Tuesday, 1 September 2015

France the first

How to start? It's now February 2016, but it's so nice to read about what we got up to on adventures that I feel something must be written, even though it'll be a different story than if we had written it as soon as we got back.

So here goes.

We didn't really know how we were going to leave Britain. The newspapers were full of stories of chaos at the docks as migrants tried to stowaway on ferries while dock workers were going on strike. And the motorway was closed because Kent police had stacked lorries all along it. And the ferry companies kept telling us to leave extra time for our journey. Which was faintly annoying because we had already planned to leave at the crack of dawn.

So it was unearthly early when Ian woke us all up and put us in the car in Fenstanton for the drive to Dover. But at least it was sunny. And there was tea. And coffee. And jollyness.

Of course it wasn't even an eighth as bad as we had feared and we were there ludicrously early after a very short traffic jam. We had hoped we might be put on the earlier ferry, but they weren't doing that, so we waited in a car stack and I read stories and we visited the "services" and watched the ferries arriving.

And then we had a madly short crossing (the previous time we had been on a ferry, it was the overnighter from Santander, so 45 minutes across the Channel wasn't really even a trip). And then we were back in the car in France and driving alongside fortified fences to get out of Calais.

And the trip began. We drove and drove and drove and drove and drove. And nothing of great interest passed us, and we saw nothing of great interest. The autoroute went round the edge of towns, so we saw none of them. But at least we made quick progress through the map pages. We stopped briefly at a green aire (one with no service station), for Thea to turn her nose up at the toilets and for Jean-Luc to roll down a hill or two.

And eventually we arrived at the pretty town of Beaumont-sur-Sarthe, carefully positioned just off the autoroute to avoid unecessary tedium behind spanish lorry drivers, and entered the cutist little campsite ever. We found our pitch, started emptying out the tent and stuff from around a sleeping Thea, and then disaster struck.

Where was Jean-Luc? He wasn't being cuddled by Thea, or on the floor, or on the backseat. How far could one french baby go? I started to worry. Who put him back in the car at the aire? I started to panic. We knew he had briefly been on the roof of the car. I started to feel quite sick. This went on for hours (about 10 minutes). I had no idea how we were going to cope for a month in France starting with the certain death of one of our party.

Then Thea woke up. I lifted her out of the car, dreading what was to happen next. And she was sitting on him. The evening improved.

We put up our new table and the kids immediately took residence with sketchbooks and pencils.

We made English pasta and sauce with beer (nothing is open in France on a Sunday).

We poddled around the campsite a bit and went to bed with as few belongings out of the car as we could manage. The adventure had started!

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