Our first stop on our route back to Calais and about 150 miles from the camp site was Troyes. The most visually striking aspect of Troyes was the many well preserved half timbered buildings, mainly from the 16th century. Should you have had the pleasure of visiting the half timbered Rows at Chester in the UK, then this is similar but many more buildings all over town and of different colours. Some of them are decidedly wonky looking and in the petite Ruelle des Chats (Alley of the cats), we felt like the buildings either side were leaning in on us (time for a fast exit). Many of the buildings also have intricate carvings in the woodwork. Adding to the interesting visual spectacle is the ten churches. Millions of Euros have been spent on restoring the more fragile aspects of the churches & they are quite glorious to see. One of the ones we found was of course Notre-Dame des Trevois, well it wouldn’t be the same without a Notre-Dame! When you’re no spring chicken anymore, opportunities to kiss the girls come less and less. So imagine my delight to find “La femme qui donne un baiser” (the woman who gives a kiss) by Sjer Jacobs. Proper gentlemanly conduct was ensured by my chaperone the Silvertravel bag.
Next stop was Reims which is at the centre of the champagne production area of France. Here a good part of the tourist experience centres around vineyard tours, including tasting and no doubt buying champagne. As this doesn’t really interest us I have to say that, compared with other places we have visited on this trip, it didn’t really “press our buttons”. Having said that I’ve yet to go anywhere that doesn’t hold some element of interest & Reims is no different. Perhaps the most interesting for us and the most historically significant is that on 7 May 1945 at 2:41 local time, Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally and formally ended the war at Reims. We visited the map room at Musee De La Reddition, with original battle maps attached to the wall, where US General Dwight D Eisenhower and General Alfred Jodl signed the papers outlining the terms of surrender. It’s quite remarkable to stand in the place where the formalisation of the end of the war so dramatically effected many lives. Reims has an interesting selection of churches, including Notre-Dame de Reims, where there is a great statue of an angel with a huge grin on her face, seemingly pulling back her fist in the “YES!” gesture. We also saw some monuments and ruins. Mars Gate is from the 3rd century, giving access to the Roman City of Durocortorum.
Our final stop before we headed for the Eurotunnel was Arras. We knew that There was a Flemish Baoque style to the architecture and wasn’t disappointed by the flat fronted embellished houses set at right angles to the square. What we didn’t expect to see was a red telephone box but there it was! We had dinner at Cafe Leffe on the Place du heroes. Now if a quiet dinner with excellent service is what you’re after, then just walk on by. This place is all about lively atmosphere, good food and even better drink. Midway through our meal someone started to use an electric drill behind the bar. We were the only ones to even look over, everyone else just ignored it and when we caught the barmaids eye she just shrugged her shoulders and smiled. As if to say “this sort of thing happens all the time”. Well it was different, you have to smile. We also enjoyed exploring the tunnels under Arras and learning their WW1 history.
Here are just a few facts/tips/updates to finish off. Overall our camping trip turning into a mini tour and we covered 1230 miles. Diesel (Gazole) was cheaper in France than the UK and about 15 cents cheaper in the towns than on the autoroutes. We spent about £120 on tolls, so that needs to be in your budget if you’re going to use the autoroutes. The km per hour numbers on the speedo were red on black, which I found difficult to see some times, so write a few Mph/Kmph conversions on a post it and stick it on your dashboard. Parkopedia was excellent and was spot on with the location of parking and the charges. Navfree France was inconsistent, leading us precisely to some locations and not in others.
We’ve been asked a few times since we’ve been back “Is camping a cheap holiday”. To consider it as just a cheap option is to do it an injustice. Within a budget you can economise or splash out on (for example) your accommodation and food. Similar to choosing a hotel room there are options and of course here, even in the cheapest tent, you still have access to the pool and other on site amenities. For example the shower block/laundry facilities areas were plentiful and spotless The flexibility of self catering allows you to chose to spend your budget in the supermarket or restaurants. So we came to think of it as a flexible holiday choice and with nearly 50 years experience, Canvas could provide the basis for your empty nester adventure.
- Read Chapter 1: Camping, who me?
- Read Chapter 2: The bag and the carousel
- Read Chapter 3: Chateau Des Marias
- Read Chapter 4: On yer bike!
- Read Chapter 5: Testing the hypothesis