UNESCO – maybe not so!

Cathy posting;

Friday 30th March – Good Friday

So it’s confession time, Dave has realised that his Sat Naff has 2 settings one is DMS -degrees, minutes and seconds and the other one is DD- Decimal Degrees! It was pure luck that we ended up at our first Aire in Ypres at all! Apologies to the Aires book you were right, our bad! (please see yesterdays post!)

So last night, Thursday we were parked up at the edge of the canal at Landrecies, it’s a small Aire for just 4 vans, there are no services but it’s a pleasant spot and it’s free! 3 other vans arrived later in the evening so all spaces were full.


Canal side at Landrecies

Next morning, Good Friday we noticed there had been a resurrection! All the other vans had gone, and we were up quite early… after healthy breakfast of porridge we had a nice walk along the canal about 9.30 am for 2.5 miles, I’m planning on keeping a track of miles walked on this whole trip and just need to download a walking app.

We set off about 11am to head for Rozoy Sur Serre in Hautes de France – Northern France (N50°07.668′, E003°41.452) The site is lovely just 4 spaces again but this time fresh water and waste disposal, extremely quiet and landscaped, it seems quite new too and there is only us here for now.

The Aire is near a little village Parfondeval, listed in UNESCO heritage as one of many beautiful villages, we parked up and had some French bread and coffee.


French bread, English tea, Italian coffee, a very European breakfast

We decided to walk to the village 4.5 kms away, even though it seemed to be alongside the road, however it started to rain quite heavily so we decided to drive, I get a bit stressed about driving into small villages with a big van but I need not have worried as it was empty like a ghost town not a soul about, no patisserie, no boulangerie in fact nothing at all, no winter flowers, it was described as incredibly beautiful well apart from a couple of nice cottages and a particularly old timber framed one I’m afraid I wasn’t impressed, maybe the heavy rain didn’t help but I won’t be coming back, sorry UNESCO.


Free Aire at Rozoy Sur Serre

We went back to the Aire and as it didn’t stop raining we settled in for the afternoon, I am reading a book called In Europe by Geert Mak, it’s a sort of biography and travel journal, he set off from his home of Amsterdam in 1999 to criss cross Europe tracing 20th century history as it slipped into the 21st, I’m only a few chapters in but I’m enjoying his style already.


Cathy in the library

It is time for tea now, chicken a la grecque we bought yesterday and tinned potatoes, well  guess what we left at home? you guessed it, yes the tin opener! never mind Dave to the rescue.


Good job he bought the leatherman tool along!

Dave has been making a note of all the places that we’ve been to and as we go he will record them for future reference and fellow travellers, whilst also keeping a copy of all our spending daily, weekly and monthly to make sure we stay on budget.

Off to bed early as were up early for Champagne region tomorrow.


Lost in France!

Cathy posting;

Woke early again 7.30 am to a welcome sunrise, blue skies but fresh!


Aire facing the lake

There’s a strong smell of Brussels sprouts from the local fields this morning…….

Quick shower and porridge and off we go, just over the lane is a War Cemetery called Railway Dugouts Burial Ground and the area of Zillebeke has many Commonwealth war graves as the front line ran through it, this graveyard was where the railway runs on an embankment next to a farm known to the troops as Transport Farm and the site was screened by slightly rising ground, burials began in April 1915 up to Armistice but in 1917 a considerable number were obliterated by shell fire before they could be marked, this would be why we noticed that some of the headstones just said the persons name or “soldier” known to have or believed to have died in this place, terrible to think that their friends had buried them only for them to be blown up again. I’m not sure I will go to see any more war graves, I wanted to see this one to remind myself of the futility of war.

We walked back across the to Aire for a walk around the lake, it was a lovely walk as well with good paths and there is a bed and breakfast with restaurant and bar on the edge with great views. It was closed today though.

dave zille

Dave with the B&B on the Lake in the background

Once back we got chatting to a couple who were now stuck inside the Aire, they had just 20 mins left of their 48 hrs and the barrier wouldn’t open, (it says at the entrance if you stay more than 48 hrs the barrier won’t open and you can’t get out!) they were trying to ring the phone number on the sign but it just kept ringing out! They were still there when we left 2 hours later, we felt very sorry for them.

Did some services stuff, toilet emptying, grey waste as well, filled with up with 100 litres of fresh water for just €1.

Selected an Aire from the book, All The Aires France, at Landrecies Parc Naturale Regional Du L’ Avesnois, we put the GPS coordinates in and double checked by both of us because of yesterday’s mishap, checked location on sat nav screen, looked right and in the correct vicinity. ETA 2hrs @ 124 kms, beautiful day for driving off we go, we hit road works in a small village and the French road workers must have been in high spirits ready for Easter as all the diversion signs met up with each in a continuous circle, we kept seeing the same spots, shops and cars! Cars were following us and if we can get through so can they! We put the place name into the sat nav and google maps on my phone, check its where we want to be and were off again! It’s another 21Kms.

The co-ordinates in the All the Aires book are wrong?? There are 5000 in the book and we pick a wrong one? (we verified this later when we actually got there). I’ve renamed it Sat Naff. Not it’s fault but that’s how I feel.

The correct GPS coordinates are N20.1278, E003.69086, ignore the ones in the 2018 edition! (edited  – please see the next post, the book is correct after all and I can’t use a sat nav properly! )

Just over 3 hrs later and not 2hrs because of the French circular fun trail apparently, we are 1.9kms away, sat nav shouts turn left, I looked ahead & it’s a dirt track, so we pulled up, checked again and I said to Dave said it looks ok, go for it! When the condition of the track became muddy and not hardcore after 1.6km travelled we turned around and came back to the main road. I took a video but stopped before it got really bad.

(I can’t upload the video at the moment, I am learning this blog stuff as I go along! I’ll try and post it later)

So our 2 hr trip became 4 hrs, not eaten since our porridge at 8.30am and its now 4pm, so we are tired & hungry , let’s nip to the little café or pizza pace around the corner said I, good idea says Dave,there’s nothing open until 6pm says the local gendarme! Ok, the supermarket over the road it is then, I’ve got some fresh tarragon, so I’ll get some chicken, something I can make in 30 mins total before Dave eats his elbow!

chicken dinner

A very hungry and tired Dave!

It’s a week now since we left home and we can’t believe we will be doing this until August on this trip, feels odd not working and also thinking that we haven’t just left home for a holiday, someone is actually living in our house, it’s now essentially their home for at least 12 months, we are happy for it all though.

We will go for a stroll around the town later and I’ll read my book whilst Dave makes a spreadsheet for our daily costs to keep on budget, one for you there CJ, if you are reading this

Hopefully tomorrow will be uneventful.

Cathy x

In Flanders Fields

Cathy Posting:

We are still on the Aire overlooking the lake just outside Ypres(N50.83628, E2.90506) Kampeerautoterrein Zillebekevijver

This morning we were up and out early as were were keen to visit Ypres, it was just a 2 mile walk in the drizzle and first stop was the umbrella shop! we had a little walk around the ramparts of the city walls and noted the location of the Menin Gate for later on. On the market square The Lakenhalle or Cloth Hall houses both The Visitor Centre and the In Flanders Fields Museum, the IFFM being named after the poem by John McRae link here , the hall was almost completely demolished in 1914 but is now reconstructed finishing in 1967 and I have to say I couldn’t tell it was a reconstruction.

A visit to the In Flanders Field Museum is most definitely recommended by us, it’s dedicated to the study of the First World War, the museum is very interactive and many multimedia applications , each visitor is given a poppy bracelet which allows the interactive experience. It’s hard to remember that approx 10 million military personnel were killed or missing in action and almost 7 million civilians died also, there are many variations on these numbers and it’s unlikely that we will ever know the true number.


The Cloth Hall

Tonight we went to hear the Last Post link here at the Menin Gate Memorial, this is a memorial to the WW1 soldiers of the former British Empire and it’s allies who lost their lives in the Ypres Salient, the memorial bears the names of nearly 55,000 soldiers and officers whose graves are unknown. The Last Post is played by the buglers at the Menin Gate every evening at 8 O’clock in honour of their memory and tonight we witnessed the 30,993rd occasion since 1928, a very somber and emotional experience it was too.


Menin Gate – looking towards The Cloth Hall

I’m off for a cup of tea now as we need to plan tomorrows journey,  we don’t want to drive for more than 1.5 to 2 hours, we still don’t have a planned route however we do know that Munich, Venice and Croatia are currently on the list.



I’m a motor-homer let me out of here!

Dave here;

(hopefully the google map location worked above, bear with me if it didn’t)

Buzz, buzz, buzz the alarm goes off at 4am, by 4.20am we were ready to leave this Aire at Canterbury for the euro tunnel. I popped over to the ticket machine, guess what, it’s broken! The screen was locked at a £45 credit card payment at 8.32pm last night! I frantically put my ticket in all the slots and then any slot but to no avail!

Now we are trapped in the compound, the barrier can only be opened with a ticket. The clock is ticking, I press the help buttons but there’s no response, I run around to the other side of the building, there might be another ticket machine, there isn’t. I can see another payment machine inside the building, but the doors are locked! A quick look around for a telephone number but there isn’t any information at all.

What am we going to do? Incredibly a council employee arrived in a van, I literally pounced on him, not a pretty site at 4.35am! After a quick explanation he kindly opened the building and I used the inside machine, made my payment and we escaped!

Drove to the tunnel but due to my poor planning, I had to stop twice at the terminal, once to dig the passports out and my debit card that I paid on, secondly to switch the gas off, we joined the queue but we didn’t make the 5.45 am, we had to wait for the next one at 6.20am

We were directed on to the train carriage about 6.10am, now we were in the first 10 vehicles at the front of the train.


35 minutes later we arrived and drove off cautiously and slowly towards Dunkerque. I have to familiarise myself to the new driving situation, positioning despite the van being a left-hand drive. I quickly grew in to it. After half an hours drive we pulled off the A16 for diesel at 1.37 euro per litre.

Breakfast at the seaside, pulled up at Dunkerque near the beach front, the weather is not so kind, it’s pouring with rain and very grey, we would like a walk, but we didn’t sleep last night and need to have a nap.


A wet & windy Dunkerque

We moved to an old Aire camping spot 200 yards away and we had 40 winks. Awoken by the council maintenance team cutting and strimming the overgrown grassy areas, we have a look at finding somewhere to sleep tonight. After researching we decide to go to Ypres about 30 miles away and stay on a newly built Aire. Put the coordinates in and off we go, after an hour it doesn’t feel right, and we end up outside a farmer’s barn, this is definitely not right!

We check the coordinates again and I had mixed the digits up, maybe it’s because I was tired, the correct ones entered and now it’s another hour’s drive! I am annoyed with myself, but I’ve learnt an invaluable lesson to check the map after the coordinates have been entered.

Found the Aire easily and it’s a good spot, by a large lake surrounded by tall trees, it has all the usual facilities (no toilets) for 8 euros per night including electric. (N50.83628, E2.90506) Kampeerautoterrein Zillebekevijver.


Please can you say that again!

It’s a short walk in to Ypres tomorrow and the weather forecast is looking better as well.


On our way

Dave here;

We left Oxford about lunchtime today and drove to the Council run Aire in Canterbury which is part of the park and ride area.

This is a fantastic facility for just £3.00 for 24 hours includes a toilet block, chemical toilet point, fresh water tap and wide parking bays.


Well done Canterbury Council

The tunnel is about 20 miles from here, so it should be an easy drive at 4am tomorrow.

Published the blog today and hopefully you will enjoy following us.

We are so excited now, got butterflies, I bet we don’t sleep tonight!