet MOT’d and re-taxed for another 12 months! Seems
like such a stupid thing to have to do, drive hundreds and hundreds of miles and
spend a fair chunk of cash on diesel in a round trip just to satisfy some bureaucrat
somewhere that we’d ticked all the right red tape boxes, but we didn’t see any way
around it. If we didn’t get Moglet through another MOT and buy another 12 months
of tax before we left France and headed south, we’d find ourselves driving north
through Europe at the end of the summer with no tax, no MOT and no insurance. And
wouldn't any roadside check love to find that out! Or worse still, we’d have some
kind of accident and have no cover. So that's what we did.
Mid January we headed off back to Blighty, hopping across from Calais to Dover. Knowing
what we’re like for keeping to deadlines, we booked a return trip at the same time
for a week later. In the intervening period we needed to get Moglet through her
MOT, get a new tax disk, collect some walking and cold weather gear from Jasons dads,
pick up Jasons dive gear from Norwich, plus squeeze in a few family visits if possible.
We expected a busy week!
Happily, the MOT was a breeze and Moglet sailed through it. The guys at the council
testing depot near Bury St Edmunds are a good bunch and it was very much a relief
to be able to drive away with the all important certificate. We spent a day in Norwich
picking up a few bits and pieces and collecting our dive gear from Jasons good buddy
Chris at Christal Seas Scuba.
With the return ferry date looming we made last minute arrangements to meet up with
a couple of fellow wanders that Jason had been chatting to for some time via a forum.
They’re in the early stages of planning a self build motorhome and were keen to
see Moglet in a bit more detail. Rather than have a mad dash to the ferry we decided
to push the sailing date back by a day, but considering what we’re usually like,
we were pleased to be so close to keeping to the original plan!
So the last days of January saw us back on the ferry from Dover to Calais. We’d
heard negative comments about the aire at Calais, and perhaps the comments are justified
in busier seasons, but as far as we were concerned it was easy to find, has easy
to use facilities and lots of room with a nice view. You can see the ferries coming
and going and maybe some people might find it noisy, but its such a low constant
rumble that you get used to it pretty quickly. We ended up arriving pretty close
to midnight and didn’t want to drive on any further, so were more than happy to park
up and get straight to bed, and make a fresh start in the morning. It was a pretty
chilly night though - when we’re parked up without hookup and as it was cold outside,
we had condensation forming on the inside of the door, on the metal frame. This
then ran out through the tiny gap at the bottom and formed an icicle overnight...
So after a late night arrival in Calais we had a little mooch around the aire to
blow away the cobwebs, watched the ferries come and go for a bit then headed off
into the glorious sunshine. After a week of pretty much solid rain in the UK it
was lovely to wake up to blue skies, even if it was pretty much at freezing point
in the shade.
We’d decided to stay on the autoroutes as much as possible, for the sake of speed.
It ends up costing us around 85Euros to get from Calais to my parents house, but
the time it saves us is considerable. As and when it gets close to knocking off
time for the day, we check the aires book to see where we fancy staying and then
get onto smaller roads for the last bit of the day.
First night found us in a smashing little place called Broglie. Never been there
before, and I cant make up my mind when its in decline or recovery, but its in a
funny kind of half way stage between early onset dereliction and gorgeous tasteful
conversion. I’ve already earmarked Number 34 on the High Street for future purchase,
as and when I win the lottery! The aire is nice and spacious and in a good location
with a good service point too. Click here for more photos.
So whats next? Well, the journey south continued, slightly dull and boring as we
were back on the autoroutes again but its the speedy option for us (french towns
and villages seem to have a fascination with mini roundabouts, and although they’re
often very pretty and smothered with flowers, we have to slow down to a crawl to
get around most of them). After wandering around Broglie until lunchtime, having
something to eat and then having a bit of a sit (we do it so well!), it was getting
on a bit and we were in two minds whether to just sit tight for another day. But
we decided to head off, even if we only drove for another couple of hours it all
reduced the overall journey time for the next day.
I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the village we stayed in next, but
it did have a pretty impressive chateau in the centre. All I mostly remember was
it was bloody freezing, the pizza restaurant refused to open despite the sign saying
it should be trading, and I could feel my cold coming back :-(
We tried really hard to break the bad habits the next morning and get up and out
at a reasonable time. Once we were fed and watered we were back on the road again
and made good time, getting to within a couple of hours of mum and dads. But once
again the winter sun beat us to it and, not seeing any point in rushing on ahead
and driving in the dark just so we could arrive really late and then sit around chatting
until even later, we decided to pull up for the night in a place called Vivonne,
just a little way south of Poitiers. It’s signposted from the N10 so we’d been aware
from previous travels on the road that there should be an aire in there somewhere,
we’d just never stopped and had a look before. Once again we were really pleasantly
surprised by the quality of the aire facilities and the general pleasantness of the
village. And this time the pizza place was open!
We had a good wander around the village but were a little late arriving to take any
photos worth posting. But I was particularly impressed with the town common and
its little river and tributaries running through it, some of which had been gated
off to be used by the local canoeing/kayaking club - there was even a partially submerged
conveyor belt for you to paddle on to, to get you and your kayak back to the start
of the waterway. All very Paddles Up, for those of you old enough to remember that!
But mindful of the time we eventually got ourselves back on the road and finished
the last leg of the journey, arriving back at mum and dads later on the next day.