On Monday morning I was feeling a little down and not looking forward to the long, boring journey home. After the usual breakfast of orange juice, croissant, tarte de pomme, bread, honey/jam etc. we checked out and by 9 a.m. we sitting on the bus. depart 9 am
I was expecting an uneventful journey and settled back to watch the French countryside slide past the bus window occasionally glancing at one of the TV screen which was showing a GPS map of our route. I'm easily impressed by technology and found it interesting to see the little bridge on the screen pass under the dot showing our location at the exact moment that the bus passed over the actual bridge. It was nice to see all the names of the villages and rivers too. I'd love to live in a place with the name "Arsy".
We arrived in Calais at lunchtime and headed to the City of Europe shopping mall as planned. We ate a light lunch of sandwiches and pastries and I rediscovered my passion for confectioner's custard. French pastry is just so much better than English. It was interesting to see that goods could be paid for not only in Euros but also with English money. I really must try to find a source of French flour when I get home. We had plenty of time to wander around the shops to find bargains. We bought several bottles of wine at about a third of what I'd pay at home plus Pastis and Calvados. We also bought a dozen bars of very nice but very cheap chocolate but our best buy was coffee. This was the same brand we buy at home at about a quarter of the price. Needless to say we were all quite burdened down when we reboarded the bus.
Half an hour later we were in the bus in a line of vehicles waiting to go through customs. It seems that amongst our passengers were 4 people with Indian passports and one Russian. This was enough to have the bus emptied and searched. Eventually we boarded the car ferry and it set sail for Dover at 5:30 p.m. We decided to have an early dinner and as this was an English boat with an English crew it already felt like we were in England. To mark this fact I chose the most popular dish in the UK - Chicken Tikka Masala with rice. No, I'm not joking, for the last decade Indian food has been more popular than traditional English food. I also treated myself to two bottles of Indian beer. We spent much of the short sea voyage on deck enjoying the fresh breeze and warm sunshine.
Disembarking in Dover we entered customs and the passport issue triggered the same response with everyone leaving the bus again. It was starting to get dark when we finally left Dover and I realised that because of the legally required stops the driver would have to make it would be around midnight when we arrived home. As it turned out I was grossly over-optimistic. The bus driver got a message from his bus telling him that one of their other buses had broken down and the passengers had to be split between others in the fleet. This meant a couple of extra stops for us and slight detours. After picking up the additional passengers the driver programmed in their drop off points into the GPS system and set off following it's instructions. The first detour and drop off was fine but in the second one the GPS lead him into an industrial district in the middle of the city of Leeds. He stopped the bus and asked the passengers concerned where they were and where were they supposed to be. None of them had a clue. By chance I had visited a client in the same area and so I went to talk to them as they were beginning to argue about it. What had happened was we had driven to Horsforth Lane in Leeds instead of the village of Horsforth near Leeds. Luckily I knew where that was and how to get there from where we were. Unluckily it was going to add over an hour to our journey on top of the extra time caused by the expected detours. So it was that we found ourselves in a motorway cafe at 12:30 a.m. with four kids asleep on their feet. My digestive system decided it was breakfast time so I sat down to a plate of fried food and coffee. It was then that I made a rather foolish decision. During a visit to the men's room I spotted a vending machine for chewable toothbrushes. "Oh what a good idea" I thought as I dropped my coin in the slot, "I wonder how that works". What came out of the machine was a small transparent plastic sphere containing two odd looking items and a folded instruction sheet. Closer examination revealed that two soft plastic items in the shape of toothbrush heads with a suspicious looking tablet attached where the handle should be. Following the instructions I popped one into my mouth and began to chew it using all my teeth in turn. The tablet was an unpleasant effervescent minty concoction and the sensation of chewing the plastic brush was, well, like chewing a plastic brush. Do not be tempted to try these things. They are the tools of Satan.
The remainder of the journey was uneventful and just as I was beginning to fall asleep we arrive at out stop. We collected our bags, now weighed down by bottles of wine and coffee and staggered up six flights of stair to retrieve the car. As I started the engine I glanced at the clock. It was 3 a.m. on day five of a four day holiday. Five hours later my body was sitting at my desk at work but my brain was drinking coffee outside a cafe in Paris.
originally a starblvd post by MEF, Apr/30/2004 10:46:15 [-05 EST]
A casual stroll in Paris? Wow! What endurance you guys have! I guess fitness training would have to start well in advance of this kind of trip!
originally a starblvd post by llizard, Apr/30/2004 12:08:35 [-05 EST]
That was terrific, David. Please take more holidays so that we can hear about your adventures.
Interesting that you included Calvados in your purchases. The last time we went to France, our final stop before Charles DeGaul airport and home was a grocery store to purchase Poire Eau de Vie - prohibitively expensive here in Canada.
originally a starblvd post by CAM, May/1/2004 13:47:31 [-05 EST]
Many many thanks for your journal, David. Don't forget to keep a copy if you haven't already done so. Our Central Europe adventures have long gone from llizard's excellent forum, but fortunately llizard warned me, and I down loaded.