Saturday, 5 May 2018

Sully-sur-Loire via Milton Keynes.

Bye house! Hello home on wheels
We swung by Milton Keynes depositing our youngest at the station. The fare to London from there is much cheaper than travelling from Stoke, and she has overcome her antipathy towards the motorhome sufficiently to accept a lift.

Bye Laura! (hello Milton Keynes)
So long as you don't mind negotiating a dozen or more roundabouts then Milton Keynes is one of the easier urban areas to negotiate in a motorhome. As a city it is much maligned as being bland and over-designed. However, on this chilly but bright spring morning the extensive green spaces, urban forests and big lakes looked handsome, and given the choice, which is the better place to live, here, or a crumbling de-industrialised Victorian relic? Perhaps people don't like it because in looks distinctly un-English. The mid-rise sprawl, low density housing, dual carriageways connecting neighbourhood malls - it all looks somewhat transatlantic', the 'burbs' relocated to Buckinghamshire. I quite like it because it seems to me as much a reflection of late twentieth century Britain as Cheltenham is typical of the Regency period, or Manchester the epitome of the Victorian. Time has sanctified the Georgian and Victorian, but the latter half of the twentieth century is too close to the present day for us to laud its achievements, instead we blame the era for our current ills. What I admire is the post war planners' confidence that they could invent a brand new city from scratch. They displayed an optimism that the future might be better, that the human condition could be improved; somehow, right now that seems a difficult notion to embrace.

Anyway, philosophical reflections on Milton Keynes kept us entertained well past the Dartford crossing and eventually we found ourselves esconced in Canterbury's New Dover Road Park and Ride, which, as all British motorhomers know, is the only properly designed, continental style motorhome 'aire' in dear old Blighty.

Now the well honed escape plan - first Canterbury New Dover Poad parking...

then the Tunnel
Lunch-time re-stock at Boulogne Auchun...
Next day, through the Tunnel, a quick lunch stop at Boulogne Auchan to stock up on life's essentials (mainly liquid), and by late afternoon we were in Normandy - birds singing, apple trees in blossom, woods bursting into leaf, blue sky and contented cattle grazing in the golden green meadows.

Neufchatel-en-Bray - pastoral perfection.
Apple blossom time

No matter how many times I cross the Channel, now well over one hundred escapes, I still get a buzz of excitement, a sense of stepping into a bigger world from our introspective, nostalgia fogged island.  In the aire at Neufchatel-en-Bray, as night fell, we swapped starry night stories with our daughter Sarah, camping right now near Evora in Portugal - the travelling Turpies abroad, two generations talking nonsense across WhatsApp - Heels for Dust! 

Next day, after a quick catch-up chat with a couple from Abersoch who we had met previously, at this time last year in l'Escala, we managed a prompt start. We faced a five hour drive south on familiar roads. The first part is beautiful, through the wooded hills of the 'boucle de Seine', crossing the mighty river using the Pont de Brotonne north of Rouen. It's somewhat of a detour but avoids the traffic choked city and the motorway tolls to the south of it.

Across the Seine...
Then endless wheatfields, past the usual landmarks, Dreux' workaday sprawl, the permanent bouchon at Nonancourt, the beautiful asymmetry of Chartres' twin spires, onwards on unfrequented 'D' roads towards Orleans. Today, for the entire journey we basked under a big blue sky, glittering white light dancing on the empty road ahead; France driving me sane.

then a straight road south...
Our destination, Sully-en-Loire, is unfamiliar, but with a riverside chateau, the Loire cycle path running next to the campsite, it promised to be an interesting place to linger for a few days. The weather forecast is warm and sunny, time to relax and plan something delicious to eat on Monday - it's my birthday. My perfect birthday place would be some turquoise cove in Corsica; failing that, right here, parked under a tree, a stone's throw from the Loire seems almost as good; certainly it would be churlish to regard it as a second best option.

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