Here is the next chapter of our travels. It’s now July 2015 and we are off on a much-needed holiday after an exhausting year. The plan is as it has been for the past couple of years – take the car, travel down through France to Spain then back through France again to home, in a roughly 4 week period. The research has been done, hotels and restaurants have been double and triple checked, lengths of journeys have been discussed and lengthened or shortened, vineyard availability has been assessed, the itinerary has been finalised and…. gasp …. printed out.
D day is Thursday 9th July. We are booked on the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Saint Malo, and we have to leave the house in Somerset at 5.45pm. The morning is spent packing bags then packing the car, then I have some urgent gardening to do in an attempt to keep my lovely plants going while I’m away. I plant half of the beetroot seedlings, saying a sad goodbye to the other half and already regretting the reduced numbers of beetroot tatins that I will be able to make in early autumn. I plant my four stunning geraniums bought weeks ago from Kilver Court and whisper affectionately to them (Ershun’s mantra) “well, you’ve got two chances…”, I trim the tomatoes that are already beginning to smile smugly in Ceres Gertude (my beautiful greenhouse) and tell them to behave themselves (most years they go mad and push themselves out through the flaps by the time I return),and I water everything one last time. I just have time to wash and change and we’re off.
We reach Portsmouth in the hour and a half that it “should” take, and sweep on to the ferry with few delays. For once we’re not even searched, alleluia. We put things in our cabin and join the queue for the restaurant, and although we have to wait a long time for the waiter to reach us (me: “I’m so glad you’re here, we were getting desperate”, waiter: “Oh Madame, you should see the chaos here, I too am desperate.”) eventually we are brought our carafe of water, half bottle of rosé for aperitif and whole bottle of red for the meal. The tables are arranged in close two-formation, and soon a couple comes to the other half of our table and I guiltily hear them discuss whether a half bottle of wine is too much between the two of them. Later we chat and find out about each other, they are a charming couple of lawyers (one insisted that he was recently retired) who are going to France to watch part of the “Tour de France”. As they realistically say, “we line up on the pavement, wait for them to pass, then it’s 10 seconds of whoosh and they’re gone”. They express surprise that we are planning to reach near Bordeaux on our first night and I begin to doubt all those careful calculations. Have I over-estimated what we can manage? We stay chatting far too late given our early start tomorrow – we arrive in Saint Malo at 7.40am, which of course is 6.40 to our body clocks. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.