Thursday 18th September 2014
With ‘leccy’ and pitch ‘space’ in our minds we trundled over to the Deauville area of Normandy to stay for a couple of nights at an ACSI site.
For anyone interested in the details of the sites visited (costs, etc.) more information is available by cross referencing the blog dates to the ‘Sites’, ‘Running Costs’ and ‘Live Maps’ pages.
Clicking on the motor home icon on ‘Live Maps’ will produce a pop-up with:
- Twernt picture at the location
- Location arrival date
- Name of the Campsite
- Twernt’s ‘landing’ total mileage
Clicking on the line between each stop (requires careful cursor placement!) will reveal a pop-up containing:
- ‘Hop’ number since leaving Foston, Derbyshire
- Total mileage since last location (can include detours)
- Brief description of the from/to locations
- Google Maps also adds their own distance for the ‘line’ in kilometers (bottom left of the pop-up).
Incidentally, the ‘Live Maps’ picture taken at our current location (Albufeira) was taken from the cab of Twernt and in focus is a similar (but posher) motor home parked in the far corner of the aire.
That AutoTrail Comanche belongs to a world-famous motor home blogger………….
Yes, Big Momma (BM) is in da house!
And should there be any BM followers reading Twernt-on-Tour, PLEASE, everyone, send Big Momma an email on the 16th October and wish BM’s pilot and owner a ‘Happy Birthday’.
Happy Birthday Eric from the Twernt-Four!
……….back to the business of the day, or rather of many yesterdays ago.
Our first impressions of aires has been that they are in beautiful locations but the aires themselves are quite cramped; that’s a small sacrifice when you consider cost and location.
Some aire sites, such as the one that we’d just left at Honfleur are more suited to voyeurs, key swappers and people who don’t like to leave their MoHo when borrowing a cup of sugar from their neighbour – we didn’t fit into any of those categories so the ‘new-to-us’ pitches at Deauville had dimension advantages that we welcomed.
The close proximity of your neighbouring motor home is fine really, it seems to be the norm to pull up your window blinds in order to both give and receive habitation space privacy.
We don’t have any problem whatsoever being pitched within just a few feet of folk that we know well – like Steve & Ann – even though their nocturnal activities can equate to something similar to a small earthquake for the neighbouring MoHo’s – Steve…..Ann….Behave! ………… questions are being mooted in Twernt and I’m preoccupied doing a lot of blog catch-up.
Who remembers that nice chap that presented Countdown? Richard Whiteley, aka ‘Twice-nightly Whiteley’!
I never knew him but I do know ‘Steve-and-Ann Shaking-da-Van’!!
Seriously though, at this time (Deauville) we were regretting not having purchased an ACSI card that gives around 30% discount (sometimes 50%, I’m told) off of pitch fees during the ‘out of season’ period – i.e. perfect for us ‘silvers’ wintering in the south.
Wendy & Iain (The Fragrant One, the Smelly One and Mr. Always Right – Wendy, why is your dog Always Right?) had strongly advised us to get an ACSI card before we left. We should have done that.
We ignored that advice because our plan was for aires and ‘wilding’, but, based on what we’d met with so far, we’re starting to think that some ‘escapes’ to ACSI sites might help to keep us sane.
Although the aires encountered to date certainly brought the term ‘prison camp’ to mind, one of the benefits of travelling in a motor home is that you can quickly move on and we already look back and recall the beach, the town. the scenery, etc., more than thinking about the place as having had a somewhat cramped aire.
Also not all aires are like that (cramped-ish), – the reason they were ‘crowded’ in Northern France was probably because they were in tourist hotspots and the ‘silver season’ was just kicking off due to the schools now being back ‘in’. Maybe they’re less crowded at other times.
The two Portuguese aires that we’ve been on so far (discounting Silves because it was really just a car park and not an aire) have both had a LOT of space available; at our current location pitches are split into ‘bays’ with each bay having enough room for a ‘Twernt’ (or a ‘Big Momma’!) plus ample outside space for an awning, al fresco dining, etc. – we also have further ground space on which I play ‘stamp-the-ant’!
Wendy & Iain were right though, we do need an ACSI card as it pays for itself when used for less than a handful of ACSI site visits.
Many discounted ACSI sites cost circa €14 a night (£11.21) and you get something closer to the ‘real deal’ (CC) of pitching and site facilities at almost all of them.
The ACSI card runs from January to December each year and we will get one for January and use it when we move over to Spain.
An ideal scenario for us would probably be to always be on CC peaceful sites but that can be expensive so we’ll happily settle for ACSI/Aire sites plus occasional nights in ‘wilding’ spots.
Safety issues also need to be addressed and, from a safety point of view, I cannot see any formally structured Risk Analysis on this topic reporting anything other than it is safer to stay on campsites than it is to ‘wild’ camp.
Safety in numbers is the cry from experienced MoHo-ers.
It’s a no-brainer that the risk from fellow MoHo owners who may be “ne’er do wells” is less than the risk from being in relative isolation where general public “ne’er do wells” could happen upon you (and are probably trawling the area looking for opportunities).
And we’ve had some experience of that (see the blog on Silves – when I’ve written it!) and this full-timing adventure can be soured when you spend half the night peeking out of the window of your MoHo wondering what those movements/sounds/etc. are all about.
That’s no way to live.
Please do bear in mind that all of my observations are those of a ‘newbie’ and future experiences may change these views – I can only report on what I’ve encountered to date.
Once set-up at this site I needed to spend a couple of days trying to fix the laptop whilst Amanda amused herself with beach walks, etc.
Steve & Ann unloaded their cycles and rode over to Pegasus Bridge riding some 25K’s on their bikes (I’m surprised they still had the strength!).
Whilst the 3 of them were ‘doing their thing’ – the same things that I set out to do! – I needed to nail our tech stuff which is not only required if the blog is to continue but is also the cornerstone of getting the business kick-started.
Firstly, our WiFi was extremely slow.
My theory is that ‘3’ have a contractual arrangement with ‘their’ service provider in France and this, in turn, probably permits the French service provider to implement software changes that recognises ‘3’ customers (who probably contribute a miniscule £rate to be on the local service compared to the service’s native users) and they then give them a ‘lowest-of-the-low’ priority on the French network.
Whatever the reason it doesn’t perform anywhere near as fast as it did in the UK.
The solution isn’t as simple as visiting a French phone/internet store for a sim fix.
If like us, you’ve been on a UK ‘3’ monthly contract you can run into a problem should you buy a native data sim from another country before you have settled financially with ‘3’.
We left it until we were in Biarritz to call ‘3’ and give one months notice on our broadband sim monthly contracts. They gave us reference numbers and dates when the service would cease PLUS dates when the last £-Bill’s would be taken from our bank account.
Your/our device will be locked until they have had that final payment and that could be 6 weeks without a MiFi device to load a sim in to.
Even then you may have a problem as I’m still not sure the MiFi’s will be automatically unlocked – I may have to request that from ‘3’. We shall see.
We discovered the above when we bought a Vodafone 1 week/4GB data sim in Portimao and it wouldn’t work in either of our MiFi devices. We nailed the reason down to them being locked.
Fortunately the Galaxy Tab S tablet that we bought takes a sim and we used the Vodafone sim on that for 1 week – I don’t trust these network providers so the same could happen with the Galaxy and I don’t fancy battling that one out with someone at a Portuguese Vodafone call centre!
I’ve seen others say just get a data sim for the country that you’re in, but is it that simple?
I repeat, I don’t trust network providers and I need a faster and more stable internet connection just to investigate the matter further. The minimum requirement would be to be able to read the Terms and Conditions that are supplied with the pin – I have those for the Portimao sim card and I can tell you that they’re written in Portuguese – what else would you expect!
Therefore it isn’t easy to know what you are committing yourself (and your device) to.
Can you believe that there are times under every network service that we’ve been on since leaving the UK when it takes up to 15 minutes to access just ONE internet page. That’s without mentioning constant drop-outs, re-connection hassles, etc., etc.
The rest of the time it’s just been plain slow.
And don’t even think about uploading images, it can be done – I’ve done it here – but it can often take 10-15 attempts.
And yes, I am writing this in 2014, not that you’d believe that.
‘Net moan over…..
……….The second problem that we encountered was that our Vaio laptop decided that it didn’t want to play at computing any more.
Now, I’m a ‘bare bones’, long-in-the-tooth, computer guy from a mainframe background and I also started building PC’s back in the mid-80’s, working mostly as an OS systems software techie but also building and commissioning PC hardware.
I also worked for a computer manufacturer performing system ‘rescues’ at numerous ‘blue-chip’ sites throughout the UK in the mid-70’s.
Well, I tried and re-tried several system recovery/rescue methods before determining that the HDD sector containing the OS had been corrupted.
This was most likely caused by the hard disk read/write-head crashing down onto the disk at some point in our travels – probably the time at La Touquet when I swore as a road-hump appeared out of nowhere and damaged my newly installed tow bar electrics mount. It was a violent up/down shaker that dislodged numerous items inside Twernt’s hab section. The Viao laptop could have easily been flung a foot or more into the air before crashing back down. It was in a laptop bag but that bag was on top of a hard plastic box. Should have put it on the bed!
Cosset your tech when on the move……and then cosset it some more.
I don’t know if the tech has changed but, back in the day, those read/write heads were parked at shut-down over the disc boot sector area in readiness of faster deployment at boot-up time albeit that it produces only a slight increase in boot-up time – it all counts.
The unfortunate aspect of this ‘crash’ was that the recovery OS disk area was also corrupted. That read/write head must have ‘scrawked’ across the disk surface, this would also explain why, when I ran disk repair the 1TB disk was reduced to less than half of its original capacity.
I suspect that the HDD is mullered – both the operational OS and the Recovery area OS have been corrupted and I wouldn’t want to trust in a disk that’s suffered such a trauma – the ‘good’ sectors are likely to stay good only for a short period of time.
At this point the Vaio laptop became an ornament as far as I was concerned and I will fix it when we get back to the UK.
It wasn’t as simple as I’ve described it in the above but that was the net effect after varying degrees of success employing recovery techniques that without fail crashed at some point during runtime operations.
I decided that new hardware was the way to go (chance to get back to my beloved desk-top!).
Keyboard issues (French keyboards aren’t the same as UK keyboards) mean that you can’t just go out and buy new hardware in France so I decided to play it safe and source from the UK.
I spent the rest of the two days at the ACSI campsite sourcing replacement hardware and communicating with Martin to get the replacements purchased in the UK and sent out to Andrea, Amanda’s sister whom we would be visiting within the next week or so – I did add a Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 tablet to the order – for use when the Lenovo All-in-One Desktop can’t be used (i.e. hardly ever if I have anything to do with it!).
Job done, we’re on our way – Twernt is sorted, Tech is on the way to being sorted but………………
checking my mozzie bites I noticed………………
This has happened to me before following being bitten by a mozzie, my medical knowledge is somewhere between ‘not-a-lot’ and ‘non-existent’ – therefore a hot bread & milk poultice would have been my solution but, being blessed with having my own personal medical expert (a lady that also makes good BLT’s each Sunday morning) I bowed to such a font of knowledge on all things medical and followed her advice – “Just leave it alone, don’t scratch it and it’ll clear up eventually”, my nameless expert adviced.
I’m beginning to think that this reaction to mozzie bites has something to do with my being HLA-B27+ – whereby my body does some weird stuff in the belief that it’s under attack when, in fact, it isn’t. Maybe it goes into overdrive when a real attack like a mozzie bite occurs.
I realise that’s probably a ridiculous diagnosis but, as I say, my knowledge of such matters is limited (very) but that doesn’t stop me applying logic whenever something like this happens with me. I have developed a ‘blame culture’ for all ailments and HLA-B27+ is always in the dock. The existence of this gene is a relatively new discovery so the full scope of what it delivers to the human body is not yet known. It’s an annoying, non-life-threatening piece of molecular crap – almost left me blind once though!
No worries on the bite site though, I just doused it with Avon ‘Skin So Soft’ and moved on.
So I did.
Saturday 20th September 2014
And that’s what we all did this next morning, we moved on and we were now close to the beaches used by the allied forces for the D-Day landings on June 6 1944.
It was annoying that I couldn’t do anything to get the blog up to date but at least I was now free of time-consuming tech chores and we were about to engage with the parts of history that mean a lot to me. Visiting war history sites is always a very humbling experience and gives an opportunity to see, feel and try to imagine what it was like for those involved. What a waste of human life and why? Right wing nutters, that’s why. Careful who you follow you never know where they might lead you and what they might lead you into. A little more give than take is a good thing.
En-route to our next stopover in Arramanches and close to the ACSI campsite is Pegasus Bridge.
An advance D-Day landing party of 139 men in 6 gliders descended 70 yards away from Pegasus Bridge just 40 minutes after midnight on D-Day, 6th June 1944.
Although one soldier was drowned during those landings, Pegasus Bridge became the scene of suffering the first allied casualty of D-Day when Lieutenant Herbert Denham Brotheridge suffered a neck wound from machine gun fire whilst leading his platoon in the first charge across Pegasus. He silenced one enemy soldier before being hit.
Lieutenant Brotheridge, from Smethwick, was married and his daughter was born just 2 weeks after D-Day. He was an amateur footballer with Aston Villa Colts and was expected to turn pro after the war.
He was 28.
Café Gondrée, centre in the above picture and also pictured below is run by Arlette Gondrée, who was a small child living in the home when it was liberated. It was the first French house to be liberated during D-Day, although others now say that honour belongs to a Mr Picot, whose house may have been liberated a few hours before Café Gondrée .
We moved on to Arramanches and after trying to get into a very busy, very claustrophobic free aire we skedaddled over to the municipal site – good move – plenty of space here!
After settling the vans in we walked the short distance down to Gold Beach – the ‘middle’ of the 5 beaches used by the allied forces during the D-Day landings.
Gold beach was the D-Day landing point for British troops.
Sunday 21st September 2014
We had a quiet day.
Steve, Ann and Amanda went for a mooch around Arramanches and Gold Beach whilst I gave Twernt a much-needed clean.
Steve & Ann also visited the Cinéma circulaire Arromanches 360°, and I watched a very moving short film on YouTube that was something akin to what they were seeing at the 360 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifb36k8yeLI
I would like to re-visit this area and spend much more time here, there is so much to see and reflect upon. We have also visited the area around Ypres quite a few times since the early 80’s so a future extended trip covering both would be worthwhile.
We met a really nice couple from Birmingham that were on the municipal site in their motor home – they were doing this Ypres/D-Day trip – We also met them later in the day when we were at The North American Cemetery that overlooks Omaha Beach.
A group of Dutch guys travelling in convoy in their ‘old bangers’ were staying in their tents and were pitched opposite Twernt.
Our initial impression when they arrived was that ‘Oh no, look at this bunch of beer-swilling rowdy single guys’ (or words to that effect) – there was 6 or 7 of them.
Well, nothing could have been further from the truth!
They have a website – http://www.swirdrally.nl – and the club only allows entry to folk that run vehicles costing something like £500 or less.
They have an annual rally in those cars and record their trip on Google Maps. Their lead vehicle (the Jeep) adds pictures of their trip (a lot!) using an overcab camera.
A sort of poor mans Gumball Rally.
The four of us (plus dogs) ventured down into Arramanches and sat in a bar reminiscing about trips and days gone by – as you do.
2 rounds of ales heavier and about €40 lighter we headed back to camp.
Monday 22nd September 2014
Morning came the sunrise and Arramanches became a part of our personal history.
We didn’t have any particular aire in mind but that could wait until later in the day as we wanted to visit The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial that overlooked Omaha Beach.
My head was filled with a multitude of facts and figures about D-Day all of which brought a reality to what D-Day was all about.
Did you know that each of the beaches had around 30,000 troops land on them.
Imagine your local football club stadium on match-day when a similar number of supporters are in attendance, that brings a visualisation to what that number of people amassed in one place looks like (apologies to Forest fans – you’ll just have to imagine your match day attendance multiplied 4 or 5 times over to get some idea of what 30,000 people in one place looks like).
These beaches are deep and very long though. .
I took a lot more facts and figures on board but I do think it’s best for folk to make their own discoveries. We were in a place where it all became ‘real’ and meaningful and making those discoveries is a big part of that experience.
I would like to allocate at least one month for this trip – the guys who didn’t get past D-day gave us much more time than that – the rest of their lives.
We owe them.
We again met up with the SwirdRally guys whilst we were here and also the couple from Birmingham (Can’t remember if I gave them one of my ‘blog’ cards?) – we then moved on to Omaha Beach……
Quite late on in the day we left Omaha in search of an aire and we found one not too far away at GrandCamp Maisy.
We settled in at this small aire; Amanda walked the dogs and I called my sister, Jill, to enquire about progress on the computer acquisition front.
Whilst chatting to Jill I mentioned my mozzie bites, which now had both of my lower legs looking like something that had spent time on a BBQ and Jill, fresh out of hospital gave me details about what had put her there.
On Friday, the day after we left the walled garden, Jill & Martin took off to London with Grandson Hadyn for a weekend of showing Hadyn some of the things that London has to offer.
Jill had booked into, at great expense, visits to LegoLand, The London Eye, Windsor Castle as well as purchasing tickets to see ‘The Lion King’ in the west end.
During the first of those visits, Jill became ill, she was feeling dizzy and her hand was swelling from the place where she had been bitten by a small critter during a visit to Cornwall about one month earlier. The site of this bite had a description similar to what I now had on both legs. Jill said it was most probably cellulitis, the same thing she experienced from her bite.
Jill also had a red line tracing up her arm from the bite site, apparently this was something called sepsis and can be fatal.
Jill ended up in a London hospital for 5 or 6 days and her stay included an operation on Saturday morning to drain poison from the bite site (she now has a scarred right hand) and it took many days of being on a permanent anti-biotic drip before Jill could be released.
Their 2/3 day trip turned into almost a week and Martin had to deal with that plus finding accommodation to remain in London plus returning Hadyn to Eloise and Dave.
ordered told, in no uncertain terms, that I must get medical help and that a course of anti-biotic treatment taken early enough would pre-empt something that can become fatal.
“Well, thanks for that update on the computer stuff Jill, gotta go now, things to do”, was all that I could think of in reply.
I relayed Jill’s information to my BLT making, ‘chilli-dog’ making, master-ess of all things (especially of a medical nature) – Yes, Amanda, and I awaited my fate.
One wife-call to one-wives-sister (in the Vendée) later and I had an appointment with a Doctor in just under 40 hours time.
About 250 miles south of Grandcamp Maisy.
‘Okeedokee’, always having a ‘well s&8t happens’ attitude to most things.
I informed Steve & Ann what was taking place and the next morning we said our farewells to them and headed out for Maché near Apremont, which is in the Vendée department in the Pays de la Loire region in western France.
I do regret the ‘breakdowns’ that happened (Tech, Twernt and ME!) during our time with Steve and Ann, we really, really enjoyed our time with them and I’m more than certain that we will get many more trip experiences with them in the future – I’ve heard whispers that their jobs are under threat from their desire to extend their MoHo trips; they’ll soon be wintering down here in Portugal/Spain methinks.
Weather’s great here today Steve, sunny and 23c, how’s the daily grind going and how’s the weather holding up in England?
We love England and the sacrifices we are now making in not being there are tearing us apart………….as you can imagine!…………..