To aire or not to aire – part deux.

Well, we’ve only gone and done it! We’ve finally stayed in an aire. Le Crotoy is a small town just below Boulogne and boasts two aires – one in the dunes and one at the port. We decided if it was wet we’d stay in the town, but it was a nice day so we headed for the dunes.

On arrival there were a few other motorhomes already set up. First dilemma. Where should we park? Being British, we don’t want to park too close for fear of offending someone. We chose to go next to a French motorhome, the owner of which promptly came over and said ‘you can’t park there. We are saving that spot for our friends who haven’t arrived yet’. Well, I think that’s what her French and gesticulation meant! We budged over a bit and no-one else came over and asked us to move.

We chocked up and then went over to the payment machine. 7 euro for 24 hours and the machine only takes coins. Second dilemma. Slaw used his best French and managed to get a note changed at another motorhome. Walking back over to Dora with our ticket, we had a look round at everyone elses’s set-up, as you do. ‘All the Aires France’ book states the French law that winding out awnings and putting tables and chairs is not allowed in aires. However, most units had one or the other or both. The book says ‘French nationals break the rules. Do not follow their example’. Third dilemma. So, when in Rome (okay France) we put our table and chairs out and enjoyed the last of the evening sun. A moonlit stroll along the beach before bed and we slept like babies. The aire was very quiet.

Next morning at bang on 9am a little white van rolled up beeping his horn and selling bread and pastries. Before setting off on the road some motorhomes were using the service point and emptying their loo or grey waste (free) or taking on board water or a boost of electric (2 euro each). We did neither, but if we had that would have bumped the cost of the night up to 11 euro.

At a coffee stop further en route we called in an aire in Lamotte Beuvron. Space for six motorhomes and nothing else. No room to set up tables and chairs there. Free parking, water and waste disposal was available at the service point though. We serviced Dora and headed off again. When we left the aire was full, also two motorhomes had parked on the road to the aire and two had come too late and moved off to try elsewhere. Note to self – arrive early in free aires. They fill up quick.

Next night we stayed on a campsite that cost 17 euro. We had electric hook up and hot showers, but that was the only difference. Would we stay in an aire again? Yes, we probably would now we’ve broken our duck and we weren’t gassed by the ne’er do wells who are out to get Slaw……..

Motorhome stopovers

I’ve blogged recently about the Aires in France – a cheaper (sometimes free) alternative to campsites. We’re heading to France now and will probably stay in an aire tomorrow night; but tonight we are staying in a pub car park in West Leake in Nottinghamshire.

We don’t have aires like France; Dorset was going to trial some in 2013, but I haven’t heard whether they took off or not. In the UK we do have Britstops, Night Stops and Motorhome Stopover Club to name a few. These offer a cheap and usually free car parking space in a carpark. Membership of the clubs is around £30 per year. We did join Motorhome Stopover in our first year of motorhoming, but now we are a few years down theimage line we just ring the pub first and ask if we can stay over in their carpark. Invariably they say yes!

Tonight we are staying at The Star in West Leake. A very nice gastro-pub in a pretty little village. Dog friendly, log fires and real ales. The food is good quality; Slaw had lamb cooked to pink perfection and I had chicken and chorizo pappardelle pasta – very obviously homemade! Between us we had a few pints as well. So, you can see the benefits for motorhomers – a free pitch for the night, and for the landlord – a few quid over the bar for the price of a car park space for the night. There are no facilities for motorhomes at this pub, but some pubs such as The Stratton Arms in Turweston (our fav stopover near Silverstone for motor sport events) offers a water point, toilets and electric hook-up for a small fee. The landlord, Phil, also cones off a space for your arrival and personally greets you!

It’s a dog’s life

Well, the time has nearly arrived for Minnie the Minx and Prince William to experience their first holiday en France. Me ‘n’ Slaw have been holidaying in France most years since 1996, but this trip has been a long time in the planning. In our ‘beads and barefoot’ days of our little T4 VW campervan, affectionately named Vera, space was very limited. We did take Min away with us for the odd weekend now and again, but it was tight.

So, our first expense was to upgrade to a larger unit. A pre-requisite for the motorhome was that it had four travelling seats. ‘For the children?’ said the dealer. ‘No’ said I, ‘for the dog’. Dora had the best layout to suit our needs, with a front-facing bench seat with seatbelt points and large side window – now known as the dog shelf. Slaw + Mrs Slaw + Min = three seats. Ooh! One spare seat. Time for expense number two – Prince William the pampered pedigree pooch of Parkhead, aka Billy.

We like cycling on holiday, but Billy only has little legs and Min is knocking on a bit – she’ll be ten this time. A bit of research on the ‘net and we bought a doggyhut dog trailer at £60 (and two new bikes to replace the 60euro ones we bought in France 19 years ago) expense number three. Slaw is loving all the attention he gets when he’s pulling the trailer and we’ve only had one small mishap when Billy jumped out and did a Keystone Cops impression under the trailer!

Passports have been sorted for the dogs at £55 each. Very easy process as they were both microchipped anyway. Rabies jab at the local vets, who also completed all the paperwork for us, and the passport was valid two weeks after the jab. Expense number four.

We usually go to the continent on the ferry, but we would have to leave the dogs in the motorhome on the car deck and that’s not for us. So, expense number five – the eurotunnel. £250 instead of the usual £120. Apparently, you just drive on, stay in your motorhome with the dogs and then drive off.

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So, we are ready for the trip to France with the dogs. Not sure where we’ll end up yet as some sites only allow one dog per unit. Min and Billy love the beach and many French beaches don’t allow dogs on them. Hey-Ho! It’s a dog’s life……….