23 August – Dunkerque to Calais to Dover to Forest Row (East Sussex)

We set off from Dunkerque using Johanne’s extremely detailed Google directions to get to Calais. Amazingly, they took us out of town and onto the A26 without a bother. A quick stop at a service area to top up the car (the fellow at Avis Dieppe did say gazoil, didn’t he?) and then off to Calais. We by-pass the car ferry and get to centre-ville. We’re looking for Place d’Armes street but the signs are small, faded, and on the side of the brick buildings. We drive for a bit and Johanne says we must have passed it. She tells me to turn up a street to see what’s up there. I have a flashback to the Dunkerque fiasco and refuse. I make a U turn and pull over. “You’re too impatient,” she says. “I’m sure it’s just up there somewhere.” I walk back to the road to confirm that Avis is not just up there somewhere. We drive back from where we came and come to the road. We turn down and there, across from the square, is the red Avis sign. Johanne looks at me with an “I told you so” smile. I park, get the paperwork ready and my explanation as to why we are dropping the car off here and not in Dunkerque. Wouldn’t you just know it. The office is closed. A sign on the door explains their opening hours, during their vacation period. Of course, it couldn’t all just work out, could it? Okay, I’d better call them. As I walk back to the car to get a paper and pen, a woman approaches the office with papers in her arms and keys in her hands. All Right! She explains that during the vacation period, only one person serves the 2 offices in Calais and they shuttle back and forth. If we had been thirty minutes earlier or later, we would have missed her. I explain what happened and she just nods her head, asks if I filled the car, and we’re done. What an angel! She calls for a taxi and ten minutes later, we are at the Calais ferry terminal. The process is much the same as an airport – tickets, security, customs & immigration, and wait in lounge area for a shuttle bus to take us to P&O’s Pride of Canterbury. We board. Johanne settles in, making sure she knows where all the exits are in case we hit an iceberg and sink like the Titanic. I leave her pondering where the lifejackets are and go above decks to take some photos.


Calais beach

Leaving the port of Calais

The crossing is very smooth and I can see the famous white cliffs in the distance.
About 2 hours later, we arrive at Dover. We follow passengers down the stairwells and end up where the cars and trucks are parked. Back up the stairs lugging our bags (good thing we only have carry-on) and we get off at the foot passenger deck. At the terminal, there are no taxis waiting. Johanne says it’s only 2 miles, we could walk! I think she’s crazy and walk to the public phone, but a taxi suddenly turns up. He says he was coming for another group but believes they have moved on. What luck! Five minutes later, we’re at the Alamo office in Dover. The fellow is surprised we’re there so early (reservation is for 4pm, it is 1:30pm) and our car hasn’t arrived. Rather than wait a couple of hours, he offers us a mini in place of the compact we reserved. We take it. I don’t realise Johanne thinks it a mini Cooper. She’s disappointed that it’s only a Hyundai 110 but it’s better than waiting another 3 hrs. While I’m taking care of the paperwork, Johanne takes the bags to the car. We’re ready to go and I open the passenger door to toss in the camera. I should have taken a photo. The privacy flap that hides what is stored in the hatchback compartment is lying askew over the back seats and the bags are all jammed in. “What?” she says. “The bags are in aren’t they?” And she thinks I’m impatient! 2.5 hours later without missing a turn, we arrive at the Chequer’s Inn in Forest Row.

The Chequer’s Inn and our little white Hyundai

The proprietor, Claudio, recognises Johanne right away. We’re home! Before unloading the car, we sit outside and have a drink. Now we’re on vacation! Tomorrow we’re off to see my cousin Viv in Worthing, down on the coast.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

  • Search