When we got back from Switzerland in October I’d decided to look for work. Some of our income is generated through a rental property (our old home) and still has a mortgage that will need renewing in 2024. I can’t see interest rates dropping madly so that will leave us a bit short. Best get back to work and fill up the savings instead.
After getting in touch with some contacts and recruitment agencies I lined up a few interviews and secured a couple of offers. I accepted a six month contract that starts in January and is 4 days a week. An additional bonus is that I can work from home (or maybe the van – although after the trauma of Paul loudly farting while I was on a work call I’m not sure about that).
We agreed that, once the contract was firmed up, we would head off for some early skiing. The offer took longer to finalise than I was expecting but finally on the Wednesday I was confident it was in the bag and we booked up our channel crossing for the following Monday.
We booked in a last minute service for the skis and shopped for the essentials. The things we can’t seem to buy in mainland European countries include squash and traditional cider but we also picked up a few tinned goods, treats and snacks.
Bertie’s got mice
The first challenge was some pesky mice. We popped out to the van to start loading up and, despite having taken precautions, we found mouse droppings scattered through the van and bedding materials in one of the vents and under one of the dashboard speakers. This meant a thorough clean and a check of all the electrics. Bait boxes were put down and we cancelled any plans to load up the van with food, clothes or soft furnishings until the day of departure.
It’s not the first time we’ve had mice and the evidence was a lot sparser than previously (the van didn’t stink of mouse urine) so we hoped that it was just one or two single mice rather than a whole extended family. There was no food in the van and only limited sources of bedding materials, so hopefully nothing (apart from shelter) to attract them. We returned daily to double check and for the couple of days before leaving we couldn’t see any more evidence of mice. Fingers crossed that was the end of it.
On the Monday morning we set off with a car full of our remaining kit and we quickly shoved things into cupboards and on the bed ready for sorting out when we found ourselves with spare time.
Day 1 – from Devon to France
The journey to the channel tunnel was the usual tedious schlep from Devon with the addition of increasing amounts of rain as we got further east. But it was uneventful and we got to the tunnel over two hours before our booking, needing none of the contingency we had built in.
We snapped up the offer of an earlier crossing and that meant we didn’t have a chance to stop and draw breath at the tunnel. The last call for our train was already being displayed so we just had a momentary pause at each passport control and next thing we knew we were on the train.
Some unpacking was managed while we were on the train. Making the bed up was the priority, followed by sorting out the clothes. Our mess of store cupboard food could wait.
The rain was beating down when we arrived in France. The short drive to Bergues, a favourite pre or post channel stop, was unpleasant in the dark with the reflection of headlights obscuring the road markings. We were glad to turn up in Bergues and find the aire almost empty. Easy enough to find a space, close the blinds, and not venture any further that evening.
Day 2 – Continuing to the German/Swiss border
The following morning we had an early start, we wanted to get to the German/Swiss border before dark. The motorways around Lille were snarled up with commuter traffic and we patiently crawled our way past the city feeling lucky that at least the weather had cleared up. The route through Belgium and Luxembourg has become second nature to us, but we did mix it up a bit on this journey by accepting the cost of the tolls between Metz and Strasbourg rather than heading straight on into Germany. With stops it took us about 9.5 hours to get to the border with Switzerland where we stopped at the stellplatz in Lörrach just outside it’s campsite. We arrived in the dark (again) and had a small issue finding the route into the stellplatz (it looks like a footpath or cycle path), but once we’d spotted the signs we were easily sited and just needed to pop into the bar for the next door campsite in order to make change for the parking machine which wasn’t taking cards.
That evening it snowed on us and we had the heating on for the first time on this journey. We didn’t have the energy to do much but popped into the nearby Lidl to stock up on the fresh ingredients we hadn’t been able to import with us (yet again we had slightly broken the rules by bringing the remaining contents of our fridge from home, on the basis that if it was confiscated we wouldn’t be missing out on much and if it wasn’t confiscated we would have a few bits for our first meals).
Day 3 – Arriving in Cervinia
We had a bit of a lie-in the following morning. After our snarl up outside Lille we figured that we were better off waiting until after 9am to get moving. We topped up with fuel before leaving Germany and then made our way across Switzerland to the Grand St Bernard tunnel, stopping at a service station to make ourselves a quick lunch. The sprinkling of snow from the previous day, crisp cold air and bright sunshine gave everything a very festive feeling as we worked our way up the valley towards the border.
The final stretch of the journey after the tunnel seemed to go very quickly. We headed down to Aosta and then along the SS26 to Chatillon where we headed up the Valtournenche to the parking at Cervinia. We had a quick bet on the number of other motorhomes in the parking spot. Paul was convinced there would be eight, I thought we would be on our own. In the end there were two other vans, Czech and Spanish.
It would have been an ideal skiing day, but at 3pm it was a bit late to get on the slopes (I’m sure there will be some die hard snow lovers who would disagree). So we just wandered into the village to see what was open. We were pleasantly surprised that it was quite bustling and busy, we weren’t the only people to be lured by the opportunity for early season snow.