Un mini-vacances….. .

We returned to le chateau on Sunday evening after having Friday, Saturday and Sunday off for a mini holiday touring the Loire area.  After stocking up with provisions at the Super U we headed south to have a look see at the river Loire.  It’s fair to say that the weather since we arrived here has been diabolique with rain practically every day.  We’d heard on the news that many places throughout France were flooded.  We stopped at another free aire at Chouze sur Loire which is a village just on the north side of the Loire river.

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Yet another free aire at Chouze sur Loire. Oh we so love France!

We had a lazy day catching up on sleep and doing some French learning.  We didn’t have internet access so I wasn’t able to update the blog until we got back to the chateau. In the early evening we had a stroll down to the river to see what was what.  The river has flooded gardens and campsites.  We have been to this area before and beaches can usually be seen at various places along the river but it is completely covered with water at the moment.   The picture below shows the area two years ago and the next one shows what it looks like now – quite a difference.

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Picnic area near Chouze-sur-Loire in April 2014.
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The same picnic area in June 2016!

 

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The terrace of the local bar in Chouze-sur-Loire just survived.
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The campsite at houze-sur-Loire!

We were also intrigued to see an English telephone box in the centre of the village.

P1050866.JPGApparently it was donated in 2000 to Chouze-sur-Loire by the village of Gosfield which Chouze is twinned with. Google was my friend again and Gosfield is in Essex.

On Saturday we refilled our water tanks and headed over to the southern side of the Loire towards Montsereau which is supposedly one of the most beautiful villages in France.

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Approach to Montsoreau.

It certainly lived up to expectations with it’s 11th century chateau, troglodytic dwellings, streets of flowers, vineyards and beautiful tuffeau stone buildings.

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Troglodytic dwellings built into the tuffeau stone.
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I love these little footpaths lines with wild flowers.
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View of Montsoreau chateau.
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The gardens in the village were all so well kept.  Puts ours to shame!
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Lovely wild flowers line driveways.
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Managed to capture this little chap too 🙂

Later on we went to Fontevraud, home to the largest preserved monastic site in Europe.  We got there a bit late to make it worthwhile paying to go in (Tim was delighted he didn’t have to open his wallet!) but the surrounding village was worth a look round with well kept flower lined streets.

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Traditional English tea shop in Fontevraud.
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Part of the abbey taken through the fence!
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Pretty flower lined streets.

On Saturday night we stopped at yet another free aire at Torquant.  The village is largely built into the hillside but the dwellings are mostly now given over to crafts, boutiques and workshops.

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Troglodydtic dwellings now art studios.

It’s a really interesting place to wander around.

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Cave cafe!
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Arial view.

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On Sunday we drove into Saumur and parked up in the car park of the Cavalry School where there was a show jumping competition on.

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Show jumping in the grounds of Saumur Cavalry School.

We had a wander around Saumur.  Again, the picture below shows the river level in 2014 and then what it looked like on Sunday.

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View over the Loire from Saumur in April 2014.
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The Loire June 2016!
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Saumur chateau.

The finale to our weekend was a tour, on vintage bicycles, of the Bouvet Ladubay wine caves.

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‘Ollie’ parked up in the coach park of Bouvet-Ladubay.

I’d emailed the company, in French I might add, to see if we could get booked onto a tour.  After several emails back and forth we managed to get booked onto the Sunday evening tour.  I did my best when we arrived to speak to the chap on reception in French but as soon as the first words were out of my mouth he said in perfect English ‘would you prefer to speak in English Madam?’.  ‘Qui’ was my meek reply.  I would really have wanted to persevere in French but the poor guy didn’t have all day to entertain my whims so Anglais it was.

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Wine barrels after the first fermentation.
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Most of the tour was lit but we needed head torches for some of it.

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The tour was interesting but I was a little bit disappointed that the bikes weren’t truly vintage (I was hoping for at least a wicker basket on the front of mine)and we probably only cycled about a mile but I couldn’t see the UK putting on anything similar – far too health and safety conscious!

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Tim trying a sparkling red – weird!

The tour cost a measly €4 including tasting four of their wines so was a bargain!

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They all tasted the same to me!

As Tim was driving I needed to try his share too – shame to see it go to waste!

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Ah well, someones gotta do it!

Cheers, a bientot!

 

It’s all go at le chateau………. .

Well time is moving on apace here at le chateau. I’ve been a bit slack with the blog again as we have been so busy and I’ve been too tired to write it up!  I was hoping to get this blog post out on Friday but we’ve had flaky wifi for the last three days so my plans were scuppered.  Being so busy at the chateau has been our choice, though, as we are enjoying all the tasks that have been thrown at us and we have felt like we are being useful.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the kitchen doing various catering tasks which have stretched my culinary skills to the limit!  We had ten people to provide a meal for before the first concert of the Chamber Music Festival.  Michael bought all the food and Jonathan and I were earmarked to do all the preparation.  Jonathan happened to mention that he needed to pick up some more musicians from Nantes airport and may not be back in time to help.  Oh crap. He detailed ‘his vision’ to me for what he wanted everything to look like.  Jonathan did tell me the French name of what was being served but I can’t remember what it was but it was basically a posh French buffet.  There wasn’t much cooking as such as most things were pre prepared but presentation was key – yeah right, like I do presentation!!  You know how foodie the French are, so no pressure like!  Everything I cook is normally just slapped on a plate and grudgingly dumped on the table with a look that say’s  ‘if you think you can do better, do it yourself’!  Ah well, keep calm and carry on as they say. So, armed with blunt knives, I set about presenting a posh buffet fit for a French audience.  All I can say is fiddly, fiddly, fiddly.  I know how they feel on Masterchef now.  Fortunately Jonathan did get back from Nantes in time to give some help and guidance which was much appreciated.

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It always helps to have a glass of something sparkling when under pressure in the kitchen!

Tim, meanwhile, had been helping David complete the finishing touches on one of the apartments putting up pictures and mirrors etc.  I sent him a text to see what he was doing as we could use some help in the kitchen to which I got a reply that he and David were sitting on the settee, in said apartment, having a beer whilst tuning in the TV!!   I won’t say what my reply to that one was.

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More apartment prep.

Anyway, the buffet apparently went down a treat and everyone was happy.  Needless to say I was so stressed I didn’t get take any pictures.

Just when I thought I was in the clear Jonathan let me know that twelve people were booked for a traditional English afternoon tea the next day.  Just as well I’d had a bit of practice scone making on our last Helpx assignment then.  Fortunately, lots of helpers were roped in for this one though so scones and butter icing were my tasks.  Jonathan did look at me like I was some sort of imbecile when I asked how to make butter icing though! As I’ve said before baking has never been my forte and I can’t remember the last time I made a cake – we’re talking thirty plus years ago. What can I say?  It’s been a steep learning curve!  Again, I completely forgot to take any pictures.

Despite being so busy we did get out to go to the church mass in the village last Sunday. We went because the musicians were playing with the choir for the service.  It was a Catholic Mass and Tim freaked out when it came to the ‘Peace be upon you’ part as, this being France, we would have to kiss the people around us!  We got away with shaking hands in the end though. Tim freaked out even more, however, when the collection plate came round and he didn’t have any change whatsoever and I made him hand over a crispy five euro note!  It took him a while to recover from that one!

Tim has also helped set up the crypt under the chapel for a wine tasting evening which we were able to catch the tail end of.

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Tim’s crypt creation! (shame about the fire extinguisher).

Unfortunately, the pictures came out really badly and this was the only one I could put on the blog, which is still rubbish.

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Rubbish picture but it gives you the idea.

We were also invited to a talk on the history of the chateau and a tour of the apartments and caves.  I didn’t take any pictures of the apartments but just managed to capture this one of an old wine press in one of the caves and some pictures of the moat.

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The chateau moat.
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Entrance to the moat.

On Thursday we took two guests to the railway station in Tours and stopped off in Langeais on the way back which is a very pretty small town with a chateau.

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Pretty street in Langeais with Chateau in the background.

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We saw a couple of these music sculptures.

 

We had a mooch around and then decided to have lunch at a little cafe.  We opted for the formule which is a set meal of three courses including coffee.

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Entree.

Entree was self service and I had good intentions when I put this snail/winkle type thing on my plate but after Tim suggested it might still be alive I went weak at the knees and had to leave it!

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Non, je n’ai pas manger!!

 

There were two choices for the main meal so we ordered one of each and hoped for the best as we weren’t able to translate the menu!  Mmmm, a giant piece of black pudding for me (yum….not) and a chicken liver/kidney (read Offal) stew for Tim.

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Mmm, black pudding, my favourite……not!

The black pudding was a step too far for me so we swapped and I ate the stew which wasn’t actually too bad but I can’t say I’d be having it again any time soon.

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The coffee was good though.

Thursday evening was the final day of the Chamber Music Festival which was celebrated with guests attending a gala dinner served in the chapel.  Thankfully outside caterers were in for this gig! We snuck up onto the balcony where no-one could see us and supped wine whilst listening to the music (two pianos and two flutes).

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Tim on his way up to the balcony above the chapel.
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View of the gala dinner from the balcony above the chapel.
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Selfie in the balcony!

Now that the music festival has finished we are taking Friday, Saturday and Sunday off to have a break and a bit of the tour around the area.

Welcome to our home for the next two weeks…… .

After a wander around Chateaudun on Monday and the obligatory stop at the boulangerie for bread and pastries we made our way down to the Loire region for our next Helpx assignment.

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Boulongerie at Chateaudun.

We stopped off along the way for some lunch and a 5km walk around the lake at Chateau la Valliere.

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The lake at Chateau la Valliere.

We parked up for the night at another free aire in Giseux.

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Another free Aire at Giseux.

Giseux, even though a tiny village, also sports a chateau which is the largest inhabited chateau in the Anjou-Tourraine region.  There are more chateaus in this region than you can shake a stick at!

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Chateau Giseux

We arrived at our next Helpx at Chateau de Jalesnes in Vernantes on Wednesday morning and began to settle in.  Later in the afternoon we met three of the owners Jonathan, Michael and Jenny who warmly welcomed us to their chateau.  This will be our home for the next two weeks or so!

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Chateau de Jalesnes, our ‘home’ for the next two weeks.

Well, around the back in the Helpx accomodation will be our home!  Information about the chateau can be found here..  The chateau isn’t open to the public as such but does host public events and we have arrived just in time for their first Chamber Music Festival.  One of our first tasks on the evening that we arrived was to help unload a lorry load of new furniture which Jonathan had driven back from the UK.  There were many helpers roped in and we were so busy I didn’t think to take any photos.  Everyone pitched in to get the job done followed by a barbeque out in the garden.

 Jenny, who’s Australian, showed us how to cook beer chickens on the barbecue.

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Beer can BBQ chicken.

For anyone that’s interested you just put a half full beer can into the cavity of the chicken and stand it upright on the barbeque, put the lid down, and let it do it’s stuff.  Simples!  The idea is that the meat keeps moist and falls off the bone when cooked.  

All the helpers enjoyed the BBQ and it was a chance to get to know everyone and try out our near non existent french!  We are trying to do some french learning everyday when we can so hopefully we’ll get better.

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All the helpers – little ones too!
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View of the chateau from the garden.

On Thursday our task was to take the packaging off all the furniture for one of the apartments and assemble what needed to be assembled.

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Unwrapping and assembling the furniture for one of the apartments.

I offered to prepare ‘le diner’ for the evening using up the leftovers of the chicken from the BBQ.  I played it safe with a chicken pie made with white wine from a handy box on the table.

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I didn’t use all that wine in the food!

Jonathan, meanwhile, knocked up something for the musicians that were here!

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Tim doing his usual ‘stand around and look pretty’ routine!

The chateau is magnifique.  We haven’t seen all of it yet but we will as the days go on.  We were able to go out on to the roof terrace off one of the apartments on the second floor yesterday to have a look see.

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Roof terrace.

The space is fantastic with the views over the garden and surrounding countryside.

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View from the terrace on the second floor of the chateau.

With the music festival going on and apartments to furnish we have been really busy helping out with whatever needs doing including catering for guests arriving for the first concert last night which was a bit stressful but all came good in the end.  

Are we back on the road yet……..?

So…………………did we manage to get fuel in Dieppe???  We decided the best bet was to visit l’office de tourisme’ to ask them if they had any inside info on whether there was any fuel to be had anywhere in Dieppe.  We’d travelled 19 miles visiting all the fuel stations on Sunday so didn’t want to waste any more diesel doing the same on Monday.  We were reliably informed by the lovely lady at the tourist office that a L’eclerc 4km away had been restocked with fuel that morning.  In trepidation, we headed to it with the aid of satty nav.  For once she didn’t let us down and to our surprise there wasn’t too much of a queue.  We were in and out in 20 minutes but with only 30 litres of fuel as it was being rationed!  Still, it was enough to get us back on the road and out of Dieppe.  Onwards South!  We stopped in a suburb outside Rouen to try to get some more diesel.  After a refusal of three cards (computer says no) at one fuel station we found another one and successfully topped up the tank.

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A full tank and two happy bunnies!

Phew, Cinderella will still go to the ball and we have more than enough fuel to get to our next Helpx gig. Sighs of relief all round!  We were heading South towards Chateaudun where we were going to stop for the night at an Aire.  We (read me) decided to trust satty nav with getting us there so I thought I’d take my turn at driving.

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My first ‘go’ at driving on this trip.

Tim isn’t keen on navigating so does tend to do most of the driving.  I’m too much of a control freak to leave it all to the sat nav as she and I disagree on nearly every route she plans for us and I end up taking over using the map.  Tim is frequently heard saying ‘but the sat nav says third exit at the roundabout’ with me saying ‘Tim, just ignore her’!  I do need to learn to be a bit less controlling! We arrived at Chateaudun without incident although satty nav took us on a windy narrow road for the last 20km which, of course, I wouldn’t have done.  I would have stuck to the N10 which was arrow straight, a major road and only about 1km further.  See, she’s got a lot to learn.  Tim was meanwhile mute in the passenger seat!  The approach to Chateaudun was pretty impressive with the Chateau rising out of the hillside in the distance.

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Approach to Chateaudun.

The aire we are staying on is free, yep, FREE! for up to 48 hours with just a 2€ charge if you need to top up with water.  It is situated at the foot of the chateau adjacent to the river.

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Yep, free to stay here overnight – Magnifique!

We had a wander around the town which sports some very historic buildings.

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You can see where Ollie is parked (finger pointing on the right!) in relation to the chateau on this handy drawing!

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Ollie parked here!

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View of the chateau from the other side.

 

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You can just see Ollie in the gap in the trees!

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View of the river the other side of the road.

So today we’re going to have a good look round Chateaudun and then move on down to somewhere near Saumur in the Loire Region which is close to where our next Helpx starts tomorrow.

 

Onwards to France……. .

Well, it’s been a while since I last updated the blog but there hasn’t been much gripping news to report so I didn’t think I’d bore you all too much.  We completed our house sitting assignment with the four wire fox terriers last Thursday when their owners returned from Jamaica.  Three dogs had been bathed as they were beginning to resemble grubby little street dogs!

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Chester ‘enjoying’ a bath!

They all came up a treat though and a quick 10 minutes each in the tumble dryer fluffed them up nicely;) ( JOKE!)

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Molly, drying off in the sun after her bath.

 

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Daphne playing dead.  She is alive, honest!

We enjoyed our time in Norfolk but the open road beckoned once again and we were ready to move on.  We stopped overnight on Thursday at the Rumburgh Buck in, err, Rumburgh which was listed on the Heritage Pubs website so worth a look see.  We had a warm welcome from the landlord and enjoyed a meal and a couple of well deserved pints.  Our plans then were to swing past Stowmarket in Suffolk to see my brother, Richard and his wife, another Jane, before heading down to Newhaven to board the ferry to France.

We met up with Richard and Jane at their house for a barbeque on Friday night and caught up on all the latest news (there was quite a lot of it as we’ve not seen them for, ahem, a few years).  Note to self, we must try harder to keep in touch with people especially now we won’t be in the UK very much.  We then, on Saturday, had a leisurely stroll along an old railway line to Hadleigh for a mooch and a pub lunch.  Lilly, their dog, had a lovely time and enjoyed the muddy puddles!  So we said farewell to Richard and Jane and decided to make the drive down to Newhaven on Saturday.

We arrived in Newhaven and thought we’d ask at the ferry port if we were able to change our ferry booking to catch the 11pm ferry to Dieppe that night instead of waiting until our confirmed booking on Sunday at 6pm.  10 minutes later we were very happy bunnies heading out of the ferry port towards Lidl after having paid a £10 amendment fee to get us on the late night ferry!  Whoop!!  We then stocked up at Lidl on tea bags, fruit tea and pork pies!

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These should keep me going for a few months!

Tim troughed his last pork pie for a year whilst waiting in the queue for the ferry.

P1050685Ollie in the queue for the ferry at Newhaven.

We.  Were.  Finally.  Off.  To.  France. 

P1050687.JPGTim looking a happy bunny!

So after a few hours sleep on the ferry we disembarked in Dieppe and drove 500 yards to a lay-by around the corner from the port and got our heads down for a few more hours.

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A few hours more sleep after disembarking from the ferry at 5am.

We woke up refreshed at about 8.00am and moved the van to the seafront , had some breakfast and a stroll around Dieppe, before planning our route South.

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Dieppe seafront with FREE parking!

We were heading for Chartres today to have a gander around the cathedral and then onwards to Chateaudun where we were planning to stop for the night.  We just needed to fill up with lovely French diesel which is significantly cheaper than the UK at €1.12 per litre.

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Mmmm, that won’t get us very far.

We had about an eighth of a tank left and deliberately hadn’t filled up in the UK as French diesel would save us approx £15-20 per tank of fuel.  We consulted satty nav to find the nearest fuel station and after the first three seemed to be closed we were beginning to think this was a Sunday closing thing.  However, by the fifth petrol station we were beginning to think there was more to it.  We decamped to a supermarket carpark to consult Google.  Oh poo, the French, it seems, are currently striking over the new labour reforms.  This has lead to a shortage of fuel and panic buying.  We had come in at the tail end of it and soon discovered there was not a drop of diesel to be had in Dieppe.  Nope. Not a drop. Non.  Rien!!  You’ve gotta love the French.  So……………………..queue operation Plan B.  We can’t risk driving further afield to go in search of fuel so we have decided to stick it out in Dieppe and see what happens hoping that filling stations will start to be refuelled tomorrow…….fingers crossed.  We are currently decamped to a McDonalds using their Wi-fi (wee-fee), supping coffee, contemplating our next move.  All is not lost as there are two Aires in Dieppe to stay at and an outdoor swimming pool I may brave if it warms up a bit!  We don’t need to be at our next Helpx assignment until Wednesday so we have a bit of time to play with and it won’t be the end of the world if we don’t get there.  Best laid plans and all that………………………. .