North? What are “Franco, Francine and Guillaume doing heading north?”, I hear you ask. Very fair question – after all, we already live about 800kms/500mls too far north.
Well, it’s like this. Francine’s niece is getting hitched in September and invited us to the wedding. Francine’s niece lives in Edinburgh. Thus, our initial idea was a trip with Guillaume to Scotland around the wedding. It is slightly surprising, perhaps – it was to me – that it is considerably quicker to get from our home to Normandy than it is to get to Scotland. Our trip to Normandy is comfortable in a day being 200kms/120mls on either side of a 90-minute Dover-Calais ferry crossing. Scotland, further north than the borders, at least, takes considerably longer. So, we needed a stopover in the north of England en route. We decided to make our first stop near Carlisle to investigate Hadrian’s Wall, which I’ve never seen.
Our weather forecast was not terrific for today’s travelling but we did manage to hitch up and set sail in dry weather. After that stroke of luck, for most of the 450kms/280mls it rained. North of Manchester a couple of tiny patches of blue sky interrupted the otherwise solid cloud cover but they were short lived. Dark cloud was the order of the day.
Ahead of a stiff following wind, Guillaume sailed along at close to 30 mpg. We probably could have finished the journey on the one tank of fuel but, not wanting to be on fumes on arrival at our campsite, we pulled in to Tebay services for a splash and dash. I should explain: diesel is running at £1.53 per litre on the motorway network, hence not wishing to buy more than necessary. [Aside: And our cold-hearted, silver-spooned chancellor has a government imposed increase lined up for those of us that understand the term budget.] We stepped out of the car and got instantly chilled in the damp, cool wind.
Tebay services has a reputation of being about the best service area on the UK motorway network. Admittedly, it doesn’t have much competition but it’s supposed to be pretty good. Our limited experience suggests that it is, too. As well as our fuel tank needing sustenance, we needed sustenance so we went in search of food. The first little sustenance provider was offering the following, to pick just two of the cheaper examples from its menu:
Artisan rolls: from £6.00
Paninis: from £7.00
Strewth! OK, both these came with “your choice of salad” but for Heaven’s sake, I just wanted a simple sandwich; no value-added salad and certainly no value-added chips. A panini is just a filled bread roll, albeit Italian in origin, toasted, and what the f**k is an “artisan” roll when it’s at home? Presumably, the use of words like “artisan” and foreign words for bread is an attempt to justify the inflated prices for a sandwich. Our local Indian restaurant – and it’s a damn fine Indian restaurant – offers a four item two course meal for £9.95 on four days of the week. Decidedly unimpressed!
Across the way was another food outlet offering, amongst other things, a “Lamb and black pudding pie”. Not only did that sound more interesting but it was hot food for £3.00 with no unwanted value-added trimmings – much more like it. I went for that and Francine plumped for another £3.00 worth of sausage roll and we repaired to a seating area to enjoy our lunch.
You would think, would you not, that in a “lamb and black pudding pie” one might actually run up against something resembling meat? I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, this was not one of those sorry apologies for meat pies, containing little more than slurry and gristle, offered our fish and chip shops but I didn’t actually find anything looking or feeling like lamb. I may have bumped into a tiny morsel of something resembling black pudding but that’s blood and fat, not meat, so it doesn’t count. Other than that, the only solid food that I did bump into were chunks of potato, admittedly real potato but potato nonetheless. I have to say that the chunks of potato were in a reasonably flavoured – I presumed lamb and black pudding flavoured – gravy. This would have been more accurately described as a potato and gravy pie. Still, it was half the price of the cheapest “artisan” roll [groan] and was comfortingly hot. Disappointing but not all bad.
After another 45 minutes we were pitching up under one of those all-too-rare breaks in the cloud cover. Carlisle and the surrounding area may benefit from being in the lee of the Lake District. Pretty lucky really: dry at both ends to hitch and unhitch but sopping wet in between.
Even Carlisle is further than Normandy.