After three nights sweltering in Cap d’Agde, our resolve was to reverse our planned route to escape the heat for the sake of Neelix (and ourselves), so we headed North West to the French outcrop of Brittany.
The first night of the mammoth 1000km trip brought us to a free Aire in the little town of Bourganeuf. It was still hot, but we found Scooby a space in the shade of some towering conifers. Beyond a gothic chateau opposite, there was little to see, so the following morning we drove another full day until we stopped at an Aire beside a lake in Nord-Sur-Erdre, where a strange thumping and shoals of migrating people caught our attention…
Turned out that the town was hosting a two-night music festival about 2km from the Aire, featuring a whole host of people we’d never heard of – and Sting.
With the back doors wide open to the lake, the stars beginning to poke through the cloak of nightfall, we dozed to the sounds of Englishman in New York and If I Ever Lose My Faith.
The following day we finally made it to the cooler climes of Brittany, though the heat had stalked us and our hike to the awesome Mont St Michel a couple of days later brought with it sunburn. The next day it rained like hell.
Over the following three days, we made our way along the coast due north, stopping in free Aires and visiting the small harbour towns and Normandy beaches, finishing our second stint in France at Fecamp, an Aire so popular it had spilled over to a second car park and was rammed with wall-to-wall motorhomes.
Mont St Michel
July 11th saw us bid adieu to France and (whatever-it-is-in-Flemish) hello to Belgium. As we’d visited Ghent and Bruges before, it served only as a transitory overnight and, by the following afternoon, we’d made it to Rotterdam to look at some canals and windmills.
We finished out first night in The Netherlands in the cheese-themed town of Gouda, sampling the national dish of chips smothered in sauce, and taking a walk around the postcard-esque town. For the next three days we utilised the final ACSI discount period at a camp near Eindhoven. Where it rained. And rained. And rained. But there was a giant trampoline and no kids around so I didn’t care.
<<< Normandy towns and beaches: Hermanville, a tank at Juno Beach, and Fecamp
Three nights at Camp Rainyskies was enough and it was time to venture into Germany. Andy had never visited Deutschland other than a flight connection at Frankfurt, and I’d only been through it on the way to Poland in 1994, so neither of us had any set expectations, and our first task was the possibly daunting one of obtaining an Umweltplakette – a windscreen sticker that states your vehicle isn’t spitting out toxic death fumes, thus allowing you into inner city areas. Without it there’s a hefty fine.
So we crossed the border and went straight to a small industrial town where we’d located a TUV branch, consulted my mild-German knowledge and miraculously managed a good 90% of the conversation in German! €5 later, we have the green badge!
The Netherlands: One of many windmills southeast of Rotterdam, the cheesy town of Gouda, its fairytale-like centrepiece, and a shop of their eponymous queso
We made the most of the Germany’s über-efficient roadways to get to Kassel and eventually Göttingen, where we spent the night in a small Aire outside of the town. In the morning we drove north to Wolfsburg, found a near-central motorhome parking lot and walked through the 35 degree afternoon into town centre to explore.
In the morning we walked around the local Schloss, and paid a visit to the Volkswagen Automuseum. As VW’s ancestral home is Wolfsburg, it’s a game of spot-the-non-VW. The museum was replete with VW Beetles of yore (including Herbie!), vans, and a precious few T25’s similar to our very own Suzanne-the-Van. The drawback of this trip was having to go individually so the other could dogsit in the car park.
After Wolfsburg, we rocketed down the autobahn to Berlin, where we’d found a strange Aire-cum-campsite on the outskirts, charging just €20 a night (good, for high-season). On the Monday, the three of us hopped on a U-train from nearby Tegel and, twenty minutes later, surfaced in the centre of Germany’s capital city. Neelix was perplexed by the train, seemingly unsure how to sit without keeling over every time it braked or gained speed.
A tiring foot tour followed: The river to Brandenburg Gate (big), the Holocaust Memorial (people taking selfies inside seemed odd), a preserved section of the Berlin Wall (touching), Checkpoint Charlie (tiny!), plus Gendarmenmarkt Square, Bebelplatz, Berlin Cathedral, Mitte, Alexanderplatz, and a trip out to a suburb that seemed to be streetwalker central, even in the middle of the day! Berlin also gave us the chance for Andy to buy a replacement camera for the one stolen, and both of us some replacement clothes for the ones threadbare and/or impervious to being cleaned, thanks to the giant Primark store. We finished off with haloumi wraps back in Tegel and a long, much-needed sleep.
Out n’ about in Berlin: