The holidays have begun slightly earlier than anticipated because daughters two and three decided to wake up at 3.30am to watch Genie in the House. This is becoming a bit of a holiday ritual. We also wanted to get away early due to the predicted problems at Dover, which failed to surface so we arrived an hour ahead of schedule.
We arrived in Calais where the ferry terminal is surrounded by miles of fences with barbed wire at the top. Near the tunnel we spotted a group of people in a field with a security man while we listened to a radio interview with an Afghan teenager who had be sent to Europe by his mother after the family fled the Taliban. Having travelled across the world with people traffickers, he had spent two days in the back of a lorry, terrified, as he tried to get from Calais to the UK. Two minutes later a British mum said she was scared of people like the teenager because they might attack her children. Asked why they might be dangerous, her answer was because they might be traumatised by their experience.
By mid-morning everyone was flagging slightly, which is bad news as we were approaching Rouen. Rouen has been our nemesis for the last few years. It is trailed on the motorway we take for a few miles as you approach, then all signs disappear and you are suddenly on the road to Paris. Normally we end up circulating Rouen for a while, but this time we diverted to a place called Elbeuf, which looked like a small blip on the map, but was actually quite a big town. After a 40-minute detour and a lot of Queen songs [inspired by daughter three’s performance in We will rock you], we got back on the right road. Only son was very bouncy and enthusiastic, though by 9pm he had become very scared about the darkness in France and decided he wanted to go home. Now.
Daughter three, who is slightly overprepared for holidays, had rolled all her clothes up because she had watched a Youtube tutorial on packing and said it would give more space. She had checklists for all aspects of the route, but unfortunately had not anticipated having a terrible cold and sneezing the whole way through France. Daughter two refused point blank to go in the back when her turn came and a battle ensued. Eventually she succumbed after various cutting remarks from daughter one.
Daughter one kept up an ironic running commentary about the Beatles, Japan and Wham and told me she was going to get heavily into Led Zeppelin just because I said I didn’t like them.
We eventually found our way to the Budget Ibis by around 7pm and lo, it had wi-fi so everyone was very happy, particularly the older children. So everyone is currently plugged into their own devices: daughters one and two are watching Netflix on her laptop, only son is watching Octonauts on the tablet, daughter three is sneezing into her phone and my partner is playing Scrabble with his nephew on his phone.
We have just been informed by the hotel manager that 31st July is the worst day possible to travel in France so we are anticipating another early start in the morning and a rather lengthy trip to Spain. Only son is still asking to go home.