12th Jan and there’re off

Well at last after all the weeks of preparing Charlie the van we finally got everything squeezed in and set off on time. We didn’t even have the usual “bugger it we have forgotten x” and this time we didn’t have to go back for some essential thing! We had a plan to visit Preston motorhomes to buy an attachment to secure stuff in the garage and Ikea Warrington to return a mattress topper, that although gave us extra insulation and comfy padding, prevented the bed from going fully up into the roof and therefore the ceiling lights didn’t work. With Chris & Laura’s as our target for our first overnight stop we headed south down the M6.

Miles driven 344

Sunday 13th January

With our planto average 50 mile per day already in tatters, in order to make progresstowards Sue’s in Mézériat we knew today was going to be another long drive. LeavingChris and Laura’s we headed off to make a 2 o’clock Eurotunnel crossing whilst avoidingthe closure of the M2 at Ashford. The terminal at Folkestone was very quiet andapart from a quick security check that our LPG gas bottle was turned off, weboarded an earlier departure without any delay, reflecting upon whether it wasgoing to be quite as easy on our return after the 29th March! DON’Tmention the B word….

Our first stop was at the services as you leave the wired area that surrounds the Calais terminal with provisions bought we intended to continue on the main A road south, but no such luck as it took several attempts (including going back into the terminal grounds before we could get going again on the right road. Sharing the driving we soon started to make good progress towards our first overnight stop in France, heading for the Aire at Rozoy sur Serre. However, before we had gone too far, three lights appeared on the dash along with a message suggesting we should stop immediately as there was a problem with the brakes. We stopped and checked the brake fluid, the handbrake and foot pedal which all seemed fine, so we carried on and with the light fading we decided to get the problem checked out the next day.  Miles driven 252

Monday 14th January

The free aire at Rozoy Sur Serre was really quite a good spot, although there was no hook up, it was a quiet situation fairly close to the town. We had an undisturbed night and felt secure and apart from a barking dog, we both had a good night’s sleep. Next day we headed off to see the town of Parfondeval with its pretty red brick houses with slate roofs, and is apparently ranked among the most beautiful villages in France and was one of the few in this area of France that was mentioned in the prettiest villages in France book although it’s probably best seen in the summer not the middle of January!

A grey January morning in Parfondeval

After a quick whizz around the small sleepy hamlet, we went back to Rozoy for a couple of pain au raisins which were delicious. Getting the brakes checked was now our top priority so we rang Ford Assist who were helpful but told us our target Ford garage in Reims was closed between 12-2pm and in any case they probably wouldn’t be in a position to rectify any fault for 7 days! So, we gave up on that idea and agreed with Ford Assist to head for another Ford dealer in Dijon 180 kms further south. The service manager there was very helpful and he soon diagnosed there was a problem but his diagnostic equipment couldn’t identify what it was. We leftthe garage scratching our heads and set off to find an aire 30 kms to the eastof Dijon.

The aire at Lamarche sur Saône was a nice spot by right next to the river but Dave wasn’t happy about a dilapidated looking caravan and two feral dogs running around so we moved on. A short distance away Dave was soon satisfied when we reached the lovely old town of Pontailler-sur-Saône, provisions were acquired and we quickly settled in to admire the river views from the van as the winter sun went slowly down.

Miles driven 263

Tuesday 15th January

After a very good night parked up at Pontailler-sur-Saône the bright morning invited us to go for a short walk along the river as sun battled to clear the frost and ice from the ground.

A sunny but frosty Pontailler-sur-Saône

After a compulsory detour to the patisserie we fired up the van and pointed it towards Bourg en Bresse with the aim of finding yet another Ford dealer to investigate the elusive brake problem. The dealership was located soon after the strict French 12-2pm lunch break and a mechanic was quickly persuaded to plug the diagnostic computer into transit’s circuitry. This time with aid of google translate was soon found to be “faute avec l’un des deux capteurs” or one of 2 brake pedal sensors. Great news… except they couldn’t book it in to be fixed for 7 days!

Before arriving at Sue’s, we decided a quick look around Vonnas made famous by George Blanc – a three Michelin star French chef, who appears to have taken part of the town, painted it in pink and renamed in his image, all a bit Disney. An expensive stop at a chemist to buy something for Dave’s man flu. Parking outside Sue’s worked really well once the noisy dog went to sleep.

Miles driven 124

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