So I left you on a total cliff hanger in part 1 of our holiday travels. We’d arrived at the channel tunnel frazzled and more then a little on edge after our eventful morning. Not to mention the stress of leaving our house unlocked thanks to the lost keys!
We’d been told, (unreliably may I add), that we had an hour either side of the tunnel and although we were about half an hour late for check in, were quietly confident that we would sail through on the next one. Pushing the ticket in, we were pretty distraught to hear that we would have to wait until the 10.50pm train. It was 7.20pm! Even a quick chat with the operator got us nowhere.
We parked up and I decided to run in and double check to see if there was anything at all that they could do for us, while hubs got the kids out, ready for our marathon time killing session in somewhere with not much to do. I dashed into the office, slightly flustered. I was carrying the ticket, my phone and also hubby’s phone as it had the email booking on. I’d already been in the van for 3 hours and the stressful hours leading up to the leaving had resulted in some crazy hair, (I run my hands through it a lot when I’m worrying!!), and a slightly crazed expression! I’m amazed they served me actually! 😀
They’d told us over the intercom that we were on the 10.50pm one because that was the one we’d booked, which we hadn’t and so I was hoping that they had made some sort of mistake and all would be fixed.
Erm, no. As the lady very matter of factly informed me, we had missed ours. And so this was the one they could give us, (my face started to fall!), but then she added that she might have a space for us earlier. I swear I could have leapt over the desk and kissed her! 😀
She started questioning me as she searched for space on the system. Not about the van, or the journey, but about whether there was anything I’d change if I could go back in time in in my life. Which was a bit weird! I was a bit thrown, but I would have done anything for that earlier spot, (well, within reason!), so I made slightly confused and stilted conversation until she handed a new ticket to me and told me we were on the next train!!!! Arghhhhhhhh!
I legged it out of the doors waving the ticket and shouting for everyone to get back in the van, we had to go NOW! Mr PB said after that the moment he saw me rushing out of the doors waving the tickets was one of the best of the holiday!
The kids were luckily pretty easy to coax back into their seats knowing that this was it, we were about to go under the sea to see the crabs. (No matter how many times I tried to explain to Small Boy that we would not actually be on a train on the sea bed, he told absolutely everyone he’d be seeing crabs, I felt I had to keep explaining!)
I would have been more nervous, (the whole idea of it freaks me right out, a tunnel. Under the sea!!), but as soon as we’d boarded, the kids needed the loo. Which was about 6 carriages away. Which meant 12 airlock doors to get through, then 12 back. And walking past everyone else waiting. Including a foreign sports team squashed into a van and spilling out into the carriage. I was worried we’d get tipsy just walking past because the booze smell wafting out the door was so strong!! 😀 They were super polite though, and all moved to let us through.
It was going well, (as well as toilet trip with two small people in a tiny train carriage loo can!), until they tested the alarm while we were in the toilet, which completely freaked the kids out and rendering them unable to pee! So we had to stay in there until they’d relaxed enough to go! It was not the most pleasant of rooms to spend 20 minutes in. On returning to the van, we found out that Mr P had made friends with the lovely German man parked in front of us, who was taking some vintage cars back home on a trailer. He didn’t speak much English but was so friendly and eager to chat, it was so sweet.
The Mister was slightly distracted by with fitting the special stickers to our headlights. If you’ve not come across these before, they are sort of triangle shaped and designed to stop your beams from pointing across the traffic as they are automatically set for driving on the left if you have a British vehicle. As hubs had neither watched the video it recommended, nor read the leaflet that recommended watching the video, he was winging it slightly. To prevent any further swears, I read the leaflet for him and together we think we managed it. We didn’t get anyone waving or swearing at us anyway! (This can happen if you don’t put them on as you basically blind everyone coming towards you and are that inconsiderate idiot! 😉 )
The next bit is a bit boring. It was driving. Lots and lots of driving! We’d not booked anywhere, instead we had a stack of books that I was in charge of. Europe is so much better for camping, in Britain, it feels as if you get moved on if you so much as pause by the side of the road, but as soon as you get off the tunnel, you will start to see signs for ‘Aires’. These are places where you can pull in and sleep for the night, lots are free, by the side of the motorways and road, and the rest are just a few euros usually, although I did notice the price went up a lot near Chamonix so maybe more expensive in popular towns.
They have them everywhere. The facilities vary, a lot are aimed at motorhomes, which obviously have a loo on board and so only need the waste dump area, (vom!), we however, needed one with toilets as we had the emergency travel potty for the kids but I definitely didn’t fancy wobbling over it myself!!!!
After food, the kids fell fast asleep so we decided to try and push on a bit while they were sleeping so we could do a bit less driving in the following days. I found an aire with a view of a castle and we decided to aim for that. The book had the coordinates and I decided to see if I could and input them into the navigation, I felt very proud after a few internet searches set me on the right track and I managed to get a little pin in the map at the point of the coordinates. I ignored the niggling doubt that the pin looked quite far away from the little spot on the map in the book because, coordinates, they don’t lie right?
Well, it got to midnight and we were in a tiny French village with no street lighting up in the hills, both unsure but not knowing what we were expecting to find, we pressed on, minutes away. ‘You have reached your destination!’ the phone proudly declared as we pulled into a forestry car park. We hadn’t, this was dark, and spooky and muddy, do they have bears in France? This would totally have been bear country if they do! 😉
Oooookaaaaaay, so the ‘winging it’ thing wasn’t working for us that day. We needed a solution and stat! I referred to another of the books and found that there were three aires in the nearest town. That was surely the place to go! Turning around and not looking back, we started back down the steep hill, when, upon reaching the bottom, the fuel light pinged on. Uhoh. This was something we’d been worried about as a massive fuel strike was raging across the country. And we’d been worried about it happening in the day on the motorway, never mind in the middle of nowhere at midnight!
What will happen next? Will we ever find a place to stay? Would the fuel strike mean that we’ll end up stranded by the side of the road before we could reach the town? Would we be eaten by bears as we used the porta potty in the night? Are our travels over before they have even really begun?!
You’ll have to wait for Part 3 to find out! (Sorry! 🙂 )