Set up the day before, so off at 6.30, a very good journey around M25, except for the bit before the bridge where it becomes the A282. A good pub quiz question. Does the M25 circumvent London? No there is a gap at the Dartford crossing where the M25 becomes the A282. Arrived at the terminal, hoping to be put on an earlier crossing. No luck, very busy there with loads of tour buses, and yes the crossings were also all delayed by 30 minutes. This time, we ate breakfast in the van and did not pay the exorbitant prices in the terminal. At security, we were grouped into 6-8 vehicles and made to wait. Our steering wheel was swabbed, and security staff wearing white gloves went by each car touching every door handle. The gloves were taken away for analysis, and then, after presumably passing the explosives test, the whole group of cars was allowed to proceed. This was the first time crossing the channel I have encountered this procedure.
Arriving in France it was cloudy. Soon brightened up as we headed inland. Our intention was to drive to the East and not travel too far South. The weather down South was pants. We would remain in the Jura for a few days and then head south when the weather conditions reversed. This trip we were driving on the toll roads to make fast progress.
Our first stop was at Châlons-en-Champagne in the municipal site. There were warnings in the ACSI guide about rowdy grape pickers. Indeed there were many Polish grape pickers there. Half the site was allocated to their tents and canteen. We never did hear them, though a few of them brightened up the campsite. (We failed to spot any nearby grapevines.)
I had intended to drive farther, but R does not like arriving later than 6. After setting up we had a chat with our neighbours. They turned out to be a British couple who drive over here every few months to buy Champagne from a small producer. They were very cagey about who the producer was. They also warned us about the honey seller who dutifully arrived to sell his jars of honey. We were able to sit outside for supper, and after dark. It was not totally freezing. Oddly enough, Mrs Neighbour professed great interest in geology and hence our proposed expedition.
After sunset, we walked to the pond, listened to the bats on the bat-detector and watched them feeding.
We were off to the Jura today. Most of the drive was on the AutoRoute. Stopped off for lunch at an Aire. This time quite a clean place. Ate our sandwiches in the sun. At around Dijon, we headed East towards the Jura. Stopped at an Intermarche to fill up and buy some food. There was a good display of local produce and some quite tasty Jura fizz. Much to R’s surprise she found some glasses that she had bought on a visit a few years ago, but had failed to find since. Possibly because she’d never look in an Intermarche?? She bought another set, but wondered afterwards whether she should have bought two sets.
Arrived mid-afternoon at the campsite in Bonlieux. The reception was closed with a notice to visit the restaurant outside the campsite. Checked in at the restaurant. The site was on a slope, but nicely terraced. Each pitch had its own hedge with a large tree in the border for shade. The tree was not so useful for those who tried to tune in to satellite TV! Quite private, but not claustrophobic. Sunny weather still. Mobile phone connection is rubbish here, and data downloads almost non-existent during the day. Early morning and after 9.00 in the evening, not so bad.
We camped at the bottom of the site, with a walk-up some steps to get to the loos and showers. We are due to stay here for a couple of days, until the weather breaks.
Today we went for a walk. Decided to do the Hedgehog Falls. In French, it sounds sexier, Cascades Du Hérisson. Seems like there is a circuitous route to take. We started off walking on the road (2K), before turning off onto a track to the top of the falls (2K). The Hedgehog Falls are a series of six waterfalls which you can walk down alongside. The pictures in the leaflet and on the web show some spectacular falls. For us, they were not spectacular at all. The first fall, I had to walk right up to before I saw it. The trickle of water falling down was almost invisible. On our walk down, R was accosted by a young lad who showed her Wikipedia images of the falls as they should be. We were all disappointed. Still, we met a group of photographers on the walk down. I suppose we were at the wrong end of a dry summer, so could not expect to see a full-flowing river.
We saw a man cycling up a portion of the path leaving markers for the next day’s triathlon. R gave me a look to warn me not to move any markers.
We also saw a couple of dippers on the walk down.
Still, the trek was enjoyable, down through wooded areas with a sometimes steep path down. We arrived at the bottom and then tried to find the way out. Nope, there was no way out on foot, other than back the way we came. Yes, there had been a path signposted Bonlieux, but it had a notice saying it was closed.
R was daunted by the prospect of walking all the way back UP the falls (it had taken 4 hours to get down). So I decided to be chivalrous and leave her (temporarily!). I raced back up the falls, the road and to the campsite. Back at the van, I removed the canopy, lowered the roof and made sure there was nothing likely to fall off the shelves and drove off to pick her up. This is where things went wrong. The internet connection was so bad, I could not get Google Maps to plot me a route. I had to drive with my eyes on the map, went wrong several times and took almost as long to drive to her as it had taken to walk up. Oh, the walking route was a little over 6K, the drive to the bottom of the falls was over 20K.
Today was meant to be a rainy day, but it seems overnight the forecast had changed and the wet weather was back a few hours. The morning was spent lounging around in the sun finishing books. After a small lunch, I headed out for a quick walk around the local lake. This lake feeds the Hedgehog Falls. Many small fishing/rowing boats were moored in the lake. Very wooded around the lake and forestry tracks travelling for miles. Lovely marked tracks ideal for off-road biking along well-made tracks. Saw several small red dragonflies on the walk. Back at campsite some small brown damselflies. After a 5-mile walk, still no rain.
Managed to cook supper and eat outside. Just as we were clearing away the rain came in, and now likely to be persistent all night until midday tomorrow.
Not much done today, we did walk into the local village of Bonlieux. Everything closed up. The bar/restaurant was closed. A typical rural French ghost village. Last night our bins had been raided by some predator with paws. It could not open the sealed bin but had distributed the contents of a plastic bag around the inside of the canopy.
Tonight as we were leaving, we had taken the canopy down in the dry, so most of the waste had been thrown out. But during the night we heard the small bin being moved around again. I bravely and quickly opened the van door and spotted a fox running off into the hedge. The waste bin, still unopened was now several meters away with a slightly chewed handle.