Tuesday, 3 February 2015

New Adventure (2)

                                    The Road To Ruin – Whoops, I Meant Rouen!

Thursday 8th of January 2015.

We had spent the previous day draining all the various water systems down aboard Rosie. Plus we also loaded up the car with the essentials for a three month visit to southern Europe. Now it's 3am and it was time to leave Rosie tied up on our mooring at Mercia Marina and set off by road for the drive down to Dover.

Our route itinerary through France and Spain had been planned to include the Nord Par de Calais, Picardie, Haute and Basse Normandie, Pays de le Loire, Chantres and Aquitaine. Before crossing the border then we would head for Pamplona, Saragossa, Teruel, Valencia, Elche, Almiria and Denia.

Our return route from Spain should include Castello de la Plana and Valencia in Valenciania. Then  Barcelona and Girona in Cataluna. Before crossing the border into France once more and heading for Perpignan in the Languedoc Russillion, Auvergne, Bourgogne, Champagne, Ardenne, Picardie and then back to the Nord Pas de Calais once more.

Our ferry crossing to Calais was booked for 11am.  As we left through the main gates the rain started. Maybe Rosie had in an act of defiance at being abandoned, summoned up the rain gods to pee on our parade. As we set off I did a mental check of the boat. Then did a mental check of the crew and the documentation. Passports for me, the Memsahib and Poppy the dog. Yes even the dog had been through the hoops and was now the owner of a bright shiny new 'pet passport.'

The weather was by now becoming dreadful, while the roads were almost empty of private cars, the over night trunking lorries were throwing up a wall of spray. We pressed on following the route decided by the satellite navigation system in the car. The traffic reports on the satnav said there were no known hold ups. While on the radio the news announcer spoke of the worsening weather conditions, including gale force winds and heavy rain. Rosie had been doing an excellent job with the weather gods.

As we reached the M25 we circled round the outskirts of London and the traffic steadily got heavier as the early starters, set off, for their place of work.  The rain continued to fall sometimes in sheets that the windscreen wipers could hardly cope with. I was praying that we would not get a flat tyre or that anything should go wrong needing me to go outside. The next worry was if the weather was sliding into a large low pressure system. Then the sea conditions might be such that the ferry would be delayed. We arrived in Dover at about 9am. The car radio reported on our arrival that an accident had closed the M25 in both directions. We found our way to the ferry terminal and reported in. We were soon dispatched to a holding area. On arrival we were then diverted into the customs area. The vehicle was given a half hearted if cursory check in the boot and under the bonnet. We were quickly waved on our way and parked up in the terminal loading area. It was 10am and still the rain poured down. I took Poppy for her to chase after the ball to burn off some excess energy, while I managed to shelter under a ramp Poppy was enjoying running in the rain and resembled a drowned rat! Time for a towel down before being allowed back in the car.

Soon we loaded the car onto the ferry and driving through the hold to the far end, we found ourself in second place in the queue for disembarkation. Poppy the dog was required to stay in the car for the crossing. So we had to abandon her to her own devices. She curled up on the back seat which she was sharing with some of our luggage. With a sidelong glance that showed her disapproval. We had to leave her and make our way up the companion way steps. The trip across the channel was in the wake of the ferry that had just left in front of us. The previous ferry had flattened the swell and I could see we were making much better weather than the first ferry. Which remained just ahead of us and throwing up a great deal of spray at the bow. We meanwhile had a good view forward, into banks of fog! There was just the occasional thud and shudder as the bow took a larger wave. Most of the time the ferry was smooth with just a gentle roll requiring the use of the handrails on the stairs. But there were the occasional lurches that could still catch you off guard.

An hour and a half later we arrived in Calais, the ferry in front of us had veered away towards Dunkirk and we were soon tied up on the terminal landing. As we left the ferry, we followed the exit signs, while at the same time remembering to drive on the wrong side of the road. We managed to beat the heavy goods vehicles to the customs point, who waved us straight through, with hardly a glance in our direction. The French customs and police were otherwise preoccupied with the terrorist attack in Paris which was filling the news – We soon saw the first of many poignant signs saying 'We Are Charlie.'  We even saw a sign pointing to the reception centre for illegal migrants waiting to climb aboard any truck heading for the UK. Which is one of the regular items on the British news. The rain meanwhile continued to fall from a dark and leaden sky.

We exited from Calais initially following the signs for Boulogne and Amiens. Our first overnight stop was to be in 124km (77miles) down the road in Rouen. Once more we followed the route decided on by the satnav. The French road systems consist on Toll Motorways – Free Motorways, Routier Roads and cart tracks. The Satnav had been configured to avoid the toll motorways which would have shortened the journey by three hours and about 30 miles to the Spanish border. It would also cost about 30 Euro in tolls. Which in sensible money is about £23.

We stopped to fill up with fuel before continuing. It was at 1.04 euro or 79p per litre full duty and the French folk were baulking at that price. The French government were however sitting up and listening. There had been a few demonstrations by the much more militant Frenchies. We later discovered that if you went off the main routes and into the large out of town supermarket chains, it worked out as little as 71p per litre. Now call me old and cynical, but we are being well ripped off at home when compared with France and as we later found out it was a similar price in Spain as well. Red diesel for domestic use at home costs more than white diesel costs over here!

But I digress... The road to ruin – whoops Rouen proved to be a very long one! We had pre booked the hotel – a very important lesson was learned here – Don't pre book, just go with the flow and stop whenever you are ready.

On previous visits to France I had stayed in the (Formula One) F1hotel's – cheap and cheerful and more than good enough for an over night, bed and breakfast stay. We had an uneventful nights sleep in the F1hotel in Rouen and a decent breakfast the following morning.

Continued Later.....

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