Sunday, 20 December 2009

If this were easy, everyone would do it...

written 15th december

we have spent the last 24h, for much of which we have been cold and cross and going backwards, following a succession of maps hastily scribbled on scraps of paper by men who tried, but ultimately failed, to be helpful, in our search for LPG and we are back in France...

We set off from St Sebastian with a possible suggestion from the girl in the tourist office (whose scribbled tunnels were the same as her scribbled roundabouts) at a commercial centre and an address of a petrol station in a town several km further on, found from the interweb.

No joy at the commercial centre so we set off again in the sleet and found the town but not the petrol station until we stopped in a different petrol station and got our second scribbled map from a guy who really tried to make us understand him by just keeping talking - we are very grateful he tried so hard! - by which point it was actually snowing.

we found the petrol station and the GPL pump and a jolly santa-like man bustled out to help us - they had about 5 men out and about in padded red and yellow jumpsuits filling the few cars and sweeping the snow off the forecourt - I did expect them to break out into a Dick Van Dyke style sweeping routine but it wasn't to be :)  - he had a whole box of adaptors but they were all threaded and didn't fit.  He and his friend scratched their heads for a while but their best suggestion was France!  We filled up with normal petrol - which is much cheaper here! - whilst watching a man at another pump fitting his snow chains and bought hot baguette, fresh from the oven, and salami to keep out the cold.  I have never seen Jules look so sad and forlorn as at the pump, bathed in sodium light and swirling orange-tinged snow.

And so we cut our losses and slunk off back to france - where it wasn't snowing - in search of a petrol station Will thought he remembered seeing on the day we first crossed over.  There are still no France signs at the boarder, even on the bigger road, although on the spanish side, there are several signs warning you that France is a reducing number of km away! We couldn't find the petrol station though and ended up all the way back at St Jean de Luz before turning round and trying again to no avail.  We eventually gave up and stopped in Hendaye on the border - you can tell we are back in France, the tourist office and camping car parking were clearly signed throughout the town! - and settled in for the night.  it was so cold, we even tried opening the engine bay to get some heat in but it didn't really work :(

Next morning we headed to the tourist office who told us to either try the VW garage in town for an adaptor or the service station on the toll road for gas - scribbled map 3.  The VW garage couldn't help - and said that no one in france used GPL [implication, who would do something so silly??] and said try the camping car shop in Bayonne - scribbled map 4.

The toll road services had the gas but not the right adaptor - we realise that we were very lucky on our first day in France when we found a garage with both gas and a suitable adaptor, if we hadn't had it so easy we would have tried harder before now - going through Bayonne in search of the caamping car shop, our hopes were raised by the sight of a sheddy place on an industrial estate with a big sig saying Espace GPL, only to be dashed again by being told the guy had retired.  We stopped in a nearby McD's for hot chocolate and internet (you're right Bill, the chocolate is surprisingly very nice!) and a look up of GPL adaptors to find there are many - not sure why as it is still relatively new so you would think some standards might have been set! - and various internet forums smugly saying how well equipped french garages were with the right adaptors grrr.  the camping car shop was shut for lunch and the nextdoor leclerc had gas but not the right adaptor although we bought new gloves - having unnacountably lost one of each of the three pairs we bought between us - and cakeybuns to make ourselves feel better.  The camping car shop didn't have adaptors and suggested the place in Bayonne which was shut and another camping car shop.  en route to that one, we tried another garage - gpl but no no no to adaptors - and a car shop with GPL on the sign which didn't have anything (at all for GPL) and who suggested someone in Orthez 60kms away who did gas now that the Bayonne guy was shut - scribbled map 5.  The other camping car shop had gas tanks like ours in a catalogue, with the connector we have, but no adaptors - although we bought a guide to camping-car stopping places in France and Europe so we now are a bit better prepared for strange places - and so we set off east. 

misery misery misery

We were just working out our contingency options - i)buy a calor gas bottle and required adaptors and regulators (expensive and space consuming),  ii) finding a camping stove just for cooking, iii) ordering the adaptors for my parents to bring at New Year and being cold and tea-less until then, iv) driving back to Quimper where we knew somwhere with gas and adaptors.... - when on eventually getting to Orthez, we tried a leclerc, more out of a fatalist desire to torture ourselves than with any hope of success, only to find both gas and the right adaptor which fitted like the proverbial glass slipper on to our poor downtrodden, yet beautiful under the ragged exterior, little van.  Hurrah!!  Our miserable pumpkin is a a sparkly coach once more and we now know we have a 9l tank on the button!

We decided to try and find the garage anyway in search of adaptors, and in missing the turning, actually found a campsite, which was open and had hot showers, a lenient attitude to bbqs and free electricity.  Hurrah++  They also knew where the mythical gpl garage was - scribbled map 6 - but unfortunately he only had conversions from french to belgian which is what french people want so we will go back to plan c and get adaptors personally courriered to us :)

We also went back to leclerc for bbq food and bought celebratory christmas decorations for Jules and a cheap hairdryer so whenever we have electicity we also have heating of sorts - hurrah! - and very effective it is too.  I have had a lovely hot shower - although the light timer ran out before the water timer so some of it was in the dark! - so i smell of coconut, there is wine, wireless internet to steal in this unlikely forest home and things are looking up!

Unfortunately, the electricity connection was by means of normal french plug rather than caravan plug and the hairdryer blew the fuse in our "anything to anything adaptor" - who makes a travel plug which can't power a hairdryer???  surely that is why they were invented! - and in the fashioning of an alternative by cutting the plug off our french bought battery charger - Will was always going to hardwire it anyway - and a kettle plug and socket (IEC) he bought for some other purpose in La Rochelle and not yet used, we forgot dinner - the first time we have ever rendered anything completely inedible through fire.  but luckily buying cheap means buying in bulk so we can start again, although at this point, it really is too cold to sit out by the fire :) but the adaptor is ordered, pictures are being uploaded and there is gas in the tank for tea in the morning and the prospect of unexpected mountains so its all not so bad

In the immortal word of chumbawumba "i get knocked down, but I get back up again, ain't never going to keep me down"  then something about drinking - now where's that wine gone....  ;)


  1. LoL, Never mind it's cold and snowy in the UK

    keep the updates coming

  2. -9 and a foot of snow in burgos as you will read in a minute! but we did have gas by then :)