Day 3, Jan 5th – Tin foil in tin cans

France is doing a solid job of winter. It’s going for the ‘damp, grey, never-gonna-see-the-sun-again’ look with absolute commitment. Not one hint of letting the sunshine break through the cloud. The van is sodding freezing.

M asked if I still had my emergency, foil, survival blankets.  I looked askance.


“Well get them out then, Chubs” 


I have lovingly carried my emergency survival blankets around for the past three years or so. They have been all the way to the Himalayas, up and down mountains in the Scottish Winter and done various other intrepid trips.  I was reluctant to hand them over.

When I came back from Annapurna, relating tales of being freezing cold, M questioned me:

“Didn’t you have your foil blankets with you?” 

“Yes. Of course”

“Well, why didn’t you use them to keep you warm, if you were cold?”

“Duh! Because they were for emergencies…”

Last night, as far as M was concerned, if not an emergency, this was the time to use a heat-saving device if you’ve got one.  Considering that the daytime temperature hadn’t got much above 50C, the evening chill was not to be ignored.  

One of the benefits of buying a minibus is that the interior comes with windows and walls ready lined with whatever insulation the manufacturers deem is appropriate.  It’s like driving around in a mobile conservatory. Which is great in the summer months.

The downside of buying a minibus is that you’re buying a tin can with little or no insulation, lined with thin panes of single glazing.  We’ve done lots to improve heat retention: added insulation, double glazed the windows, put up blinds and curtains etc. But neither these measures, nor our portable gaz stove were making sufficient difference.  It was time for more drastic measures.  It was time for the emergency survival blankets.

So one of the sheets of foil was adapted to provide a heat screen around the sleeping area.  The other on our bed trapped lots of heat.  

Key tip – never breathe into your blankets/sleeping bag.  An average adult will breathe out a pint of moisture overnight, which will make your bedding very soggy.  

And it worked 😀  

In addition, the golden foil adds a romantic hue to the LED lights around the van, giving the space an atmospheric appearance that’s somewhere between the Bat Cave and scenes from Moonraker.   Also, perhaps you knew but I did not, that those survival blankets are see-through, not like hanging opaque tin-foil at all.  So, the light behind them is muted and also rather lovely.

Which didn’t help with the weather.  

It was too damp for sightseeing, so we drove.  At our fastest we were averaging 50 mph.  In a full day, including stops we managed to gain a total of 230 miles and are now just North of Lyon.  Tomorrow we WILL make Perpignan.  The weather forecast says its lovely down there.  

And then our tin can won’t need tin foil and we’ll break out he sunnies and the sunscreen…

Route today: Troyes, on the E15 (forever) down past Dijon and onto the A6. Pit stop at a TINY village called Vinzelles which is surrounded by the Burgundy Vineyards, one of which produces M’s favourite: Pouilly Fusee. Then another hour down towards VilleFranche near Lyon. We’re camped up by the River Saone. C’est tres jolie, mais tres frois….

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