Day 13 – Thursday, July 13

EVERY day something breaks in our luxury Granduca 67 camper van. Every single day. The television didn’t work to start with so we’re not taking the blame for that. The electricity doesn’t work unless we’re plugged into the mains at a campsite and that’s not our fault either. Now the water pump has packed up so water leaks through at a tiny dribble whenever the tap is turned on. The fridge is temperamental too. And it smells – more of which later.

Earlier this week, in an unfortunate accident, I broke one of the seats by putting my foot through the balsa wood base. One of the overhead lockers now doesn’t lock and things keep falling out of it. And all but one of the windows falls clean out of the frame as soon as any attempt to open it is made.

Having read this you no doubt think half a dozen clumsy elephants have been living in the camper van for a fortnight but honestly, we’ve been careful. These things are designed for tiny ballerinas to live in, not normal people. Bearing in mind we have a number of flyweight cyclists among our number it shows how flimsy the interior is.

The exterior, however, is a graveyard for flies and at least one bird. I dread to think how many things we’ve killed on our near 4,000-kilometre journey so far. The other day a hefty thud woke me from a delightful eight-minute sleep and I was informed that a bird had hit the top of the cab. Unfortunately, our resident ornithologist, Andy Ibis Jones was not with us to identify the make of bird.

Anyway, the smell from the fridge. Last week Ed insisted we buy some proper milk because the rice milk bought by lactose-intolerant Simon tastes like excrement. Unfortunately Ed went home, leaving the milk bottle on its side at the back of the fridge. It leaked. It congealed. It turned a strange grey-green colour. And it flamin’ stank.

The smell has eased now the fridge has been cleaned properly but it’ll be days before it has gone completely.

Following the Tour de France in a camper van is a great idea as long as you don’t have to go anywhere near the Tour de France.

With the race heading deep into the Pyrenees we went the other way and headed towards Revel in order to get ahead of the race and get some work done. Deadlines were looming and we felt the Alps would be a better bet for the whole ‘camping on a mountain-side’ experience.

We stopped at a Comfort Inn near Toulouse for lunch and turned on the TV. Then we had lunch and returned to the bar to watch the ‘best’ stage of the race. Someone had been messing with the TV because the picture was grey and fuzzy. Either that or our presence had caused the set to break.

It was a great stage eh? All those attacks. As one wag said: “If this is a clean Tour de France, they can have it. It’s boring.”

In the evening we headed to a campsite near a delightful lake close to Revel. A short stroll brought us to the best restaurant of our trip so far where they served a fantastic casoulet, followed by a coffee and Cognac ice cream.

Lesson for the day: Cassoulet, camper van and 25-degree temperatures are not conducive to a comfortable night’s sleep.