Vacances en France – 2018 – Wimereux


Just over a month ago we set off on holiday. And so it was that we found ourselves en-route to Badailhac in the Cantal region of France. We had rented a gite for three weeks and the intent was to spend our time exploring the countryside and sampling the local cuisine.

Although it is possible to drive down in one go, we prefer to take the leisurely route and were stopping over night at Wimereux, Chartres and La Souterraine.

Setting off, we had a trouble-free journey from home to the Eurotunnel Shuttle terminal at Folkestone. So good was our journey that we were offered a place on the 12:36 departure, almost an hour earlier than our original booking.

It was of course too good to be true. We headed towards the shuttle, arrived at the UK checkpoint and ground to a halt. The UK checkpoint was running four lanes but the French passport control were only running two.

We sat there twiddling our thumbs for some time before starting to creep up to the French booths. Then we were through, having missed the the 12:36.

Imagine what it will be like when BREXIT kicks in and us Brits are no longer considere EUropeans.

Never mind it was a nice sunny day. Nothing I like more than sitting in a queue, knowing you have thirty minutes to wait, and the twat in the car in the next lane to you is sitting there being really eco-friendly with his engine running. I don’t know, but I’m guessing that VW forgot to install an off switch in their Scirocco models. Not just that but his windows are down, just like mine, and he decides to treat everyone to some bangra dub gangsta rap crap.

Just to add to the irritation, approaching our new departure time, the passenger from the Scirocco buggers off to the toilets. Then it’s ” gentlemen start your engines” and lane after lane of cars head for the train. All except for the one next to us, which has to go before ours. They can’t move because Mr Sciroccos mate hasn’t come back.

Things had just started to look like the January sales at Harrods, with cars crossing lanes to get past the offending vehicle, when the missing passenger returns. Then they were off and, eventually, so were we.

Loading onto a shuttle always seems, to me, to be highly efficient. Before long we had been swallowed into the belly of the shuttle. It does seem like you are driving halfway to France, so long is the train. Quickly we were all loaded, engine off, hand brake on, gear stick in first and within minutes moving away from Folkestone and heading under the sea.

Just 35 minutes later our shuttle burst into the sunlight and we were in Calais, France. Once the train has stopped the efficiency continued with every vehicle regurgitated from the shuttles belly, out onto the French roads. There are no checkpoints, it’s a controlled sprint for the autoroutes, all aimed to clear you from the area as quickly as possible.

Then we really felt like our holiday had begun. Driving on the wrong side of the road, frantically trying to convert kilometre speed limits into miles per hour. (The kilometre markings on my speedo are too small for me to read whilst on the move).

The satnag did a grand job and got us to the B&B with no errors. However, we were too early to check in so we headed down to the seaside town of Wimereux.

What a pretty place …

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Wimereux – Apartments and Beach Huts

Some of the folks, outside these beach huts, obviously had a passion for the sun. Just an observation based on the deep tan they were sporting.

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Wimereux – Beautiful Seaside Town

Lots of folks were promenading or just sitting, absorbing the suns rays. I don’t know what the sea water temperature was. But given the weather this summer I am guessing that it would be quite warm. Many people were happily swimming about.

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Wimereux – French style with an Egyptian flavour

According to Wikipedia ……

The seaside development was started during the Second Empire, resulting in a remarkable architectural ensemble of houses and buildings typical of the Belle Époque, which are still very well maintained to this day.

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Wimereux – St Louis
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Wimereux – Needs some TLC
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Wimereux – Hotel L’Atlantic
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Wimereux – Beach Huts
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Wimereux – Colourful buildings
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Wimereux – Colourful and ornate

While in Wimereux we had a spot of lunch at Brasserie Les Oyats.  Situated right on the promenade, we had a substantial lunch with views along the seafront and out to sea.

After a gentle stroll along the prom, enjoying the sunshine and the fresh sea air, we decided to head back to the B&B to check in.

Wimereaux

The satnag got us there in no time and we introduced ourselves to our host who showed us to our accommodation. We were gobsmacked. We had been expecting a room with en-suite.

What we actually got was a small, one bedroom cottage. All that was missing was a kitchen. We had our own front door and even had our own terrace with sun loungers , accessed through the back door.

Once we were installed, we made tea and sat out on the terrace which was benefitting from the clear skies and sunshine. Across the terrace there is an orchard and from under the trees came a flock of chickens, coming to investigate the strangers.

The cockerel kept his distance, but kept a watchful eye while the hens came in search of food around our deck chairs. One, a plump white hen, even followed me when I took a stroll across the grass to take a look out over the fields.

I jokingly said I would steal her to take to our gite, a kind of chicken dinner carry-out.

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It was nice to be relaxing after our earlier drive.

 

 

Calais To Orleans


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View from Hotel de la Plage

We got up to find the winds had decreased but it was raining hard. The view out to sea was somewhat diminished due to fog.

Gerry had mentioned hearing a fog horn during the night.

We didn’t hang around for breakfast even though we had booked it. The overpowering smell of stale multi-cooked grease, noted during check in the evening before, had displaced any potential hunger pangs we might have had.

Feeling we had escaped a fate worse than death, we set off into deepest, darkest, France.

Brunch was had at La Croissanterie, near Charles Degaul Airport. We had hoped for a hot meal but it was either filled baguettes or hot dogs from the mobile eatery outside. Continuing our journey, all went well until we got to Paris. The weather had improved, well the rain had stopped, but it was generally dark and overcast.
We were making our way around the peripherique, which, for those who don’t know it, is always a bit of a challenge. Anyway we were making good progress when we saw signs indicating that we were going to be booted off our route.
No problemo thought I, having recently updated the satnag. It will know how to get us out via an alternative route.
Not so. It seems it was as confused as I was. After passing through the same tunnel for the third time and having to make some fairly dodgy turns, in very heavy traffic, I decided we had to force the satnag to recalculate without considering the peripherique.
Heading out towards Versailles, the satnag eventually got its act together and we were on our way again. This brief moment of madness had cost us approximately an hour due to the typically heavy parisien traffic.  At one time we were driving alongside the Seine. The water level was nearly at the same level as the road showing just how dire the situation is in the city at this time.
Eventually we found ourselves back on an autoroute, hoping to regain some of the lost time. Unfortunately, the satnag informed us that there was a twenty eight minute delay ahead on our route. We elected to find an alternative route and the satnag took us off the autoroute for Artenay. Once again we fell foul of road closures due to flooding. And once again the satnag had a hissy fit, even sending us into a forest, down a road quite clearly marked as a dead end. We passed houses being pumped out and even encountered a car up to its windscreen in flood waters. Resorting to good old fashioned paper maps, I managed to get us back on track. The time wasted meant we should have stayed on the autoroute and made do with the twenty eight minute delay.  Ce la vie.
At last we made it to Orleans. This was not according to plan, which had us being nearer to Bourges. But it wasn’t to be.
We set the satnag a new challenge. Find us a hotel. Unfortunately, Orleans has changed since we were last there, it is much, much busier and, although the satnag offered many possible hotels in the centre of town, there is nowhere to park. Not even room to double park for a short while and I don’t remember the trolley busses which have priority. We did see the “maid”, Joan of Arc, sat up on her horse and caught a glimpse of the cathedral.
We decided to head to the outskirts and try again. As we found ourselves alongside the Loire river, we struck lucky and spotted a hotel with parking outside. On investigation it transpired that they had a room and off road parking. The Escale Oceania

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View from our room at Hotel Escale Oceania
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Vin Rouge (Coteaux Languedoc) consumed at Le Barentin, Orleans

proved to be a very comfortable place to stay and, at €87 room and breakfast, good value. No restaurant on site for dinner, however, the concierge recommended a place just five minutes walk away.
Le Barentin has a nice atmosphere, friendly staff and, most important, good food. Gerry and I shared a bottle of red (Coteaux Languedoc)

but I also had a beer (Pelforth Brune). This ensured that we both slept well. Not even a Calais style gale was going to wake us.

Back In France


The title says it all really. We set off, from Waterlooville, yesterday afternoon. We had plenty of time and stopped off at Maidstone services for a bite to eat before continuing on to the Euro Shuttle. We were approximately an hour early but they transferred us to an earlier train. At no charge!!

As the train was boarding in a few minutes we drove straight round, no duty free shopping.

Arriving at the police checkpoint, the cop closed his window, got up and left. Was it something I said?  I drove forward to the next window where a rather dishevelled guy gave a perfunctory glance at our passports and pointed us to an area where we and three other vehicles were corralled and told to turn off our engines. Just a routine check we were told.
Then a uniformed person, no idea what sex, looking to be about twelve years of age, asked if the vehicle was mine, reached in and wiped the steering wheel and part of the dash.
As far as car valeting goes… well let’s say they missed a lot.
Another uniform, wearing white gloves, passed along the cars, running his hands along door handles and boot release buttons.
This bothered me a bit. Since he didn’t change gloves for each vehicle, what if there was some kind of cross contamination? Would I find myself surrounded, by a gun toting swat team, because of the BMW driving drug smuggler in front?
I needn’t have worried. A few minutes later the barrier was lifted, by the sexless twelve-year-old uniform, and we were on our way again. Well, on our way to the French passport control. They gave our passports even less of a glimpse than their English counterpart and we were ushered through. The waiting area was empty, so we literally drove straight thru and were ushered onto the shuttle.
Boarding the shuttle always elicits the same comment as you drive along inside the metallic tube, “Are we driving all the way to France?”
This time there was an additional comment, contributed by the satnag, which having lost contact with all satellites, sagely advised that “there was still a three minute delay on our route” and “that we were still on the fastest route to our destination”. No shit sherlock!!
A few minutes later and the train pulled out.  Bye bye England.
Arriving in France, we were soon driving off the shuttle and, on this occasion, heading into Calais.
Well that was our plan. The satnag had another. We, being strangers in a strange land, followed instructions blindly. And found ourselves, on exiting a roundabout,  heading back in shuttle world and heading back to the UK.  Or so the signs seemed to indicate.
Anyway, we spotted a sign “Sortie / Exit” and we were quickly back in the outside world, following another Brit. Their satnag must have been having a similar hissy fit. Good old TomTom.
Momentarily, Gerry and I broke into song, “I was lost in France”
The satnag, for a few minutes decided we had gone off piste but did eventually catch up with reality and guided us the five miles or so to our hotel for the night.
The Hotel de la Plage is exactly what it says it is. The hotel on the beach. We were given a room with a sea view. Far superior to that famous hotel room in Fawlty Towers, but still no herds of wildebeest. But in many ways just as worn and tired.
Did I mention the weather? Calais is currently being battered by gale force winds, blasting in off La Manche, the “English Channel”.
And that is why, at 04:52, I am posting this. The wind is howling like an express train, the windows are covered with salt spray and I can’t sleep.