Day One – France Take Two

Easter is upon us and so we are off on another adventure to France. With the August shipping deadline fast approaching, this trip will be our last real opportunity to test Ruby in similar conditions to what she will face over the Atlantic. The main question mark hanging over Ruby at this point is whether the new cooling system will complete it’s primary function of cooling the engine. The trip also gives us a chance to familiarise ourselves with living in a small space.

One major change to the interior of the van is a fancy new fridge. Not surprisingly, we originally fitted a bog-standard kitchen fridge thinking we were clever, which we ran through an inverter. There is obviously a reason why no-one else does this. The fridge killed our two very expensive leisure batteries in under 6 months. This was partially due to the fridge door getting knocked open last summer. And so, after spending a lot more money we have a new fridge,and another set of two very expensive leisure batteries. Fitting the new fridge has given us some extra room in the van, so we quickly threw together a couple of drawers.

The brackets on the side are recently added. I will explain more later.

So the trip… Due to the clutch cable incident last summer, we didn’t get to spend as long in the Pyrenees region as we would have liked. So being of the sound mind that we are, we thought we would fit in a quick 1800 mile round in our ultra reliable van to do some mountainous walks in the South of France. One reassuring safety net for us this time is that we will not be alone on this trek. Willow’s parents are joining us in their enthusiastically butterfly covered Ford camper.

(You can see it in the background.)

We would be again departing from Newhaven, travelling to Dieppe. However, this time we would be catching a more sociable ferry which would depart at 10am rather than pm. Both of us were relieved that we would not be spending another night trying desperately to sleep on the lounge floor.

Unlike last summer, we did not have to pull over on the way to the port because the van was overheating due to a loose earth wire on the fans, and we did not break down metres from the loading ramp! Ruby actually behaved without any problems at all. Well I say without any… She was misfiring a little, but it wasn’t causing us any issues.

The ferry journey was a lot more pleasurable in the day time. We just had to try and avoid all forms of social media to avoid any GOT spoilers.

Once off the ferry, we decided that we were going to point our sat navs to the Pyrenees and start fitting in some miles so we could be there as soon as possible.

A couple of hours into the drive and we decided to aim for a spot found on our trusty parking app ‘Park4night’ near a town called Bellème.

Apart from an occasional misfire, the main problem we were facing was the newly installed drawers. They were fitted with no catch, and so I spent the first hour of the drive desperately trying to wedge them shut using junk I could find around the van. It took a while to get right, but we were able to drive a short way without the constant bashing of cutlery!

We parked up in a car park, in the middle of some woodland.

Fortunately, Willow’s Mum had prepared some food before we left, so dinner was quick and easy.

We had intentions of casually enjoying a glass or two of wine, watching the first episode of GOT, unwinding in our tranquil location. But after a day of driving, we were in Bed not long after eating.

That night, despite being completely shattered and craving sleep, I could not doze off. And so I spent most of the night listening to a very enthusiastic owl who only shut up when it started raining. Even that couldn’t ruin my spirit though. Ruby had made it, without any mechanical difficulties. More of the same tomorrow please!

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