Friday, September 3, 2010

La Frahnce

When I last left you, I was waiting for a taxi to take me to Waterloo so that I could hop a train to Portsmouth, from where I would catch a ferry to Le Havre.  All went according to plan: the taxi arrived at 4:30, I was at Waterloo by 5:00, the train departed at 5:20, and I arrived in Portsmouth at 7:45 - perfect for my 8:30 ferry.  I ambled up to the counter where the ferryman-check-in-guy was waiting, gave him my reservation number, and waited sublimely for my ticket.  And then.  Oh, and then.  He said.  I can't even repeat what he said.  It's too horrible!  No, I must, for the sake of clarity.  He said -

"Passport, please, miss."

[Expletive.]  [Expletive, expletive, expletive.]  I was in Portsmouth.  My passport was in London.  [Expletive.]

There was nothing to be done.  No passport, no international travel.  [Expletive.]

But all was not lost, not entirely.  I made a few calls and determined that a friend named Tom was driving down to France early the next morning and would be more than happy to give me a ride.  Yes, yes yes!  It would mean only 30 hours in France, but, gosh darn it, I was going to France.

I whizzed back up to London, picked up my passport, spent a lovely day with a friend from home who was in town for a while - unexpected bonus - and had a lovely pre-birthday supper with Jon and a couple of friends.

(Jon, by the way, was unable to go to France, which made me very sad.)

Early on Sunday morning, Tom and creaked out of London and made our way to Dover, where we drove up onto the ferry and departed for Calais.  We then drove from Calais to Alex's house, which is near the town of Beuzeville.  All in all, the trip took about 6 hours.  (Needless to say, we became very good friends on the drive!)

I'm now going to skip to the end of the holiday for a moment - or, rather, the "end" of the holiday.  You see, I was supposed to leave on Monday night.  Everyone piled into the car to take me to Le Havre and we had a very jolly drive to the ferry.  We arrived and - zut alors! - discovered that the ferry was cancelled because it had hit some rocks and was, as the ferryman-check-in-guy told us, caput.  Our jollility multiplied - we must have been the only ones to be happy about this tragedy, but happy we were.  I got another day in France!  Or did I?

On Tuesday evening, Tom drove me back to Le Havre to catch my replacement ferry.  We left a little later than we should have and we got stuck behind a lorry on the way, but we still arrived at Le Havre with 15 minutes to spare before the time of departure.  Well, apparently 15 minutes isn't enough - they had closed the ferry to foot passegers.  I was not allowed on the boat.

Yes, this meant another day in France, but boy, was I annoyed.  Annoyed and worried - I was missing two days of work.  My bosses were not going to be happy.  (They weren't happy.)  Boh.

So I ended up driving back to London with Tom on Wednesday night, 52 hours after I was supposed to leave.  We took a ferry from Calais to Dover at 2:15 on Thursday morning and stumbled back to London for 4:30.

Yikes.  What a trip!

But yes, travel snafus aside, it was quite a trip.  We had lots of good food, good wine, and good company, and we really didn't do much except enjoy all three.  There are, of course, tons of stories from the holiday, but they wouldn't be funny to any but us five.  I could tell you about our meals, but that wouldn't do anything but make you jealous.  I could tell you about the champagne at breakfast, the warm sun in the afternoons, the glowing fire in the evenings, the dance parties at night, and the deep conversations in the wee hours of the morning - but that wouldn't be of interest to you, I don't think.

But I will tell you that it was truly a wonderful holiday.  We had to remind ourselves, Tom and I, when we were pulling into London, that the past four days hadn't been real life and we - well, we hadn't really been real people.  We'd been in a lovely bubble, consumed by ourselves and our imaginations.

Actually, Clover, one of the chums of the trip, joked that if England had fallen into the sea while we were in France we'd never have known about it until we tried to return.  We all laughed, but uneasily - we knew it was true.  Imagine my surprise when, upon arriving back in London, I read the following headline in The Times: "God did not create the Universe."  Say what?  Clearly, things had changed since we'd been gone.


  1. Yes, I'm insanely jealous. Thanks. :)

  2. I forgot my passport at home when I went to France to visit Mackenzie last year! Luckily, I was only down at London Bridge (picking up my mobile from Paddy, at whose house I'd stupidly left it the previous night!), but it did mean a very harried tube ride back all the way up to Hampstead to fetch it, and then a terrifying cab ride to St. Pancras (I was on the phone with Eurostar people the entire time, trying to convince them to delay the train just for me so that I wouldn't have to pay 200 pounds for a new ticket the next morning). I arrived a good 10 minutes after the train was supposed to leave, and yet I miraculously made it on!

    I'm very glad you had a wonderful time in France, and I'm sure that your bosses love you sooo much that they'll forget about this silly and semi-unavoidable incident in no time! xx


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