Saint-Avold

We’re in France. Early on Tuesday morning we made our way through the fog of southern England to the Eurotunnel, lined up, drove on, sat for half an hour or so in a train, and drove back out again, up the ramp and off into a clear French morning. A quick whistle-stop visit to Carrefour near Calais (where hordes of day-trippers who had crossed in our train were stocking up for Christmas on crates of Blossom Hill Chardonnay – I kid you not) and we were on our way down the A16 (Autoroute des Anglais).

Given the dearth of campsites in northern France we booked a hotel room in a little town in Picardy I’d never heard of called Saint Quentin. It was very cold outside but the room was warm and the cats enjoyed having a bit more space to play about. We didn’t have a lot of choice food-wise and our first evening meal in France was in a flunch (supermarket restaurant, albeit a French supermarket restaurant with eat-as-much-as-you-like vegetables. Ascertained that the northern French eat almost as many chips as the Belgians.

We chose St Quentin for its convenient location on our route not for its historical or aesthetic interest. Anyway, we arrived as it was getting dark and left the following morning ahead of the snow. We managed to keep ahead of the snow and arrived in the early evening at the Camping du Felsberg in Saint-Avold. It was raining heavily which did not help our unhitching and unpacking but Dee managed to manoeuvre a reasonably level and not too muddy pitch. The campsite is at the top of a hill (there is a clue in the name which I missed) so we were lucky it was raining and not snowing. The news reports have been of chaos on the French motorways to the west and north of us so we felt pretty relieved to get here.

We’ve been eating, relaxing and doing washing chez Eléonore and Michel and their hospitality has been both touching and restorative. The weather forecast is for more snow and flooding in Bas-Rhin and we have decided to delay our departure for Obernai for another two days – we aim to leave on Sunday.

One of the many lessons we have learned since setting out on this adventure is that sometimes we need to give ourselves a bit more time to recover from the difficult bits. We’d had three hard days of motorway driving, a channel crossing and a couple of odd overnights when we got here. The A4 (Autoroute de l’Est) was particularly difficult for Dee with the downdraft from passing lorries shaking the equilibrium of car + bikes towing caravan.

So here we are having a bit of a rest – I’m writing this in Eléonore’s lounge sitting at her father’s family table, looking out over a misty, snow-covered town (although it does seem to be melting today). We’ve been to the Saint-Avold franco-german market and confirmed that the French do still seem to like their fruit and veg. Dee has made the lunch today and we are on duty for the evening meal tonight – an arrangement that seems to suit everyone, particularly if we provide a wee dish of lardons for Michel. We’re both making progress with speaking French, Dee especially when discussing menu options.

Dee’s just found a pictorial science book with loads of really good illustrations so that’s probably us for the afternoon now.

Finger is healing nicely – Dee’s changed the dressing a couple of times, the wound is dry and closing well, the swelling is going down, and I’ve been easing off on the painkillers.

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