And so we begin, It’s August, it’s getting hot and we’re beginning our road trip today.
The day before I rushed around, packing bags, laying out camping equipment and planning how I would fit it all in the car. I decided to leave the bulk of our stuff at Laurens mothers (Glenda’s) house so that we could pack the car in peace without nosy neighbours and local busy bodies getting wind of what we were up to, where we might be going and how long. So with a couple of luggage bags we headed to Glenda’s to fit the two bikes, tent, cool box, sleeping bags, kitchen and cooker and other paraphernalia. All in to the back of a Toyota Yaris with its seats folded over.
Our first leg of the journey is to the Southeast seaside town of Ramsgate for our Travelodge. Note for next time, there are two. If you want loud busy seafront Travelodge book the seafront one with its noisy pubs and revellers partying in to the night. If like us you wanted the quiet retail park with chain restaurants and cinema for a relaxing night prior to the early morning ferry crossing, book the out of town Travelodge. Don’t whatever you do mix them up as we did and after a nice meal, three hours of Harry Potter have to drive in to the town to find the other Hotel!
An early checkout was on the cards in order to catch our 9am crossing for which you check in to at 8am. Dover is only 15-20 minutes drive from Ramsgate and is easy to find without ‘satnav’. Earlier crossings are cheep and if you are prepared to travel between 2am and 5am, book early and go in low season you can catch a single crossing for £4 with car! Our return crossing at more sociable hours was £54.
I like the boat a lot, it’s not as frantic as checking in to airports, and much more leisurely. You can walk around, sit inside and watch the Cliffs of Dover disappear or stand on deck and catch some fresh air. You don’t need particularly sturdy sea legs as the boat doesn’t ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ that much and you could even squeeze in a light beer or as we did cup of coffee and pastry. I like to read maps on the boat; I don’t use sat-nav and rely on memorising the route. A fun task that I rather enjoy. Sad, I know! I recommend Michelin France 2011 indexed as National 721. A big fold out road map for £5.99 that I will use again and again.
Our two hour crossing got us to Dunkerque for 10am and we ploughed straight in to our 3.5 hour drive to Epernay. With a lunch break we arrived before 3pm at the Municipal campsite. Municipal is how the French refer to the more basic of the campsites they offer. I would recommend the site, it’s in walking distance of the town and several Champagne houses or a short drive to the village of Ay, A grande cru village boasting some top producers. Oh, the site:
Alee de Cumiers,
We booked in advance with a simple email although even in August they probably could have squeezed us in had we just turned up but I wouldn't recommend it. I got the feeling that they preferred a bit of notice.
Here is an extract from my Diary from the trip, hope it sums up our time here.
Surrounded by Joggers, Cyclists, and Canoeists. There’s a rock climbing wall and a man swimming in the river. This isn’t the Epernay I imagined. Fast-forward two hours and every ten minutes or so ‘pop’ goes another bottle of Champagne, this is more what I had in mind. The campsite has come alive-BBQ’s fired up and wine flowing-Cumbersome fat pigeons precariously meander around the treetops too delicate to support their weight. Crows (I’ve never seen so many) mobbing the skyline crow and squawk to the fading light.
Lauren and I lapped up the Drappier Grande Sendre rose Champagne we hoofed from England. Cold, Delicate beads of foaming sun set hue in the fading light-aromas of rose petal, orange blossom and strawberry plant scent the bulb of the glass. Crisp, fine, mousy, dry with fresh fruit tones reminiscent of Bandol rose and creamy autolytic flavours bring texture and roundness to the palate. All in all a brief but perfect encounter in Epernay and perfect second night (first in France) to the Holiday.