Monday morning and lots of vans left Neufchatel first thing. We were in no rush, so by the time we had enjoyed a relaxed breakfast and were ready to leave, we had the service area all to ourselves, no queueing needed. While John was replenishing our fresh water, I paid our 36 euros for 3 nights and even managed to explain to a Frenchman about to drive in, but unsure where to get his ticket, how the Aire worked.
A quick stop at Leclerc for a few provisions and we were on the toll free motorway again heading to Heurteville, less than an hour away except for one small fly in the ointment, and anyone who has ever driven through Rouen will understand! In theory, it should have been straightforward we were heading west and not south so didn’t need to go anywhere near the centre. Rouen managed to hold us in nose to tail traffic taking half an hour to travel 2 kilometres. When we got to the source of the hold up we couldn’t believe it…workmen changing a light bulb on a street lamp necessitating the heavy traffic flow to reduce from 2 lanes to one! John had a few words of advice for them!
20 minutes later and we were driving through the delightful Normandy countryside with the very distinctive timbered houses and pretty thatched cottages. As we drove downhill towards the Seine and into the village of Heurteville, satnav directed us off the main road and to take a sharp left turn. I suddenly was on alert…’don’t do it’ I yelled at John to drown him out.. remember Grenoble! Last year at about this time we had been driving down from Annecy and on the outskirts of Grenoble when satnav directed us to take a left off the main road. I must have been half asleep at the time and didn’t over rule him. Big mistake! We had found ourselves on a narrow single track very steep very bendy lane. A lady driving uphill had sheer panic on her face and froze at the side of the road while John squeezed towards her and directed her to crawl forwards inch by inch until we were passed each other. The steepness of the hill had our brakes overheating and when we reached the bottom safely, we had to pull over and let them cool before continuing our journey, phew! A not to be repeated experience! Back to Heurteville, satnav was playing silly again and this was proved as he didn’t try and get us to ‘turn around when possible’. In fact he acted like he’d said nothing and we continued on the main road, around the bend and into the village. The road ran parallel to the Seine for a couple of hundred yards, on our right, and on our left were some rather lovely, quaint Normandy style houses and cottages with fabulously colourful gardens. The Aire we were heading for was one Emma and Anton had stayed at some years ago. Cherry Tree farm. The aire itself was a little neglected but peaceful and quiet, just one other van there. The German occupant of the other van greeted us when we parked up, a chap probably nearer 80 than 60 and not a word of French or English. I think we chatted about the weather and the length of time we were each on holiday for, I think he and his wife had 2 weeks, but I’m not entirely sure!
We sat under the shade of a tree for our lunch and then ventured out along the quiet road back into the village on our bikes. My steering is still dodgy and when we did encounter traffic I’m pleased they gave me a wide berth! We sat in the sun beside the boules pitch and watched the ferry transport cars and passengers from one side of the Seine to the other. 2 river cruise boats passed by along with a cargo boat. We facetimed with Emma and Harris who was very keen to show us his prowess at Hungry Hippos..he is awesome! Then it was back on the bikes and back to the van where another couple of neighbouring vans had parked up and we had a blether to Bob & Pat from the Ipswich area. John had a cycle the 5km to Mailleraye sur Seine, where we stopped for a lunch break many moons ago. It is a popular aire alongside the Seine. John counted 30 vans there! He was quite pleased to return to the quiet of Les Cerisiers and a lovely sunset.