Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Preparing the motorhome for France

GUEST BLOGGER "MRS SNAIL" CONTINUES HER STORY: With the planning done, we now needed to get the motorhome ready. Through a motorhome magazine we found a local motorhome-friendly garage (quite difficult these days) and although our 'van was not ready for a service either on time or miles, she went in and had one anyway just to be sure. One less thing to worry about.

We purchased 2 reflective jackets, as they are required by law in France to be readily available and worn if you are out of the 'van on the road with a broken down vehicle or at the scene of an accident. We obviously hoped not to need them, but by having them would avoid a fine. We kept them "ready for action" over the back of the driver and passenger seats. Luckily, we never had to use them.

Headlamp deflectors we bought and attached, despite not intending to drive during the hours of darkness. (Once in France, we did not see any other UK vehicles with these attached, but having them is one less thing for any mardy French policeman to have a go at). All the warning triangles we own were stashed in the van, hopefully not to come out again.

On a previous trip out I was once driving alone in the 'van and came to a low bridge. Oops. How high was I? Annoyingly, I had to stop and ring Mr. Snail to be sure, because it would have been slightly careless of me to have proceeded and taken the roof off. This resulted in Mr Snail preparing a card which was placed on the dashboard with the vans "vital statistics" - width, height and length etc. We read somewhere that in France this is a legal requirement so, we were ahead on that one.

We checked our E111 - now called European Health Insurance Cards - they were out of date but easily renewed online. Passport also checked for expiry date - all was fine. All the driving documents were photocopied, and the originals were hidden the van.

The one thing I must ashamedly admit to is not preparing the holiday money properly. I intended to take credit and debit cards but Mr Snail said they would cost too much in fees. I checked www.moneysavingexpert.com. which recommended a card, but I had not allowed enough time to obtain it. So we went for the second best. A Travelex Cash Passport which is basically a Mastercard pre loaded with Euros. This is used without charge as a credit card or to withdraw cash with a 2 Euro fee. It is available from Thomas Cook and Co-Op Bank. MoneySavingExpert.com also recommended a Nationwide account because this does not incur charges within the Euro zone. Again I was too late - the cards arrived but not the PIN. Agghh! We DID purchase some Euros, and I did inform our bank and credit card company that we would be using the cards in France, just in case the unusual useage caused the cards to be stopped. Mobile phones were activated onto roaming. We looked at the internet but decided it was too expensive to use abroad. We'd rely on finding wi-fi hotspots.

We purchased a French map upgrade for our satnav and a 2009 large scale Michelin map of France. We are map lovers and disparaging of satnav’s but we thought the two would compliment each other and help us.- how right we were!

A further worry on my list of hundreds, was about electric hook-up and reverse polarity. Mr Snail already had a device on board to plug into a socket to check if the polarity was reversed once hooked up, so he made us a short hook-up lead which was reversed in polarity and labelled as such. So that was another problem taken care of. The worries were decreasing.

Before we went to France, Mr Snail concentrated on using up our lightest gas bottle, then bought 2 brand new ones, checking the weight, because we'd heard of someone buying a new one that was actually empty. He toyed with the idea of buying a different regulator in case we ran out of gas and had to purchase some other stuff, but he is too tight and didn’t, on the basis that we were not away long enough, and would have sufficient to last. That is of course if it wasn’t cold!

So that was about it. Van was packed and off we went into the unknown, on our Big Adventure…………………………………………………………………………………

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