The snow that caused havoc in the UK still lingers. The bitterly cold wind whipped it into huge snowdrifts in places where I have never seen snowdrifts before in the 28 years that I have lived in the same house. Thousands of new lambs have perished in Derbyshire in the snow because the farmers could not get to them. It’s a terrible and heartbreaking story.
I did however manage to get Lulu trimmed. The lady that does it took pity on us and squeezed her in one evening. I fetched her from the lady’s house at 10pm two days before we came to France.
It’s 23 weeks since we left our little French house last October. This has been the longest time ever between visits and that combined with the horrendous winter we have had we were so looking forward to the trip. We were up at 4am on Good Friday, on the road by 4.30 and the journey to Folkestone was easy.
Although it was very cold, barely above freezing, the weather was fine and the traffic light and behaving itself. All the nutters seemed to have taken the day off. We crossed the Dartford bridge about 7am and arrived at Eurotunnel about 8.00, just as it was beginning to snow again.
That was when things went pear-shaped.
We were almost two hours early for our train so at the check-in I asked if there might be any chance of getting on an earlier train. The young man looked at my booking reference and told me I was at the wrong terminal.
Thinking it was an odd thing to say I asked him where the other terminal was. He told me I should have been at Calais. I had somehow booked the trip the wrong way round.
I stared in horror at the booking confirmation I had printed out and it definitely said “Friday 29th March – Calais to Folkestone”. I had looked at this piece of paper many times and goodness only knows how I managed not to notice it.
Nick and I stared at each other in dismay and disbelief. The young man told us to go to the Customer Services desk and see what could be done. I was not very hopeful that anything useful could be done at all. I knew the shuttle was very busy. Easter is always a busy weekend but to add to that thousands more people than usual were leaving the country in search of better weather and the reports of industrial action at the Calais ferry port had meant the tunnel was pretty much fully booked.
The lady at Customer Services confirmed my fears. There were no spaces at all in the high carriages on Friday and the best she could offer us was 11.30 on Saturday morning. Unless, that is, we could unpack the topbox in the snow, somehow get it and all its contents in the car along with Lulu and then there might be a chance……..we thought about it for a moment but it was impossible.
I struggled to hold back my tears as we accepted our fate. The thought of driving all the way home and back again the next day was too awful to contemplate. The alternative was to try to find somewhere to stay for the night that would accept dogs and then mooch about miserably until bedtime.
She printed out a new booking form for the next day and then said “I have some good news. This booking is for tomorrow but you’re going today.”
She gave us a hanger with the letter J on it and off we went.
We were puzzled but so grateful. We quickly worked out that she had taken pity on us and decided to just squeeze us onto a train. There were so many people travelling that day and the trains were all delayed partly because of the congestion and also because of an earlier breakdown. They were just filling up the trains and sending them off as fast as possible and little attention was being paid to who was in the right time slot - so it was possible for her just to shove us into the queue.
We had another two hours to wait until letter J was due to leave but I have never been so pleased to get onto a train !!
It was fine and sunny when we arrived in France and temperatures reached an almost tropical 8°C. Sadly this did not last and not long after we crossed the Pont de Brotonne near Rouen it became much colder and started to rain, making the driving very hard work.
We got to Le Grand-Pressigny about 7.30pm, three hours later than we had expected but we were just so glad to be there at all. We unpacked a few essentials from the car and topbox, put the heaters on, gave Lulu some dinner and went straight down to the restaurant in the village where we had arranged to meet friends who had also just arrived.
It’s been a horrible, long winter, we have been away from the place for far too long, the journey was ghastly but the only thing that matters is…….we’re here !!
HAPPY EASTER !!