So the day has finally arrived. The Long Drive in reverse. Not literally in reverse. I’m good but over 1000 miles in reverse is just silly.
Everything had been packed on Friday afternoon and all we needed to do was disconnect the electric, put the combicool in the boot, wind up the legs, hitch up and go. Not forgetting to get dressed first of course.
So by 7:30am we were hitched up. By 7:50am we were waiting outside the camp shop for fresh Pain au chocolate, Pain Aux Rasins and croisants. We deposited the rubbish in the bins and set off.
In fairness the journey was pretty good but of course as is the way with us not entirley without incident.
On the road by 08:10. Through Perpignan and onto the A9 towards Narbonne and hook a left onto the A61 to Tolouse Then onto the A20 past Limoges then the A71 to Paris then the A1 & A26 to Calais. Not quite the reverse route of our outward journey.
On the outward journey we elected to avoid Paris due to traffic etc…. but in hindsight I probably should have used this route.
The first incident came around Tolouse at a toll peage. Basically there was an almighty que to get to the toll booths. Even with our Sanf Tag we could not fight our way across to the dedicated Tag lane. We eventually made it across and through the tag only lane. To be fair this was the only toll that we had to que at. All the others we just sailed straight through, the tag made it so simple to get through.
Approximately 300 miles into our trip we decided on a fuel stop. We pulled into an Aire which was Hammered! no parking anywhere, ques for fuel and the que for the Ladies was almost into the carpark. Apparently it was expected this weekend as the 15th is a public holiday in France, but this was only moderate compared to what was expected.
Next was somewhere on the A20. All traffic came to a standstill. People quickly got out of cars and started walking around until a siren was heard approaching when the traffic parted to make a central lane for the police to get through easily, followed 15 minuets or so later by a breakdown truck.
It turned out to be a jacknifed caravan at the front of the que.
Because of the lost time so far and of course my desire to get far enough to make tomorrows drive to the tunnel as easy as possible i.e. short I decided that we should brave the Periferique. Everyone has horror stories about the Periferique and whilst I’m no stranger to that road it does have a tendency to look something like a scene from the old cartoon “Wacky Races” with dasterdly and Mutley. The paris route is about an hour faster even with traffic according to Google etc… So I decided to brave it.
It started to rain about 50 miles south of Paris and rain and rain. In fact it quickly became torrential and it kept raining all the way through Paris. As soon as we turned onto the Periferique I made the quip “first to see the tower” as my dad always did on the way to Blackpool. Onlt for 20 seconds later to see Le Tour Eiffel in all it’s glory. A bit early for it to be lit up but it’s a sight we always love.
The Periferique is busy and you DO need to keep your witts about you. You can not afford to loose concentration at all or you can quickly find yourself in trouble! But if you’re a relatively competent driver you should have no real issues.
Heading out of the North of Paris onto the A1 approaching Charles De Gaul airport there is the usual large Centre Commercial. A large Auchan etc.. which usually means cheap Diesel. Cheaper than motorway prices. I had the bright idea to nip off and fill up which should get us to Calais where we could call at the Auchan there and top up again so that should get us all the way home. Well I headed off the slip road where a discussion ensued as to which sign to follow. By the time we decided we had missed the turn we came upon a Total filling station. We dived in and fuelled up.
Now the fun starts as we exit the filling station. We are now in a one way system which is taking us to Terminal 1 of Charles De Gaul Airport! Oh Sh1t!!! Airports quite often have height barriers and our van is 2.7m high. There is no option but to go for it and go for it we did straight up the ramp to departures/arrivals. I can only imagine the looks on the taxi drivers faces as we trundled past with our caravan. Terminal 1 is a circular building and we went the whole way around. So close to the apron that The Management got quite giddy that she was so close to the aeroplanes to she could almost touch them. Unfortunately she was so giddy that she didn’t manage to take any photos.
Allez to Calais! The rest of the route was straight forward and no incident. we stopped at an Aire and got the legs down. After a good nights sleep we had breakfast in the services.
Onward to Calais for our 13:20 crossing.
We were early so called at the Auchan as planned and filled up on cheap Diesel. Still with some time to kill we headed into the shop to buy some lunch. A Baguette, some ham, tomatoes, cheese of course some biscuits some chocolate and vanilla puddings, and of course a couple of boxes of wine. Be rude not to.
On checking my phone I had received a text from Eurotunnel informing us that there were ques and for our safety etc they were operating a diversion before check in so we decided we better head off now. Of course, no diversion and no real que. Straight upto check in and through. The only ques were for immigration but nothing more than normal busy times.
I was a little worried that because we were checking in early. more than 2 hours early we may get charged or turned away. Luckily we were offered an early crossing.
We got through to the waiting area and went into the terminal. World of Duty Free had been changed so we had a look around.
Don’t be fooled by the name! Duty Free here is NOT Duty Free!! in fact most items here are cheaper 200 yards away at either Cite Europe or the Calais Auchan. The large Toblerones are 3 for 12, cheaper at home even. I heard one guy ask his friend “are you getting some beer?” “you’re kidding it’s cheaper in Tesco!” was his reply. Cigarettes and tobacco are only slightly cheaper than at home.
Our hanger letter was called so off we went. into another que!
We got into our lane and waited only for the message boards to say bording had closed for letter K. We hadn’t moved. I tweeted Eurotunnel and asked what was going on, to be told there was a delay with our train and we should be bording in 10 minuets.
Back in blighty and of course a que on the M25. Right near Heathrow so of course The Management got all giddy again watching the planes taking off over us. She got extremley giddy when the Emirates A380 flew over us!
We eventually got home at around 7:30pm after a pit stop at Oxford services and parking the van back in storage.