Sun 21st April.
Etaples to Rue.
After getting to Etaples I celebrated my first minor victory by getting locked into my pedals on the bike and slamming into the road when I stopped, luckily only a white van was around to see, he was patient as I picked myself up and got out the way.
I found a camp site, got in, called a number on the door of the reception, which shut at 6pm. I paid for a pitch and set up the tent. The camp site was full of people and kids playing which was nice and reassuring to see as I was feeling uneasy about being on foreign soil on my first night. There was also a lighthouse in the distance, which I took as a good sign for the early innings of my trip. I realise now, that there’s a small chance it could’ve been the lighthouse from the Diving Bell and the Butterfly, book and film… A small chance, but possible as Etaples is a few km directly north of Berck, where the hospital in the book is located.
I didn’t leave the campsite until 2 o’clock, partly as they had wifi, but mostly as I was immensely slow packing up. I went through Etaples, which was a lovely town and had a nice Sunday market on. I spotted my first of the infamous French velo routes, pictured above, which I now know are all over the country with the same green logo.
For some reason I craved fish and chips. Amazingly I found a Welsh (?!?) fish and chips shop just by chance, which appeared to be open. I went in and ordered and it turns out they had shut for a few hours. I haven’t seen a fish and chip shop since.
Everything else in the seaside town was shut too, at 3 o’clock. How do they get anything done in France? Then I realised it was Sunday. But needless to say, this was the start of my education in French opening times, French lifestyle and their numerous, national days off.
Anyway, I found a patisserie that was open, ordered a coke and a cake and got moving.
The whole days riding amounted to about 25km – 30km, which is probably about one hours riding on a good day.
It got to about 6pm and I realised I should get down. Another campsite near Rue. I charged the GPS, got down, the second night in a row next to a campsite light and not far from a main road. I soon realised I was paying for these luxuries that made it hard for a good nights sleep and that if I wanted to budget like I had planned I should start wild camping sooner, rather then later.
The only benefits I could claim from campsites at this point was safety and the showers (which you have to acquire a token to use). Also the toilets had no seats or loo roll.
Also, I started noticing these crosses between towns. Varying in size, ornateness and quality. It surprised me that France was this strongly religious and Catholic at that. I’ve been photographing most of the crosses I’ve come across since and have probably close to 60 from all over.