25.05.2017 - 25.05.2017 23 °C
Day 1 Thursday 25 May 2017 Amersham / Freyming ( Lorraine, France )
517 km in Europe plus Amersham to Dover Mileage
- Departure day dawns and it is a glorious early summer's morning. We know because we are up with the birds & on the road by 5.30 am heading down to Dover. We manage to catch an earlier ferry than anticipated. That's a bonus - every hour hanging around is wasted time and tiring for a the driver.
- AG is determined to drive all the way. His decision is based on his firm belief that SG's driving ability is dismal. Neither worth the risk nor stress. SG has no say in the matter but benefits from better views as a passenger & so does not complain. She does however take her driving license, just in case.
- At border control UK, we are asked why we went to Iran in 2014. We have visa stamps in our passport which tell the story. It caused us hassle and extra expense to travel to the USA last year. And now again our visit is flagged up. The British and American authorities really have a thing or two about Iran. And yet SG cannot recall that any recent terrorist attack has been linked directly to an Iranian citizen. Actually more Brits should go and see Iran for themselves and meet with its people. Dialogue between normal folk and not just politicians might be the key to future relationships.
- The English Channel is like a millpond. Even SG does not bother with seasickness medication.
- Deck 5, Green stairs, Bay 64 - remember it well. It's where we park the truck on the ferry. Just prior to arrival in Calais, AG heads down below deck while SG goes for a comfort stop ( such a polite American expression ) . But trying to find the truck and AG almost gives SG her first panic attack. Images of AG having to drive off the ferry without his navigator, still hopelessly lost in the bowels of the ferry, spring uncomfortably to mind. AG would not be impressed with his navigator losing the way so soon - albeit her own.
We had been one of the first trucks to park in the first line on deck. The number signs and smaller vehicles are now obliterated from view by HGV's, campervans and coaches.
- As we drive through the ferry exit onto terra firma we get that delicious feeling of an imminent adventure. Our favourite type - a road adventure to far flung places.
- It's a gorgeous day this side of the channel too.
- AG has 507 km of French motorway driving today. It is also a long weekend in Europe. Near to Calais, traffic is heavy heading north to the UK. Not sure why. Fortunately we are on an easterly trajectory and it is still only Thursday. As is usually the case, our route in France is empty and clear. Almost a pleasure to drive. It would be difficult to feel the same about our English motorways, especially this Bank Holiday weekend.
- We drive a familiar route until just after Reims. Familiar because every year we drive it once or twice to head to the French Alps. Skiing is a family passion.
- After Reims we turn off our 'normal road' to head on the A4 towards Metz and beyond to our destination for the night - Freyming, a little town literally downhill from the German border and close to the city of Saarbrucken. Actually less of a physical border, more imaginary line.
- There are no stops scheduled today, no sightseeing envisaged. SG is not sure why AG picked this little place to overnight - probably because in mileage terms it represents the end of his driving day. For sure we could never comfortably contemplate such mileage on UK roads.
- On the motorway we begin to pass by historically notable names. Verdun, for ever associated with brutal trench warfare between the French and Germans during World War 1. It was only with the help of American forces that France was finally able to push back German troops in September 1918. During a 2 year period over 800000 soldiers were killed in and around Verdun.
- The well marked route amongst the Verdun battlefields must surely be a similar pilgrimage as are the Normandy locations for the Brits. And to think that De Gaulle later withdrew from NATO after World War 2. Ungrateful or what?!
- The next major city signposted is Metz, annexed by Germany in 1871 and not returned until the end of World War 1. Apparently it is a 'dignified city' with a Gothic Cathedral that was built between 1220 & 1522 ( major projects like cathedrals used to take centuries to finish ) which boasts some of the finest stained glass windows in France. AG obviously did not consider this to be a sufficiently enticing pull factor.
- Our B & B for the night is owned by Jean Pierre, a man of French / Polish origin. His parents came from Poland after World War 2 to work in the nearby coal mines. He speaks French, German, English & Polish. His massage parlour downstairs is apparently closed Thursdays. Rooms are comfortable and en suite and there are shared kitchen facilities.
But we opt to dine out and Jean Pierre recommends us a local pizzeria - with a difference. L'Estaminet as the restaurant is called, specialises not only in pizza but also quiche & savoury tarts. The pastry bases are made in house and are deliciously thin and crispy. It turns out to be a little gem that is evidently well known in town. By the time we leave, it is full. During summer months ( and whoopee that includes end of May) customers eat outside in the covered garden. It is wonderful to be dining outdoors again.
- Quiche Lorraine now takes on a new significance for SG. The folk of Lorraine may have thought up that most famous combination of cream, cheese onion and bacon, but quiche is actually a French variant of a German recipe dating back to the 16 century. It began as a bread dough crust filled with left over ingredients, the basis of which was eggs and cream.
- Real men don't eat quiche. But SG does - one that is served with spinach and hard boiled eggs. AG chooses pizza, a very large one, which he manages to polish off.
- It's been a long day and we retire early. Our room has a velux window which must be left open this warm balmy evening. We both decide to wear eye blinds which must look very attractive! SG also wears ear plugs to escape the inevitable dawn chorus. AG simply has to sleep on his good ear. It is surely the only advantage of being deaf in one ear.