Well, what I thought was going to be a pretty mundane few days of driving south and stopping in little permitted camping spots when we got too tired has turned out to be a pretty eventful few days with lots of fun things along the way.
|That's us, second from the left|
Since leaving the Hague last Friday, so far we've managed to cover almost 900km through 5 different countries (see our Satnav Sagas post here). Leaving late Friday afternoon we decided not to head too far so pottered our way down to Bergen Op Zoom in Zeeland. We aimed for a permitted camping spot in our guidebook 'Campergids 2014' (which we hadn't used before), so were delighted to find it right where it was supposed to be, with just one empty bay left of 4 overlooking an inland sea and a beautiful sunset. Better still we were just in time for sunset. We were a bit worried at first about a lot of shouting and screaming from a nearby bar. Turns out Holland were playing Spain in the World Cup and won 5-1 which meant a lot of happy shouting Dutch. Well you can't blame them and it didn't settle down too late for our first night in a permitted parking, and we slept very well indeed.
|On the GR5 after all|
After some shopping and exercise the next morning, we wandered into Bergen Op Zoom which is a beautiful town. Also, we'd forgotten but it was one of the towns that we would have walked through if we'd been able to go ahead with our planned walk of the GR5. We noticed several GR5 markers in the town which gave us a nice feeling that we were still seeing some of the route. The town was bustling as it was a Saturday and Esther enjoyed the traditional dutch street organ, which brought back happy childhood memories. After picking up some groceries we headed back to the van to discuss where to head to next. I'm not certain how or why, but we got the idea to head across Belgium to the point where the borders of Holland, Germany and Belgium all meet at a point. It seemed a nice place to head to and was roughly in the right direction for us and since we still hadn't decided exactly where in the south to head to we set out Satnav for a camping spot near to the 3-Border point.
Setting off about 5pm to miss the daytime traffic, we headed mostly east towards our second permitted camping in Brunssum (also in Holland after spending most of the journey in Belgium). For some reason we seem to be tracking down parties and we arrived just in time to hear a Dutch Jonny Cash impersonator start belting out Burning Ring of Fire. Turns out there was a classic Opel Car Rally happening about 100m away. I didn't mind though as he was really quite good. The parking was also right next to a great park with a pretty lake so we took a sunset stroll which also included getting to play on a park!
Sunday morning started with a change of plan. It was Sunday, the roads would be quiet and since we wanted to see the mountains in the south we decided not to wait any longer and so cancelled our destination of the 3-border point in favour of a long day on the road. After some food and studying our camping guides we picked out Besancon just north of the French/Swiss border as far enough for one day, plus it had a nice looking permitted camping. Wagons roll (as the Dutch Jonny Cash might say).
|Exploring Luxembourg City|
I can't say the going was all easy after Luxembourg (as you can read here) and 5 hours driving is exhausting wherever you are, but with some good CDs to sing along to, sunshine and increasingly quiet roads it wasn't too bad. Sadly we didn't arrive in quite time to get one of the 12 official camper spot in the permitted camping at Besancon, but the car park next to the Motorhome bays was so empty we pitched up anyway, asking an elderly Dutch couple if they thought it would be OK.
After we surprised them by speaking in Dutch (they'd seen our UK plates) the floodgates opened and we got a good 45 minutes of tales, advice and help for our journey. Turned out George and Mildred have been on the road 10 years since retirement and love it. Meeting nice people is one of the best bits of travelling we remember from our Interrail days and its nice that its happening again already. Its also definitely going to help speaking Dutch as Dutch number plates are everywhere we look in campers, cars and caravans as we head south.
After such a long drive on Sunday we stayed put today and explored Besancon, a UNESCO world heritage site. Starting the day early at about 7am we saw some Norwegians depart from one of the official camper bays and we moved quickly to make sure we didn't get any aggro from a passing ticket inspector. Before the sun got too high we enjoyed some exercise with Esther doing an Insanity workout by the river while I went for a jog along the banks. It felt good to be in the morning sun, in France and in our camper just as we'd imagined so many times.
After changing and breakfast we headed into town, enjoying the architecture, Roman gateways and visiting the Citadel and cathedral which were surprisingly quiet. However, by early afternoon we needed to head back to the van for a lie down as it was getting so hot. The temperature just rose and rose until about 6pm when it finally started to cool. We are definitely going to have to plan some siesta time from now on, although it is a good time to catch up on some readings and diary writing.
So now, as the sun goes down we've made our plans for the next stage to the Swiss Alps which we'll write about in the next week or so, but not before another run along the river in the morning....