1971: June 12, Aubigny-Calais-Dover-Hornchurch

Saturday
Woke up to find weather and could hardly believe our luck. Got on far more quickly with the packing up and were well on the way far earlier than yesterday. Before leaving the site, helped the couple we ate with last night to get their car out of the large muddy hole they’d driven into. Roads to Calais quite maddening – either bumpy, or through endless towns. Only a few well-surfaced stretches, it takes an amazing length of time to reach the coast. Met loads of British cars driving along from Boulogne and Calais. Were surprised to see some French owned Triumph (2000s) near St Omer – very few Triumphs on the continent at all, and most of those were in Switzerland.

In Calais, stopped and bought some pâtés, bread and wine with our remaining currency, then drove on to the boat and found a table near the windows. Ate a large lunch (brought on by us) and had a cup of their coffee, did our duty free shopping, and in no time at all the white cliffs of Dover were showing. Had to sit waiting in the car for ages before they let us out, but eventually at around 2pm drive out of the Customs and headed for home, arriving back at 4pm.

Conclusions

Total cost of holiday, including various insurances, cattery fees, hire of spare parts, kit, etc.  : £220

Total mileage: 2000

Costs are up on last year – but distances greater of course, and costs of everything up, e.g. the cross Channel ferry fares. And we did sleep on the boat this time too. We were lucky in getting low season charges at Camping Marina di Venezia – 14,000 lire. Would have been considerably more after June 16th.

For a camping holiday this sort of site really does mean every gets a holiday, including Mum! Everything is easier in a warm climate, to begin with – washing dries, so that the mounds of dirty washing are kept low. Less cooking is needed – salads and cooked meats are all one wants, and there is plenty of good fresh fruit.

A well-equipped site like this one has things like ample hot water – showers help one keep clean easily (a cold, wet, cold water only site is a great deterrent to hygiene…) and makes washing up simpler too. Then, the facilities, like a choice of restaurants and bars mean that one can have a ‘meal out’ without having to worry about going far from the children. The shops too, made it easy – one could go to a site like this and never leave it except to go home! The big drawback – apart from the size and possible crowds – is that it can be expensive – all those facilities are there partly to extract your money from you after all.

For the journeys, careful thought is essential – warm weather sites are always hundreds of miles away and 2-3 days travelling more or less essential with young children. We think hotels on the journey out if possible – you don’t feel like unpacking a crammed car for one night, and there are always so many more things around on the way out. And you are probably too more tired too after all the preparation to come away. Coming home, overnight camping stops make more sense – one is ‘in the groove’ of camping anyway, better organised and less fussy. And quite probably short of cash too… it is a cheap way of spending the nights. Hire of a caravan/bungalow/chalet can be very useful, though there are not many of these available. Is all this an argument for a caravan? Not unless you want one anyway, and I don’t think we do, the disadvantages outweigh the usefulness, to us anyway.

We have also learned to seize opportunities where toilets are concerned. Except for Germany, exemplary – it can become a desperate problem – not all cafes have them by any means, especially in Italy. And beware siesta time or lunch, 2 hours in most continental towns and garages – things close down very firmly. Even toilets.

We felt this holiday was very successful, despite wet weather on the journeys. Venice was so beautiful, the camp site so good, and the weather marvellous there. The children enjoyed it too, plenty for them to see and do, they slept like logs every night. (Gareth even slept through the thunderstorms).

Next year? Somewhere warm! Some in France perhaps. All that lovely FOOD…..

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