Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Minor irritations of La Republique

Monday 23rd May, 2016

As I posted yesterday, by our reckoning we have made over 100 trips to France over the past four decades. Given the French's penchant for political protest and enthusiasm for igniting tyres, or herding cattle up the Champs Élysées, then I suppose it is remarkable that we never have been affected. Statistically it was likely to happen, and yesterday it did.

My Sister-in-Law, Jackie, lives in Northern France and emailed to warn us that in protest at changes to the labour laws refineries and fuel storage depots at Le Harvre had been blockaded and petrol in service stations in the region was running low.

We were not in dire straights camped at Blois, as we had filled up a few kilometres south, and still had about two thirds of a tank remaining. Would that be enough to get us to Calais? Difficult to say, it would be cutting it fine.

English weather in France - have we enough fuel to get to

As we headed north up the N20 it was clear that most petrol stations were closed. Just to add to the gloom it poured with rain for most of the journey. I tried to calculate our fuel situation. Under normal conditions a full tank of diesel will take us around 400 miles. As we trundled northwards I made a note of the our milage as the fuel gauge reached the half mark. We were nearing our next destination by the time the gauged notched down to quarter full. Our fuel consumption was exactly as expected, we had covered 100 miles. Five minutes before we had passed a sign giving the distance to Calais as 185km, so right now we were probably about 108 miles from the port. Fuel gauges usually give you a bit of lee-way - but would it be enough to get to the ferry and to the fuel station outside Dover East docks? Too close to call, but luck was on our side.

Just before the turn-off to Neufchâtel en Bray the autoroute service area still was selling diesel. Some pumps had been closed off, there were queues, but only is three or four vehicles per pump. I put in enough fuel to get us to Calais with a bit to spare.

Finally, after 120 miles - a place with diesel. and shortish queues.

At lunchtime I had been on the Motorhome Adventures site to see how other Brits were faring, but at the time there was only one post, from a member living in France warning of possible disruption. I posted a message about our experience as soon as we arrived at Neufchâtel en Bray aires to update others on the situation:
"Thanks Rodney. We found no fuel available from the Loire to Normandy adjacent to the N Roads we were travelling on - mainly Supermarket self serve. One place had fuel but would only accept French bank cards. Quite a few Total stations had chains across. Finally we found a place on the Autoroute a few kilometres from Neufchâtel en Bray, where in a noble gesture of Fraternité I only put 30 litres in to ensure we have enough to get us to the Ferry. Most French drivers were feeling less than fraternal and had they been able to fill the boot, door pockets and any spare supermarket bags with fuel, they probably would have tried. I don't know how this is going to play out in the long term, but certainly if I was leaving the UK in the next few days I would make sure of entering France with a full tank. If I was heading south east to Austria, Switzerland or Italy, then heading through Belgium, Luxembourg then down the Autobahn might be a good move. I'll post again tomorrow on how the queues are looking after the weekend."
Since then other posts reveal that it is a very mixed situation with fuel apparently still available in Calais, but running out in a fairly random manner across the North of France. There are rumours of lightening road blockages and a more general strike planned for Thursday. By then, so long as Calais port is not disrupted - a favourite target - we should be back in the UK. Right now, I just wish it would stop raining so we might enjoy our final two days in France.

And it did (stop raining); and we did (enjoy our final day in France).

We never did discover the Olympian aspects of the of the municipal site at Wimereaux

The place itself - think Clacton with croissantes

Bathing huts..

inspired by Sixties Habitat wardrobes...

Some had been personalised.

In the afternoon the cloud broke a bit, so we took a clifftop walk towards Boulogne.

I like the way he still kept walking... it shows true Gallic nonchalance...
Blue/grey sea, mauveish thrift - that's nice.


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