"Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you," said the wisest of wise men. "The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon."

('The Alchemist' Paulo Coelho)

Monday, September 06, 2004

Sunday 5th Sept.

Having arrived at Dover early, we took the opportunity of visiting the castle, although it was so hot, we didn't have much energy for walking very far. However, we got an earlier ferry and arrived in Calais at 4pm (3pm in U.K.) Keith set up the GPS to take us to Etaples sur Mer, where we had booked to spend the night. While we were waiting to disembark, I suggested he could do a sales pitch for GPS to the couple in the car in front of us, who were using ordinary maps! How archaic can you get?? However, he declined the offer, rather to my surprise.

So off we went, out of Calais and towards Boulogne, past the famous flat cornfields of that part of Northern France. We noticed that the roads seemed much less busy than in Britain but also, Keith remarked on the fact that, unlike the sixties, which was the last time either of us was in France, all the cars are the same - all jelly moulds, as he calls them, no distinctive 2CV's to be seen at all. We also had to pay road tolls on the motorways, which was an unwelcome innovation since our last visits!

And so we continued.....We did pass a sign for Etaples, but the GPS wasn't having any and, as Keith pointed out, there could be more than one Etaples. On we drove......kilometre after kilometre, towards Reims. I had a very simple map of the location of our hotel, which I tried hard to reconcile with the way we were going but, as Keith never makes mistakes with directions and neither, he said, does the GPS, I assumed that it was me getting it wrong. However, when Keith noticed that we had now clocked up nearly 100 miles. we thought we should pull over and investigate. It was then that we discovered that Keith had typed in Etables instead of Etaples and the GPS was trying to take us somewhere near Bordeaux! There was no way we were prepared to retrace our steps, so we continued. Keith negotiated his way through Reims without incident and we continued in search of somewhere to stay. Now you would think that Northern France, beloved of so many of our compatriots for the duty free trips across La Manche, would be bristling with Travelodges or the like - not that we were looking to repeat last night's experience, but any port in a storm... Rien, nada, niente! Finally, when we were beginning to think we would be spending the night in the car, we came across a hotel, which is really a neat little bunch of chalets and so, eventually, we found somewhere to rest our weary heads!

After a very pleasant dinner, here I am .......blogging before I crash out for the night. I should be able to post this in the morning - the signal on our mobile phones is good here, so, till then, good-night at all........Bon soir et bonne nuit!

(And the moral of the story is.........get your spelling right if you use GPS!! :))

Monday 6th Sept.

Today we set off further south, having decided to leave Paris for another time. There is no way we could do justice to it in a day - I think we need to keep it in mind for a holiday in the future and visit properly. So our route took us south west of Paris towards Clermont Ferrand. We travelled through more of the flat, open countryside so characteristic of these parts - huge expanses of cornfields. We saw the outline of Chartres cathedral in the distance and I did try to get a photo of it, but didn't manage a very good one. I have taken some photos from the car as we have travelled, but because we are driving on the right and I am on the left of the car, that technique doesn't work as well as it does in Britain.
We stopped at a couple of service stations - not nearly a big and complex as those in Britain, and remarked on the 'sameness' of products on offer. We could almost have been in service station shops off any British motorway - another effect of the E.U. - an insidious loss of each country's individuality. Where we got off the motorway and drove through small villages, it was much more as we both remembered it. In fact, in some cases, it was as if time had been frozen in the 50's. There were many garages, shops and restaurants that had obviously been the casualty of main roads and motorways being built nearby.

We are now in a small hotel just outside Issoire for the night. (Got your map of France? Follow with your finger! :)) Tomorrow, we should make it to Sete, where we plan to stay put for a few days.
Last night was too late to try for an internet connection, this morning. Keith's phone needed recharging. To my annoyance, my phone just won't play ball as regards enabling me to go online at all, and here, guess what! No signal again! So. I'm not sure when this will hit the ether - soon, I hope!


gemmak said...

Well your post made it here! Sounds a perfect holiday to me, I just love driving where the road takes me, it seems even with GPS so does Keith! hehe. Love reading your French posts...keep em coming, connections permitting :o) Have fun.

Railwayman39 said...

Etaples was the site of an Army camp in the 1914 lot ( Ours
not French - they were elsewhere) and became notorious for getting invalided and wounded men back into training and of course the Front Line using very harsh methods.

While you are there don't mention Agincourt or Crecy when we showed them the way home, or even The Maginot Line or Dien Ben Phui.

Dale said...

I'm with you two. Following along on a map of France. I'd love to go some day. There are many Canadian cemeteries there I'd like to visit. And Vimy, of course. Carry on then!

PS. How are you making out driving on the right hand side? It must be a bit of an adjustment, eh?


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