A depressingly cold and grey spring thus far had made us, shall we say, less than enthusiastic about our preparations for another spring migration to France. Indeed, I had seriously considered turning up at Dover sans caravan and simply driving through to Spain. Besides, the thought of the P&O check-in agent looking quizzical and saying, “you forgot your caravan, mate” proved almost irresistible. Nonetheless, a warmer, sunnier day when I collected Guillaume to give him his bath lightened my mood and some enthusiasm returned. Guillaume is clean and loaded and we hit the road at 7:00 AM for Dover.
Here was my first brush with the new Dartford crossing charge mechanism. Gone are the toll booths that create serious delays on the overcrowded jaM25. This time I had paid in advance for booth our outward and return journeys. At l east, I hope I have! At this time early on a Sunday morning, there were no delays making the crossing despite the 30mph speed limit that seems to have been put there in an attempt to reinstate the jams missing since the toll booths were removed. 🙂
We made Dover by 9:45 AM. No raised eyebrows at check-in implied that I’d remembered Guillaume and, since we were a couple of hours early for our 12:10 PM ferry, the agent kindly got us on board the earlier 11:10 AM sailing. Wonderful. [Note to self: early departures from home are OK, even for a wrinkly – go for a ferry around 11:00 AM in future. You’d think I’d know how to do this by now.]
We’d disembarked and were leaving Calais by 1:00 PM French time. The main road from the ferry port goes right beside one of the many refugee camps – there are now about eight – that have been created since the demise several years ago of the notorious Sangatte camp. Calais is essentially surrounded. The French have now erected a double line of razor wire capped fencing along the town side of the road leaving the ferry port. I’m not convinced this is to keep the illegal immigrants at bay ‘cos if it is, it’s not very effective. We drove past several potential illegals wandering about beside the road and one small group crossing the road from one camp that could be seen from the road. Life in Calais for the French must now be decidedly unpleasant and worrying. My heart goes out to them. Everybody knows these so-called refugees are here illegally and are waiting for one thing, an opportunity to enter Britain illegally. They’ve already entered France illegally. Why we – we Europeans, that is – seem powerless to do anything about this flood of illegals is beyond me. Why on earth is it apparently so difficult to deport them? Britain already economic problems, far from fixed as yet, and it should not be our place to cure the woes of the rest of the planet. Bleeding heart liberals who cry about the situation of people putting themselves at risk through illegal acts really piss me off.
Calm! Once away from Calais, travelling through the real French countryside was a breath of fresh air, especially since we were blessed with sunshine and 20°C, two degrees warmer than anything our part of England has managed so far this year. My last long distance journey had been through Spain which, for the most part, had appeared to resemble an abandoned quarry. Here were rolling hillsides covered with lush green grass. France resembles a country that someone cares about whereas the 400 miles or so of Spain that we’d seen looked quite the opposite.
We arrived at our normal in/out campsite at Neufchatel-en-Bray, set up for the evening and enjoyed a relaxing drink or four sitting outside in the spring sunshine for the first time this year. I’d needed the France refresher. How time dulls the memory.