Eurotrip 8, 2020 – Day 69, Out of the frying pan…

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An even earlier start to the day as we pulled out of Aire St-Leger (near Saintes in South West France) shortly after 07:00. The facilities were still open and clean. Toilet roll was available on the shelves.

The 500 or so miles were completed by around 16:20. On the entire route, which for us was predominantly Peage, we can report that nearly all Aires were open from the Spanish border as far as Poitiers – but that was via the A10 from Bordeaux and not the N10.

From Poitiers to Calais, all Aires with fuel were open but very few others.

The roads were deserted.

The Peage system is deserted

For some unknown reason, the French army was deployed at Eurotunnel check-in. Kids with very big machine guns checked the car and van. Not sure what they were looking for – toilet roll?

Our Flexi ticket allowed us to board the next train out of Calais (17:20) and we are back in Blighty. Relieved that we haven’t yet caught the virus and doubly relieved that we didn’t have any mechanical failures on the 1400 mile drive.

We are staying tonight at the CMC (Caravan and Motorhome Club) site near Folkestone which is the last night a CMC site will be open in the foreseeable future. Just another 250 miles to go to reach Devon.

An eventful Spain 2020 is complete. An unknown future lies ahead for all of us but for now we are extremely grateful not to be stranded in a Foreign land.

No thanks to Brittany Ferries who have just closed communications and accepted zero responsibility for their clients. Shame on you.

Conil de la Frontera to Calais in three driving stints with a Caravan behind is simply gruelling. It could not have been achieved if the roads hadn’t been empty. Special thanks to Paul, Andrea, Barry, Denise, Brian and Jean for their company on the journey and to Teen and John for providing all the information from their trip 48 hours earlier.

I know from all the Social Media forums that we are just one couple out of thousands if not tens of thousands struggling to return home and wondering what awaits them.

Good luck to everyone caught up in this and stay safe. In particular to all the folks part of the community at Camping La Rosaleda, hope everything works out and we can meet up again next year.

Until next time, Adiós Amigos.

Eurotrip 8, 2020 – Day 68, Lockdown day 7…

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A quick update as we’ve been on the road for about 11 hours, covering over 500 miles of our journey across Spain and France.

An early start to the day and the eight of us (4 caravan outfits) set off from Camping Olympia at 08:00. Barry and Denise paired with Brian and Jean; Paul and Andrea with ourselves. We would arrange to meet somehere close to the French border and decide on our strategy for the night.

There are no campsites open in France, so we’ll need to be wild camping at Motorway services and it feels a little more comfortable in a group.

More new from the advance party – DFDS is requiring customers to rebook and then potentially re-assigning them to the Calais Dover route. At considerable expense (over £1k for the two of us), Paul and I decide to buy some fully flexible Eurotunnel tickets. Just turn up and go… We now have three sets of tickets back (Brittany Ferries, who have now shut down their phone lines!!! DFDS and Eurotunnel. We hope one of the threee will strike lucky).

We arrive at the French border around 13:00 and there are hour long queues to get through. Other than the traffic is being throttled by only havng 2 Peage lanes open we didn’t really see any border checks. Certainly no passports were viewed nor any temperatures taken.

Au revoir to Schengen zone free travel

The traffic is extrememly light as one would expect and 99% of the traffic is made up of trucks and campervans / caravans. There are a number of addtional roadblocks in France but we aren’t scrutinised.

We reach an Aire south of Saintes at about 18:00 after a mammoth 500 mile tow and there are a few dozens campervans, caravans and lorries in place. Aire de Saint-Ledger has full facilities whch are clean. There is even a shop open with a fully stocked shelf of toilet roll…

Aire de Saint-Ledger, Saintes, France

News in from Camping Rosaleda in Spain is that the touring part of the site closes on Thursday. All communal facilities are to close (eg washrooms, showers, laundry) and the only option is for travellers to rent one of the bungalows.

But… this is a fast moving situation and everything is closing down around us and it looks like we made the correct descision to bail out.

Eurotrip 8, 2020 – Day 67, Lockdown day 6 (*special update*)…

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We are trying to book a Tunnel crossing as insurance to the Dieppe crossing on Monday night. The Eurotunnel has NO AVAILABILITY for even a car until 20th April. Every day up to and including the 19th April has all slots “SOLD OUT”. Then on the 20th April, EVERY slot is available.

Suspicious or what? I think Eurotunnel have had advanced warning that the operation will be closed down very soon.

And then some grim news from the advance party (copied from Whatsapp so a few typos):

“Well l have to say today has been pretty horrendous. And l know you are all sitting there thinking you will follow my instructions. In truth l have know idea what to say. I can’t remember what we were doing before lunch let alone last night. But going through different messages l have sent other pepole so here goes and forgive me if it doesn’t work for you all.
So last night we stopped at a Airer which my phone location was Saint-Geours- de-Marenna its a Shell Filling station with a large Aires behind it the toilets where open but the cafe Restaurant and shower where all closed. And you can’t empty your chemical toilets there. We then drove until we got to a Airer no where to refuel. But we could empty the caravan toilet (phew)! Again going by my phone location it was called Maine-de-Boixe Nouvelle we stopped for lunch here lovely and sunny so we sat with David and Maggie eating our lunch at a picnic table. Not a wise idea as two police men turn up one motor bikes asked us where we were going did we have both caravans and then told us off for sitting togeter😱.
Now this is where we probably made are big mistake we decided to come of the Péage (toll road) and use the N10 not a good idea. There where garages and places to stop but they were all closed. We had planned to stop at about 4 because we had covered a fare distance and didn’t need to go any longer. We we eventually found somewhere at 7pm very little space to park as it was just about full but we managed to squeeze in. We are just of an hour and a half from Dieppee. All I can say is Stay on the Péage there are alot more Airer on there. And thank goodness we left when we did because l think you are going to have alot more traffic with you tomorrow because everyone is now making a run for it as well. So safe journey and let me know how you are all doing. All the best T and J. Xx”

Eurotrip 8, 2020 – Day 67, Lockdown day 6…

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It’s time to head for the border. We leave Camping La Rosaleda at 08:30 for our 380 mile drive to Salamanca. It’s an uneventful journey, traffic is light and is essentially freight and returning caravanners and motorhomers.

There’s a large Guardia presence all along the route but we aren’t harrassed.

Guardia monitoring the motorways

We arrive at Camping Olympia mid afternoon and it’s chaos with people attemping to stay here. There are only around 40 places and anyone without a reservation is turned away.

Nerves are frayed as news comes from the “advance party” that they can’t find anywhere to stop en-route from Bordeaux to Tours as all Aires and Truck stops are closed. An interesting day ahead tomorrow and still some 900 miles to go before we reach Dieppe. And fingers crossed the ferry actually operates on Monday.

Looked to book a Tunnel crossing as a backup but no availability until 23rd April. This is looking increasingly challenging as restrictions everywhere become even more draconian.

A few pictures from Camping Olympia. It’s a perfectly serviceable stopover site…

Our “convoy” of 4 caravans in the picture
View across the front on Camping Olympia
And the view from our caravan…

Eurotrip 8, 2020 – Day 66, Lockdown day 5 (pm)…

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Had a nice chat ‘on-air’ with Janet Kipling (Radio Devon) following up on an email I’d sent in. I was hoping the ABTA guy may have been more forthcoming about Brittany Ferries responsibilities through all of this but this wasn’t his speciality area.

We still haven’t been told our crossing has been cancelled on the 31st March but the website indicates Brittany Ferries passenger operations have all but closed down. More rumours that the crews are refusing to risk being exposed to Covid-19 circulate.

Our “advance party” have crossed the French border without incident but no indication whether or not any sites are open in France for the journey north through France.

We hope to leave Camping La Rosaleda tomorrow morning at 08:30, destination Salamanca.

Restrictions are increasing. Anyone staying has to confine themselves to their small metal box (caravan or motorhome).

More movement restrictions

We are making the right decision to bail out.

Eurotrip 8, 2020 – Day 66, Lockdown day 5 (am)…

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A quick update from Camping Rosaleda. Busy day ahead readying for our departure tomorrow. This is the planned route.

Long road to Blighty

The Spanish government has announced all hotels must close by the 24th March and all visitors to Spain should return home. The classification of campsites as long-stay / short-stay seems to be confusing as to whether people will be allowed to remain. The messsage seems fairly clear though – get out while you can.

There are four of us intending to travel in convoy which should improve security when we are forced to wild-camp.

Couple of “information” pieces here. Just over 2 weeks ago, this site was a bustling metropolis with probably over 1000 here. Every pitch was taken and all the bungalows were occupied for Andalusian weekend. There must be 350 camping pitches and 60 bungalows in total.

Yesterday, we counted 70 pitches still occupied and perhaps about 20 bungalows. It takes 50 minutes to walk up and down each road of the campsite and this adds some 6000 steps to our fitbits…

Eurotrip 8, 2020 – Day 65, Lockdown day 4 (pm)…

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A busy afternoon packing up ready for our departure on Friday morning. We hear that the “advance party” has arrived at Salamanca which is half way to the French – Spanish border. They have free passage but the Guardia are stopping people travelling South.

We have printed the document for travel through France. There is no option to be out in France “travelling to the UK”

Form for travel through France

We need to add “Je rentre au Royaume-Uni en voiture”. There are fines for not having the doument ready to show to the French authorities. The document can be downloaded from the French government website.

https://www.interieur.gouv.fr/Actualites/L-actu-du-Ministere/Attestation-de-deplacement-derogatoire-et-justificatif-de-deplacement-professionnel

Eurotrip 8, 2020 – Day 65, Lockdown day 4 (am)…

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Sleep was disturbed last night as a gale force winds sweep across the region for the next two days. Trees and branches are down all over the campsite and the town. Waiting outside the bank I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such strong winds. With everything else going on this feels like Armageddon.

Brittany Ferries have indeed suspended all crossings for about a month but no-one is expecting them to resume until much later this year and indeed perhaps not at all in 2020. More rumours, but apparently the French won’t crew them for fear of catching Covid-19. Another rumour is that Spanish campsites have been ordered to close in 3-5 days. If true, the roads North will be packed with caravans and motorhomes.

Trees down and uprooted…

We have booked a ferry crossing from Dieppe to Newhaven and will monitor the progress of John and Teen who left for France this morning. If the border to France is open, then we will cut and run Friday morning…

Eurotrip 8, 2020 – Day 64, Lockdown day 3…

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It’s a cold, grey and a wet start to day 3. The wind is rattling in from the East and there’s thunder and lightning in the sky. Quarantine isn’t going to be a problem this morning.

Lockdown Day 3…

We are though becoming more concerned that this could extend for months. Information is at a premium and various rumours abound with regards to border closure, freedom of passage and possible port closures.

We exchange email addresses with a couple heading up through Spain and France for the Dieppe to Newhaven ferry whilst we continue to assess options.

One person is allowed out for 1 hour a day to walk dogs. We are thinking about sending a flyer to all dog owners offering to pay them to walk their dogs. What an upside down world this has become!

Our friends send a picture from onboard the Cadiz to Sevilla train. It’s 9 o’clock in the morning and the first stage of their travels are looking good – complete with a breakfast Prosecco. As the train looks empty I ask if there are many other passengers. They reply, “No, there is someone else on the train somewhere…. I think he’s driving”.

Eurotrip 8, 2020 – Day 63, Lockdown day 2…

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It’s Monday the 16th and we wake up to another beautiful day here in Conil depite a chilling wind from the North reminding us that it is day 2 of lockdown.

We assess options. Two outfits were planning to leave on Wednesday to travel through Spain and France but they just heard all Brittany Ferries will be cancelled soon. Ester from the site tells us they will be allowed free travel through Spain but can’t guarantee the border to France will be open. Once you leave the site, the State of Emergency doesn’t permit re-entry.

They are also now re-assessing their options and we decide to stay here. If the lockdown continues beyond 15 days medication might be a problem, in particular a specialist asthma inhaler for Moe.

We head into Conil as we are allowed to do if visiting a Pharmacy or Supermarket. Without prescriptions (we show empty boxes), we secure 1 months worth of the common meds for 23 Euros. No surprise they haven’t got Moe’s inhaler.

Pharmacy number two also don’t have the inhaler but in a fantastic show of service, promise they’ll locate one by 5pm. They do and it’s a whopping 34 Euros. Not an issue under the circumstances but in Blighty, it can take days to weeks to track this down…

Next we hit the supermarkets. Only one person per family group allowed, security on the door and yellow lines at the checkout to mark out the 1m “safe” distance. Nothing is in short supply except our favourite red wine, “The Guv’nor” – but that’s not entirely unusual.

There is no hand santiser, gloves or masks available anywhere. We have created our own hand sanitiser but don’t tell anyone.

Makeshift Hand Sanitiser…
Homemade hand sanitiser – finished product

Our friends in Cadiz are rounded up by the Guardia and told to stay off the streets. They will be hoping that the trains to Sevilla are operating tomorrow and also the BA flight back to London.

In an act of sardonic madness, we throw a BBQ for Paul and Andrea and listen to a new Spotify playlist – “Coronavirus Awesome Mix 2020”. Copious amounts of food, beer and wine are consumed. Ester from the campsite tells us to remain 1m apart!

Lockdown day 2, Food, Beer and wine…

Troubling times – stay safe everyone.