Mr Google advised that we had a very long way to go. We were in the car by 6am because we supposedly had at least 9 hours of actual driving to do and needed to cover 870km just to get to Calais, so with the need to make stops we back-calculated that 12 hours would be our minimum journey time. The reality proved somewhat different, but fundamentally we spent all day travelling.
Getting out of Grenoble at 6am on a Sunday morning was very easy and there was pretty much nothing on the road. I’d planned not to make stops for caches during the day as timings looked tight and I didn’t want geocaching to be the reason for any failure. As a result we proceeded directly through Rhône and Metropolis de Lyon without stopping for a cache, and we found ourselves all the way up at the Saint Ambreuil services near Chalon-sur-Saône at 8am, having already covered 225 of the 870km. That sounded like time for breakfast, so we gave ourselves a decent break, filled the car up with fuel, and had something to eat and drink.
Kas took over the driving here and drove a massively long but very quick stint which got us all the way to Sommesous in another 2 ½ hours. It was only 11:30am and we’d already done nearly ⅔ of the distance.
We didn’t really feel like having a proper meal, so we found a cache and grabbed some thoroughly unhealthy sweet snacks in the garage, which ate mainly whilst sitting outside, and then we got back into the car for another stint. By this time we’d realised we were going to be very early, but decided we might as well get to Calais as soon as we could. There was always the option of getting an earlier train, or so we thought.
We’d got another 350km to go before Calais, which we assumed would be another 3 hours or so. Even with another impromptu toilet stop, we made it to the terminal at 3pm, so three full hours less than Google suggested.
It was at this point that the day started to go downhill at a rapid rate. We weren’t getting an earlier train. Why not ? Because the terminal was so busy that they wouldn’t even let you drive up to the check-in gate unless you were within two hours of your scheduled departure time. So we got directed off site, around the houses a bit, and onto a massive holding area where we were segregated out in approximately one-hour lots.
We sat there for 90 minutes before being allowed through, and then spent another hour getting checked in and passing through the two passport controls. At least we were on the train I’d booked (or so we thought, again).
The terminal building was heaving, as ever. We queued up to grab some pizzas for dinner and then killed a further 20 minutes not buying anything in the duty-free shop before deciding to go sit in the car. 20 minutes after getting in the car we agreed we might be able to blag our way into the holding pen (because they were calling the train two in front of us), so we trundled round and got separated off into a lane for our allotted train. And that’s where we stayed for another 90 minutes. The trains were all running late, because I think they fill them up to the gunwales rather than sending them off on time. The problem on a night like this is that there were so many people who had flexiplus tickets that cars were essentially being bounced off their allotted trains. Anyway, whatever the reason, we eventually got away about an hour after we were supposed to.
All of this put us back into the UK somewhat after 8pm, and we’d realised that we weren’t going to be getting home in time for the Co-Op still to be open. Also, I’d been in the driver’s seat since we left Sommesous, so it was time for a driver change. We stopped at the first lot of services out of the tunnel, having taken a slightly rural route to get there when I missed the mane as we entered the motorway. We grabbed a few snacks and drinks to eat at home and then set off again.
The motorways home were busy, like they always are, and we eventually made it home at around 10:30pm, having driven 1,080km (or 670 miles) over the course of the day. I thought it took a long time to get home from Aberdeen when I’d done it three weeks previously. We’d been travelling for 18 hours and had been out of bed for 19. After a quick snack, Kas and me went straight to bed because we’d both got work in the morning.