The last of my countries to visit is Belgium, and the destination was Charleroi. We headed back into France momentarily on route and a beautiful town called Givet. I wish I had stayed there as when I saw Charleroi, it was not a place I wished to park up in. There was little info in the camping book about the Belgian stop overs, and maybe I had just found out why. I found what seemed to be the address given for one and no one else was there. It was a huge car park behind the station, with some hire vans parked up. Not really suitable for a female solo traveller and her dog. No nice parks or walks or anything. So I headed back out of town to the campsite I had researched in case. It was lovely. Only one star on the ratings, but the lovely Belgian man in his rustic old office was very friendly. No computer but hand written receipts. The office smelled musty like my nans house used to, that damp woody smell. Really quite quaint. £15 for the night with electricity. River beside the camp to walk along, and it has stopped raining for the first time all bloody day! Hooray.
My back was no better with painkillers, and just hoped that it was because the day had been long, six hours behind the wheel due to the poor weather and the number of miles. By the time we had settled after the walk it was 8pm so some down time, watched a little lad in the house next door bouncing on his trampoline wanting his dad’s attention who was sorting the greenhouse out. Suddenly I heard a cheerful scream and the dad had got on the trampoline with him, bless he was so pleased. How lovely.
Nice morning walk (apart from the damned back which was even worse this morning) along the river again, into some woods, a few cyclists going past but nothing like Austria or Switzerland. France and Belgium are far less sporty. An English man chatted to me at camp, he had brought some scouts over from Manchester. They were flown in, dropped in Charleroi and had 10 days to complete tasks they were given, including being self-sufficient for the whole time. The leaders were at camp in case of emergencies. And have stayed on a week after to relax themselves. That’s the kind of holidays I would of loved as a kid, or would I of crapped my pants? Great idea though.
Lazy morning again and then off for our last long drive to near Lille. Some lovely towns to drive through. If the weather had been better I would have stopped in Tornai as we passed the centre and there was a fair or something which looked interesting. I couldn’t find the address on sat nav for the motorhome stop so headed to a campsite again the other side of Lille. I spotted a vets en route, but he didn’t understand the pet passport so no use. Will have to do the early morning start and head to the planned vets an hour and a half away.
Campsite was in the middle of nowhere again, and I jumped a red light on the way to it. I wondered why people weren’t giving way to me, then they honked and the cars behind me had stopped. Oops. Not bad though, first bad bit of driving (in my opinion anyway) in three weeks!
Stopping at a French campsite for the first time and not that impressed. No map or instructions as to sanitation etc. Man just took me round to the spot and said goodbye. We went for a walk and it’s like being at a chavy Essex Caravan Park. Ornaments galore in the gardens, tacky plastic plants, all just a bit non-European campsite to be honest. Not what I expected. Lucky I don’t have to look at any of it, we are in a field with some kids camped at one end and a few vans on the side with me. Pissing down with rain on and off again. Now the people parked up next to us in this field, have been in their van with TV on from the moment I arrived until I closed the curtains about five hours later. The weather is pants but really they may as well be sat in the comfy sofas at home if they are going to watch what looked like a quiz show?
This campsite has been my least favourite. No facilities such as shops, bars etc. Loads of kids play areas but no children in sight (apart from the group at the end of the field but they are teenagers). Far too many permanent caravans here, some either need to be given a damn good clean or just towed to a scrap heap they look so bad. No camp feel about it all, I may as well be in a car park on my own to be honest. Well one bonus is there’s music in the facilities block so you can pee or shower to music. Always a bonus I feel!
Vets day today, so an early start, and we get to the vets in plenty of time, just as the heavens open may I add. Lovely place, only had to wait about 10 minutes and a nice English speaking, fairly attractive vet saw us. Check-up, teeth, eyes, heart, stomach and then the tape worm tablet. Cheeky sod told me Zac is slightly overweight. He has somehow put on about half a kilo on this trip, but he reckons 2 kg too much weight, lucky he didn’t see him post mothers fat boosting stay three months ago. So we are signed off and ready to head to Dunkqerque. Took Zac on a quick walk around the town first, passed some Brits on bikes. I thought my French was suspect. This woman’s pronunciation of Patisserie was awful, pat-iss-eurgh-ray over there she shouts in an awful English accent. Oh I hate being British some times. As I head to Dunkerque it’s the last few European villages I will drive through. Quite sad really.
Well we arrived at the camp so early I wasn’t allowed to check in. So we went off to near the beach and parked up before a lovely long walk to see what’s what. The beach area is lovely, although no dogs allowed in the summer months. But it is like a ghost town. Now sure if it’s the weather of mid-week blues but hardly anything was open, two shops and some restaurants but everyone inside. Stark contrast to the beach area in Holland all those weeks ago, that was a blazing hot sunny day mind. I got some info from the tourist information shop, even spotted a campervan stop off and was tempted to save the £35 for two nights and stay there. Toilets available on the beach! But as its two nights and my last two I shall enjoy the luxuries of a camp site. there was a bar called The Chlorophyll, what an odd name, bit close to the name of the date rape drug if you ask me. Closed by the way!! They do have the coolest shuttle buses though. free to use and half the size of a normal bus. So cute. I tried to find some local shops open to get a few groceries, but nothing open in the town area either.
Bloody dog owners in France are awful. Apart from every dog we passed barking like a lunatic at us and not being told off, there is dog shit everywhere. I was walking one street away from the beach and it was like another town, graffiti everywhere and dog shit far too often. Then I saw a woman and her dog coming towards us, and it was covered in shit and was coming to see Zac. The woman was chatting away to me in French but firstly I obviously don’t understand but more importantly wasn’t listening as I didn’t want shit all over my dog so was watching the dogs!
After a nice walk we headed to the campsite, via a Carrefour shop. I am so rubbish at French. I try so hard but they always say something I have no idea what it is. I did alright at the patisserie, well apart from the odd Spanish reply, but the green grocers, he asked me where I had got my kiwi fruits from, and I just stared like an idiot before he then spoke English to me. What a plonker! Campsite nice enough. Beach accessible from the campsite, Wi-Fi at a cost or 10 mins free, showers nearby, no toilet roll though I found out! So after half hour chilling we went on the beach for a walk. Off to the sand dunes that saved many a life in the battle of Dunkerque and the ruins, lovely time. We even climbed to the top of one but the pictures don’t do justice to how high we were. Then I checked my bag and couldn’t find my car keys. The zip was open. Bollocks, must have fallen out in the wind. I have been walking for an hour so could be anywhere. Slightly panicked as I try to retrace steps, check with the lifeguards. I have spare keys but not sure about the fuel cap key? No one had them, hoping I actually didn’t bring them this time. So a slightly rushed and panicked walk back and phew there they were in the van. Crisis averted. Time for a cider to celebrate. I bloody knocked over my bottle of cider, so no drink to celebrate and my bloody van stinks like a brewery now. Bugger!
Last day of the trip. We headed off to see the historical sights of Dunkerque. The war cemetery, the princess Elizabeth paddle boat (from when King George was on the throne) and many more and thoroughly enjoyed the day. Very long walk, stopped off on the beach to watch some local volleyball competition, eat ‘mules’ et Cidre, as you can’t come to France by the sea and not have fresh mussels. Lovely relaxed meal. Six hours later and headed back to camp. Zac was so tired he peed whilst walking on the path, he never does that! Found another motorhome stop on way back. Have decided that next time I head to Europe I will aim to do mainly motorhome stops. Campsites are for families and tend to be out of town. My best days have been when parked in car parks so we could walk to see the sights.
All that remains is I get on the ferry. I put the address into sat nav and it says 20 mins, great, so take Zac on a nice long last walk. He loves the sand dunes he chases rabbits galore. Then went for a swim, chasing the ball, hopefully one tired dog for the ferry. Easy journey really although the address was a roundabout about 15 mins from the port. Bit of a queue and the only addition on the way back was checking Zac’s microchip with a scanner so they let him through. Then onto the ferry, luckily I was parked near the back which was open to viewing from the deck above so I could check on Zac sleeping throughout the journey. Bless him, far less stressful than the journey out on the ferry to Holland, he just slept.
Back in the UK and guess what, it bloody rains as we get to Dover, massive storm. So home from home. M25 had an accident so that was closed, fortunately I got diverted off just before the police stopped the traffic, a bit of luck thankfully.
An awesome 25 days, just the ferry journey and some dull English roads then I’ll be home sweet home.
Camping Trieu Du Bois, Rue Picolome 63, 6238 Luttre
Camping a Louettes et Image, 140r Brune, 59116 Houplines
Camping la Licorne 1005 Boulevard de l’Europe, 59240 Dunkerque, France