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The road to Dunkirk

Departing the lovely campsite on the banks of the Mosel, with wispy cloud hanging over the river, we took the road suggested by a German guy in the next door campervan. Driving high up above the vineyards from Kinheim there were some great views with what could be some good, quiet  overnight camping spots for a future trip? Conscious of the distance to Dunkirk, we wound our way down among the vineyards reaching Wittlich at 1130 where we filled up with very cheap diesel at only €1.61 a litre. It was then a motorway route all the way in lovely sunshine. We took a detour off the motorway for lunch at the Belgium/German border where there were deserted and derelict customs buildings under another huge motorway bridge by the River Ours. 

Having failed to find any suitable overnight stops near Dunkirk and getting no response from the UK DFDS helpline, Bev phoned the Dunkirk DFDS office, wondering why she hadn’t thought of this before. ‘Bien sûr!’ was the friendly response to her enquiry about parking overnight at the port. Now in Belgium, the miles were rolling by on the straight, flat road across the plains, as the sky began to cloud over for the long stretch towards the Channel. We’re certainly into Northern European weather now.

As we approach Brussels, we wonder why TomTom takes us straight through the centre, on a Saturday afternoon. It’s certainly a route to avoid in future, but there doesn’t seem to be a good ring road, as this was also reporting congestion. There were several rather old tunnels noting ‘Traffic dense – Couloir de secours’ and some complicated junctions to navigate. By 1630 we were clear of the city, back on the open motorway towards Ghent in pouring rain and on the page of the Atlas showing Dunkirk! Crossing into France at Bray-Dunes (where there’s a very popular, busy motorhome parking area that always seems to be full) we had a stroll on the huge beach in sight of the cranes of Dunkirk. It was calm and still but quite chilly and with the sun low in the sky we drive to Loone Plage. Stopping at a small supermarket to stock up on wine, beer and something for supper, we had an interesting conversation about the blockade at Calais due to protests about French government plans to raise the retirement age. Very pleased we decided to take the ferry from Dunkirk.

1915 found us at the deserted port, chatting with a most helpful DFDS boarding officer, having driven 300 miles. He said we could go straight through for the 2000 crossing, but preferring to spend the night in Dunkirk, we asked to go on the earlier 0600 boat. Having amended our booking, he warned that we’d have four lots of checks before finally parking up on the dockside for the night. Having crossed several borders over the past two months without even a wave in some cases, to get back into the UK there were indeed four lots of ‘checkpoints’. First off our passports were stamped by the French, according to the new Brexit rules, to prove we’ve left Schengen. We were then scrutinised against our passport photos by British immigration and the van was checked by French and British Customs officials, stomping around inside with their big boots. Finally, we drove on to our allocated place, first in line for the morning ferry.