Camping Risle Seine is in upper Normandy about twenty miles inland from Honfleur. We chose it because it has a golf course on one side and beautiful lakes to walk around on the other. The town of Pont Audemer is a ten minute cycle away with everything we might need and we could see that the pitches were plenty big enough for Heidi and all our stuff. Arriving here we had just two weeks left of our trip and we were determined to make the most of it.
Check in was brisk and efficient. The French lady owner asked a series of rapid questions in excellent English before giving us the pitch number, the gate code and some instructions about the gate closing at night that we could comfortably forget as we’re usually in bed by 9.30 p.m.
I’ve lost my nozzle
We went first to the motorhome service point where we emptied the grey water, and tried to fill up with fresh. Our hose has a turn off valve and a long nozzle for putting into the filler. At a previous stop the nozzle had come apart and the outer cover had shot into the hole making it difficult to get water in at pressure. A piece of plastic was down there somewhere narrowing the pipe. Armed with the new nozzle Shirley started filling the water tank but, unknown to her until she got drenched, the whole nozzle had shot into the pipe. High pressure water was blowing back at massive force. We tried to get the offending nozzle out but eventually overcame the empty tank problem by lifting the carpet and opening the hatch to fill the tank directly. Anyone coming across us at that point would have been suspicious. I was kneeling down with my bum in the air with the hose shouting “Not yet, not yet, NOW … STOP!”
The next morning we resorted to WhatsApp and set the missing nozzle conundrum to the family to sort out. Many helpful suggestions were made and a fair number of deliberate doubles entendres until eventually Shirley got it out with a bent metal BBQ skewer and years of experience as a midwife getting small slippery things out of awkward spaces. It’s important to make it clear here that no BBQ skewers were ever used in the delivery of babies.
And Relax …
We were soon relaxing with beautiful walks along the paths around the lakes and making plans for a golf game the next day. The sun was shining, everyone around us was friendly and life was sweet. We were enjoying great chats with Christine and Sean across the path from us. They were great company and we all got on really well – Poppy was in love with Sean and demanded to be allowed to sprint over for cuddles whenever she saw him. After sometimes feeling a bit isolated on this trip it was a lovely reminder that it’s the people you meet that make travelling so special.
Within a couple of days the rising temperatures made it unbearable to play any more golf, especially as we couldn’t leave Poppy in the van, which was a real pity as it was a very friendly club and we had enjoyed three rounds before the heatwave.
On the relatively easy, flat nine hole course there are several natural water hazards but more surprisingly there are also numerous families of coypu wandering around. We were unsure of these creatures, especially when they were gathered in the narrow paths between holes because they are relatives of rats and apparently, if cornered, can give quite nasty bites however these were obviously completely used to sharing their habitat with golfers and were unfazed by trolleys passing within inches of their long tails.
The Saga of Poppy’s Bottom
Then Poppy started to behave strangely. She was agitated and off her food, she kept crying in little squeaks and was clearly uncomfortable and then, the big giveaway, she started dragging her bum along the ground. Anyone who has read the James Heriot books will recognise the symptoms. In one of the books a lady phoned the vet and said “Tricki-Woo has gone cracker dog and flop bot” That was Poppy. Her anal glands needed emptying. Some small dogs have this problem and the fix is unpleasant for both the vet and the dog, not to mention the owner at the other end trying to hold her still whilst breathing through her mouth. Hoping that she could wait until her legally required vet visit within five days of our return we decided to see what transpired. The next morning she woke us by jumping onto the shelf between the beds and knocking books, tissue box and alarm clock flying. Then she set up a mighty wailing. We realised then that her problem was urgent. The lady at reception helped us get an appointment with a local vet who spoke English and assured us it was only 25 minutes walk away. The only problem was that we had to wait two days. Every morning Poppy leapt onto that shelf and nearly frightened us to death. Every morning we rushed out with her to the dog walk only to find her strolling along without a care in the world. Was she having us on?
On the morning of the vet visit we were very worried about walking Poppy as the pavements were already hot and we knew of the danger of walking dogs on hard surfaces in intense heat. We decided to drive there in the van. The vet had a rule of only one owner in the surgery so I got off lightly and spent a happy half hour strolling around an air conditioned supermarket. Returning to the van smelly (Poppy) and traumatised (Shirley and Poppy) I was even more glad I couldn’t go in as she had been so distressed that they had to bring in a vet nurse to help hold her down and she had screamed the place down (Poppy, not the nurse).
You do not want to know how the procedure is done but enough to say that Poppy has developed a very understandable fear of surgical gloves.
Back on the site Shirley gave her a shower and she lay down and slept for hours (Poppy not Shirley). Peace at last.
Keeping our cool
Returning from the vet we had parked the motorhome on the other side of the pitch to create some shade. Heidi is a big lass and usually, in normal weather conditions, we make sure we wouldn’t be sitting in her shadow but in this heat it was exactly what was needed.
As the afternoon wore on the temperatures were getting higher and we were hankering for a dip in the pool. The only problem was that we couldn’t leave Poppy alone in the van as it was now 36c inside. Eventually we decided to take it in turns and Shirley went first. Coming back a while later she reported that the pool is small and very pleasant except for the presence of two large people floating around on inflatable mattresses.
I left it for a few minutes before heading off to take a dip only to discover that the Lilo loungers were still there. Honestly, the only option for a swim was to keep close in to one side. I had checked the board before going in and there was a clear sign that said “No Lilos” – in pictures not words but completely clear. I felt quite outraged as I slipped into the one remaining corner of the beautiful clear water. Before long another couple arrived and then the pool was as crowded as a large family sharing one bath. This is where travelling in Europe has a downside. A) you don’t know what language any one else speaks until they actually say something and B) you don’t know what the norms are when someone is being antisocial.
The people on the Lilos didn’t speak a word to one another or anyone else and the couple who had joined us were stunned into silence with only a raised eyebrow to show their dismay.
If we were in Yorkshire I know exactly what would have happened – someone would have told them directly that they were taking up too much room and asked them to leave – problem solved. Sadly the rest of us, including this Yorkshire lass, meekly accepted it. We’re left with a question though, what’s the point of having rules if no-one enforces them?
The next afternoon when Shirley went to the pool the Lilo loungers were there again. There were a number of other people trying to cool off in the intense heat with temperatures now reaching 38c and once again the place was crowded. Before long a couple of Dutchmen spoke up for sake of everyone else and told them to take the objects out of the pool. You must understand that this account is an approximation of what was said as Shirley couldn’t understand the details but got the gist based on body language and the sulking that followed. The male Lilo user hitched the offending article out of the pool but lay in the water hanging on to it like a toddler who has been told he can’t play with his favourite toy. After a few tense moments one of the Dutchmen started laughing and made a comment that was clearly about the size of the offender’s appendage. This led to the Lilo pair leaving the pool in disgust. Shirley came back to tell me what had happened, advising me to go and enjoy a dip now that it was big enough to appreciate it. I couldn’t quite believe it when after five minutes enjoying floating about at leisure I spied the Lilos coming back into the pool area with their owners obviously checking that the ones who had insulted them had left. You can’t really carry a Lilo stealthily but they tried. The only amusing upside to this miserable state of affairs was watching the lady Lilo lounger trying to get onto the thing in a busy small pool. Legs and bottom flailing she seemed oblivious to the waves she was causing or the unattractive sight of an ample bum in a small bikini bottom waving about in mid air. Parents were holding onto a toddler in alarm in case he drowned and yet she continued to flail about half on and half off without an apparent care in the world. You have to grudgingly admire that level of self confidence. Quite soon afterwards one couple gave up and left and I soon followed them, the parents crept into a safe corner of the pool with their confused little one and I couldn’t help thinking that their ruse had worked and they got the pool almost to themselves again. We have returned to nursery school and it’s about as much fun now as it was then when a big boy stole your colouring pencils.
The heat was steadily increasing each day and we began to get worried. We kept drinking a lot and even resorted to wearing wet t shirts to try to keep cool. Warnings were being given across the French media and people were advised to stay at home. Being inside a motorhome is no answer as it is basically a tin box and by the third day the sides were too hot to touch. Sean and Christine had left for their next stop and we were envying them the drive in an air conditioned vehicle. Our neighbours kept going out in their car, presumably to get some relief. We persuaded Poppy into the shade and covered her with a wet towel and stayed put in the shade of the van. Tepid showers helped a bit but we were counting the hours until the break in the weather that was promised that night.
At 8.00 pm the temperature had fallen to 29c and it began to feel bearable. We set off around the lake for a proper walk – the first in three days. We were amazed to find that temperatures in the mid 20s could feel so deliciously cool and then realised with some trepidation that we will probably be cold when we get home to Scotland. Back at the van we finished our nightly ultra competitive three rounds of Rumikub and breathed a sigh of relief then, within five minutes we were rushing around in alarm as a massive high wind blew up and all our stuff, spread liberally around the pitch, began to take flight. Somehow we got everything put away or at least safe but there was no way we could put the bike cover on. We were at serious risk of being parachuted into the air so we had to leave them to their fate, which by now was clear – it was going to rain! Our Belgian neighbours were struggling with their roll out awning so we ran over to try to help but they got it rolled in somehow and we all looked at one another and said “Wow!” Clearly this is an internationally used word and it said everything that was necessary. During the night the rain pounded on the roof, there were flashes of lightning and the van rattled and grumbled. We snuggled under duvets for the first time in nearly a week and felt cosy and safe. One thing is clear, hot weather is even more troublesome and potentially dangerous than the regular and persistent rain and cloud of Scotland.
It is now just over a week until we get on the ferry to the UK. We’re in two minds. Part of us is looking forward to home, family and friends plus our lovely apartment with all its familiarity but we are also loving France and all it has to offer. It’s been good to be away but now it’s almost time to head homewards.