30th July 2020.
Today is the day. Today is the day that we set off for France in mainland Europe. The virus has been with us since March, we have had “lockdown”, we have been unlocked in part and we are now following this advice and that advice from our leaders who, let’s be honest don’t know much more than us about what we should be doing. Yes, we are a little nervous about what we are doing but we are responsible and we think prepared. Our van is loaded with plenty of masks, sanitiser, and soap. We know to keep a safe distance and to wash our hands regularly, we’ve had enough practice after all!
The plan is to make for the French Alps. We have five weeks to get there and back, we may decide to stay out longer if there is nothing to come back for, which right now is looking likely. Del will certainly be twiddling his thumbs while Hayley may get some more days at ITV.
Our departure is planned for today, the 29th, on a 10:00 am ferry to Portsmouth, but the day before we spend a lovely day and night at Whitefield Forest campsite in Brading on the Isle of Wight. A stunning and peaceful setting and a great place to get yourself into the right frame of mind and equally to make sure that everything on Jess is working ok, including the bikes. The weather is just perfect, warm, clear, and bright. Dinner and drinks outside and a great night’s sleep sets us up for the next day. So far so good.
The drive across the from Portsmouth to Dover the next day is uneventful, thankfully. Once we get to the Port of Dover there is a slight hold up at the customs. We are wondering what new things customs will require, we haven’t read anything new. It’s nothing to be concerned about. French customs are not just waving you through today, they are looking at everyone’s passport. Practicing for when Brexit does arrive. A delayed ferry by 20 minutes but no matter. We are not alone. There are many Brits in the line, not as many for a normal August, some people are just not going abroad, but we feel better that we are not the only ones.
Once on the ferry to Calais it feels a little odd. Shops and cafes are open but the seating areas are cut to 50% so finding a seat to have your coffee is tricky. The rules are to wear a mask, except when eating and drinking. We are amazed at the amount of people not wearing a mask or wearing a mask incorrectly. The idea of a mask is that it covers your mouth and nose, not just the mouth. It will be a while before we see the back of this virus.
Wash your hands, cover your face, keep a distance. All very simple…
Our wheels are on mainland Europe, finally, and we are headed off to our first stop. A short 50km drive to the small town of Arques. The plan is to camp next to a lake just on the outskirts of the town of Arques. In less than an hour, we arrive at our chosen first stop. It’s fantastic. We park in the shade of some hanging trees, tucked away with the lake behind us.
We are not the type to sit about too long so the table and chairs are out and the champagne that has been in the fridge since we started, a good one that we bought on our last trip out, is duly served and quaffed. Well, why not?
Its a lovely night, warm, no wind. We toast our first stop in France on this our 4th trip out. So far so good. We are not in a rush so tomorrow we will just take another short hop to a place we have already visited.
Any nerves we might have had about doing this at this time have soon dissolved now that we are here, but we won’t let our guard down. We know it’s still out there and will be for a while yet.