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Chapter Twentyseven

Day 75

Reims – Luxembourg

Our first stop today is at Reims in the Champagne region of France. It takes a while to find a parking space but eventually we find one where we can stop for a short time. It is quite near to the Cathedral where we want to head to. As we turn the corner into the Rue Libergier we see the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Reims standing there in front of us in the Place Cardinal Lucon. It is a magnificent Cathedral with a lot of history behind it. 30 kings of France have been crowned here and it has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1991. There were other cathedrals on this site preceeding the present one construction of which began in 1211. A Paleochristian cathedral which was erected was the first building in the western world dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Clovis was baptised in the cathedral by the then Bishop Remi, later St.Remi, at the end of the 5th century. The cathedral Louis the Pious had built in the 9th century burnt down on the 6th May 1210, exactly one year later on the 6th May 1211 building started on the new cathedral. In the first World War the cathedral was a target of the German artillery and was set on fire in 1914. It has since been reinforced and a new lead roof has been added.

The facade of the cathedral is wonderfully ornate and 2,303 statues decorate the building. 211 of them measure between 3 and 4 metres in height and there are also 788 life sized animals. On the left portal is the emblem of Reims, The Smiling Angel. Among the many statues there are ‘the Kings Gallery’ in the middle of which is the baptism of Clovis, the story of David and Goliath, the crowning of the Virgin Mary and the statue of the Queen of Sabah. Entering into the interior of the Cathedral you can take in how large it is as it rises up high above you. There are still many beautiful stained glass windows, some from the 13th century still remain despite the number of destructions it has undergone. Some of the newer stained glass windows are contemporary and also very beautiful with their strong use of colour. During the ‘tourist season’ there is a night time show when the facade of the cathedral is lit up in a myriad of colours is an absolutely wonderful sight to behold. To give you some idea of the size of the building the total exterior length is 149.17m, the nave height is 38m and the height of the facade towers is 81.50m. The Tourist Information Office is situated in a building next to the Cathedral.

The drive to Luxembourg is very pleasant. The day started off warm and sunny and despite a 5min shower in Reims has stayed much the same way. The fields are bright with the yellow flowers of the Rape and the cows seem to be enjoying the warm weather too as they laze about. We even spot a couple of deers grazing in the fields as we pass by. We are spending the night in Luxembourg as there are a few purchases to make and we will fill up with fuel, it is cheaper here.

Day 76

After the heavy rains of last night it seems a little better and brighter this morning. We are making a start on the journey back to the port of Calais. For some reason there are no shops open yet and nothing on the shelves in the Petrol Stations, maybe we will fare better in France. Taking the side roads we drive along very quiet roads, strange for a mid-week day. Nearer to Tournai we hop on the motorway and pass on the outskirts of Lille coming off at junction 8 into Bois-Grenier. There are several War Memorial Cemetries in this area and we think it only fitting to pay our respects as we pass by. Visiting these cemeteries really brings it to reality just how many young lives were lost in the dreadful World Wars.

It is starting to get a little late and so we must head on our way, we drive through two villages and there is nothing open we need some milk. Coming towards La Bassee it looks a little bit more lively but a large shop on the outskirts is also closed then it hits us it is May 1st, Bank Holiday. In the centre of the town there is a fair set up for the May Day celebrations. As we go through a set of traffic lights we spot a small shop open and pull up we get our milk and then there is a bakery, good, fresh bread, a couple of shops further along is a chip shop so we think yes chips will be very nice for tea. The carton displaying large portion of chips does not look too big so we ask for two but when the lady fills them up to overflowing there are tons of them, more than enough for all of us and she gives us a rose for the days feast, we come away from La Bassee very happy.

Stopping at the side of the road for our tea we survey the countryside around us lovely and peaceful. In the distance we can see two pyramid shaped black ‘mountains’ left over from the coal mines. From here, just outside Cambrin, we continue on our way on a road that is absolutely straight that the road stretches out for miles in front of you and with the setting sun making the sky shine with a golden glow it was a very pleasant drive. We were heading for Le-Touquet but as it is getting late and we need to book our tickets we decide best to go to Calais and get that done before going anywhere else.

Day 77

Heavy mists this morning bode ill for what is waiting for us across the chanel. Driving out of Calais on the coast road there is a statue of Hubert Latham the aviator standing proudly looking out over the countryside. We pass by Cap Blanc Nez and drive through the pretty village of Escalles with its narrow winding streets and a large camp site. The bright yellow fields surrounding the village brightening up the grey, misty day. A small deer runs, as though for its life, across a field and disappears into the undergrowth. A field full of grazing sheep have stunning views across the chanel, or at least they would have on a clear day. At the town of Wissant there is a large Aires situated along the road side, perfect for walking into this popular holiday town. A market is in full swing in the main road of the town, which leads down to the beach. Hardy shrubs such as gorse line the side of the coastal road, the D94. Through the tiny village of Tardinghen and we are back out amidst the large farm lands. A steep and winding stretch of road takes us down and then back up again to the town of Audinghen with lovely neat houses and then to Cap Gris Nez which houses the Museum of the Atlantic Wall. We are visiting the museum today but find it closed until 2pm. Taking a walk we come across the huge war time bunker a little further on it is muddy and full of water but looks similar to ‘Batterie Todt’ at the museum. Walking back for 2pm we see that there are quite a few visitors already there. It is a very interesting museum and has been well preserved with plenty of exhibits both inside and out. The main exhibit is the huge missile firing machine which is transported on railway tracks, it is one of only two in the world, the other being in Aberdeen U.S.A.

Carrying on our way and passing through the village of Audresselles where there are several good fish restaurants and even a fish and chip shop. At Ambleteuse is another military museum, 39-45, after having found the last one to be so good we decided to go in here as well. It is excellent, a private museum, and very well laid out. The exhibts are laid out in cabinets with explanaitions of the war along the way. Well worth a visit. At the end of the exhibits is a film which was shown inside a small cinema with old archive film and English sub-titles, again excellent. There is also a small gift shop with memorabillia, good for children.

When passing through Wimereux, which is quite a large seaside resort, everything looks a little gloomy in the mist and drizzle. Coming to the large roundabout above Boulogne there is the signpost for the Military Museum at Terlincthurm, only a couple of minutes away. From the roundabout we can see Boulogne stretched out below us with its stretch of lovely beach and the port behind it. Lights are starting to twinkle from the town and it is time to stop for the night, our last night for a while, in France we are booked on the ferry tomorrow night. There is a good sized Aires at the side of the road overlooking the water and the town and even has a chip van opposite, what more could we want!

Day 78

Another grey and misty morning and from our cliff-top position we could see very little of the chanel or indeed of Boulogne which lay below us. We wait for the man to come and collect his €5 for the overnight parking and then set off for the town of Boulogne. The harbour walls stretch far out into the sea with a lighthouse at the end. Despite the awful weather there are small boats being dragged out to the waters edge on wheels and lined up ready for use. A large statue of General Saint-Martin stands atop his pedistal watching all the proceedings along the promenade. A large blue and white building houses the Nausicaa Restaurant and the tourist office near to the mini-golf. Across the water are fishing boats, tied up now that they have brought in their catch and men are busy sorting out the vast nets ready for the next trip. People hurry along wrapped up against the cold and the rain, it looks more like Autumn than Spring. Opposite the fishing boats and the wholesale fish market are small fish stalls selling to the public and two large statues of a man and a woman stand proudly in national costumes. Following the signs for the Old Fortified town we drive up the steep main road with shops and restaurants on either side, a fish shop displays its wares in a small blue and white boat outside. The street is very busy but gets a lot quieter higher uo where there are few shops and the houses are not so pretty. At the top are the old city walls with a cark park wrapped around the outside of them. The gardens surrounding the walls have been very well tended with flowers, trees and bushes. In the outer gardens is a ‘pyramid’ memorial to …….. an Egyptian explorer and a replica of a solar ship used by the Egyptians, the original was found outside a pyramid in Gaza. There is a Tourist Information Office just outside the city walls but it is closed and there is no information or even a map of the city.

Opposite is the football stadium of Boulogne ‘The Black and Reds’. The gate is open and there is no-one around so in we go and take some photos of the stadium which is a good sized one with an athletic track around it. There are four gates into the city and as you enter you can see that the 13th century walls are in very good condition, all 1500 metres of them. On a good day ther and the Apostlese is a lovey view of the surrounding countryside, the modern town below, the Port and the Chanel. Partly sitting on the walls is the Castle-Museum with its nine towers and small drawbridge over the moat. It has been a museum since 1988. Walking back into the town ther is the Town Hall which was added to the 35 metre high Belfry in 1734. We have been waiting for the Cathedral of Notre Dame to open (closed from 12noon-2pm), and upon entering we are glad that we waited. It is a vast church and was built 1827-1866 on the ruins of a medieval cathedral. The beautiful altar was made in Rome and is made of marble with ue of the Seafaring figures of Christ and the Apostles adorning the sides, it was so heavy it had to be drawn by 30 horses. Behind the altar is another altar with a statue of the Seafaring Virgin which is in keeping with the traditional Our Lady of Boulogne. At the rear of the church is also a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham which was donated to the cathedral in 1949 and brought over by English Pilgrims. A statue of Our Lady of Boulogne which is carried in procession on the last sunday of August each year, was carved out of a single branch of a Cedar tree from Lebanon. There are also many more things of interest to see in the cathedral and also in the crypt (unfortunately the crypt is closed for refurbishment and is unlikely to re-open before the end of at least 2013). Coming back out of the cathedral we walk back towards the motorhome and head off for Calais.

Before going to the port of Calais we go and do a bit of shoppping at the ‘Auchan’ supermarket and have our evening meal at the restaurant in the shopping area. Cann’t dely it any longer have to go to the port, hope it won’t be too much longer before we are back again, especially as we have been told of the awful weather at home, the hose pipe bans (despite none stop rain), rising prices, depression and recession!!!!!

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