My winter plan for this year was largely decided for me by the rather cold UK weather. Having spent the first 16 years of my life in Scotland, the cold weather doesn’t phase me. However, what does bother me is the fact my Luton can’t drive on roads with even a glimmer of ice and the thought of my home sliding off the road doesn’t appeal!
I spent the summer in Portugal and despite temperatures hitting 45C, Ted and I still had an amazing time. Winter in Portugal is said to be a great experience and as the first frost fell upon us in England, I booked my ferry!
My original plan was to sail on Christmas Eve, and that’s the ferry I booked. The idea of setting off on an adventure for Christmas was idyllic but it soon dawned on me that the reality could be disastrous. It would only take a flutter of snow in England for me to become pretty much stranded and even if I did make the crossing, the chances of fuel stations and shops being open in France over Christmas was potentially slim. With those thoughts, I phoned DFDS Seaways and brought my crossing from Newhaven to Dieppe forward to 3rd December. With hindsight, that was the best decision I made!
I was all set to head off, a fresh MOT in hand and the Luton all ready to go. As usual, I then decided to make some last minute modifications, including re-fitting the massive side canopy.
This trip is going to differ slightly to previous adventures as friends of mine are already in Portugal for the winter and other friends are planning to head out for the New Year so I’ll have a bit of company and Ted will have multiple stick throwing candidates.
My only fixed plan this time is the ferry crossing. After that, it’s a case of exploring and enjoying the freedom of the open road. My rough plan is to head down through France and meet up with Mark on the way as I have done on previous travels. From that point onwards, I’ll aim south and get to Portugal where I’ll hopefully be greeted by sunshine and blue skies.
I arrived at Newhaven late on the Saturday night, ready for the ferry first thing Sunday. Before I got on the ferry, I got told off by the Police for taking photos whilst in the ferry queue. Apparently, it’s a secure area and photography is illegal. They asked to see the photos I took (above) and decided there was no issue! As usual, I felt sea sick before I even arrived at the dock! I popped my sea sickness tablets down and before I knew it, I was on the sea experiencing the most perfectly calm crossing I’d ever known!
Four hours later, Ted was pleased I had returned to the van and we were through passport control and on the open road. On the right hand side. It’s amazing how natural it feels to drive on the right. The biggest difficulty comes when returning to the UK and getting used to driving on the left again!
For our first night in France, we parked next to a beautiful lake. A delightful spot I’d found when I came over in the summer, only 70 miles from Dieppe dock. GPS location available on Patreon shortly. A night here, followed by a bike ride the next day, and we were ready to head off in the direction of my friend, Mark.
Saying that, I managed to go 60 miles past Mark’s village before I realised I had misspelled his village name, only for the sat nav to take me to a completely different part of France! Lesson learnt, I turned round and headed back!
We spent a lovely evening catching up with Mark and meeting his two new cats. Ted didn’t get to meet them though, they weren’t in the mood for being chased or eaten.
The next few days took us onwards down through France, where we stopped at some lovely overnight stops. We found a great spot next to the River Loire, pictured above. GPS location available on Patreon shortly.
Throughout France, the weather varied from blue skies to borderline storms. One evening, we found a delightful spot to stay in a village. It was pouring with rain but Ted and I enjoyed a surreal evening sitting in a stone rain shelter on the edge of a river.
We took some cushions from the van along with a couple of blankets and we sat watching the rain and river. Ted would have been happier actually in the river, but this for him was a pretty close second!