1970: June 3, Aubiguy le Bac – Hornchurch

Lovely sunny day – we’ve been very lucky with these over-night stops so we were able to get on the road by 8.30am. Very cheap site incidentally, only about 5 francs altogether, we must come again and have a meal at that restaurant! Canal buzzing with barges, roads buzzing with mad French drivers. Got involved in a traffic check, in aid of road improvement and they certainly need improving. Several strung out towns with chaotic traffic and narrow streets. Passed lots of war cemeteries. Andrew owl-eyed at the thought of all these past battles and plenty of present day soldiers about too. Passed lots of British cars going the other way, some much more uncertain than others about driving on the right.

Eventually reached Calais about 11.00am which is ridiculous for such a comparatively short journey (about 75 miles) very glad we weren’t doing it in a hurry. Spent our last French coins (typically!) at a charcuterie on some fabulous paté Breton, and a patisserie, on assorted luscious cakes. Then on to the docks, and after a pause to unearth tickets from green bag at the bottom of 500 items, on to the boat, feeling well pleased with ourselves.

Ate a large early lunch (boats seem to make us ravenous) and recovered from the journey. Then to the Duty Free – 2 bottles of gin, 200 cigarettes and some Orlane Vespérale Cream took all we had left…

Crawled off the boat with a cupful of petrol, through the Customs on to (i) the bank (essential) and (ii) petrol station (also essential). Then home, via Sainsbury’s for supplies, by 4.30pm in brilliant sunshine and the garden full of irises and roses.

It was a super holiday – so much scenery that was breathtakingly beautiful, and such a variety of things to do.

Total mileage: 2,400
Total cost:        £165

* * *

Odds & Ends

Surprised by the popularity of the Ford Capri in Belgium, Germany and Austria – saw several whizzing along the autobahns. Hardly any Triumphs (and only one Triumph dealer) and the ones we did see were mainly sports cars.

Hay drying was much in evidence in Austria, Switzerland and Black Forest. Either strung along wire fences in rows across fields or on vertical poles with ‘arms’ so that the fields appeared to be populated with green snowmen; or in Switzerland on tripods.

Timber industry very important in all the mountain areas. Stacks of cut timber about, and enormous lorry-loads of it travelling the often inadequate roads. Wood carving too, generally religious in theme, but animals also popular.

Large numbers of women working in the fields – typically peasants, with black/navy dress and kerchiefs. Horses used a great deal, farms obviously very small, only increasing in size a bit in France.

In Austria saw several cars towing long narrow trailers – very puzzled by these until we realised they were gliders, packed neatly in long boxes. Also in Austria and Switzerland large numbers of red-painted wooden seats strategically placed to admire the views and not just for tourists either, for any holiday mass emigration from the towns into the country to picnic, walk and pick wild flowers<.


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