Day 1 -The Journey Begins

Gauchy Travel Blog

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With the Campervan out of action, we set off in the VW Golf, complete with hired roof box (it was supposed be only a large roofbox but we were upgraded to extra large for free as the had no large left... and boy did we need it) bound for Dover, to catch our ferry across La Manche. Setting off around 11am and arriving by 4pm with only 1 stop isn't bad for 350 miles. Shame our ferry wasn't until 8.30pm. However we still went straight to check in and they allowed us onto the 4.30pm ferry for the small fee of £7.50. The fact that we checked in at 4.20pm didn't phase them and will pulled straight onto the Sea France ferry and we were away.

The crossing itself wasn't too bad but the sea was still a bit choppy. It gave you the feeling of being a bit tipsy without the hangover. However I did nearly injure myself a few times in the Duty-Free shop as I was unsteady on my feet.

Each room contains a wardrobe
After the short journey across the Channel, it was down the car hold to make our vehicle legal for the impending journey through the Europe by attaching my GB sticker and headlight reflectors.

Setting of from Calais port on the french side of the road was a bit daunting as the first thing you hit is a roundabout. I'm sure they just put it there to be awkward. Straight to fill up with the lovely cheap petrol on the continent.... except it isn't cheap (well in France anyway). It's about the same price as England.

Anyway, its still early so we set off to try and cover as much ground as possible. After going the wrong way for 15 mins, we turn around and head towards Paris on the A26.
Our "en-suite bathroom"
The Autoroute's are great apart from the tolls. 130km/h in the dry. It's like speeding but legally (drops to 110km/h in the wet though). Not that the French adhere to the speed limits. They easily were doing 90mph+. Not that we could catch them in a car with 4 people, full boot and roofbox.

After about 90mins on the road we stop at a service station only to bump into a convoy of 3 english cars going to Benicassim. They didn't seem to be taking my as their cars did not have full boots. They told us that their plan was to take turns driving and reach the north coast of Spain without stopping. They claim that there was a campsite with a large pool and waterslide that they were going to stay at until the Benicassim camping opened. Fools.... This was around 1000 miles they were going to do non-stop. After doing around 400 miles already that day I knew they were going to regret it.
En-suite bathroom
Plus, there was no need to rush. They could have taken their time and enjoyed a bit of France.

So we left the services and powered along the Autoroute while Anna and Kerry search through some camping books for somewhere to stay. (These books were a godsend. We where going to travel without any sort of guide but were given these at the last minute, and boy did they come in handy. There's no way we would have found any campsites without them). The only one we could see was at least 100km away so we stopped at the next services, grabbed a sandwich (cheese & ham - the only food in existance in mainland Europe), and asked the madamoiselle in the petrol station if there was anywhere to camp nearby. After receiving a "je ne sais pas", we ate our sandwiches quick and headed towards the nearest campsite in our book - a place near Saint-Quentin.
Behind curtain number 1


Stick my foot down, as it was getting late, we soon reach our exit junction. We pull off the Autoroute, pay our toll at the booth, and head towards the campsite. After a few wrong turns we head along a windy road into the contryside, through some small villages and past some huge wind turbines. We finally arrive at Camping Caravaning Vivier aux Carpes in Seraucourt-le-Grand, only to find it is shut. I look does look okay from the outside, with the river Somme running beside it. We try to call the number in the camping guide but the number diverts to an answerphone. How dare it be shut at 10.30pm?

It was looking likely that we would be sleeping in the car tonight as we were in the middle of nowhere with no clue where to go to stay for the night.
On only hope was a travelodge style hotel we had passed 20mins ago. Balladins Express St-Quentin - Gauchy. (Warning: The official website makes the place look good. Read on for the truth)

With Anna and myself the only ones able to speak any french at all, we go to investigate. Since its nearly 11pm, the reception is shut, and bookings are made through a ATM style machine in the foyer. As we are muddling our was through, the non-english speaking receptionist comes to view what we are doing and stands over us while we book 2 rooms with en-suite showers. As we receive our receipt, he informs us, in french, that the hotel does not operate with key's, instead with codes that are input on a small console by the bedroom door (I know you're think this is a classy place).

We get our bags from the car and head to our rooms looking forward to a relaxing night before we hit the roads again. We type in the code for our first room, open the door, and find that there are someone's bags left on the bed. We go to the second room and more luggage. What would have happened if someone was in these rooms? Somehow, I am voted to go and try to resolve this. I head downstairs to the reception area and try to explain to the recption guy that the rooms are occupied. After a few minutes of failure with my rubbish french, he recognises that there is "bagages dans les chambres". He open's his office and starts to sort out new rooms for us. At this point 2 frenchmen, wearing nothing but tight skimpy underpants, come bounding into reception from outside. They head straight to the dining are shouting that they want champagne. The (also creepy) reception guy tells them to wait their turn while he sorts out my problem. So its 11.30pm and I'm standing in a queue in a remote french hotel with 2 men in just tight pants. Slightly surreal. I finally get sorted and head up to see the other 3 and tell them that we are sorted for new rooms. As I am explaining what had happened, the nearly naked men appear along the corridor , clutching a bottle of Champagne, and knock on a bedroom door. They are joined, from the room, by another tight panted man. At this point we make a beeline for our first room. We are relieved to find it does not contain any luggage or naked french men.

As you can see from the picture above, the room contains many amenities, including a state-of-the-art clothes hanging facility. Me and Nick decide to leave the girls to settle in while we check out our room on the ground floor (le rez-de-chaussée ... my french is getting better). We open our room to find it consists of a double bed, a TV and a toilet. However the toilet is separated from the room by a shower curtain (see picture below)

The girls soon join us and we decide to pool all of our change to get as much beer out of the vending machine as possible to numb the thought of the gay brothel we appeared to be staying in. We all sat down with our cold beers, turned on the TV only to find that was on was either french chatshows or badly dubbed (from english to french) hardcore porn. So the TV was turned off, we quickly finished our beers and attempted to get some sleep.

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Each room contains a wardrobe
Each room contains a wardrobe
Our en-suite bathroom
Our "en-suite bathroom"
En-suite bathroom
En-suite bathroom
Behind curtain number 1
Behind curtain number 1
Gauchy
photo by: MrSprout