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The 2023 ‘big trip’ begins . . .

Saturday, 28 January, 2023 is day #1 of the ‘big roadtrip’ and we set off from Grangemill at 0900.

First stop, Southampton, for lunch with Katie. Steve joins Giacomo for cricket nets and after a lovely supper we leave for Newhaven. Arriving after the evening ferry has left means we can park overnight at the front of the queue for the morning ferry. We’re woken with a knock on the van door, ‘boarding in 30 minutes!’ comes the shout. It’s only 0530 but after a quick coffee we drive up the ramp and repair to the DFDS bar for more coffee and croissants. The boat’s virtually empty, with deserted car decks and lounges. Most campervans seem to be a consignment of new Chaussons en route to France – no idea why. Just caught brunch in the cafe before it closed at 1030 and enjoyed the flat calm crossing to dock in Dieppe at noon. Drove straight off with nothing but a quick stamp in the passport: fixes our first day in Schengen!

‘Jusqu’a midi’ explains the French security guard at the huge Auchan we stop at just outside Dieppe for provisions. Steve has always refused to believe Bev when she says everywhere closes in France on Sundays. At least the fuel station was open and we filled up with diesel. As it’s still early afternoon, we decided to head south and stopped near le Mans for the night. Bev drove part of the Mulsanne Strait and we stopped at a farm owned by a Dutch couple. Seems it’s much cheaper to set up a dairy farm in  France than Holland. We bought eggs and cheese then made supper from tins in the store cupboard as the Auchan shopping trip had failed! After two early starts we retired at 2200. Distance from Dieppe 203 miles with toll total of €53.

Monday is decision time about where to go. Having already cancelled the proposed trip to Val Thorens due to poor snow reports, it now looks like the weather is much better is southern Spain, so we set off for Bayonne. It’s a long way and we finally stop, about an hour after dark, at motorway aire, Mageque Oeust after calling for provisions and more fuel at Labouheyre, a small town just off the motorway. Distance today 350 miles with tolls €77, but worth it with the Pyrenees in sight and crossing the Spanish border tomorrow. Tuesday dawns with brilliant sunshine and blue skies. We decide to visit Pamplona, making this a short driving day, only 95 miles. As we pass Capbreton toll booths, the French Douane seem to be out in force, but don’t bother us. We head off the motorway, rather than driving round the coast and cross the border at an old, derelict French customs post. The Spanish side has nothing but a busy commercial district with very cheap fuel. Freedom of movement as it should be!