So, I left you in part two as we were nearing midnight, in the wilds of France, fuel light on in Wilma, and the aire, (free campervan sites), I’d so cheerfully navigated to, nowhere in sight. This was our first attempt at a van trip abroad, with nothing booked. We were feeling pretty worried.
I whipped out the aires book, (aka our trip bible), and worked out that there was a big town not too far from us that had not one but two Aires in it. Also, a big town would more then likely have a petrol station. (Have I mentioned that there was a fuel strike on and we were unsure of the fuel situation!) We finally arrived in Soissons, weary and more then a little worried. Luckily the kids had fallen asleep a long while ago and so missed all the drama. We started driving through the town, we spotted two potential Aires but couldn’t be sure. There was one directly opposite a municipal campsite, (one that you pay for but is considerably cheaper then the big campsites. You can book these and some have pools etc), we found the campsite with its barriers down preventing entry, but couldn’t see the Aire anywhere. It was so late now, that we decided to pull over by the side of the quiet road and pop the top. Exhausted, and worried that at any minute we’d get moved on by the police, we got the kids into their sleeping bags and upstairs, made up our bed, (the back seat flattens and meets a back board creating a comfortable double sized bed), and fell asleep. We all awoke early and were most surprised that everyone who passed dog walking gave us a friendly nod and smile. It wasn’t like Britain at all, where vanning outside specified areas is so frowned upon! We were right by a nice park and you’ll never guess the first thing we spotted out of our window. Yep, you guessed it, the Aire!
Not long after we woke up, they started emptying the bins and the smell was so bad that without any breakfast options anyway, and no loo, we decided to make like a shepherd! (And get the flock out of here, if you’ve not heard that before!) We packed Wilma down and headed back into town and found a gorgeous boulangerie, (bakery), and got four pain aux chocolat. We then drove up to a gorgeous square with public toilets, went to the loo, washed our hands and cleaned our teeth and then made a cuppa and ate what was probably the best pain aux chocolat I’ve ever had. Fully refreshed by our breakfast, we had a little bit of fun navigating the slightly confusing one way system, and we were off again!
We were heading for Dijon as our next stop. Along the way, we stopped at the supermarket and loaded up the trolley with all sorts of French goodies. We stopped at an Aire for lunch, we were debating staying on for the night but it was very small and in the middle of nowhere, so we settled on a picnic and a game of football and ploughed on.
We carried on a little further and found a gorgeous Aire with plenty of green space, a little play area and even a nature pond on the outskirts of a tiny village in the country. It was beautiful and we could let the children play while we set Wilma up, always a bonus. Plus the pond was full of singing frogs which was lovely.
The best thing about having a playground when you are camping is almost certainly the fact that you can sit and do this while they play…..!!
So the children were merrily playing in the sunshine, the cider was open, bbq going nicely and then the clouds started to roll in. Large, black ominous clouds turning the sky black as night. As we ran for the shelter of Wilma, the first fat drops started to fall, landing with a hiss on the hot coals of our only means of cooking dinner!
What would become of us? Would we get our bbq? Were we destined to sit in the van looking at friend’s pictures on facebook of their sunny English holidays while we sat in the dark, cold storm? Would we ever get to Italy?! Find out soon!
Part one can be found by clicking here.