The Last Supper

We spent our very leisurely last morning at the Amboise camping municipal, including a last wander across the bridge over La Loire to pick up a baguette and some paté for lunch. Some form of historical event was happening in the adjacent field but we didn’t distract ourselves with that.

We hit the road at about midday for an unhurried drive up to Falaise, stopping for our lunch en route, where there is a camper van friendly parking area beneath the walls of William the Conqueror’s castle. From Falaise it would be about 45 minutes to the ferry port at Ouistreham.

Arriving at Falaise we found that the parking area was quite busy and some barriers had been put in place to cordon a small area off. We did find a parking spot, though. The cordoned off area held a small assembly of old tractors.

PXL_20230930_135141024-01The event that was going on was an autumn street fair. We’d been looking forward to a relaxing beer or two at a quiet little local bar in one square but the population of Falaise was milling about the squares and half the population of Falaise seemed to be in our quiet little bar. A band of jolly minstrels entertained them.

We wandered further and passed a couple of other bars – same story, no room at the inn. Curiously, with all this potential custom about, there were a number of would-be suitable establishments closed. Why miss out on this bonanza?

Back at the first square we found a street stall which had some trestle tables and beer. Excellent. We sat down to refresh. Francine had noticed something I’d missed, a sign offering “Andouillete et frites”. I’m a sucker for andouillete. Francine hates it. I resisted for a while but, as time marched on towards leaving for the ferry, I would be faced with a boring menu in the port or eating too late on the ferry. That did it, gimme some.

AndouilleteSo, what is an andouillette? Well, in simple terms it’s a chitterling/chitlin sausage. What this means is that, in essence, you mince up some pig’s guts [small intestines] and stuff it into … some pigs guts [a.k.a. a sausage skin]. So, pigs guts in pigs guts, then? Yes, absolutely, and in my opinion it’s very tasty and something that you simply don’t get in the UK. At a restaurant near the Dordogne, many years ago, I ordered andouillette and the waitress really didn’t want to serve it to me – “ze English do not like andouillette”. “Pas de problem”, I assured her, “je connais l’andouillette”.

So, this was my last supper in France for 2023 before boarding our ferry home and very good it was too. I usually buy an andouillette and cook it myself but, because Francine doesn’t like it, it gets a bit difficult. This was probably the last of my French “must haves” for this year. I really need to make a list for next time and not leave it to the last minute. I have a new item to add to my list: crepinette, a kind of sausage meat wrapped in caul fat. The closest I could get in terms of translation was a faggot but how many Brits eat faggots these days? I did used to buy something in Spain called figatelle (sp?) which seemed faggot-like. “Pass me the snails, would you, please?”

Why are the British such wimps when it comes to food? I am constantly amazed at the stark change in availability of typical food stuffs that is occasioned by a national border. I half get it with a border like the English Channel but not the change over the Spanish-French border. Our typical shopping trolley in Spain contained very different items from that in France. Similarly, ‘t was different in Holland compared to France. Still, that’s the interest of travel, isn’t it?

So, that’s it for another year. Back on your heads.

Posted in 2023-09 France

Back to the Beginning

Devotees of the Scandi-drama, The Bridge, may remember the haunting theme tune, Hollow Talk, which finishes on the line, “goes back to the beginning”. If you aren’t a devotee, then I recommend that you become one and watch it.

Going back to the beginning is what we’re doing. We spent the first night of this trip at Amboise and we have returned to it now for our final two nights. The reasoning is fairly simple: we needed a campsite that is still open at the end of September, within striking distance of the ferry at Ouistreham. Since Friday is one of two market days in Amboise, we could get one last dose of French market fun on Friday before completing our journey home which, courtesy of the idyll of Hérisson, I now don’t want to do. Night #1 at Le-Puy-en-Velay was a blip.

PXL_20230902_130538569-01The site at Amboise is also a camping municipal but it’s a very big one with over 400 pitches. It is perfectly situated to walk into town and to the market. This time we went for an open, sunny pitch instead of a shaded one. We most likely won’t be seeing the sun very much after this.

The evening was exceptionally still with hardly a breath of wind. Whilst sitting and making sure that I could still get my swallowing coordination wrong choking on another can of beer, I heard a mechanical noise. The noise was pretty constant and unmoving. It sounded like a fan. “Ah ah”, I thought, “I think I know what that is.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASure enough, after a few minutes the envelope of a hot air balloon appeared behind the trees to the rear of the campsite. The fan is used to inflate the balloon before the gas burners are ignited to create lift. Soon, the gas burner roared and the balloon lifted off. There were actually three other balloons much higher floating silently above us.

OK, sort of ready for the journey home.

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Posted in 2023-09 France

A Blissful Retreat

Many years ago we stayed at a camping municipal at a village called Hérisson [which translates as hedgehog or sea urchins if you’re Spanish]. I had very vague recollections of liking it, even though the memory has been dulled by too many bottles of wine. It is close to the autoroute that would lead us back in the right direction for our ferry and split the journey at a suitable point, so we decided to give it another visit. The location may be why it’s open through October.

We arrived early afternoon. I remembered nothing of the approach roads and, I must say, that my mind had reorganized the campsite a little. All that mattered not a jot. We arrived in good weather and had many delightful pitches from which to choose. It’s one of those, “pitch up and wait for la guardienne to turn up later”, jobs.

PXL_20230927_121608099-01PXL_20230928_070844401-01Here’s what I mean by delightful. The pitches are neatly hedged, so you have some privacy even if occupancy is high (which it rarely is, apparently). The majority of the pitches are right on the bank of the most idyllic little river Aumance. With 50+ pitches available, there were maybe half a dozen other units occupied (plus a handful of unoccupied seasonals) when we arrived. I was in the middle of rural central France with a peaceful, idyllic outlook – what’s not to like?

All this, for two people with electricity will set you back the princely sum of €12.94 a night, inclusive of taxe de séjour. Why would you park in a car park if something like this is available?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrancine and I wandered into the village and found a characterful bar. The characterful bar became even more appealing when I spotted that it sold Goudale beer, to which I had become very attached on this trip. Francine had a couple of white wines. [I couldn’t avoid of spot of sun flare but what the hell.]

A group of a dozen or so walkers wandered through, some of which sat for 30 seconds, then wandered on without buying a beer. I was bemused. Sanity returned, as did they, half an hour or so later when, this time, they did sit down to order drinks, animated conversation included. All was well.

We returned to Frodo for yet another paella. If you’re feeling good, make a paella. Madame hadn’t turned up but a sign at reception said to just leave the money in the letter box. I love it.

I loved it so much that, after dinner staring at my idyllic outlook, I got all emotional, decided that this was as perfect as it gets and was ready to take the happy pill.

I seem to remember thinking that about Jalón in Spain, too. What I don’t remember thinking it about is England.

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We have visited Le-Puy-en-Velay once before, way back in 2009, so much of this is not new. What is new is the campsite. Try as we might, we cannot remember where we stayed on that first visit but we’re pretty sure this campsite wasn’t it.

When we arrived this time, our initial reaction was, “I wanna be somewhere else; almost anywhere else.” There was an Italian camping van next door that was overflowing our pitch by a foot or two so we felt cramped – cramped onto bare dirt but that’s a feature of being late in the season when pitches frequently get worn out. Some pitches opposite us were miniscule and with us being crammed by an inconsiderate Italian, we decided that this was the worst campsite we’d ever been on in 40 years of camping in France.

The icing on the cake came when, later in the evening, a German opposite us started “playing” a guitar accompanied by his partner’s warbling. What’s German for “shut the fuck up”? [OK, I can do it politely in German but I wasn’t too keen on being polite.] Do it inside, for Chrissakes. This is mobile-friggin’-phone disease – why do people think it’s acceptable to carry on a video phone call outside the caravan/camper instead of keeping private conversations inside their private space? No, they actually come outside to make a call so that everyone can share in it.

Mercifully Herr Guitarist stopped at about 21:15 so sanity could return. The rest of the site was absolutely silent but we’d pretty much decided to leave A.S.A.P. the next morning. I was beginning to look forward to going home, which is very unlike me.

We didn’t leave. We’d come here to see Le-Puy-en-Velay and see Le-Puy-en-Velay we would. Our change of heart was helped by Mussolini next door packing up and leaving. I don’t know the Italian for lebensraum but I think he wanted it. We walked in to Le-Puy-en-Velay to see some sights.

There are three or four main sites. Le-Puy-en-Velay is characterized by monuments atop stark pinnacles of volcanic rock.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPossibly the most stark is a huge statue of La Virge [the Virgin], the Madonna and child. The statue, it says here, was cast from 213 Russian canons captured from Sevastopol. Don’t ask why. I can just see the look on her face:

Holy crap, now I’ve got this bloody baby to look after and I didn’t even get laid.

It’s a shame she didn’t get laid ‘cos having been cast from 213 canons she’d have made a terrific bang. You missed out, Joseph. [Now, where’s that thunderbolt?]

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother main tourist site is the Chapelle Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe atop a seemingly inaccessible pointy rock, except they’ve built steps up so you can get, “nearer my God to thee”. You’d certainly be “nearer my God to thee” if you took a tumble over the edge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen there’s the cathedral. Le-Puy-en-Velay is one of the main points on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela. Several routes seem to converge at Le-Puy-en-Velay and just one seems to leave. A few of the paths here are marked with the Coquille St Jaques motifs that mark the pilgrim route. I have to say that the exterior of the cathedral here is just plain ugly – dark and foreboding. I did find a scene inside that sort of appealed, though, as unreligious as I am.

We found a delightful local bar, complete with animated French conversation going on, for a refreshing beer or two. My only slight disappointment was that the beer seemed to be BrewDog, which is a bit of a travesty in France. Still, I’ll concentrate on the French conversation.

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Posted in 2023-09 France

Sous le Pont

Since about half of France closes on September 15th, or thereabouts, we are now into the part of the trip where you go where there is an open campsite.

PXL_20230922_122655102-01We are up at Avignon. We came here many years ago but I can remember precious little about that trip. It’s a dreadful place to visit because it naturally gives you the most terrible earworm, one of the main tourist attractions being, of course, le pont d’Avignon, which now looks like more of a demi-pont d’Avignon, reaching out into the river Rhône but not across it.

20230924_123030_050543-02Actually it’s more like a fifth of a pont in that what remains is just 4 arches of the original 22. At this point the channel of the Rhône splits into two creating a large island in the middle of the river. Originally the bridge spanned from Avignon, across the island, and onto Villeneuve-les-Avignon on the opposite bank of the river, hence the 22 arches. The large white tower, about halfway up the picture, is where the original complete bridge terminated.

On the island, there used to be areas of entertainment and the revellers used to dance under one of the arches. The original lyrics of the irritating earworm were, “sous le pont d’Avignon…” – under the bridge at Avignon. The bridge apparently collapsed quite regularly when the Rhône flooded and became too expensive to maintain. Eventually, in the 17th century, they stopped trying to repair it and the song lyrics changed to “sur le pont d’Avignon …” – on the bridge at Avignon. The lyrics would have been every bit as irritating either way.

The other attraction in Avignon, being the cité des Papes, is the pope’s palace. What’s with the pope not being in Rome, then? Well, there was apparently a conflict between the papacy and the French crown leading to the pope residing in Avignon between 1309 and 1376. Bloody religion, eh? In the picture above, the ostentatious gold-coloured statue tops the pope’s palace.

20230924_123542_043052-01Looking north from the elevated papal palace, the landscape is dominated by the mighty Mont Ventoux, frequented regularly by the Tour de France and tagged, “the beast of Provence”. It’s a surreal landscape, the summit being bare limestone appearing like snow. The mountain used to be forested but it was systematically felled for shipbuilding from the 12th century onwards. Losing the trees led to wind erosion – the wind here exceeds 90km/h for 240 days a year. Hence the now bare limestone rock. Well done again Homo sapiens.

BBQ largeBBQ modestI’ve been completely out-barbecued, too. In the same way that Mont Ventoux dominates the surrounding landscape, a barbecue has turned up that dominates the surrounding campsite pitches. Two Swiss motor homes in convoy arrived and, from one of the garages, rather like a magician producing a rabbit from a top hat, this gas barbecue complete with wheeled trolley was produced. It wasn’t even broken down, it was complete – ready assembled. Not only that but it came complete with it’s own, dedicated 10kg Gaslight cylinder. Did it connect to the external gas point on the motor home? Oh no, let’s carry an extra 10kg gas cylinder for it. Jeez! Our own little 30cm Cadac (which I would recommend) even has to be broken down to fit into Frodo’s cupboards.

How the other half lives.

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We’ve moved on from Loupin but only a relatively short distance, about 40kms further east along the Mediterranean coast to Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone. [I’m curious about the grave accent here on “les”.] We’re in a couple of days of unsettled weather pattern which we’re trying to ride out as best we can.

PXL_20230921_120243066.MP-01This place is in some salt lagoons that the Canal du Rhône à Sète cuts through. This canal joins the Canal du Midi at the Étang de Thau. A canal cutting through lakes sounds a little odd but I think the reasoning is that the shallow lakes need a deeper navigation channel cutting through them.  A couple of pictures should give the idea. We went out for a windy bike ride to have a gander. On the left of this shot is the canal itself with a lagoon on the right.

PXL_20230921_120258380-01Just behind that picture we found the Passerelle du Pilou which is an opening swing bridge to allow the passage of boats. What I found fascinating about this is that the swinging part of the bridge is driven by two outboard motors, one pushing the bridge open and the other, in the opposite direction, to close it. It looks like an ingeniously cheap solution to a power source for a bridge..

The other “attraction” was that this place runs a commercial aire de camping car which Francine found had good reviews, so we thought we’d adopt the camping car approach and give it a go. It’s another automated system offering credit card entry to a what is a tarmac car park but with water and electricity connections on each space, of which there are 44. Reviews say it is favoured by larger units because of its manoeuvrability. We arrived and the access worked a treat, with instructions in multiple languages. A code is issued to open the gate again pour sortir We parked modestly-sized Frodo, hooked up to the electric borne, which Francine declared to be working, got the chairs out and settled on our rented piece of tarmac for a traditional installation beer.

PXL_20230921_153017406-01Now, on the plus side these places are open all year and your 3.5t camping car ain’t gonna get stuck in mud, which we had witnessed happening remarkably easily last September after rain at Villemarin not so far away.  It’s also close to the autoroute for passing travellers. Sometimes, there may not be a campsite around, either. (Most of those here now seem to be closed.) However, we’d just been paying €17 a night at Loupian on a bona fide campsite with trees and sanitaires, but which will close at the end of the month, and this car park costs €20 a night, which seems pretty steep. Still, it’s popular so they must be doing something right. Ya pays ya money and takes ya choice, I suppose.

A Spanish rental van had turned up close by and, after a little while, seemed to be having trouble with the electric hook-up. There was much Spanish peering at plugs and sockets, accompanied by discussion. Eventually, they seemed to give up – everything got packed away and said Spanish rental van drove off and exited. Meanwhile other vans had been turning up around us.

Shortly after returning from our windy bike ride Francine announced that our electricity had gone off. I looked at the borne. all four previously green lights (there were four connections in each borne) were now extinguished. I wandered to the neighbouring borne; same story. At the opposite end of the car park a group of French campers were in animated conversation. I joined them. The electricity supply for the entire aire had gone phut! It wasn’t an individual circuit breaker problem. The French told me that they had called someone, who was on the way.

A Swedish van now parked where the Spanish van had been. He needed power for some breathing apparatus overnight for his wife. I assured him that the problem was in hand. How’s that for confidence?

Mr Fixit duly appeared and studied the main site circuit breaker box. He spotted the fact that I keep my excess cable coiled on a drum. It’s true that this is said not to be the best idea but that’s ‘cos too much current flowing around a coil can cause overheating. What it doesn’t do is cause you to draw still more current, unless things melt and you short-circuit. Even then, you’d think it would pop your individual circuit breaker. I’ve been doing this for 35+ years and it hasn’t yet caused a problem. Nonetheless, my less-than-helpful French neighbour tried to unravel the drum, the wrong way, and tangled it up  Thanks a bunch!  The problem persisted.

I directed the assembled French multitude to the borne vacated by the now absent Señor Spaniard. Aha! The offending former connection had been found. I’ve no idea what had been done but one socket appeared a bit mangled. If it’s good enough to save Apollo 13 it’s good enough for a French aire de camping car – duct tape was produced and the offending socket taped up to avoid further use. Normal service was resumed. Phew!

Flamingo take off runThere are Flamingos on the nearest lagoon but I had not had my camera on our bike ride. For some light relief after the electrical excitement, Francine and I wandered down on foot, this time with camera, to watch them. They are quite close in to the shore and offered a decent opportunity, once one of their number decided actually to do something instead of just standing there.

Posted in 2023-09 France

The Main Event

If you are a retired wrinkly looking to enjoy France, there are two months that are head and shoulders above all the others if you are to avoid screaming hoards of Satan’s Little Disciples accompanied by “modern” parents who have lost all sense of parenting skills. [Yes, we used to have them.] June is ultimately the best, especially for a nature lover who wants to see late spring in all its potential glory with as much wildlife interest as possible. Next best is September, when most of the rugrats are locked up back in school, buggered concrete an’ all. The trouble is that nature is thinking of shutting down in September so it doesn’t quite match June.

September is also the month of Francine’s birth so, favouring visiting France in September, her birthday is more often than not celebrated in France. This year is particularly special because Francine has a significant birthday, though a gentleman really shouldn’t disclose a number. We are both fond of the French plateau de fruits de mer feasts which, being nigh on impossible to get back at home, seem particularly special. In a nutshell, that’s largely why we are here now.

The Bassin de Thau is oyster country, above all else, but it does do mussels as well. Mèze is a great little place to find a celebratory seafood feast. We’d cycled down the few kilometres from our campsite at Loupian to Mèze to study the menus at the various harbour restaurants and found one in particular offering a selection of plateaux. I booked a table, just to be safe.

20230919_125133_093746-01So here we are. Instead of one of their set selections – Francine isn’t fond of bulots [whelks] and I could care less about raw moules [mussles], though we both love them cooked – we decided to pick a coquillages selection ourselves. We opted for a dozen large oysters, a dozen palourdes [clams], half a dozen crevettes [prawns] and a torteau [crab] as a centre piece. For anyone who likes playing with their food, this has to be the way to go. As a final mark of perfection, the restaurant had a bottle of viognier from the local Beauvignac cave, which has to be our favourite white wine, to wash it down.

20230919_142912_022206-01We munched our way through that whilst looking at this. What could be more idyllic? Why on earth did I not emigrate when I had the chance to do so? That way lies insanity.

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We’re installed at Loupian on its camping municipal. There is also an aire de Camping Car in Loupian, which I believe is one of the Camping Car Park chain. Having tried one out on our way south and found it decent, we had a brief debate with ourselves over where to stay in Loupian but it was only a very brief debate.

20230918_135351_093724-01The aire de Camping Car has some 44 spaces and it was well subscribed. The vans are more or less on top of each other. This would cost you a tad over €13 a night but BBQs are not permitted. There is wi-fi, though.

PXL_20230919_150333339-01The camping municipal, on the other hand has what is, in France, the pretty standard 100m2 pitches, which literally do tend to be a 10m x 10m square with room to BBQ and stick up a washing line. If you are in possession of one of the “Dutch always want a deal” ACSI cards, the municipal costs you €17 a night plus taxe de séjour (60¢ each or so). Personally, I don’t see much debate.

As far as I know, the French for both camper van and motor home, if you draw a distinction, is camping car. I don’t believe the French language does draw a distinction. [One of our friends once described French as “an impoverished language”.] The “car” part has nothing, of course, to do with the English “car; camping car literally means camping bus.

PXL_20230918_074934587-01For some reason, the Loupian campsite has attracted several examples of camping car that take the term literally by being about the size of a single-decker bus. This one is a Dethleffs monstrosity of 8.61m [I looked it up] and was towing a trailer with what appears to be a euro equivalent of a Mini Moke loaded on it. Squeezing that lot onto a 10m x 10m square must’ve been quite a challenge. Just driving a train length of 13.5m or so around the campsite would be challenge enough. Some of the camping car parks don’t permit trailers so sometimes options get limited.

PXL_20230918_074557752-01This leviathan must be 9m if it’s an inch. When we arrived it was in the road outside the campsite with hazard flashers going, we heard because of a flat battery. Campsite Man joked that it might be very expensive [it most certainly would be] but they should’ve forked out extra for a battery. I’m not sure how but it was encouraged back into life and drove into the campsite. Whilst I think its an embarrassing disgrace, I must say I was impressed that the owner managed to get it into this pitch apparently unscathed. There must be about half a metre to spare at either end and you have to make an S-turn past trees and a building to get in. Bravo.

Side thrusters for camping cars? Now there’s an idea.

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Au Revoir à Nos Amis

It would be all too easy to stay at the Fanjeaux campsite; the pitches are huge (200-300m2) with a low occupancy in September, and the others that are here are mostly personal friends. We know, we’ve done it before. We’d already stayed a bit longer than originally intended but the weather forecast in the surrounding areas may have had a say in that. However, we’ve paid up and finally we’re off after six nights.

The morning dawned looking a bit grim with dark grey surrounding us. We needed to head for the Carrefour at Bram on our way out to stock up with food and, being a Sunday, it closes at midday. Nadine wanted us to stay for a coffee on our way out and we were happy to oblige. She said they’d let us stay at their farm, even out of season, perhaps on the way to and/or from Spain in winter. It was a gracious offer but we’ve already booked the ferry to and from Santander. Maybe next year? I have a feeling that driving through France would be more enjoyable than the 36hrs crossing, over two nights, from Portsmouth to Santander. We’d just have to be cautious about the bloody post-Brexshit 90 days in 180 rule. We’ll see.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we were breaking camp, I spotted an interesting little, and I do mean little, new friend on one of our roof vent screens, frantically trying to get out. It looked interesting because I could see, small thought it was, that it had patterned wings. It was very active, scurrying about, so I couldn’t focus stack it. It was holding its wings out to the side but up at about a 30° angle, so depth of field was a bitch with my little macro lens. In our haste to get up to Nadine for coffee, still leaving time for the supermarket, this is about all I could manage. Meet Macrocera phalarata, apparently a “predatory Fungus Gnat”.

OK, I had to look that up ‘cos “predatory” and “fungus” seemed contradictory. It seems that it’s the larvae that are predatory, rather than the adults, which presumably are where the fungus comes in. Live and learn.

We did our shopping and, with a strong wind blowing straight on Frodo’s nose in our planned direction of east, towards Mèze, we chose to avoid the autoroute and take the side roads. It was only about a 2-hour journey even at pedestrian speeds, relatively speaking, and would be more interesting.

We never really left the murk and arrived at Loupian, where there is a camping municipal that we quite like. We found a free parking area that was handy to have lunch and kill time until 14:00 when the accueil [reception] would reopen. We could see the campsite from our parking area and three camper vans were waiting in line to register. It’s very strange that, though the books say “closed between 12:00 and 14:00”, that’s exactly when most people turn up.

We waited for the queue to disperse, then drove down to register ourselves.

Posted in 2023-09 France

Added Blue

My AdBlue investigations continue and, as they say in all the best Spoonerisms, the thot plickens.

After Francine thought she saw AdBlue from a pump in a Leclerc service station at 69¢ per litre, I thought I’d look in the supermarkets’ motoring sections for flagons of AdBlue, thinking I might take some home with me. I found some on the shelves of the Carrefour in Bram, close to Fanjeaux. The trouble was, it was €20 for 10 litres, about the same price as flagons back at home. I began to doubt the price at the Leclerc filling station; maybe a “1.” had dropped of before the “69” or we’d just misread it?

Today we unpitched Frodo and drove down avec les bicyclettes to Mirepoix to investigate a piste cyclables. The piste cyclables was certainly flat but was monotonous – dead straight, gravelly and with not much to look at but the trees beside the track; similar to Bassin d’Arcachon. There was a brisk headwind outbound which made it feel like riding uphill. What wimps!

Back in Mirepoix, Frodo was parked near a Total Energies fuel station and, lo, an AdBlue pump. Well, red rag to a bull, I had to go and investigate. Sure enough, the advertised price was €0.699 per litre. Clearly the Leclerc sign had not been misread, was not an aberration and no “1.” had been dropped.

Having emptied my 10ltr flagon into Frodo’s AdBlue tank (capacity 20ltr) I had no idea how much space remained but I wanted to get some for the education. I’d also still got my 10ltr flagon which I thought I might refill at this irresistible price. We found somewhere to turn around and headed for the station forecourt.

As one might expect, the pump was similar to a regular fuel pump – stick in a credit card, decrochet le nozzle – le nozzle was clearly narrower than a fuel nozzle – and start filling.

Or not. Le nozzle trigger kept cutting off. I knew the tank wasn’t full so that wasn’t the problem. I leant on le nozzle against the tank spout with some force, thinking that there might be some plunger device detecting insertion into the spout. Being a little more judicious with my trigger finger I eventually manged to get something of a flow going. Francine called out delivery progress (my back was to the pump and very preoccupied) as I began developing a blister on my nozzle hand from the pressure. Youch! This ain’t easy. I felt like I must be missing something.

Eventually I’d managed to push a little over 8ltr of AdBlue into Frodo. I moved to the flagon. Nothing, nada, nichts, rien. After a miniscule dribble the AdBlue nozzle steadfastly cut off, no matter what I did. Ya can’t press against a plastic flagon with such force. I surrendered but at least Frodo now had a full AdBlue tank, good for another 5400kms before the bleating started again. I had narrowly avoided a blister.

A little reading suggests that there may be a magnetic device on AdBlue nozzles which needs to marry up with a magnet in the neck of the vehicle’s AdBlue filler tank. Being right beside the diesel tank filler, this is apparently to stop les idiots stuffing AdBlue into their diesel.

It also stops people buying reasonably priced AdBlue from a pump and refilling their expensively priced single-use plastic flagons.

It can’t be that difficult to use. I still feel I’m missing a trick. I’ve got another 5400kms to find out.

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