We said our goodbyes to Stenay and headed out in a different direction from usual and through some pretty villages and lovely autumnal countryside.
We were heading for an Aire at Rozoy sur Serre, a suitable half way stop enroute to St Quentin. Rumbling along through one village we saw a couple of policemen stopping traffic. As we slowed to a stop I unwound the window to be told we had to divert from the main road as there had been an accident. We followed the car in front of us as there were no diversion signs. Homer the satnav did his best to persuade us to ‘turn around when possible’. I was locating other possible routes on the map as the road we were travelling got narrower. I found the road we were on and it did rejoin the main road in another mile, we just prayed that we wouldn’t meet anything coming in the opposite direction. Prayers answered, we rejoined the main route and all was harmony again and we could breathe as sat nav agreed with our route. However, satnav’s revenge was to direct us on to an even narrower road as we approached the Aire in Rozoy! A narrow, parallel road to the one we should have been on. Cars were parked on the single road verge alongside allotments and the road came to an end as it turned into a grass lane. Driver John fairly worked Buddie’s steering wheel as he did a 5 point turn at a gateway and we headed carefully back past the parked cars. We saw the Aire over the hedge, this must be the first Aire we have encountered this trip that wasn’t signposted from the road end. It was immaculate and nicely landscaped and although only 4 spaces, two of them were empty so we drove straight in between two small hedges and had the chairs out in no time and kettle on for a late lunch. The Aire had a walking/cycle track either side on what was once a railway line. Signposting was not this village’s forte as we discovered when we headed out for a walk and after a mile or so met a main road and debated if ‘our’ walking route headed straight on, or turned right, or left, given we had followed what should have been a circular route of 7km. We headed right and into the next hamlet but the only sign we found was for a different place altogether and we turned around and headed back the way we came, to be on the safe side and as it was a bit too late in the day to risk an extra long hike.
Back at the van the chairs were moved into the late afternoon sun and the remainder of the champagne from our wedding anniversary yesterday was polished off.
If it hadn’t been for French midgies starting to bite we would have stayed out ‘till the sun went further down, happy bunnies we were. A chilly night was forecast so the screens went on the windscreen and the water heater went on so we could shower before bed; the van is cosy and warm in the evening but decidedly chilly in the morning.
We didn’t rush the next morning and when we did open the front blinds it was to see a donkey munching the grass in front of us. The donkey’s tether had broken and obviously the grass on our side was greener! John was about to take it back when the owner arrived having been alerted by our French neighbours.
The sun was shining and satnav was soon under instruction to direct us to St Quentin. The landscape was changing and this was obviously an area good for wind as windfarms could be seen as far as the eye could see and long, long stretches of straight roads.
Satnav got us safely to the Aire at St Quentin first time. Signs outside the entrance seemed to indicate something happening as there was no entry between 10 and 11 that night. We parked up and headed along the river path to ‘centre ville’, shopping could still be done and if needs be we could move on. There was also a huge fairground set up across the water. We arrived, unsurprisingly at lunchtime as shops were closing, but we had a wander around the main square and saw the Ibis hotel where we had overnighted with our 3 girls almost 30 years ago. We didn’t want a sit down meal so we headed for the French equivalent of Costa and had toasted paninis and coffee.
At 2pm we were in Tourist info asking about the road signs at the Aire. We were told that tomorrow (Sunday 7th October) was Liberation day and there would be parades in the area so coming and going would be restricted.
We completed our shopping for our two grandsons in Sergent Major and chatted to a very helpful assistant who really tested my French by asking lots of questions about our travels.
We strolled back to the van along the river path and the fairground was in full swing with a very scary looking but popular ride that involved height, spinning, turning, slowing down, speeding up!
Swans on the river were much more appealing to watch and several canoes and kayaks were enjoying the water too.
We decided that this might not be the best time to overnight in St Quentin and so move one we did.