Saturday, 16 April 2016

Back in the UK - traffic jams and April showers

Gee, but it's great to be back home!
Donkeys at Lost Pines CS 

We had a beautifully calm Channel crossing which I particularly appreciated - not being a natural sailor! Six hours from Caen to Portsmouth were made even easier by my sleeping for four of them and we had our own cabin which I firmly believe is worth the extra cost. Ouistreham's Les Pommiers campsite was again perfect for the ferry terminal. €18.10 per night with our ACSI card to include electric hookup and good facilities and then only about a ten minute drive along easy, well-signposted roads so not overly taxing for a sleepy person at stupid o'clock in the morning. I am much more confident at driving onto the boat towing the caravan now too. This crossing was aboard the Brittany Ferries' Mont St Michel which seemed to have a far more spacious car deck than we experienced previously on the Cap Finisterre. If you're a bit nervous about towing your caravan on and off a ferry, maybe try and book yourself onto the Mont St Michel. I don't know much about the rest of the boat's facilities. Our cabin was adequate and the sheets weren't as threadbare as I remembered from the other boat. The coffee from the bar was also adequate, but don't be misled by the huge white sofas by the windows - they are surprisingly hard!

Sanitary block at Lost Pines 
After the mostly quieter continental traffic of the past six months, driving the M27 out of Portsmouth felt like being in a video game again, but at least I knew to expect it this year. We headed straight for Bournemouth and are now on a wonderfully ramshackle Camping And Caravanning Club CS in St Leonards. The site is called Lost Pines and costs £12 a night including electric hookup. It is down a very bumpy little rural road and consists of five concrete hardstanding pitches with grass inbetween them. There is a brick-built sanitary block with two toilets and a shower each for men and women. The owners keep four little donkeys in a paddock just behind the CS and this reminded me of Camping Casteillets in southern France. Fellow caravanners who have used Lost Pines over several years told me that the owners used to have a successful market garden, but illness has curtailed this. Greenhouses still line the site entrance, but are overgrown with brambles and falling down - a melancholy sight. It's very quiet here too.

Our pitch at Lost Pines 
Unfortunately for our purposes, Lost Pines is almost a complete EE network blind spot. We zoomed to the nearby EE store at Castlepoint Shopping Centre on Thursday afternoon and were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get a new SIM card for our Osprey. There wasn't even much of a queue. Their current good deal is 32GB of data for £28 per month on a rolling 30-day contract which should suit us. Back at Bailey though, even with the Osprey wedged in the skylight, most of the time we just get two bars of 2G which is scarcely enough to download emails. We are meant to be starting our househunting efforts here. We can't get Rightmove! The signal does improve after about half-past nine of an evening, but in the daytime we are better off driving half a mile away and parking up in a layby.

We drove into Bournemouth yesterday for a stroll around Christchurch Road and then through the Gardens by the seafront. Roadworks on the A338 made it quite a journey just to get that far and I really didn't like the sheer volume of traffic everywhere. I had previously thought of Bournemouth as a town, but it is really more of a busy city - and presumably gets even more manic during the summer season. The Victorian architecture is frequently beautiful however, especially looking up above rows of shops to see interesting window and roof details. Christchurch Road was fascinating for its variety of cultures and range of little independent shops. We saw a dozen different cuisines offered in less than five minutes walking. I don't think I could cope long-term with the noise and bustle though. Plus our Ford Mondeo Estate isn't going to be a convenient car for ad-hoc roadside parking! A shame as there are a few potential in-budget flats that caught our interest online. I think we're going to be moving on soon though.

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