Champagne!

The French Ardennes are in fact endless agricultural fields! But with beautiful spots of nature here and there, and lovely little villages. It is the time of the harvest, so we cross many tractors, and hughe farming machines, on roads that aren’t particularly large enough… We also found quite a number of wind mills here…

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The villages all seem to have “fortified churches”. Not sure what that means, and why this was done, but they’re sign posted everywhere.

eglises_fortifiesToday we’ve planned another visit of a French Electric Car forum member. “moulino”, and as his name suggests, he lives in a water-mill in which he’s restoring the generator. After another very good meal (we’re in France again ;-), he gives us a tour of the building, and all the work he’s done so far.

moulino_generatorWe even get to enter into the turbine chamber, which is currently empty (fortunately). An impressive mechanism dating back to the 1920s.

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With a little delay (there was a lot to see, …and to hear 😉 ), we continue our way to the next Bed & Breakfast, which is situated in a national park called “The mountain of Reims”. (note: we’ve never actually found the mountain there… ). Unfortunately, the charge at “moulino” hadn’t actually worked (we tripped the breaker), so we stop at an IKEA along the way. Charging is free once again, but don’t let you’re wife loose in an IKEA….. 🙁

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The Champagne region is actually very quiet at this time of year, and there’s far less tourists than we were expecting. We have dinner in Epernay before going to the B&B, which is actually a champagne domain 🙂

champagne_gilmaire_etienne…and we were NOT the first ones to ask if we can charge the car here! Previously an Ampera from Belgium had also charged. So the owner was not surprised, and we charged on an outside socket not far from the parking.

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The return journey…

295 km to drive today, to go and visit a member of the French electric car forum. Luckily there are 2 rapid chargers ideally placed at 100km intervals, so we can take the motorway without any worries!.

The first charge point is at Nissan Benelux, in Aartselaar, Belgium. On sunday everything is shut unfortunately, except the shoe-shop right next door. Charging is free, but the shoes aren’t… 😉

aartselaar_nissan_beneluxThe second charge point is another “New Motion” point at the “van der Valk” hotel/restaurant in Nivelles-sud. An excellent buffet lunch is served here as well. Not cheap, but since the charge is free… 🙂

nivelles_love_to_loadAfter this, we enter France via small roads. This makes a change from crossing the border on the motorway, and we can stop for a picture to prove we’re back 🙂france_retour

The person we’re visiting is Gabriel, where we also stopped during last year’s journey. A nice welcome with freshly baked cake, and a display of the latest miniature car models that Gabriel creates – impressive detail! Unfortunately I did not take any pictures, so here’s last year’s photo. Nothing much changed 😉

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And the final destination for the day is a Bed & Breakfast at a farm in a tiny village in the French Ardennes. Another warm welcome, a very good meal, and the car charging, all for a very reasonable price. Definately a place to recommend! Chambre d’hote “l’Hirondelle” in Girondelle.

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Rotterdam

Before returning to France, we have a dinner with the family in Rotterdam. We don’t need to charge, but we find quite a few chargepoints indicated in the car. They are on-street charge points with free charging, however, you need a special card to pay for the parking. Not very practical for tourists like us. Fortunately, we also find a nicely decorated chargepoint inside a multi-story car park where we can pay by credit card.

rotterdam_elektrischOnce again in the company of an Ampera. We see lots of them here! (but also a lot more LEAFs than we’ve seen elsewhere).

 

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The Netherlands, the country of the bicycle!

Today, we leave the car behind, and take the bicycles to go and visit friends about 10km away. A revelation for the children; it is really easy when the country is so flat 🙂

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It does get a little more difficult when there’s some wind on the way back though… Good excersize!

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The Netherlands, lots of rapid chargers…

…but also lots of electric cars! This is what we found at the first charge stop in the Netherlands (at Schiphol airport).

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First time that we actually have to wait at a charge point! A good chance to talk with a fellow LEAF owner, and to have a good moan about the price of the charge at this Total station! 4 euros per 10 minutes, and that at reduced power, since the 10 minutes only gave us 3 extra bars (25%). Normally the charge goes fastest when the battery is empty, but not here… We’re not convinced about the “good intentions” of Total!

We decide to charge for only 10 minutes, and do another charge 30km further on, at a rapid charger from the “New Motion” network, conveniently sited at a motorway hotel/restaurant. There, a full charge would only have cost us about 5 euros with the New Motion tarif…

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That was the last stop before arriving at the grand parent’s house, where the charging is free ;-). We do need all of our 30m cable to reach an outside socket in the rear garden!

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Northumberland National Park

Waking up to a nice sunny day (by complete surprise, as rain was forecast), we enjoy the freshly cooked breakfast at the hotel, and pose quickly for a photo. We’d gladly stop here again for a charge! (and a bit of a longer stay…)

kielder_pheasant_innBefore heading to Newcastle for the ferry, we explore the area. There’s a 27 mile cycle track around “Kielder Water”, which is apparently the largest man made lake in Northern Europe. Unfortunately there’s no cycle hire at the south side of the lake, and we don’t want to waste charge to go to the northern side. So the kids cycle, and we walk.

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The electricity for last night’s charge came from the hydro-electric station at the dam. 6 MegaWatt of clean power generated here!

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Unfortunately we have to make our way to the ferry, but we definately want to come back here! We stop for lunch in Hexham, where we park the car at the local Nissan dealer for a quick “top-up” charge and walk into town (there’s also a rapid charger in Hexham, but we don’t actually need the charge as we still have 80%).

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The local Nissan dealer is very enthusiastic about the LEAF, which is clearly shown on his display model 🙂

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After lunch we board the ferry, and this time it’s my turn for the window seat!

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On our way back…

Leaving gran, and heading back down south. First stop Peebles (again), where the rapid charger is located at the local Police station & Council offices.peebles_return_charge_police_station

 

The children still argue over who gets to plug in. However, this rapid charger is not quite as easy; Alex needs full force to plug in!

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Next stop Newtown St Boswells. We know where the charger is hidden now (we also charged here on the way up), so no problem finding it! Louise’s turn…

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Then on to the final destination. A small hotel called “The Pheasant Inn” in the middle of Northumberland National Park (aka the middle of nowhere, it’s desolate here 😉 ), which has a Charge Your Car point on-site. Possibly one of the most scenic charging points around. However, it turns out that there are actually many many charging points in the beautiful part of the country, with most villages having one or more charging locations!

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EVA Scotland

By chance the Electric Vehicle Association in Scotland had a meeting at Edinburgh College in Dalkeith (Edinburgh). An interesting talk by Charge Your Car who provided us with the RFID card required for the UK part of the journey. Below some of the LEAFs “bleu-blanc-rouge” !

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Holiday…

While some have to work, others enjoy a holiday at gran’s…

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Working…

Currently commuting to Livingston, with a 71 mile (114 km) return journey every day. Last year I was able to charge during the day in Livingston at the West Lothian Council offices, however, this year I decided to “chance it” and do the journey on a single chance. Mainly because a new rapid charger is available in Bellshill in case I run out. In reality, I return home with 2 bars of charge remaining (roughly 20 km). So the journey is no problem at all.

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Charging provided by mother-in-law 🙂

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