I am going to La Belle France for a few days. I thought I may get in before fortress Europe closes all doors to us Brits, erects an Atlantic Wall (didn't someone do that some years back?) and moves 2 divisions to Sangatte in case we pesky foreigners try to invade in a decidedly underhand manner, through the tunnel.
Flying, these days, is off the agenda. It is not that I do not like flying. The actual flying part, is usually rather enjoyable - or at least it was before you had to starve for a number of hours (or eat a sandwich, which made old British Rail sandwiches seem like the offerings of a Michelin-starred Chef) and sit with your ankles round your chin. Or, as may soon be, enter a cabin with no more than a long rope along its length; no seats - so passengers can spend their time engaged in the simple task of holding on (saves on the catering, seats and really any sort of need for an aircraft "interior" per se)
It is the bit before and the bit after that I detest so vehemently. The endless herding, the queues, the security checks, running the retail gauntlet and the inane "make the (somethings) suffer!" attitude. Having airline staff whose only expression is "No! Have a nice day!" (but said with a wide, beaming smile, of course) and impersonal airports that have all sorts of signs to everywhere apart from, say, directions to your given departure gate; that, and all the charisma of a three week old road-killed rodent.
Going by car (we have a Volvo XC60 which may also be called a Tardis) I can pack what I like, go when I like, return when I like (-ish, as long as the M25 and M20 are not broken) I can stop off as and when I choose and generally speaking do not have to spend any time in a stuffy, unhygenic atmosphere or sit on seats that were probably last deep cleaned about 15,000 backsides ago.
The Volvo XC60 is a great diesel plodder, so it will sit on the motorway at around the 80 mph mark and, basically, keep that up until you drop off the edge of the world (the world being flat, of course, as we all know). We have a towing hook on it (of which I am very proud) for the Volvo has a 4 by 4 capability which, though not designed as a true "mud plugger", is fine for getting a horse box off the Gymkhana field.
We will travel on Le Shuttle (or whatever they call it, now) as it saves a lot of that bouncing around on the North Sea and having a friend who has a holiday home in France, accommodation does not have to be paid for. Which is nice. I am saving up for a caravan. I rather like the look of the Elddis Odyssey 540 - though if you ask the opinion of 6 caravan owners, you'll get 12 different answers. The only way to buy one is to look at as many as you can, until you find one that suits you. We have spent a lot of time at Michael Jordan Caravans in Gomshall, GU5 boring remarkably tolerant and understanding sales people to death.
In France, we have to pay the motorway tolls, of course. Tolls are all over motorway France; but you do get something for your money. Trying to avoid the tolls by using the Route National roads usually costs an extra tank of diesel and maybe even an overnight stay. Motorways are in good condition and in some cases, when you get down South a bit, quite spectacular. Of course, if you are at 32,000 feet you tend to miss that bit.
We travel with the dogs. You need a pet passport, which you get from your local vet at the same time as getting the little darlings' rabies jab. This must be done at least 10 days before you leave and will cost around £120 when all done. Dogs mean a mesh over the rear of the Tardis, sorry, Volvo and if your dog is small, you must get a dog seat belt attachment, which costs around £6.00. For the return, you need to visit a vet and get the dogs wormed and their passports duly stamped before returning to the UK. More about travelling with dogs, later.
Follow me on Twitter and I will (try and) tell the story of our adventure. I may even try out this "Instagram" thing. See you in a week.