A small concern formed as we awoke to our first morning in France. Our plan, usually made only once we actually arrived in La Belle France, was to tear ourselves away from our usual start and head for pastures new in the Indre valley. My navigation officer reckoned our journey would be about 220 miles. The issue was the availability of fuel.
This being a Bank Holiday, as on Sundays, the vast majority of the non-motorway service stations are very firmly closed. To be more accurate, they are unmanned. Similarly, most large French supermarkets, like ours, have fuel stations. The supermarket fuel stations naturally save you a packet – €1.15 vs €1.28ish – and traditionally have a cashier, except during the typically French two hour lunch break. For this period, and for Sundays/Bank Holidays when the supermarkets are closed, these, too, tend to have automatic stick-your-bank/credit-card-in fuel pumps. No problem, then?
Wrong! Much as I love France to death, here’s a delightful piece of French nonsense. With a few notable exceptions, normally the fully automated stations such as Esso Express, few of these automatic pumps accept British cards. When the cashier is present, their bank card machines process our cards complete with chip and pin pretty much faultlessly and all is well; we can buy fuel. In the self same fuel station during lunch break or on a logical Sunday, the automatic fuel pump normally blows a resounding raspberry. This makes no sense at all; the cashier’s office is hooked into the system and accepts payment without a glitch but the fuel pump on the same forecourt steadfastly refuses.
For this reason, my usual approach when touring is not to travel on Sunday or, at least, to ensure that I have a full tank to start Sunday. A full tank goes 200 miles comfortably with 240 miles being pretty much the limit on a good day. Here we were with 220 miles in the offing, only half a tank of fuel remaining and two logical Sundays back to back.
I popped out and tried the Leclerc nearby our campsite. Sure enough it was closed but there was an automatic pump. After the previous local successfully purchased fuel and left, I introduced my credit card. Things looked promising as it switched into English and requested my PIN. I entered my PIN and it said “PIN accepted”. Great! After a few moments more it declared “Processing Error” and spat out my card together with a zero receipt. Bollocks! Why go this far and then reject it? I tried a debit card with the same result: switched to English, took the PIN, “Processing Error”, card returned with a zero receipt. Weird!
Beginning our journey on the free autoroute apparoaching Rouen, we managed to fill up with some top-dollar diesel before striking out cross-country towards Le Leroux in the Indre valley. Approaching Tours, we dove back onto an autoroute forking out a spot of toll money to get a little more expensive fuel supplies rather than risk running dry.
Good decision, too. On another blistering day when the temperature around Tours hit 31°C, having found the correct road south out of Tours, we managed to do something of a diversionary loop entirely missing the road to our intended campsite. Maybe we really should have bought a satnav? ‘T was only a minor glitch, however, and we soon found another (and better) approach road to our intended camping à la ferme site without further problem.
In complete contrast to the Neufchatel site last night, this site is essentially empty and what a great welcome we had. Our jovial farmer host shook hands and took us on a short guided tour of his 25-ish pitch site amongst trees opposite fields of crops. Fortunately we’ve got 50 metres of cable and sited Billy at the very edge overlooking a field full of corn. You never know, someone else may turn up. 🙂
We were hoping for some interesting wildlife buzzing about over the corn; maybe a barn owl or a raptor or two. No such luck, unfortunately. It’s probably too high now for owls and raptors to spot scurrying, furry creatures. There were some swallows flying low and scooping up insects, though.
We are being almost constantly serenaded by some blackcaps warbling away in the trees around us, though. The blackcap is rapidly becoming one of my favourite songsters and there do seem to be lots around, this year. It’s all very peaceful and very pleasant, having the place pretty much to ourselves.