Holidays Our little holiday diary

France Part Six (Finale)

Day 13. 

After breakfast etc., back to reception where we were advised to book runabout rail tickets, which we did. Down to the station, which was very close to the bus stop we had used yesterday. Having studied the Paris Are you following all this?). This we did and assumed that all was now well. Wrong… There was a map in great detail, our plan was to go the furthest point in town and work our way back, taking advantage of the runabout ticket. We headed for the Cathedral Notre Dame. It was about a half hour train journey. We spent some time in and around the Cathedral before moving on to The Centre Pompidou (The Inside Out Building). We didn’t go in, deciding instead to see as many famous sights as possible). Round The Louvre Museum through beautiful parks, past the Arc DIGITAL CAMERAde Triumphe du Carrousel, on to the Grande Palace (We thought it was a science museum but it turned out to have been taken over for an antiques and very expensive jewelry show) and Petit Palace. We then made our way to the Princess Diane Memorial at the Place d’Alama (where the fateful car crash happened), which is very close to the Eifel Tower. After seven and a half hours of walking round Paris (very much like our first day in Central Park, New York) and dining in a roadside café, we then tried to find a train station to get us back to the site. After being given a few false directions by local people, we were finally pointed in the right direction by a couple of American students. Thankfully we boarded a train heading towards our station but with only two stops to go, the train stopped for what seemed ages, then there was a long announcement in French. We hadn’t got a clue what was going on but all the carriages seemed empty so we went and found a guard who told us that we had to change trains and we could catch another one on the opposite platform. This we did and soon found out this train was taking us back towards where we came from. We soon jumped off that one and found one that was going in the direction we wanted. We could relax now. Wrong… There was a branch in the line and the train we were on took the wrong (for us) line. We realized this very quickly and at the next available stop jumped off. (I hope you managed to follow all that coming and going). We raced across to the opposite platform and jumped onto the first available train which turned out to be a Bullet train which took us, nonstop, all the way back into the centre of Paris and ended up in the Paris Gare Montparnasse which is an enormous main line station. (I We were now beginning to get a little worried. There were plenty of what we call real trains but nothing that we felt would get us back to Versailles. After wandering up and down the various platforms, we stumbled across a very small information desk with a man and a young lady squashed into the kiosk. We tried speaking to the man who made it plain that he couldn’t, or wouldn’t speak English in spite of our rather feeble attempts at French. The young lady was far more helpful and explained to us where to get to the right platform and which station to change at in order to get onto the right train back to our original station. After three and a half hours we finally and wearily arrived at our station. Making our way back to the campsite, we fully intended to buy something to drink at a local wine store but it had just closed. Another dry night. Oh well!!

 

Day 14.

The plan today is very simple. Wash, dress, breakfast, get out of Versailles and make our way northwards to get as near to Calais as possible for an early start tomorrow. After studying the campsite book very carefully, we settled for a site in Guines which is only about 6 miles from Calais and seems ideal for what we want. We programmed Nigella for this site and set off through the very heavy morning traffic of Versailles and the outer edge of Paris. It was a pleasant drive and very uneventful, arriving right outside the entrance to the site just after six o‘clock in the evening. A quick meal and off to bed early. We had decided to get up at 2.30am in order to get to Calais for an earlier ferry to give ourselves every chance to hand back the Motorhome at 11.00am as per the agreement. We set the alarms on both our mobile phones and a separate alarm clock just to be sure.

Day 14

Mileage 204 miles (340Km)

Day 15.

It could only happen to us. Neither of us heard any of the alarms and we didn’t wake up until 5.30am. Mad panic to get up and out as quickly as possible. No time to wash or have any breakfast, just sort out the Motorhome by unhooking the electrics and making sure that we leave the pitch tidy. A mad dash to Calais just in time to see the ferry leaving. We caught a ferry at about 7.00am which got us into Dover at 7.30. (The hour difference) We worked out that we could just about get back for 11.00 if we didn’t stop anywhere on the way. We didn’t reckon on British customs!! They asked us to pull into a separate shed where they quizzed us about our journey, whether we were carrying anything we shouldn’t etc. Inspected our documentation and generally wasted half an hour of our valuable time. Eventually, we hit the road, Diane hanging on for dear life, trying to tidy up in the back and generally getting everything ready for handing back the Motorhome. I have never driven as fast as I did that day considering the vehicle. We were very fortunate to find a filling station only about a quarter of a mile from where we had to return the vehicle and the time was 7 minutes past 11.00am. Handed the vehicle back and picked our car up and drove home, arriving at approx. 7.00pm. What a nice feeling!!

Mileage 363 miles (605Km)

Guines to home

 

  Brief Summary

Well, what more can we say, it was quite an experience. Plenty of ups and downs along the way and certainly some surprises. The first thing that must be said is that although I have driven and car and caravan many years ago, the Motorhome, in contrast, was an absolute joy to drive. Even though we decided not to drive on any toll roads, we had no trouble getting about. The Sat Nav (Nigella) was both a blessing and a curse but I would certainly use one again. One of the main things that struck both of us was the general cleanliness of France. Very little litter anywhere, nearly all the villages we passed through seemed to have gone to a lot of trouble to have looked after their properties and surrounding areas with flowers everywhere. Most roundabouts were very well tended and many had sculptures on them. They all seemed to have a sense of pride in where they lived. When I was growing up, it was instilled into me that we English didn’t like the French and they didn’t like us. When we went one our first trip to Paris about thirty years ago it seemed to be true. Nobody was prepared or able to help us and we just had to muddle through. What little help we got was given reluctantly. In contrast, on this trip, we were offered help, advice, courtesy and friendliness virtually everywhere we went. It certainly opened our eyes and we are very grateful to all those French people.

 

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