Sunday, 29 March 2020

Winter Sun 2020. The Journey Home. Running from Covid 19.

Our holiday was finally over! We were so aware of the growing threat of corona virus. Not yet in Spain but certainly on it's way with each day. We had given ourselves 5 days to make the run to the tunnel. We would take 2 days to get to the French border giving ourselves three days to get up through France. We usually used the toll roads on the way home for an easy drive.

We were not so unhappy to say goodbye to Los Olivos and it was not a long drive to our first stop at Zaragoza. Originally we had planned to stay at the Winter Sun site in Zaragoza. However, the reviews were not great. We decided instead to make for the camper stop near the city centre. A good decision. 

The camper stop was really easy to find. Just on the out skirts of the city by the football club and university. We arrived in the early afternoon and there were loads of spaces. We were soon settled in. Tucked in between the French and Germans. The tram to the city centre was just by the auto stop but we decided to investigate the local area on foot. There were loads of bars and restaurants and a big Carrefore within walking distance. We had soon found a friendly local restaurant and had a very pleasant inexpensive meal. 20 euros for three courses including a bottle of very nice red wine. The camper stop was free, so no facilities, but you could empty waste water and your toilet. We had a very quiet night and in the morning wandered to a local cafe for coffee.

A short dash cam arriving at the auto stop.

From Zarragoza we decided to make for France and settled on another Winter Sun Site just south of Bordeaux Camping Beaux Soleil. Easily found off the Bordeaux rocade at Gradignan. A small site which was quite full, probably because it was in the Winter Sun book. We arrived early enough to get one of the last free pitches.

A short dash cam. From Zarragoza.

A strange site. The grounds were beautifully maintained. Showers were hot and the block was heated. Toilets were unisex and not pleasant unfortunately. A 10 minute walk took us to a very nice bar where we had a few drinks, watched the French kissing each other and then into the Brasserie next door, where we had a lovely expensive meal. Obviously social distancing was not on the horizon at this point. We had been following concerns about the corona virus on motor home forums during the journey. 24 hours later the world had changed.  It appeared we had made it into France just at the right time, with talk of Spain and France going into lock down, bars and restaurants were already closed. We were amazed that everything up to this point in France, had seemed much as normal.

Our next stop would be Les Acacias at Tours. We found the campsite with no trouble but it was early afternoon and the gates were locked. We could see people moving around inside and thought it was open as we had met a couple with a caravan on the last site who were also heading there. Obviously " no room at the inn". There was a notice on the gate telling us that due to the virus we could only book in online, then we would be given a code to enter. Try as we might we could not get the online system to work. A "helpful" camper told us we could try ringing but the office was locked up and they wouldn't answer the phone. A French camper more helpfully, gave us a gate code but that would not work either. We decided to move on as it was getting late. Camper Contact came up with an open site 7 k away and we were soon arriving at Camping Only Tours. Loire Valley. 

A very warm and friendly welcome here. By the river. Great facilities, loads of room and a pleasant spot on a hard standing.

A short dash cam. The journey to Tours.

We were soon fed, watered and snuggled in for the night with a bottle of wine. This is a site we would certainly return to for another visit and good value too. 

We were beginning to feel the stress of the virus around us. In a dramatic change from the day before, now the roads were really empty, all the bars and restaurants in the service stations were shut. We decided to make one last stop before the tunnel. We were lucky and able to bring our booking forward by 24 hours ( with no extra payment!) Well done Euro Tunnel for a prompt efficient service. One more stop to find in France. 

The next morning back on the road towards Calais. Empty roads sped us on our way,we were now anxious to get home. Calais for a night stop was out, so Camper Contact came up with a good alternative, an aire a few miles from the tunnel. Driving down a few windy and narrow country roads, we soon found Camping La Ferme de L'Horloge near Tardinghen.

Basically and literally a farmers field. Behind the barn was an electric hook up, water tap and a place to empty the loo. We spent a silent night only woken up by the noise of the tractor and all for 12 euros. We were the only ones there.

A short dash cam. Tours to a stop near Calais.

The last dash cam. Calais Tunnel and home.

Our last night in France and my birthday. The next morning we easily made it to the tunnel and home. No checks, no warnings about Covid 19 and we were so pleased to pull onto our drive. The only big hold up had been an accident on the M4 so all in all, we had got away lightly. A great "last supper" birthday meal at our local Indian and the holiday was over.

Once home we followed the news, we have come back to a different world. Two weeks later. a reality check. We had met quite a few people who intended to sit out the corona drama on the Costas. I pray fate has been good to them, we feel a lot safer at home. We hope!! Krystal is safely on the drive waiting for the next adventure,who knows when that will be? We will be ready!

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