87. Another ride on the Big Yellow Taxi

In the campsite the day before the Avignon market, Joy said that she could smell petrol around the van. I couldn’t smell anything and told her it was probably just that the engine was very hot after travelling over a thousand kilometres down from Groningen –

Map from Groningen, Netherlands to Avignon, France

She seemed reassured, if not totally convinced, but later that day we noticed a damp patch in the sand under the Sick Bay. Rubbing it between my fingers I confirmed that it was petrol and I tried to suggest that maybe the previous vehicle on the pitch had had a petrol leak. Joy wasn’t having that and suggested that I crawl underneath to take a closer look.  As I inched towards the damp patch I looked up and shone my torch on the fuel filter. A couple of fat drops of petrol spattered onto my face.

In blissful ignorance just before discovering the patch of petrol under the Sick Bay

I had a choice – get my tools out, find the source of the leak and fix it myself –  or call out my trusty European breakdown team and let them sort it out. Fixing it would be fairly straight forward but the thought of lying on my back with petrol dripping down my nose did not appeal so I called the guys at Carole Nash. They responded quickly and professionally, just as they had done a few years ago when my windscreen had shattered, and arranged to send assistance. I was hoping that the mechanic would be able to assess the situation and maybe fix the leak on the spot. If he took the Sick Bay away it would raise two potential problems. Firstly we would lose our accommodation. We were on a campsite that was only a short walk from our ‘target’ which was the Avignon flea market, the best in France apparently, and we didn’t want to have to move too far away. Secondly, Joy wanted to visit the market in Lyon, (the biggest one in France), the day afterwards and if the van was not fixed in time we would have to miss it.

When the guy came he said he was just a driver, not a mechanic, and he had to take the van to the garage. Luckily the campsite manager was very sympathetic and she had one chalet available that night. The price of the chalet was 80€ but she knocked off what we had paid for our pitch – and then a further 10% because of our ‘disappointment’. Can’t argue with that.

Our discount price chalet complete with a very friendly black cat who would not budge from this chair despite Leo’s best efforts

So we knew that we would be going to the Avignon market on the Saturday but getting to Lyon on the following day would be in the lap of the gods. So I was hoping that Avignon would be fantastic just in case we didn’t make Lyon.

To be honest it was a little bit disappointing, mainly because the most interesting items on display were all quite expensive and the sellers seemed reluctant to haggle. Friendly and boisterous but not in the business of giving things away. Joy is one of life’s natural negotiators and if she can’t grab a bargain then nobody can. In the end all she bought was a little ornamental knife for three euros. That said, it was an amazing market to look round and to cap it off at lunch time they put out tables and chairs and sold oysters, crevettes and wine for 10€ a head and that massively eased any sense of anti-climax. I just hoped that we would manage to get to Lyon.

Out come the tables and chairs for a superb lunch of oysters and wine
A busker adds to the festive atmosphere in Avignon. I waited for the ‘Sur le pont’ song but it didn’t come








To my great relief my phone rang and I was told the Sick Bay was ready to be picked up. I dashed round to the garage and was given  a bill for 66€. I was very keen to understand exactly what they had done but stumbled over the word ‘resserrage’ on the work note. Eventually I twigged that it means to tighten and realised that all they did was tighten the nut holding the fuel line to the filter. I could have done it myself in minutes and felt a bit of a dick. Still, we were going to Lyon after all and that was the main thing.

That afternoon we left the campsite, one of the friendliest we have ever stayed in, with its spectacular view of the old fort and set off for Lyon.

Across the road from the campsite I used to walk Leo every morning under the medieval fort and abbey on the hill

Trundling off to Lyon we remarked that one of the joys of setting the sat nav to ‘toll-free’ in France is that it takes you down some of the tiniest little back roads, as well as the faster but less interesting major roads. Many’s the time I thank god I’m driving a little VW rather than a big motor home.

The sat nav takes you down tiny roads like this . . .
. . . where you’d really struggle in a motor home








Getting the Sick Bay carted away was a great ice-breaker on our campsite and we got friendly with a lot of fellow campers as a result

I should point out that Avignon market is actually in Villeneuve which is just across the river from Avignon. The town is equally as old and equally as interesting and the fort was built to defend the ancient border between the Holy Roman Empire and France. The campsite manager was amazed how many people visited Avignon but ignored Villeneuve and I can see her point. We will definitely go there again. Nonetheless we left hoping that the market at Lyon would have the wow factor that was not quite there at Avignon. We’ll see . . .



About Basil John Mandy

A sixty odd year old born in Ladysmith, South Africa. Manchester United supporter and a great fan of the city in general. I worked for Kelloggs since 1982, apart from a year's sabbatical that I took to ride a bicycle to South Africa. I retired at the end of 2015 and have 2 grandsons, Lenny and Ellis. And now I've got a granddaughter as well - Dottie Joy!!


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