Anyway, we were off to the region of Amiens, to visit WW1 battlefields and to stay at Cambrai. We found the French freeways effortless but very expensive. 20 Euros for an afternoon drive is quite a lot and more than any other country we have experienced.
We had a couple of options as far as a route went so with some last minute indecision and some might say fate, I decided to run North of Amiens, missing both it’s ring road and subsequently St Qentin – at least I think that was why we went where we did!?
Then, my trusty navigator, Julia, noted that we were actually quite close to Calais……..and here in lies a story.
Julia’s sister had arrived in Cornwall the day we before we left, 2 weeks earlier to our current journey, so we didn’t get a lot of time with her, noting that we would see her again in Vienna. However she was having a house warming party for her new house and we had considered turning up to surprise her – there would be extended family and friends we hadn’t seen for ages so it seemed like an all round good excuse for a party. But ferry prices from the Normandy region to Plymouth, nearest port to Cornwall, were very high. From Calais they were not so expensive but getting to Calais and then from there to Cornwall seemed a bit extreme……
And here we were, quite close to Calais. Wondering just how easy it would be, I offered my trusty travel companions the chance to put it to the vote. Party tomorrow or WW1 battlefields and continue on to Belgium………..2-0, party it is then.
It turns out that ferry travel is easy. Turn up, buy tickets, queue for a little while, drive on, cruise to Dover, take photos of the white cliffs and then drive off. Remember you are in a left hand drive car, remember you drive on the left of the road, and follow the signs towards the west country. Easy!
By now it was 8.00pm on a Friday night and my worry was we would end up past Southampton without any available accommodation at about midnight. Of course the other worry was driving to Cornwall on a Saturday – the dreaded change-over day for holiday accommodation.
So just short of Southampton we stopeed for the night at about 9.30pm and figured the next day would be easy enough.
Wrong! By 10.30am the next morning we were in a car park called the A303. So we took the Stone Hange exit, admired the magnificent monoliths from afar and continued on towards the west country on a variety of back roads. It also gave Julia and Molly a chance to shop for some cocktail dresses and accessories without rushing around at the last minute.
Despite taking our time, we still encountered several more car park situations as we progressed west but eventually made it in time.
There was of course the question of accommodation and keeping our arrival a surprise. Given that the new house is basically in Julia’s parents front yard, family wasn’t an option. We called her parents friends Sue and Dave and sure enough they were happy to hide us for the afternoon and then introduce us as their guests when we were to arrive at the party. One small problem was that their house is half way between Julia’s parents and her brother’s house so it would require a quick unload when we arrived.
We made it with an hour to spare, did a very quick drop off and then hid our little French car in a public car park just to be sure – French guests at Sue and Dave’s would take some explaining and might give us away!
Molly and Julia (particularly Molly) loved the chance to put a cocktail dress on and before we knew it, we had gone from visiting WW1 battlefields to surprising friends and family at a cocktail party in Cornwall. Julia’s sister, Mum and Dad were very surprised as Sue and Dave introduced their uninvited guests and we went on to have a lovely night. Molly was an excellent cocktail waitress, taking orders, mixing and serving right through the night. It was certainly worth the effort to see so many people we would otherwise have missed or who may have already seen but might not again for several years.
From Cornwall we thought we would drive to Yorkshire and get the overnight ferry to Holland. Therefore we booked in for two more nights with Julia’s God-parents Maureen and David and treated them and their daughter Bev’ to another night at Aakash, the World’s Biggest Indian Restaurant (actually according to their literature it is the world’s biggest Asian restaurant!). We also fitted in a lunch with Julia’s Aunty Margaret at the Hunsworth pub where Margaret used to take her Mum (Julia’s Great Grandma) each week.
On the way North we managed to coordinate a flying visit to see old friends from when we lived in Malaysia. We used to see Chris and Sarah and their boy James almost every day so catching up again after a few years was great. They have the addition of 4 year old twins, Isabelle and Edward, as well so things in their lives had changed a lot. They also have the addition of Chris’ lovingly restored Series 2 Land Rover so that became a large part of the afternoon as we raced around the Cotswolds, drinking pints on the banks of the Thames and getting fish and chips from one of their old haunts. Edward getting very wet was also a big part of the afternoon but what 4 year old boy wouldn’t turn wading across a stream into a full dunking of pants and shirt!??!
All up several very worthy detours and now on to the Low Countries……..