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2019 - France - September
Early September and we set off for Europe. The purpose of the journey was to join up with the Carthago Owners UK meeting at Le Coin Tranquille campsite in Les Abrets, near Chambery in France. However, en route we decided to visit Dusseldorf and to go to the Motorhome and Caravan Salon at the Dusseldorf Messe (the exhibition centre). To reach Dusseldorf we needed to cross Belgium. Belgium is never a pleasant driving experience and one should avoid the Brussels ring road if you can. It was a long driving day. We arrived at the stellplatz at the Dusseldorf Messe to discover that there was no space available and were directed to another temporary overnight parking site just a few kilometres away. It was just an area of wasteland but there were the best part of 100 motorhomes already there. We booked in for two nights. We were given directions as to how to reach the Dusseldorf Messe by public transport. It was all very well organised - the usual German efficiency! The next morning we took a bus and then a tram to the exhibition hall.
Visiting Dusseldorf was a last minute change of plan as we were intending to drive down through France. However, we were interested in looking at the Malibu panel vans as a possible option for downsizing our motorhome, at some point in the future. When we realised that the Dusseldorf show was being held on the same week, as we were passing by, then it seemed foolish to miss the opportunity to pop in! The Dusseldorf Caravan Salon is a huge exhibition - probably the largest in Europe and it is at this exhibition that the European camping related manufacturers show their new models for the following year. The stands are also large enough for each manufacturer to show all of their models.
We had a good look around and were impressed with some of the 2020 motorhome models on display. Our main interest was to look at the various models of Malibu Van. This is manufactured by Carthago and has the same quality as the Carthago motorhomes. The attraction for us was that it is under 3.5t and also Desnée could drive it as well as George.
All the various Malibu models were on display and we were able to decide which model we would go for if we were to downsize. We also decided that we preferred the metallic black paintwork. We met a Carthago salesman, Christian, who we knew from visiting the factory in Aulendorf in previous years and he offered to give us a quote on our specification choices. He also offered to part exchange our Carthago but the offer on ours was not very good. We left with an outline quotation and a pretty good idea of the options we would choose and the models we did not wish to opt for. We were due to visit the Carthago/Malibu factory in October and we had already booked a rental Malibu to try out to see if we liked it. So, no decisions until after the test drive.
Time for us to head south into France and towards the Alps. A long days drive took us well down the eastern side of France. We planned to stop just off the A31 at Pont-a-Mousson ,at an aire de camping car which is right alongside the Moselle river. When we arrived the aire was full up. It was the start of a warm, sunny weekend and places were busy. We decided to try a nearby campsite that we found in the ACSI guide and which was just 21km further on towards Nancy. They had plenty of space and it was a delightful campsite nestled in a bend of the Moselle.
Les Boucles de la Moselle, Liverdun was charming and had its own on site restaurant. We booked a table and enjoyed a really tasty meal. There was a very pleasant outdoor swimming pool which looked tempting but not quite warm enough for us to try! Recommended if you are in the area. Next day we left fairly early. We were on our way to Baumes-les-Dames to stay on an aire beside the Le Doubs river. We had stopped here before an knew that the aire started to fill up rapidly in the afternoon.
Baume-les-Dames is very close to the Swiss frontier and the river Doubs wanders along the border. The attraction here is the beautiful river scenery and cycle tracks alongside the river. We arrived by lunch time and were pleased to find that several spaces were available. The aire is clearly marked out with spaces and each one has a 10amp electricity supply. The baker visits in the morning so that you can have fresh bread and croissants!! It did not take long for the spaces to fill and by mid afternoon the aire was full.
George set off for a cycle ride along the river; down one bank and back up the other. Lovely sunny day and very picturesque.
Our journey, next day, took us south west around the Swiss frontier and down to Les Abrets (40km west of Chambery) in the foothills of the French Alps. Le Coin Tranquille is a delightful campsite and Carthago Owners UK were holding their September Gathering here for the next 6 days. Martine, who owns and manages the campsite was a simply, amazing host. She had arranged a coach trip day out, a cycle ride and a walking tour plus laid on wonderful evening meals and entertainment. All excellent. Le Coin Tranquille is certainly a campsite that we would happily recommend.
(left) on our pitch at Le Coin Tranquille campsite. (below left) three snaps from our guided walk. The group playing Pooh sticks. Our host, Martine, checking her photo collection. Little did we know that she was planning to present us all with commemorative mugs with our ‘mug shots’ on them ! (below right) our day trip out and our journey on the Furnicular railway.
It was lovely to meet up with all our friends, old and new, who are fellow Carthago Owners. Plenty of time to enjoy the sunshine, a few beers and catch up on their news since we last met. After six days it was time to start our journey back to the UK. First homeward stop over was at an aire-de-camping- cars in Seurre (almost due east of Beaune on the Saone river).
The aire (right) (photo Google Maps) had been adopted by Camping Car Park organisation. (see card right hand corner). This organisation have taken over many of the older, free, French aires and provided better facilities for visitors. You purchase a membership card for €4,00 and this gives you a favourable, member rate for overnight parking. Certainly, this park was a big improvement over the original municipal owned aire.
Desnée had problems with a broken tooth on her dental bridge and so we decided to travel home a little quicker than we had planned. Consequently, the next day was a long drive , 550km, to Arques. This is a regular stop for us, because it places us under an hour away from Calais. Arques has a municipal campsite and an attached aire-de-camping-cars so you can choose whether you want to have toilets, showers, water and hook up facilities on the campsite or just a parking space on the aire. There used to be a boulangerie within a short walk of the site, to obtain bread in the morning. Sadly, this has now closed down - so no bread for breakfast! Next day a short hop to the ferry at Calais and back home by early afternoon.