So I’m finally leaving the country, since what feels like an age. My fiancé finally got his passport after all the rigmarole so we’re able to visit my parents at their home in Brittany. The cheapest way to get from the south east of England to their house in central Brittany is by road. The ferry from Dover to Calais takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes and the port is just 20 minutes from our house in Kent so pretty handy really.
As anyone who’s been to France knows, it’s hard to get food outside of meal times. This means that we needed to organise our journey so that we got to a lunch stop at about lunch time. Having studied the map I chose Honfleur as our lunch time destination. It’s just off the motorway and a very pretty little town. Unfortunately this meant getting to France about 9am, so the 6.45am ferry it had to be! Luckily as we live so close to Dover we only had to set the alarm for 4.45am. Hmm.. only!
It was dark as we drove to Dover and checked in for our crossing. Sitting in our lane waiting to board we wondered when the other passengers would arrive. By 6am, and boarding time, no more vehicles had arrived. There were more staff on board the ferry than passengers! There were just 3 other cars and 2 lorries on the whole boat! It was a bit strange wandering around the boat, essentially with it all to ourselves. We had our breakfast while the sky got lighter and lighter outside. That was pretty expensive and had we thought about it we should have gone to the supermarket the day before and picked up something to eat. The worst thing was that it cost us over £2 for a 500ml bottle of Evian! What a rip off!
We spent some time out on deck enjoying the fresh air and views. It was a bit chilly but better than being cooped up inside, which we would be for most of the day.
The next part of the journey would be the fun bit since neither my fiancé nor I had ever driven on the right hand side of the road before! Coming off the ferry the road is in pristine condition, a marked difference from in the UK. We continued on the main road so had no worries about being on the wrong side of the road because we were clearly segregated from the traffic in the opposite direction, not that there was any traffic. The roads were quiet and we managed to get to our lunch stop at the planned time, even though we made a couple of comfort stops along the way.
Honfleur is just over the impressive Pont de Normandie, which spans the mouth of the Seine river in the region of Normandy. That’s the river that flows through Paris. Its an industrial area but Honfleur itself is very picturesque and geared toward tourists and pleasure sailors. The marina is full of the most beautiful yachts. One day I would absolutely love to learn to sail and own my own yacht. The restaurants along the water were busy with elegant French people in their expensive coats eating moules frites. The cheapest menus seemed to be at least €15 per person, which wasn’t really in budget for us. We managed to find a juice bar that offered a sandwich and juice for around €5 each. Still not cheap but much more like it.
We left Honfleur about 2pm and headed off west towards Brittany and our destination. It’s here that I took over the driving. I was terrified! The first time going the opposite way round a roundabout was particularly nail biting. Once on the motorway it was fine. I just stayed in the slow lane and took it easy. We still had about 4 hours to go before getting to my parents’ house, however we didn’t get there until nearly 5 hours later as our sat nav is useless and when we asked it to take us to the nearest petrol station it decided that we wanted to go to a random industrial estate instead! It then took us about 20 minutes driving around in rush hour traffic in the busiest city in the region to find a petrol station. The car was flashing at me, warning that the fuel level was low and the atmosphere in the car got a little bit heated!
Once we got off the motorway we still had a little way to go but the roads were good and it wasn’t too scary. This is lucky really as we have to drive back again! Seeing the signs for the little village of Saint-Barnabé, where my parents live was so exciting. I hadn’t seen them since May. We finally pulled up on their driveway about 7pm. As France is 1 hour ahead of the UK, it was a long day but we did it. The overall cost of the journey was less than £100. The ferry journey was with My Ferry Link and cost £45 each way. It could have been cheaper if we’d been able to book further in advance but I didn’t dare purchase the tickets before my fiancé’s passport arrived. It took us just over a tank of petrol to get most of the way. We ran out of fuel with about 1.5 hours to go. We also purchased breakdown cover for just over £25 and had to get headlight adaptors, breathalyser kits, etc. to comply with French motoring law but should we have flown it would have cost us at least £150 each way and the airport is over an hour from my parents’ house and we would have to rely on them to collect us.
I’ve been looking forward to this trip for ages and I will fill you in in the coming posts. Brittany is a beautiful part of the world, even though we won’t have the best weather. A visit to France is easy to do on a budget.
By Rachel Birchley