France 2019

Swiss Roadie Trip Day 1 – London to Reims

10th June 2019

We’re off on an extra little adventure. Daughter No 2 is doing an experiment in Switzerland and needs a van load of equipment driven from London to Zurich. So we are going to be roadies. Or, more accurately, the old man is going to be a roadie. I’m just along for the ride. Does that make me a groupie? Probably not with my own daughter.

Imperial College
Arriving at Imperial College

We start the day by catching an Uber to her university. We’ve not booked an Uber before. The old man eyes the App with the sort of suspicion you’d expect from someone encountering witchcraft. But the car arrives and we reach our destination without the driver casting a spell.

On the Road

The van is delivered – 35 minutes late. Daughter No 2 is very stressed. However, the equipment is packed and we are on our way in plenty of time for our train, which is late anyway. The stress levels are not helped when we reach our first roundabout and the pumps topple over like a very expensive pack of dominoes. After a stop to re-secure the pumps, we set off once again for Cheriton. Upon arrival, we check in and Park up. When it is finally time to board, the old man has snuck off for a burger and has to be prised out of Burger King.

Excited about my first Trip in Le Tunnel

It’s my first time in the Eurotunnel, so I’m briefly excited until I realise we really are just sitting in a van staring at a wall for 35 minutes.

Eurotunnel
In the Eurotunnel

We arrive in Coquelles and set off down the motorway – not cheap in France – we’re going to notch up €120 in tolls. So it’s particularly annoying when we get caught in a traffic jam in a contraflow. This means we no longer have time to visit Reims en route and head straight for tonight’s accommodation.

Bedroom Wall

Once checked in, we head to the supermarket. We are in the Champagne region. In my head, dinner consists of fresh baguette, French cheeses and pâté, all washed down with a nice, cold glass of fizz.

Gite Garden
Our Gite

As we walk towards the doors, the shutters come down. It’s Whit Monday (apparently a public holiday – who knew? Obviously not us!) and France is shut. We try a few more places, but the only thing open is McDonalds. So we spend our evening in Champagne eating chips and drinking fizzy water. Not quite the fizz I had in mind…

MacDonalds
Living it up at MacDonalds

Swiss Roadie Trip Day 2 – Reims to Obermumpf

11th June 2019

Today is a normal working day, so we start with a second attempt at the supermarket. This time we don’t try to enter the car park. The van is allegedly 1.85m and the height limit allegedly 2.10m. One of these allegations is false as we discovered yesterday when we went clattering into the barrier.

French Supermarket
Finally made it to the Supermarket

We purchase bread and cheese and set off for Switzerland accompanied by Six the Musical. Most of the day is spent driving; a total of five hours, with one brunch stop at a French service station. We arrive in Switzerland mid afternoon.

Service Station Brunch
Service Station Brunch

Swiss Roadie Trip Day 11 – Zurich to Besançon

20th June 2019

Besançon
Besançon

It’s time to start the drive back to London. It’s over 600 miles, so we’ve divided it into 3 chunks. Our first overnight stop is in France at Besançon. We set off from Zurich with musical accompaniment for four hours of driving/culture. By the time we reach our hotel, we have covered Tudor history (Six), Greek mythology (Hadestown) and American history (Hamilton).

Besançon
Besançon

The hotel is difficult to spot, requiring three (increasingly irate) circuits of the one way system to locate it. I briefly hope our arrival will stop daughter No 2 from reciting the lyrics of every musical in the world, but we’re in the birthplace of Victor Hugo, so this is unlikely.

Victor Hugo Statue
Victor Hugo Statue

We check in and go in search of lunch. It’s mid afternoon, so locating a restaurant that’s still open takes a while, but we find a crêperie which serves an awesome Roquefort pasta.

Creperie Lunch
Creperie Lunch

Besançon is a fortified city in a U shaped bend of the River Doubs. We walk along the river to the house where Victor Hugo was born, which is now a museum. He only lived here for six weeks and never returned. But that doesn’t prevent the locals from milking the connection for all it’s worth.

Victor Hugo's birth place
Victor Hugo’s birth place

Daughter No 2 manages the entire visit without singing a single lyric to Les Misérables. But the strain is finally too much; back at the hotel, we add the French Revolution to our day of musical culture.

Victor Hugo's birth place
Victor Hugo’s birth place

Swiss Roadie Trip Day 12 – Besançon to Fontainebleau

21st June 2019

Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau

Today’s 210 mile drive takes us as far as Fontainebleau. It’s a slight deviation from the optimum route, but Fontainebleau has a parkrun. Our route is predominantly motorway which is (a) expensive (it costs €60 to drive across France) and (b) dull. Thank goodness for musical theatre. By the time we reach our destination, we all know all the lyrics to Six, but only one of us feels the need to sing along. There’s still time for a rendition of Les Misérables. Singing along is trickier but daughter no 2 performs admirably (although I fear her head is going to explode during One Day More).

We stop at a rest area to use the facilities. The toilet is so high tech it’s like wandering into the USS Enterprise. It’s a far cry from my childhood visits to France when peeing involved putting a foot either side of a stinking hole and hoping you missed your pants.

Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau

We reach Fontainebleau in time for a picnic and a wander round the grounds of Fontainebleau Château. The huge 1900 room château, residence of many French monarchs, is most known as the palace of Napoléon; it is from here that he abdicated and departed into exile in 1814.

Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau

There are armed soldiers on the gates. They let others pass without acknowledgement. But say ‘Bonjour’ to us and when I look round, they’re following. I can’t decide if we’re a security threat or daughter No 2 has pulled!

Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau

We’re too late to visit the interior of the château, so have to make do with a visit to the gift shop for a Napoléon fridge magnet (I resist the temptation to buy a solar powered plastic Napoléon whose arm swings in and out of his jacket).

Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau

We walk round the lakes and gardens of the château. I’ve read mixed reviews of the grounds. They’re much less formal than many stately homes, but I can think of worse places for a parkrun.

Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau

The château is surrounded by 280 square kilometres of forest. On the edge of the forest is the village of Bourron-Marlotte where we are staying tonight. It’s a lovely village – so lovely that our hosts are on tenterhooks; tonight they announce the result of France’s most beautiful village and Bourron-Marlotte is in the running.

Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau

We have supper in the garden and an early night ready for parkrun and the drive back to London in the morning.

Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau

Swiss Roadie Trip Day 13 – Fontainebleau to London

22nd June 2019

Fontainebleau parkrun
Fontainebleau parkrun

It’s Saturday – AKA parkrun day and today we’re running in the grounds of Fontainebleau Château. To be more precise; two laps of an ornamental lake at the entrance to the château.

Fontainebleau parkrun
Fontainebleau parkrun

So, it’s an early start to ensure we have sufficient time to find somewhere to park and locate the start; there’s only 13 runners, it’s not like a British parkrun where you can can find the start by simply followed the hordes of other runners heading in that direction.

Fontainebleau parkrun
Fontainebleau parkrun

My fitness has declined due to injury, but I meet a lovely lady called Christine from Kingston and we pootle round together. It takes a very slow 47 minutes, but we chat the whole way round, so the time flies by. We speed up towards the end when our respective families come and encourage us to run more and talk less.

Fontainebleau parkrun
Fontainebleau parkrun

Then it’s time to drive the 225 miles to Calais. It’s hot and first we have to circumnavigate Paris. Today’s soundtrack is Hadestown – appropriate for a Parisian motorway on a Saturday morning. We reach the Tunnel and depart France at 3.50 pm, arriving in the UK at 3.25 pm. My brain doesn’t deal well with such concepts. We arrived before we left and not even in a DeLorean. We take a comfort break before setting off, and I am excited to find Colin Jackson on the toilet wall.

Colin Jackson Toilet
Colin Jackson Toilet

The drive to London is tedious with the final 20 miles taking two hours. There are two reasons for this: (1) it’s London and (2) the old man knows better and rejects the satnav’s suggested route (twice). Not even musical theatre can lighten the mood.

The end of the Trip

Then, having dropped the van at university in the midst of the Summer Ball, there’s only the matter of a taxi to daughter No 2’s flat, a bus to where we left the car outside the Congestion Zone and the 100 mile drive to Bournemouth. We reach our penultimate destination – the Golden Oryza Chinese takeaway at 10.20 pm. It’s been a long trip and I’m all travelled out. (Until next time!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s