This time last year (late July 2015) we were getting ready for our holiday, a trip to France and Italy by car. We went by ferry from Dover to Dunkirk (Dunquerque as the French spell it). We decided to travel that way because of the lengthy delays on the Eurotunnel. Cars and lorries were backed up for miles heading into the tunnel. The motorway was closed. The morning we drove to Dover I had the rare feeling that out of a small range of options we had chosen the correct one. It would not have been the correct choice this year. Throughout last weekend the stories have been of 10- and 12-hour delays to get to Dover.
There were other advantages in taking the ferry. It was much cheaper, around a quarter of the cost of taking the car and four passengers through the tunnel. Also we could all walk around on the journey, and have a cooked lunch. There is much less scope to stretch your legs when you travel through the tunnel with your car. You drive onto a train and have to stay with your vehicle throughout the 30 minutes or so that it takes to get to Calais. There are no restaurants on board the car-train and anyway you do not have enough time for a proper meal. If you believe in eating, and feeding your children, at least three times a day, as I do, you have to make an extra stop somewhere in Northern France.
Our usual disorganized pre-holiday preparations (staying up most of the night and getting up early to finish the packing) meant that we left an hour later than planned, and after some delays on the M25 we arrived at Dover 20 minutes after the supposed cut-off time for boarding our ferry. They let us on anyway. Our arrival at our hotel in Paris that evening was also delayed, by my familiar inability to navigate through anywhere other than Arondissement 1 or 2. Maybe we should have bought a sat-nav but these days we use satellite navigation on our mobile phones (Windows 10 for me, Android for my wife) and we kept losing signal. It might have been the same with a more conventional sat-nav device. We also spent a few nights in Nice, as I noted in this piece from earlier this month (Queen, Sparks, 10cc: Moet, kimonos and lasagne).
All of this is going through my mind as we prepare for this year’s holiday in a couple of weeks’ time, down in Devon. We will not be leaving the UK. We will not be taking planes, trains or ferries. If we forget anything we could, at a push, drive back to London for it. I feel more relaxed about the whole thing already.