Sunday June 30
Nigel invited me to London for a few days - today we both set off from Wales. I didn't bother following him, his van rides quicker than mine, and I needed to stop for petrol pretty urgently. So I took my time following the motorway from Swansea straight into the city.
Surprisingly it wasn't such a hassle driving in London - just took me a long time...it is after all about 200 miles. The most annoying was the North Circular ring-road around London...seemed to go on forever. It also took longer than it should have because I stopped halfway for a little snooze - turned out I'd slept for 2 hours... must have needed it.
Evening at Nigels meant a trip to his local to catch up and review the festival. Nice old London pub with cheap beer - even cheaper than the festival - and we ate a sunday roast with it, which was around 4 pounds, so very good value.... and very good to eat too.
The weather was warm - surprisingly... first time in ages I could walk out without socks or winter coat. Later we looked back on old times reviewing Nigels photos from our Naxos days - god we were all so so so young!
Monday July 1 - Wednesday july 3
The rest of the time at Nigels I spent working on the video footage of his concert. It turned out well - he's happy, I'm happy. His girlfriend Cath isn't so happy - but that's because one of her cats is dying. This is the main reason I left on Thursday...Nigel had been working all week too. I did write the lyrics to another new song - "Same Town". My last night there I met some of Nigels drinking buddies...couple of artists and musicians. Not a bad lot... inspires me to meet people.
Thursday July 4
Set off around 9am to Dover. Uneventful journey, and passed quickly. Big shock when I went to buy the ticket - I'd expected around 30 euro - P&O were asking over a hundred... because I hadn't booked in advance. Went across the hall to a french line and they said if I travel the next morning early I can get the ticket for 39 euros. Done!
Parked the van up on a car-park for 5 euros, it was free from 6pm. Had a walk around the town, ate, Set two alarms for 4 am and went to sleep at eleven.
Friday July 5
Check in went smoothly - had to buy safety-vest and alcohol test kit for France - rip-offs. Ferry trip pretty boring - did remind me of my trip over on the bus to Naxos a littls. Damn cold on board too. In Calais within 2 hours. Parked up and had a walk around... then departed. Getting out was tricky - went round in a big circle and ended up on the motorway for certainty and ease. But I made sure I came off just before the Peage.
I had a route worked out and no time schedule - the idea was to take it easy and use the smaller roads. Didn't work out that way. The advantage of the motorways is that they have these great "aires" where you can stop as long as you want... even overnight. That's cheaper than having to find a camping, and safer than parking up on the streets.
Goal was to head for the Atlantic coast, cruise down the beaches to meet people while playing guitar on the beach. The idea came from Nigel that I could continue into Northern Spain and cut down through the deserts to Valencia. Seemed like an adventurous idea ( he's done it once on the motorbike)... didn't work out that way either.
Funny - I was so used to driving on the left again - it seemed so strange to return to the right.
Thought I might make Rouen by early evening - have another stop then travel through the night to Le Mans (half-way). Night driving was preferable because of the heat in the camper overday.
Saturday July 6
Near Alencon. Drove through the night til 5'ish. Didn't make Le Mans, but close enough to be able to make the coast in anothe day/night of driving. Route is changed: Le mans - Tours - bordeaux...on the A10. Stopped eventually at 4am 150 km from Bordeaux... what's the hurry?
Sunday July 7
Slept til 7am. Drove on with a couple of stops - through peage to Bordeaux... paying 49 euros for the privalage. Got lost in Bordeaux, but eventually arrived in the afternoon at Lacanou Ocean. This is not what I was looking for. It was so busy and so hot - no-where to park the camper (especially overnight). I went onto the beach for an hour and realized I couldn't spend a day there without hauling a sunshade, food and water, mat ,towel and my guitar.... just wasn't practical - and that in the hope that people would come and listen to me playing - don't know what was going through my head.
I needed a new plan of action, and that was to head inland again and find some campings in the Dordogne close to all those pretty towns and villages. So I left.
I didn't get far... coming out of Lacanou I passed a terrain reserved for campers - you pay at a machine with your credit card per 24 hours for 13 euros and you get a spot and water and electricity. I did this because it gave me the peace to plan how I was going to progress. I'd thought about finding somewhere with wifi access so I could look up the camping options... well I found it on this spot, all I had to do is purchase access online - 8 euros for 24 hours. Great. Spent the whole evening and the next day online, catching up on my post, sorting my finances, and noting directions to specific campings in the Dordogne. It was a constructive 24 hours.
Tuesday July 9
Getting through and around Bordeaux proved easier second time around. I set off around 10 pm and just followed the ring route around the city and out towards Bergerac. I didn't want to reach it right away because I needed a spot to park up and sleep for the night.
It's dark in the Dordogne region at night and searching for a suitable place I ended up on quiet country roads leading to sleepy villages. Ended up in a village called Les Leves - but I didn't know that til morning. Parked up on the main street (around 1 am) no-one about... woke and moved on around 6.30 am... still no-one about. Found my way to Bergerac and parked up there on the river at another place reserved for campers and had another hour's sleep. Woke again around 9 am and took a stroll into the village... the beautiful old town. I found a nice little cafe terras by a small fountain and ordered a grand cafe... it was small, but I had a good spot to watch the tourists go by and get a feeling for the place. I'd found some articles and forum discussions and videos online about busking in France... I'm thinking I have to get into this, but it's something that scares me, so I was checking out the atmosphere and trying to visualize myself busking.
I got chatting to other people on the terras - a Scottish family at my left, and 2 Dutch families to my right, and before that a couple who'd just flown in from Liverpool.
After a couple of hours sitting and writing, I moved on to find my first camping.