Monday 2nd May 2016

After another busy weekend we decided to leave Prouvy early this morning and head to Boussios, a small town which is quite close to the Belgian border. It is quite a few miles along the motorway and further from the coast than we were but there are not many good Aires closer to Calais. This Aire is reported to have electricity and so we should be able to get the Hoover out this time - not like the disappointing timing at Marcoing!

When we arrived it was to find a beautiful canal side Aire with a garden picnic area.


Note the "Welcome" sign in front of our motorhome. We do wish we had these in England instead of height barriers and "no parking overnight".

After lunch Dorothy set to and made a start on the laundry and Allan took a look at the Blog. We then sat outside enjoying the lovely sunshine.

During the evening we made a phone call to Frankie and also to Joan G whom we had not spoken to for quite a while. (W&P friends will remember Joan)

Tuesday

The weather has now taken a definite change for the better. We spent the day writing the Poppy-trail blog, which was not an easy thing to do, taking a break for lunch outside in the sunshine and then later in the day generally chilling out, admiring the view. Things are really getting better.

In the evening we phoned Mum to check she is OK for her appointment tomorrow.

Wednesday

Still a bit chilly this morning but the sun is shining and soon things will warm up. This is much better than at the start of the year.

Unfortunately the Borne is not near the parking area and so, yet again, the Hoover stayed in the garage!

We were thrilled to be invited to attend our friends (Zelie & Martin) Ruby Wedding Anniversary and our arrangements have now been sorted so it is time to book the ferry to England.
Allan has been searching the internet for some time and now that we have stayed in the Northern part of France, Calais seems to be the obvious port of departure.
Ferry all booked so we made a call to James to let him know we are returning on 12th May. We can't wait to see Scarlett-Louise. How she will have changed since we last saw her xx

Thursday

Today is another National Holiday in France so everything will be very quiet. We took the opportunity to sort out more blog photos and enjoyed sitting in the sunshine. The boulangerie is just across the road and they bake one of the nicest tasting loaves that we have had in France.

Friday

This morning Allan got busy getting the folding bikes put together and in the afternoon we went on a cycle ride to Belgium. It may sound like a long way but the border is about 3 and a half miles away, along the river Sambre and there is a cycle and footpath. It was longer for us, going along beside the river, because the river is not straight and we have to cross over two bridges. When we arrived at the border all that there was to show for it was a rusty sign post.
Allan joked with Dorothy that we should show our passports but there was no one to show them too, except a few other cyclists.
Luckily there was no-one up the border control tower to apprehend this man!!!

We followed the pathway further along the river, stopping to do our first geocache in Belgium!

We then saw a small marina called Port de Plaisance Park

and we cycled all the way around it before heading into the small town called Erquelinnes, Belgium.

To our surprise it was market day. Not selling food this time but many, many, many clothing stalls, a few electronics and hardware traders
and, of course, the livestock! Chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, even goats!

Shirts for a Euro, dresses and clothes for five to twelve Euros and Jeans for ten. (The Euro is about 78 pence at the moment) everything here was very cheap and the town was literally heaving with people. Cars were queueing to come in and also to leave the town. Such a contrast from the slow, laid back pace of life we have been experiencing in France.

This is a border town with many tobacconists, casinos and bars. Obviously the French cross the border for the lower prices.

We had a wander around the stalls and then had a drink in a pavement cafe and had a nice conversation with a Belgian family whose table we shared. They left just before this photo was taken.

This was the next pleasant surprise as in France it is usually between 6 and 10 Euro for two small beers, here it was only three Euro. Life gets better............until, Dorothy says to Allan "my message has not gone through to my brother". Alarm bells ring. Are we still in a "feel at home" country. You guessed it, NO!!! Dorothy stops her internet connection straight away. Allan has been using the internet since arriving in Belgium for geocaching etc. and so quickly comes off data roaming. Oh lord, how big is my bill going to be?????

Then the long cycle back. This time it was against the wind, slightly uphill and into the sunshine.

Saturday

Expecting Dorothy to complain of the aching muscles from yesterday's bike ride Allan was pleased that the exercise seems to have done her some good and she says the exercise has really helped her back. On the other hand, poor old Allan is still aching!

Today was a very hot day and we decided to have a very lazy day after yesterday's long day out.

Allan wrote some more of the blog and Dorothy took a look at the Giants at Prouvy pages which are now finally looking better.

There have been a few big days recently and we like to remember them in the blog. The Poppy-trail itself, through the battlefields of the Somme, was difficult to do as it was very emotional and the blog was not easy to write. We don't want to write a history lesson, even if we could. Just a few photos without words would be meaningless. We don't want our family, friends and motorhome, caravan and geocaching friends to think that we are writing a "how to do it " manual. We want you all to know that we are missing you. It needs to be balanced and accurate. We need to put in stuff to help us remember our travels and to let you know where we have been - our postcard to home. We hope that we get it right.

Evening comes upon us all too soon but with a lovely sunset.

Sunday

It was rather noisy across the road from us last night (to say the least!). There seems to be a group of youngsters that collect there and are shouting at each other until about two in the morning, or even later and as it is another National holiday today they were all obviously in high spirits last night. Also we seem to get phone messages from other people who cannot sleep. Together with the other drawback of summertime, that is the mosquito and chasing one of them around the bedroom with an electric fly killing bat, not a good night's sleep was had.

During the morning we cycled in the other direction of the river Sambre. On Friday the signs were to Belgium. Today the signs say "to Paris". No chance says Dorothy!!! so we stop at the next village called Recquignies where we did a couple more geocaches.
One of them was in the grounds of a War Memorial.

Allan was busy searching for the cache box and then we heard a military band coming. Never mind says Allan and carried on searching. Dorothy was getting more and more anxious as they were heading our way so Allan finally gave up searching just as they were about to arrive at the Memorial grounds.

It is of course, Victory in Europe day today. One of France's 11 Public Holidays. Some regions and departments have a further two days on top of this to make 13 days but if the holiday falls on a Sunday they do not take Monday off instead. The French work 35 hours a week and for any overtime it is for the first 8 hours at time and a quarter and thereafter at time and a half. They must have a daily rest period of 11 hours and the weekend must be at least 35 hours consecutive rest including the Sunday. Except for a few exceptions like bread, flowershops and tourism in the major centres, France closes on Sunday. This 13 days of public holiday may sound good but French employees are also guaranteed a minimum of five weeks paid holiday each year. The minimum wage in France for this is €1466 a month ( £1152)


They had a short service and then the Mayor invited us to the Marie for drinks which he said were "very nice".
We made our apologies for not accepting their kind invitation and got back to looking for the geocache.

When we found the Geocache we went for a bike ride a little further along the river.

We will spend another night here and then move on again tomorrow. Well that's the plan anyway as we have to be back to Calais for the Thursday morning ferry to Dover and then on to Johns Cross, East Sussex to visit the Motorhome repair garage before making our way to Hailsham for a much longed for cuddle with our Grandaughter. Oh, how we have missed our family so very much.

We made a call to our friend Zelie to say we are booked on the ferry next Thursday and are looking forward to seeing them for their celebration.

 

Next week we arrive in England!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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