Freedom in France

The weather was grim on the UK south coast when we woke on Friday 2nd October 2020. We had to get an early start, as we were booked on the first ferry crossing of the day to Dieppe in France, just across the Channel.

There were only half a dozen cars and a few more campervans, and loading was quick and efficient. We were on our way.

Our first night in France was in a lovely clifftop site specifically set aside for “camping cars”, as campervans are called in France. This was a free facility provided by the local town, Veules-les-Roses, just a half hour drive from the port at Dieppe.

The next morning dawned bright and fine. Our new adventure had begun.

Over the course of the following month we discovered that many towns offer such facilities, some free, some charging a small fee. Some offer electricity hook-ups, water, and cleaning facilities for water systems and tanks.

We used an app called Park4night to find great locations, usually free, and were found that camping cars are generally welcomed just about everywhere. There are so many French people who tour around, and they are seen as a valued demographic, often spending money on local goods and services.

There was a very different feel to being in France, after paying high costs in camping grounds in the UK, or being worried about being moved on when “stealth camping” somewhere.

We spent the whole month pottering along the northern coastline, spending a lot of time in Normandy, learning about the Allied Forces D-Day landings here in June of 1944, then we moved along to Brittany.

We felt a wonderful sense freedom, having a home on wheels, an endless choice of free places to stay, and a whole part of a different country to explore.

We took the month off from teaching, and just immersed ourselves in the journey, stopping whenever we fancied, moving on when we were ready, with no real timetable.

Looking ahead to November, we thought it might be nice to mix in some house sits with the van travel, as we planned to head eastward across France, aiming to arrive in Burgundy in early December, before it got too cold. We had a very kind offer of a house to look after over the winter months there.

We'd managed to book a couple of sits which would nicely break up our November ramble across the centre of France, and we were looking forward to spending some time with pets again. 

However, the coronavirus (and the French government) had different plans for us. Coronavirus case numbers were rising quickly and the government was concerned.

On Wednesday 28th October they announced that lockdown would begin just two days later, on Friday. Anyone far from home would be given some leeway over the weekend to end their holiday or travels and head for home.

Once again our planned house sits were cancelled, and we had to make a cross-country dash to get to our new home base. It was a bit of a déjà vu moment, much like the hurried organisation of our Cornwall home for the first lockdown in the UK.

It was also a little ironic that we had left the UK to escape the lockdown we thought was coming, and had ended up locked down in France while the UK remained open for business. However, the UK followed suit just a few days later, so we didn't feel too bad about our decision a month earlier.

Next... life under lockdown #2, this time in France.

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