Thursday 11 August

Disaster! This morning we drive the short distance into Salins-les-Bains, but while trying to park I smash the right hand rear lighting cluster against a concrete bollard. It’s not much consolation that the bollard appears to have come off worse and is now lying on its side.

The damage to the van is only superficial, but we must now somehow obtain a replacement rear lighting cluster. At the tourist office we ask for the closest Fiat garage and are directed to one just west of Salins-les-Bains at Aiglepierre. But there is no one about and a very fierce Alsatian dog dissuades us from investigating further.

At the Arbois tourist information office they suggest the main Fiat dealer in Lons-le-Saunier. Lady Garmin takes us straight there and a very helpful mechanic explains that while the engine and the chassis are Fiat, the rest is Hymer, which, unfortunately for us, includes the rear lighting clusters.

He refers us to his colleague, who turns out to be from the Isle of Man. Between them they establish that the motorhome and caravan dealer just outside Lons doesn’t have the part either, but give us the address of a Hymer dealer in Lyon, a couple of hours drive south. We thank them profusely and set off, guided once more by Lady Garmin.

We stop briefly en-route for lunch. As we descend on the steep motorway into Lyon we have a fantastic view of Mt Blanc in the far distance, sharp against a clear blue sky. We arrive at the address on the outskirts of Lyon sometime after three. In total contrast to the Fiat dealership, the staff at the motorhome dealer are hardly interested, even once we finally get their attention. No, they don’t have one (after a cursory look). When pressed, yes, they could order one, but not until September, because everyone is on holiday.

There are four other motorhome dealers on the same stretch of dual carriageway. R is suffering in the heat (it suddenly became very hot as we came down into Lyon) so after a few more gentle suggestions, I send her back to the van.

At the first dealer the man on the telephone doesn’t even acknowledge my presence. It looks extremely unlikely anyway – there is no sign of any accessories or spares for sale here. At the next there seems to be no one there at all. At the third I am told that for a ten year old van there is no chance. Only at the fourth do I encounter helpfulness, but the best they can suggest is back at the Hymer dealer that we have already tried. (All this is conducted in French – indeed at this last dealer I am complimented on my French, though I can’t believe the compliment is deserved.)

Back at the van I call Dad on R’s mobile. He is sympathetic and recommends a temporary repair with a piece of clear polythene taped over the light to keep things dry, which was the conclusion I had already reached. Fortunately the indicator, brake light, and running light will still work, although we’ve lost the reversing light. It does at least give him the chance to order a new cluster from the UK dealer to fit as soon as we arrive back.

Installed at the campsite

We are way off our original plan, so we decide to head east towards the Alps. Leaving Lyon we find a supermarket and do a bit of a restock, including some duck tape and red nail varnish to repair the light. We head east past the main airport, and then Lady Garmin chooses a campsite for us not to far away.

The campsite is fairly quiet with very good facilities. The owner suggests that we take a trip by tram into the centre of Lyon, and also pay a visit to Crémieu, a medieval town just a few kilometers away. We decide to stay here two nights and then head off towards Chambéry and Grenoble.