Sleeping angels, indeed! Gareth chattered what seemed to be all night, and the other two fidgeted around. We slept intermittently, on nice comfortable beds at any rate. In the morning ate a quick breakfast in the bedroom – cornflakes, Ryvita etc. and were on the road by 9.0am. Drove to Orléans, went in to the Euromarché to get some things for lunch. As we drove in there was an ominous rattling noise, but it just turned out to be the number plate which had worked loose. So we pushed this vast trolley round the Euromarché, and it it reposed a small packet of nuts and bolts and a packet of crisps! (we were, as is usual at the end of the holiday, nearly broke.)
Drove on through Orléans – big and busy – and on a good road which seemed to lead inexorably to Paris. Followed an involved turning for Versailles and after another motorway had passed beneath us (not marked on our map) eventually found the correct road. This led us right past the main entrance of the Palais – enormous black iron gates tipped with gold, vast quadrangle, coaches parked everywhere.
Drove on through the forest of St Germain – very cool and green – and eventually came to the Seine, which was full of barges and all manner of ships, busy and fascinating. There was a market on the banks and it would have been lovely to linger.
Had lunch on the edge of a quarry, west of Beauvais, near some bends in the road around which the cars screeched. Weather fine and sunny, countryside green and fertile. Peaceful atmosphere somewhat shattered when the leg fell off the trailer in Beauvais – must write a very rude letter to Trigano when we get home. Journey to Calais was much more pleasant by this route than by the autoroute/Arras – no horrid little mining towns, but rolling chalk hills and pretty villages. Went through Boulogne and wished our ticket worked from there, it seemed much further on to Calais.
Arrived there about 4.30pm and got tickets for the Townshend boat easily enough. Bought our duty-free brandy and gin in the duty-free shop in the vestibule, then had a drink in the café before sitting in the car and waiting for hours to get on the boat. It seemed as if every car there was being let on before our line – which had got there first! Suspected them of favouring a Land Rover carrying the John Player Film Unit (3 arty young men and a girl in sexy blue dungarees and pink gingham shirt). Eventually got on, found somewhere to sit, and went up to the stern to watch our departure.
Masses of noisy kids all over the place – in fact, asked to behave better over the loud speaker system. Came to the conclusion the teachers in charge lock themselves in a cabin with a bottle of gin! Not really very impressed with the Townshend service this time and don’t think we’ll use them again:
a) very poor selection in the snack bar – virtually nothing to eat, and coffee deplorable.
b) full menus expensive and unexciting. No nice place to have a coffee or a drink, the Sealink boat we came on was definitely superior.
c) very off-hand in the duty-free shops, couldn’t care less attitude and poor selection.
d) ship as a whole rather scruffy and when you consider the fortune we pay for this crossing, it just isn’t good enough.
Crossed to Dover in good time, preceded by the hovercraft. Swept through the Customs, and watched the hovercraft depart as we drove off. As our petrol was very low, we stopped at the motorway café, and as our food on the boat had been so awful, decided to eat there. Turned out to be a very successful move – bacon, egg, sausages and chips all freshly cooked and delicious, gobbled up ecstatically by the hungry Hagues! To our horror, the coach loads of kids from the boat drew up, so as we’d finished anyway, we didn’t linger… Had a good journey home, got in at 10.0pm-ish, to find all well.
Days away: 16
Total cost: £300
Total mileage: 1700