Friday 20th July 2018
Dave doesn’t fancy staying in north Germany, too industrial he says, we’ve been contemplating whether we go east of Dortmund or straight through to Netherlands before heading into France so we head to Venlo south-east Netherlands, it’s another 3 hour drive but we have to be home middle August for Pogo’s MOT so we decide to put a few miles on the clock so we have some time in France I typed the blog in the passenger seat for about 1 hour, I’ve not done that before it was ok but my back was really sore. We arrived at our chosen Stellplatz at a large marina (GPS N51.393017,E006.148975), it’s very nice overlooking the boats, little restaurant, excellent showers, bike rental, €14 per night, the only drawback was the sight and sound of the motorway in the distance, we decide we will eat out tonight, we’ve free camped a lot lately and I fancy a night off from cooking, Dave books a table as we’re told it’s very busy and very good, all showered and spruced up we head over and are pleasantly surprised that we get a table outside on the balcony overlooking the marina, the whole menu was in Dutch, couldn’t work anything out, using google translate we figured out the menu, salmon and potatoes for me and mixed grill for Dave, the food was taking ages and we had two drinks before the waitress came to explain “situation, system failure in kitchen” free drink? Oh, go on then, once the food did arrive it was delicious and a little merry we ambled back to Pogo and sat outside in the cool evening, the navy blue star filled sky, boats twinkling and chinking masts gave it a celestial feel until it started to rain that is.
Saturday 21st July 2018
Woke to bright sunshine, so muesli overlooking the small marina and the moored boats, it has filled up overnight with 35 vans. Pogo is filthy and there’s a washing machine here for just €3.50 Dave goes in to work mode, and I into blog mode, there is a small boat taxi in to Venlo run by the harbour master at the weekends at 1.30pm, bringing people back at 5pm, its free if you stay for two nights. We join a few dutch people and enjoy the gentle meander on the River Meuse into Venlo, can’t tell you much about Venlo other than to say it’s a little scruffy with 1960’s styled buildings housing the shops, no interesting buildings to speak of except the town hall and we couldn’t be bothered to take a picture, having said that there were more cafes and bars with outside tables than we’d seen anywhere! We had a beer and tuna sandwich, we killed some time in the supermarket as it was very hot outside and nothing to see apart from the Marina which had no shade, arriving back at Pogo I spoke to my sister on the phone, Dave sorted the washing out which had dried nicely on the edge of the awning rail, cheese, olives and crackers for tea and we watched a DVD, need an early night.
Slept badly last night, we’d killed a few flies before bed but one kept landing on me all night, I should have got up and swatted it but half asleep I tried to ignore it, big mistake, up at 7am, tired and in need of the brown nectar, not beer, tea! We’re off to Maastricht, crossing in to Belgium from Netherlands although you couldn’t tell any difference! Which is sometimes the case when we swap Countries, apart from the road surfaces you wouldn’t know. We are off to another marina stellplatz but Dave put the wrong GPS and we went a wandering! Re-routed we arrived to find a locked gate and a sign saying full, oops now where? Checking park4night we found a free Aire 20 kms away at Blegny– Mine, (GPS N50.68547, E005.72288) it’s an old coal mine, now a museum and park. We pulled up and found a space with just enough shade to sit outside, Dave chopped loads of veggies and we made a chunky minestrone soup, a couple we met on Hvar Island Croatia, Cath and Adrian had cooked it for us and we’ve added it to one of our staple meals ever since, we’re going to meet up those guys when we get home. It was another mozzie bashing night and we watched another episode of Spiral on DVD, these last few days of travelling and not doing much have helped us relax after a few tiring cities Krakow, Gdansk, Berlin & Potsdam.
Monday 23rd July 2018
Feel a bit guilty not visiting the mine and museum, but at €9.50 each it’s a bit steep and we’re being budget friendly, Dave grew up in South Yorkshire and he says he didn’t want to go down the mine when he left school and he still doesn’t want to now, any way it was a busy admin day in Pogo, I booked the Chunnel crossing back to Folkstone from Calais tried to book with my Tesco vouchers but apparently you can only use them on the way out from Blighty and not to go back! Dave booked Pogo in for his MOT for the day after we are back to the UK. Jobs done we head for Les Lac de L’eau D’heure, Belgium a €5 Stellplatz. Some of the areas we drove through in Belgium looked empty, closed, like everyone’s gone off on holiday, maybe they have? We feel like we have taken a boring route, maybe it’s because it’s mostly motorways, stopping twice for fuel Dave’s not paying €1.51 , flipping pricey that! but in the end we had to as we were running low, reluctantly Dave filled Pogo up and we headed into a Lidl as we had defrosted the freezer box when we thought we had a gas leak and we are on a mission as Dave fancies some baked beans, very difficult to come across the elusive haricot in tomato sauce anywhere, we finally found a large Jar.
We arrived at the Stellplatz at the Dam,Les lac de L’eau D’heure, (GPS N50.19230,E004.37960) there is no shade it’s on a terraced car park overlooking the lake and the dam, the photo that was on the apps that we use to find stops made the place look beautiful, well it wasn’t very pretty, it’s ok but a bit grey, grey dam, grey water ,grey rocky stones, every shade of grey but not quite fifty! Still we thought we would make the most of it and headed down to the water with our swimming costumes on and for the first time I’m not tempted in, we had a five-minute paddle, the place however was jam-packed with families having BBQ’s and little camp fires, the grass is tinder dry and rather brown but there does not seem to be any restrictions, there are bike trails and we regret not bringing our bikes, I need to get a bike when we get home, I’d love an electric one, we see loads of people riding up very steep hills with them and it would be my choice if I had the money, they seem to be upwards of £1,000. We head back to Pogo there is a bit of shade to one side, we don’t like it here we can’t put our finger on it but it feels odd to us and decide to move off in the morning, I wrote the Berlin day 2 blog several days ago but our MIFI is gobbling data again and we cannot get to the bottom of it, Dave can’t upload the photos as he needs wi-fi so I couldn’t publish it, we have stopped automatic windows updates and set to metered connection, it has eaten nearly 1GB mb in just 5 minutes, we e-mailed a few people for help so hopefully it will get sorted tomorrow.
Tuesday 25th July
Today we are heading into France, Belgium didn’t do much for us and neither did the places we stayed at in the Netherlands, next time we will be better researched as I’m sure we have missed good stuff along the way. We are heading to Lake Joly at Eppe Sauvage, (GPS N50.119461,E004.140116) it’s an Aire overlooking the lake at the edge of an equestrian centre, it’s baking hot again and we try to figure out the best position for shade, it seems shade is our most important requirement and we have to consider our fridge which doesn’t work well enough if the sun is on it all day, Dave has had to take the grills off the back of Pogo a couple of times to stop it overheating.
When we finally got sorted we sat and watched the little ponies riding past with youngsters about 5 years old being led along by their teachers, they looked so cute and the horses in the field directly opposite swatting away the flies in the direct sunshine their chestnut flanks and mane gleaming in the sun and contrasting with the lush green of the valley, Dave goes over to admire them for 2 minutes then he’s back in the shade it really is that hot, the UK is having a heatwave these last few weeks well I can tell you so is Europe, everywhere we go we are told it’s not normally this hot.
The Aire is 800 metres away from a holiday village so we amble down there to take a look, it’s a great set up, mini golf, swimming pools indoor and outdoor, cafes and restaurants, there are so many people and there is no breeze at all, we considered a walk along the bike trails but instead sat outside a café and ordered 2 small bottles of Duvel beer and a box of French fries to share, the beer turned out to be 8.5% ! and the fries were awful, brown, tasted bad and hard, when the waitress came over to take our leftovers away I told her they were bad, ‘’Tres Mal’’ I said, she came back 5 minutes later with another box which looked a slight improvement on the first one, then she told me the others were pre-fried yesterday! I couldn’t eat the second ones either but Dave managed 50% of them, ironically the name of the cafe was ‘’Fresh Food’’.
That night we were sat outside when we thought we heard rain on the awning canopy, oh good we thought that will cool everything down a bit, 10 minutes later we could still hear it but couldn’t see any rain? Dave stands up to look out over the canopy and says bloody hell look at all these flies! There were hundreds of flying ants all over Pogo, we dived inside and shut the skylights as they both have tiny little holes in the mesh that need repairing only to see in horror that there are hundreds of flies inside, they have got through the cats tails curtain over habitation door, the bathroom is covered in them, hundreds literally all over the roof and walls, Dave locks himself in there in a murderous mood and I’m replicating him in the living area, it took us more than an hour and a half to get rid of them, at 1.15 a.m we finally crashed into bed, absolutely boiling hot and not a single window or vent open!
Weds 25th July
Next morning after Dave repair the mesh in the roof lights we go to another Aire only 35 minutes away camping Du Lac Vauban it’s a municipal Aire near Le Quesnoy (GPS 50.24290,E003.63515) and I’m glad we are not driving far today and I guess Dave is too, on arrival we are told to pitch anywhere, there are no trees for shade but we do manage to get behind the only conifer tree, we get the compass out, it’s 34 C and we need to position Pogo correctly as we plan a couple of days here, you would think that would be easy wouldn’t you? Look up at the sun, where is it? What time of the day is it? Well it was 12 midday, which way are other campers facing, Pogo is left hand drive and his habitation door is on the opposite side to the driver, most vans we see are the same, but that cannot be relied on, some people are happy to sit in full sun with no shade whatsoever, they’re also happy to be on a complete wonk! Not us we are English and tender, checking the setting on my phone I indicate North to Dave, he says I’m wrong, I say I’m right, you know the rest! Finally, we pitch up to Daves compass and once we have cooled down, I realise I have my compass set to Magnetic north and not true north and I’d like to tell you after reading up on it that I can explain the difference, I can’t and after 15 minutes reading up on it I lost the will to live! All I know is that my phone compass now matches Daves’ so all is ok in the world LOL!
This site has wi-fi at €6.50 for 3 days so we pay for it, we are going to try to fix our mi-fi problem whilst we are on this wifi, we send a message to our family group with our son, daughter and partners, Dan our son-in-law responds and calls Dave, they deduce that BitDefender is causing the data usage and also it’s not updated in 72 days!, we set it to update on the camp wi-fi as it’s nice and strong and sit outside.
There is now a gentle breeze keeping everyone cool and calm, I cook outside, normally veggie meals mostly but there is a big jar of beef in gravy in Pogos cupboards that needs using up so it’s that and mashed spuds for tea, the breeze get stronger and we do some research for this place as we are on the edge of Le Quesnoy and it sounds interesting, so we’ll visit tomorrow.
Good night Cathy x