Rainy days and Mondays. I reverse the car as close to the front gate as I can and in the pouring rain begin to pack the AWD motorised suitcase with our remaining belongings. Neatly stacked and balanced we set off for Cherbourg.
The drive is good and uneventful. For the most. When I took over the driving the weather also changed. We drove into black clouds and a storm. Without any exaggeration it was the worst downfall of rain I have ever experienced. It was like being under a waterfall. The wipers wizzing left to right at top speed couldn’t cope and I had to slow down to a crawl. Then it eased, I sped up and it came at us again, unrelenting. There was no mercy. I was almost near to driving blind. The only consolation I have is that I was driving and not Sarah as I know she just hates driving in that sort of weather. We push through to brighter sky’s. A couple of quick stops for coffee and petrol. Heading for Bordeaux, Nantes, Rennes along the A83 and then A84 into the Port. We make good time. Not too early. Not too late. Cars, caravans and bikes are already in the queue.
We scramble for passports and the printed ticket which is in the back of the car and gracefully move towards passport control. We are given documents and something to dangle over the rear view mirror that indicates our location on the ferry. We are pointed to a lane and find we are at the front. It has no advantage as there are about 12 other lanes, but at least we have a view.
Eventually we are ready to drive aboard. We go up a raised road that delivers us to deck 6 of the ferry and the ceiling height is so low it makes you want to duck instinctively. From the belly of the floating car carrier we walk the narrow corridors and stairs to the main passenger area and head for the Club Lounge. I wonder if it was worth paying the extra? In fact it was. Opened last year it is nicely fitted with great seats and we are luckily to be by the window. The seats are bright yellow and leather. They look like something out of an upmarket mens barbers, not that with my hairstyle I would visit one. Tea and biscuits are available. The wifi is free, but is crap so we have to pay for an upgrade to the hi-speed version. I always think thats a cheat!
After settling I go next door to the cafe we passed on our way to the Club Lounge for a couple of glasses of wine. On my way out I stop by the information desk to ask if it is okay to take food into the Club Lounge. The nice young girl then launched into a speech on how she isn’t too keen because of various food smells, bothering other passengers, …. on and on. Crisps would be okay. But, the food smells….. I shut down and say walking away a simple yes or no would have done!
Feeling unsettled I continue to the cafe. The food selection is limited. I purchase 2 small bottles of nicely packaged red wine and I am handed 2 plastic cups. In the supermarket I could buy 2 full bottles for what I paid for a glass and half.
I return to the Club Lounge and ramp up my iPad … slowly kicking into life. Later the guy opposite goes off and returns with wine and 2 wine glasses. What? How come you got those and not plastic cups? Seems if I went in the other direction I would have found the restaurant with the appropriate vessels for drinking French wine.
Sarah has muscles to feed and so its not long before we venture along for something to eat. The restaurant is self service. The first thing that comes to mind is school dinners. Mash with lumps, dinner ladies with hair on their lips and big sweaty arms. It wasn’t like that of course, but I can’t shake the image. Self service seems so, I don’t know … short in customer attention. Its not as though its less expensive. Its cheap in its concept. I don’t like waiting for my food to be slopped on a plate and handed to me. I don’t like having to slide it along a counter and then have it itemised and poked at the cash register. Guess what … I don’t like it! We sit at a vacant table. It looks like an early IKEA design that never caught on. Wood, solid, robust ugly. There is a view looking out over the wake that the ferry leaves behind. Nothing but cloud and gray coloured water with a white line dividing the churn that settles into a million bubbles. There is a TV high on the wall so that you have to make an effort to look up. The chances of hearing it in a canteen ..that’s what it is, not a restaurant... are slim. I decide that I never want to drive so far again and I never want to be on a ferry again, never. But I am foolish, because that’s the only way we can return to Spain if we take the car. Something to look forward to!
The crossing is actually very smooth so I’m quite impressed. The Club Lounge seems very well sound proofed. As other Club Lounge passengers come and go you can hear the cacophony of noise from the rest of the ship. A clash of activity, children screaming and crockery fighting eating implements. The door slides closed and a calm descends. Yes, despite being a toffee-nosed old git of a snob about the restaurant I am pleased with the sound proofing. After working on the iPad and shuffling in my seat in an attempt to sleep the ferry slows as we approach Poole harbour. Passing along the coast we can see Sandbanks and maneuver through the entrance to Poole Harbour and the Studland Ferry crossing. This is a small water way from Sandbanks to Studland that almost cuts the journey to Swanage by half. The current here is very strong hence a chain-ferry is used.
Looking out of the window it is grey. Lights are on, but some of the sights are just familiar. Sarah and I used to live in Poole. We had a small apartment in Constitutional Hill and during the winter months when the leaves had flown and the trees lay bare we could see the ferry coming and going. I would break into song “There’s a ferry coming in … la, la, la … etc”. It was my version of “A Coach Coming In” from the musical Paint Your Wagon. Mmm, well, it made me happy.
So then, we are here. Yes, but not arrived. It seems to take an age to dock the ferry. Meanwhile, a small football crowd smother the tiny gap that is the exit to the tiny corridor. At some point we reach the car. Sit in it and wait. And wait. Cars, one after the other roll on past us. Then as the lanes clear the cars behind us start to reverse out. Whats going on? We are guessing a car in front of us can’t start and we are trapped in a lane that has the metal pilon to our right. Its our turn to reverse. Its not that straightforward. As we pass the guilty car its obvious that it hasn’t broken down at all. The lane we were in comes to a dead-end. This means the only way out is to reverse. What the F…! Are you serious? Who the hell designed this truckload of old whatsits? Struth Ruth! I don’t believe it!
Mystified by the intelligence of the design we head to Passport Control and after a bit of a queue are on our way to Iford, just east of Bournemouth, almost on the Christchurch border. Sarah adjusts to driving a left-hand-drive car on the left side of the road. Brilliantly of course … of course!
Until next time🌏