La cinq-cent dix: Part 3


Time for the next installment of my continental adventure. In part 2 I made it all the way to Polisot and bought a 510 SSS. Now, at 3am in the morning, I had recovered from a day and a half without sleep and hit the Autoroute again. This time headed west towards the Vendée, more specifically an area right on the edge of the Vendée and Deux-Sèvres, a bit south of Pouzauges where an old friend of mine lives. Only about about a 440km drive…


I arrived at about 9.30am, just in time for a reviving breakfast of boiled eggs, toast and coffee. My freind James lives in a fairly decrepit old farmhouse he rents for about tuppence a month. He’s been away from the UK for the last 4 years after ditching everything and disappearing off to the south of Spain on a pushbike. He returned to this area as he liked it and has since decided to never return to the UK. Can’t blame him really. It’s a lovely place. He even managed to get a full time job until recently when the company went under. No big deal as the cost of living here is pitifully small compared with the UK.


Chilling out time. Here, this consists of eating lots of wonderful food, admiring his rusty old Renaults and later talking endless crap whilst consuming copious amounts of bière et vin rouge until falling over (and some minor first aid due to said falling over).


Morning requires a hearty breakfast and a good long walk in the countryside to clear our heads. It’s unbelievably quiet around these parts. We only saw a couple of cars pass in several miles. Lovely. The day was getting pretty warm, so we headed back for some lunch and then it was them time for some tinkering. I’d already established that the 510’s engine wasn’t seized…. time to see if it would run.

It looked complete enough, so we checked the oil, plugged the coil lead back in and chucked a battery on it. There was no point in trying to get fuel from the tank as it’s certainly be full of shite if not blocked completely, so we just fed the engine direct. The pistons in the Hitachi carbs were not stuck, but the fuel pump wouldn’t play ball. After pulling the top off and cleaning the crud out, along with a bit of emery to the clean up points there were signs of life…

On Tuesday morning it was time to say ‘à bientôt’ to the Vendée and head back to Angleterre. I hate leaving this place as it’s just so damned nice. It’s one of the most chilled out places I’ve ever been… it’s like travelling into the past.


I had planned to head straight for Calais and jump on whatever boat was going as I had nothing booked, but in the event, after some thought, I figured it would make a lot more sense to take one of the other options. The Brittany Ferries Economié service from Le Havre would cost me about £40 more but would save me quite a lot of time and fuel, plus as it was nearer, I could try to steer clear of péage, saving a little more there. So, it meant a lot more of this…


…which unfortunately became more like this…


The 510 looked a bit angry about the rain…


Yet again, the old Prairie never missed a beat and it was plain sailing all the way to the Aire dee la Vallée de la Vire where I stopped for lunch.


Even in services in France the food is top notch. Freshly made baguette avec poulet et crudités, et Café au lait. James had given me some extras too, some brie, paté, salami and fresh tomatoes so I had a real feast. So much so, that I had to kick back French style and do nothing for the next hour or so.


For the last leg to Le Havre, I hopped on the péage again as it was less than 10 euros and I wanted to go over the Pont de Normandie which is a pretty cool bridge. It was a third gear haul up it for the Prairie though as it’s quite steep!


I arrived in Le Havre at 7pm, which was a little early as the boat didn’t go until after 10pm, but it just gave me more time to take it easy and have a bit of food, as I wasn’t about to spend out for food on the boat, which can be very pricey. Here’s the journey so far…


I got a bit more French practice chatting to the French cops at the port. No bother, they were just interested in the 510. I wasn’t quite so tired this time so managed the French a little bit better, although still very basic really.

If you’ve been on one of these crossings on a budget, you’ll know all about the reserved ‘lounge seat’ you get if you’re too tight to cough up for a cabin. These things are impossible to sleep in! Utterly uncomfortable and restrictive. Last time I had one was on the crossing from Caen. Back then, I just went an slept on the carpet behind all the seats but this boat has shiny floors without carpet and you can’t even go sleep in the luggage rack (another good choice). Of course all the available seating in the café area were occupied with sleeping bodies, but I had a plan. Wait until after midnight when everyone has bedded down and go sleep in the kiddies play area. Winner! This is all padded and pretty comfy. I’d taken a sleeping bag and pillow just in case and these paid dividends as I got a great night’s sleep!

Breakfast on the boat was 6.60 Euros with a coffee, so I indulged, as it’d save me from stopping until I was about half way home. Yet again, it was a smooth crossing. I’ve been very lucky in this regard so far, but I know one day I’m going to get a rough one. The morning was lovely but it felt a little disappointing leaving France behind. I will be back!


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