25th Nov Newhaven to Dieppe on the 10.30am sailing - Mon 31st December 2012

 A late Sunday departure from Newhaven meant arrival in Dieppe at 3.30pm French time, followed by  fuelling up at the Carrefour Hypermarket's unmanned fuelling station going around Dieppe. Having previously experienced a 24hr fuel station in Drew not accepting any of my credit cards, which was on one desperate Sunday morning a few years ago when I had not bothered to fill up the night before, had forced me to ask a kindly local if I could give them cash in exchange for use of their card, it was a surprise to find that the Carrefour  24 hr pump now accept them up to the value of 140€. At 1.35€ a litre diesel (£1.10 per ltr) it's worth waiting to fill up in France, particularly more so at supermarket stations when you should get about a 15% saving. Ordinarily we would head down and stay on the outskirts of Chateurault, in an Etap (budget hotel) or such like then go for a meal nearby. But this time we went a bit further to Limoges arriving at 9pm (5 hr easy drive) and stayed in the centre at an Etap hotel, though this was a mistake, being a very old pre Ibis hotel with a tired bathroom and non-functioning TV, but then one was too tired to comment and the stay too short for one night to be concerned. Pity there's no explanation as to the hotel chains more modern hotels verses old tired ones. Cost for 2 including breakfast, secure car parking and 5€ for the dog was 65€, so cheap.

Arriving to France on a Sunday is not ideal for finding a good restaurant open either, even if you only seek something simple. I always I try to avoid the Buffalo Grill you find at every roundabout and all those brightly lit ones you find on industrial complexes that serve the travellers staying at B&B hotels around, but Sunday meant they had a calling, though we needed to be more desperate for a bite. An empty hotel brassiere around the corner from the Etap was not so inviting and to start travelling around town at 9pm was a no no, but within 30 mts a Turkish kebab cafe offered a cheap alternative choice meal. Eating foreign food in any country is another no no too usually for us, except for the big cities. The lamb kebab was fine and just hit the mark at 9.30pm. One course for 2 including Turkish Kakut wine cost just 25€, so made a promise that the next meal out would be more of an indulgence. One advantage of travelling through France on a Sunday is that you never see a 12 metre truck on the move, as they are not allowed to travel.

A good continental self-serve breakfast and on the road at 8am meant arriving to the destination of Andorra La Vella (city centre) at 1.30pm, just in time to have lunch and collect some essential shopping at the Pyrenees department store in the centre, which is a bit like the food store of London's Selfridges and the department store of John Lewis in one.

The route taken on the motorway passes by Toulouse and Cahors, following the sign for Montpellier and then turning right for Foix and following through to Andorra. Diesel is only 1.17 per lt in Andorra, so best not to overfill in France. Tolls through France amounting to a total of 33.80€.

 Going up the picturesque Pyrenees and within a few km before Place de la Casa you can choose between taking the faster route through the tunnel (6€ toll), just passed Customs , or going around the mountain. I prefer to take the slightly longer route and get the stunning views from the top, dropping on then through Caldea and Encamp. If travelling in winter and the snow is on the road then it's more advisable to take the tunnel.

If going direct to Arinsal in Andorra there's a new 2km tunnel that has just opened (2012) connecting Encamp to La Masana, which saves going into the city centre of Andorra la Vella and back out. Just passed Encamp keep to the left hand lane and take the tunnel sign that says Ordino and La Masana (new tunnel and not much signage, so go slow or you'll miss it). Turn right at the end of the tunnel and go on passed La Masana and then on through to Arinsal.

The Arinsal apartment is at the very end of the Arinsal road after you pass through 2 short tunnels. A heavy dousing of snow on the 27th November was just the right welcoming sight to behold through the windows of the balcony.

Time to enjoy some excellent meats cooked over wood burning stoves in the local restaurants' and fun in the snow with the dog.

Just the facts:

Newhaven to Dieppe (4hrs on-board) 3.30pm arrival French time Cost return .

Fuelling up at Carrefour located on the periferique of Dieppe with  diesel fuel at 1.35€ per lt.

Onto Rouen (Paris route) then towards Drew, Chartres, Chateurault then arriving at Limoges at 9pm.

Etap city centre hotel (not recommended) near to station, with satnav it's easy to go in and out of the city.

8am start travelling on the motorway passing Cahors, Toulouse and Foix. Buy a little fuel to keep you going, and save full refuelling until Andorra where the cost for diesel is 1.17 per lt.

Stayed at Andorra apartment

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