I had a second bed in my room but I was very thankful I was alone to spread my mess around. See my cute little travel kettle?
I took a couple of photos from the windows; we were on the sixth floor, which worried me but it never became a problem. This one is taken from the end of the corridor next to my room, but not the view from my window:
This is what I had as a view from my window. The trees hid the busy road mostly from view but didn’t mask the sound of the traffic. Thankfully the window was double glazed and reduced sound polution quite well.
This is the view of the corridor. I know, it looks rather like a borstal:
Give me German efficiency over French style any day!
Then we hit the road. But so did everyone else so the going was fairly slow. By the time we got to Lille, we were running late, so time for Lille was about an hour and a half. The centre of Lille has no public toilets and so we usually recommend a visit to Mc Donald’s. That day, the loos there were so out of order you could smell them from the street. Yuck.
I had a croque monsieur in a cafe I have been to before and then a wander round the market:
I found some nice things here and before very long it was time to pile back into the coach and head back to England, smug that nothing had gone wrong.
It’s not over till the fat lady sings and this lady wasn’t singing.
About fifty miles or so from Calais, I saw with horror(and in slow motion) the exhaust of a van ahead detach itself and bounce along the road right at us. There was nowhere for our driver to go so we went over it. I had had visions of the thing bouncing right through our windscreen but when we immediately pulled on to the hardshoulder, I knew we had problems. The exhaust had bounced at a crucial moment and hit something under our coach, severing the connection of the water pipe to the radiator. We were going nowhere fast.
Some hours later, after much phoning, moving of students up the coach and mind boggling ingenuity from the drivers, plus a police escort off and then back on the autoroute, we were mobile again and heading for Calais.
Not a bit of it. We’d missed our ferry and the next one was delayed. At least we went through Customs without trouble. Finally on board and underway, I went up with the drivers to the drivers’ lounge for my dinner, which was better than going the previous way. By some chance we were on the same ferry. The the boat started juddering as if we’d hit a reef. Lovely. Then it really began to rock. Not as bad as I’ve been in, but not exactly smooth either. Certainly the worst channel crossing I’ve done so far, anyway. Back down with the kids, it became clear it was scaring some and making others sick. The crew came round with sick bags. I’m not a bad sailor and I was pretty sure I was OK. I had a headache but beyond the occasional queasy moment I was OK. I just didn’t like how much the boat was rolling, so I found something solid to hold onto and held onto it like grim death.
That was bad enough but just as we sighted land, the tannoy piped up with the message that since the weather was bad, we were now in queue of ferries waiting to dock and since the wind was making it unsafe to dock, we might be there at least another 90 minutes. I had the feeling they were being upbeat as the boat was being buffetted rather vigorously.
By now the kids had had enough. One boy was wheezing and it turns out his inhaler was back in the coach. I suggested the paper bag trick(you breathe in and out of a paper bag, it’s a useful emergency measure that does help) and that if that failed, we find the purser and access medical supplies. There’s no way they’d be letting anyone down on the car deck at that point; probably not actually dangerous but no one was going to take that risk.
Eventually, a long time later, we docked and disembarked, hours and hours later than we should have. It’s still about two hours to the drop off point and then another three to the coach depot, not to mention another 45 minutes after that for me.
I finally crawled into bed at 4am on Monday morning, so glad to be home and so tired, my mascara stayed in place till I surfaced properly at about 8am, still wired and buzzing.
I can only say that with the difficulties we experienced, all beyond my(or anyone’s) control I feel we were being cared for. But at some points in the proceedings, I did wonder quite how bad it was all going to get. The thing is about being “in” time, you don’t know how the story will end. This one had a happy ending. But it may well not have done.
A sobering thought.