7&8/9/16. Nous sommes en France.
As it turned out we were within 2 km of the border and, if we had kept going, we would have found a campsite shortly after crossing into France. However, staying where we did meant that we avoided a night in the land of campsites without loo paper and seats!
We followed the road into Dunkirk and, avoiding the motorway to Calais, headed along the coast – straight into the industrial area, complete with steelworks and oil refineries. At least we can say it was different to the dunes of Holland and the promenades of Belgium! And thankfully there wasn’t much traffic either.
That last statement is, in fact, not entirely true because, as we approached the ferry port which is on the west side of the industrial complex we encountered two long lines of trucks from just about every country in Europe queuing to get into the port (avoiding Calais perhaps?). But at least they were stationary, or almost so, and therefore not so intimidating.
Then, all of a sudden, a stream of traffic started passing us, including a number of British vehicles. Clearly, the ferry had just started unloading. Again avoiding the signs to the motorway, we found ourselves on what was the old main road which, while not carrying the volume of traffic, was a bit of a race track. Not pleasant.
This led into the town of Gravelines which had signs saying “Ville Fleurie” which were well justified. The show of flowers beside the roads was brilliant.
By now it was mid afternoon and we were approaching Calais. We had seen on the map a couple of campsites “now closed” (presumably in response to the number of refugees and immigrants around the town) so we decided to stop while we could find somewhere to stay.
The next morning, Thursday, we went into Calais and out towards Sangatte but saw no sign of the notorious refugee camp, probably because the tunnel entrance is a little further inland. We wete also looking for a sight of dear old Blighty but it was very hazy – we did see a little bit of white that may not have been a ship but that was all.
By now the wind was blowing strongly from the west – and we were heading pretty much due west! In addition, the road turned upwards as it climbed to Cap Blanc Nez. Having encountered no hills since Japan, other than a couple of pimples just north of Berlin and the dykes along much of the coast, we had lost our climbing legs. It was tough going. To compound it Christine was feeling a little under the weather (lethargic and lacking in energy).
It all made for extremely slow going (although on the plus side, Christine did get her ration of walking in). By 3.30, Christine had had enough and was feeling a little unsafe, fearing that the gusts of wind and tiredness might lead her to wobble into the traffic. (On the subject of traffic, we noticed that many French cars were not giving us a huge amount of room when passing – unlike our experience 30 years ago. Indeed, the French were no better than the many British cars going past us.) As a result we stopped at a convenient campsite having covered only 42 km in the day. “Madame” allocated us a nice little plot well sheltered from the wind but we declined the offer of wifi – we thought €8 for a day was a touch on the expensive side!