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.