On my last weekend trip away the bathroom sink refused to empty and the cold tap wouldn't turn off properly, not a good combination of problems. I tried to unblock the drain pipe with chemical cleaners and pushing a length of thick cable through it without success. Knowing I would have to have a look at the taps I decided to take out the sink unit completely enabling me to disconnect the waste pipe. Eventually I managed to get water to flow through the pipe, but never did find out what was blocking it, a complete mystery. As for the cold tap, well it seemed that a small valve inside had failed but as it wasn't possible to take the mixer tap unit apart it needed replacing. After a quick search I managed to find the correct taps on the Internet, but despite many calls, none of which were answered and sending several emails with the same result, I haven't been able to order a replacement, I'll just keep trying or will have to wait until I return to the UK later in the month and turn up on the doorstep. So with waste water flowing I blocked off the cold tap so I can still use the hot one and put everything back again, although only on a temporary basis as I will have to take everything out again when I eventually get the new mixer tap.
I finally finished my radiotherapy treatments on the 18th. The doctors seemed happy with results and told me I would have to have a control after a couple of months, I made an appointment for October 5th and started to get things ready to get back on the road again, it's been almost seven months since I arrived back in Italy. Niki has been wonderful allowing me to stay while the hospital carried out the operation and subsequent radiotherapy, helping to get things organised and helping in many other ways, thanks a million Niki it would not have been possible without you.
So with nothing to stop me getting back on the road I got TC packed up and ready to leave. On Sunday the 24th I set off around 10:30 heading north on the E45, avoiding the toll roads. I'd booked a ferry from Calais to Dover as I wanted to get a few things done on TC, meet up with the guy who bought my old camper and hopefully spend a few weeks in Scotland. I had six days to get to Calais so plenty of time but wanted to spend a few days in France so I pushed on up through Italy covering a little over 450 kilometres on my first day. Around 6pm I started looking for somewhere to stay and purely by chance found a camper sosta on the outskirts of a town called Stienta Close to the towns cemetery. The sosta looked quite new, was small but clean with fresh water and waste facilities. I had the sosta to myself which made for a quiet night.
I didn't sleep too well that first night, it was hot and muggy and after seven months sleeping in a house I probably needed to re-adjust back to life on the road and living in a camper. The sun came up early, it was going to be another hot and sticky day. Leaving the sosta I continued northwards having decided to push on through the rest of Italy and Switzerland and then take it easy and relax more in France. I've traveled from Rome back to England and vice versa hundreds of times so I wouldn't be missing anything on my way to France as I've seen it all before.
With a little over a thousand kilometres on the clock since leaving Niki's I arrived in France, crossing the border at Basel. Twenty minutes later I was parked up on an aire in Thann, not the usual one I use, but a larger one on the other side of town. There were a good number of motorhomes parked up but still plenty of room for me. I slept well despite a little noise from the nearby road, waking to a glorious sunny morning. Back on the road I drove across country to another town called Thaon-les-Vosges, a little over a hundred kilometres northwest. The aire at Thaon-les-Vosges lies alongside the Moselle Canal. A working canal and one that is popular with private boat owners. I knew the aire well having stayed many times over the years. I was looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the sun by the waters edge. I arrived around 11:30 finding a super spot and parked up. After lunch I lazed in the sunshine reading and napping, finally slowing down after a couple of long driving days.
Once again the morning dawned bright, sunny and very warm. I took a walk along the canal side Before leaving. I deliberately stayed away from toll roads and motorways enjoying the slow pace of the back roads through wonderful countryside. By early afternoon I arrived in Bar-Le-Duc, a large town where I found an aire alongside another canal and decided to stop. After a short walk I sat out in the sunshine relishing the return to my relaxed and simple life on the road. I woke to an overcast sky that looked like rain was on it's way, although it was still very mild. As I set off a little rain fell, the first rain I'd seen for many weeks, but it didn't last long. I decided to call into a camperstop I knew along my route where I could get a good hot shower, making my way there on the quiet country roads. Having taken advantage of the shower I continued on northwest towards Calais. The clouds disappeared the sun came out and the afternoon returned to summer. I followed a route through the Verdun region where so many had lost there lives in the trenches during the First World War. Only a few weeks ago it was the 100th anniversary of the first major battle of Verdun, tens of thousands were killed or wounded on the first day alone, such a waste of young lives, remembered now by the gravestones in the War Cemeteries which seem to be everywhere in the area.
With a little over 200 kilometres still to go to reach Calais I stopped for the night at Catillion Sur Sambre, an aire once again alongside a canal. There were three French vans parked up but enough space for me and the French made me welcome. The aire had the benefit of free electric hook-ups so I managed to get everything charged up, a bonus.
It rained a little during the night and the morning dawned dull and overcast once again, at least it was dry. I walked along the canal-side for an hour before setting off on the final leg to Calais. The weather picked up as the day wore on and I arrived in Calais with sun shining. It was to be a frustrating evening. I parked up at the ferry terminal and cooked something to eat then with a little over an hour before my ferry was due to depart I drove to the check-in where I joined a long line of other vehicles. The border control staff were checking everyone's passport and practically every vehicle was searched, doors opened, boots checked. It was obviously my unlucky day, first the soldiers stooped me and had a look around the van, the queue for passport control was unbelievably slow moving and having passed through it I then had another check by the customs people before I could actually check in for the ferry. Whether it was as a result of Brexit or the Immigration and customs were being overly cautious I don't know but the end result of the checks and slow moving queues was I missed my ferry and had to wait for the next one an hour later.
It was dark when I arrived in Dover so I drove along to the seafront road, which is a popular spot for campers who can park up free for the night, I joined quite a few others.
It was a bright sunny morning as I looked out over the channel from my window. There were several people taking a swim in the protected area close to the beach, rather them than me, Dover not being known for the cleanest water. I took the A20/M20 to the Dartford crossing then the M25/A1M up to Bedford where I would be staying for the weekend.
It seems I've been travelling all my life. For the past eight years I've been following a simple, nomadic lifestyle full time touring in a camper van and meeting with other like minded travellers.
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