In the previous year we travelled to Northern France and stayed in a farm cottage just outside of Boulogne and we had such a good time that we agreed to repeat the adventure in 2010. It was perfect really because we had little Molly, my granddaughter, with us and with Sally, my daughter, being such a notoriously untidy packer it was convenient just to take the car and fill it up with overflowing bags of clothes (many of which would never be worn) carrier bags full of last minute thoughts and all of the other items of necessity when travelling with a two year old.
Not quite all of the items that we were going to need however because Sally forgot the pushchair and a bag of essentials including all of Molly’s socks and shoes. Before we could leave therefore the first thing we had to do was go shopping for a cheap replacement stroller and some new footwear.
Mindful of the delays and road works that we had run into the previous year we set off early on Saturday morning giving ourselves plenty of time to get to the south coast. Everything went without a hitch and we sailed down the A1, the A14 and the M11 and even the M25 was flowing freely when we joined it. We crossed the Queen Elizabeth Bridge and passed through the toll booths and I breathed a sigh of relief and confident of being in Dover well ahead of schedule we made contact with Richard, who was travelling independently, to organise a rendezvous. I was relaxed now and easily distracted and somehow at just about this time I missed the turn for Dover and carried on obliviously around the M25.
It took about fifteen minutes to realise something was wrong because there were no signs for Dover any more and we were clearly travelling in a westerly direction when we should have been going east. And I didn’t have a road map either so decided the best thing was to stick on the M25 until the next junction and then turn around. At the first opportunity I was so annoyed with myself that although I got off I became confused by the size of the roundabout (Lincolnshire roundabouts are so much smaller) and got straight back on again still travelling west! I didn’t realise that there were so few junctions on the south east section of the motorway and we travelled for thirty miles or so, well past the sign for Gatwick, until we were able to turn around and park the car in the right direction.
This inevitably put the carefully scheduled itinerary into free fall and having lost almost fifty minutes as a result of the detour the planned rendezvous and spot of leisurely lunch had to be abandoned. The Sea France crossing was scheduled for half past twelve and we arrived with forty minutes to spare and joined the lines of cars, coaches and lorries all waiting for the ferry. Everything was much busier than last year with far more traffic. We had booked our return crossing for only £65 in January but when we checked later it was over £200 and by the week before our journey there was no more availability. Perhaps more people were using their cars this year as a result of the ash cloud problems earlier in the year but there didn’t seem to be any real explanation.
The port was busy and the ferry was half an hour late so we didn’t get on board until after one o’clock and made our way to the passenger decks. It was naturally busier on board as well and we struggled to find a seat and it took over twenty minutes to queue up and buy a couple of beers. Luckily our cars were at the front of the ship so after we docked following a swift crossing on a calm sea the ferry doors opened and we were amongst the first away as we by-passed the town of Calais and under a chalky sky started to head south-west following signs towards Boulogne.
We couldn’t go directly there of course because we had an important stop to make at the Cité d’Europe and a visit to Carrefour to stock up on essential items like beer and wine and a bit of food as well of course. Rachel had been looking forward to this part of the holiday for some time and was almost beside herself when I suggested missing it out and going to a smaller supermarket along the way instead but she cheered up when I was overruled by the rest of the team. Rachel especially wanted to go to Cité d’Europe because she wanted to visit all of the exclusive clothes shops that you just don’t find in the United Kingdom, places like New Look, H&M and Top Shop and she went off with Sally for girly shopping while the rest of us were left with responsibility for alcohol and bread.
Carrefour was unusually busy as well and to be honest I found the whole visit a bit of a chore so I was glad when it was over and we were back on the road for the final forty kilometres of the journey towards our destination of the small village of Longvilliers just outside the posh resort town of Le Touquet Paris Plage.
Unusually for me we found the place quite easily and even though the final turn into the accommodation involved quite a lot of guesswork we had got it right and we had arrived at our holiday cottage late in the afternoon.
The weather was rather mixed and although it had been raining and the ground was wet the clouds were now starting to clear and a bit of weak sunshine was beginning to shyly show its face. From the outside the cottage looked fine but when we were shown inside I sensed a collective disappointment. It seemed dark and grubby with an odd assortment of furniture and I think we went through that moment that occurs when something doesn’t meet our expectations.
No one said anything but I know we were all feeling the same way so the first important thing to do after we had unpacked the cars was to make ourselves feel at home and crack open a couple of beers and after only a few minutes things didn’t seem nearly as bad. The cottage was full of antiques and artefacts and although I was sure none of them were valuable I did wonder how much of my deposit I would actually get back because there was a lot of potential for breakages here with a little one running around and curiously poking into things.
The weather continued to improve and the large back garden began to dry up and very quickly we all agreed that we were satisfied with our remote location on the edge of the small village surrounded by green fields and farm animals, next to a babbling brook and the perfect place for relaxation.
It was late afternoon/early evening but not warm enough to dine al fresco so after we had explored the immediate surroundings and met our friendly neighbour Camille who introduced Molly to his ducks, geese and hens we prepared ourselves our first evening meal in France, got tucked into the first of the beers and after Molly had finally tired and gone to bed opened the gin and tonic and had a couple of large ones before calling it a day and going off to bed.