We are off to France once more … for seven weeks … camping! We never thought we would be able to do it yet again. We have enjoyed extended camping holidays in France every year since 2011. Major heart surgery for me last year prevented us going in 2014, and we thought that it would probably prevent us going camping ever again, even for just a couple of weeks. At the same time, Julia’s ‘conversations’ with a couple of Baptist Churches earlier in the year, concerning the possibility of her returning to the Pastorate looked as though they might prove fruitful. But, I have made an amazing recovery, and both ‘possibilities’ for Julia ultimately came to nothing … and with the diary clear for the foreseeable future … so we thought, ‘Why not fit in another extended camping holiday in France?’ So we sorted out all our camping gear, booked various campsites and our passage through the Tunnel, packed the car to the gills, left Julia’s two sisters to keep an eye on Julia’s mother and Reggie Doggie … and off we go!
We are heading for the Alsace-Lorraine region in the north of France on the German border. We are breaking our own ‘rules’ to do this because we normally always head south of Limoges to be sure of the sun. Alsace-Lorraine is a region of France we have never been to before, however, and we have been told that it is both beautiful and full of history. Our first major campsite will be at Kaysersberg but it is too far to drive in one day so we plan to ‘overnight’ in a campsite in Nancy. We have decided to forsake our usual routine of staying in cheap ‘budget hotels’ en route to our main campsites this year. Budget hotels are not that cheap these days, and by the time we have paid for the hotel and a meal it costs us around 100€ a night. So we have bought ourselves a ‘pop-up tent’ and a small gas cooker so that we can ‘overnight’ in campsites along the way. Julia’s mother keeps referring to these as ‘one night stands’? We have given up trying to explain that this is not quite the ‘correct term’?
Our first ‘one night stand’ is on the edge of the beautiful city of Nancy situated on the Lorraine plateau. The thought of staying in Nancy reminds me of an episode in one of my favourite TV programmes of all time, ’Allo,’Allo. Set in France during WWII, it is an hilarious comedy centring on the activities of the hapless café owner, Rene. For years it was never shown on French TV because of the way in which tends to ‘send up’ the French. In recent years, however, it has been shown … and the French absolutely love it! The scene from one of the episodes … which I can’t seem to get out of my mind … features a conversation between Rene and the effete German officer, Lieutenant Gruber. Rene is pretending be his twin brother, also called Rene (the ‘plot’ is too weird to explain here), and Gruber asks him where he and his brother were born? Rene somewhat hesitantly (and to Gruber’s delight) responds, ‘Well we are just a couple of … Nancy boys … really?’ Those au fait with the use of double entendre in British humour will understand why I can’t get this out of my mind at the prospect of staying in Nancy ourselves?
But before we actually manage to leave the UK for France there are a couple of ‘emergencies’ that have to be dealt with. Right ‘out of the blue’ a church that we had ‘ignored’ when we were sent their profile phones up and wants to meet us. The only date that suits us both is the day before we are due to leave for France. We arrange to meet them in the morning and delay packing our car until the afternoon. We have a good meeting … but they are seeing two other people as well as us … so we anticipate that one of the two ‘other candidates’ will win yet again?! The other (and more frightening ‘happening’) is that we are overnighting at Julia’s elder sister Gina’s in London before driving down to the Tunnel the next day. Julia has made some bedroom curtains for Gina (to match the cushions she has already made) and wants to hang them herself. Blow the possibility of going to a new church … the hanging of the curtains is the real concern. Will they fit? Will Gina like them? These are the important questions? Thankfully all is well. The curtains are great! They fit perfectly! Gina loves them! Crisis averted.
We leave early the next morning and (via stops for a final ‘Full English’ for seven weeks, and coffee) arrive at the Channel Tunnel to catch our train for France. We are early so there is just time for another coffee … which I manage to throw all over myself rather than drink? I need a holiday! We drive on to the train and 35 minutes later we are in France and on our way to Nancy. We stop for a picnic lunch in one of the wonderful French motorway airies … and eventually arrive at our overnight campsite on the outskirts of Nancy. We unpack our new ‘pop up’ overnight tent … our big tent would take too long to erect … and it is so easy. It literally takes 10 minutes at the most. We buy some food from the camp shop and utilise our new ‘easy to use’ gas cooker to cook an evening meal. We are in an area of the camps site where everyone is ‘overnighting’ on the way to somewhere else. I have great fun attempting to work out which nationality is which simply by what they are wearing. The Germans are in vests and shorts, the Dutch have really jazzy shorts, the French have polo shirts, trousers, and sandals with socks? We play the same game at breakfast … but this time with what people eat for breakfast. The Germans have meat, the Dutch have cheese and other weird and wonderful things … all covered in chocolate sprinkles, and the French have small cups of strong black coffee, bread… and a fag!?
After breakfast we pack our car and drive down into the centre of Nancy where we spend a very pleasant hour or two wandering around this beautiful city. Nancy is the former capital of the dukes of Lorraine and offers visitors elegant 18th century town planning, aristocratic architecture and beautiful vistas including the famous Place Stanislas (a World Heritage Site since 1983) with its amazing heavily gilded, wrought iron railings and ornate fountains. It is stunning and well worth a visit. We think we will come back here sometime in the future, maybe for a city break or long weekend. Perhaps being a Nancy boy is not such a bad thing after all!