Honda Vision 50 Scooter.

Honda Vision 50

Honda Vision 50

Following our summer break in the South of France last year, we decided to look for a scooter or motorbike that could fit into our motorhome garage. We thought we could possibly explore a little further afield with motorised transport which would have been really useful on the Cote d’Azur.

We eventually settled on a Honda Vision with the 50cc engine option, there is a 110cc version but I really didn’t have the time or inclination to do the driving test. Apart from considering the weight, the main criteria was the height  and width so it would fit through the garage door. The Honda fits, just, with the rear view mirrors removed. When travelling, the bike is tied down front and rear with ratchet straps and a handlebar support strap positioned on its centre stand with a ply board on the garage floor to dissipate the weight through the centre stands feet then a rubber mat so stop sliding. A Fiamma bike rack would be an easier solution but this raises the bike too high. A simple folding aluminium bike track for loading and unloading was purchased too.

Soissons Camping Municipal.

Soissons – Camping Municipal.

The construction and finish of the Vision 50 is surprisingly good. With electric start, performance from the tiny engine is outstanding, aided by fuel injection, electronic ignition and a catalytic convertor. Brakes are excellent, the left hand lever operates the front hydraulic disc and drum back brakes together in what is described as “anti lock”, and the right hand lever operates the front brake only. (It is a little odd after some use to go back to a normal bike setup where the clutch lever is on the left). The petrol tank holds about 5 litres and at the time of writing we have covered 650 miles on £25 of fuel. Some of the scooters in this category are two-stroke but the general opinion is that the four stroke petrol options are quieter. The cast aluminium wheels are a little larger in diameter than some makes which aids stability and handling. The headlight is more than adequate for night riding.

Our first outing using the bike was to the Aldeburgh Food Festival at Snape Maltings. the nearest campsite we could book was Whitearch Touring and Caravan Park near Saxmundham about four miles away. Fortunately the weather was dry and sunny for late September making it an easy first outing. The food festival and a couple of other venues visited since, has highlighted the

Chateau - Chenonceaux.

Chateau – Chenonceaux.

closer proximity to the entrance of events for motorbike parking over cars. An unexpected bonus.

Performance wise, the Honda is a little underpowered for two people and the UK restriction of 30 mph for 50cc bikes means the automatic transmission slows the bike dramatically on inclines, one up, let alone with two people. On the flat, in light wind, the bike is adequate for use in holiday traffic around resorts etc but I avoid main roads if at all possible. To improve safety, read that to be, a similar speed to vehicles in urban speed limits, I have uprated the transmission to increase the available top speed. Early on in the purchase cycle, pardoning the pun, I noted

Malossi

Malossi Multivar Variator Kit

that several makes of 50cc restricted bikes could be derestricted by various means, removing exhaust restrictors or washers and bushes placed in the transmission train. There was little modifying information on the internet for the Vision 50 except for a YouTube video showing the removal of a bush on the crankshaft which restricted the transmission speed. Simple, but that was for a German spec bike where the speed is restricted further. The UK spec models do not actually have a restrictor fitted. I then found Malossi. A manufacturer of performance parts for bikes and go-karts. They manufacture a kit that replaces parts in the transmission which increases the top speed to around 40 mph. For around £70 the installed kit just changes the gearing ratios and clutch tension which has little effect on the engine or fuel consumption. The end result is a much more driveable bike in urban and holiday traffic.

Honda Givi Top Box

Givi Top Box with optional Backrest.

Because the engine is so small and set low down in the frame, there is generous storage under the seat, large enough for a helmet and gloves. We have supplemented the storage with a Givi top box which is large enough to store another helmet and a small amount of beach stuff or shopping whilst the helmet being worn.

Honda Saint-Cyprien Plage.

Honda – Saint-Cyprien Plage. South of France.

Although the bike has only covered 650 miles in just over a year, it has actually been used in Northern France, Loire Valley, Mediterranean and along the Atlantic coast of France. I did not intend to use the bike at home but I am using it more and more. Its excellent for popping into town for a quick shop, collecting parcels from the Post Office etc, and parking is free. I went to view the Cambridge to London stage of the Tour de France, accessing a great vantage point easily with the scooter.

Running costs are low, compared to a motorhome anyway. Road tax is currently £17 a year, and insurance with the Caravan Club Insurance for the first year was about £180 as a first time motorbike insurer and £127 for this year. I have not worked out the true fuel consumption but a quick calculation works out at about 140 mpg. Will have to check that further. The first annual service at the supplying dealer, John Banks Honda of Cambridge was £120 and carried out quickly whilst I worked in the motorhome in their car park. Servicing to schedule is essential to maintain the Honda two year European warranty but I will possibly skip the next one as the interim mileage has been minimal. John Banks have been an excellent supplying dealer, the purchase price was a little lower than list and included two Duchinni helmets and a security lock.

To sum up, we are delighted with the Honda. We do prefer fair weather outings on the bike so it stayed in the garage on a couple of trips over last winter but it has brought another level of freedom to our motorhoming adventures.

Saumur Tank Museum

Saumur Tank Museum – France

No-nonsense Laptop for travelling connectivity – HP Chromebook 14

HP Chromebook 14

HP Chromebook 14

There are two different aspects about this review. First, it’s not on a tech blog but a motorhome blog, and the second, this is not a new model but has just been discontinued at the time of writing.

To cover the first point, the tenuous connection with motorhoming is that I have purchased this laptop to use when travelling. For the last couple of years I have moved to using tablets when travelling, the excellent Nexus 7’s to be precise and an iPad for Anneli, but they are not great for large amounts of text input and I didn’t get on with using third party bluetooth keyboards. I do find the touch keyboard on the iPad is particularly good but is not always available when I’m in the mood to write. So, reading some tech stuff online about Chromebooks, curiosity got the better of me and I checked around to see what was available.

One element critics level at Chromebooks is that they are not proper laptops and need Internet connectivity to work, as the operating system is basically a Chrome web browser. After a little research, screen sizes on these basic laptops are generally around 11” inches but the reviews kept mentioning the Hewlett Packard Chromebook with a 14” screen. An 11” inch version is also available. All Chromebooks have WiFi connectivity so the Chrome browser can connect. This is great at home, school or the office networks but not always available on campsites or Aires but I spotted that HP made a version with a 14” inch screen and additional 3G connectivity via a SIM card slot.

From L to R: Sim Tray, USB , SD Card, Mains Input with Led indicator.

From L to R: Sim Tray, USB , SD Card, Mains Input with Led indicator.

So a quick visit to the Amazon store revealed an offering of different colours and specifications. I chose the Snow White version with 3G which duly arrived, except that it was not the 3G model delivered. A quick check back on the website and I had definitely ordered the right one so assumed that it was a picking error. The delightfully friendly customer services arranged an immediate replacement but this turned out to be incorrect too. Both were returned to Amazon and at this point I had lost a little interest in this project. Looking for alternatives I then found that the HP range was being refreshed for 2015 with a different processor and different memory options. I did find that the new Asus C300, available in bright red, had a Sim card slot in the press pictures but is not available in the UK. After a fair amount of Googling, I found out that HP UK was initially only offering the basic versions of the new model with no 3G option. Not giving up now, I started looking to find HP resellers that could possibly have some old stock then stumbled upon Laptops Direct who were offering a refurbished A1 graded 3G model in Snow White and for £40 less than the new price. It was worth the risk, it is in perfect, unmarked condition. Being picky, the accompanying quick start guide was for a Windows 8 laptop. I even managed to register the warranty on the HP website and claim two years free 100Gb Google Cloud storage. Result.

So what is the specification and what does it do?

Topline, the Chromebook runs on a 1.4GHz Intel Celeron low voltage Haswell processor with 4Gb of Ram on the 3G version and a 16Gb solid state hard drive, (SSD). Because, in theory, files are stored in the Cloud and programmes or Apps cannot be installed, storage space is not that crucial. The great advantage of a Chromebook is the instant start up, partly helped by the quick access SSD. It is literally ready to use when the lid is opened. The processor and matching graphics processor ensures that tasks and video run smoothly. There is a SD card reader and I am using a 32Gb card to store documents, photos, music etc for when connectivity is unavailable. Battery life is around 6 hours. Three USB ports are provided to add a mouse, keyboard, external drive, USB stick etc and an HDMI port to connect to a TV or monitor. There is a headphone out and mic in combined socket. Our of the box, new, this model has a Sim card provided with 250Mb a month data free for two years. Being a “seconds” or graded model, this was not included so a fresh GiffGaff Sim was installed, registered and working within ten minutes. 500Mb a month for £5. To complete the connectivity options there is Bluetooth connectivity and WiFi that can connect to the 5Ghz channel for improved video streaming and to overcome local interference on the more crowded 2Ghz band.

Keyboard with Chrome specific keys.

Keyboard with Chrome specific keys.

The anodised look silver keyboard with contrasting white keys works well for me and the standard layout for Chromebooks swaps some keys to take advantage of Google shortcuts. There is a large palm rest with a generous sized trackpad that works with multi gesture touch for scrolling and panning. Under the front side edges are stereo speakers with surprisingly good volume and clarity but with little or no bass response. Above the screen is an average quality webcam for video calling and taking snaps.  A fairly sensitive microphone is fitted next to the camera and works well for dictation and Google search. The outer case has a rubbery textured, golf ball like finish to the base which has two ventilation grills in addition to the speakers and a smooth matt

Textured base.

Textured base.

white finish to the lid. After three days of use I noticed that there is a ventilation fan, it is that unobtrusive. A large chrome HP logo is in the centre of the lid with the trademark Chrome logo on the top left side.The laptop construction feels really sturdy and weighs about 1.9kgs.

All good so far then. The 14” inch screen is the weakest part of the package. It is low resolution with a gloss finish and although there is a brightness control, looks washed out most of the time. Viewing angles are narrow, but for my purposes, this is an advantage when used on trains and planes. Your neighbour is unlikely to be able to read the screen. I have not had the opportunity to use it outdoors  in sunlight yet. For me though, this is an occasional travel companion with a decent keyboard and large screen. My iMac handles heavy tasks like, photo and video editing. Battery charging is via a bulky standard laptop mains cable and brick, a Micro USB connection would have been preferable.

Chromebook Lid

Verdict – I really like the simplicity of a Chromebook. This HP series suits my requirements, at £210 offers good value, in the first couple of weeks ownership it has worked well using Wifi on a train and 3G connectivity is acceptable camping in Suffolk. The screen is poor compared to any of my other devices but I am really content with all other aspects of this Chromebook. Chrome is developing quickly, and appears to be working towards merging with the Android mobile OS.  At the time of delivery a few Android apps were made available to use and most Chromebooks now support connecting Android phones by USB cable to transfer files and photos. A recommended solution for the mobile traveller looking for basic computing on the go.

The Connected Traveller.

The fast moving pace of technology development, together with manufacturing volumes, has brought enormous computing power to even the casual user at affordable prices. Most of us carry a mobile phone with more computing power than a ten year old desktop PC. The wider adoption of mobile devices adequately caters for business, pleasure and casual use on the move……when connected to a network. I own many mobile devices that in the main work perfectly when connected to my home or office networks but travelling poses more of a problem. My reason for writing this piece is to impart my experiences and solutions when travelling for leisure. MobileKit

My everyday requirement is to have a telephone signal and it is typical that when I’m staying at a hotel or campsite, voice coverage is pretty poor outside of larger population areas. Although some models of mobile phones have better radio capabilities than others, I have found that Vodafone tends to have the most reliable service across devices. Orange, now EE, ThreeUK and O2 I find are average depend on your geographical location. Vodafone with O2, and EE with T Mobile, share masts, Three appear to have their own network (edit- Use EE masts for voice calls in weak coverage areas). but there is a move to merge all networks onto each mast around 2015 to further improve coverage. However I find that I use voice less and less so rely mostly on 3G or when available, 4G data connections for email, browsing etc. The unpredictable availability of these networks led me to try some alternatives.

For work, I have no  choice,  it’s Vodafone. Call quality and coverage is good, but data connectivity, in my experience, is the worst network. For personal smartphone use, I have a Sim only, monthly contract and a Pay as You Go Sim on ThreeUK, Anneli is currently with EE and we have two tablets using GiffGaff “data only” Sims piggybacking the O2 network. For data connection whilst travelling this offers a choice for network coverage. Moving recently to the Three network from EE has added 4G connection when available for no additional cost but also the recently introduced Feel at Home feature. This includes calls and text messages made and received, to and from the UK in selected countries using your standard call plans, plus limited data connection. For us, we travel to France and Sweden often and they are included. Another recently introduced Three feature is an app for selected smartphones, Three in Touch which enables calls and text messages over a WiFi connection if the cellular network is unavailable.

MiFiWhen travelling with the Motorhome, campsite locations tend not to be in very good network covered areas, so two providers expands the possibility of obtaining a connection. Also, WiFi connectivity on sites is quickly becoming more available and, noticeably in France, with increasingly free access. Often a login code is required to limit use to patrons which is where the Motorhome WiFi becomes a “must have”. This excellent package connects to and boosts the available WiFi signal and up to five devices can be connected to it. Once set up and your devices registered to it, the available WiFi network only needs registration on the MiFi. Think of it like your home router but connected to WiFi, not a cable. If the WiFi service is chargeable, often the connected devices are hidden behind the MiFi so only one payment is required to supply all the MiFi connected devices.

Although I am fortunate, within reason, to be able to purchase and experiment with various gadgets, i’m not that keen to spend cash with the network operators. I buy outright my phones and tablets from the cheapest suppliers and choose Sim only plans from the networks which works out much cheaper than ” free” or small up front charged phone deals. Usually the phone or tablet can be sold on, even to the recyclers, which reduces the life cost of the device. Often the Sim only plans are on a rolling monthly contract, so if usage changes, your plan can be changed easily. GiffGaff is particularly good for this, you manage your own plan online, even changing from call plans to data only plans, month by month.

For more information on the networks go to Kens Tech Tips:

Note.

If you choose to try GiffGaff sometime, using the links in this article or clicking the ad in the side bar, at the time of writing, we each get £5 of airtime credit.

Picardy – February 2014.

P & O SuperFerry.

P & O SuperFerry.

Choosing a UK destination for a long weekend break in late February proved to be a little difficult as we were not aware that the school half-term holidays were at the same time. Checking out site availability on the Caravan Club website proved fruitless as usual but P&O Dover to Calais fares were easily affordable and the chosen sailing turned out to be on one of the new superferries. All year site opening became the next challenge but ukcampsites.co.uk filtering provided several choices within a thee hour drive from Calais.

Camping Municipal de Mali

Camping Municipal du Mail, Soissons, Picardie.

We picked Camping Municipal du Mail at Soissons as the town website provided good information about the area. The site is ideally located, fairly close to town and next to a park and a sports centre with pools etc. There is hard standing for motorhomes but most pitches are grass with dividing hedges. Only around a third of the pitches were available when we visited due to the unusually wet winter. Free WiFi is provided but although there were only about ten pitches occupied, the signal was weak and bandwidth limited.

River Aisner, Soissons,, Picardy.

River Aisner, Soissons, Picardie.

The utilities block was clean and well heated and the reception staff were really friendly, suggested several eateries worth visiting in the town centre and the location and time for the Saturday market. In town there are several historic buildings to view and plenty of shops to browse.

After two nights at Soissons we moved on to Montreuil sur Mer, stopping at Roye end route for a superb Sunday lunch at Le Florentin restaurant in the Hôtel Central. Another great endorsement for the Logis brand. We had booked one night at Montreuil’s Camping Le Fontaine des Clerc’s. The town is charming and the site is a real find. Located below the town ramparts, the site is tiered in the fashion of Fecamp and

Camping Le Fontaine des Clerc's. Montreuil sur Mer. Pas-de-Calais

Camping Le Fontaine des Clerc’s. Montreuil sur Mer. Pas-de-Calais

Montreuil sur Mer Pas-de-Calais

Montreuil sur Mer Pas-de-Calais

there are a few pitches next to the river too. Many of the pitches appeared to be booked for the season and is very popular with Dutch families. The amenities next to reception were adequate and well heated and there is another block half way up the hill for those pitched nearer the ramparts. We spent a few hours checking out the town on the scooter and quality tested a bar on the main square. We both thought that this would be a brilliant destination in season so booked a couple of nights in April when we returned to the site.

Montreuil sur Mer, Pas de Calais.

Montreuil sur Mer, Pas de Calais.

Autumn 2012

Our travel plans for the autumn and Christmas through New Year period were a little uncertain as I was scheduled for a cataract correction operation sometime in the few weeks before Christmas. The offending eye had deteriorated sufficiently in the twelve months since diagnosis to qualify for NHS treatment and I was told that I would need to take three weeks out of work following the procedure.

So looking forward, we decided not to book any sites for the Christmas period and if we could get away, stay fairly close to home. The autumn then, was spent mostly staying at our regular weekend

Van and Toad.

Van and Toad.

retreat, Clockhouse Farm at Glemsford with a weekend at the NEC – Birmingham in October for the Caravan and Motorhome Show.

The NEC show did not have too much of interest for us this year having only just purchased the Bürstner a few months earlier, but gave us the chance to catch up with friends Peter and Lynn of TyrePal fame. Something we did seem to acquire in Birmingham though was a pair of adult mice in the van. A few days after the show, I noticed the alarm had been triggered and immediately found evidence of mice. A drawer we keep the coffee, sugar etc. had been plundered, intriguingly, the top of the Marmite jar had almost been entirely chewed off. After a lot of cleaning and several traps baited with chocolate they were caught within twenty-four hours.

The successful eye op was at the end of November so I didn’t work for most of December and to keep life simple we arranged to stay at Clockhouse Farm between Christmas and New Year but also take

Swan Hotel, Lavenham.

the car too. We have stayed at Glemsford regularly for nearly five years but only visited the adjoining villages on foot or by bike so we planned to check out at least Lavenham and Bury St Edmunds. The weather at this time of year is not the best in England and our visit to Bury was a cold and rainy trip but the day spent in Lavenham with friends Dennis and Tessa was bright and sunny, although a little crisp. A snippet from a Suffolk website declares, “Lavenham is the country’s finest example of a medieval town. With over 300 listed buildings and a labyrinth of small narrow streets, it has changed little since the 15th century. The Church of St Peter and St Paul, dating back to 1486, dominates the town, with its tower standing at 141ft high. Its significant size reflects the prosperity of Lavenham at the time”. It is certainly worth a visit particularly if you are into historical architecture. The bar of the Swan Hotel proved to be an interesting respite from the chill outside. The decor includes wartime memorabilia and was a favourite with WW2 pilots from US Army Air Force 487th Bombardment Group stationed nearby at Lavenham Airfield.

Graffiti, The Swan.

Graffiti, The Swan.

There is a preserved portion of the wall, which was signed by British and American servicemen from the base, which is now visited often by families of those stationed here.

We saw in the New Year with Glemsford friends at the Black Lion.

Houghton Mill CC Site.

Houghton Mill CC 1Houghton Mill CC 2

 

 

 

 

Looking for somewhere different for a quick weekend break late September I found Houghton Mill on the Caravan Club site with pitch availability. For some reason we have missed this one possibly because it closes through the winter so doesn’t come up in a search. Situated between Huntingdon and St Ives, it’s only an hour’s drive from home and what a pleasant surprise. Houghton Mill is a National Trust property and it looks like the Caravan Club has an arrangement with them to operate a temporary style site in the field adjacent to the Mill. The amenities block is permanent and up to the usual club standards but the office is a cross between caravan and portacabin, so easily removed from the site.

Cottage - Houghton

Access is through Houghton village centre and down a fairly narrow lane so there are time restrictions for arriving and departing. Also I seem to remember seeing somewhere that outfits were restricted to a maximum eight-metre length. The village is quite picturesque with thatched cottages mixed with victoria style villas. There is a small shop and two pubs to choose, both serving food. The Three Horseshoes is the nearest hostelry in the village centre and further along the road which becomes Wyton is the The Three Jolly Butchers were we ate a rather good afternoon meal in the bar. There is a restaurant area too. There seems to be a “Three” theme here.

Houghton Mill is open to the public and is the last working watermill in the area. On Sundays during the season, demonstrations of milling are held and flour can be purchased. There are lots of walks and the area looks good for cycling. Walking through the mill to the far side of the site is a lock on the river and further on, a footpath across a meadow to Hemmingford Abbots. Hemmingford has some very grand houses and The Axe and Compass pub. A great friendly atmosphere here with a restaurant also. An unusual feature of the village is the lending library in a phone box outside the village hall.

We walked and explored more than usual for us and will return in the spring to explore the area further.

South West France – Summer 2012

Our summer holiday this year was to be less of an adventure, but more time to relax. We enjoy the South West Atlantic coast of France so we booked familiar sites at Messanges and St Georges de Didonne planning the fill in days using Aires.

P & O Dover to Calais sailings were all booked out on the dates and times we wished to travel so we tried DFDS for the first time, travelling Dover to Dunkirk. The boats were a pleasant change from P & O with kind of “designer” interiors. Disembarking in Dunkirk around 1.00 am, we originally planned to stay at Gravelines but we decided to drive on to Calais finally parking opposite the Holiday Inn as the fair was set up in the Marina car park.

It’s a two-day trip to our first booked site at Messanges, so the following day we left early, calling at Total on the industrial zone to purchase diesel and coffee en route to the motorway. The first stop of the day was for lunch at the Hotel L’Etoile d’Or at Gacé. Al fresco dining is great for people watching but the entertainment here was a film company setting up across the street. They arrived around the time we sat down and within an hour had the set lit, propped and cameras ready to roll. We couldn’t stop to watch the action, and left for our usual overnight stop just south of Tours, St Maure de Touraine. Stocking up with provisions and fuel next morning at the new Intermarche, we then heading further south for Camping Les Acacias.2012-08-20-0107

Since purchasing the Aviano in March, the aircon had not been proven in really hot weather so before leaving England I had it re gassed just in case. Whatever, there is a huge difference in travel comfort compared to our previous vans. We recorded 42o C in the first Hymer on a similar trip but providing we didn’t park in direct sunshine during a lunch stop, the interior remained pleasantly cool.

We arrived at Les Acacias late afternoon to a welcoming Marie Claire and Philippe who had reserved a great pitch for us. We were set up and in the bar down the road in no time. We booked for five nights, spending each day cycling fifteen minutes down to the beach, running early mornings and just lazing around the site. We normally lunch at the Camping le Vieux Porte bar restaurant, which is usually fairly good, but the service and food was pretty poor on the first day. When the bill was presented at the end of the meal we said in unison “we’re not coming back here again”.

After a relaxing few days set off heading to Pauillac just north of Bordeaux on the south bank of the Gironde. We visited here last year and I was quite keen to try another Chateau tour to compare. The splendid Maison du Tourisme et du Vin de Pauillac recommended Chateau Gruaud Larose for an English speaking tour the next morning.

Pauillac - CarreletWe overnighted at Camping Municipal Gabarreys, which is within a kilometre of the tourist information office. This is a really delightful site. We were allocated a large pitch with river view. The amenity block opposite included a sauna and there was a hot tub raised up on a platform at roof level with a great view over the estuary. Arriving at the pitch we found a car parked on it. Turned out that three young Dutchmen were camping next to the pitch and had locked the car keys in the boot, but help was on its way. We had plenty of room to park so we set up quickly and had just sat down with cold beers when the man from France Assist arrived. He was so helpful, Polish, didn’t speak much French, English or Dutch but tried hard to recover the keys. Fortunately the campers spoke a little German, which he

France Assist

understood. Cutting a one-hour saga short, Anneli and I recovered the keys eventually.

The tour of Chateau Gruaud Larose next morning was excellent. Very informative and we learnt far more about the wine process than on previous tours. Two bottles of the Grand Cru 1900 vintage cost the same as our Bürstner! Needless to say a slightly newer vintage was offered for tasting at the end of the tour. Early afternoon we headed north again intending to find somewhere to stay overnight close to the Verdon to Royan ferry as our booking for Bois Soleil started the following day. However we carried on, caught the ferry and arrived at the site a day early. We were allocated a pitch next to our booked one, which was still occupied, making an easy move the next day.2012-08-24-0144

The pitch booked, Chatelaillon, is an elevated position looking towards the beach. We had worked out the positioning of the van to allow for connecting the wastewater to a drain and have plenty of room to erect the privacy room. Manoeuvring onto the pitch the steering became heavy and I realised that the far end of the pitch was soft sand. Cutting another long story short, four hours later and after a lot of digging, we 2012-08-26-0172(0)were towed out using various site maintenance vehicles using large purpose made boards to stop the front wheels sinking further into the sand. We repositioned, well away from the sand, and as we were to be pitched for several days we thought this was a good opportunity to use the privacy room supplied with the van. We had erected it briefly to see if it was complete a couple of months previously so it took little time to assemble and peg out. We used it more than we imagined during our stay. Bois Soleil won the Alan Rogers Readers Award 2011 and this year, standards had been maintained. The amenity block for “La Mer” area had been updated with wet rooms during the closed season and seemed to be cleaned several times each day. The Wi-Fi reception was not as good as last year, possibly reflecting the growing popularity of mobile devices stuffing the bandwidth. It was good to meet Tony and Anneka who were pitched opposite us last year in a bar over the road one evening and spent a few pleasant hours over drinks and nibbles over the next few days.

All too quickly it was time to leave Saint Georges de Didonne and start heading back for home. Our first destination was a site that Tony and Anneka recommended at Sées, which they use travelling to and from their home in Holland. Just north of Alençon, it is just the right distance when travelling back to Dover or Dunkirk. Camping Municipal Le Clos Normand is perfectly placed to walk into the town centre to 2012-09-01-0234explore and for eateries.  There is a medium sized Carrefour opposite too, with fuel. The Cathedral is well worth a look. Magnificent stained glass windows and someone was practicing on the grand organ whilst we were there. Tony did mention that they had seen “travellers” on the site on previous stays but none this year. Well they were there when we arrived. Several white transit vans and cars, two caravans to a pitch etc, no trouble until they arrived back at the site late evening. Switching on all their electrical appliances cut the power to the whole site until after 8.00 am the next day. No one could leave the site as the exit barrier was powered. The absence of electric hook-up overnight was not a problem to us really but our (English) neighbours were fuming.

Our last destination before returning to England was Gravelines close to Dunkirk. The Aire is just outside the old town walls next to the river and marina area. Arriving just after lunch on Sunday we had a selection of parking spaces to choose but this is a very popular location and became full by early evening. This is a great spot for chilling, watching the boats coming and going and just a short walk to explore the old walled town and Arsenal. The town is very quiet on a Sunday but the Arsenal museum and gardens were open. Nothing 2012-09-02-0254about football here though.

DFDS delivered us safely back to Dover the following afternoon and we were home within two hours. The Aviano didn’t miss a beat, is generally quiet when motorway cruising and returns about twenty five per cent more miles to the gallon than our last, Mercedes based van.

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