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Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Where we've been: 1

Note the sense of escape. The barely trafficked autoroute leading to somewhere distant, satnav prominent, bottle-spray of disinfectant securely mounted, relaxed hands on the steering wheel.

Look again and the car seats are occupied by two women. It’s my blog so where am I? In the back, reflecting that it’s now happening. The country I’ve come to loathe, temporarily I hope, is a Channel Tunnel crossing behind and I’m free from its incompetence and gerrymandering for a while.

The French villa where we’ve stayed before was booked almost a year ago. Ann, the generous and sympathetic proprietor, is willing to waive her rights to the four-figure deposit. But I’m not the only one with a strong urge to escape. As octogenarians VR and I are the most vulnerable to The Plague and it’s up to us to make the decision; VR was in no doubt from the start.

There’ve been major convulsions and we four in the car are the lucky ones, unaffected by travel uncertainties. Flights for the other four were cancelled and son-in-law Darren has worked prodigies, stitching together a sequence of train and TGV hops, broken by an Uber taxi ride across Paris linking the Gare du Nord with the Gare de Lyon. Large extra sums of money have been needed and VR and I have provided them. An initial online order of food and drink from a French supermarket has been contrived by computer whiz, Daniel, granddaughter Ysabelle’s partner. It will cost over £800.

In the sense that there are laws, we are not breaking them.

So why am I not driving? I’ve done it many times before. Because I have complete faith in daughter Occasional Speeder and Ysabelle. I loll and construct imaginary conversations with French citizens.

Next post: Did the French cope?


  1. I'm getting the feeling this was a real adventure, this escape in the time of COVID. I'm so happy you were all able to make it. I am looking forward to hearing more.

  2. I had been wondering where you had gone. Sounds like you've been on a wonderful adventure. Looking forward to the stories.

  3. Colette: The adventure lay in the planning and the anticipation: once we were all on the move a delicious sense of inevitability ensued. We four in the car ticked off the familiar landmarks: Windsor Castle to the right, the junction of the west-east M4 with the M25 London ring road (an area of potential traffic jams), the entirely automated acceptance of my car at the terminal building of the Channel Tunnel, the perfectedly smooth surfaces of the French autoroutes, a distant yet somehow hilarious glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, the 10 km tunnel under Paris, the scruffy car park at the back of the Gerbe de Blé hotel in Chevilly, near Orléans, where we would stay the night. A regular stopover (the hotel not the car park) during the last five or six years.

    robin andrea: The other four, starting a day later, texted their progress to us by conventional train, train de grande vitesse (the 180 mph French service) and taxi between the two rail stations in Paris as we drove south through the heart of France.

    Granddaughter Ysabelle is 30, has had 11 years driving experience yet had never driven "foreign". For her we reserved the ascent to the high and extensive plateau, known as the Massif Central, that demonstrates France's hugeness. Her driving was exemplary.