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The time zone change meant that we were able to disembark from the ferry in Dunkerque at approximately 09.00hrs on Wednesday 23 July and set off on our journey southwards. We took the A16/E402 autoroute which becomes a toll autoroute south of Boulogne. We stopped for a rest break at Aire de Bay de Somme which, with its dedicated caravan park makes an idea stop. Near Abbeville we joined the A28/E402 towards Rouen. We had intended to bypass Rouen on the N28 which runs alongside the river and signposted to the Zone Industriel but we missed the turn and ended up in near the centre of the city. After a few failed attempts we managed to reach the south side of the city and onto the A13/E05 and then turned south onto the A28 toll in the direction of Le Mans.
At Junction 13 we left the A28 to join the D438 south and then turning west towards Malleville-Sur-Le Bec and the turning onto the minor road to Camping St-Nicolas near Le Bec-Hellouin. We arrived late in the afternoon of Wednesday 23 July. We had travelled 183 miles
Camping Saint-Nicolas is situated in the French countryside about 20 miles southwest of Rouen. Its closeness to the A28 autoroute makes it a popular and ideal night halt for those travelling north or south by that route. The final approach is, however, by narrow country roads and care is necessary.
Camping Saint-Nicolas is a quite a small site set in a woodland setting. The 90 pitches are marked on flat open grass with some trees for shade. The pitches are large and a number are large enough to permit night-halters to remain hitched up. There are numerous water points and 10 amp electricity points.
The lady warden and showed us to our pitch and advised us on locating the ‘van for sunshine, etc. She and her husband are friendly and helpful although neither speaks any English. There is a large toilet block with a washing up area with a feature bay window which overlooks the children’s playground. A motor home waste point is located near the toilets. In addition there is, also, a sports field and tennis courts. Near to the to the warden’s house there is laundry and a small reading room/library in a garden shed! There is, also, a selection of tourist information leaflets at reception. Bread can be pre-ordered from reception and local tradesman calls most evenings selling a variety of take-away food.
On the following day we walked to the village of Le Bec-Hellouin by the steep pathway down through the woods opposite the campsite entrance. It should be noted that this path is VERY stony in places and is not really suitable for baby buggies, etc. Neither is the path lit and would not be suitable for walking in the dark. The village is apparently 2-3 miles by road
Le Bec-Hellouin is a small village set in the valley below the campsite. It is very picturesque with a lot of half-timbered houses set around a shady green. The village had recently been voted one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France ("The most beautiful villages France) and it is easy to see why. The interesting village Church made a pleasantly cool "retreat" on a hot and sunny day. There is a small general store with a limited range of foodstuffs and a café area. There are, also, 2 restaurants and a pub in the village. We enjoyed pleasant drinks sitting in front of the pub in the shade of the mature trees. There is, also, an art gallery. The large Abbey is home to a community of Benedictine monks and is open to the public. Admission to the grounds is free but there is a charge for the guided tour. We did not visit the Abbey as the day was, by then, drawing on.
Camping St-Nicolas makes an excellent night halt when travelling on the A28, it is featured in the "Alan Rogers France" guide. We spent 2 nights there and were charged a very reasonable £9.57 per night for a pitch with EHU.
We left Camping-St Nicolas early on the morning of Friday 25 July and rejoined the A28 travelling southwards. After bypassing Le Mans we continued southeast on the A28/E502 towards Tours. We bypassed Tours and turned westwards on the A85/E604 towards Vierzon. We used these toll roads as we wanted to reach the south of France as quickly as possible. Unfortunately near Tours I developed a migraine and we decided to stop earlier than we had originally planned. Rather than continue our southward journey and join the A20/E09 at Vierzon we at the junction with the A71 we diverted a few miles northwards to stop at Camping de Sologne, Salbris. We had travelled 262 miles.
We arrived at Camping de Sologne in the mid-afternoon of Friday 25 July.
Camping de Sologne, Salbris was recommended to us as a pleasant night halt near to the A71 autoroute north east of Vierzon. It is, also, close to the A71’s junctions with the A85 and A20. We spent 2 pleasant nights at the site as we decided my migraine was probably related to driving fatigue. We were charged a very reasonable £13.60 per night. (2 adults, car, caravan and EHU). The lady warden spoke excellent English and was extremely friendly and helpful.
The site is a long and narrow, fenced-off section of a public park in this small town with the entrance controlled by a barrier. The pitches are arranged along or near the shore of a small lake. As we had arrived early we were able to pitch our ‘van almost at the water’s edge. There is some shade. The lakeside pitches are quite narrow. We had the added pleasure of being visited by a pair of coypu who lived on the banks of the lake. “Janet and John” were obviously well-used to being fed by campers and were happy to come close to us and take food titbits from our fingers.
The site has a couple of toilet blocks which we didn’t really use but they seemed clean and adequate. Near reception there is a bar and restaurant serving a range of meals. A bonus of the site was free wi-fi access near the bar. Once our laptop was logged on to the internet I managed to return to our nearby caravan pitch without losing the signal.
There was a pleasant walk from the site through the park, around the lake and along the riverbank, into the town centre. There was a range of small shops and 2 supermarkets in the town centre which was just a few minutes' drive by car. We took the opportunity to stock up fresh food and cheaper diesel fuel.
The site should be accessed from the autoroute by circling the town on the bypass. When arriving we made the mistake of driving through the Centre Ville – narrow but we survived. The site is a VERY popular night halt and filled up quickly every evening and emptied again the next morning. So for the best pitches it’s important to book or arrive early. We had booked by phone enroute on the day of our arrival.
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