Underway at last
Well at last we are back on the road. Onwards and upwards, or in our case, onwards and southwards.
Leaving at 0700 it was still pitch dark. I don’t like leaving in the dark as it is harder to check if everything has been left in order. Our journey to Newhaven was uneventful. The ferry queue was already long, when we arrived the requested 2 hours prior to departure. Not unexpected this close to Christmas. During the night it had been very windy and I feared we would have a rough crossing. We were fortunate the wind had disappeared and the crossing was pretty smooth.
Last on the ferry meant we were first off and quickly through passport control. France was very miserable. Grey and bucketing down with rain. We found a supermarket for a few provisions then set off for Chateau de Grosfy, our destination for the night.
I had told Dennis not to have high expectations, although our accommodation was called a chateau. It was inexpensive. Our Sat-Nav took us down some tiny lanes and into a long driveway, overhung with dripping trees. Facing us was an imposing, red brick manor house. No other cars insight, we pulled up in front of the rather foreboding building. A side door open and a gentleman in a dressing gown and slippers asked what we wanted. This was not looking promising! I asked if we were at at Chateau de Grosfy and said we had a reservation. This resulted in a complete change of attitude. We were advised to come to the front door to be welcomed.
We were offered the choice of 2 rooms, we chose the larger, and use of the breakfast room if we wanted to prepare ourselves something to eat for dinner. We took advantage of the microwave to warm up some soup. Together with French bread and cheese, this made a very satisfactory dinner.
The hallway was decorated with some imposing stuffed animal heads and the decor very typically 17th century French manor house.
The heating worked, the bed was comfy and warm and we had hot water in the shower. What more could one want. Being exhausted from the early start and a lack of sleep over the previous few nights (nerves, apprehension?) we were in bed by 8 pm and slept until 8.20 the following morning.
Day 2. 21st December Villers-en-Ouche
Breakfast had mysteriously appeared when we returned to the breakfast room. A small feast was laid out for us. We were obviously the only guests. The morning was still very dull but the rain had stopped when we set off for Villers-en-Ouche. En route we have to search for a new tap for our water supply. The arctic conditions have frozen the little plastic tap we have and cracked it. Dennis has tried to repair it, but it has decided it can’t be repaired.
We stopped in Brionne and walked around the town looking for a hardware shop that might sell taps.
No luck. We enquired of a very helpful guy who spoke excellent English, where might find a shop selling taps. He directed us to a large Mr Brico on the outskirts of Bernay. It looked promising, but despite having a huge selection of bathroom fittings etc, no tap suitable for our needs.
A quick stop for lunch in Poki, we then headed to our friend’s Mike and Wendy’s place in Villers-en-Ouche. Our travelling companion, Adam who was coming over to meet us, was already there waiting for us. We chatted about our journey plans, particularly the current problems with entry into Nigeria – it seems visas are not being issued at the moment because there are elections coming up and there also now appears to be a ban on right hand drive vehicles entering the country.
After exchanging Christmas gifts Adam departed. We are meeting him in Morocco. We are driving slowly through France and Spain and he will catch us up in Morocco early in the New Year.
Mike was on a quick trip back to the UK so Wendy was home alone with the animals. Wendy cooked us a very nice dinner which we ate on our laps in front of a roaring wood fire. We managed to find a suitable replacement tap on French Amazon which Wendy ordered for us. It will be delivered to Adam’s place and he will bring it with him. Soon we were tucked up in a lovely warm bed in the eaves. It was a wild night. Pouring rain and strong winds.
Day 3. 22nd December Niort
It was fine when we said goodbye to Wendy, but before long the rain started again and it was an abysmal day of continuous heavy rain. It is getting monotonous.
Shortly after our departure we had a close encounter with a heron. It flew up from a ditch beside the road and we, fortunately, just managed to avoid each other. Otherwise an uneventful day on the road with lunch and dinner in Poki and an overnight in an uninspiring Ibis budget motel on the outskirts of Niort.