Sunday, November 27, 2011

France day one

And so to France. We woke at the Woolpack Inn and were immediately excited about the crossing the Channel. However, there was some stress because we were struggling to get accommodation in Northern France. In the end, we decided to wing it and see what presented. We drove to Dover (possibly the ugliest English town we saw) and fought trucks and all kinds of traffic on the main drag. We returned our car and walked to the ferry terminal. And then, of course, the ho ha of tickets and customs and security. And then we were onboard. (In the meantime, I had found a hotel in Saint Quentin for us, so that was one piece of the puzzle solved.)

The ferry was huge - like the Love Boat - and we had to walk up ramp after ramp just to get to the passenger level. With our luggage. Fun. On board, the passengers immediately lined up (like sheep really) for the buffet. It was - in terms of a buffet - very like IKEA according to Paris. You have to wonder ...

We went to the front of the boat to watch the water. I also was feeling a little queasy and I thought seeing the sea might help me.

I thought about ancient water and wondered if it was possible. So many crossings; was the water the same, could it be the same. Or is water always refreshing and returning and changing into its various forms? Ancient channel anyway, where William came through, and Henry sent troop across, and the soldiers in World War I crossed. Grey waves - some quite big - and France a ghost on the horizon. And then suddenly, not a ghost, but land and bones and hills. One and a half hours was enough to be inside the boat with no fresh air. Paris was beginning panic mode, when the doors finally opened.

And then we walked. We failed to have euros on us and couldn't find anyone in the terminal to change money and no banks. But we figured that we couldn't be too far from Calais. Really? We were wrong. We walked for about an hour, and then finally came to the outskirts of the town. We milled for a bit and a young man from a bar came out to help us. When we somehow communicated to him from where we had walked, he made all kinds of horrified noises and sent us to a bank and to the station. From there, we had adventures finding a taxi (and the seconds were ticking away for us to pick up our car ...). At last, a taxi driver turned up, jammed the five of us and our crazy luggage into his car and drove us licketty split to the rent a car place. With not a minute to spare.

Myles drove to Saint Quentin. God love the Samantha the GPS. She guided us into the town and to our hotel. We walked around for a bit, had some dinner, danced to the church bells (they play a tune unlike the rather dour donging of the English church bells) and made it back.

Tomorrow; the Western Front.

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