6 min read
06 Dec

The journey started long before we set off. There was the planning, paying off bills, stopping direct debits, reorganising work, clearing out unwanted items, just an exhausting list of things to do. Then the hard part; telling family and friends.

Everyone was happy, everyone said ‘Go for it!’ but that’s not why I did. The flight takes under three hours, it used to take me longer driving up north from south, to see family. So I did it.
When the day arrived to leave, I felt no fear or trepidation.  I love an adventure. There’s something great about journeying to the great unknown. What I don’t  love is a mess. The trusty Volvo is jam packed and belongings placed in no particular order, but theres still room for the pooches in the back and they don’t bat an eyelid at the mess as they find a space to snuggle down in.

Unfortunately the mood is tense as it’s later than we thought. It took an age to pack up the car. Our belongings just kept coming out of the flat. It was like a puzzle of how to fit everything in . Pops managed it though. But running out of time meant we had to forgo breakfast, not even time for a coffee. The pooches had their gobbles and an extra walk so they were happy. All packed up, keys dropped off it was time to go.

Pops is concerned we will hit traffic but I don’t think we will. Looking to the sky, the clouds have not given to rain and the traffic although busy, is flowing quite nicely. The only problem for me is the cold breeze. The aircon is broken So keeping the pooches cool means keeping the windows open. I console myself that once we arrive at our destination, I need never be cold again.

So, Our starting point was from Hatfield in Hertfordshire.

Hatfield is known for the historic ‘Hatfield House’. Elizabeth the 1st spent her childhood there and it’s home to the 7th Marquess of Salisbury. There’s an old palace, large historic buildings and beautiful well kept grounds and gardens. Even Real Tennis-a sport for kings. You can buy tickets online to see the house or the gardens and even book lessons for Real Tennis like Pops did. They also do many events like Easter hunts and classic car shows, running events and outside Cinema.
You can rent a property within the grounds or If your lucky enough to live within a certain radius of Hatfield House,  you can buy an annual pass and walk the grounds every day, which is what we did. We even bumped into Barry Holland. Barry was made famous for his one liner “you rebel scum!” In Starwars. Not only that but one time as I was coming back from walking the pooches, filming was going on for the programme Grandchester outside the entrance that I needed to get in to. Luckily they were on a break. As I slipped through the door Robson Green shouted “ Nice dogs!”

But as we drive off the forecourt  to join the A1, we wave goodbye to that life and head towards the new.

Its 6th December 2018 6:45am.

To drive to Portugal we need to cross the channel. There are two ways to do this; the Ferry or the Eurotunnel. The ferry is cheaper but the Eurotunnel is faster. As time is the decider we chose the Eurotunnel. It cost under £85.00 and was booked online. You pay for the vehicle, not the amount of passengers. The Euro Tunnel is in Folkestone. Our journey route is A1, M25 and the M20. You need your passport, drivers license and insurance document. And don’t forget to place a GB sticker on the car and have currency.
I understand the concern Pops has. There is only one viable route to the Eurotunnel. With thousands of cars, lorries and bikes heading the same way, anything could happen to hold us up. But I remain positive that all be well.

And it was! As though the gods have paved the way, we arrive with no hold ups. Good going Pops!

So, on arrival we have to verify the booking by the payment card used online. Then going through we had to show our passports twice, one for the UK border and the other for the French border. I had to show the passports for the French border as the booth was on the left. We didn’t have to show the dogs passports…yes that’s right the pooches need passports too. They also need a certificate, be microchipped and have had a rabies jab three weeks prior to travelling. In this case they only need the passport to get back into the UK. All this is done by the vets. We also had them groomed and trimmed. I even managed to sneak in an appointment at the hairdressers and beautician for myself too.

After showing our passports we convoy into lanes and wait to be funnelled down to the euro tunnel. There is a dog friendly area so the pooches were able to go for a short walk and we could stretch our legs. 

 By 9:46 we have boarded, ready to depart at 9:50.

If like me you’ve never experienced the Eurotunnel before, I can honestly say it’s a strange experience. We are moving and yet the car is stationary. When I look down then back up I expect to see us on the road in moving traffic, but no, just a car in front and shutters up ahead. It’s four cars to each compartment then shutters divide the next four cars and so on. So far apart from my ears popping it’s a smooth ride. The dogs have settled down for a sleep and Pops is reading his digital newspaper on the tablet. The expected journey time is 30 to 35 minutes. 

And it was. We have arrived in France!

The shutters come up and we are off. We come out of the tunnel bang on the A16. With no toilet break since setting off, we aim to stop at the first station, freshen up and take the pooches for another walk.

 Things to note; its now one hour ahead of UK time and driving is on the right. If travelling on a toll road, have your cash ready. 

The service station was a blessing. Spotlessly clean with food shop, toilets and a Starbucks. Yeepi!! Coffee please! As I went off to the rest room Pops took the dogs for a walk. When I finally managed to find him he said he had slipped. Hmmm two falls in 24 hours,  lack of sleep,  food and coffee I think. We do what we need to do and then get back on the road. The weather mirrors the UK, with cloudy skies, but no rain. It’s 12:26 France time.

The first hurdle over with and nicely refreshed, we relax enough to listen to music. We have one cd, Jim Morrison. He sounds a lot like Conner Reeves, but after two hours playing the same cd,  Jim, Conner, whatever needs to go.

Anyway. The next stop will be our bed for the night. It’s in Le Mans, situated just off the motorway. We take the A16, A13 and A28. These are paid motorways. So far we have paid four times all under 2€ , not much, but inconvenient to keep stopping. You can buy a tag' so you don't have to keep stopping and finding the toll fee, it just charges to your account. You can purchase these from either ‘emovis tag’ or  ‘eurtoll’. It’s worth noting the tolls vary in price.  By the time our journey ends,  the toll fees will amount to 300€. 

Pops makes the journey so far look easy. With his careful military planning everything has worked out as expected. But it’s a gruelling- behind the wheel time table he has set for himself. I feel sleepy but I refuse to nod off.  We are in this together.

We packed goodies, sweets, curtesy of me and sandwiches curtesy of Pops. There’s crisps, chocolate bars, orange and water too. It helps to have supplies on the journey, so no need to stop. Would recommend a tidy packed vehicle to make belongings easily accessible. Luckily the back windows are blacked out so people can’t see the mess. 

The journey to Le Mans goes well. There has been no hold ups on the traffic. Even with the ‘Yellow vests’ a movement protesting fuel taxes, blocking parts of roads.

It’s 16:45 as we pull up to the place we will be staying at. It’s like a farmhouse. Our area is a built on extension with bedroom and bathroom. In the main house we have a lounge and kitchen combined. It’s bed and breakfast so there won’t be an evening meal we will use the supplies we brought with us. The host did however supply us with a lovely bottle of red wine. Perfect.

It was a nightmare getting what we needed from the car. The path was muddy leading from the car to our door. The pooches were excited and wanted to investigate, running in and out with muddy prints ha ha bless the creatures.

With what we needed unloaded from the car it was time for another well deserved walk.

Pops had been driving for a gruelling 10 hours. He made it look easy and didn’t even do any wrong turns. This part of the journey was probably the worst as we had to get to the Eurotunnel at a certain time. The pooches were no trouble at all and wasn’t car sick. they have had long journeys in the car before, but it’s worth noting some pooches may get car sick.

I’m expecting a more tranquil journey on the next leg of the journey, but for now as we close the door to our apartment, we settle down for a much deserved rest and a sup of wine.

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