We had a communication from regular contributor Nigel Hutson who had been putting his enforced free time during lockdown to good use by sorting through some of the thousands of photographs that he has on his computer. Nigel was lamenting the fact that he and his wife Kay couldn’t even sit in their caravan and pretend to be away. He had put it in for a service in the second week of March and asked them to hang on to it because he was due to join the Bailey team in Marrakesh. Of course, his caravan is still in the service shop, and Nigel, rather than being part of the Bailey caravan travelling through Morocco, is sorting through his photographs somewhere in middle England.

Nigel had got in touch because he had come across some photos taken when he had joined photographer Phil Russell and me on a trip to Compiègne in France in 2018. It was in woodland near Compiègne that the Armistice with Germany was signed on 11 November to end World War I, and the Armistice with France was signed marking France’s defeat by Germany on 22 June 1940. Five centuries earlier Joan of Arc had been captured in the city by the Burgundians and sold to the English. The town has a rather grand palace, which was built for Louis XV – it was one of three palaces from which Louis XV governed – and restored by Napoleon. Its medieval streets are packed with cafés. We found a very nice teahouse – Fleur de Thé – during our visit serving delicious desserts.

Near to Compiègne is the pretty town of Pierrefonds and its stunning fairytale castle. If you are thinking of visiting when the world returns to some semblance of ‘normal’ do look out for the château’s storm drains, which resemble dragons or alligators, its gargoyles and its porcupine wallpaper.

The caravan was pitched at Camping Les Araucarias in Carlepont, a shady, wooded site just 20 minutes’ drive from the Glade of the Armistice and 30 minutes from the centre of Compiègne. 

We went on to visit Amiens  – of stunning cathedral fame and which was once home to the French novelist Victor Hugo – and Albert, which was virtually destroyed during World War I. 

Thank you Nigel for reminding me of a very enjoyable trip where I learned so much, but then I always do on a caravan tour.

Photos courtesy of Nigel Hutson