I would have quite liked to pop back to Parc Verger and have a chat with everyone there and maybe take back a case or two of the excellent champagne sold by neighbour Andree, but it would have meant heading in the opposite direction from the ferry port, and even though the van had been repaired I think memories of our last traumatic journey in Thebus were still clouding both of our minds. So we just set Strict Lady for the ferry port and headed off. But we decided to stop at the first largish town where there was a sign for a SuperMarche, and not only stock up on some champagne and wine, but buy some food for lunch our as well.
We struck lucky before too long and after a trawl round the supermarket set out again suitably weighted down with champagne and wine for home plus food for a picnic. So then we kept our eyes skinned for a suitable stopping place. In France when travelling on the motorways there are not only stops for service areas selling food, drinks and fuel, but also well signposted picnic areas, normally with shady spots and picnic benches, somewhere for dogs to stretch their legs, loos, and often showers.
Once again we were lucky and pulled into a beautiful area with trees overhanging shady benches, which ran into a wooded area with footpaths. We managed to get the last table in the shade and spread out our goodies for a pleasant picnic. Suitably refreshed we set off again towards the UK
Then….. a bit further along the motorways we pulled in for a comfort break and stretch our legs, and maybe get an ice-cream, as once again it was a hot day. Being the French holiday season the services were absolutely packed out – but we ate our ices in the shade at the back of the building then headed to the Renault which was parked just outside. – The van refused to find reverse!
After some switching it off and switching it on again, trying it in manual, then automatic, then manual again, trying to select forward and then reverse and anything else we could both think of, for some reason known only to Renault gearboxes it finally decided to co-operate, and snatching wildly as it lurched backwards we managed to leave the parking slot. After a slight hesitation it then jumped into forward gears and we were off. I have to say I was more than a little worried, especially after the last traumatic trip from France to Britain in Thebus. Sally decided, and I agreed, that now the van was actually in gear and going forward our best bet would be to just keep going without trying to stop again, though Strict Lady informed us it was still a good three hours to the ferry port.
Sally kept to it, which was a hard slog without a stop, but at least it was in daylight this time and we finally pulled into the ferry port – immediately joining the queued vehicles in the ferry lines even though it was quite a wait until sailing time.
As it was now a good while since we had eaten anything much we got out the remains of the lunchtime picnic. Our supermarket purchases hadn’t included plates, but we had bought knives and forks, so we used the knives to roughly slice up one of the cardboard boxes containing some of the bottles of wine to make ourselves some improvised plates. We spread out our goodies, french bread, pate, butter, tomatoes, olives, some nice soft cheeses, salads etc. Then as it would be several hours before we were due to sail and we were loaded up with wines and champagne we decided a glass of wine to wash it all down with would be nice – but there were no glasses to drink from!
Using the picnic knives Sally started to hack up an empty water bottle – the top third with the cap on would make one drinking vessel, and the bottom third another. Mission accomplished was the moment we realised that all the wine bottles had corks and we had no cork-screw.
Just as I was about to suggest we had champagne instead the vehicle in front of us started to move!! They had opened the ferry lines early!!!
Our improvised picnic was by now spread over every available surface in the cab of the Renault. so I packed up everything as quickly as I could and Sally jumped in to the driver’s seat. Somewhat shakily we lurked forwards, but next time the lines moved the Renault was having non of it, and not only refused to go into gear, but this time refused even to start its engine.
The gap between the vehicle in front and ourselves grew longer and longer. Sally tried the switching it off and on again trick, tried to start it in every combination of gear shifts she could think of – but no – it stubbornly refused to co-operate. Eventually the young man from the vehicle behind came to see what the problem was, and together with Sally they pushed us up the slight incline towards the ticket booths with me at the wheel – the picnic now in a scramble in one of the carrier bags.
As the lines stopped and started, we slowly approached the lady at the check-in booth.
I must admit I imagined she would just refuse to let us through and tell us to park up and get recovery assistance. When I purchased the Renault, included in the purchase price was twelve months RAC Recovery Assistance, but only within the UK. So if they refused to let us board that would be no use to us whatsoever.
But – to my surprise Sally’s magic worked yet again. She explained that the young man would help push us to the far side of the gates (his girlfriend was now driving their vehicle) – then later on he would tow us onto the ferry – and she just nodded and allowed us through!
As we slowly crossed the lines for the ticket check-in and approached the passport control booth Sally took over the steering, the nice young guy from the following vehicle still pushing from behind, and I got out with Sally’s and my passports to show to the passport officer.
He opened my passport, checked my photo, and asked my name which I confirmed. ‘Where is Sally Jones?’ he demanded, and I pointed to the van saying ‘Sally is there -pushing’
Somewhat crossly he asked for the third passport – ‘But there are only two passports here – Where is the third?’
‘There are just two of us travelling’ I said
‘So – Who is the man behind – pushing?’
‘I have no idea’ was my reply and by then the van had eased across the barrier and somehow we were on the far side!