15 September 2022 19:10
16 September 2022 11:38
From pandemic-related restrictions to rejected visas, we have encountered no small number of proverbial obstacles on our tours. And now, before we continue from the Pyrenees nation of Andorra to France, we are slowed down by a yellow sticker, which all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes in France have been required to display by law since 2021. The intention is to draw road users’ attention to the dangers posed by the blind spot, which is definitely a good thing.
The only problem is: we can't find anyone who sells the sticker! Not in Andorra, where we ask at every filling station we can find, or at the border crossing, or in France. But it's no surprise really: it’s Sunday and lots of stores are closed. We ask in every village we pass through – until we finally manage to get our hands on the precious sticker!
Even though France does have so much to offer, we only want to spend a few days in the Grande Nation this time and instead hotfoot it straight up North. We do ambitious full days of driving along minor roads and in the evenings, we always head for an aire de camping car, which are rest stops for motorhomes.
From time to time, we go on a bike ride so as not to miss out on our fix of French village flair. But we also make another stop: in Le Mans. Sadly, we weren't allowed to do a lap on the historic race track with the Axor, but it’s still worth the visit –the grin on Mike’s face says it all.
Around 270 kilometres further north – just four days after sticking on the yellow sticker – we roll onto the ferry in Dieppe. After four hours on the English Channel, we arrive. Welcome to Great Britain! The customs officials take a quick look at our accommodation box and before we know it, we find ourselves at the first crossing in the small town of Newhaven. On the left side of the road, of course!
Now we have to be extra careful when driving, go around roundabouts clockwise and change lanes when turning off. As a passenger, I, Andrea, also have to keep a close eye on the traffic, like at crossings where Mike can't see to the right very clearly or when overtaking. It’s all just a case of getting used to it.
We stay on country roads. Our first stop is Avebury in the south of England. The megalithic stone circle there is not as well-known as Stonehenge, but no less impressive. Originally, there were over 150 stones, with 36 still remaining today. The smallest are a good two metres high, the largest is around 5.5 metres, and the heaviest weighs around 40 tonnes. It's mind-boggling to think how people moved these monster-stones back in the distant past.
Another major attraction at Avebury is a 16th century manor house. In 2011, the BBC used the property as a film site for a television programme and had it reconstructed and decorated in the style of various eras. Walking from room to room takes you on a journey through time from the 16th to the 20th century. As a bonus, you're allowed to touch everything and even try on clothes.
On to Birmingham! This city is a clean air zone. Our Axor complies with the emission standard, but it turns out we still should have notified the authorities of this in advance anyway. So we cycle into the city centre instead and are amazed at how colourful Birmingham is, with its wildly mixed architecture, kaleidoscope of cultures, and lots and lots of youngsters! With almost 40% of the population under 25, Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe. The 160-kilometre-long canal system is similarly amazing, almost four times the size of Venice.
It’s not far from here to Wales – where the roads don't get wider. The gap between the wing mirror on Mike’s side and the hedges which line many of these narrow country roads is often just centimetres wide, and oncoming traffic passes us very closely. In Welshpool, we have a look around the medieval Powis Castle with its baroque gardens. There's no shortage of hedges here either! But these hedges are hundreds of years old and some of them are several metres wide and the height of houses.
In Fairbourne on the Irish Sea, we admire a steam-powered railway.
We hitch a ride and visit a whole host of other coastal villages. As
we're walking along the beach with a windbreaker and headband, we have
to laugh as we come across people in swimming trunks braving the sea.
It would appear that high summer here starts at much lower
temperatures than in Central Europe!
And then the mood changes very suddenly: our dog Aimée is very happy on the cool coastline and in the green meadows behind it, and wants to go for walks several times a day. However, a few days later, everything changes, and we have to say goodbye. She was by our side for more than 14 years, and we got to enjoy countless adventures together. She will always be in our hearts on all our future adventures. Feeling very sad and overwhelmed, we make our way to our next campsite, where we'll take some time out for a few days to come to terms with it all.
An unparalleled journey.
Andrea and Mike Kammermann have been on tour in their Axor for three years. "4-Xtremes – The World Tour" is the motto of the journey that the two Swiss nationals embarked on in mid-2020 and which they share with the RoadStars community. Keep up to date and don't miss out on any of the stunning destinations visited by the adventurous pair.
You can find the current parts from the “4-Xtremes – The World Tour” series here.
You can find the route of the trip before the crossing to South America here.