Yesterday, I forgot to mention that Sally Satnav had recovered from her little Pyrenean malfunction; she had lost satellites overnight, having been turned off, and re-acquired satellites again yesterday morning. All the way to Chartres, she was plotting our little car where it should be, on the road.
With 900 miles/1440 kms of our journey behind us, today’s third leg of our journey should be a little simpler. It’s a mere 215 miles/350 kms from Chartres to Calais, then 130 miles/210 kms home from Dover, following the 90-minute ferry crossing. As is our habit with Chartres, we set off in the rain at 8:00 AM.
Not knowing much about journeys of this length, I had originally booked a ferry at ~6:30 PM. Chartres to Calais, though, is a breeze, especially in light Sunday morning traffic, and we rolled into the ferry port at 12:30 PM having been diverted around Rouen due to a major river bridge being closed and having stopped at the last French service area for our final slightly cheaper fill-up of diesel.
“We’re a little early for our ferry”, announced Francine, grinning.
“So I see”, replied the P&O check-in clerk. “That’s OK, I can get you on the next sailing at 1:35 PM. That’ll be £60.” [I’ve rounded up from £59.something.]
It’s just about worth £60 not to hang around Calais for four hours with home in tantalising sight, so we went for it and joined the line waiting to board.
I thought Italians were supposed to have style but apparently it’s not a universal trait. Waiting alongside us in the boarding lines was an Italian chap wearing a blue-ish jumper, green-ish checked shorts and white plimsoll-like shoes with knee-length black socks. Sartorially elegant, he certainly wasn’t. In a stroke of archetypical genius, though, perhaps trying to distract us from his choice in clothing, he was playing Italian opera music from his car stereo. Inspector Morse meets Mr. Muppet.
The crossing went smoothly, as did our journey home through the Dartford tunnel and round the M25, minus anything worse than a speed limit through miles of road works which, apparently, are continuing until 2015. Yikes! We arrived home at 4:30 PM.
The Spanish summer weather was all that I’d hoped: wall to wall sunshine. Temperatures had been high (for us), 30+°C/86+°F, every day and without too much in the way of humidity. I found it very pleasant and soon fell into the “expect tomorrow to be fine” frame of mind. One day, sitting on the naya with Chris, I asked if he’d ever had a bad summer during their 10 years in Spain. He considered this for a while and replied, “more humid ones”. I laughed.
Spain cannot manage the wildlife interest of the south of France, it’s a much more arid, desiccated country. There really is a dramatically stark change as you cross the meteorological dividing line of the Pyrenean mountain chain. Spain does, however, have what seems to be a guaranteed summer.
In the main French holiday season, the journey was arduous and I’d think more than twice before doing it at this time of year again. At quieter times of year, it should be noticeably easier. We were, however, going to join Chris for his early August birthday, and to witness a fiesta, hence the timing. Maybe a Ferry to northern Spain (Bilbao or Santander) would be an interesting and more relaxing option for any similar future trip.
Quite an experience.